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After quite a bit of journeying in the Sunlands, Spring has assembled an entire squad of folks who seek to learn the ways of medicine at his feet:

Rikad, the skinny gentleman he had recruited in the first town;

Baerdha, a tall, broad woman of short temper, long her village's only healer and rarely without a sharp word to say about anything;

Precious Blossom, a rather thick-headed, muscular youth (but well intentioned) who clearly sprung from unfortunately mean-spirited parents;

Joi, a young woman who has mastered the sword, but who wishes to expand her ways to learn the healing arts as well;

Ekedra, a man from a lineage of snake-people, despised even in the Sunlands, who always hides his head under a thick cloak;

and Tomar, a somewhat forgetful elderly gentleman who decided that his great-grandchildren could look after themselves and set out to learn the ways of medicine.

Spring begins leading them back towards the site of his new school once he is satisfied, saying little, but quietly listening to them converse between themselves.

"That's stupid," Baerdha was in the middle of saying.

"I... I don't think it's that stupid," says Rikad. "There could have been gold at the bottom of that lake."

(There is much uproarious laughter from Baerdha and Tomar at that.)

The school rises up from the horizon, ever so elegantly constructed and, now, ready to accept students for the first time.

Spring pays attention to their reactions as he leads them into a small clearing near the school building itself, stopping under a small golden apple tree.

"Mmm," says Joi, and reaches up to pluck one of the apples. Precious Blossom quickly decides to follow her example, reaching up to pull down a whole branch so that everyone present might dig into its bounty -- which they do, eagerly, except for Ekedra, who merely stands back quietly.

Spring "Not hungry?" Spring politely inquires of Ekedra.

The snakeman quietly shakes his head.

Spring nods thoughtfully, taking a couple of apples for himself, and immediately swallowing one. He produces a small picnic basket, turning away as much as he can to hide the storage mechanism he used, and unfolds it onto the ground, rather prominently displaying a few slices of roast beef and duck.

Ekedra tries to be quiet about it, but his tongue whips in and out of his mouth. The others look on the food with excitement, and Joi reaches her hand out to grab one.

Spring gives Ekedra a raised eyebrow, as if to ask why he does not eat, though he smiles gently.

Spring "So." Spring waits until everyone who plans to eat has begun doing so, then speaks gently but firmly.

After a moment, when it's clear that the food is indeed anyone's to take, Ekedra finally does reach out to quickly grab a slice of beef, then turns his back to the others as he devours it. (...)

Meanwhile, the other doctors have more or less sated themselves. Tomar pats his belly in a satisfied fashion and Joi licks her lips loudly.

Spring "Why do you wish to be healers?"

"I don't look like I have anything better to do, do I?" says Baerdha, sharply, and Tomar laughs uproariously.

Spring "Better than to spend your life in the service of others? To wear your fingers and exhaust your soul that someone may ungratefully go on with their existence? To watch somebody die and to know that you could have saved them if you had known more or done the right thing instead of the wrong thing just once?"

"Yup," she says, and Tomar laughs again, maybe even louder.

Spring "What horrors have you left behind?"

"Well, I got married once," she says, and this time most of the others join in the laughter.

Spring glances at her levelly for a moment, then glances around the circle, looking for other responses.

There's a long pause where no one speaks up, until finally Joi chooses to break the silence. "I've seen what this," she says, patting the sword on her hip, "can do." She sighs, just a little. "I did not think it was right to use it and not also learn to undo what it did."

Spring nods in understanding. "And I suppose you are used already to risking your life for the protection of others."

Joi nods.

Spring glances at the next person along, who happens to be Precious Blossom.

Tomar decides to speak up next. "I wanted to do something exciting." He looks at Spring. "Before I died!"

Spring **cut my line

Spring "Excitement," Spring muses.

Spring "How long do you think this excitement will last? And when it passes, will you give it up, and pursue some new amusement?"

"I've lived a long life, mister," he says, growing more serious in tone -- a lifelong respect, even fear of the powerful battling against his innate elderly crankiness. (...)

"I've seen a lot of terrible things," he continues, "and yet I never did anything that was really hard, really terrifying." He looks around at the other people gathered. "If it ain't excitin' anymore to do this, then I ain't think we're doin' the doctorin' right."

Spring nods in approval for the first time. "Then I am glad to have you, sir."

Spring glances at the next person along, who happens to be Precious Blossom.

"Um," he says, kind of at a loss for words for a moment. Then, in quiet, simple words: "My sister died."

Spring "Ah." Spring says no more, passing on to Ekedra.

The snake-man leers out from under his hood at Spring, still seeming fairly determined not to talk.

Spring gives him a few more thoughtful looks, then glances at Rikad finally.

"I was impressed," he says. "When you healed Rebnar, in my village." He looks around, a little concerned that he's about to get made fun of again. "I wanted to do something besides just... farm, never go anywhere..."

Spring "Mm."

Spring pauses for a few moments, then takes a bite from the apple he still holds in his hand.

Spring "Once there was a maiden who wished to save the world."

Spring "She looked at the way things were and she saw that people hurt each other, and she determined that in order to save them, she would need to protect them from one another, and so she took up sword and spear and went out and conquered them and placed them under her banner and set forth to conquer still more."

Spring "But she found that her weapons brought forth no happiness, but only blood; no safety, but only wounds; no perfection, but only death. And where she went there was only dust and ashes."

Spring "So she tried again."

Spring "She looked at the way things were, and she saw that people were hurt, and she determined that in order to save them, she would need to heal their injuries, that they would be whole, and so she took up the caduceus, and went forth and healed them and swore them to her allegiance and set forth to unify them once more."

Spring "But she found that her touch brought forth no happiness, but only painlessness; no safety, but only carelessness; no perfection, but only life. And where she went there was only dust and ashes."

Most of those who have followed Spring here start to blink in confusion; the more unintelligent amongst them seem to be really pained by the process. (...)

This goes on for a long time, and then, finally, Rikad's eyes open wide, as if in sudden realization.

Spring takes another bite of the apple, placidly, and then takes a few of the seeds out of its core and tosses them casually into the field, where they sink into the ground.

Spring "Class begins tomorrow morning at sunrise. It continues until no-one has any questions left to ask, or until lunch. Your rooms are in the small building to the left of the Sphere of Lightning and Thunder."

Spring "Have a good night." Spring bows politely, and swallows the picnic basket.

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