Circadian cycles had long gone out the window since the everlasting Nightfall. A few of the clocks, especially at the Inn, were reset to accurately reflect an accepted unit of measure amongst the townsfolk, but it was in no way tied to any change in the light from the celestial bodies that hung in the sky above. Instead, some of the members of Twilight Town seemed to just agree on a time for the sake of scheduling, and set their clocks by it. According to that, and when Era had gotten her shuteye a handful of hours ago, it was now, in some unit of measure, morning.
Era had been back at the task of lending a helping hand around the town for a few hours now. The conversation with Fumiya the previous day had given Era plenty to think about. Perhaps she wasn't meant to connect with the shadows anymore. The idea felt right. As of recent, the path of the Light seemed to be calling to her, and perhaps there was nothing wrong with letting go of the things of the past. This season of her life had, after all, been focused on letting go.
They were thoughts normal for a busy morning: background-work while one's hands busied themselves with the toils of whatever task they had been assigned. In this case she was pulling strips of cloth out from the sterilization mixture, now that they were cool enough to touch, wringing them, and letting them air-dry dangling from the hooks that had been rudimentarily erected along the wall for this sole purpose. Maybe she could pull a little extra water from the cloth using her basic understanding of water spells? Placing her hand close to one of the hanging strips, she focussed on the magic she had learned from Vapor, and slowly pulled her hand further away.
Some of the water slid out of the cloth and splashed onto the floor, and the ginger gave a gentle smirk. There was a tiny bit of self-confidence there, even if her skills were only very basic, it was another branch of magic that, with enough practice, maybe she could master! For now, baby steps were enough to make her happy. Of course, her speed and accuracy being so poor probably wouldn't help the cloth dry any quicker, so maybe, since she was finished hanging the sterilized strips, she could make better use of her time elsewhere.
With that thought, she gathered up some dry spools of fresh bandages and went to check on the large pot of carrot and summer squash soup she'd put over the stove about an hour ago. It wasn't much, but the recent harvest of a few local items meant there was just a little more to go around. There would be several more mouths to feed over the next few days, which meant materials still had to stretch. This makeshift inn-hospital hybrid had seen an influx of patients over the last few days, and they were happy for any help they could find.
It wasn't much, but the easier stuff like changing old bandages, providing food and water and similar tasks were well within her capabilities. And Heaven knew Twilight Town needed as much help as it could get!
It was the third room she visited. There was no door to this room, only a pastel lilac cloth draped over where a door should be. It was the same type of cloth that had been tied back to let the pale moonlight shine in. The warm exterior light from the candles in the hallway seemed to flicker as she opened the drape to let herself in. "Hello," the soft hum was less of something she was looking for an outright answer for, and more just a test to see if the occupant was conscious. She had done this a couple times before, so a pattern was forming that would allow her smooth communications with the guests she interfaced with. It certainly appeared he was awake, and at the moment of recognition she stopped in her tracks.
Her next question should have been 'Would you like a bite to eat'? But it turned out she had come down with a case of sudden inarticulation. She knew the young man in this bed. The dark form her volatile emotions had assumed put them at odds with each other. It was because of those few brave enough to fight her that she hadn't done something highly regrettable. In reality she was grateful to all of them for stopping her when they did. And while she was grateful for the help, she also didn't want to overstep her bounds. How did he see her? If he held any enmity toward her, well... this would certainly make things awkward. Frost colored eyes looked down at the stew on the tray in her hands while her mind was temporarily entertained with a sudden conflict.
Given the situation, what would be an appropriate greeting for him?
She didn't have a free hand with which to awkwardly scratch the back of her head, so after an awkward moment, she decided to proceed politely, and cracked a gentle smile, though her eyes said she was proceeding with caution. "A- Are you hungry?"
At his closest estimate, Jin figured he'd woken up somewhere around six hours ago to the slight annoyance that had soon turned to flaming pain that radiated from his right arm. The throbbing ache had roused memories of a battle that sleep had initially blocked from his memories. Remembering there might still be a conflict going on, Jin shot up and reached to his side only to find his swords not present.
Someone must have moved him. And given the relative quiet from the outside, that meant whatever battle he'd been fighting had come to a close. He just hoped that meant they'd won.
Wherever he was now, he wasn't alone. Injured townsfolk wrapped up in dusty white gauze snored peacefully in the beds surrounding him, and it wasn't until much later that they began to rouse and go about their day of waiting for food to be brought to them.
