A Campfire Talk (Not What She Expected XXXV)

25 Feb 2023  C. chou  6 mins read.

“So you’re saying that there really was a ‘Sylin’ recruited about a year ago?” Xev quietly asked.

“I’m pretty sure.” Meyon answered. “I believe that he was even considered a prodigy of sorts.”

“Any news of the reason behind his departure?” Xev asked.

“Since you mostly draw recruits from local talent, I haven’t exactly been keeping up with his progress.” Meyon replied. “But no, last time I checked, he was still an active duty member.”

“Thank you.” Xev said, waving a hand to dismiss the lad. If even Meyon didn’t know, then he couldn’t think of anyone else to ask. For a few years now, given the lad’s tendency to provide straightforward, unadulterated, and unopinionated information, Meyon was Xev’s primary source of intel. Despite the lad’s low stamina, his general resourcefulness made him a valuable asset to nearly every mission. The fact that even Meyon vouched for Sylin’s recruitment meant that there had to be some amount of truth in the man’s apparent stint in the military.

Xev let out a sigh, running a hand through his hair. Though Sylin’s mastery of sword infusion was enough to prove the man’s connection with the army, Xev couldn’t be too careful with potential warlocks. Given the man’s demonstrated ability to use magical tools, one couldn’t be too careful.

Xev glanced at the man’s impromptu tent. From his understanding of his sister, it was more than likely that Xiyana was already with the man right now. A fact that he couldn’t help but feel conflicted about. If his sister was telling the truth about Sylin’s ability to deal with petrification, the man could very well be far more scheming than he appeared. However, with that level of skill, Sylin could also be an invaluable asset to their team.

Xev took a breath, as he approached the sleeping enclosure. After that earlier interaction, Sylin had seemed to have closed himself off from the rest of the group, with the exception of Xiyana. Just as he rounded the reached the front of the tent, he caught sight of Sylin sitting before the fire. The man had somehow found time after their earlier separation to get himself cleaned up. His hair had regained its silvery sheen, his face was clean shaven. Casually dressed in professional clothing, the man looked more like someone preparing to go to an job interview than someone that could need to draw his weapon at any moment.

“How are you feeling?” He asked, smiling in an effort to look friendly as he sat down onto the log across from the other man.

“Fine.” The other man answered, without looking up. “You?”

“I hardly did anything.” He answered. “Did you get any rest?”

“I’ll be fine. I was mostly worn out from lack of sleep.” Sylin said, continuing to stare expressionlessly into the flames. “Thanks for trusting me.”

“The safety of the people is a good reason to risk it.” Xev shrugged.

“That’s true.” Sylin agreed, a smile coming to his lips though his eyes remained fixed on the fire.

“Why did you leave service, if you’re clearly still thinking about the nation?” Xev asked with a furrowed brow.

“Got discharged for failing to meet physical requirements.” Sylin said with a sigh.

“Failing to meet physical requirements?” Xev scoffed in disbelief. “Being able to execute over ten precisely controlled infused incisions in a row hardly sounds unfit to me. Who discharged you? I’ll get you back in.”

“It’s fine.” Sylin answered, his expression softening. “Being able to stay by Xiyana is far more important to me.”

“Speaking of my sister, where is she?” Xev asked, glancing about. Xiyana was strangely no where in sight.

“Sleeping in the tent.” Sylin answered, finally meeting Xev’s eyes. “But let her sleep. She’s been through a lot recently.”

“You care about her?” Xev inquired.

“She’s my friend.” Sylin answered, his intense golden eyes glistening in the firelight.

“Then why did you bring her into the forest.” Xev pushed.

“She said that she needed practice, and she’s my friend.” Sylin answered. “What more can I say?”

“As a former member of the military, you should know exactly how dangerous it is to come here.” Xev reprimanded. “Didn’t you realize that you could’ve killed her out here?”

“I’m aware.” Sylin replied. “But I also respect her decisions.”

“Even her foolish ones?” Xev demanded.

“Yes.” Sylin answered, clenching his hands into a fist and turning his attention back to the flames. “Better have her openly come with me, than risk having her trying to secretly follow me and finding herself facing danger alone.”

“You’re too arrogant.” Xev replied. “What if you met dangers stronger than yourself?”

“Perhaps.” Sylin answered. “But at least, this way, I had a better chance of protecting her.”

Xev sighed, turning to watch the dancing flames. Perhaps, the man was right. Following someone into danger, despite being warned against doing so, was exactly something that his sister would do. Though he’d never responded to them, Xiyana’s frequent letters had revealed that much about her character. She was reckless one. Blindly following her passions and going wherever they led, he had been surprised that she hadn’t gotten herself into more trouble over the years.

“You two really did grow up together, didn’t you?” He finally asked, breaking the silence and looking back up at the man before him. He’d initially thought that his sister had been lying to protect the man, but speaking to Sylin only seemed to prove the opposite.

“We met about ten years ago.” Sylin answered, staring nostalgically at the flames. “Back when she was but a young girl dreaming of joining the military and reuniting with her brother.”

“Is that so?” Xev asked. “I thought that she’d only started to show interest in the military recently.”

“No, she’d always been interested.” Sylin answered, smiling at nothing in particular. “Since the day I’d met her, I’ve never met anyone else so dedicated toward a goal. Regardless of how busy she was, she’d always make time to practice her blade. If not for the intensity of her passion, I probably wouldn’t have had the chance to meet her.”

“Is that so?” Xev asked. Despite the number of letters that she’d sent over the years, Xiyana had never mentioned her friendship with Sylin or her intentions of joining the military. Why did every one of her letters focus on the new and superficially exciting, over the things that sat closer to her heart? He couldn’t help but feel disappointed. He was her brother, and only family, yet she was more open to an outsider than himself. Letting out another sigh, Xev stood and turned to leave.

“Why don’t you stay.” Sylin asked, stopping him in his tracks. “I’m sure that she’d appreciate it.”

“What about you?” Xev asked in confusion. “Isn’t this your tent?”

“It was always for her.” Sylin whispered, but before the man could elaborate, a familiar growl resounded from trees. The ex-soldier’s expression immediately changed. From his expression, Xev knew that he hadn’t misheard. The creatures from earlier… They were back.

C. Chou
C. Chou

A writer that loves cabbages and bamboo, but also enjoys writing and sharing fiction (particularly the fantasy genre). Find me on Medium at: https://chouxherbe.medium.com/