Warning: This work has been rated 16+ for violence.
Even settled in the knowledge that it wasn’t happening, Kaida fought desperately against phantom fingers digging into her neck. Her dream shatters into the present as fear begins to fog her mind and stirs awake her magic deep in her core. Through hazy eyes she can see the candles around the room burst into violent tall flames as her powers spiral out of her control. Choking on a breathless scream, she jerks upright and suppresses the magic flowing from herself before it engulfs her room to ashes. The room darkens once more as the candles flicker to a normal, safe level as she breathes in and out. Warm magic pulses in the air before she slips from the bed.
Anxious energy pulses in her veins. Untying her blanket from her legs, she takes the first unsteady steps across the tatami mats to the edge of her room. Settling her racing her heart as she finds no enemies. Just her inside the large room and she settles to secure tea and time to relax from the pulsing fears. Sliding open the shoji to enter the hallway, she startles as the lights flicker on. Soft runes glow a warm golden light through the hallway as she finally steps out and towards a new day. Pushing her senses out, she can feel the powerful aura encompassing the entire house. She stifles the whimper of relief as her Master’s aura cradles the house in its ancient warmth, chasing away the anxiety curling in her stomach. Only when she enters the stairway does she sense a smaller aura eclipsed by his.
Shoulders tensing, she feels her magic settle in her hands. Ready to defend. Easing her way down the ancient stairs and without stepping on the creaking boards, she finds herself relaxing as she takes in the sight in her living room. A tiny grin stretches against her face as Kaida basks in the sight of her best friend, Kira, sleeping under her kotatsu. The chilly spring air abates under the blankets and warm heat resonating from the fire in the fireplace. Carefully crossing to her friend’s side, she gently eases the book from her slack grip. The small vexation at the damaged pages dissipates as she recognizes it as Kira’s text. Bookmarking the page with a flyer from the table, Kaida finally slips into the kitchen for her prized tea. A necessity to start her day no matter how early or late it begins.
A few minutes later, she settles the water into the kettle and onto the stove burner. She feels the last bit of tension in her shoulders bleed free as she fumbles to find a cup. As she nestles the cup in her hands, she turns on the burner with a flicker of the rune etched into the stove-top. As the magic curls down her dominant hand and ignites the runes, she is painfully reminded of the previous night’s drama as pain flares along her wrist. A hissed moan of pain slips free as her wrist throbs painfully and burns with a deep ache that proves to be magical in nature. Hiro slips into the house with ease just as she bites back a second whimper as her magic coils sharply along her wrist, building a deep ache.
“Breathe, Kaida.” Hiro swiftly toes off his shoes and slides his feet into the slippers inside her genkan.
A minute passes. She focuses her breathing into a regular, slow rhythm before he gracefully glides across the tiled floor to reach her side. The dizzying swirl of emotions tugs at her focus and she carefully shutters it into a box in the back of her mind. It isn’t the right time to crumble under the memories and fears last night dragged into the surface. Meditation later would help settle the worst of the fears and sometimes she wishes her magic and ability over fire weren’t so bound to her emotions. Finally, she glances directly at her Master as calm takes root.
“You don’t have to stay outside, you know.” The quip slides off her tongue like a habit. The tease is an ongoing battle and Hiro ignores it in favor of helping her settle onto the counter so he can take a closer look at her injuries.
Silvery blue eyes peer at the burn along her wrist with a dissecting air. His fingers firmly grasp a few inches above the injury along her forearm. He pulls out her first aid kit in the cabinet drawer near the sink. She feels slightly proud as his hums in surprise as he sorts through the vials and jars of medicine.
“I’ve seen you’ve grown your private greenhouse room.” The compliment comes with a faint teasing hum.
“You did suggest I do so, Master.” Kaida grumbles slightly as he finally pries a jar she had just finished a few weeks ago.
He doesn’t answer to her tone besides a soft hum of agreement to their previous discussion on the topic a few months back. She watches as he begins to work, light eyes attentively watching his every move. It comes with ease, she envies, the smooth coat of ointment that he smears along her wrist. Years of practice she is aware. Longer then she’s been alive on this plane. Even so, she can’t help the soft hiss of pain that wrenches free as the burn throbs again with her magic, oozing from the wrist like a hemorrhage. Hiro’s eyes narrowed as he felt the magic building under his fingers.
