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Maybe I’ll be able to see that magus now that it’s day. Patchouli, I think her name was.
The mansion doesn’t have many windows, so the lighting hasn’t really changed much from night. Still, the atmosphere feels different somehow. It’s not so creepy now. If anything, it feels lonely. Just a barely inhabited manor, filled with dust and memories.
Huh, that was almost poetic. I bet I could’ve pulled off the whole cultured knight thing.
The halls don’t do anything weird like looping this time, so I manage to find my way back down to the library. Going down the stairs, I watch the torches closely. They don’t go out this time.
The library is still disorienting on a second visit. I hope I get used to it soon. The vertigo I get just from looking up is awful.
After a bit of searching, I happen upon the demoness. She’s got a stack of books balanced on one palm that she seems to be in the process of shelving. She twists her neck impossibly far to glance over at me.
“It’s awfully early for a kid like you to be up. Do you rise with Apollo or something?” she says, flashing a toothy smile.
(I’m here to see the magus. Is she awake?)
“Aye, that she be, lass. Scarlet is the only one what sleeps daily, you know.”
Why does she speak so strangely? She changes speech patterns on a whim. Additionally, I’m beginning to suspect she’s speaking a different language than I’m hearing.
Whatever, at least I got my answer. (Could you point me toward her?)
“Over yonder, towards the center. You’ll know it by the way the ceiling slopes upward.”
Ah. Nodding to the demoness, I make my way toward the middle of the room. I really hate having to look up to find my way. The ceiling seems to recede if I stare at it for too long and it’s giving me a headache.
When I find the magus, I’m a bit surprised. She doesn’t look terribly impressive. She’s no taller than I am and looks to be just a bit on the heavy side. Her dark purple hair goes to just below her waist, her bangs tied with differently colored ribbons to keep them out of her eyes. Her eyes are a bit lighter than her hair and her face would likely be quite pretty, were she not busy concentrating on an incantation.
At the moment, she’s levitating several tiny globes of some liquid and one larger one. The smaller globes are being merged with the large one. She also has a book floating at eye level that she glances at occasionally.
I think I’ll wait until she’s done. Interrupting a delicate spell could have hideous consequences.
When all the smaller orbs are integrated, a crystal starts to grow upward from the floor, gradually enveloping the sphere. Once it is completely enclosed in the crystal pedestal, the magus slumps back into her chair, breathing heavily. The book falls onto a desk with a clap that echoes throughout the room.
“Koa,” she wheezes out, “note the test results.”
Suddenly, the demoness is there beside me. She flashes me a grin before she begins speaking. “Time is eight hundred three seconds to completion. Efficiency holding steady at eighty-six percent. Your energy levels are relatively low, just below half your maximum.”
The magus doesn’t even look our way when she responds. “I’m not getting worse any faster than usual this year. Might you get me a drink, Koa?”
“Certainly. One more thing. Your peripheral awareness seems to be slipping. You have a visitor.” With that, the demoness departs.
Turning to face me, the magus briefly looks surprised. She quickly assumes a more serious expression, studying me intently. It’s hard not to fidget under her gaze.
I feel briefly sick and then she says, “You are Remi’s guest, then?”
“Swordswoman, mute, with an interest in the medical arts. And quite possibly a very strange magician.”
(I am all of those things.)
“Why have you sought me out? If you sought formal permission to browse most of the library as you please, you have it, so long as you return things to their proper places.”
(I wanted to meet everyone here, as I’ll be here for some time.)
“And?” Her stare is unnerving, but I can deal with it.
(My light doesn’t work here. I don’t understand why.)
“I see.” She passes a hand in front of me and, for a moment, I can taste poisonous death on my lips once more.
(What did you just do?) I shudder, recalling the memory with that taste.
“Koa,” she calls out again, “bring something a bit stronger for our guest, if you please.”
I do need something to get this half-remembered taste out of my mouth.
“You are not a magician like those of Gensokyo, including myself. We take in the ambient energy of the elements and transmute it to change nature.” She starts noting something down as she talks.
I’ve never heard of that. (And me?)
“You seem to produce your own energy, independent of your surroundings. It seems to work more like a youkai’s power than a magician’s.”
What? That doesn’t… (Why can’t I use my light?)
“The ambient energy is trying to flow into you, but you already have your own power source. It is suffocating your innate magic, or light, as you call it. From the name, I suspect you have something akin to a Sun affinity or perhaps Moon.”
(Can you do something about it?) I can barely force magical effects and most of my abilities don’t work.
“Tell me,” she says suddenly, “what happened to your throat? If my hypothesis is correct, your inherent abilities include some form of regeneration.”
(I don’t remember.) I wish.
She looks guilty for a moment, probably almost as much as I do. “I won’t try to make you give me the details. All I ask is how long ago it was and how magically active you were in the preceding months.”
(About six weeks ago. I think that the longest I went without using my light during the last half a year was three days.)
“And you used it heavily during that time? How long have you been a magician?” She’s grabbed another paper and is scratching something down.
(Near constantly. I’ve had the power for half a year.)
Her eyes narrow. I instinctively cringe, reminded of one of mother’s lectures. “This is you.” She holds up a rough sketch of a person. A large diamond shaped crystal occupies most of the person’s torso. “Or rather, this is how you ought to be normally.”
(What do you mean?) I’m not going to like this…
Marking the paper some more, she continues, “This is you as you are now.” The crystal has a number of cracks in it and several smaller pieces have broken off of the main one. She drew cracks on the body as well.
The demoness returns. “Tea for Patchouli and hot spiced cider for Ellie.” She nudges me with her tail a few times until I take the drink. Afterward, she wanders off once more.
I spend the next few minutes slowly sipping the cider, staring at it as if I could see my reflection. I think it’s better that I can’t.
When I’m about halfway done, Patchouli speaks up again. “I would very much like to study your magic. It could help my research along greatly.” She sighs, looking slightly cross. “Enough beating around the bush. Your light is damaged from being continuously overtaxed. You may have already caused some permanent harm to your abilities, though I can’t tell for sure with just a quick scan.”
No. No way. I threw myself into my training, sure, but I had to. It can’t have done that. Even most battles I’ve been in were too short to wear me out, so…
“I could probably make you something to disperse the ambient energy and allow you to use your powers again, but I will not.”
“If you continue to force magic through your system, you will permanently damage your being to the point you can no longer cast anything. That is the best case scenario.”
(There must be something you can do!) Anything.
“The safest thing would be for you to give your powers a rest and pray to whatever god or gods you follow that you haven’t already crippled yourself. Less safe, and what I expect you will pick,” she sighs again, “there are a handful of people who could attempt to fix you. The Moon Witch is the best doctor Gensokyo has ever seen and could certainly do it, but I trust her as far as I can throw her. Since your light is an actual semi-material crystal, I could theoretically repair it. Lastly, a colleague of mine lives near the village across the lake. Her magic is likely a bit like yours and she knows more about youkai than almost anyone else, so she ought to be able to do something for you.”
The best option is probably…
 – trying to recover naturally.
 – getting Patchouli to do it.
 – the Moon Witch.
 – Patchouli’s colleague.
Ellie is kind of a mess, isn't she? Still, she could be doing worse, all things considered.
I'm so sorry for all the delays.