Jin hated hospitals.
The slight agitation sent a spark across his body, rekindling the pain that had burrowed deep into the bones of his injured arm. He wasn't even sure what it was, but it seemed that any slight attempt at using his lightning would call it forth. This was new, and it was definitely going to take some getting used to.
Also new was the cracks that he could see visibly carved into his flesh, giving a small glimpse to the power that slept inside him and threatened to swell over and pour out with each breath he took.
The materia, he remembered. The one he'd shattered in his attempt at fending off the Dark Hide. He sighed, wiggling his fingers gently and watching as the intricate, spider-web cracks danced across his skin and opened further with a slight spike of pain. He grimaced, closing his eyes and letting out a soundless breath. He hadn't felt anything like this for a long time - not since his time in the Colosseum back in Ornicco in the fights he refused to throw a punch in. He almost hated how effective his body was at healing him back then. Of course, that had all been before finding Kailyn - before learning that he still had something to fight for.
"You're kind of an idiot, you know that?"
His head shot to and fro, side to side. He didn't hear voices like that unless they were there. This wasn't the voice of his instincts, this was...
This was the voice of the girl he'd seen in that vision back before the Dark Hide fight.
"I've heard that before, yeah," he thought with a chuckle. "Never hurts to be reminded, though. Who are you anyway?"
He sat in silence for the next ten minutes waiting for a reply before shaking his head. Of course answers would evade him when he actually wanted them. Of course the one link he had back home would fall through when he tried to reach out and grab it.
Using his good arm, Jin reached behind his back and undid the small knot keeping the fragment of Tamnian crystal around his neck. It caught what little light there was left in the room, glittering in a way that reminded him - however strangely - of rainwater glimmering on the trees in the early morning back in Levitara.
"Could have at least given me a name," he muttered, shaking his head and setting the crystal down on the bed by his crossed legs.
"Korra," the voice replied, a giggle in its tone.
Jin whipped his head around to the crystal, watching as the glint of light it held faded out. His right arm scrambled for it out of instinct, ignoring the jolt of pain that came with the tearing open of barely closed wounds. He had a name and a face for the girl. He had a way to speak with her. She was real, she was back home in Tamnia. She had to be.
"Jin," he whispered, careful to not let his tone come off too frantic. "I'm Jin. Where are you? Is Tamnia still okay? What about the Heartless?"
He waited, again, on edge for another span of time he couldn't be bothered to count. Still, even when he was speaking aloud, she didn't seem to be able to hear him. Or, at the very least, she didn't feel like responding.
For all he knew, she might not even be alive. Maybe he was just being overly optimistic. Funny, that's not usually something he was accused of.
He sat back, processing everything and looking for his swords. There, he saw, in the corner of the room. He stood up, pacing over in measured, light steps so as to not irritate his arm any more than he had to. Reaching for the pair of him he hoisted them over his back by the cords around the hilts and retreated back to his bunk.
He sat with the blades in his lap, shutting his eyes and opening his senses.
In the blink of an eye, morning seemed to come.
With the people moving around, he didn't expect anyone to peek in on him. He was surprised when a familiar presence meandered into his room.
He opened his eyes, looking Era over up and down. She seemed to be in good health, if a little shocked that he was there. It was nothing he hadn't seen before.
"Hello yourself," he replied good-naturedly at her greeting. He could feel her hesitation in engaging him, the agitation radiating off her skin. Maybe a part of her had been conscious during that fight he'd had to beat her down in to save her, and maybe that part had her afraid of him. It wouldn't be the first time. Dispelling that fear as soon as possible was in both of their best interests. "Haven't seen you in a while. You holding up all right?"
It was a weird question to ask, he knew. The patient in the hospital asking about the condition of his supposed caretaker. Still, the question was warranted. Last time they'd met, their conditions were very much reversed. She'd been the one suffering from a condition she couldn't very well control, and - in a roundabout way - he'd been one of the people trying to save her.
"You know, I don't usually eat much of anything, but given the circumstances," Jin said, raising his bad arm and letting the dim glow fill the room. "I feel like I might need to have a meal sometime soon."
Acceptance was always a nice thing. Not necessarily that she had any fear to dispel; Era was more so not wanting to stir the ire of another, and she had hoped to find none in him. It was a pleasant surprise that he was kind: and a surprise she latched onto with the nonchalance of a warm smile. “I’m much better now, thanks to you.” It wasn’t overly cheesy, just an easy and warm appreciation for his ability to do what had to be done.
