“The hell?” Her brother shouted, his voice startling her awake.
The sudden motion seemed to affect Sylin as well, who stirred against her. She turned to her brother, putting a finger to her lips and shaking her head.
“What are you doing to my sister?” Xev demanded, ignoring his sister’s gestures.
At this Sylin, blinked awake. “Hmmn?” He asked, rubbing his eyes, clearly still groggy.
Xev!” She breathed. Turning to him, and tapping her finger on her lips, emphasizing her preference that he stay quiet. When looking back down at Sylin, she realized that in the brief silence, he had continued to sleep. She’s never noticed how innocent he looked. His normal actions left her looking away from him, for one reason or another. As he subconsciously drew himself closer to her for warmth, she realized that there was a purity to his face, undisturbed by emotion, as though he were uncorrupted by the world. A face of someone that she wanted to protect.
“Xiyana, what is going on here?” Her brother whispered behind her.
“You’ve been bedridden for weeks.” She stated, without removing her eyes from Sylin. Gently, she stroked his silver hair, something she would never if he was aware. “The doctors couldn’t save you. I had to call him.”
“Did he do anything to you?” Her brother whispered, suspicious.
“No.” She answered, pausing. “That’s why I’m not sure how we can repay him for this. I’m still not sure how much it costed him. He’s been this way since saving you.”
She looked up at the clock. It’s been around ten hours since Sylin passed out. “Are you hungry?” She asked her brother, keeping her voice quiet. “I might be able to get something, as long as we can put him somewhere without disturbing his sleep. I think it might be important for his recovery.”
Xev eyed Sylin apprehensively. “He’s a warlock isn’t he?”
“I think so.” She answered, uncertain. He definitely practiced magic. But he didn’t seem to fit the description. Though the warlock species were also non-human, they were more prominently so. With just holes as ears, an elongated snout, scaled skin, and a generally hairless scalp, it was pretty hard to mistaken an uncloaked warlock as a human. A glint of light caught her eye, and she realized what her brother was about to do.
She shielded her arms protectively around Sylin. “He saved you!” Doing her best to shout without raising her voice beyond a whisper, she continued. “How can you do something like that to him? He’s not even conscious.”
“If he’s a warlock, then he’s a threat,” her brother answered coldly, bringing the dagger down at the sleeping figure.
She caught the blade, before it made contact. Luckily her brother was still weak from being bedridden, otherwise there’s probably little she could do in face of her brother’s decision. Under normal circumstances, she was no match for him. “He’s my friend,” she retorted. “A friend that decided to save you at no request and no benefit to himself!”
The whole exchange left her reeling. Although she knew her brother hated warlocks, it wasn’t like him to attack a benefactor. How could he maintain an unrelenting stance with the intention to kill another man, even knowing that he owed that very man his life? Furthermore, Sylin only helped him, and never did anything that could hurt or threaten him in any way.
“I’m not going to let you hurt him, at least not in such a dishonorable way. If you hurt him, then it should be something he deserves to be punished for, and not merely because of something he is or isn’t.” She said, twisting the blade in her brother’s grasp, and snatching it from him.
“You do remember what happened to our parents don’t you?” Her brother asked.
“That’s got nothing to do with him.” She said, doing her best not to scream back.
“Warlocks have long lives, and the ability to disguise themselves.” Her brother answered, unconvinced. “For all we know, it could’ve been.”
“To answer your question,” Sylin interrupted, without opening his eyes. “I’m not a warlock according to your understanding of them.”
“You’re awake?!” Xiyana screeched, shoving him off of herself.
“I’m glad that my princess values me enough to fight her brother over me.” He answered, grinning seductively at her.
“I’m going to get us some breakfast.” She said, face hot, as she stormed off.
“So you know the main difference between you and your sister?” Sylin asked, tone serious, under Xev’s harsh glare once Xiyana left hearing range. “Unlike you, she sees people as who they are, rather than who or what they are. She befriends them, unclouded by the past experiences or the opinions of others. She didn’t abandon me when I was spurned by others. So I won’t abandon her so long as she needs me and as long as she’ll have me.”
“Xiyana’s poor judgement is exactly how she came to know and befriend the likes of you.” Xev seethed.
“So then, it’s her poor judgement that saved your life?” Sylin inquired, laughing. “If you value anything she did, you should sit down right now, before you hurt yourself.”
“Says the Warlock who planned to take advantage of her while I was unable to protect her.” Xev snorted, as he sat back onto the hospital bed.
“Touché. Though, I’ve already told you that I’m not one based on your understanding of them,” Sylin answered, amused. “Why does it matter whether I’m a warlock or not? What have you got against them?”
“That’s none of your business, Warlock.” He answered, petulantly.
“Fine by me.” Sylin answered, nonchalantly. “But warlock or not, I am dangerous enough that a supreme tier swordsman, like yourself, poses no threat to me, even at top shape.” He stood, and clapping Xev on the shoulder, before turning to leave.