“You focus?” He can’t soften the sharp edge in his voice as worry lances his heart.
“It’s cracked and burned, “ Regret softens her voice to a near whisper.
Incredulity fills his voice as he demands, “The quartz burned?”
Pulling from him to reach into the sink, Kaida pulls from the water her focus. The gold chains interlocking once snow white quartz is blackened. The stones themselves crack unevenly and pieces fall from the whole as she lifts it. Scorch marks align along the side that pressed against her skin, causing the violent burn that adorns her wrist.
“When we were trying to pry him off me it must have burned under my magic.” Her voice quivers as the memory plays across her mind.
A sigh falls from Hiro. She can sense his frustration even as he lets go of her wrist to search again through her first aid kit. Finally, she watches him pull from his own coat after a few minutes of searching, a set of bandages. She discerns it as a hybrid polyester and magical fiber brand that often helped with wounds to the magical channels that run through a mage. A golden flutter of magic coats his fingers in a warm pulse. Within a few seconds a spell chain flows down the cloth in a greenish blue hue as he spells a healing chain down the length of the cloth. She eagerly watches each rune, even if she can’t understand them all. A master in his element, she is so happy to have him as her teacher. He finishes the chain and it flashes a sharp green before settling into a faint wisping sheen as the spell takes hold.
“You must not use your magic in that hand until I have cleared you.” The words ring dangerously intent in the air cut through her admiration of his skill, “Promise me, my magi.”
Her cheeks flush at the affectionate term before she feels her magic rise as she feels the effect of her words take place.
“I, Kaida Tsukiyoma, vow to avoid using magic along my dominant arm until Hiro Yoshino deems it safe. By Yona’s Grace and so mote it be.”
Power fluctuates in her words and spills into a warm coating of the air. Magic crackles softly in the air like a flame hissing into existence. Kaida can’t peel her eyes away as the vow begins to settle into her skin. Dainty, elegant chains paint across her wrists in a scrawl of silvery magic. The air cools as the magic recedes. She notices Hiro’s face relaxing at the vow and smiles softly in reassurance.
He begins to carefully wrap the bandage around her wrist. But as he does, she notices the tremors that shake his hands. Eyes narrow in concern. He wasn’t harmed in the attack at the clinic the night before so she isn’t sure why his hands shook so hard. They weren’t small tremors that came with fear. They were powerful and painfully jerky like damage to the nerves. He rechecks his work and tightens the bandages until they are snug against her skin, gently preventing her magic from leaking through her channel where her focus had burnt both her skin and her connection in her arm to her core.
He settles back against the counter with an anxious twisting of his fingers. A nervous habit she picked up from him. His fingers pick at the skin of his palms as he quietly thinks before her. He shakily runs a hand through his dark hair before sighing with a heaviness that unnerves her.
“Will you let me attend to your neck?” He carefully asks this question, hands firmly in sight as she feels her breath freeze in her lungs.
Unable to resist, she edges back slightly. Logically, she knew he wouldn’t cause her harm. But the ghosting of fingers digging into her neck slams into her mind with a vengeance. Wheezing a sharp pitched breath as panic again seeps through her mind. She hadn’t been able to stop her healing even as the teen towered over her and choked her almost to unconscious against the clinic wall. Helpless. Unable to do anything as her magic continued to heal her violent patient. The curse of all healers. To be compelled even until death to heal those around them. She craves to run as Hiro gently hums, inflecting a soothing magic into his sound.
“Just be quick.” She can barely choke out the words and desperately clutches at the granite counter to keep herself from twisting his wrists as he carefully tilts her chin so he can inspect the already black fingerprints that paint her pale skin.
Only the tonic she had been given at the clinic kept her from losing her voice until the bruises settled. The drink had reduced the swelling just enough to allow her to speak without much discomfort. It is all they could do as the wounds weren’t severe enough to require a more in depth healing. As healing the normal way was preferred if able.
“The tonic did a good job of lowering the swelling. You should still be careful with hot liquids and straining your voice over the next few days. I’m so sorry I couldn’t help.” The last part is a near whisper and she feels a wave of intense, deep grief pulse in his aura.
“Master, it’s not your fault. The guards were preoccupied by another incident across the clinic. None of us could have known that the family lied about the patient’s history. I’m sure more steps will be taken to ensure this doesn’t repeat.” Kaida tries to sooth the rooted grief but only feels it lighten slightly.
