By the time Father Patsu arrived on the scene, the fight had already ended. The winner, a black ponytailed boy already taller and broader than most of the fully-initiated warrior monks, stood over the loser. His right hand held the bokken at his side and his left arm hung limp. Yet, the loser sat on the terracotta tile floor, utterly defeated. The beginning of a black eye betrayed a head shot, and the wheezes as he breathed betrayed some too hard hits to the stomach. A few feet away, the loser's practice katana lie in splinters on the floor.
"Acolyte Auron, what is the meaning of this?"
The ponytailed boy whipped his head out, already knowing he was to be punished, and still angry. "Father Patsu, Acolyte Kinoc--"
"Let Acolyte Kinoc be accountable to Yevon for his own self. Tell me what you were doing."
Auron stared down at the floor. "I started the fight. But," he added, speaking as a headstrong fifteen year old. "He deserved it."
Father Patsu sighed. "I said to let Acolyte Kinoc be accountable for his own actions. We will speak to him later, after he has seen a healer for the injuries you have inflicted upon him."
Kinoc gave a pathetic cough. Auron scowled. "Father, I acted in defense of one of the younger acolytes."
Looking around, a crowd of students surrounded the fight. "Which acolyte?"
Auron stared into the faces of his fellow acolytes, his dark eyes scanning the crowd, until he finally bowed his head and admitted: "He must have run off."
"A likely story. Maester Niera will hear of this. Acolyte Auron, you shall be confined to your barracks until we send for you. Dismissed."
That bokken lashed as viciously as the scowl Auron wore as he slunk away like a fiend cornered and gone into hiding. With the whirl of motion and the sounds of angry swishes in the air, no one noticed until later that his left arm did not move at all.
It was a more subdued Auron who walked into the infirmary a three days later, left arm still hanging motionless at his side. It was his first time in this part of the temple, where the white mages, priests and summoners reigned, and their apprentices rushed to and fro. The smells here, a mix of antiseptics, wounds, and sickness together with the traces of incense that sneaked in from the temple, troubled him. He wished he could get this over with quickly. More accurately, he wished he had enough gil to buy himself a potion from a street vendor and skip this place altogether.
The only other warrior monks in the temple had just come back from a stint on the Bevelle shore. Having just driven away Sin, they looked more like grizzled crusader veterans than the pampered guards who protected the temple. They were heroes, and they had priority. Auron would have to wait all morning, leaning against the wall and trying his damned best to look uninjured, while one passing mage after another stared at him, shook his head, and walked away.
"Sir Auron, the healer will see you now."
Within the infirmary, some wise maester had decreed that small tents be set up to treat the wounded outside the gaze of watching eyes, and Auron entered into one of these. The healer must have been an apprentice still--he was too young to have fully taken the vows of a priest or summoner, and even in that dim light, Auron could see a smile on the healer's face.
"I am Braska, an apprentice in the White Arts and Summoning. What brings you here, Acolyte?"
Not one to mince around at healers, Auron took his coat off and displayed the offending arm at Braska. "This."
Braska took the arm, and pressed down along the bone until pain flared. Auron jerked away, and cradled his useless arm with his good one.
"I see," Braska gave a little laugh. "It's likely broken." He took hold of Auron's arm again, and started prodding again, more gently this time. "How long ago did this happen?"
"That would explain it, then." Did this healer ever stop smiling? "It appears that your arm needs to be repositioned before I can heal it."
Auron said nothing. He closed his eyes and waited for the sudden jerk of pain that came with splinting. He felt nothing.
"So," Braska said, breaking the silence, "how did it happen?"
Not this question again. Auron knew his explanation, Father Patsu, the Captain, and Maester Niera all drove it into his thick skull. "I started a fight. I won, but my opponent managed to get a nasty shot in."
"Oh, I see. Dare I ask what happened to the loser, if you're like this?"
Auron thought of what had happened to Kinoc and the scowl etched deeper into his face. "Nothing serious. I won by default when I broke his weapon. He only collapsed when he saw Father Patsu coming." He silenced himself then, waiting to hear Braska give the same lecture the rest of his seniors gave.
"I think I remember another acolyte coming in a couple days ago. A black eye, and a nasty blow to the solar plexus. Does that sound about right?" Underneath Auron's injured arm, Braska laid a long and narrow board of wood.
Auron tensed in anticipated pain. "Yes."
Apparently though, Braska was not finished conversing with his patient. "This is quite an injury to sustain in order to win a fight against a fellow acolyte."
With his good shoulder, Auron shrugged. "I had to win."
That stab of pain came and spread sharply up his forearm and subsided so quickly that the memory of the pain had to stubbornly live on. Before he could stop himself, he groaned a little.
If Braska noticed, he mercifully did not say anything. "So, may I ask what made you fight Kinoc so seriously?" He wrapped the bandages around Auron's arm, tight enough to keep the bone in its proper place, but still lose enough the Auron did not feel any blockage of blood.
"That Kinoc was bullying first years out of their allowance." Auron gritted his teeth at the dull ache. No matter the healer, or the ailments cure spells always had that effect of small pain and weakness. "No one was doing anything about it. I had to stop it somehow."
"A noble cause," Braska agreed, keeping his eyes on Auron's arm. "You are going to find though, that noble causes will not always agree with the order of the temple.
The pain had mostly subsided. "I've noticed that. Two months of cleaning up the grounds after practices, two months of dishes and no town visitation for the next six months."
