Several hours later we were in the final stages of the extraction. All the oil had been extracted from the roots and now swirled in front of us within a sphere of air, vaporized and saturated with Aeria’s magic to remain in such a state. With the gateway opened to the foundation that made up the building blocks, now it was up to me to find and extract the desired properties from it.
I stood in front of the sphere, my hands pushing past the boundary and into a myriad of colors that meshed and rolled against one another within it. In the past I normally only received physical sensations related to the properties when we used this sort of extraction method, due to the contract. That usually resulted in more trial-and-error, the use of reagents to test what produced certain reactions, more extensive research to identify them based on a single sensory input, and then going from there.
But now, it was similar to when I saw the world from Aeria’s perspective while we were fused together. Instead of the various gases that made up the air around us being a variety of colors, I could see the individual properties within the compounds as colors. Some of them were hues that I couldn’t put words to, and for things that had more compounds and properties they meshed together to the point where it was difficult to tell where one began and the other ended. Regardless, it was still to my benefit as combining the sensory information from my eyes and sense of touch allowed me to identify them much easier.
The Sylphid yawned from her position in the center of the sphere. Using her magic for such a long period of time was draining on her. But I needed her to keep the gateway open and cycle the air around, so I could pick out what we needed.
“I know you’re tired, but bear with it a little longer, Aeria.” I felt a numbing feeling within my fingertips as they brushed against a purplish-blue section of the vapors. The color led me to believe that it slowed energy production, and from the feeling of I believed it was loosening my blood vessels slightly. It must’ve been one of the compounds that was a hypotensive. “Isolate this one. I want to use it for the sleeping aerosol.”
She gestured and the vapor that contained the colors were bundled together. They flowed down an air tube and into a beaker within a bucket of chilled water. Then she severed the tube at the end and used the transmogrified air as a stopper. The colder water outside the glass would condense the vapors within into a liquid, separated from the rest of the harmful compounds to be disposed of later.
We continued the process of picking and choosing which ones to remove, shrinking the sphere down in the act, until there was a much smaller mesh of black and vermillion. The moment my fingers touched it, I felt a sensation. The closest reference my brain could relate to it while connected through Aeria’s magic would be akin to an acrid, gnawing substance—almost like poison, but not one directed towards me. “This is it. We’ll add this directly to the Alkahest.”
Aeria pulled herself from out of the sphere and closed the gateway, leaving my vision to return to normal. Then she focused on keeping it contained until I finished pouring the inert Alkahest into a vial. Last, she created an air-tube that piped the vapor into the vial and kept it there until I sealed it off with a stopper. All that was left was to merge them together.
“I’m getting sleepy…” Aeria rubbed at her dark eyes as she fluttered down to the vial and wrapped her tiny arms around the glass. Then she hummed, letting her magic lace her voice as it caressed the solvent. The fluid took on a luminous, argent color in response, quivering as it came to life.
I observed carefully as the volume increased as the vapors within were broken down from their gaseous state and absorbed into the amorphous substance. The silver was transmuted into a crimson-black looking liquid clay. Aeria took her place on the top of my head with a weary sigh as we now waited for Elsa to return.
There was still the matter of drafting up the sleeping aerosol that was promised before we learned about the severity of their problem. Even if the children likely wouldn’t need it, their mother would probably make use of it given how tired she looked. It could also serve as an apology for the misunderstanding my words may have brought about.
I would have to abstain from using the standard catalyst in it. Otherwise she would be stuck sleeping until the gases ran out, unable to wake up under her own power. I had the unfortunate experience of learning that one the hard way in the past. The hypotensive compounds we saved could be used once I diluted the concentration enough and added in something to balance it out, turning what would be harmful into something helpful with the right formula.
I scribbled down what I felt would be best after some thought before I heard a knock on the door. “Yes?”
“I’m back, and I’ve brought the medical base with me.” The Mountain Spirit entered the room from the hallway, a round flask wrapped within the network of roots that served as her digits. The dark gemstones that served as her eyes spanned over the room before settling onto the supplement we had prepared. “Oh, you’ve already finished?”
“Aeria and I have had a lot of practice with trying to extract compounds as of late, so we were able to finish with ample time. If you have the medicinal base, we can treat the children now.”
“Just let me check the additive first. It’s not that I don’t trust you both, but I want to be thorough given how tricky I know it can be to make.” She checked the contents herself and a soft, pleased sound slipped out from her. “Even Wilhelm struggled with getting the quality this high at your age. You’ve both improved so much.”
“I’ll admit, the technique was quite advanced. Where did your previous contractor learn it?”
“Theo traveled a lot. Unlike the others in his family, he wanted to know everything he could, so he would leave to various places to gather knowledge. It was almost an obsession with him, and I knew it would get him in trouble. Then one day… he…”
The slight tremor in her granular voice that said enough. “My apologies if I brought up something painful.”
