When I woke, I found myself on a soft bed with pristine white sheets. White curtains boxed off the bed I was in and I couldn’t see outside.
There was a strong smell of potions in the air. I sniffed, distinguishing the smell of antiseptics and some calming fragrances.
It appeared that I was in a medical ward somewhere.
My brain seemed to be made of cotton and my memory of how I got here seemed fuzzy.
When I tried to concentrate, a spike of pain shot through my head and I cried out in pain as I clutched my head.
The sound of rapidly approaching footsteps rang out and soon, the curtains around my bed were drawn and a beautiful girl with jet black hair and yellow eyes appeared in front of me with a concerned look on her face.
“Husband! Are you all right?”
I stared at her blankly. I was her husband? Then why didn’t I remember? Her name? What was it?
A word seemed to be just at the back of my mind, struggling to come to the forefront.
I blurted out, “Phobos…” my voice was quite hoarse and feeble.
The girl’s eyes lit up. Walking up to me, she held my hands in her own. “Yes. How are you feeling? Does your head hurt? Should I call the medic?”
I slowly shook my head as the rusty gears of my mind began to turn and slowly but surely, the fog on my mind began to clear and the memories started to return.
Along with them came a throbbing headache. “Aah…” I couldn’t help but clutch my head in pain.
“Husband!” exclaimed Phobos, concerned. “Just wait. I’ll go get a medic.” She got up and ran off to call help.
Soon, the sound of multiple footsteps approaching rang out.
As well as the sound of two voices arguing.
“Ma’am please. You overused your mana. You need to recuperate otherwise you will fall ill. Please rest. I guarantee that I’ll see to it that your son gets the best treatment.” Said a male voice.
“Bah. It’s just some mana exhaustion. Don’t make a fuss. When we fought at the Northern border, I couldn’t remember a day I wasn’t mana exhausted. Don’t tell me what to do. I know my limits. Now, let me see my son.”
The curtains were pushed apart and mother entered. Phobos and a medic in an army uniform followed with a resigned expression on his face.
Mother sat down on the edge of my bed and cupped my face with both hands and looked into my eyes.
She looked haggard. Totally exhausted with dark pouches under her eyes. The medic was right in saying that she needed rest.
She sighed and broke eye contact.
“Can you remember everything that happened?” she asked, concern lacing her voice.
I reached up and held one of her palms to my face as I nodded. “It’s a little fuzzy but I can pretty much remember what happened until we entered your apartment… then it is all unclear.”
Mother let out a breath she had been holding in relief.
“At least it’s not the worst-case scenario. Your memory hasn’t been affected too much.”
Her voice grew stern. “Mars! Do you know how reckless you were? I don’t know exactly what technique you used to concentrate the light mana in the end but it caused your mindscape to shatter. You could have died!”
“Wha…!?” My eyes widened in shock.
How could this be? I immediately closed my eyes and tried to inspect my mental world. I found nothing.
My inner world was empty. No mana, nothing. It was as if I had reverted to my state before my first contract with Deimos.
No. This was worse. In this world, there was no known means to restore a completely shattered mindscape. Only if the mindscape was partially cracked was there a hope for recovery. Like Ceres’ case.
The memories came flooding back. Ceres walking up to mother and speaking the word ‘geas’. The explosion. The hole in her chest. Her sightless gaze. the single tear running down her cheek. Me, drawing the sigil for ‘light’ in the air. The cracks in my mindscape. My relief at Ceres’ survival. The shattering of my mindscape.
“Ceres! How is she now? And father’s arm?”
Mother shared a look with Phobos who answered. “She is out of the critical phase. Although she hasn’t woken up yet, she is well on the path to recovery.”
Mother took over. “Remember that piece of medicinal bamboo the other Marquises offered your father for his injury? We used some of it on the girl. Her flesh wounds have mostly recovered and with the help of the rest, your father’s arm is also nearly as good as new. He just needs to meditate more for a week to restore it to full strength. But that’s it.”
My stomach growled.
Mother smiled and smoothed back my hair. “You’ve been out cold for nearly two days. No wonder you’re hungry. Deimos will come soon with something from the cafeteria.”
All of us were silent for a moment. Just basking in each other’s presence. Until the medic, who had been thoroughly ignored till now couldn’t take it anymore and spoke up.
“Aren’t you curious about the state of your mindscape? It’s your mindscape, for Gods’ sake. How can you be so calm after losing it?”
Phobos shot him a sharp look while mother a disdainful one. “Because he is my son.” Said mother. “Because he is my Husband.” Replied Phobos.
Noting the confusion on the man’s face, I took pity on him and explained.
“My family knows of my condition. If there is something that can be done to help me recover, they will cross mountains and seas to achieve it. As I would for them. If nothing can be done, they will still support me through thick or thin.
“Then what need do I have for anxiety? My trust in them is enough. Let alone, I lost my mindscape to save the life of my wife. It is a trade I would accept every single time.”
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