Braska laughed. "That must hurt more than the arm." He reached down and picked up a sheet of parchment. "That will be fine at least. You'll find that your pride will probably sting more in the long term. You can have the sister stamp this at the desk, and then give it to your captain. Healer's orders. No strenuous exercise with that arm for a week. You can check back with me then." He took a brush and wrote something in script that Auron could barely read.
"Also," Braska continued as he waited for the ink to dry, "if I may share an observation among the temples. Yevon does not always live up to the ideals it preaches. If you're looking to move up the ranks, you will find that your sense of justice stands against expediency. In those cases you'll have to make a choice. Either resist from without and lose what you work for, or work from within and create the changes you want to see."
Auron turned away. "I didn't ask for any advice."
The healer's smile never wavered. "Then consider it a mere observation by a lowly apprentice." He folded the parchment into thirds. "Remember to get the nun in front to stamp this. Or else you'll be forced to work as though your arm was not broken."
"Come back in a week after your morning practice, and we'll check on that arm."
Auron nodded. He put his coat back on, and left. "See you in a week," he mumbled.
The healer had not been what Auron had expected.
Some years later...
To get to Braska's home from the temple, Auron had to take the ferry and climb halfway up a steep hill on Bevelle's outskirts. Many things could happen in a few years, but few things ever changed. Old ways still dominated the temples, and old injuries still plagued him.
Braska lived in a small house now with his wife, and when he opened the door, shadows under his eyes betrayed a certain amount of weariness. Yet, that smile never faded. "Auron! How nice to see you!"
"You as well."
"What brings you all the way out here?"
Not much could make Auron feel sheepish, but on standing on Braska's doorstep with an obvious injury was something.
"You're still the only healer I can trust."
"Ahh, I see. It's that arm again, I take it?" Braska stood aside and let him in. "I wonder how you managed when I went to Bikanel."
Auron grimaced. "I drank my salary in potions." He walked in, feeling immediately comfortable. Braska's home had an atmosphere completely different from the Bevelle Temple infirmary. For one thing, sunlight flooded in, such a stark contrast from the Bevelle temple infirmary. For another, no antiseptic smell permeated the atmosphere of spices of both Al Bhed and Bevellian origin. Furniture filled every corner. The metallic crunch under his foot might have been a spare nut or bolt from a dismantled machina.
"My apologies then. Have a seat." Braska pointed to a table and chair set up that miraculously remained free of clutter. "Would you like some tea?" He always remained the same, full of good humor, actually more so now even after he left the temples.
Auron shook his head, and sat down. "I'll pass on the tea. How have you been, Braska? It's been a while." He took off his coat, a new one, but still the same style as he wore when he was an acolyte, and laid his arm on the table.
"Things have been busy. Tessa's expecting." Braska's smile widened to a full-fledged grin when he mentioned his Al Bhed wife. "I've started doing healing for people who don't want to go all the way to the temple for a temple-trained white mage." He picked up Auron's arm and started his examination. His expression changed from that wide smile to a grimace. "Just how long ago did you hurt your arm?"
Braska wouldn't like the answer. Auron mumbled.
"What was that?"
"A few days ago, give or take a few?"
"Auron." A tone of warning permeated Braska's friendly voice.
"I hurt it in an operation off the Moonflow a couple weeks ago. There was an issue with a pack of lupines and a shoopuf."
Braska walked over to a storage chest crammed under some shelves. "I'm going to have to splint this again." He returned with the bandages and slats of wood.
"Some things never change, do they?" Auron mused.
Braska's smile returned. "Not for someone as stubborn as you. Tell me, how are you faring as a warrior-monk?"
"I was made captain of a field training squad, two months ago. Kinoc is my lieutenant."
Braska gave a low whistle. "And just two years after becoming an initiate. That's a pretty fast rise there. It's going to be Maester Auron before long."
He scoffed. "Don't be ridiculous. I'd rather be doing something worthwhile, not playing the games of temple politics."
"Do you remember that observation I shared with you so long ago?" Braska set the splint up again.
Auron knew what came next, but he continued the conversation while trying his best to stay relaxed. "Yes." He looked around at the cramped house, the herbs hanging from the ceiling, and no clear floor space as far as Auron could tell. "I also see that you do not always follow your own advice."
The sudden pain shot through his arm again. Braska worked efficiently, tying the splint into place and casting the healing spell. "Have you ever heard the phrase, 'Do as I say, not as I do?'"
Auron frowned. "I'm a warrior monk of Yevon. You could say that's our motto in day to day operations. But things do change, slowly. Kinoc and I have cut down on the bullying in our squads, and others follow our example."
"You set a good example." Braska patted Auron on the shoulder and let him stand up. "in some ways at least. I should remind you, no heavy activity for a week or so. Let Kinoc take charge for awhile. You always were horrible at resting when you were injured."
"Not so much as a white mage apprentice who stayed up three nights straight with a fever while healing the sick."
Like always, Braska just laughed when Auron pointed out his small, benevolent hypocrisies. "We both have our moments." He opened his arms and hugged Auron around his shoulders. "I must admit, I've missed you while I was on Bikanel. Cid's not half as good of company and you are."
Auron pulled away from the embrace. "I've missed you too."
"Come back anytime." Braska escorted Auron to the door. "Don't worry about waiting for an injury. I'm sure Tessa would love to cook for you sometime."
"I look forward to it." Auron knelt and gave the prayer as well as he could with one good arm. He walked down the street, smiling slightly. He stopped and turned back. Braska still stood at the door way.
"Auron!" he called out. "Just one more thing. Do you remember the note I told you to give to your captain the first time I healed you? Did you ever actually give it to him?"
Auron grunted and didn't answer. Some conversations were better left unspoken.