Lynus’ head was honestly starting to ache as Axel led him from the hospital and out into the cool air outside. With Axel’s arm securely around his shoulders, Lynus briefly closed his eyes and curled toward Axel’s side and rested his head upon his chest.
To say that he was worried about their current circumstances was an understatement. As was the fact that he was still feeling the after effects of pushing himself beyond his limit yesterday. But it had to be done. He had to push himself to allow for his fellow medics to have a small respite themselves.
Now they had time to compose themselves and to ready themselves for a future hex onslaught. Now Dr Stiles, Darrell, and Angie all had the knowledge to remove the hexes themselves without suffering from the repercussions.
The battle was far from over, but at least now they had a way to push back.
“Are you all right?” Axel asked him softly as he curled his arm tighter around him to hold him closer.
“Yeah, I’m…just tired,” Lynus admitted as he opened his eyes and tilted his head back so that he could look up upon Axel’s face. “And worried.”
Axel’s own face was creased with worry and he uttered as sigh. “We all are,” he said as he leaned forward to gently kiss Lynus on his forehead.
Lynus also uttered a sigh. “I just hope that these hexers don’t learn of certain people’s weak points and use them against them. You know what I mean?”
“Yeah, I do,” Axel murmured under his breath as his hold around him became more protective and firm.
“Everyone is vulnerable right now,” Lynus immediately replied, both hearing and sensing the helplessness and guilt in Axel’s voice and aura. “Don’t feel bad.”
Axel simply exhaled slowly and made no attempt to verbally respond. He didn’t need to. Lynus could easily sense how he was feeling. Worried, uneasy, guilty, helpless. His physical strength was his greatest asset. It was one of the greatest assets to the entire guild. But for this situation, for these hexes, physical strength couldn’t compete. And Axel, and so many others who replied on their physical strength and skills, felt completely and utterly out of their depth.
The removal of these hexes hung solely on medics and healers. Something that a lot of people weren’t comfortable with.
And that was something that those hexers no doubt knew.
Lynus was pulled from his musings by a familiar voice. He and Axel stopped walking and turned to watch Shiki, along with Simmons and the others of his guild push their way through the crowds.
“Oh, Shiki?” Lynus murmured before a smile of relief slipped across his face and he lifted his head from Axel’s chest to regard them all. “Ah, guild Cosmos. I’m glad to see you haven’t been affected.”
“How you feeling?” Simmons was the one to ask with a look of concern as he stood next to his father.
Lynus sent him a hopefully reassuring smile. “Oh, I’m fine.”
Shiki, however, just frowned and shook his head. “You’re working yourself into exhaustion again,” he said with a tone of concern and disproval and folded his arms over his chest.
“He’s beyond the realm of exhaustion,” Axel quickly added.
Lynus could only sigh and tiredly rub his forehead. Axel was right. He was exhausted. He really couldn’t deny that.
Shiki shifted on his feet in a fidgeting manner, his gaze travelling toward Simmons on his right before drifting to Gerald on his lift. Clearly he was as uneasy and edgy as everyone else in town. Worried about the effects a curse may have on both Simmons and Gerald.
Honestly, it was no surprise. Lynus was worried also. Simmons and Gerald were two of those that he was most concerned about. A curse of fear or confusion could have potentially dire after affects for those two.
He had better find an amulet or two to protect them as well.
“We heard what happened at the hospital yesterday,” Shiki said as he looked back at Lynus. “They’re calling it a Hex Epidemic.”
“It certainly seems that way,” Lynus replied with a wry smile. “Fortunately we’ve found a way to remove the curses without receiving harsh repercussions.”
How long that was to last, though, was anyone’s guess. If those hexers found a way to strengthen their hexes, they might be in some serious trouble. But that was a bridge they would have to cross later.
Lynus was about to explain further when Kerri suddenly drifted out from behind Gerald and stared blankly and blatantly at him. “Hm? Kerri? Is something wrong?” he immediately asked.
Kerri was silent at first as she continued to stare. She then tilted her head to the side. “I can see them clearly now,” she said softly.
Everyone around him fell silent as they looked at the small hexer in curiosity. “See what?” Lynus asked.
Lynus blinked. “My what?”
Kerri said nothing in response. She simply righted herself, nodded at him, before she turned and drifted away from everyone.
“Eh?” Gerald uttered and turned towards her. “Wait a second, we shouldn’t separate.”