“I made carrot and summer squash stew. It’s nutritious albeit maybe a little bland. I used what salt we had, but salt is still relatively difficult to come by.” The small female set the tray down next to him, taking a seat near his bed. She removed the roll of cloth bandages from it and the soup and the cup of pure water which remained were his for the taking.
Frost eyes caught the sight of his arm for a moment. She had seen her fair share of different sorts of people. It wasn’t beyond Era to understand that foreign races had differences, but the way Jin’s skin was cracked - and the way it glowed - were still fascinating quirks of their own. They were just a couple characteristics of a different people, and therefore Jin was a bit intriguing in his own right: at least to a Spirian like herself, who had never really seen anything like that before.
“Maybe bandages aren’t what you need right now.” He was an alien, after all. Fixing his condition might have required something else. And it looked like what he’d been through had left him hurting. Even if he looked like he was managing that pain pretty well. “Is there something else I can get for you?” Even if it was just pain killers - did pain killers even work on people like him? - there had to be something she could do.
As Era briskly placed the steaming broth at the table by Jin's makeshift bedside, he found himself wondering just how long it had been since he last ate. It had to have been while he was still on Tamnia - he'd refused to touch almost anything here for fear of taking it out of the hands of someone who needed it more. Typically the malnourishment wasn't an issue. He'd gone longer without eating; at least he thought he had. Time was such a nebulous thing here.
He fell silent, simply drinking in the stimuli around him. People he hardly knew - some he'd managed to catch the name of once or twice, and others who took one look at his arm and recoiled - sleeping soundly within Marmadue's hovel were the closest. Further out into the city, he could feel the others. Avari and Max were the most prominent as he'd interacted with them the most, but the others who had gone against the Dark Hide were also out there.
At least all of them were still alive. That's more than he could say of the others back home.
He realized his silence would be trailing into the uncomfortable sometime soon, but he couldn't bring himself from the reverie just yet. His consciousness flickered to and fro between each of the people he'd drawn close to during his days in Twilight Town. Though he hadn't managed to catch (or mayber remember) all their names, the feel of them was still very much there.
That went for the weilders of those keyblades as well. Perhaps they even shone a bit brighter than the others through the murk that Darkness had sewn across the Twilight.
Bandages, Jin reminded himself with a shake of his head. Era was talking about bandages.
"To be honest, nothing like this has ever happened before," he said, allowing what traces of a smile that remained on his face to fade. "I don't know if anything can help at all, but anything that keeps this arm covered up would be nice. Hell, maybe a sling just to keep me from moving it around too much."
His uninjured arm came up and gripped the edges of the bowl that Era had brought in offering, and foregoing any sort of utensil that may or may not have accompanied the tray he took a long, slow sip from the bowl.
Underutilized taste buds hummed from the stimulus, and a sigh escaped through the man's nose as a rush passed through his body from the back of his neck and into his extremities. It really had been too long since he last ate.
"Thank you. Not just for the food, but for bothering to check up on me."
He set the bowl down, almost half its contents emptied as he exchanged it for the mug of water. It was cool against his skin, which was a relief from the musty heat offered by the hospital air. Regardless of how cold it was, stuffing enough people in an enclosed space tended to heat it up rather quick.
Finishing a swig of the water, Jin placed the water down and licked his lips of the remaining droplets before taking his freed hand to the sleeve of his shirt. He rolled it upwards, extending the arm towards his caretaker with a wary glance.
"Careful not to touch, the discharge isn't anything to sneeze at and I don't know how well I can control it like this."
"You're welcome," she hummed with a warm smile. Glacial frost eyes flicked over to the damage done to his arm, listening to the other ginger caution her about it. Meanwhile, in in the back of her mind she'd been thinking over his abilities. The power of his electricity was worthy of note. Perhaps that was what permitted the mental communication between them: only something strong, and a little bit abstract, would have been able to break the hold that the throes of the chaos had on her mind.
A jolt of blue arched over the injured area, and thinking on it, maybe there was something better than what these strips of cloth could provide him. "Hold on, I've got an idea!" and the spark of interest was evident in her voice.
She slipped out the door and was gone for a long stretch. What had it been: an hour? Forty-five minutes? Maybe longer. It was difficult to gauge when the moon never moved. Either way, it was a time before she managed to get back to him. But when Era had come back, she had come back with rubber strips. They once belonged to industrial mud-flaps. She'd found them in a pile of scrap someone had turned into a business opportunity. The little scrap yard had benefits: not only did it provide plenty of cloth for the bandages they needed at this little hospital, but Era had been lucky enough to find rubber there, too.