She shook her head as she reached up slowly, wrapping her fibrous digits around my forearm. “I loved Theo because he was a very bright man. You’re a lot like him, so I do worry about you in the same way. I know you have your secrets, but if you’re in any sort of trouble, don’t hesitate to tell me. Okay?”
“…Of course,” I said. “You’ll be the first I contact.”
“That’s all I ask.” She released me. “Anyway, it should fine for you to add it into the medical base. I’ll get Wilhelm and wake the children’s mother.”
Leaving the flask behind, Elsa left the way she came before seamlessly melding into the ground and sinking out of view. She could travel faster that way with nothing holding her down. That left around thirty-minutes before they all returned.
Brushing the part of my arm where she touched and dismissing a fleeting thought, I reached up and nudged Aeria’s head gently. She’d fallen asleep at some point when I was writing, which explained why she was so quiet when Elsa had been here. “Wake up. There’s still one thing you need to do before you can go to sleep for the night.”
Tiny, discontent noises came out of her as she stirred awake and fluttered down to help until we were left with the final product. The round-body flask was filled with a reddish liquid that made up the medication. One cup each would be enough to treat the children, so I poured them into a separate set from my kit and then brought them with me into the children’s room.
Tanya jolted upright as I opened the door. The cloth in her hands was wet and her hands wrinkled. She must’ve finished wiping them down again but, considering how red her eyes were, it was likely she had been crying as well.
“The medicine is ready.” I took a seat across from her, on the edge of one of the beds, and set one cup on the chest near the bucket while I held the other. “We’ll have to wake them up one at a time and then have them drink it slowly, but they’ll get better.”
Tanya set aside the cloth and rubbed her eyes before she helped her youngest brother sit up long enough for me to rouse him awake with something to counteract the soporific’s effect. Once he’d emptied with cup with minor sips, we let him lay down again before moving onto the older of the two.
That done, I checked the spots where they were bitten and noticed that the flesh had returned to an unblemished state. The lumps marking where the larvae had been were settled. “The root cause of their illness has been dealt.”
“So… they’ll be fine now?” she asked, hopeful.
“Essentially. Their bodies were put under a lot of stress and that might cause some minor problems, but those can be sorted out with proper rest. So, they’ll be as healthy as they were prior by this time tomorrow.”
“Thank goodness.” She began to sniffle. “I-I was worried that if they got worse, and if they disappeared like Daddy did, it would be because I didn’t stop them from playing in the woods.”
“You had no way of knowing what would happen,” I pointed out. If anything, it’s fortunate she wasn’t laying here as well right now. “Anyway, I’m going to clean up. Your mother and the others will be back soon.”
“Do you need help?”
“No, I have a system when it comes to washing and sanitizing the equipment and need to be meticulous. Besides, you need rest as well. The last thing your brothers would want to see is their older sister crying over them.”
I can’t speak from personal experience, given who my older sister happened to be. The only time I saw her crying it was for the purpose of manipulating my father. But Elsa’s words stopped her mother from crying, and they seemed to have the same result on her daughter.
That was good enough for now.
I went back to the main room and began the process of putting everything away. The distillation set-up was dismantled. The compound that I asked Aeria to preserve for later use was bottled. The cups, the beakers, and other containers were washed in a sanitizing solution. The supplies used recorded for restocking later.
By the time I was done, Miss Bancroft returned with Mister Rieth and Elsa. The moment I told her they would be fine, she rushed to their room to check on them herself. Since what went on after that didn’t concern me I handed over the remaining medicine Mister Rieth.
“Sorry to make you stay so late helping us,” he told me. The sun had gone down long ago at this point. “I know it was unexpected, but your help was immensely appreciated.”
“I had the opportunity to learn much from the experience and didn’t have anything else planned for the day,” I told him, before producing a sheet of paper with my proposed recipe for the sleeping aerosol. “Once Aeria has had a chance to recover, I will work on the aerosol to give to Miss Bancroft by the time of our departure.”
“Sweetie, you don’t have to,” Elsa said. “You’ve both done more than enough given the situation. I’ll make as much Sorbetum as I can once everything has been settled. I promise.”
“Since I inadvertently offended Miss Bancroft, it will be my way of making amends to her,” I explained. “Besides, I was going to make it anyway since I was thinking about adding it to my shop’s stock.”
“If that’s the case, then we won’t stop you,” he said, looking over the recipe. Then he handed it back and nodded. It was satisfactory. “Elsa will escort you home since it’s gotten so late. If you need any herbs we’ve cultivated, please stop by our home and pick them up once Aeria has recovered.”
I agreed and then bid the Bancroft household farewell before heading home with Elsa. It was only when I neared the gates that I spotted the light in the dining room and recalled what Miss Taun had told me last night. Father had returned with the others and, knowing how important appearances were, I suspected I wouldn’t be allowed to just go to my room and rest after a long day.
Well, let’s get this over with…