Despite the lingering tension of the now dubbed Hex Epidemic, Lynus was able to sleep rather well that night. He had a few disturbing dreams, some he couldn’t remember upon waking, but other than that he felt that he had a relatively peaceful night. It was no doubt due to the fact that he was surrounded by his guildmates’ auras and he felt comforted by that. He was glad that they had chosen to stick together, bedding down in the tearoom instead of separating into their private rooms.
He was sure it was a comfort to everyone else to be so close as well.
Although he had a peaceful night’s rest, Lynus still felt tired. He sat on the couch in front of the fireplace and rubbed his face with his hands. A tension headache had set in and he was starting to feel a little light-headed. It was just a side-effect of working too much. Nothing a bit more rest and some food couldn’t cure.
On the couch next to him, gently rubbing soothing circles on his back, sat Axel. He was thankful for Axel’s attentiveness, but it was becoming difficult not to turn to him and just snuggle into his chest and arms until this whole ordeal was over.
He was…tired. Just tired.
“You need to eat something,” Axel said as he continued to rub smoothing circles on Lynus’ back. “You haven’t eaten since around midday yesterday. I’ll ask Matron to bring us some food.”
Lynus didn’t really feel like eating anything, but he knew Axel was right. He needed to eat something. Something more than a cup of tea. A piece of toast should settle on his stomach pretty well. Anything more than that, though, he might feel queasy.
However before Axel could stand up, there was the sound of the inn’s entrance doors being flung open in a panicked and dramatic manner.
Immediately, everyone in the tearoom shot to their feet, protectively on guard as panicked footsteps and voices could be heard outside the room.
“Monsters are invading the city!” someone shrilled.
Immediately, Hamza pushed forward and opened the door to the tearoom. He stepped outside and was immediately confronted by a terrified guard.
“Monsters are fleeing the labyrinth and invading the city! You’re the leader of the Guardians, right? You have to do something! The guards are being overwhelmed!”
The thought of monsters invading the city was bad enough, but Lynus got a deep feeling of dread in the pit of his stomach. There was something else going on here. Monsters don’t just rush into town for no reason. They were content to stay within the labyrinth. That was their territory. That was where their food sources were located. They had no reason to flood into the city.
“Damn it…” Mahogany suddenly muttered from the corner of the room.
Hamza immediately turned to look at him. “Hexers?” he asked sharply.
A frighteningly grim expression spread across Mahogany’s face and his eyes narrowed fearsomely as he nodded his head. “Hexers have the ability to instil fear in monster, thus making them easy to control and manipulate. This is exactly what they’re doing now.”
“Then this is the hexers’ final stand,” Hamza said through gritted teeth as he turned to face everyone. “Let’s be ready for anything.”
Could they really be ready, though?
Wait, his bag was up in his room! Lynus couldn’t throw himself onto a battlefield without it. Not after what happened yesterday with that cursed knife and that hexer. He couldn’t afford to be complacent.
“I-I’ll need to get my bag!”
“Go!” Axel said as he hefted his axe upon his back and raced out of the inn with everyone else. “We’ll meet you there!”
Lynus didn’t want everyone to head out without him, but he knew what they couldn’t afford to wait for him to retrieve his bag. Lives were in danger. Every second counted. The sooner Axel and the others engaged in battle with these monsters and defeat them, the better.
He could only hope that the hexers weren’t hoping to use the invading monsters as cover for something far more heinous.
As he raced up the stairs and staggered into his room, all Lynus could do was hope that the others would be fine as they hurled themselves in danger and prayer that he could get to them before anything terrible happened.
He grabbed the strap of his bag and tugged it off the table. He didn’t bother to pull his hair back into his usual ponytail and he didn’t dare to waste another second stopping to put on his white medical coat. He simply lugged his bag haphazardly upon his shoulder, sent a silent prayer in thanks for having the foresight to put on his shoes, and raced out of his room. He leaned heavily against the stair banister as he took two steps at a time to reach the inn foyer. A moment after that, he was out the doors and heading in the direction where the nearly overwhelming sense of fear radiated from.
Crowds of locals and rookie explorers were running away from the sounds of chaos and Lynus struggled to push through them in order to get to Axel and his guild. He stumbled a few times, but managed to keep himself upright and continued to push himself forward. He tried to block out the emotions of fear around him as best he could, but they only added to his own anxiety and distress.
Finally pushing his way toward the stone road that led to the entrance of the labyrinth, Lynus stumbled to a stop and dropped his bag to his feet. With eyes wide, he felt his breath hitch in his throat. Hamza said to be ready for anything, but there was no way they could have prepared themselves for something like this!