Kerri paused briefly and turned her head around to look at him. “The hexes won’t affect me.”
Gerald didn’t look all that convinced. “But…”
“Do not worry,” Kerri said gently, almost reassuringly as she turned back around and continued to float away.
And everyone stood in silence until she was no longer within viewing or hearing distance.
Shiki snorted lightly to break the silence and shook his head. “Hexers sure are a strange breed, aren’t they?”
They were, but…
What did she mean about seeing his wings? What did that mean? Did that mean anything?
“Never mind Kerri’s oddities for now,” Shiki suddenly spoke up with a sense of authority in his voice. “Lynus, I think you should return to the inn and get some rest.”
“Oh, yes, of course,” Lynus immediately responded as he tried to rid himself of his uneasy and curiosity of Kerri’s words. “You’re right; getting some rest would be a good idea.”
“We’re heading there now,” Axel said as he immediately tugged Lynus back against his side and shielded him protectively with an arm around his shoulders once more. He spared a glance at Shiki as he turned Lynus in the direction of the inn. “You be careful now, too.”
Shiki nodded his head sharply in understanding and smiled. “We will. Don’t worry about us.”
Lynus was going to worry regardless, but he felt reassured that Shiki and his guild knew and understood the severity of the situation. So they were sure to keep a watchful eye out and not do anything unnecessarily reckless or dangerous. He didn’t want to know how Shiki would react if either Gerald or Simmons were cursed.
With a small wave from Lynus and a nod from Axel, Axel once again led Lynus through the streets of Lagaard with the destination of the inn in mind. The streets were bustling as per usual, and yet there was a sense of wariness and apprehension.
It was honestly unnerving to Lynus to be surrounded by so many people with fear and dread rolling from their auras in waves. And he found himself attempting to curl away from it by huddling closer to Axel.
“We’re almost home, don’t worry,” Axel whispered to him.
Lynus smiled meekly up at him as he clutched the front of his shirt with his hand.
“S-somebody, help, please!”
A yell of pure fear and desperation caused Lynus to jump and for Axel to consciously attempt to shield him with his arms. Instinctively they both turned in the direction they assume the shout came from. The crowded streets seemed to part and dissipate to reveal two young men, seemingly no older than Lynus and Axel were. One had messy dark green hair that draped over one eye and seemed to be classed that of a landsknecht. And clinging limply against his side, his arm draped over the back of his neck and unable to stand on his own feet was a blond haired ronin.
But what immediately drew Lynus’ full attention and concern was the knife embedded in the ronin’s side.
Lynus immediately forgot all about his exhausted as he pushed forward, attempting to slip from Axel’s arms and to help the two explorers. Axel’s arms were firm, but so was Lynus’ need to help. Even from this distance, he could sense something dark in the ronin’s aura.
“He’s cursed, Axel.”
Axel kept his arms around Lynus but moved forward also, moving and acting as a physical shield if necessary.
As they approached the two, the distressed landsknecht turned to look at them and his gaze immediately fell onto Lynus himself. His eyes widened a fraction before an expression that was a mixture of relief and desperation spread across his face.
“P-please, you have to help him! I don’t know what’s wrong!” the green-haired man rambled as he took a step toward them also.
“It’ll be all right,” Lynus immediately said to him in hopes of calming him down even just a little. “Please lay him on his back. I’ll look at him right now.”
The man nodded his head rapidly and dropped to his knees, carefully removing his companion’s arm from around his neck and shoulders before he placed him gently onto the ground.
He knelt close to the ronin and began to ramble once more, “He’s barely breathing. I don’t know what happened. He just got stabbed. I mean he’s gotten stabbed before but he’s never been like this. He won’t even respond. I don’t know what to do.”
Lynus immediately dropped to his own knees on the other side of the ronin where the knife was clearly visible. There was little blood to be seen, which meant that when he was stabbed, the knife went in cleanly and no one else attempted to remove it.
Axel crouched down next to Lynus but reached across to place a firm hand on the landsknecht’s shoulder. “Easy now. What’s your name? What happened? Who did this?”
The young man glanced at Axel for a split second before he abruptly turned his gaze back to his companion. “Oh, ah, I’m Konya. A hexer suddenly a-appeared in front of us and stabbed Xita,” he replied quickly. “He just…appeared. Like we weren’t even doing anything. I tried removing the knife. I know you shouldn’t but, shit, I panicked, you know? But I couldn’t even touch it! It hurt my hand or something. Like I felt a tingling sensation and couldn’t feel my fingers and shit.”
