Xev sprinted back toward the tent. He’d barely spent any time rousing his men, yet Xiyana still found the opportunity to vanish in midst the chaos. The thought that she could be running back toward those creatures worried him. Even his awareness of Sylin’s abilities failed to comfort him. Best case scenario, the man had recovered enough to protect Xiyana, despite any lingering fatigue. Worst case, the combination of his exhaustion and her presence had dragged Sylin down, enough to outweigh any advantage that his skill granted him.
Picking up the sound of combat in the distance, Xev pushed his legs to move faster. If they were still fighting, there was still hope. With his men tailing at a distance behind him, he charged into battle. Swing by swing, he forced the creatures aside and opened a path toward the very busy ex-soldier at the center of the bear-like creatures.
Regrettably, his sister hadn’t failed to disappoint. Not only had she returned to the man, but she also failed to recognize the danger of the situation. Despite the violent clashes between man and beast, his foolish sister had somehow decided that kneeling a few feet away from them was a good idea. Xev shook his head as his sister clasped her hands together in prayer. As if religious practices could do anything about their present situation. If it weren’t for the fact that Sylin looked like he could lose any minute now, Xev would’ve dragged her out of that stupidity and had her face reality.
Instead, he drew and infused his own blade, silently thankful that his sister at least had enough sense to stay out of battle. Just as Xev began to swing his weapon at one of the beasts, it lifted its head into the air and let out a guttural cry.
“Get out of here… all of you.” Sylin shouted, giving Xev a brief glance. “General, please take Xiyana with you.”
“What about you?” Xev asked. No one should be expected to ceaselessly fight one battle after another. Even the most extraordinary swordsman needed to have sufficient time to rest. The footsteps and rumbling growls grew more audible with each passing second. They were clearly approaching from the trees ahead.
“Go! Before they get here, go!” Sylin shouted, taking advantage of the time between opponents to push Xiyana toward her brother. “I’ll stay behind to keep them busy.”
“Sylin, no!” Xiyana cried, as Xev grabbed her arm.
“Are you even sufficiently recovered?” Xev asked, ignoring his sister’s antics.
“Don’t worry about me.” Sylin answered, as a crowd of the bear-like creatures emerged from the trees. “Go!”
“You don’t have to do this.” Xev replied. “I’m sure that we can clear a path together.”
“I’m a plant spirit.” Sylin said, urgently. “I’ll be fine. Hurry and leave while you still can!”
“You’re a what?” Xev asked.
Suddenly everything made sense… Why the man before him could use magic… Why even as a magic user, he could still learn tiered skills and use infusion… Why he didn’t change form when his abilities were suppressed… Why he said that he didn’t entirely deny being a warlock, yet insisted that he was something different. The man wasn’t a warlock, but neither was he human. He was simply something else all together.
“Just bring the beasts and the information back to camp.” Sylin shouted, before lowering his voice into a whisper. “And take care of her for me.”
“That’s a given.” Xev answered with a nod, as he forced himself back into reality. “Retreat!”
“Brother, no!” Xiyana begged, with tears running down her face. “He’s still wounded.”
“You heard the man. He’ll be fine.” Xev answered, pulling her along with him. Regardless of what would become of Sylin, the last expression in other man’s eyes startled him. The man’s unmasked snake-like eyes were surprisingly sincere. Despite all logic, he wanted to trust the man.
“I won’t go.” She said, abruptly turning to run in the opposite direction, despite his grip on her wrist.
“Stop being foolish.” Xev answered, tightening his hold on her arm, forcefully dragging her away from the scene. “What do you plan on doing after you get back? Have him risk his life to protect you? He’s better off with you here, where you are no longer a distraction. Besides, as a plant spirit, he’d probably be fine.”
“You’re wrong!” His sister said, with tears streaming her face. “If we leave now, he might die.”
“He’s stronger than I am.” Xev answered. “The man will be fine.”
“Not if he’d recently been petrified.” She answered.
“Xiyana. I know you’re not comfortable with splitting up, but this is temporary.” Xev replied, as patiently as he could. “If you can’t understand that, then I don’t think you’re well-suited in joining the military.”
“I’m not lying.” Xiyana responded, her voice sounding increasingly desperate. “He’d only been cured a few days ago.”
“Enough of this.” Xev answered, cutting her off. His sister was too crazy about this man for her own good. “Everyone knows that plants are not vulnerable to petrification. We’re leaving whether you like it or not.”
Without giving her the chance to say another word or resist further, he brought a hand down on the back of her head and caught her collapsing body in his arms. He had no time to reason with her. Sylin was right, they were running out of time. Even from this distance, he could tell that the roars were getting louder and fiercer. While he hoped that the other man would make it out safely, he also wouldn’t let a sacrifice be made in vain. Carrying his sister, he gritted his teeth and, with his men, began running in the opposite direction of the sound.