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“Akko!”

The other witch didn’t respond. Her back rose and fell rapidly under Diana’s hand, breaths shallow, and accelerating. The snake’s poison attacking her respiratory system already? A bad reaction?

Diana shook herself. It didn’t matter. She rolled Akko onto her back and sat back on her heels. She inhaled deeply and— broke into a coughing fit. Her throat was tight and sore, every breath scraping painfully against its walls. It passed, precious minutes later, but Diana dared not speak in her condition. She flicked her wand, a blissfully easy spell to gather humidity filling a cupped hand with fresh water. She drank greedily. Only then was she able to turn back to Akko and finish casting the palliative spell. A handful of marble-sized lights sunk down into the skin of Akko’s neck and chest, and soon her breathing had eased, the anti-inflammatory effect of the spell relieving her airways.

A relieved sigh escaped Diana. She reached down to brush away stray hairs from Akko’s face, taking note of her slightly elevated temperature.

It seemed her tangle with her aunt’s snakes had taken more out of her than expected. She felt drained and shaky despite —she checked on her hourglass— the short time she’d been unconscious. She would… most likely be in a sorry state in the morning, had Akko not come to her rescue. “This girl… honestly.” She said to herself. Rushing into things with nary a thought for her own wellbeing. Had she known about the curse protecting the ritual from interference? Not that Diana believed it would stop her.

Hopefully, nothing else would happen to her. This was bad enough. Diana could see the unnatural pallor of Akko’s skin, how her veins had darkened, sluggishly spreading the poison around her body. Not fatal —her aunt might have been many things, but she was no murderer; she refused to believe a Cavendish would ever swoop that low— but left unattended….

Well, she couldn’t take care of Akko here, but they were within the sacred grounds of the Cavendish. Diana knew of several hidden places fully stocked with supplies nearby. The main underground hospital was just a small detour away from the path Diana should be taking, and it would be best place to take care Akko.

Diana straightened her spine and took stock of herself. Nothing jumped out to her. A bruise was already starting to form, yellow and green around her throat, and nearly the rest of her was tender, sure to bruise later as well, but that was the extent of the damage. She hadn’t been bitten. It was more than treatable. She was just tired and sore —and her chest felt tight, there was a pressure behind her eyes— things she could ignore.

What she couldn’t ignore was how her hands had shaken while casting what would usually be a simple spell, how the magic had resisted her will. It had taken too much effort. She wasn’t confident she could sustain a spell to carry Akko all the way to the hidden chambers. It really wouldn’t do to drop her patient although surely, she thought with a smile, Akko was so stubborn she’d sooner break the pavement than her own head.

Unwilling to resort to magic, she was going to have to carry Akko herself. Diana stretched her legs and warmed her joints before she was satisfied. She made Akko’s limp body sit against her back and heaved her up by her thighs. Akko was heavier than she’d thought for her size, but maybe that was her fatigue speaking. She adjusted her arms around her neck the best she could before staggering forward.

Her knees threatened to give out beneath her, so she found strength in the uneasy warmth of the body draped across her back. She fell into a rhythm. Two step for every breath of Akko’s, blowing against her jaw much too gently for what she knew those lungs could do. —she didn’t think about the Evening Star’s Ashen Light, transiting above— A foot in front of the other.

She didn’t bother illuminating the way. Diana knew these paths by heart, could thread them in the darkness without missing a turn or tripping on the old stones. She followed in the footsteps of those that had come before.

She was a Cavendish, after all.