Numerous FOEs from the first stratum, ragelopes, raptors, and the dreaded stalkers, were literally running about the area in an unpredictable, confused chaos. Attacking and slashing at anyone and anything that came close enough. Including each other.
The monsters themselves weren’t an overly terrifying threat to Axel and the others. They’ve dealt with them before. But not on this scale and not with so many of them.
And they weren’t the reason for why his guildmates were scattered about, in numerous degrees of distress or suffering.
They were…they all were cursed…
A small chime of a bell caused Lynus to tense and he turned to glance over his shoulder. There he saw six hooded hexers, paled face and wide-eyed, strategically positioned upon the rooftops of the nearby buildings. All wore expressions of malicious delight on their faces.
The only thing Lynus could think of was “ambush”. These hexers lured the monsters into town as a distraction so they could fling their curses and hexes at anyone who stumbled into their path and sight.
“What do you think?” one asked him with a truly wicked grin. “Amazing, isn’t it? How powerful we hexers truly are.”
“It’s cute how you all think a little charm can protect you from our hexes,” a female hexer giggled as she swung her legs cheerfully from atop of a lamppost. “Adorable~”
Lynus didn’t answer them. Didn’t even make an attempt to form some kind of comeback. Instead he turned back around to look at his guild, instantly noting their varying degrees of distress.
Axel was the only one still on his feet, though they were bound to the ground and he could only manage the barest of steps. He was able to strike down any monster that came within distance of his axe, but there were so many of them that he was constantly ducking and blocking other attacks.
And behind Axel was Jhon. Face down on the ground, completely unmoving with his shield flung aside. He was in a deep, consuming sleep. A hex that could only be removed by a refresh spell or a hard, physical attack. Next to him, on his knees was Tobyn. His arms were bound cruelly and painfully at his sides and he struggled violently in an attempt to remove them and to somehow get to Jhon, to wake him up or at least drag him to safety. Monsters in their fearful states continued to circle them erratically, so Tobyn had one eye on the monsters and one eye on Jhon as he continued to struggle with his own bindings.
An absolutely horrified Lirit was sprawled out on top of Macerio, the gunner lying on his stomach on the ground with a look of pure fear on his face a few paces from where Jhon and Tobyn were. Macerio had his gun out and was desperately trying to point it toward his temple like he had done once so long ago. But Lirit had his hands around the gun, his fingers behind the trigger in an attempt to physically stop Macerio from pulling the trigger. Blood poured from his hand and onto the ground, but he wasn’t letting go. He wasn’t getting off of Macerio. He wasn’t giving him any leverage. Wasn’t going to chance it.
Shen was trying so hard to push himself into the battle against the monsters but his movements were slow and sluggish. He had been struck with a paralysing hex. Though it was a miracle that he was moving at all, Lynus could tell that he was suffering greatly. It hurt for him to move but it hurt him not to move, to not strike back at the FOEs, to stop them from hurting others. And it hurt him to not be able to help Magnus. The gentle alchemist sat haphazardly on the ground some steps behind Shen, his head bound in thick vines that he frantically pulled and clawed at. The vines interfered with his concentration. If he couldn’t concentrate he couldn’t use his alchemist abilities. He was terrified.
Rahas, too, struggled so desperately to force himself into battle. Other than Axel, he was the only one able to stand on his feet and able to strike back at the delirious monsters. But Lynus knew that he wasn’t safe, he wasn’t well. His body was turning against him. He was being poisoned by his own body. A hex had caused his body to attack itself. He was slowly succumbing to a poison by his own making. He couldn’t…last much longer.
At the back of the battlefield, Hamza had fallen to a knee as he clutched his head with his hand. He covered the vast majority of his face, but an eye could be seen through the parted fingers, of which was digging painfully into his skin. And that visible eye was wide, unblinking and hazy, but filled with such terror. He had been hit with a fear hex. And it was affecting him so, so badly. No doubt instilling violent, heartbreaking memories. Cedric was there with him, his hands clutching the collar of his cloak and was shaking him in an attempt to pull him from his terror. He was also shouting his name. Over and over again, his voice, his throat getting hoarser by the second.
Poor Chi-hung was another who was bound to the spot, far away from the others of his guild. The white tiger growled frantically, attempting to lure the monsters in his direction instead to save the others from being attacked.
They were…they were all in so much pain and danger!
