Healer of All

Chapter III [Reunion] - PART 1

Update: 2017-08-30

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The sounds of her large, heavy footsteps could, depending on the circumstances, be heard from as far as 200 meters away. Naturally, it reached the ears of the leather armor-clad youngster resting under the shade of a tree with a bow in hand without a hitch.

Much foliage obstructed the forest's path, so the young man who bore the name Easem decided that he might as well meet up with her in a place where he would be easy to spot. He hoisted his luggage and advanced towards the road's center.

Once she noticed him, the giant woman- Eliza- smiled and waved her hand. She wore a blank white apron over a navy dress, possibly due to departing her home territory.
"Is there anybody on the way towards you?"
"No, it's fine."
Easem raised his voice somewhat as he replied, and Eliza resumed walking with a pace brisker than before. One step, two steps, three steps... he thought there was a fair amount of distance between them, but within just five steps, she was already close enough that he had to strain his neck just to look up at her towering figure.

Once she was half a step away from him, Eliza stopped with her right foot in the front and squatted down carefully so as to not cause any strong winds. She then lowered her right palm to the ground and slowly moved it forward, stopping once it was just one inch away in front of Easem.

The archer watched over the bundle of white pillars as it drew nearer and nearer, and once it stopped, he shifted his gaze upwards.
"Wow, somebody sure is awfully courteous today."
Eliza, slightly abashed, responded timidly to his quip.
"If I behaved like normal when I'm outdoors, people might get scared."
Easem chuckled at her reply as he walked towards her fingers.
"At least I'm already used to getting picked up by you."
He then hopped into one of the fingers that were thigh-height to him and exchanged glances with Eliza after advancing to the center of her palm. The giantess nodded and rose to her feet while slowly lifting her palm off the ground. The feeling of levitation that accompanied being forced 60 meters into the air used to be as new to him as it was unpleasant, but upon getting used to it, all that was left in Easem's heart were faint traces of discomfort.
"Until the town is fine, right?"
Eliza asked. When Easem nodded in confirmation, she added...
"Thank you."
...with a smile and a small bow. Easem grinned bitterly at her strange response.
"What are you saying? I'm the one who should be thanking you."
As if only noticing the oddity upon having it pointed out to her, Eliza began mumbling some words with an unclear meaning before turning her eyes away from Easem. After thinking about it for a short while she turned back towards him and explained.
"I'm just glad that you came along with me."
Easem kept looking at Eliza dubiously, prompting her to explain further.
"Everyone over there were scared witless of me... and besides, I'm lonely."
The archer's expression still didn't budge. He couldn't fathom why she would be worried over something so trivial, and the strength she possessed contradicted in his mind with her complaints of being "lonely".
"You're lonely? Seriously?"
Easem asked incredulously. Eliza nodded and held her right palm forwards, asking him to "please look this way" as she pointed diagonally downwards with her free hand. Easem walked across the unstable surface of her palm and fingers and once he reached the tip of her middle finger, he shifted to all-fours and thrust his upper body forwards.

What spread down below before his eyes were the many trees surrounding the circumference of the forest, consisting of many shapes and kinds as they made up the lush green carpet of foliage that extended all the way to the foot of the blue mountain in the far-off distance dozens of miles ahead. Leaning even further to the point of getting an almost complete bird's eye view, the ground far below entered Easem's vision, causing him to recoil backwards once he felt as if he was about to be pulled right into it.
"Man, that's pretty high, alright."
Easem's expression as he turned back was a mix of excitement and embarrassment.
Eliza nodded and replied with a downcast gaze.
"I have nothing on eye level with me. Every day- every noon, anyway- it's always like this. It gets a bit lonely."
Flustered, Easem turned away from her and looked back below once more. It finally sank in that this scenery held a different meaning for her. The bleak desolation of having all the buildings, trees, cities and forests be beneath her eyes with nothing directly in front of them. It wasn't just about her elevated line of sight, in fact, but the power she possessed and her existence as a whole as well...
"Oh. Yeah, that does seem pretty lonely."
He had more or less figured out the meaning behind her oddly careful behavior ever since that incident. However, after a while of thinking about it in a daze, he found that his stare was interlocked directly with Eliza's; captured by her fierce gaze, Easem's instincts made him retreat half a step backwards.

