She sat silently, absently poking a stick in and out of the flame. It was already nightfall, and still no news from Sylin. No apparent movements in the direction of the tree. No efforts to make contact. According to Xev’s predictions, he’d probably ran off long ago, to save his own skin. A belief that she wouldn’t accept, regardless of what her brother said. The time that she’d spent with him in their time together in the forest confirmed that as flippant as he tended to behave and present himself, he was absolutely serious about taking care of her safety in the forest. Even with all those lies that he’d told along the way, even with all those truths that he’d kept hidden, she couldn’t and wouldn’t bring herself to believe that he would betray her like that. Not after all they’ve been through. Not after he’d nearly died for her.
But that didn’t change the fact that he hadn’t returned. She looked up at the night sky, into the distance where he likely lurked. At this point, things couldn’t be as simple as an accidental separation. During the course of their travel, they’ve accidentally walked apart on more than a few occasions. Though it normally happened while Sylin went hunting to add to her meals or when she wandered off while he left to scout ahead, he’d always find his way back to her within a few hours. But even so, it couldn’t be the way that her brother suggested. There had to be another explanation. She closed her eyes and clasped her hands together in prayer, she had to trust him.
Her mind flew to his wound. Did it bother him more than he let on? She let out a sigh. Though he had been increasingly willing to answer her questions, she couldn’t help but wonder whether there would ever be a day when he would no longer found it necessary to keep things from her. Getting off the log, she walked over to the nearest tree, and leaned against it. As much as she wanted to find him, she also knew that if he really wanted to hide, she would have no way of finding him. The best thing she could do now was wait for his return.
Morning came quickly, but there was still no sign of Sylin. Noon. Still not a word. Afternoon. Still nothing. Soon, she found herself watching the sun setting and the sky darkening.
“He’s not coming back.” Her brother softly said, cutting off her thoughts, as he sat down beside her. It was already mid-evening. The sun had been gone for hours, and she’d long peeled her eyes from the horizon and began staring at the dancing flames before her. Taking her hand, Xev passed her a piece of roasted meat, a product of the day’s hunt. “Warlocks aren’t the most reliable of sorts. I know you’re worried, but there’s no reason to torture yourself for him. Without him, you still have to eat, and you still have a life to live. I’m sorry that I gave him the opportunity to take root in your life, but whether you like it or not, life can and will go on without him. One day, you’ll have to face that reality.”
Letting out a sigh, she passed her empty hand over Sylin’s pack. They’d found it earlier that day. He’d left without taking anything. No equipment. No food. No water. He’d left all of their supplies for her.
If he was truly so heartless, he’d have no reason to leave anything behind at all. Knowing him and after their recent interactions, she couldn’t help but worry. What was he doing? Would he be okay? She couldn’t blame her brother for his words. He wasn’t wrong, but he didn’t know Sylin and he couldn’t stop her from worrying.
“Xev.” She called, as her brother stood to leave. “He may have lied to me on multiple occasions, but I trust him. You can’t know someone so closely for so many years, and not understand a little of their character. He’s a man of his word and he would never abandon the human race, at least, not willingly. If he says that he will go search for evidence, he will at least make an effort at doing so.”
“We’re still leaving first thing tomorrow morning.” He answered, without turning back. “I’ll put your name into the list of recruits once we get back, as one of my direct trainees.”
Her eyes lit up at the thought of being able to join the military with her brother. Not too long ago, being given such an offer would’ve been nothing short of a dream coming true. Now, she wasn’t so sure anymore. Sylin had accompanied her for so long. Could she really abandon him without being sure that he was okay?
Images of his frail, injured form, reappeared in her mind. Thoughts flew by. Their college years. Their shared laughter. The time when they’d first reunited. Their newfound distance. His changes. That impenetrable and invisible wall that she couldn’t pass. A part of him that he would no longer let her see.
A vulnerable side of him that had already existed, despite his increasingly flirtatious attitude and despite him being an important pillar of strength in her life. It was a silent aspect of him that she’d almost forgotten, but thinking back, perhaps it was always there. No. While it wasn’t so obvious at all times, it was definitely always there.
A vulnerable side of him that she’d often overlooked. A side of him that, though occasionally stood out, was never something that she inquired about. He was her friend, regardless of anything else. She simply didn’t need to know. But in the past few days, that look had come back. The walls have crumbled away once more, and along with their disappearance came a sudden moment of clarity. Her dependence on him hadn’t been one-sided, after all. He’d depended on her just as much as she did on him.
And yet, she’d distanced herself from him anyways. She’d distanced herself in her efforts to reunite with her brother. A brother that couldn’t accept him, though he’d accompanied her in all those years of Xev’s absence. She’d abandoned him, and yet, he’d come back without another word upon hearing her request. With the exception of occasionally embarrassing her in public and being more touchy than usual, he’d helped her without asking for anything. Even while she’d hurt him.
She could still remember that hurt in his eyes, when she’d ignored his attempts to talk to her all those months ago. The last time that they’d spoken. She remembered the disappointment on his face, as he turned away, though there was clearly something on his mind. She’d assumed that he would come back later, or possibly the next day. But he never did. All for the better, she’d once thought. More time for her to practice and dedicate toward reuniting with her brother.
She’d assumed that she could catch up with him later, when she had time. When they’d both had a chance to work a bit toward their goals. She’d assumed that everything would be the same when the opportunity came up. But it didn’t turn out that way, and weeks turned into months. Soon, even the thought of reaching out to him became awkward. It’s been too long since they’d last talked. If not for her brother’s accident, she probably wouldn’t have reached out to him so soon. Perhaps, she wouldn’t have reached out to him again at all.
Here her brother was presenting her with the first step toward fulfilling her dreams, dreams that he’d once adamantly rejected. A rare opportunity, but at the cost of abandoning Sylin once more. That pained expression flashed in her mind again. No. She couldn’t do it. She’d already made the mistake of abandoning him once. She wouldn’t do it again. Not this time. Not again.
Her heart ached at the increasingly realistic and familiar thoughts of losing him. She had to find Sylin. Leaving him this time would mean more than losing an important friend. It would be nothing short of sentencing him to die. There were simply too many threats in the forest. What if he was injured again? Though he seemed better, when she last saw him, she couldn’t be sure that he had fully recovered. What if he hadn’t? He’d be at a disadvantage in a one-on-one face-off, not to mention in a situation where he was surrounded.
Even if it meant giving up her dream of fighting alongside her brother, she had to find him. There was no chance that she was going to abandon him, not if it meant losing him forever. As much as her brother was a part of her family, Sylin was too. She was sure that he’d at least felt the same, even if he didn’t share her other feelings. She’d clearly remembered his fingers intertwining with hers. The walls fell. He wouldn’t have kept the truth of his health from her. Not anymore.
A terrifying thought struck her then. Sylin wasn’t the type to back out on his words, regardless of how he described himself. A chill ran through her. Looking up, she glanced back at the purple tree in the distance, then at her brother. He wouldn’t have gone… not alone… would he?