Your eyebrows raise in surprise for more than one reason. There's already several new questions in your mind, though you decide to only interject with one for now: "How long did it take you to reach the Everfree that way?"
The question gave Notaulix pause, prompting him to look away to consider the answer.
"I'm... not sure, Anon." He begins, focusing on you once more. "It was terribly dark and lonely tracing my way through those old tunnels by myself... Moving, resting, moving again, it was like a blurry dream; a nightmare. Sometimes I risked checking the surface to look for something, anything I could safely eat, which helped somewhat to track the passage of time, but... I think the journey took eight days or more." Notaulix answers.
At least eight days?! The very thought sends your mind reeling, followed by heavy pit settling deep in your stomach. You immediately think back to the state you discovered Notaulix in: Tight skin against plainly visible ribs, the sunken face, holes everywhere along his extremities, weak and light as a feather for his size. Notaulix had obviously been starving, both physically and magically, but to that degree? It takes longer than a week or two for someone to end up like that...
A horrifying reality emerges: Just how long had Notaulix been slowly wasting away for? How long had he been suffering? If he was in such a dire state even before being exiled, that must mean... His hive...!
You feel an urge of desperation to push this matter right now, but your better judgement reins that desire in. Now is not the time for it.
"E-Eight? I... Sorry for butting in. Continue." You say with wide eyes.
"It's not a problem, Anon." Notaulix reassures you before continuing. "When I made it to the forest, I emerged from a small cave near the base of a steep hill, at night. The forest there was very dense, and very dark, but I was able to see enough of the sky to know which way was east, which went away from the hill and the cave. I knew that if I kept moving east, I would reach the edge of the forest." He explains
You then patiently wait for Notaulix to continue, only to surmise that he's now waiting for your response, if his staring is any hint.
Taking in a deep breath, which is then released as a heavy sigh, you take a moment to rub your face with your free hand, all in an effort to let go of the darker thoughts clouding your mind, and instead refocus on your original question that prompted this entire discussion.