It’s a novel and uncomfortable situation for me to have Yvonne’s help in dressing up, reinforced by the fact that she’s so experienced at it. It makes me wonder about how Leomi will behave, will she return to the woman I met or behave with Jessica as she has with Elizabeth.
I startle when her hand brushes against my skin but the pain I feel is muted compared to earlier. The mere fact I do convinces me to ask for her advice while we have a moment alone. I tell her all about my throes, rather desperate for advice. Without my eyes, I have no way to tell how she reacts since she makes no sound.
“When did it stop?” Yvonne asks in a tight voice.
“I’m not sure, around the time Meria fell.” I reply.
“I know it has to do with what you went through, and I’m very sorry, but are you certain it doesn’t have to do with you being afraid that you’re not attractive enough?” She questions.
“I don’t know.” I mutter. “Celyz has been great but I always have insecurities.”
“Jessica, maybe what you need is time alone. Maybe a relationship isn’t good for you right now.” Yvonne carefully suggests. “I don’t think you should force it with either of them if this is how you feel.” I glare in the direction of her voice. “Don’t throw that look, Leomi has no right to demand what she has of you, and you don’t owe Celyz anything either. You need to do what’s best for you.”
“They’re what’s best for me.” I utter firmly. I made a mistake asking for advice, as always I don’t think before I talk.
“Jessica…” Yvonne says, trailing off. “What’s so urgent?”
“The fact I don’t know how long I have left to live.” I coldly respond.
Yvonne falls silent. I check my ribs to make sure they’re healed before getting up while the sword-sworn ties my boot laces. The bones mended, and are actually thicker where they broke. By experience, I know that won’t last.
I prepare to stand by palpating the stitch in my right side. The good news is that it only really hurts when I press it, the bad news is that it doesn’t appear to be going away. I start stretching to prepare to get up, causing a vivid ghostly pain in my left arm.
“Rhaaa!” I cry out in frustration more than pain.
Yvonne sets the damn spiked marching cane in my hand, adding insult to injury. I once more swallow my pride and use it to get up. I feel weak so I make a point of not accepting her help.
I dismantle my fire construct and use the energy along with the marching awl to check the ground in front of me as I progress forward, still forced to follow the path Yvonne guides me towards. I catch Celyz’ breathing as I walk out of the tent and turn to the sound.
“Where is the symbiont?” I ask her directly.
“In a locked chest, buried under layers of earth.” Celyz replies.
“I’ll be taking it.” I tell her, shivering from the cold wind.
“You’re too frail for it, Jessica.” Celyz argues.
“Then I’ll get stronger than it is.” I utter back. “It took my blood and life, it comes with me.”
“I will not let you kill yourself.” Celyz denies. I hear a whooshing sounds, she likely swiped her tendrils to express her resolve. “The spirit of the deal was to return an arm to you. If your death ensues, it invalidates that.”
“Then the issue is simple, will re-implanting it kill me if I recover?” I ask.
“…” She falls silent.
“Answer me, Princess Celyz.” I demand firmly.
“Not immediately.” She admits in an anguished voice. “But, you won’t sur…”
“Then, little has changed.” I interrupt her. “I don’t intend to join with it unless I’m forced to.”
I slowly swipe my cane towards Yvonne to tap her ankle, telling her we’re going. She quietly guides me to my left. I hear Celyz following a few seconds later, actually dragging her feet.
The marching cane ends up being more than necessary as I encounter balance issues on the way to the Queen. I’m rather thankful for the fact that neither Yvonne not Celyz try to support me, sticking to merely pointing me to the destination.
I fight my bouts of anxiety and depression about my state by clinging to my goals. The Lake doesn’t punish in life, there are too many other evils thriving for mine alone to deserve reckoning.
“Jessica.” Grikyz’ voice surprises me so much I almost fall over.
“Queen Grikyz.” I salute her, shoving the awl down into the ground for support. “I’ve been told you can fix my eyes.” I say, enjoying the fact that Rykz don’t stand on nonsensical protocol.
“It is possible by guiding unstructured flow with my knowledge of the human sense.” She explains. “The risk would be higher otherwise.”
“Is it going to hurt?” I ask, worrying more about the consequences to my eyes than the actual pain.
“It should not but it is difficult to asses with your species.” Grikyz replies.
“Alright.” I nod. “Is it safe for you to burn the energy?”
“We have little use for it at the moment as the way home is already cleared. With Mother and Cetyz, our daily flow regeneration is more than sufficient to allow us to use as much as necessary.” Celyz replies.
“And how much is that?” I ask, curious.
“Take a few steps forward and you will see.” Yvonne tells me.
I carefully advance, catching sight of an intense dark glow with my otherwise useless eyes. I can’t really tell how much there is but as I keep moving I find that it’s a lake of flow.
“There is a slope in front of you.” Yvonne warns me. “They dug up a small lake just for you.”
“How much is there?” I ask, baffled.
“A quarter of a million human portions, I believe.” Celyz tells me.
