The imperial palace I visited for the first time was quite old, but it was flawlessly maintained. The people working here clearly put their heart and soul into it.
(Still, it's hard to imagine royalty living here.)
The number of servants was very small, and it was plain inside. I followed the maid to the prince's room, my discomfort getting stronger.
"...This is the third prince, Prince Felix."
And the moment I saw the prince lying on the bed, I involuntarily gasped and covered my mouth with my hand.
The small body of the prince, who was moaning in agony, was covered with bright red scorched bruises.
As I stood there speechless, the maid explained.
"Prince Felix is under the Flame Dragon's Curse."
...'The Flame Dragon's Curse' was supposedly a strong curse caused by the flame dragon which was defeated by Reavis imperial family a long time ago.
I'd only heard that it transpired very rarely in those with royal blood. Burnt bruises spread all over their bodies, eroding their lives.
But I thought it was just a kind of folklore. Not even the Great Sage like me ever knew that it really existed.
(I'm sure the imperial family has been hiding them like this to avoid scandals. Not only the third prince, but the previous ones too.)
It had no cure, which was probably why the prince was sent away to a remote palace and abandoned to rot here.
(He's still eight years old... How can they do this...)
It broke my heart to think that he had been trapped in this place all his life, living with the pain.
I gently touched his bright red cheek, which was hot from the high fever. His burning heat once again left me speechless.
(Seems like this has been happening for a few days. His physical strength should've already reached its limit. If things continue like this, we're basically only waiting for his death.)
I tried casting the highest recovery magic again and again, but there was still no change. Only a sense of frustration was growing.
In the midst of it, the prince suddenly opened his eyes, albeit in a squint. I couldn't look away from his beautiful, clear ice blue eyes.
"Nice to meet you, Your Highness. My name is Else Reese, the Great Saint of this country."
Right now, I was keenly aware of my own powerlessness, to the extent that it was painful to introduce myself as the Great Saint.
(If I can't even save someone who's suffering in front of me, then what's the use of being the Great Saint?)
A small bony hand grabbed mine which was touching his cheeks. It was fragile enough that it might break any time soon, and also terribly hot.
"...Great... Saint... Help, me..."
And the hoarse, begging voice grated my heart to pieces.
The Great Sage was a national treasure. I knew that I mustn't use my power outside of what was permitted and that I mustn't do anything that might harm this body.
My body no longer belonged to me alone. I must choose to save the many rather than a single individual.
Still, I didn't think I could ever shake off this small hand and abandon the life in front of me.
(I became the Great Saint to save those who are suffering.)
Anxiety and guilt came crashing into me like a storm, but I took several deep breaths and made up my mind.
Kneeling in front of the bed, I took the prince's hand and put it to my forehead as if offering a prayer.
Each saint had their own abilities. Normally, it was only 'healing' and 'purification', but I had other abilities as the Great Saint.
"Great Saint?! Are you okay!?"
"Yeah... I'm okay..."
My stomach began to take the burning heat. Sweat trickled down my back from the pain beyond my imagination.
Before long, the maid who had been watching the situation next to me raised her voice.
"N-No way... Prince Felix's bruises... they're gone! Thank you, Lady Saint...! It's a miracle......!"
The bright red bruises that had spread to the prince's face and limbs gradually disappeared, returning to his original pale skin color.
His pained expression also started calming down.
The prince presented me with a small smile and muttered so. I desperately forced myself to smile and replied, "You're welcome."
A few moments later, I could hear his regular sleeping breath, and I pat my chest down in relief.
(Thank God. This should calm him down a bit.)
As soon as I loosened my guard due to the relief, a terrible pain attacked me again. Collapsing here might reveal the fact that I had used my power without permission. I should be strong.
Before leaving the detached palace as fast as I could, I told the maid, who was shedding tears of joy, that she should never tell anyone about what just happened. And since it was a special magic, I might not be able to use it again.
(If I get caught, I definitely won't be the only one taking the punishment.)
Dragging my heavy legs, I managed to return to my room somehow. I threw myself to the bed, collapsing.
The ability I used earlier was 'Magic Absorption'──the power to absorb someone else's magic power and make it my own.
With this ability, I absorbed magic power from people with abundant magic power and continued to use healing magic, saving many people.
There were quite a number of people with a lot of magic power, but only saints could use healing magic. Of course there's a limit to my physical strength, and it's impossible to use it infinitely.
Curses also contained magic power. That's why, in order to save the prince, I absorbed the curse and magic power into my body.
"I knew it... I forced myself..."
I adjusted the amount, so it shouldn't be life-threatening. Even so, the intense pain and heat began to distort my sight. I squeezed the sheets tightly to endure the pain.
(But the prince suffered many times more than this.)
I hope that the little prince could keep smiling even if just a little. Praying so, I let go of my consciousness.
This was the day Felix and I met; the day I transferred part of his curse into my own body for 'the first time'.
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