Eliza quickly cast her eyes down to her feet, whereas Easem took a few steps forward and said "sorry, I can't handle you staring at me like that...", after which he lightly bowed his head.
"It's okay..."
Eliza looked back up at the archer and replied with a somewhat lonesome smile.
"Just having you here with me is enough."
Eyes shut, Eliza attached her left palm to her right and brought both closer to her face. No sooner than he had noticed the giantess' face approaching while blocking off the rays of sunlight behind her, Easem could feel the sensation of being rubbed against a soft, warm wall amidst sudden darkness.
Only upon being released did he realize that she was rubbing him against her cheeks.

After returning to the town, Eliza gave a basic report and took a stroll around the nearby villages before night fell and she shrunk back to her original size. Afterwards, she went into the villa and commenced a full report of her experiences today.

The contents of the report made Gransel let out a sigh. A quick summary would be 'not only could she not meet up with the envoys from the capital, she couldn't even inquire about them as she was all but forced to leave as a result of startling the locals. However, she seemed to have earned the trust of the soldiers who initially arrived to intercept her'.

A long silence passed and was eventually broken by Gransel weightily opening his mouth.
"Err, well... I suppose it couldn't have been helped..."
Eliza, who was sitting on the opposite chair with her head hung down, reacted by lifting her face back up.
"In any case, I'd like to discuss tomorrow."
With that as a preface, Gransel began to explain the key points of tomorrow's plans; Eliza is to indirectly inquire with the commander regarding the envoys from the capital, and in the event that she wouldn't be allowed into the city, to not pursue this matter too far and to instead consider in advance how to meet up with the envoys in a different way. These two points were the gist of things. Noticing that Eliza bore a dissatisfied look on her face when he was describing the second point, Gransel attempted to remonstrate her: "Once you earn the capital's approval, it should become easier for you to move around freely. Worst case scenario, you'll just have to remain patient until then". Eliza's expression remained cloudy, however.
"But I feel like that way I'll stay uneasy for a while..."
Her weak protests spoken with her head hung low may have been due to the feelings of guilt plaguing her mind, but Gransel didn't think there was a lot they could to earn the people's trust if they were as suspicious of her as it seemed. He mulled over it for a while, then raised a proposal.
"Then I'll go with you."

Eliza's face instantly sprung up. For an instant her expression seemed to brighten, but she quickly lowered her head back down as if attempting to hide it.
"Sorry for dragging you into this..."
Gransel grit his molars in an attempt to mask his bitter smile at Eliza's demeanor.

Based on the plan to be in front of the town two hours after tomorrow's sunrise, the two decided to depart an hour and a half prior to that. Eliza left the room after that matter was settled. Gransel was still deep in thought as he remained glued to his chair. The official letter from the capital mentioned nothing of the sort, but the decision to meet up at a location as remote as possible seemed to imply that they wanted to keep her existence a secret. If that's the case, they might be concerned that the situation will escalate to a far greater problem that involves more than just Balam...

The skies the next day were clear, and the two travelers who got the preparations out of the way early in the morning had arrived half an hour before the agreed time in the same place Eliza had visited yesterday, and were waiting for people to come from within the city of Balam.
"Are you alright?"
Eliza asked Gransel, who was lying down sideways with his head propped on his left hand, while prodding his back with her index finger that was thicker than his entire torso. Gransel responded by lifting an arm with his head hung low, but this casual movement seemed very strained. Healing sorcery can cure feelings of queasiness, but it can't cut off the dizzying sensation altogether, so the most the spell can do is hasten the natural rejuvenation process.
"Sorry, I should've probably walked more slowly..."
"Yeah. The mountains in particular were rough."
Gransel's response was punctuated by deep breaths. The hike through the border's mountain trail must have been especially daunting for him, as he was inside of a basket at the time.
"You probably shouldn't carry any elders in this."
"Y-yes, I suppose not..."
Eliza's expression stiffened as she suddenly realized the importance of this. Roenheim, who had taught her magic, will also be joining as one of the envoys. His age had weakened his legs and loins a fair bit, but he was a good-natured elder with a strong sense of curiosity and was still in shape.
(I wonder what he would say if he saw me now...)
Her expression strangely loosened at the thought. This change did not escape Gransel, who took note of how her finger stopped prodding his back.
"Hey, this isn't a laughing matter."
Gransel condoned her, but he himself bore a bitter smile and almost coincidentally also began pondering how others would think of him right now.
(I bet to the people in the town I'd look like some sort of pet rat that she's cradling...)

