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Through The Blaze (ch7)

momoxtoshiro Dec 12th, 2018 65 Never
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  1. EARLY RELEASE FOR MY $20+ PATRONS!
  2.  
  3. Onto the research team of Lotte, Barbara, Jasna, Chariot, and Holbrooke.
  4.  
  5. Disclaimer: I do not own Little Witch Academia.
  6.  
  7. ------------
  8.  
  9.                                                     Chapter 7. In The Library
  10.  
  11. The second Holbrooke dismisses them from the infirmary, Lotte hurries alongside Barbara and Jasna toward the library. Professor Ursula is leading them at a brisk pace closer to a run, and the Headmistress hurries behind them.
  12.  
  13. Sucy's group has just left for the courtyard and is probably about to take off for the Eternal Forest. Lotte anxiously follows, Barbara scrambles beside her, and even Jasna has stopped munching on her chips. Ursula moves with purpose, until the five of them have broken out into a full sprint. They only slow when they've reached the library.
  14.  
  15. "All right," she says, turning back to the girls. "If you find anything, anything at all, that you might think is relevant to this, call for me immediately."
  16.  
  17. "Focus your searches on the books about medicine," Holbrooke says. "Keep an eye out for healing plants as well."
  18.  
  19. "Professor?" Lotte says. "Do we have any idea where we should begin searching? What about the archives?"
  20.  
  21. Ursula sighs. "If we can't find anything here, we may have to resort to that. But I think we should be able to find something here. This illness is rare but it's still common enough to be written about." She sweeps her gaze around to all three girls. "Do your best. Try not to overlook anything, but don't waste time dwelling on irrelevant things either."
  22.  
  23. "Yes, ma'am!" Lotte says.
  24.  
  25. "Got it," Barbara sniffles.
  26.  
  27. Jasna gives a thumbs-up.
  28.  
  29. Ursula offers a brief smile to them before turning to the library doors and pushing through.
  30.  
  31. Holbrooke informs the librarian of the situation right away and asks all of the other students present to either clear out or help them search. Several of them agree to join them.
  32.  
  33. Lotte hurries right for the Medicinal and Healing Spells section and gets to flipping pages. Barbara joins her there and starts on a different shelf. Jasna, Ursula, and Holbrooke search the Magical History section in hopes of finding previous documentation of the illness and how it was treated.
  34.  
  35. All is very quiet as they get to work.
  36.  
  37. Lotte scans through the table of contents of several books, but none seem to deal with treating major illnesses like Diana's, only minor sicknesses and bacterial diseases. She finds plenty about healing herbs and ingredients, but none are to heal the burning fever affecting her classmate. She stacks the books she's already flipped through into a pile on the table and pulls out another handful to repeat the process.
  38.  
  39. Barbara is doing the same at her shelf, finding plenty about healing cuts and curses, but nothing of the magnitude they're dealing with. She opens a book, scans it, closes it, puts it aside, and grabs another.
  40.  
  41. As the minutes tick by, she loses track of how many times she's done this, of how many books she goes through, until she puts one down that topples the pile. She pauses just for a second to blink and look around.
  42.  
  43. "There are still so many left..."
  44.  
  45. Rows upon rows, aisles upon aisles left of untouched books. Lotte comes up next to her and passes her, grabbing another handful of books off the shelf.
  46.  
  47. "Then there's no time to waste, right?"
  48.  
  49. There's a fierceness in her voice Barbara has never heard before. She shakes herself off and grabs several more books as well.
  50.  
  51. "Right!"
  52.  
  53. And so their pile rises, topples, and rises again as they empty the shelves to no avail.
  54.  
  55. It makes Lotte anxious. Part of her would rather be with Sucy's group, moving around outside searching the woods. She imagines that team must be exhausted, but Lotte knows her team is exhausted in a different way.
  56.  
  57. She glances at the clock on the far wall to find half an hour has already passed. Only half an hour, and yet her eyes are watering from scanning so many pages, and her mind feels fuzzy from trying to process the words she's read.
  58.  
  59. When she glances at Barbara, she notices she too can barely keep her eyes open already, and there are various little paper cuts all around her fingertips. Lotte bites her lip as she looks around at the thousands of books they have yet to check over.
