It was several days later when I finally had the time to perform the core syncing surgery on Gwendolyn and Orwitz. And now, I was standing in a sterilized room, set up as a mock ER for operations. While completely unnecessary, I was donned in a surgeon’s outfit, or at least, what I could recall from a TV show.
‘Blame Katalina for wanting to get the mood just right, because of my half-assed explanations,’ I thought with a sigh.
Katalina was dressed as a nurse herself. As I often wore a lab coat to humor her while helping with inventions, she was returning the favor. I stared for a moment at her and swallowed. Though her company was meant to be a reassurance, I couldn’t help but be a bit distracted…
The wildness of her fluffy, blue hair draping across her white uniform was alluring to my eyes. The cut of the upper portion rested snugly around her chest, making me wonder if it was designed with other purposes in mind. I had to thank the Spiffy Chicken for having such outfits on hand to begin with.
Regardless, it seemed to drive off the nerves somehow. My hands were steady; that was the most important thing. I vaguely recalled how disastrous shaky hands were when trying to play ‘Operation’, and that was just for a video game. And carving up corpses didn’t count either; the dead responded to nothing if I happened to stab the wrong place.
Fully gowned and heaving a deep sigh, I turned toward the twins. Gwendolyn insisted that she go first, lying on the operating table with her clothing folded back to reveal the smooth skin of her stomach. Her brother sat off to one side, his hands cupped and patiently waiting for his turn.
One eye flared white as I stared down at her navel, the faint signature of a core distinctly hovering underneath. This perception of mana was key to ensuring that I pinpointed the correct places to hit. And as I stared deeper at the surroundings, faint lines of mana trickled like a network around the core. It outlined the inner organs just enough for me to know where to maneuver my incisions around.
That was a far cry from the already-deceased bodies, which no longer hummed with such activity. However, dissecting carcasses blindly gave me better insight as to what I was actually tearing into. I suddenly appreciated those gross frog dissections that biology class forced upon children.
Nodding to Katalina, she cast a Sleep spell on Gwendolyn, this world’s method for anesthesia. With the patient knocked out completely, I picked up a scalpel from the tray and began to work. Unlike the super sharp ones that surgeons used, the blade for mine was blunt. Rather, mana flowed from my fingertips and formed its own blade to coat the existing one. That way, I would only cut where I intended to.
Making a small incision right below the girl’s belly button, I swiftly guided the scalpel between the folds of the intestines, checking carefully to make sure that the blade slithered between the thin trails of mana. The practice made these efforts flawless. I swallowed my anxiety, a bit thankful that I had pushed myself to brave what was necessary.
Even with my normal vision obstructed by blood around the wound, the other eye saw past it. The scalpel slowly approached the core without disturbing the network around it. And finally, with a light clink, I felt a resistance.
The core of a person – the mysterious center that housed a person’s soul. It was strange seeing something like this before my eyes, the dull hum of its glow a bit mesmerizing. Without it, a person would perish, or rather, the body would. The God of Life already showed how the flame inside could supposedly drift from core to core, like a parasite taking over a new host.
But that was a unique case. There were far too many unknowns pertaining to that, so Katalina and I instantly rejected any proposals to transfer their soul to a new core or body. The network of connections within a human was already intricate enough, so it was best left undisturbed.
Pulling the flesh around it aside, Katalina handed me some clamps to keep the core exposed. Now, it came the step that gave me the most pause – connecting the device to the core itself. We decided to call it a Mana Sync.
It wasn’t enough to simply glue the device onto the surface. From several experiments with dead cores, the flow of mana didn’t just happen spontaneously. Connections similar to the existing core needed to be forged with the Mana Sync as well.
Fortunately, the principle worked quite like the mana injection that I performed on Eryn, forcing her body to reclaim hold after the God of Life was kicked out. But her connections had all been frayed from the ordeal, requiring new ones to be crafted from zero. I was amazed at how I had managed all that on the fly, after the fact. Inserting a few branches between the core and a single Resonance Stone was easier comparatively.
With the Mana Sync held next to Gwendolyn’s core, I sent a tiny pulse of mana right where the two surfaces touched. The two planes lightly cracked as they butted against each other, but that was purposeful. Smooth, finished surfaces made it hard to form new connections. Only when damaged did the body drive mana to the area to force repairs. But by placing the two cracked pieces together, I could divert the mana toward healing both, effectively melding it together.
As expected, small tendrils of mana diffused through the cracked areas, running right into the Resonance Stone housed in the plastic. And soon, the web wrapped around the object, accepting it as part of the core.
With that complete, I pushed the flesh back together and sent a pulse of mana across the wound, bidding the body to reform the light connections that were cut. And like magic before my eyes, the wound closed, and not even a scar was left behind. The wonders of magic-accelerated healing was possible for anyone, especially with my vast mana supply.
I turned to Orwitz, pointing at the adjacent operating table, in which he nodded and got into position. The room felt less tense after that first hurdle was achieved. Orwitz was put to sleep and the same procedure was done to him.
Before an hour had passed, the two Mana Syncs were in position. Mana slowly teased at the Resonance Stones, as if the bodies were feeling out its new attachment. We waited for the twins to wake up and compose themselves to invoke the enchantment.
“Ready?” we asked them, to which they nodded with anticipation.
