And here is the haunted marsh. A distant, quiet voice can be heard singing, but the singer never pauses for breath.
A light comes into view from behind a tree.
Makji has his hands out, almost touching the wisp. "I'm right here, you're so close, you can do it," he says. "You're so strong, I love you, you're almost here."
Valen's too focused on moving forward to answer. He's even slower now. He doesn't say anything. He doesn't look like he moves.
and stops. "Can't," he sounds even softer than usual. "Can't make it any farther."
Makji wraps him in an approximation of a hug. "Shhh, you're good, I'm so proud of you. Look how far you got."
Valen doesn't say anything.
That's okay. Makji can stand here for as long as Valen needs.
Valen starts drifting back to his horrible marshy prison.
That's okay, too. He keeps pace with Valen for as long as there's a pace to keep.
He'll just go haunt Erai's.
"Are you okay? Is there--fuck, did I break you? Please don't be broken."
"I'm not broken."
"Oh, good, Valen, I'm so sorry, I didn't realize it would be--that--"
If he doesn't want to talk, that's okay. Makji sits down near him to wait.
He didn't realize how tired he was, how right Erai was about the sleep he'd been getting.
He's drifted off before he has a chance to realize he's doing so.
Valen exists near him and doesn't move.
Eventually his balance tips and he wakes on impact. Looks around, startled, before seeing Valen and relaxing.
"Do you need me to tell you where Erai keeps the spare bedding?"
"Oh...yeah, okay. Thank you."
He stands up, stretches. "But, Valen, did you see how far you got?"
"Yeah..." He'd shrug if he had shoulders but he doesn't. Instead he just tells Makji where the bedding is.
"I won't make you try again. I'll stay here. I'll figure something out."
He's promising himself over his head but he means it, means it as far as he possibly can.
"No one can make me do anything. And I won't make you stay."
"You can't make me do anything, either," he points out. "What if I want to stay?"
"Then I can't stop you."
"Would you want to?"
"I want you to be where you want to be."
Makji reaches for Valen to hug him. "Did you know," he says, "that you're probably the best person I've ever met?"