  60.  
  61. "This is impossible... There's no way we can-"
  62.  
  63. And then it hits her. Lotte quickly puts down the book she'd been searching through.
  64.  
  65. "Of course! Why didn't I think of it sooner?"
  66.  
  67. She takes in a deep breath and clasps her hands together. Closing her eyes, she draws in a breath, and lets out her voice.
  68.  
  69. She sings a song to call forth the faeries. Little sprites and spirits slowly poke their heads from between the spines of the books and the spaces on the shelves. Her voice welcomes them out, entices them, and beseeches them for help. They listen and chitter together.
  70.  
  71. Once her song has finished, she speaks to them in their language, asking them for advice of where to look. She watches them hop out and bounce around, and by now Holbrooke, Ursula, Jasna and Barbara have joined her to observe.
  72.  
  73. The faeries all circle around the shelves Lotte and Barbara have been searching, going up as high as the tallest shelves toward the ceiling. Lotte's heart sinks.
  74.  
  75. "So we were in the right spot all along, but we still can't find anything..."
  76.  
  77. "Now, now." Ursula rests a hand on her shoulder. "You did a wonderful job, Lotte."
  78.  
  79. "She's right," Holbrooke smiles. "You've narrowed down where we should be searching, and that will save us precious time."
  80.  
  81. Their words make Lotte feel a little better. Ursula looks around to all of the other girls who remain to help in the search.
  82.  
  83. "All right ladies, let's focus on this area! Keep it up!"
  84.  
  85. "Yes, ma'am!"
  86.  
  87. Jasna draws her wand and uses a spell to extract a dozen books from the highest shelf, then float them down into her hands. She passes a few to Barbara and a few to Lotte and the search for answers continues.
  88.  
  89. Another thirty minutes pass with no results. Eventually, Professor Ursula decides to go to the archives after all and hurries off with the Headmistress.
  90.  
  91. Lotte hardly even realizes they've gone. She closes her most recent book with a helpless sigh and rubs her eyes. When she looks up again, she finds several shelves' worth of books they've cleared...
  92.  
  93. And dozens more to go.
  94.  
  95. Her stomach flips.
  96.  
  97. "This... This is hopeless..."
  98.  
  99. But though it's exactly how she's feeling, it isn't Lotte who says this. She turns her head to find Barbara sitting in a chair, slumped over a table nearby. She's surrounded by open books. Her shoulders tremble and her voice chokes.
  100.  
  101. "This is hopeless... We'll never find it..." She sniffles once before she can't hold back any longer. She begins to cry, burying her face in her arms. Several little faeries wander over to surround her, frowning and whimpering.
  102.  
  103. Lotte rubs her own teary eyes, wipes her glasses on her uniform, and gets to her feet. She places her hand on Barbara's shoulder softly.
  104.  
  105. "Barbara..."
  106.  
  107. Jasna pops her head out from behind a shelf and slowly makes her way over, head tilted to one side. She frowns and comes to stand on Barbara's other side. Barbara sobs again, lifting her head just barely.
  108.  
  109. "I can't... I can't do this-" she wails. "Hannah is out there... she could be in danger... a-and Diana... Diana is..." She buries her face again and loses herself to the tears. Lotte feels her own coming on, but she fights them back.
  110.  
  111. "Come on," she murmurs. "We can't stop now. We have to keep going..." She pats Barbara's back, and inhales slowly. "I'll keep going. You should take a rest."
  112.  
  113. "N-No..." Barbara lifts her head again and wipes her face. "You're right, Lotte. We have to keep going..." She straightens herself up and swallows, trying to get ahold of herself.
  114.  
  115. Lotte tries out a tiny smile. Jasna breaks out into a grin as well. She reaches into her pocket and somehow produces two more bags of chips, which she hands to each of them with a cheer:
  116.  
  117. "Fuel!"
  118.  
  119. Lotte and Barbara smile back.
  120.  
  121. "Thanks!"
  122.  
  123. "We're gonna need it!"
  124.  
  125. So they all tear open their chips, start eating, and continue searching.
  126.  