“You should have your tea and rest.” Hiro deflects as the kettle simmers next to them.
A tired sigh slips out finally as he helps her off the counter. She still grumbles over her small stature even as he teases her long, crimson hair. She bats his hands away and he heads back outside as she takes the kettle off the burner. She allows it to sit on the counter as she tinkers around with the jars of tea leaves in her cupboards. A monstrous pile to be sure, she muses, as she finally pries an old favorite off the shelves. A ginger and orange mixture that she remembers fondly as her mother’s specialty. She would have to organize them at a later date, she reflects as it steeps. It would take much time to sort and decide which ones to give to the villagers. Definitely not a task for the day.
She carries the pot out to the living room. With her empathy now resetting itself after the attack from the night prior, she can feel Kira’s diminished bubbly aura crackling with deep frustration. The electric crackle of her element is dulled by a crippling distress that hovers even in her sleep. Brows furrowing with concern, Kaida reluctantly resolves to ask later. Once the teapot is placed on the large coaster on the table, she inches into the kotatsu with a worn sigh. The warmth of the fire and the soft fleece blanket that she sits under is a soothing action. Already, she feels the press of her emotions easing once more as she pulls her tea closer and alongside it, her journal. Careful not to spill her tea as she fishes around the table in the dim fire light for a pen. With a glance at the wooden block calendar she crafted as a child, she pauses on the next blank page. She would need to see the blacksmith and baker sometime that day unless something came up. It was approaching a very important date for both of them and she didn’t want to be remiss in her duties as soon to be Lady of the Clan Tsukiyoma by forgetting to celebrate this occasion properly. With a small change in color of ink in the pen, she carefully outlines the day and feels an almost meditative calm take hold of her mind as she writes.
Today was the first warm day of the late spring season. Crops would be planted and merchants would be in the town for trading. A good time to stock up before the clinic becomes busy with accidents and injuries that are common this time of the year. Both she and Kira could stock up on herbs and food and any supplies they were running low on. Kaida didn’t plan to keep Kira from entering her home even at night. Her friend is incredibly dear and she refused to close her out of her home just because her mother did not approve of them still spending many a night together as they spent most of their time learning the healing arts.
After the ink dries along the page, Kaida settles back against the couch that lies between her and Kira with a weary sigh. Soon she closes her eyes and breathes. In. Out. With ease the image of a flame enters her mind. Growing and faltering as she breathes. She can feel the heat fluctuating up and down alongside the flame’s size. It’s soothing tranquility of repetition allows her mind to carefully release the coil of emotions she laid to the far back of her mind previous. Allow them to enter. She breathes shakily and fights to keep the flame in her mind as fear coils in her heart. Not all wounds will close easily, she knows vividly.
Slowly, the fear begins to transition into a dull throbbing pulse in her mind. She would get better. It will definitely take time to return to her duties as a healer but she would learn to live and adjust to this new phobia. Swallowing back a fearful whimper as silver eyes flash across her mind, she steers her mind back to the presence that lingers always in the far reaches of her mind. Even now, it pulses warmly and twins around her own just as strong as ever. Patient, gentle and familiar to her as her own heartbeat. He would eventually return. The distance between them had grown the past few years but now she could feel it approaching closer. Maybe they would finally be able to resolve all that had happened since they split.
She settles those thoughts to the side and basks in the warm aura that resonates on the same wavelength of her own. Two different rhythms that pulse in sync and compliment each other. It isn’t long until her meditation slips into a deep sleep.
A furious snapping jerks Kaida awake a few hours after. Nestled against the kotatsu with the fireplace to her back, she recognizes the hazy, meditation sleep that follows whenever she drifts off during her trance. Stretching, she watches Kira with amusement as her friend futilely struggles to pry a new member of the house off her shoulder. Uncaring to the distress of the teen, a black kitten digs its claws into Kira’s yukata around her neck. Having lost its warm sleeping spot, the kitten easily bounds to the couch with a loud squeaky mew that Kaida can’t help but giggle.
“When the hell did you obtain an insolent furball, Kai?” Kira grumbles goodnaturedly as she settles next to her on the floor.