Hopping over and touching Gwendolyn and Orwitz on the stomachs, Katalina focused her energy to activate the devices. From what I could see, the Resonance Stones began to lightly pulse with mana, holding the same rhythm before joining together and alternating like a pendulum. I silently prayed that the connections I made were enough to maintain the flow, and not burn up like a light bulb filament.
After minutes of mana flowing to and from the Resonance Stones, the result looked stable. The cores became twin hearts beating with a healthy vibrancy of their own, at the level of a normal person.
“Synchronization complete. You won’t even know that it’s there soon enough,” I said smiling. I gave myself a mental pat on the back. But then, Gwendolyn turned to Orwitz.
“Of course, we will know that it’s there.”
Orwitz nodded back to his sister.
“We will have to get used to this new sensation. It’s… indescribable.”
“Eh? I thought I did a pretty good job at not disturbing anything…,” I said with a hint of surprise. “What do you feel?”
They both said with a look of content, patting their bellies like they had consumed a scrumptious meal. For once, I noticed that they stood on their own, without the urge to quickly reach out for the other.
At that moment, I knew that it had been a success. All of my worries and doubts drifted away. Another problem was solved with a little push forward. It seemed crazy to think that my critical attacks could play a role in healing, but it only took a different perspective to flip its ability on its head. Regardless of the role I chose to play, I intended to use my abilities to the fullest extent.
“Good job, Claude. I knew you could do it.”
Katalina believed in me. She tore away the doubts that I formed, just like how I tore away hers. And just like the ‘miracle’ before us, the kingdom that we ruled was slowly becoming filled with them. Realities that no one would have thought were possible. Because no one had tried them. They were content living in whatever mold they were in, until realizing that something better was within their reach.
Perhaps, that was why we were summoned here. Otherworlders that thought differently would no doubt impact this world in unpredictable ways. And with many of us leading the charge, a blink would mean missing a lot that was in store.
“Well, I’ll leave you two to test out the new feelings. Go out and do some stuff on your own. I’m sure even time spent apart will feel strange at first. If anything comes up, the throne room is always open.”
Dengel had already granted them permission for a few days off to recuperate. If he hadn’t insisted, the twins would have gone back to duty the moment they set foot outside of the castle.
“You need not worry about being alone now. Because if you ever feel like it, remember that fullness you awoke to. You are not two halves of a being. The two of you are whole, simply connected together like Electi do to Masters.”
I turned to Katalina and gave her a hug after she said that. We were proof that such ties weren’t chaining us to a certain fate. Our respective partners were off on their own adventure, exploring the world. Just because some destiny had drawn us together, that didn’t mean that we couldn’t pave a way forward by ourselves. I looked forward to how the two of them would change.
Two weeks later, Gwendolyn sat in front of a mirror in her room, mildly frustrated while brushing her hair. The lone face of frustration reflecting back while doing it herself was still strange. They had done everything together to complement each other, so Oriwitz had naturally developed a better technique for dealing with knots in her long hair. Gwendolyn never struggled with his shorter hair.
And spending more time apart, they could no longer finish each other’s sentences without flaw. Gwendolyn completely misinterpreted Orwitz’s thoughts just last night! It felt jarring to suddenly lose what she thought was a part of her, but they were separate people after all. It was healthy that they grew independent of each other. It was just one thing she had to accept as they matured.
A knock on the door sounded before it opened.
“Sister, are you ready? It’s time for work.” Orwitz looked at her briefly before turning his eyes to the side. He was likely a bit unsettled as well, to have his intentions so misunderstood. He had always followed along, dominated by the airs of her as the older sibling, so she may have been shocked that he spoke out against her.
It was a simple disagreement. Nothing of much importance. They had different opinions on which mission to take up. Gwendolyn wanted the warm tropics of Macali to investigate a shipment of machine parts. Meanwhile, Orwitz wished to head north, to survey what the border towns needed in terms of supplies.
The both of them disliked the cold, so it was strange that he would choose to head north, rather than south. But when pressed for answers, he merely clammed up.
“Is it the strangeness of Macali? The spicy food? The shamelessness?”
But he shook his head ‘no’ each time. Finally losing her patience at his silence, she snapped at him.
“Or is it that you no longer wish to go with me, now that you have a taste of freedom?”
Orwitz’s eyes widened from that. He shrunk back, hurt. And then, he turned away and left the room. Gwendolyn knew that she had said too much at that point. She didn’t truly mean it. Her frustration had put words in her mouth. After a night to think it over and calm down, she walked up to Orwitz.
“I- I understand that you have your own wants, and they don’t have anything to do with me. I’m sorry for prying. You are welcome to come find me after you have done what you need to do.”
Gwendolyn’s words were ever so stiff, but they conveyed the awkward apology that was needed. Orwitz nodded before sheepishly turning back to her.
“Maybe I should go to Macali with you after all, Sister. I’m getting cold feet about going alone.”
“Oh? Why would that be? You’ve gone all the way to Sanshiro and back on your own, so what’s strange about this trip?”
“Um… it’s because I’m not sure what to say when… when I… run into Ludmila…”
The hairbrush in Gwendolyn’s hand dropped and clattered on the floor. After a few awkward moments, she bent down and picked it up.
“Here.” She thrust the brush into Orwitz’s hands. “Help me with my hair and tell me about it.”
It seemed like there was still more that had been hidden from her all this time. And only by changing, did she finally start to see the differences between them.