  127. The sprites help them turn pages and pile the books up neatly to make more space on their tables.
  128.  
  129. The minutes keep on ticking by.
  130.  
  131. They keep searching.
  132.  
  133. Common cold, pneumonia, stomach pains.
  134.  
  135. Thyme, rosemary, thistle.
  136.  
  137. Magical herbs and elixirs.
  138.  
  139. Witch-exclusive illnesses and syndromes.
  140.  
  141. Lotte nearly cries out when she actually finds a page that mentions the intense fever assaulting Diana at this very moment. But it is only a brief passage, and it only mentions the illness, but says nothing about treating it. She deflates, slouching back into her chair with a sigh.
  142.  
  143. "Almost..." she whispers. "We must be almost there..."
  144.  
  145. Just then the doors open, and Ursula and Holbrooke enter quietly. Judging by the looks on their faces their search through the archives has yielded nothing. Ursula looks like she's about to ask them how things have gone on their end, but she can quickly tell she doesn't need to inquire.
  146.  
  147. The two older witches walk slowly over to their exhausted students and silently choose a few more books off the shelf.
  148.  
  149. The air of hopelessness is palpable, but no one wants to acknowledge it. They refuse to.
  150.  
  151. They look through more books. More chapters. More pages.
  152.  
  153. Another hour passes.
  154.  
  155. Lotte picks up what must be her three-hundredth book, but her hands are too shaky to open it. Her vision is blurry and the words on the cover don't make much sense.
  156.  
  157. When she looks over at Barbara, she finds her still vigorously flipping pages past the tears tumbling down her face. Ursula and Holbrooke are on the other side of the library, conversing in hushed voices. Lotte puts a hand to her forehead and closes her eyes-
  158.  
  159. "Found it!"
  160.  
  161. Jasna's jolly cry rings out through the quiet library. Everyone straightens up in shock and turns toward the sound of her voice. A second later, Jasna comes bounding out from between two shelves, holding a thick book above her head. She puts it down in front of Lotte and opens to a certain page.
  162.  
  163. "Can't read it all," Jasna whimpers.
  164.  
  165. By now Holbrooke, Ursula and Barbara have gathered around the table too.
  166.  
  167. "My!" Holbrooke claps. "You've found it Miss Antonenko!"
  168.  
  169. "It's written in another language," Ursula confirms. Jasna nods.
  170.  
  171. "All I could read was "honey"..."
  172.  
  173. "It's Celtic!" Lotte gasps. "I can read it!"
  174.  
  175. "Y-You can?" Barbara clasps her hands together hopefully.
  176.  
  177. "Yes!" Lotte nods. "My family is Scottish! I know Celtic!" She pulls the book close and huddles over it, then begins reading aloud:
  178.  
  179. "'The syndrome to affect witches with tremendous amounts of magic, which causes intense fever and extreme discomfort. In it's earliest stages it is relatively tame, but if untreated for long it may become fatal.'"
  180.  
  181. Barbara chokes audibly. Lotte quickly continues.
  182.  
  183. "Don't worry! We won't let it get that bad!"
  184.  
  185. "Does it list a treatment, Miss Yanson?" Holbrooke asks.
  186.  
  187. "R-Right! Let me see... 'The syndrome can be cured with an antidote, consisting of various common medicinal herbs...' We have those already... where are the rarer items...? Ah! 'Colt's foot, Golden Bee's honey, blue juniper berries, the petal of a mandrake flower... along with something even more difficult to find...'"
  188.  
  189. "More difficult than those?" Barbara wails.
  190.  
  191. "What is it?" Ursula asks.
  192.  
  193. Lotte reads on dutifully:
  194.  
  195. "'A fragment of a stone harboring great amounts of magical energy.'"
  196.  
  197. There's a beat of silence before everyone speaks up at once.
  198.  
  199. "The Sorcerer's Stone!"
  200.  
  201. "That's it!" Ursula cries. "There's nothing else it could be!"
  202.  
  203. Holbrooke draws her wand immediately and summons several brooms out of thin air, then uses a spell to open the nearest window.
  204.  
  205. "Professor Ursula, with me! The rest of you go on!"
  206.  
  207. "Yes ma'am!"
  208.  
  209. Lotte Barbara and Jasna each hop onto a broom.
  210.  
  211. "Tia Freyre!"
  212.  
  213. They take off out the open window and shoot straight for the tower where the Sorcerer's Stone twinkles a dim green in the late evening hours. As she flies, Lotte draws her wand and sends out a message to Sucy:
  214.  
  215. We have the final ingredient! If you've collected everything then come back right away!
  216.  
  217. She sends it and follows along behind the others toward the tower.
  218.  
  219. The three of them fly to the top, to the room where the Stone shines, and skid to land. Professor Ursula and Holbrooke soon follow.
  220.  
  221. "A piece of the stone," Ursula says. "It makes sense. For an illness so severe, it would take great magic and powerful ingredients to combat."
  222.  
  223. "But how will we take a piece off?" Lotte wonders.
  224.  
  225. "There is a spell we can use," Holbrooke says. "It will weaken the Stone long enough to chip off a fragment."
  226.  
  227. "Let me do it!" Barbara cries. "Diana showed me something similar once! It was how to crush crystals for a therapeutic incense. I can take off a piece."
  228.  
  229. Holbrooke nods.
  230.  
  231. "Very well, Miss Parker. The rest of you, please lend me your wands."
  232.  
  233. As the others convene around the Headmistress, Barbara mounts her broom and floats up to where the Stone hovers. She positions her wand at the bottommost edge and waits.
  234.  
  235. The others raise their wands and speak the spell Holbrooke has told them:
  236.  
  237. "Treygna Effica!"
  238.  
  239. A burst of light shoots from their wands and envelopes the Stone. The resulting brightness is almost blinding, but Barbara doesn't recoil. She squints past the light and positions her free hand beneath the edge she'd chosen. Then, with a firm swing of her wand she raps it against rock in a special technique she'd learned from Diana. The edge chips off and drops into her waiting palm.
  240.  
  241. "I got it!" She drifts back down and breathlessly hands the piece over to her headmistress.
  242.  
  243. "Well done, Miss Parker! Now then, let's hurry back." Holbrooke mounts her broom with Ursula behind her. "Miss Yanson, have you contacted Miss Manbavaran?"
  244.  
  245. "Yes! They should be coming back soon if they've got everything."
  246.  
  247. "Good. Then let's go."
  248.  
  249. The five witches fly back to Luna Nova at top speed like shooting stars through the night.
  250.  
  251. Just before they reach the building, Lotte spots a ripple in the air. A leyline opens up, and a second later Amanda shoots through with a jar in her hands.
  252.  
  253. "Amanda!"
  254.  
  255. "Miss O'Neill!"
  256.  
  257. "The one and only!" Amanda pants. "We got everything you asked for, Headmistress! The others'll be here in a minute."
  258.  
  259. "Excellent. Miss O'Neill, the ingredients please!"
  260.  
  261. "You got it!" Amanda tosses the jar into the air and enchants it with a spell, guiding its path into Ursula's hands.
  262.  
  263. "Thank you!" Ursula says. "Good work! Headmistress, let's go."
  264.  
  265. "Yes. Good work, ladies. We'll create the antidote right away."
  266.  
  267. Holbrooke and Ursula take off back to the building as quickly as they can manage.
  268.  
  269. The younger witches all breathe a sigh of relief. Jasna is the first to move, zipping over to Amanda to all but hug her off her broom.
  270.  
  271. "Welcome back!"
  272.  
  273. "Whoa! Easy, Jasna!"
  274.  
  275. "How did everything go?" Lotte wonders. "Is everyone all right?"
  276.  
  277. "Yeah! It was crazy, but we're all good!"
  278.  
  279. "Thank goodness!" Lotte sighs.
  280.  
  281. Barbara nearly sways from relief too.
  282.  
  283. They slowly descend into the grass below to stand on solid ground. Barbara has to hold onto her broom as a crutch, and Jasna is still hugging Amanda. Lotte peers up at the leyline, waiting for the others to arrive.
  284.  
  285. "I'm so glad you found everything."
