... wan! Ewan! A voice calls out in the dark. Eyelids flicker in uncertainity, back and forth across slumber and conscience.
On the seconds that they lie open, they offer a glimpse of gentle, dim lighting. A longer peek reveals a wooden roof far above and a pair of hazel eyes, much closer, strained open in desperate concern.
"Ewan! Are you awake?!"
Ewan's mind produces the answer promptly, but his lungs need more time; a gasp of air tests the whole apparatus first, verifying that it still works before allowing his voice out in a half-coughed "yeah".
Saleh thus draws his head back to himself, closing his eyes. Breathing deep in relief, he mutters and does some unintelligible gesture -- something that people from Caer Pelyn do sometimes, it seems?
"... What were you thinking, Ewan? I thought we were past this!"
Ewan springs himself awake faster as these words slam into his ears. He takes stock of where he's in -- back at his teacher's cabin, in the bed and under the covers. It's dark out, and there’s no sign of the room’s elaborate lighting fixtures, often used for long nights of uninterrupted study; the only light about comes from one or two small candles.
Given a few seconds, Saleh's expression starts shifting from tense to stern. "... Ah, I suppose no good will come from chewing you out in this state. Rest now, Ewan. We'll have a serious conversation when you're feeling better."
"... I'm sorry, Teacher."
"... Are you really?"
"I don't know if you are telling me the truth. Are you actually... sorry?"
Saleh squeezes his eyes shut and sighs. "Have you learned a single thing I've taught you, Ewan? If I have to say it yet again, then I will: magic is no game. You must pace yourself! Or do you want to end up... in this condition... again and again?"
"I know that, Teacher! Of course I do!"
"Then why, Ewan? Why do you not heed it?!"
Silence fell into the room for several seconds -- and much longer in Saleh and Ewan's minds as they searched for something to say.
"... Let's take this from the beginning, shall we?" Saleh's voice pierced the silence, set to trail off into a long journey, but still fit to burst at any moment. "We were taking a stroll through town to relax after a long, hard day of training."
"And then, we happened across someone from the town. She was struggling by herself, carrying a horribly tall pile of firewood."
"You were staring at her all worried, like you felt sorry for her!"
"You noticed that, and it drew your curiosity, so I explained. And then you sat there making that face you make when you're about to get yourself into trouble. And then, you said you wanted to use your wind magic to help her carry the firewood."
"And then you went, 'that won't be necessary!'''
"Do I... truly sound like that?"
"And then you went up to her and offered to take some of the firewood yourself."
"I remember seeing seeing the tension wash away from her face. It's times like these that remind me-"
"But that was bunkus! You were just splitting the awful work in two -- when we could’ve gotten rid of it all in one go! So I-"
"So you went and started lifting the firewood with your wind magic anyway."
"And then you ended up here."
"Um... I guess?"
Saleh sighed again -- this time not in exasperation, but as if to sweep his mind, readying it for a conclusion.
"... You wanted to help. And that's why you went and tried to use your magic, even though we'd been practicing all day."
"Yeah, that's it! Is that so bad, Teacher?"
"Hmm... I do have to admit, I'm glad that this is how you feel. I wouldn't want you to feel any differently about... helping others. Still..." Saleh's fingers scracthed frantically through his lilac locks. "... Ewan, how do you feel when you're using magic?"
"I want you to tell me how you feel when you are using your magic."
"Where'd that come from?"
Saleh quietly held down Ewan’s gaze, looking expectantly, as though he’d only asked the question a fraction of a second ago.
"Uh... I dunno... I feel strong, I guess? Like I can help everyone."
"And right now? Do you feel strong? Like you can help everyone?"
"Yeaaaah... I guess not."
Saleh's eyes calmly lifted from Ewan and towards the scenery beyond the window. "Magic does make us feel powerful. After all, how could it not? Fire dances to the wagging of our fingers; the heavens split open in fury when we request it; the calm breeze will become a raging hurricane and then settle again, as we bid. It may seem natural to conclude, then, that the opposite must be true; that we must be powerless without our magic."
Ewan raised an eyebrow, struggling to follow the trail of ideas.
"Listen, Ewan. Magic is great, but it isn't infinite. We can't rely on it for everything. If you want to be strong and help everyone, then... the first thing you have to rely on is your own self. Your own body and mind... your own powers."
Ewan's eyes widened as things started to make sense. "Is that why you went and carried some of that lady's firewood?"
"Hmmm. I suppose you could think of it as that. If I'd tried using my magic to help her, I'd have worn myself out and failed to help. Thus... if I couldn’t help her as a mage, I tried to help her as a fellow human being."
Ewan lightly chuckled, although he was soon interrupted by his weakened lungs' inability to sustain even that much activity. "You say some funny things sometimes, Teacher."
Saleh's face rose in broad surprise. "What...? How in the world was that..."
"I hope I didn't cause too much trouble. Like, when I collapsed."
"Well... yes, you did cause plenty of trouble when you collapsed."
"Ow, you always have to tell it straight like that, huh?"
"Suffice to say that, after that happened, the two of us had both firewood and a child to lug around."
Again, Ewan tried to laugh, but his body quickly reminded him to stop.
"You know..." Saleh cut in. "When you're feeling better... how about we have a little class, for which we don't use any magic at all?"
"Eh? What kind of lesson would that be?"
"Practical skills. Abilities that you can always use, even when you’re out of magic."
"Oh! That sounds great, Teacher! I can't wait!"
"In that case, you should rest up and get well as quickly as you can."
"I'm on it!"
"Hmm. You're a good student, after all."
Student and teacher shared a relaxed laugh together, colored by the relief of bringing a bond back to its center; this laugh, Ewan was willing to force his weakened body through.