“I know that this is the first time that you’ve seen me in this state of undress under broad daylight.” He said, noticing that her eyes were still fixed on the protrusions on his exposed chest. “But you don’t have to keep staring… That is… unless…you’re more interested than you let on.”
“Ah.” She exclaimed, peeling her eyes away from the injury and flushing as she briefly met his eyes. Clearing her throat, she quickly turned away. “Will you really be able to manage on your own?”
“Yes.” He answered. Leaning forward, he took a deep whiff of the perfumes she wore. Lowering his voice into a whisper beside her ear, he continued with his lips curling into a smile. “But, not while you’re close enough to distract me… Unless you really do have other implications in mind…”
“Oh. Of course.” She muttered, her face reddening into a deeper shade as she spoke. Standing, she walked up to a nearby tree, and immediately began busying herself with starting a small fire. A wise choice of a distraction. Nightfall would come soon. They would need a fire. The light of a burning flame could deter some forms of wildlife from stumbling into their temporary resting site.
He let out a relieved sigh, glad that she took the bait. She didn’t need to see the gore awaiting him. Unlike the case with treating her brother, improving his body’s recovery rate while overwhelming darkness with his light wasn’t an option. Not if he wanted to walk away from this state alive. Not only was his stored light supply insufficient to generate an overwhelming effect, knowing his current condition, he could no longer risk focusing all his energy on channeling light. Despite the light beaming overhead, he could feel the final barrier, his last defense against fully petrifying, waver with each passing minute. Even if he dedicated all the light he could collect toward buying himself more time, he wasn’t sure how much longer it could last.
His fingers met air as he instinctively reached for the swords strapped to his back. He had completely forgotten about handing them to Xiyana. For weeks of travel, they had been there at the instant that he needed them, but over the course of the past few weeks, he’d grown too weak to fully support them. A sense of weakness fell over him, as he let his hand fall to his side. Time was running out.
“Xiyana.” He called, his voice breathy as an increasingly familiar discomfort returned to him, despite the plentiful light surrounding them.
“Are you done already?” She asked. Standing and whirling to face him, her face paled. “Did something go wrong? Are you unable to treat yourself?”
“It’s not that.” He answered, weakly shaking his head. “Can you pass me a blade?”
“What are you trying to do?” She asked, showing no intention of handing him a weapon.
“I’m not going to hurt myself.” He replied, reading her thoughts from her face. “Trust me.”
“I’m tired, Sylin.” She answered, without heeding to his request. “I really am. When can you stop pretending that everything is okay, when it’s clearly not? When will you stop keeping everything to yourself?”
“It’s really nothing much.” He reassured. “I just need to perform a small surgery.”
“Will you really be okay?” She asked, her eyes boring into his, as though they held the ability to give her an answer. “I can handle the truth.”
“To be honest.” He answered, after a brief pause. “This time, I really don’t know. But I’ll give it my best.”
If he was being honest with himself, he really didn’t. There was no longer a good reason to keep the truth from her. If he didn’t succeed, she would be alone. As much as he’d prefer to keep her optimistic, it was probably better if she mentally prepared herself for the worst. But, even if he couldn’t make it out of the forest alive, he would make sure that she would. Watching her pull out a blade and pass it through the flame, he forced himself to straighten. A tingling sensation passed through his arm, as he pushed some light toward her.
Before she noticed, he quickly fell back against the tree. Acting as if nothing happened, he watched her invisible ward slowly strengthened while she stood and turned toward him. The barrier erected by his immune response weakened with her every step. Even so, a genuine smile came to his lips as his fingers passed over her hand and closed over the grip of the proffered blade.
Regardless of how this turned out, he owed his life to his immune system’s unrestricted expenditure and to Xiyana’s persistance. He’d had the fortune to meet her. He’d had the fortune to have her acceptance. He’d had the fortune to become her friend. If everything ended right now, that was enough for him. However, he would try his best for her, if not for anything else. Though she’d turned away to give him space, he remembered the last look in her eyes. He took a deep breath. Because of that look, he could not let himself grow lax, regardless of what awaited him.
Bracing himself for pain, he activated the dagger’s latent compression spell and began to work.