We quietly sit at the table. While she drinks her tea under a calm guise, I grow more anxious as I watch her life force deplete. It sometimes regenerates, but I’m not sure if Helena’s recovery is faster than it’s decay.
“What is happening to you?” I say, breaking the silence.
“Remember when I said I have a weak body? It’s because… I’m already ill. It appeared when I was fourteen, and yet it does not spread. No healer or apothecary could cure me. It’s like a curse, but it’s not due to magic. That’s why I’m a changeling, an existence fated to die young. A poor imitation of a human life.”
“B-but I didn’t notice anything for the past year. What kind of illness is it?”
“… Every now and then I feel a great wave of pain. I’ve been dulling the sensation with medicine and magic, but lately… it’s been hurting more often and the medicine is becoming less and less effective.”
She stares at the cup of tea in her hands and I finally realise. She has been living in the woods to harvest these herbs.
“When did your condition grow worse?”
“It was… just before we went hunting in winter. The pain has become worse since. I-I don’t think I have much time left.”
“No… no, no, NO! You promised you would wait for me, Helena. I want you to be part of my future. Please… don’t give up on living.”
“Yes, I did promise. At the time, I dared to hope. I thought I could endure my suffering. But over the past month when you were gone… my illness has grown… much faster than before. I-I’m sorry Tyler, I wi-wish I wasn’t s-so…”
For the first time, I see Helena break down in tears. I reach out my gloved hands to wipe them. Her quite sobs escalate into unrestrained crying, as she holds onto my hands for dear life. As usual, I can offer nothing else, but my frustration is greater than ever before.
Why am I so useless?
What kind of twisted fate is this?
Is there a reason she has to suffer so much?
How do I save her?
Without warning, her expression turns to shock before transforming into one of agony. She collapses from her seat, clutching her abdomen in pain. By the time I realise what’s happening, I’m already carrying her to bed. Her breathing has degraded to irregular gasps.
“Helena, Helena! Please stay with me!”
“T-the pain has… passed, Tyler… I’ll… live for tonight…”
“I-I’ll find someone who can help…”
“There is… no one… Please Tyler… stay with me.”
“Of course, Helena. I won’t leave you tonight.”
“No… I meant… until my very end…”
How else can I reply but with a nod?
As the sun begins to set, I pour another cup of herbal tea and return to her bedside. Helena’s complexion has improved, but her soul does not lie. A large piece of her spiritual energy has been lost. I’m too afraid to use <Analyse Soul>.
Is there really nothing I can do? Think goddamn it, think! The average skill rank is greater, so the healing magic performed on Helena was probably around that level. Anything higher is either nonexistent for a small forest village or too expensive. The most powerful recovery skills tend to be of the light element, but it’s impossible for an undead to learn…
Wait a moment. There is someone I know with light magic. She may not specialise in healing, but she is the only hope I have.
“Helena, I have one more chance to save you. But I need you to hold on for eight days.”
Instead of hope, her eyes fill with sadness. She grabs onto my cloak and hugs it to her chest.
“Don’t go Tyler. You don’t have to… I’ve already made my peace. ”
“I have to try. If I don’t, I could never live with myself.”
“I’m begging you. Please don’t leave me alone.”
If I fail, her last moments will be unbearable. If I stay, I can at least ease her anguish and solitude. Her current state is a testament to how many others have tried, only to end in despair. Is it really best to abandon her and chase after a miracle?
“Believe in me Helena…”
I clasp my hands around hers and gently pry her fingers. As I depart, Helena struggles to grasp after my figure. With one foot out the door, I use <Shadow Step> and vanish under the new moon. Behind a nearby tree, I hear her cry out my name, over and over again. Her voice grows hoarse and I can tell she’s choking on her tears. I summon the last of my resolve and leave, yet her pleas still echo in my skull.
Forgive me Helena, forgive me…
I swear I will return, and when I do, all your suffering will be nothing more than a fairy tale.