Despite the pair arriving at the town earlier than arranged, the watchtower guard's response to being asked to meet the relevant parties was calm, and he did not seem particularly perturbed at all. The guard left the tower, and after some time had passed, Bradeau arrived at the scene, mounted on a horse. Instead of his usual armor he had a bandage wrapped around his left arm, and he was crudely pulling on the reins with only his right. One way or another he succeeded in stopping the horse in front of the two visitors, and Gransel, who was lowered on top of Eliza's seated lap, gave his greetings.
"Nice to meet you. I'm the lord of Lide-"
Gransel stopped midway through his sentence to signal Eliza to stop trying to pick up the wounded man.
"...the lord of Lideald, Gransel Lideald. I came upon hearing of the trouble this girl had caused you and your men."
Bradeau nodded and gave his own greetings on horseback.
"Thanks for coming all the way. I'm the leader of the Balam Vigilante Corps, Bradeau Algazeo. ...seems like you've had quite a rough time, there."
Bradeau emphasized the word 'rough' with a bold tone and a smirk; Gransel responded with an impish grin and one hand on his stomach.
"Yes, well... that makes both of us. May I inquire about your arm?"
Bradeau moved his left arm to the side and responded with "A few things happened...", an uncharacteristically vague answer from him. Gransel paid that little attention as he pointed backwards with his thumb to Eliza and asked.
"In any case, need her to heal you?"
He then turned back at Eliza and said, "you're itching for it, aren't you?"
"What? Oh, yes..."
Eliza was momentarily surprised upon being spoken to, but her response was quick. She immediately extended her left arm, placing her palm to Bradeau's right, and as soon as he placed his weight over it, she brought her hand in front of her eyes. When she tried to remove the bandages on his left arm, however, she found that her fingers were ill-suited for such a precise task.
"I'm sorry... could I ask you to remove these bandages...?"
She stopped moving her right hand as she spoke her request. Smiling, Breadeau unfastened the knot and went on about pulling the bandages off. Thick, dried blood was still clinging to the now-exposed 6-inches long blade wound on his upper arm. Eliza had him turn the scar towards her, then affixed her right index finger to his left elbow and observed it closely. This was the first time Bradeau received treatment from Eliza, and he thought about how between the finger that was well over twice as thick his upper arm and the focused gargantuan eyes that filled up his entire field of vision, this was a process that would take some getting used to. However, being a treatment of just one wound, it ended very quickly, and soon after he felt a tinge of heat over his left arm, all the pain that lingered in it subsided all at once.

Eliza released her finger after observing the wound completely seal up, and Bradeau tried bending and extending his left arm. He confirmed that he felt no pain even after stretching the skin as much as possible, then raised that arm towards Eliza who was watching over him from above. Then, turning to face the town, he rotated the arm in circles. The soldiers in the watchtower noticed that and nodded, and one of them turned to descend from the tower.
"They'll probably let you into town now."
Bradeau turned back and spoke with a satisfied tone, but Eliza did not understand why he would suddenly say such a thing.
At first she opened her eyes wide in pure confusion and turned away from him to think about it for a bit, but then focused back on the soldier and asked with a low doubt-filled voice...
"Were you testing me?"
She tried to prevent her tone from coming off as admonishing, but Bradeau was still taken aback by her voice and, being unable to respond right away, took some time before answering.
The palm he was standing on closed a tiny bit, and Bradeau immediately raised his guard, thinking he was about to be squeezed and crushed.
"O-oh, excuse me..."
Eliza hurriedly opened back her hand and apologized. She still couldn't shake off the feelings of dissatisfaction towards being tested like that, but the sight of Bradeau's expression still fear-stricken and tense as he carefully surveyed her movements made her relent from pursuing this any further. Still, she couldn't think of the words to say next.

Amidst this suffocating silence, Gransel suddenly opened his mouth.
"Well, let's head to town, shall we?"
He waited until Eliza's line of sight dropped all the way towards him before continuing.
"Look, don't complain too much. Odds are, this guy slashed his own arm just to prove your kindness."
Eliza let out a small gasp and turned back to look at the soldier on her left palm. Bradeau drew back a bit due to suddenly being stared at from such a close distance, but upon noticing the warmth in the eyes peeking at him, he immediately pulled himself back.
"Thank you very much."
Eliza lowered her head alongside words of gratitude. The man himself was reluctant to put her to the test like that, and while she was certainly sad that people trusted her so little that such a test was necessary, he still stood up for her to the point of slashing his own arm just to prove her goodwill to the rest of the city. If anything, the treatment she received was incredibly generous. Thinking about it made her eyes well up, and after a short while, she lowered her eyelids.
"It was Lionos' idea. He was planning to do it himself, though."
Bradeau responded with a smile.
"Dammit, suggesting something like that even though he knows damn well that it's the chief's duty to act all cool at times like these... he set me up good, the bastard."
He said, and stuck out his tongue.

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