If Jin had still been awake, the small female would have approached him once again.
"Okay, it's not exactly ideal, but maybe this'll help." She'd taken the opportunity to get the rubber cut into smaller strips while she was out in hopes that it would be easier to fit to form. The truth would just have to be tested to be determined. "Here we go." That was all the warning she gave before she began to dress his wounds, careful to do as he said and not touch the energy that coursed through his body.
She wasn't even sure his life form would emit the same sort of electricity, so maybe this wouldn't even work. All she knew was that it was worth a try.
When Era had asked him to wait for her return, Jin had imagined she’d only be gone for a handful of minutes. If she was thinking of something that could help, obviously it would be nearby and easily accessible. After a half hour had passed, he’d started to believe he’d actually scared her off.
It had happened before. People were prone to making escapes from him when they could. Though, this time there wasn’t exactly anyone around that would be looking to detain him. Perothun was a world away, and since Jin had arrived in Twilight Town he hadn’t seen hide nor hair of anyone else from Tamnia.
Besides, it wasn’t like he was dangerous to much of anyone while bedridden the way he currently was. Regardless of Era’s intentions, Jin didn’t have much choice to wait. He supposed he could try to get some more sleep, but on the off chance that she’d be returning sooner rather than later he did his best to keep himself awake. The sight of his swords at the other end of the bed was reassuring. If he did need to hobble to his feet and defend himself, he could.
The idea of fighting sparked a twinge of frustration in Jin’s stomach. His powers were on the fritz. He was severely weakened. He doubted he could summon much more than a spark into being, and that meant his speed, strength, and ability to react to danger in general had been decimated.
Jin sighed, looking around the dimly lit hospital. Maybe he’d take a few days to see how things shaped up, but the chances of bouncing back from something like this anytime soon were…
He just didn’t know.
It was hardly the first time Jin had been in a situation like this. A lot of the more niche uses of his powers were things he’d had to figure out on his own. But those had almost always been beneficial to him. This – the way that his lightning had somehow mixed and merged with the materia’s magic and started tearing him apart from the inside out – was something that he didn’t think he’d ever learn how to control. Even if he could, the question was whether or not he’d want to.
Or whether or not he’d ever get that opportunity.
Era came back fifteen minutes after that thought crossed his mind, the panicked idea that he could be losing his powers forever still flooding Jin’s mind as she dressed his wounds. Whether or not the rubber would actually work was hardly something he’d put thought into when she began.
“Hm. Feels fine,” he commented, attempting to flex the fingers in his damaged hand to distract himself. The fact that he still wasn’t receiving any sort of response from the numbed appendages wasn’t doing much in the way of assuaging his fears. “Thanks for the consideration. I guess I should apologize for being a bit of a problem patient. With anyone else, this sort of thing would just be a quick potion or spell to fix.”
He needed to get out of here, he decided in that moment. Maybe in a few days; maybe in a few weeks. Regardless of the timeframe, if the worst really was going to happen, he didn’t see any point in giving the people tending to him false hope of some sort of recovery on his part.
“I’m sure I’ve taken up enough of your time. Other people could use your help around here too, yeah?”
Era looked at him. There was a comfortable warmth. He was apologizing for how he was a problem, but how could he be responsible for that? Her response was collected and with a bit of an edge. But its certainty was also a bit encouraging. "You don't have to apologize for your physiology! So you're built a little differently than some of the other survivors." Glacial frost eyes looked back at the arm she'd just wrapped in rubber strips. She was lucky she hadn't been hit with the voltage from his life energy. But really, thinking about how he was mad, it was unique. "Honestly, I think it's kind of cool."
She would collect his dishes, assuming he was done with them, then turn her attention back to the injured patient. "Healing takes time. And different wounds take different amounts of time to heal. And that's okay. You can take as long as you need to. You're not taking my time away from any of the other patients. I've already made a couple of rounds for the day. I've done what I can do."
Era was ready to leave him be though; after all it seemed like he might be asking for some privacy. "Now you do what you need to do and rest. And I'll be around. If there's anything else you need, don't hesitate to call." In a manner of speaking, he had taken care of her when she'd become a collateral damage machine. She was more than happy to return the favor and spot him now.