Lynus idly listened to the Konya’s anxious ramblings while carefully inspecting the knife and wound. Couldn’t remove the knife himself? Something preventing him from removing it?
With great apprehension, Lynus reached forward and lightly touched the handle of the knife with his fingertips. He felt that tingling sensation that Konya mentioned. It didn’t hurt him, though. But there was a dark presence to the knife. Around it. On the outside. A shadow that was similar to that of a person’s aura. But simply black.
He chewed on his bottom lip. That could only mean one thing. There was a curse on the knife. That was why Konya couldn’t remove it without suffering himself.
Without thinking Lynus made a motion for his bag before he abruptly remembered that he didn’t have it on him at the moment. He left it at the inn because he had planned on only visiting the hospital and returning to get some more rest.
Darn it! He should have known better!
“I don’t have my bag,” Lynus murmured. “I can deal with this right here. Remove the knife and heal the wound. But I’ll need bandages.”
Konya suddenly grasped at his own shirt. “Will this do?”
Lynus took a moment to look at his shirt, noticing that it was indeed quite large and should be easy for him to tear it into the strips needed. “I’ll have to rip it though.”
“I don’t care,” Konya retorted as he whipped the shirt up over his head, revealing another sleeveless shirt underneath and pushed it toward him. “Will it be enough?”
“Yes, it will do,” Lynus said with a small smile as he retrieved the shirt. Clearly he was willing to do whatever was necessary to help his friend. “I’ll need your help with this.”
“Anything,” Konya immediately replied.
He didn’t ask him what was wrong with Xita. He just wanted to help. Just wanted his friend healed. Perhaps he thought asking too many questions would delay the healing. Whatever the reason, his cooperation was greatly appreciated.
Lynus began to shred the shirt into a few make-shift bandages as he issued out the necessary orders. “Right. Konya, take your friend’s hand in yours. Axel, when I remove the knife, I need you to put pressure on the wound.”
“B-but, the knife…?” Konya stuttered.
“It won’t hurt me. It’ll be fine,” Lynus replied with a reassuring smile. He turned to give Axel remains of the tattered shirt and gave him a reassuring look as well. “Really, it’ll be fine. I promise.”
Axel kept his gaze for a long moment and Lynus could see the uncertainty and worry in his eyes. He was also feeling protective, wanting nothing more than to simply bundle Lynus into his arms and take him to the inn, away from any more troubling situations. But he didn’t. It was taking all of his self-control not to, but he nodded his head in acceptance and retrieved the tattered shirt from him.
Lynus gave him another smile before he turned his attention to the silent and still ronin. He leaned forward on his knees, placed a hand on Xita’s forehead and with his thumb gently peeled opened an eyelid. Immediately a green eye looked at him. He was conscious. And terrified.
“You’re going to be fine, I promise. You’re temporarily paralysed from a curse, but I can remove it. And I will. What I need you to do is to focus on holding your friend’s hand. He’s holding your hand tightly. So focus on curling your fingers around his hand. Think of nothing else. I’ll take care of everything else. Don’t worry.”
There were no more words of comfort he could give. Now it was time for action.
Sharing a glance and a nod with Axel, Lynus turned his attention back towards the knife. Slowly he wrapped his arms around the handle, once again feeling that unearthly tingling sensation. But he ignored it, which was surprisingly easy to do.
Biting his lips together, Lynus drew in a deep breath before holding it. With a slight grimace on his face, he abruptly pulled out the knife as he uttered a refresh at the same time. The blade came out cleanly and Axel immediately placed the tattered shirt against the wound.
As Lynus rested back on his heels, knife gripped tightly in his hands, Xita shuddered abruptly, his legs kicking out as a gurgled gasp escaped his throat.
“Xita!” Konya yelled as he clutched his hand desperately with both of his own.
Xita groaned as he flopped back onto the pavement, curling slightly towards Konya. “Holy shit,” he uttered. “I couldn’t fucking move. What the shit?”
Tears of relief sprung to Konya’s eyes and he immediately leaned forward to awkwardly hug Kita around his neck and shoulders. While Xita reached around to pat him on the back, Lynus focused his attention on the stab wound that was still marring Xita’s side. He carefully took over Axel’s role and peeled back the bloodied shirt.