Lynus’ gaze immediately turned back to Axel when he felt his sudden spike of intense dread. And he immediately knew why. Monsters had swarmed him now. A couple of stalkers. And..,
Axel was bound to the spot. He couldn’t move. He couldn’t dodge-!
Lynus covered his mouth with his hand to smother a scream as razor sharp claw ruthlessly cut into Axel’s back. Blood seemed to spray in the air in shiny red droplets as Axel staggered forward, his grip on his axe loosen. Everything seemed to go in slow motion as Axel fell forward, his hair covering his eyes and his mouth dropping open in a gasp of pain.
As he stumbled forward he, however, somehow managed to stay on his feet. His grip on his axe tightened. His eyes remained hidden behind his hair, but his teeth and jaw clenched as he managed to push past the pain and use his axe to fight back against the raging monster.
But blood continued to flow from the gaping wounds on his back. It splattered across the ground in deep, thick pools.
He was hurt. God, he was so hurt. The monster, it caught him off guard. There were too many of them. Axel was in the thick of it. All by himself.
Lynus so badly wanted to scream out his name, to get to him, but his voice wouldn’t work, his legs wouldn’t move. Was he hit by a hex? Or was it simply from the horror and shock of everything?
A mocking, unsettling laugh seemed to cut right through Lynus’ very core and his eyes widened.
“Come on, pretty little medic,” a hexer mocked him from where he stood behind him. “You have to choose. Heal, refresh, or unbind. Which is it? Who will you help first?”
Lynus whirled around to face and hastily stumbled back a few steps. “Stop it!” he screamed.
The grin that the hexer wore was that of pure malice. “Aww, are we pushing you to your limit?” he mockingly purred. “Miracle Medic, are you at your limit? Tell us, what will you do?”
What will he do? He…didn’t know. He couldn’t heal, unbind, and refresh them all at once. He needed to focus on one task at a time. One patient at a time. But there were…so many of them that needed immediate medical attention.
Lynus turned away from the hexer and stumbled away, though he had no idea where he was going. Tears flowed unimpeded from his eyes as he stared unblinking at the chaos before him. He could hear their voices as they shouted and screamed for each other, to others to get back, for him to get away.
But he couldn’t…
He needed to heal Axel’s wounds while also removing the bindings at his legs. He needed to refresh Macerio’s mind to stop him from trying to shoot himself in fear. Magnus needed to be unbound as well as he clawed frantically at his head to remove the vines that restricted him. Shen was struggling through paralysis in an attempt to engage in battle also. Jhon was trapped in a deep magical sleep, face down and in the danger zone. Tobyn was struggling with his arms being bound. And Rahas…he was starting to cough up blood from being poisoned!
He could feel all their pains, their fears, their suffering. He could feel them all. They were so scared, so horrified, so…helpless.
Others were racing to help. Cosmos. Ryker. Darrell. More guards, but Lynus couldn’t see any of them. All he could see, all he could feel was…pain.
He needed to do something! He had to help them! He had to stop this!
B-but who first? God, there was so many of them. And more were sure to suffer. Who could afford to wait for medical attention and who couldn’t?
No, he couldn’t do them one at a time. Those hexers would just replace the hex with a new one. It was a losing battle. He couldn’t…do anything.
Axel…god, Axel…He was fighting so hard, he was going to be…
No! Lynus screamed in his mind as he held his head with his hands, his eyes wide and unblinking. No. No I won’t allow this!
It wasn’t acceptable. He wouldn’t allow this. There was a way to heal them all. There had to be. He just needed to…push himself further than he had been before. He had to. For their sake. He had to save them. All of them. No matter what it took.
He was a medic. That was what medics did. What they were born to do.
A strange sense of calm unexpectedly fell over him as he clutched his hands against his chest. He walked until he was in the very centre of the chaos, his eyes focused on the semi-circle hooded figures that were taking delight in all the curses as they take effect.
However, they won’t be delighted for much longer.
“That’s it,” Lynus said as he uncharacteristically glared at what he believed was the leader of the small group. “Your fun ends now.”
“Oh?” a hexer cooed at him once more. “What will you be able to do? Will you be able to heal them all? I highly doubt it.”
Yes, he would. He could. He would heal them all. All at once. At the exact same time. No one was going to be left out. Left behind. They were all important to him. He would help them. He would.
“I’m going to heal everyone,” Lynus said as his felt a warm but foreign tingling sensation rush through him and completely unbeknownst to him he started to emit a soft violet glow. “And there’s nothing you can do to stop me!”