Stop Pushing Yourself (Not What She Expected XI)

12 Feb 2022  C. chou  5 mins read.

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Breathing heavily, Sylin leaned against his makeshift cane. A tree branch that they’d cut a few days ago. Though he kept his promise, continuing their travels after only one day’s rest, she could tell how much it strained him. Despite his weariness, he continued forward, pausing every few minutes. But, each time he took a step, her heart leapt out of her throat. If not for the stick, she was sure that he would’ve fallen long ago.

Before the incident with Xev, the worst she’d ever seen on him were cuts from training. Even then, the cuts were minor. Ever since Xev left, the two of them co-enrolled into the local martial arts school, and would spend much of their time, outside of their academic coursework, practicing. Though they were in different classes, with Sylin showing more natural talent than her in the art, they’d often catch up in the practice room. There, they’d talk about anything and everything, from swordplay advice to the most recently released music album.

Other than his monthly family gatherings, they were almost always together. University was no exception. Outside of classes, they were rarely apart. He’d even napped in her presence on multiple occasions, despite being uncomfortable with doing the same while alone on campus. They’d been so close that, she’d been asked, on several occasions, whether he was her boyfriend. At least, that’s how its been until a few months ago, when they’d both graduated from University.

She wrapped her arms around him, stopping his pace, as she relieved the memories. Since their graduation, they’d increasingly grown distant, with her throwing herself into swordplay full-time, and him being busy with his new job. If not for Xev’s condition, she probably would’ve let the gap between them widen further. Even so, he came upon receiving her call. No questions asked. Even so, he’d been willing to help Xev. Even knowing the difficulty of her brother’s case, he’d asked for no repayment. Not even after the trouble they’d brought him. And now, he was injured yet again because of her.

Warm tears stained the back of his shirt.

“I’m not dead yet.” He said lightheartedly, without turning around, despite his raspy voice. “Don’t cry, or soon I will be.”

Sylin. Even injured, he still had the mood to jest. Even injured, he still thought of her. Even with all those months apart, even while injured, he was still that Sylin that she knew. The one that never failed to understand her. The one that never failed to be there for her when she needed him. Tightening her hold, she leaned her head into him, her body shaking.

“Don’t cry anymore.” He said in a softer voice, dropping the stick. Putting a hand to her arms, he turned his head. “Don’t cry. I’m really okay.”

With his free hand, he reached behind, trying to wipe away her tears, despite the awkward angle. She felt him wince beneath her, and loosened her grip. Immediately, his legs collapsed beneath him, bring both of them to their knees as she tried to hold him back up.

“You can barely stand.” She observed, tears still streaming her face. “How is that okay? When is that ever okay?”

“I’m really okay.” He reassured, his voice still quieter than usual with his shallow breathing. Likely to part of an effort to avoid disturbing the infected injury on his chest.

“No, you’re not.” She insisted. “Why can’t you tell me when you’re tired?”

She didn’t need him to push himself in front of her. She didn’t need him to hide his condition. She didn’t want the false comfort that came from a lack of understanding. Why did he have to constantly remind her that they weren’t the same species? Why did he have to constantly remind her of the fact that she couldn’t properly understand his state without him telling her? Why couldn’t he just be honest with her? Holding back information only made her feel worse. Why couldn’t he just understand that?

“But you really needn’t worry.” He said, slumping into her chest. “I’m just short of light. I’ll be fine once we get to a clearing.”

She shook her head, looked into the path before them. What kind of clearing? The forest has only been getting darker the deeper the went. Even if what he said were true, the likelihood of finding one looked slim if not nil. And that’s not to mention the uncertainty ahead of them. He was in no state to engage in combat again.

She turned her attention back to him, to find that him snoring softly against her. He had fallen asleep again. Repositioning him to lay in her lap, she let out a sigh. He really was pushing himself, wasn’t he? Gently stroking his hair, she considered his words.

What he suggested made sense. The first time that he passed out, he had been glowing with light to save Xev. This time, the light that he’d released was far more intensely. While shorter in duration, it was probably equal if not more consuming than the steady luminescence that he emitted while helping her brother. But while they had constant access to light the first time, before they entered the forest, she couldn’t guarantee finding more than a shaded glow here.

Running a hand through his hair, her fingers lingered on his pointed ears. Ears that she never noticed weren’t human, until she recently caught a glimpse of their tips as he slept. There were too many things that she still didn’t know about him. Too many things that she still wanted to learn. Too many reasons that she wanted to see him recover.

Heart clenching, she looked up at the sky. Closing her hand into a fist, she promised herself. She was going to find a clearing. As hopeless as the task seemed, she was going to find it before anything else found them. Sylin was going to be okay. Regardless of how difficult it would be, she would make sure of it.

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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: