Axel watched in amusement as his Guild Leader, Hamza, engaged in a drinking game with Barkeep Cass. Hamza's usually stern and serious expression was replaced with an outgoing and fun-loving one. Barkeep Cass was a large man, completely rough around the edges. He was egging Hamza on with his unusual way of speaking.
"Haw haw haw!" Barkeep Cass' laugh was so loud, Axel wondered if he could wake the dead. "Is that all you've got?"
"Not even close," Hamza retorted as he threw back another drink.
It always amused Axel greatly to watch his fellow guild members unwind at Stickleback Bar after spending the day in the labyrinth. Hamza was usually so serious and vigilant. His eyes always searching, his mind always thinking of strategies.
So, it was kinda nice watching him relax a bit. Everyone needed to at some time, right?
Picking up his mug of beer, Axel turned to look at his other party members. To his left was the guild's Survivalist, Tobyn. He had long blond hair and blue eyes. He wore a red scarf that hid the bottom half of his face. He also wore a camouflage green hat with a feather. He was a rather tall man, but he was light and agile. And a great bowman. He was a vital party member in the labyrinth. Keen eyes, great senses. He could sense a powerful enemy, giving them enough time to make a retreat if needed.
Tobyn wasn't a very outgoing person, though. He kept pretty much to himself. Still, he was polite and friendly enough. A good listener. A good guy to have to watch your back.
To the left of Tobyn was their blond hair Protector, Jhon. Despite being rather lanky, he was strong. His defence was second to none. He could take the hits and dish them out. He was also very white knight in personality. He would throw himself in front of anyone in order to protect them. Sometimes, though, Lynus would get very exasperated with his recklessness.
Still, he was a crucial member as well. Axel was thankful to have him on the team. He made sure that Lynus was safe, no matter what. It made Axel feel better knowing that.
Next to Jhon was Hamza and Barkeep Cass, the two older men still engaging in some friendly teasing and ripping.
Next, Axel's gaze fell upon Shen, their talented dark-haired Ronin. Shen was sitting cross-legged on the chair, his arms folded over his bare chest. His eyes were closed, his expression stony. He seemed to be meditating, something he liked to do often. Second to Hamza, Shen was a very experienced member of the guild. He had seen many battles and even had the scars of a few close calls. The most obvious was the large scar across his chest. It must have been a deep wound, possibly life threatening. Usually, with the power of the medics, injuries could be healed without leaving such scars.
Shen wore his scar proudly, though. It was proof that he had survived. And that was enough.
Next to Shen was Magnus, their alchemist. Blond hair, blue eyes, he had a rather standoffish appearance. He dressed all in black and wore these strange metal armbands, of which he used to wield elemental magic. He also wore a red scarf around his neck. His gaze was rather piecing. But he was really a quiet and gentle person. He preferred to be at the back of the party, delivering powerful magical attacks.
Axel couldn't even remember the amount of times Magnus saved their asses with his magic.
"Hey there, beautiful," a voice suddenly slurred. "Do you have a light?"
Magnus' right eyebrow suddenly gave a twitch. He slowly turned his head to look to his left, his eyes narrowing in a daunting manner. There, with his hand on the back of Magnus' chair was a Gunner, a cigar perched between his teeth as he smirked down at him.
Here was a pitfall for alchemists the world over. Everyone who wanted to smoke a cigar or have a cold drink would pester anyone who even looked like an alchemist.
Axel took a sip of his drink, watching from the corner of his eye as Magnus sighed. He wondered if he should interfere, but he knew that Magnus could take care of himself. He had witnessed this very sight numerous times already. Not to mention that the older man, the Gunner, was drunk.
Or maybe he was just overly confident. Either way, he was going to learn a very painful lesson soon. Magnus might be a softie on the inside, but that didn't mean he would take other people's shit.
"Sure," Magnus said. He then started muttering in an unknown language under his breath, holding out his hand. In the palm of his hand a small fire was born. He lifted his hand higher, allowing the Gunner to smirk and lean forward, wanting to light his cigar. Suddenly, the fire grew into a flame.
Axel pulled his drink away from his lips and laughed as the strong smell of burning hair wafted through the bar. He began to laugh harder when the Gunner jumped away from Magnus and began to frantically slap his face in an attempt to put out his burning whiskers. Axel wasn't the only one laughing. Barkeep Cass' boisterous laugh was easily heard over the noises of the bar.
With his pride as singed at his facial hair, the Gunner crept away, glaring at Magnus over his shoulder. Magnus wasn't fazed, though. He rolled his eyes and leant back in his chair, his arms folded tightly over his chest.
"Idiot," Magnus muttered.
That earned him more laughter from the others, even Shen releasing a chuckle. But he smothered it with a snort and went back to his meditation.
"Happens every time, huh?" Axel commented, unable to hide a smile of amusement.
Magnus flicked his gaze toward him and Axel could still see a sense of annoyance in them. He chose not to comment on that, though. Instead Magnus started another conversation. "Lynus has been gone a while," he said.
Axel nodded and took a quick sip of his beer before replying. "Yeah. There must be more casualties than first feared."
"At least it gives him a chance to expand his healing abilities," Magnus said as he rolled his mug of ale absentmindedly between his hands. "That's all he thinks about."
Axel couldn't help but chuckle and nod. Magnus was right. All Lynus ever really focused on was healing and helping others. Ever since he was a little kid. And he was pretty damn good at it, in Axel's opinion.
From what Barkeep Cass had told him about Dr Stiles, he and Lynus would get along swimmingly. Dr Stiles, too, obsessed with healing. Maybe that was why Lynus was taking so long. Maybe Lynus was getting a few tips. After all, he was always trying to improve his abilities.
It was good that Magnus seemed to understand Lynus. In fact, the two of them got along quite well, which was good to see. The two of them were usually at the back of the group. While Lynus would heal, Magnus would call upon strong elemental attacks. They were a good combination, actually.
Still, Axel couldn't help but feel a little uneasy about Lynus' absence. He wasn't sure why. Something just felt off.
Suddenly, Chi-hung's head snapped up, his ears pointing forward. Their guild's beast member usually did that when someone of their guild returned. But instead of flicking his tail in greeting, Chi-hung's ears folded back and he made a whimpering noise. His actions alarmed Axel greatly and gained everyone's attention.
"What's wrong, Chi-hung?" Hamza asked, immediately reverting into his leadership role.
Chi-hung pushed himself up onto his paws, sniffing the air. The sabre-tooth white tiger had an amazing sense of smell. He knew and recognised the scent of everyone in their guild. His senses were so great that he could find anyone in town from anywhere.
Axel's stomach tightened with a sense of fear. "Is it Lynus?" he asked.
Chi-hung growled lowly in response. It was enough to make Axel take to his feet. Something happened to Lynus. He could feel it. And he wasn't the only one alarmed by Chi-hung's behaviour. Every member of the Guardians were upon their feet.
"Let's head to the hospital immediately," Hamza ordered as he heaved his weapon onto his back. He had a steely cool look in his eyes. He had been partners with Chi-hung for quite some time, so could understand him better than anyone.
Following their leader's orders, Axel and the others grabbed their gear and hastily made their way out of the bar, leaving a dumbfounded Cass behind. With Chi-hung leading, they made their way to the hospital, pushing past those looking for treatment. It wasn't hard to find Dr Stiles, the man seemingly giving a novice explorer a lecture.
He stop mid spiel, though, when Axel approached him, Chi-hung standing by his side.
"Oh, good," Dr Stiles smiled, the younger explorer taking his cue to slip away. "You're here to retrieve Lynus' bag, are you not? It's right over here."
Axel didn't like the sound of that. "His bag?" he repeated. "Lynus isn't here?"
"No," Dr Stiles told them, frowning deeply and looking confused. "He left a while ago."
"How long ago?" Axel asked him hastily, the sense of fear growing steadily.
"I can't be certain," Dr Stile replied.
"Did he leave alone?"
"I can't be certain…"
Axel was about to fire off another question when he felt a hand land heavily upon his shoulder. "Easy, Axel," Hamza told him firmly.
Axel turned to him, feeling a sense of irritation and fear. "But he isn't here." It wasn't like Lynus. He wouldn't just get up and lease. Not without telling him. Not without him.
"So, he's not at the hospital?" Shen muttered, more to himself than anyone else.
"Should I visit the Inn?" Jhon suggested, his brow furrowing in concern. "Perhaps he went there in search of us."
"No, it seems that Chi-hung can no longer sense Lynus in town," Hamza stated, his expression grave, his gaze looking down at Chi-hung. Chi-hung looked back at him and nodded his head.
"But if he's not in town, the labyrinth is…" Tobyn trailed off, shocking realisation suddenly dawning upon him.
"No way!" Axel yelled in alarm, becoming panicked. "He knows better than to head into the labyrinth without us!"
"Ah, but he did not go willingly."
Axel jumped slightly at the sound of a new voice, a voice he did not know. He spun around and found his gaze colliding with that of a Ronin. The taller and older man held a unyielding expression, and yet there seemed to be a sense of regret in his gaze. He relied heavily on his blade as he approached them, his leg heavily bandaged.
"What do you mean?" Axel asked him, referring to the man's first words to them.
"Your Medic friend had fallen into the hands of a vengeful Dark Hunter."
"What?" Axel practically growled out, his party members doing the same. "Are you sure?"
"Vengeful?" Hamza questioned. "Why would a Dark Hunter wish to harm Lynus?"
"No," the elderly ronin sharply replied. "The Dark Hunter wished to use him as a Medic so that he and his guild could exact their revenge."
"Avith!?" Dr Stiles suddenly growled.
The amount of anger in Dr Stiles' voice startled Axel and his fellow guild members. Dr Stiles was usually a calmly spoken man, caring and understanding. Still clutching onto Lynus' medical bag, Dr Stiles walked over to the Ronin.
"It's Kishi, isn't it?" Dr Stiles asked the man, whom nodded in reply. "Do you know Avith? Did they head straight to the labyrinth?"
"My apologies," the Ronin known as Kishi suddenly said, giving them a regretful bow. "I was unable to help him."
"So they are in the labyrinth," Hamza said, an undeniable sense of anger in his voice. He then turned to Chi-hung. "Chi-hung, we're counting on you."
Chi-hung growled loudly before sprinting off in the direction of the labyrinth. And Axel was right behind him, his armour clanking as he ran, his broad-axe weighing heavily on his back. But the only thing running through his mind was Lynus, hoping that his childhood friend was still alive.
"Wait for me, Lynus."