“A few nights ago. I found it near the woods in the back. I found the mother dead a few feet away. Probably from one of the forest creatures. I wasn’t sure how long I’d keep it, but it sure loves you.” Kaida can’t contain the laughter as Kira glowers with her pale green eyes as the feline nestles back against her neck.
Kira sighs and strokes the long haired kitten with reluctant fondness. The two split the tea after Kaida fishes out a spare cup from the kitchen within a few minutes. They wouldn’t begin breakfast for a bit longer. Relaxing in the warmth of the fireplace with steaming cups of tea, they sit in silence for a bit longer. Kaida quietly counts the seconds as she carefully blows on the tea to cool the heat so it wouldn’t damager her throat. About half a minute later, Kira’s usual babble of chatter begins and Kaida can’t hide the laughter in her eyes.
“So are you planning on keeping it then?” Kira finally pauses to breath as the kitten rolls under the kotatsu to play with a flutter of sunlight from the window as it finally begins to peak the horizon.
Kaida hums in agreement around a sip of tea before speaking up, “Yes, there’s been a few issues with rodents that past few months. I’m sure the mother was keeping them at bay until she passed. We’ve always had strays lurking around the Temple and I see no reason to stop it now.”
“You’ll need to name the black fuzz.”
Kaida gently pries the kitten from her lap as it sinks its claws into her skin. Even as it scampers off into the hallway to explore further, she already had a name in mind. Watching it disappear into the dark hallway until it fades only cinches the name into certainty. A bubble of laughter escapes as she finally gives into Kira’s impatient huff and pouty expression that crosses her doll-like face.
“I was thinking of naming it Fade. The poor thing scared me the first night after I couldn’t see it in the hallway. It’s a perfect name for a black cat that fades in the shadows.”
Kira nods excitedly in agreement before not subtley eyeing the kitchen. Kaida refills her cup and hesitates. Though she didn’t want to pry into Kira’s business, the souring of her aura almost claws at her mind. It makes her angry for her closest friend and she debates asking even as Kira continues to smile warmly as she refills her own cup. Finally, she speaks up without Kaida’s prompting which meant only one source, Kira’s Mother.
“Can you teach me how to cook?” The request comes out soft and Kaida doesn’t have to strain to hear it unlike before which puzzles her slightly.
“Of course. Did your mother get onto about your future again?” Kaida fights to keep the anger from her voice but it still cuts through in a heated hiss of frustration.
“You know how she is. She wants me to settle and stop being a healer.” There’s no hiding the disgust that coats those words and Kira scowls at the sheer idea.
“Well, if it will get your mother off your back for a bit, I have no problems showing you how to. Would you help me with the raw magic use? I still struggle with certain spells without a proper focus and well.” Kaida holds up the bandaged wrist and the sleeves slip down to reveal the vow’s chains that glitter in the sunlight.
Kira’s face pales. Even though she could see her sitting before her, just fine. She was unable to pull from the memory of Kaida pinned to the wall by her patient, face twisted in pain as the teen strangled her friend. The fear of all healers to be unable to protect themselves as they’re healing. A concern more so for the apprentices whom had not found a guardian to bond to and protect themselves from the consequences of their own magic. The bruises are striking with her friend’s pale skin. But it’s the sight of the powerful chain of magic wrapping around the bandages and the vow, no matter how slim the chains were, that really drives her concern.
“Why a vow? Couldn’t it have been dealt with without such a burden?” The words come out in a hiss of worry and Kira can’t withhold the glower when Kaida simply smiles gently.
“My magic resisted healing him and trying to push fire through in attempt to protect me that my focus cracked and burned under my magic. It caused significant damage to the channels through my wrist and arm. The vow is to impart how serious it is that I can’t use my magic in that arm. It could cripple or even destroy my ability to use my arm for magic if I don’t let it heal. Master just wants to make sure I recognize how serious this wound is. Though I’ll need a new focus. Perhaps one that allows me to use my fire as a defense without tying it to my vow as a healer. Snow quartz is a wonderful healing focus but it couldn’t channel the magic of my fire without tying it to my bond so my body rejected the magic while still trying to pull on it as I was being harmed. I would need something to balance the two sides so I can still shield myself with a focus and heal.” Kaida calmly reassures as they clear the table to prepare for breakfast.
