Mother collapsed back onto the couch after removing the splint from my arm and inspecting it to see whether it had healed properly.
Phobos quickly walked over and began to massage her shoulders while I flexed my arm and ran it through the range of its motions.
Exhaling comfortably, mother praised her: “You’ve got magical hands, child.” Turning to me, she said, “And you should be fine with the ordinary range of motion on that arm. Don’t even think of training with it till I give you the okay.” she sighed, “Seriously, I’ve had enough muscle heads making my life difficult.”
“Trouble at work?” I asked as I walked over to the recessed workstation in our room where I brewed my body-strengthening potions and on rare occasions, cooked. After all, today I had a fish to fry.
Mother groaned comfortably as Phobos dug the ball of her thumb into a knot in her shoulder muscles. “Yeah… right there… *sigh* You won’t believe how many idiots there are who feel that the existence of the medical cell means that they have a free pass to over-train themselves in preparation for the competition.”
She snorted contemptuously, “They don’t realize that healing needs energy from their own body and unlike me or the most experienced of the staff, the personnel in charge of training injuries aren’t skilled enough to draw the energy specifically from their reserves of fat. They end up doing more harm than good by drawing the energy from the adjoining muscles, shaving off days of their training results.”
She clenched her teeth resentfully. “Thankfully, I caught on to what was going on before too much harm was done and gave them all a tongue lashing. The muscle-heads and the incompetents both. Then I had to wipe their buttocks for them by healing all of them personally since I was the only one capable of doing it without repercussions. Hopefully, they will learn some prudence.”
She sank deeper into the couch as Phobos began working on the back of her neck. “Ahhh… I’m exhausted!”
Phobos asked her, “Is that why you didn’t treat Husband in one go and broke up the process into multiple sessions?”
“Intelligent! Yes. I could have healed him fully in one session, but that would need more energy than I could glean only from his fat reserves. It would have set him back by a lot more than ten days of missed training and given the upcoming competition, I decided to tackle his injury piecemeal instead.”
Phobos’ fingers moved to her scalp and Mother’s ears twitched as she narrowed her eyes in comfort, a sure sign of her enjoyment. She continued, “A-anyway… you’ll be learning to harness mana from your bond to Deimos, so, I don’t think the time off will be any less productive.”
Washing and placing the last pan I would require for the dish near at hand, I finished my preparations for the cooking and laid the large fish on the cutting board as I said, “Oh! Yeah… I forgot to tell you. Today morning, Deimos reached Tier 2 and I managed to tap into her mana simultaneously.”
Mother suddenly sat up, her eyes wide as Phobos too gasped in surprise. “What!” both of them exclaimed with one voice.
“Demi advanced!?” “You tapped into her mana!?”
“How? Is she okay?” “What does your mindscape look like, child?”
I held up my hand to stop the interrogation from the two excited women. “Whoa! Hold up! I can only answer one question at a time.”
They looked at each other and Phobos asked her questions first. “So, Husband, how did it happen and how could you forget to inform us of something this important?”
I scratched my nose with a finger awkwardly as I put down the kitchen knife from my still tender right arm.
“Well… you see, I was feeling a lot of pressure to perform lately and I tried to force the bond… locking myself out in the process. Deimos, she noticed and took me on a stroll by the lake in the morning to relax me and… A-anyway, it worked!” I finished awkwardly.
Phobos’ eyes narrowed in suspicion as she looked at me, making me feel transparent. I averted my eyes in embarrassment. Suddenly, she burst out laughing, “Knowing Demi, I can guess what happened. But seriously, outdoors Husband?”
Mother’s eyes widened in realization and she too began chuckling. “Really. Kids these days. So bold!”
“This is why I didn’t want to tell you.” I mumbled sullenly.
Mother got back her composure first and said, “So, that’s why Deimos that girl was acting so evasive and ran out to ‘train’. She must have been shy about what she did during her Break-through Blues.”
“Break-through Blues?” I asked.
“Describe your mindscape to me first. I’ll get to it afterwards.”
I closed my eyes and centred myself as I concentrated inwards. A six-coloured sphere with light blue being the dominant hue appeared in my mind and as I reached out for it, my consciousness was drawn into it.
Suddenly, I was an ethereal, formless mass of ectoplasm, floating in a brand-new world.
I took in the sight of my mindscape. There were mountains, rivers, seas and volcanoes illuminated by a yellow orb of light that hung on the zenith of the domed sky. The shadows cast by the light seemed darker than what should be possible and in the centre of it all was a vortex of the blue mana I had obtained from my bond with Deimos.
Withdrawing from my meditative state, I described it to Mother and she grew pensive before gathering her train of thoughts and speaking: “What I will speak of now was passed down to me by my mother on the day of my coming of age and her words have followed me throughout my life.
“They have served me well as I’m sure they will you when you navigate your way through the intricate maze of connections and personalities upon meeting your peers in the upcoming competition.”