Answering Questions (Not What She Expected XXII)
“I know quite a bit about some things, yet almost nothing about others.” Sylin said, leaning against a tree. He’d woken quite some time ago, and had been under Xiyana’s lethal glare since. “Just ask whatever you want to know, and I’ll do my best to answer.”
“Really?” She asked, eyeing him suspiciously. “Not holding back any information this time?”
“When’s the last time I kept something important from you?” He answered with a smile, before turning away sheepishly as he met her droll stare. “Come now. I can’t be that untrustworthy can I?”
If he didn’t know better, from her expression, Sylin would’ve suspected that he’d blantantly lied to her without reason on a regular basis. But, if not for his recently concerning state and his general desire to keep her safe, he couldn’t even recall many instances where he’d intentionally hid the truth from her when she inquired. Her wellness was his priority. In a place where dangers lurked every corner, it was all too easy for her to find herself facing more than she could handle under a false sense of ease or in a slip of carelessness. While he enjoyed teasing her from time to time, given her strong reactions, she was important to him. Though determining the cause of the changes in petrification worm behavior was important for the future of mankind, he wasn’t going to let her life become a sacrificial object in the path toward assessing or eradicating the threat.
“So what is it that you want to know?” He asked, returning his attention toward her. “We do need to talk about the petrification.”
“I had similar thoughts.” She replied. “But first, I need to know how your body works.”
“Such as, how compatible I am with humans?” He asked, leaning forward with a nefarious smile.
“No. I mean…” She began, before her face reddened, seemingly just realizing his implication. “You!”
“Do you want to find out?” He asked, taking pleasure in her response, as he leaned even closer.
“You!” She answered, before pushing him gently backward.
He let out a laugh. She never failed to react strongly. Though he couldn’t say he was particularly close to any other human, he knew from what he’d seen on television that most girls, of their kind, didn’t react this way most of the time. Xiyana was unique in her own way. But, above other things, he could trust her.
“It’s just that everything was so haphazard this time.” She said, as he quieted down. “I don’t want to be so unprepared next time. I don’t want to be unable to help you when you fall into danger next time.”
“So what exactly do you want to know?” He inquired. While he learned a great deal about humans over the years, through interaction and time spent with Xiyana, he could understand if she knew very little about him. Having to blend into human society, anything with potential to stand out, from defining characteristics to the smallest differences, were habitually disguised in some way. Over years, everything just became natural. A part of how he functioned. A part of how he survived. He wasn’t even sure how to start with explaining to her what he was, or how he differed from the average human. The differences were as many as they were a few. He knew that there should be many things, but when he had to put a finger on what exactly varied, he suddenly couldn’t come up with a list. Everything seemed so insignificant.
He drew closer to her, enjoying the warmth of her presence. He closed his eyes. It was comforting being around her. A feeling that he never knew before meeting her. A feeling that he never felt around anyone else. Even so, he had to admit, if not for his injury, spending so much time idling was less than ideal. But without an adequate recovery, he would only further slow down their progress. Absently, he inspected the sturdiness of her ward, before relaxing against her in satisfaction. It didn’t show any signs of weakening.
“I know you recover by light…” She started, before pausing, as if in thought. “But is that all you need every time? Why does light work?”
“Mmm.” He answered, acknowledging her question. Without opening his eyes, he explained. “Light is the basic source of all of my energy. My kind use it for almost everything. The inverse is also true. The absence of light means that no energy is generated. The stronger the light, the faster I’m able to generate energy. I can heal rather quickly, if I don’t slow my metabolism and focus on converting most of the light directly toward healing purposes.”
“So, as long as you have light, you can recover from anything?” She asked.
“For the most part.” He answered. “Some poisons can cause problems though.”
“But if all your energy comes from light, how was the firelight enough, before?” She asked. “And why did you occasionally eat with me?”
“I occasionally eat to replenish the other resources that my body uses to convert light to energy, things that my body cannot produce directly. Because that light is not regularly available, I, typically, maintain a stored supply of light as well.” He answered. “This energy can be accessed whenever I find myself needing it, such as to survive the darks of nights or events where I need to be in the dark for some extended period of time. The bright light that was previously used to scare the bears away was the remainder of my stored light supply at the time.
“If not for the petrification, it would have slowed my healing, but I shouldn’t have had any issues surviving for some time solely by firelight. Flames may not provide much energy, but it’s not too different from fasting, I suppose.” He added, finally opening his eyes to meet hers. He smiled at her, noting the guilt written all over her face. “It’s not your fault. I knew what I was doing, and I did it on my own free will. The petrification caught me off guard, though. I should’ve been immune to that kind of infection, but the light shortage may have affected me in more ways than one. But, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. You helped me survive, didn’t you? It gave us a invaluable chance to understand one another better.”
He ruffled her hair, knowing that the gesture annoyed her.
“Hey!” She shouted, shoving his hand away.
“You really are cute.” He grinned in response.
“I’m trying to be serious here!” She responded.
“So am I.” He responded, leaning back against the tree. “I’m here to support you, just as you’re here to support me. We’re both alive. Isn’t that what matters?”
“Yeah.” She responded with a nod, finally appeased. “How long until you’re ready for travel?”
“Three days.” He answered, without hesitation. “With this much available light, I should be fully recovered by then. Perhaps, I’ll be able to store some light as well. Then, we’ll continue toward the center of the forest.”
“How can you tell the direction?” She asked.
“Petrification infections give off a dark aura that feels completely opposite of the energy that I’m used to.” He shared. “The worms tend to give off a similar aura. I feel a major gathering near the center. Most of the other areas that we’ve passed have much weaker traces.”
“So you suspect the source of the change to be at the center?” She inquired.
“Exactly.” He answered, noting her heavy eyelids. She probably hadn’t slept for days now. “But we’re close. Likely less than a day’s walk away.”
“What if they come and attack us, while you’re recovering?” She asked, her voice suddenly concerned.
“They won’t.” He replied, smiling as he shook his head. “They can’t detect us.”
“But-“ She said, reaching toward his bandages.
“Rest up. The journey is at it’s final stretch.” He answered, pulling her directly against him as she came into range. His wounds have mostly sealed on the surface level. Once his interior organs fully repaired themselves, they would be ready. “I won’t have you facing danger as a zombie.”
“Sylin!” She shouted, fighting against him.
“Sleep.” He said, ignoring her efforts to resist. Even with the ward, he couldn’t prevent random animals, like those bears, from stumbling upon them. They couldn’t waste any opportunities to rest. “You’ve been taking care of me for days now. I’ll watch over you this time.”
“But you’re still injured.” She argued.
“Yes.” He answered. “But it’s daytime right now. I’ll be fine. We’ll continue our talk after you get some sleep.”
“Fine.” She conceded, closing her eyes. “Promise me that you’ll wake me if you need me.”
“Don’t worry.” He replied to her snoozing figure. “We’ll be fine.”