Her journal and writing supplies are carefully settled onto one side along with Kira’s book on indepth visual healing. Soon the tea pot is taken off its heated coaster and brought to the kitchen with them for a fresh brew. By the time they slip into a comfortable routine of chatter and easy silence of years together, the sun is high enough in the sky that they can see the snow melting just slightly. Only early morning around seven but the two peer through the kitchen for breakfast.
“How about a more western breakfast today?” Kira plies as she holds out some eggs and bacon with a hopeful glance.
Kaida hums in thought. It would be easier to teach for Kira today. So she nods before opening the cupboards. They would need a few spices and she filches out of the cupboard a rare treat she had yet to use. Setting everything on the counter-top, she turns to Kira watching her moves with curious eyes.
“So first we need to wash hands and put on the aprons. I would have to have to shower so early in the morning.” Kaida grumbles at the thought of having to shower before the water would have time to warm in the sun.
Kira’s wrinkled nose at the thought matches her own. So with a gentle flush of her fire through her fingers warms the cold water from the well outside. Soon both were washed and aprons around their fronts. Kaida winces at the sight of the second apron Kira wears. A gentle green and blue fabric that once belonged to him. She reluctantly pushes the thought away as they finish setting out all the ingredients in a row.
“So we’ll need to warm the pan to a medium heat.” Kaida carefully settles the pan on the burner, fighting against the urge to use her dominant hand.
Kira nods in attention as she waits for Kaida to step back to dial the runes to the corresponding temperature control. Kaida can’t stifle the warm smile that breaks free as Kira grins impishly as laughter fills the room. Soon Kaida places a quarter portion of butter to slick the pan as they wait for it to heat up.
“Do you like salt and pepper in your eggs?” Kaida can’t remember Kira’s preference as she never spoke up whenever Kaida made breakfast on whether she disliked something.
“I don’t have a preference. You cook so well I don’t really mind. Just no chives this time.” Kira wrinkles her nose at the thought and Kaida tilts her head to the last time she used chives before tucking the knowledge away into the back of her mind.
“I don’t have chives today. I’ve been using those mostly in my healing pastes so I’ll probably not use them to cook unless its getting old and they lost their healing properties.” Kaida thinks aloud as she remembered using chives a few months ago when they were reaching the edge of their freshness and therefore their suitability for potions dwindled.
“Sure. I remember Master Rydan saying chives work as a good binding agent in most healing potions. I haven’t started that section yet.” Kira muses as Kaida pulls out a handful of bacon slices.
“Bacon is rather simple to cook but we’ll need to be careful of grease splatter.” Kaida remarks carefully as she fumbles with her left hand with a frustrated scowl.
Soon a decent portion is cut in half slices and layered carefully in the large pan with a sizzling hiss. Kaida motions to the drawer Kira is leaning against and she moves with a good natured groan. Pulling open the drawer to pull out a spatula and a pair of tongs, Kaida and Kira wait in a calm silence that resonates their understanding of each other’s habits. Kaida knew Kira is giving her time to let her thoughts flutter through uninterruptedly and patiently waiting for when she would be able to handle her chatter that she subconsciously uses to fill the void in the conversations.
This peaceful wait ceases the second the black kitten latches onto Kaida’s pants under her yukata. A sharp yelp slips forth and Kira tosses her head back in a rich, unshakable burst of laughter. Soon the kitten finishes its climb up her legs and Kaida carefully pries the reckless creature off to settle it on its prized spot against her neck. The tiny feline curls up against her neck, its face nuzzles under her chin defying all reason of comfortable positions. Kaida groans in half amusement and half irritation. This would be a habit she knew would persist with this particular feline. Kira leans against the counter as she giggles under Kaida’s withering scowl.
Rolling her eyes, Kaida shifts her balance as she notes that the bacon is ready to flip. She beckons to Kira and hands her the tongs as she steadies the kitten with a hand. The rustling of the bandages ignites a furious throb and she winces. She cautions Kira for the grease popping as she turns the bacon. Soon they’re back to watching the feline while keeping a close eye on their food.
“Do you plan to go into town today?” Kira wonders as she shifts against the wind picking up through the kitchen window.
Note: This chapter is only partially uploaded as I lost the file to the full version due to computer issues. Please be friendly with the feedback. First chapter in over 4 years and it was nano so it's fattened up with things I plan to remove/shuffle around later