I pause in shock. The quantity is huge even though I’m aware that with two Rykz with Queen level access, it isn’t all that difficult for them to store this much over a month.
Caeviel would struggle to gather this much on the front-lines considering that the Kingdom’s leyline configuration isn’t meant to supply an army on its land but to send flow to Kruzser.
“I’m honored that you’re ready to use all this when you could be using it to hasten your return.” I declare, touched.
“You have done more than enough for us to deserve it, Jessica Elizabeth Vil.” Grikyz tells me.
I decide to accept the compliment as arguing would diminish the Silver Hive’s intent. I feel Grikyz move as each of her steps shakes the ground, provoking a loud thump each time until she enters the lake, spraying a bit of water on me.
I seize the black energy, recovering a whole portion from a mere half-cup of water. I throw the flow into a healing construct, choosing to assign it to my right side for the stitch as my ribs have mostly mended.
“Let’s get on with it.” I utter, unwilling to spend more time than I need in this state of uncertainty.
“First, I need to anchor a construct over your head to guide Mother.” Celyz tells me.
I nod and sit down on the slope, setting the forging awl over my knees. I take deep breaths as Celyz approaches and sets a couple of tendrils on my skull. Part of the mass of flow in front of me splits in large streams that rise, likely under Grikyz’ control.
I follow closely as Celyz weaves something similar to the scanning construct she briefly taught me but that I haven’t really tested after memorizing it. It reassures me that the structure of it is firm and stable.
After a few minutes, however, I notice that she creates a few segments on the outer edge from which the energy branches out and move to the back of my brain. The flow thins out into strands so small that I’m once again impressed by Celyz’ control.
What’s odd is that the strings fix in place and form some kind of lattice in the back of my head. Celyz gently pushes to tell me to lean forward, which I do.
“Don’t be alarmed but I believe that the reason why you’re currently blind is that these thin tendrils were left by the symbiont and are interfering.” Celyz tells me. “We can remove them.”
“Don’t do anything!” I urgently tell her, scared. “What did it do to my brain? What is it doing now?”
“The filaments are mere connections, they do not do anything on their own.” Celyz quickly explains. “That center of your brain only deals with your sight as far as anyone knows and there are no other filaments anywhere.”
“You should have told me before!” I explode.
“I only realized yesterday when I searched for the cause to your loss of sight.” Celyz justifies herself. “We can isolate and destroy them now that I know exactly where they are.”
“You’re not going to do anything.” I utter flatly, controlling myself. “Do they connect to my brain?”
“They are causing some kind of interference, that is it.” Celyz explains.
“Okay.” I mutter. “Why is it making me blind?”
“Likely because the symbiont was sending what it detected there, now that it’s gone… I don’t know.” She replies.
“I‘m not risking losing anything more.” I mutter, as fearful that destroying these connections will make me permanently blind as I am of leaving them. “You’re not doing anything to my brain.”
“But, it is the problem.” Celyz protests, confused.
“Do you know for a fact that destroying them will fix the issue?” I ask.
“I… I have never encountered this so no, but all I know points to it.” Celyz replies carefully.
“You said you have experience with eyes.” I comment.
“We do have knowledge of human and Lisilese sight, we’ve used that to attempt to design similar organs for our drones.” Celyz explains again.
“Okay, okay.” I breathe out. “Queen Grikyz, would you be able to use the unstructured on my eyes in order to… fix them so they’re compatible with what that area of my brain expects?” I ask.
“It is a greater risk to calibrate your sensory organs than it is to remove the problem.” Grikyz tells me.
“Not for me.” I utter back. “Acting on my brain by destroying or altering what’s there involves the risk of doing more damage than merely blinding me.” I argue, for myself more than the Rykz. “I would rather lose my eyes than who I am.”
“There is no risk to you, Jessica.” Celyz protests. “I would never do anything like that.”
“I trust that you would never intentionally harm me, Celyz.” I tell her as gently as I can but I end up sounding abrupt.
“I, I think I agree with Jessica.” Yvonne speaks up. “As long as you do not cause real damage to her eyes, there are specialists to consult in order to heal them.”
“I do not think either of you understands what you expect me to do with unstructured flow. This will require me to directly apply my knowledge instead of guiding the energy to fix your eyesight once the filaments have been removed.” Grikyz explains.
“Elzbth decide, Mother!” Cetyz’ sudden angry intervention surprises me. “She not want alter core, not know why talk more!”
“For the same reason I have refused our request to integrate her with the symbiont.” Grikyz replies firmly. “The Rykz need no more competition, we will neither participate in enhancing the human species nor create a new species.”
“You refuse because you think it’ll work?” I ask.
“Yes.” Grikyz replies.
“Elzbeth Rykz!” Cetyz yells even louder than her Mother speaks. “I do.” She adds more calmly.
The sound of her tail scraping against the ground as it swings added to her stomping steps underlines how furious Cetyz is. I don’t intervene yet, hoping that Grikyz will fold.