  286.  
  287. "Yeah. Wasn't easy, but we managed once we put our heads together! Cons got us the honey no problem, Sucy plucked the berries when they were blue, and I got the colt's foot! Even that Hannah did her part. She volunteered to be the bait to distract the mandrake."
  288.  
  289. "Hannah did?!" Barbara shrieks.
  290.  
  291. "Yup, sure did! Girl's got guts, I'll give her that!"
  292.  
  293. Barbara goes pale just thinking about it, but Lotte ends up smiling with how endearing it all is.
  294.  
  295. A moment later a rush of air comes from the leyline above. Professor Badcock flies through, followed by Sucy, Constanze, and finally Finneran with Hannah at her back. They spot the others on the ground below and descend.
  296.  
  297. "Yo!" Amanda grins. "'Bout time you guys got here."
  298.  
  299. "Yes, yes," Finneran huffs. "Did you hand over the jar?"
  300.  
  301. "Ages ago. Headmistress is already on the antidote."
  302.  
  303. "Very good then."
  304.  
  305. As Constanze lands, Jasna bounds over to pick her up and hug her too, then pulls Amanda back in.
  306.  
  307. "Back together!"
  308.  
  309. "Yeah!" Amanda ruffles her hair. "Thanks for finding the last ingredient, Jasna."
  310.  
  311. Lotte is waiting for Sucy to land as well and quickly rushes over to her.
  312.  
  313. "Sucy!" She can't stop herself from pulling Sucy into a hug. "I'm so glad..."
  314.  
  315. "Wasn't that bad," Sucy mumbles, subtly putting an arm around her too. "You guys seem beat. How many books did you go through?"
  316.  
  317. "At least half the library," Lotte mumbles, stepping back.
  318.  
  319. And behind them Barbara rushes over to her own partner and throws her arms around her, sobbing.
  320.  
  321. "Hannaaaaah!"
  322.  
  323. Likewise, Hannah cries out her name too.
  324.  
  325. "Barbaraaaaa!"
  326.  
  327. They whimper together for a moment, clinging tightly to each other, shaking so much they somehow cancel each other out.
  328.  
  329. "I heard you... you were the bait?" Barbara whimpers. "For a mandrake? Wh-What were you thinking Hannah?! That's so dangerous!"
  330.  
  331. "It's all right! I made it out somehow."
  332.  
  333. Barbara eases back, noticing how Hannah is leaning awkwardly into her.
  334.  
  335. "You're limping."
  336.  
  337. "Yeah... it got my foot for a second."
  338.  
  339. "Hannah!"
  340.  
  341. "But it's fine! Just some scratches!" She reaches up to cup both hands on Barbara's face. "You look exhausted. How much were you crying, Barbara?"
  342.  
  343. "It's fine..." Barbara sighs. "It's all right now... Thank goodness you're back safely..."
  344.  
  345. "Yeah. I'm back." Hannah hugs her close again. "How's Diana?"
  346.  
  347. Barbara shakes her head.
  348.  
  349. "I haven't seen her. We've been in the library until now."
  350.  
  351. "What was the last thing we needed? It was here on campus?"
  352.  
  353. "Yes! We needed a piece of the Sorcerer's Stone! We just got back."
  354.  
  355. "So then... we did it?"
  356.  
  357. "Damn right we did!" Amanda cuts into their conversation proudly. "I'd say we make a pretty good team sometimes, don't we?"
  358.  
  359. "For sure!" Lotte agrees. Sucy just shrugs.
  360.  
  361. "Well c'mon then! Let's go check on Diana."
  362.  
  363. "Y-Yeah!"
  364.  
  365. "Right!"
  366.  
  367. Together the seven young witches hurry back toward the school together.
  368.  
  369. -----------
  370.  
  371. A/N: The library group was bit tougher to pin down since their interactions were calmer and quieter, though still stressed. But I wanted to have them all play a major role as well, (Lotte singing to the faeries, Jasna finding the book, and Barbara chipping the stone). In the end I felt Diana's teammates needed to be the ones to secure the final ingredient for their respective tasks.
  372.  
  373. Next chapter will focus on the final group of two...
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