The wound appeared clean. Straight. No jagged edges or torn skin. The blade was simple and straight. Other than the curse that had infected both the knife and Xita, there didn’t appear to be anything else foreign that could cause infection. He still wanted Xita to go to the hospital to have it properly assessed, but there didn’t appear to be any internal damage.
“What the hell happened?” Konya asked after he pulled himself away from hugging Xita.
“The knife was cursed,” Lynus answered briefly as he began to bandage Xita’s side as best he could. “The curse caused body-wide paralysis. It has been removed, thankfully, and the wound appears clean. But it will require a few stitches and it will require a trip to the hospital. But it will be a short visit, I’m sure.”
The tension in Xita’s shoulders abruptly dissipated and he breathed a sigh of relief. “Thank you so much,” he said in earnest as he looked at Lynus with teary eyes of gratitude. “How can we repay you?”
Lynus smiled and shook his head. He opened his mouth to respond as he usually would to such words when a chill raced down his spine. An ominous presence was nearby and it was similar to that of that hexer he encountered a couple of days ago outside the hospital.
He stiffened and turned to look over his shoulder. A few feet behind him, draped in tattered coils of black cloth and silver chains was a hexer. Male in appearance. Youthful features, but the eyes of gold were narrow and piercing. Violent even.
“You. Stop removing my hexes!”
Wait, his hexes? He was the one responsible?!
While Axel immediately wrapped a protective arm around his shoulders, Lynus pressed his hand against the centre of Axel’s chest, ready to remove any and all curses the hexer would throw at him the very instant they land.
However, the hexer’s gaze was focused entirely on him as his lips moved at a rapid pace; uttering something Lynus could not understand. He finished what he was whispering with a violent shake of his head and Lynus subconsciously clung to the front of Axel’s shirt.
…But he couldn’t feel anything. No, that wasn’t due to a hex. He couldn’t sense anything untoward in his aura. Nothing.
Did…the curse not work on him?
The hexer looked as baffled as Lynus felt. But he was also far more enraged by the lack of response. “Loathsome filth. Why is it that my hexes do not affect you?” he hissed.
“...Maybe because I know what you’re trying to do,” Lynus retorted in return.
But inwardly he truly did not know what he wasn’t effect. Perhaps it was due to his previous experience and encounters with other affected people?
Whatever the reason, it didn’t matter. If he remained unaffected then he could concentrate of curing others instead of worrying about himself.
The hexer suddenly whipped around to face a guard that had been trying to flank him. He pointed at him, uttered another string of words that were incomprehensible. The guard stilled before he lurched forward, buckling at the waist and desperately clutching his head as a scream echoed from his helmet.
Lynus winced at the sound and tensed again when the hexer spun around to face him again. “Know this, medic; you will choke on your halo one of these days,” he spat hatefully at him before he ducked behind the flailing, curse-ridden guard to make his escape.
W-what was that supposed to mean?
Muttering under his breath, Axel sprung forward and immediately snared the guard by his wrist. He twisted the guard’s arm before he turned so that his back was to him. With his feet planted firmly on the ground, Axel managed to flip the guard over his head and threw him onto the ground harshly, knocking the wind out of him. As the guard gasped for breath, Axel readjusted his grip on his arm, holding it with one hand while he used his other to roll the guard onto his stomach where he promptly pinned him to the ground.
While still deep in a haze of confusion, the guard couldn’t move. Only flail desperately with his other arm and kick his legs. Nothing more.
Lynus pushed himself to his feet also and scurried toward the guard. He crouched down to hastily remove his helmet, revealing a mess of brown hair before he pressed his fingertips to the man’s temple and uttered a refresh spell. He didn’t need to go searching for the cause of this behaviour; he already knew.
The reaction was immediately; the guard stopped struggling and slumped to the ground. He was still greatly confused, but that wasn’t due to a curse.
“What happened?” the guard croaked as Axel removed his grip on his arm and instead helped him to his feet. “The hexer?”
“He cursed you to use you as a distraction so he could make his get away,” Axel answered with a deep frown. “Don’t know where the bastard went.”
Lynus grasped at the amazonite stone against his chest tightly as a wave of uncertainty and fear settled in his chest. He had no idea what that hexer meant, about choking on his halo. It was a strange thing to say. And he felt that it meant something. But what?
Whatever it was, he felt a sense of foreboding from his words.
…Something terrible was going to happen soon.