“How did you know?” Xev asked, shocked. He hadn’t even touched on his tier abilities in that dagger fight. There’s no way anyone could’ve discerned his ranking that easily, let alone warlocks, who are by definition unable to detect tier abilities.
“I told you.” He replied, flashing Xev a grin, as he stepped out of the room. “I’m not the type of Warlock that you’re thinking of.”
“Next!” the cashier shouted, snapping her out of her thoughts. Though she’s been standing in front of the menu for nearly ten minutes, her mind was so preoccupied with her brother and Sylin, that hadn’t even decided what to order. Flustered, she quickly scanned the menu.
An awake Sylin could easily fend off her brother without hurting the man, especially now, given her brother’s present state. It wasn’t their interactions that concerned her, but she couldn’t help but worry. They both looked well enough when she left. But she couldn’t clear the sense of unease that sat on her shoulders. Petrification wasn’t a laughing matter. Though Sylin had undid petrification before, the last instance didn’t have him passing out. Her brother’s state prior to Sylin’s arrival was also far worse than the other victim that he helped. A part of her feared for the unknown consequences it might bring to the both of them.
“Boo!” Exclaimed a familiar voice behind her, causing her to jump as she realized that despite intending to make an order, she got lost in her thoughts again. She turned to find Sylin smiling behind her.
“Not scary.” She stated, despite her reaction and brushing off the sense that something felt off, before looking back up at the menu. “Shouldn’t you be with Xev?”
“He’s not as fun.” Sylin whined, slightly leaning his weight against her back, his voice more tired than usual. “What do you plan to order?”
“Haven’t decided yet.” She mumbled, before realizing that she never considered Sylin. For all the time they’ve known each other, she’s never seen him eat. “What exactly do you eat?” She asked, suddenly flustered.
“Pretty things.” He whispered into her ear, wrapping his arms around her waist, weight fully pressing into her back at this point.
“We’re in public.” She whispered, slapping at his hands, trying to release his hold on her. Hot. Despite not really being human, his body temperature never varied much from hers. She put a hand to his forehead. Did his species get fevers? His skin definitely wasn’t this temperature, when she left her brother’s hospital room, only moments ago. Her brows knitted in worry.
“Ma’am. Are you going to order?” The cashier asked, annoyed.
“Yes. I’ll get three of your daily specials.” She responded, quickly reading off the first item on the menu, before returning her attention to Sylin. Unclasped his hands from her waist and draping one of his arms across her shoulder, she did her best to support him, they moved to the side of the line.
“Are you okay?” She whispered.
“Mmmm,” he groaned, slumping against her, eyes barely open, before answering her between heavy breaths. “Energy instability… Woke too early… Recovery incomplete… Now… overdrive… Some pain.” Even with his heavily lidded eyes, his pupils were clearly flashing back and forth, between slitted and round. His illusions were failing. They needed to leave fast, before someone noticed.
After making a quick stop at her brother’s hospital room and dropping off the food, she immediately called for a taxi to the nearest hotel. He was barely conscious throughout the car ride, not to mention trip to the room. But this part of the country wasn’t exactly welcoming or friendly toward non-humans. They’d probably do worse than whatever her brother had in store, if they were ever to discovered the truth about him. Laying him down onto the hotel bed, she sat on the mattress beside him.
She couldn’t even say what he was with any certainty. Without knowing what he was, she found herself frustrated. There was no one that she could call or ask. His illusions were still flicking in and out, his hair alternating between long and the cut she was more familiar with. The uncertainty regarding his condition was slowly consuming her. Standing, she pulled off her shoes. There was only one thing that she could do. Dragging him across the bed, she managed to tucked him in. Though, successful, she only felt more doom, as she got off the bed, panting from the effort.
Even as a moderately heavy sleeper, the fact that he didn’t respond to her not-very-gentle yanking only told her one thing. Something was seriously wrong. For as long as she knew him, he wasn’t one who easily let down his guard, even in his sleep. This meant that he’d never fully fall asleep, in open view, frequently waking up with even the slightest disturbance. In the privacy of a hospital room was one thing, but falling deeply asleep in the presence of a taxi driver or before a bunch of hotel staff should have been out of question. She wetted a clean towel in the adjoining bathroom, and wrung out the excess moisture. Stepping back into the bedroom, she couldn’t help but feel helpless, as she watched him.
“Please stay with me,” She whispered, as she placed the damp towel over his forehead. Closing her hands around his, she gave them a quick squeeze, before lowering her face towards his, and gently kissing his forehead. Though he liked to irritate her, he also never failed to help her when she needed him the most. Withdrawing from him, she lowered her head onto her interlaced fingers, and whispered a prayer. She didn’t want to lose this friend. Even if he would only wake up to embarrass her. Even if he would never feel the same way she felt towards him.