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Styx: 006

Hours later, Xavier awoke in what felt like freezing cold. After feeding him dinner, Sumiko had shown him the way to a primitive toilet in one corner of the building; introduced him to several animal people who were evidently staying in the building, as well, and whose names and faces Xavier barely found himself able to focus on; showed him where she would evidently be sleeping; and then directed him to a small room with—wonder of wonders—an actual bed.

Unfortunately, the bed was almost the only thing in the room. The place was almost pitch black, but when Xavier stumbled to the hide hanging across the doorway and pushed it aside he discovered the hallway was gently illuminated by glowing something or others in sconces. Leaving the door hanging shoved aside, he investigated the contents of the room more thoroughly. Aside from the bed, there was a basket filled with porous rocks, a second basket filled with nothing at all, and no extra bed clothes under the bed that he could make out. He wasn't quite willing to stick his arm underneath and feel around; although he hadn't even thought about it while traveling thanks to the hellish pace the animal people had set, he had a vague recollection that scorpions tended to live in deserts and late at night with the black gap between the bed and the floor leering at him he had no inclination to discover if some might be sequestered under there.

Perhaps he was supposed to make a fire by striking the rocks together? Though come to think of it, he hadn't noticed any smoke holes, chimneys, or fireplaces in his entire tour of the building. How on earth had someone baked that bread?

Feeling a bit desperate, Xavier went to the sconce in the hallway and carefully held his hand up to it; unfortunately, whatever was in there wasn't burning and gave off no heat he could perceive. Strangely, the longer he held his hand near the sconce, the dimmer the light became. When he noticed he quickly pulled his hand away. He felt no warmer, but he was shivering slightly less. Weird.

Looked like he didn't have choice: he was going to have to try and wake Sumiko.

Fortunately, her room was the first one before the foyer where the three hallways split off into various parts of the building, so it was easy to find. Xavier knocked softly on the door frame. «S-Sumiko-san?» Ugh, how was it so obscenely cold? While he had admittedly been dead tired, he didn't recall getting this cold when he was sleeping outside.

He rapped his fingers more smartly against the door frame. Since it was adobe, it didn't make very much noise. «Sumiko-san!» he called in a louder voice. «Help me, please!»

At last, he heard movement in her room, and soon Sumiko herself whisked aside the hide hanging across her doorway. «Zabi-kun? What is it?»

Damn it, he couldn't remember the word. "I'm freezing. Is there a fire or something somewhere?"

She just cocked her head.

«Uh, hot. No. I am…not heat?»

«Oh, you're cold?»

"Yes! I mean—" At this rate not knowing the language really was going to kill him. «Yes! Cold! Where?» He had a feeling that wasn't right.

«Are you out of stones? Right, you don't understand me. You have stones? Stones?»

«I don't understand.» He was good at that phrase, at least. When it came to lines he'd had plenty of practice with, that was right up there with commenting on how nice the weather was.

Sumiko ducked into her room and came out with another one of the porous rocks. «This is a stone. A Stone.»

«Stone.» And now he was dutifully repeating words back to her. Hello, Kindergarten, it's been a while! "How is a rock supposed to help me?" Xavier pantomimed confusion as best he could.

Sumiko looked perplexed, but clenched the rock in one fist, touched his blanket with her other hand, and Xavier startled as his blanket warmed up. "What the hell did you just do?" Damn it. «I don't understand.»

«You don't know how to call heat?» Sumiko was evidently flabbergasted over something. If only he could figure out what. «Here, take the stone, and call its Vigor as heat.» She placed the rock she'd been holding in his hand and closed his fingers around it. «Go ahead.»

It looked like Sumiko expected him to replicate her blanket-warming trick. Maybe this wasn't actually a rock, but was some sort of tool that just happened to look like a rock? Or maybe it was magic? The rock felt warmer than it should have been just from Sumiko's body heat, and while it might have been a trick of the light Xavier could have sworn that it was a little smaller than it had been when she'd first brought it out of her room. Maybe he just needed to grip it?

Xavier compressed the rock in his hand. Or tried to, in any case. But it was just a rock. He tried to adjust his hand's position to match what he remembered of Sumiko's. He handed her the blanket, switched the rock to the same hand she'd used, and touched the blanket while gripping the rock.

If she was expecting him to suddenly awaken an unknown talent for pulling heat out of rocks, Sumiko was evidently in for disappointment.

«You really don't know how to call heat,» she said, and rubbed her hand across her forehead. «How did you even survive until now? And wait, why is this blanket so cold already?»

Sumiko eyed him with a perplexed look. «Maybe it has to do with his compulsive siphoning?» she muttered. «I wonder…»

Xavier shrugged in helpless frustration.

«Wait here. Wait. You understand?»

«Yes.»

Sumiko ducked back into her room, and emerged a moment later with her own blanket. «Hold this.» She traded Xavier his blanket back for the stone, and piled her own blanket on top, making sure he wasn't directly touching it. With stone in hand, she gripped the rock once more, this time touching her own blanket.

After a moment, Xavier could feel heat radiating through the blankets, although it was much less pronounced than when she had applied the magic or whatever it was directly to his blanket.

Holding two blankets was starting to get awkwardly heavy, though, and he shifted his weight.

Sumiko grabbed his shoulder. «Wait.»

The pair stood there for almost a minute, until Sumiko was evidently satisfied. «Thank goodness, that worked. Looks like you only actively siphon if you're touching the blanket directly. Let me just get you a spare—oh, right. Zabi-kun. Go. Your room. Wait. Understand?»

«Yes?» Sumiko took her blanket back from Xavier, and waved him back down the hall.

He retreated to his bedroom, and was shivering despite being wrapped in his blanket when she followed him with an extra blanket in hand. After a brief bout of stilted pseudo-conversation and charades, Xavier found himself back in bed with one blanket pulled up to his chin and the other only coming up about to his chest.

Sumiko spent several minutes going through rock after rock as she heated the entirety of the top blanket. It was fascinating. The rocks really did physically diminish until they basically fell apart into sand as she evidently converted them into heat. This had to be some form of magic. Xavier had wondered if maybe the rocks weren't actually rocks, but nothing about them as they degraded in front of his eyes indicated they were anything more than what they looked like.

Now if only he could learn to use magic…he had a feeling that would be a solid step toward returning to his home.

In the blissfully warm weight of his newly comfortable bed, Xavier drifted off to dream of his family.

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About the author

EO Tenkey

Bio: Read all the things. Write all the things. Sleep? What's that? Does it taste good with chips?

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