I do prepare to stop Cetyz if she tries, I trust her as a person but I doubt her capability to do this considering that she’s lost two cores at least. I hear a small scuffle in front of me around the Lake but no sounds so it appears the Rykz are speaking in their language.
“I may need to slightly alter the filaments in your brain for this to succeed.” Grikyz suddenly tells me. “Not their function or where they connect.”
“And not my brain itself, right?” I ask for direct confirmation.
“No.” She acquiesces.
“Then do it.” I tell her, swallowing my saliva.
“Jessica, that’s slightly different.” Yvonne warns me, concerned.
“I’d rather they alter that than try to remove it.” I utter, shuddering.
With what I went through to remove the symbiont, I fear worse consequences from an attempt at destroying connections it made. Especially since the only person I know who might be qualified and interested enough to try to fix me is Suxen. And the madwoman wouldn’t stop there.
“Thank you, Cetyz.” I tell her.
“Mother only need push, she like you.” Cetyz replies, cheerfully.
“And there’s a good chance I’ll die in any attempt to capture me.” I add, chuckling.
“Not say that, try be less mad.” Cetyz berates me.
“Okay, I will.” I agree, smiling.
I raise my arm over my head and wave my hand, seeking Celyz. She takes a small step forward to allow me to lay my hand on her waist. The simple gesture is enough to reassure me that she’s being quiet because she’s accepting my decision but doesn’t want to support it.
“I allow you to lie down with my daughter’s support if you so wish. This will take quite a while.” Grikyz tells me.
I start furiously blushing, remembering Celyz’ words about doing so. It feels like a test in a way but also like an opportunity given to prove myself to her. I angle back, feeling Celyz hurriedly bends her reversed knees to present her belly for me to rest my back on.
I try to relax as the huge streams of flow start floating towards me but only truly manage when Celyz gently and lightly sets her tendrils over my chest. Grikyz directs the energy straight into my eyes, where it concentrates but doesn’t seem to do anything other than consume itself.
After a dozen minutes, I notice a point of warmth in the back of my eyes which propagates to encompass half my eyeballs in the next half-hour. It doesn’t hurt or anything so I don’t panic.
The energy streams split in complex manners, sometimes going faster while other times slower. The careful and directed way the flow is applied tells me that Grikyz and Celyz are likely working together as even I can’t follow everything that’s going on.
I also know enough about unstructured flow to tell that when it is left to do as you will, it simply acts without pause or deliberation. An hour after they’ve started, I feel the onset of a headache which worsens as time goes by. It is bothersome and never really painful.
After several more hours of concentrated flow streaming into my eyes, I close them as it starts to feel like they’re tiring out. I end up almost falling asleep so I decide to adjust my position, sitting straighter but still against Celyz’ torso.
That’s the moment when I catch a spark of pale light behind me which soon fades away. It seemed akin to the symbiont’s sense apart from the fact it faded as soon as it appeared and wasn’t in any shade of gray.
“My oak.” I murmur as a test.
I catch another brief spark, this time managing to catch the fact that it was located inside Celyz’ torso. I slowly open my eyes but find no light, which isn’t surprising considering the amount of concentrated flow streaming into them.
“What is it, Jessica?” Celyz asks quietly.
“I think you’ve got it.” I tell her in a low tone. “I just saw some light, kind of akin to your Rykz sense.”
“We are almost done so it is good news.” Celyz replies. “Wait a little while longer.”
“Alright. It’s starting to itch just so you know.” I tell her.
“No pain, correct?” She asks.
“Not really, no.” I reply.
“What hurts?” She questions, reading me.
“Back of my eyes, somewhat painful in a fatigued way, like I’ve been staring at the sun or came out of a dark room into bright daylight.” I explain. “And a headache.”
“Okay.” Celyz nods.
She quickly weaves a healing construct for my eyes and head, which ends up doing very little if anything for my pain but I don’t complain considering I don’t want to bother them while they’re working on my eyes.
I start catching more and more flashes of light that grows silvery the more time goes by. The issue is that, without my sight, I have no way to confirm that what I’m detecting are fluctuations. The good news is that I can catch those even out of my range of sight so it could turn out to be useful.
“Are you doing that?” I ask Celyz. “Turning it silver.”
“Yes, I thought you would appreciate it.” She whispers.
“It’s my favorite color.” I tell her.
Mostly because of the Templars whose stories gave color to my childhood. Sadly, my village’s temple guard ruined all that in my adolescence and what I’ve seen since then damaged my admiration for the Order.
It actually takes them another couple of hours to finish, mostly because Celyz keeps repeating tests. When they finally remove the energy from my eyes, I open them and am assaulted by a shower of light that hurts like I’ve been starting directly at the sun.
“It may take a while for you to recover.” Celyz warns me a little late.
“Okay, I’m probably going to need a blindfold.” I mutter.
I block my eyes with my wrist as the light is too intense even though I’ve closed my lids. I hear someone tearing cloth as they approach, likely Yvonne. She carefully sets the blindfold around my head and folds it before tying it up.