Born to Survive

Chapter 3

With some classes, there was usually a sense of kinship. Medics had no problem speaking with other medics, giving tips and telling stories of their healing experiences. Troubadours liked to meet up and bounce ideas for songs off of each other. Hell, ronins would nod their heads to each other should they pass them in the street.

Survivalists, though, tended to keep to themselves. They were renowned for their lone wolf personalities, after all.

So when a fellow survivalist purposely placed themselves between Tobyn and his journey back to the inn, he could only frown. His frown immediately deepened when he recognised the female survivalist before him. Long blonde hair, similar to his, and sharp blue eyes, she wasn't exactly a welcomed sight.

"You," she practically hissed at him, her eyes becoming more piercing.

Tobyn returned her gaze easily. "…You."

She huffed as she folded her arms over her chest. "So you remember me?"

"I remember you," Tobyn replied stoically. "Vaguely."

He did remember her somewhat. She was Kaesha and she had been a pupil of his mentor's as well, but not as long as he had. They were about the same age, the both of them tall and slender with long blond hair. People often assume they were twins.

They weren't.

They weren't friends either. They were barely acquaintances. They couldn't even pretend to be civil toward each other. In fact, she had often told him that she despised him. While he had no idea why she hated him so much, he didn't care enough to learn.

"He's dead because of you," Kaesha suddenly stated, her words practically dripping with venom.

Tobyn felt a lump of emotion lodge itself in his throat. It was obviously who she was talking about. "And how did you work that out?"

"It's insulting how you are acting," Kaesha continued with intense loathing. "Walking around without the guilt that you led a man to his death."

Such vile accusations made Tobyn bristle. His mentor's death still hurt like hell, the last thing he wanted or needed was to be blamed for it. "I have done no such thing."

"Tch," Kaesha spat. "If you hadn't gotten sick that day, Keshet would still be alive."

Tobyn paused for a moment, his brow furrowing. "...What?"

"God, you are so stupid." Kaesha continue to regard him with volatile hatred. "You're the reason why Keshet was in the labyrinth. The reason why he wasn't paying close attention to his surroundings. He was gathering medicine ingredients for you."

That was the first time he had heard anyone mention anything about him getting sick or the search for herbs. He did remember being ill at the time, though. "...No, that can't be right. He was tracking a FOE when it spotted him."

Kaesha's eyes narrowed further, more menacing than before. "Keshet would not have been so easily caught off guard."

That was true…

"Whether that is true or not, is irrelevant." The man was unfortunately still dead. "What exactly do you want?"

"I want you to pay," Kaesha stated matter-a-factly.

"Oh, yeah? And you're the one who's going to do it?" Tobyn snorted at the thought before purposely striding past her, brushing hastily past her. "Not likely. Later."

"This isn't over," Kaesha murmured as she slipped into the back streets of Lagaard.

Tobyn couldn't help but feel that she was right. It wasn't over. Not by a long shot.

What he didn't know, however, was what she was going to do. And that made him nervous. If he remembered one thing about her, it was that she was creative and liked her 'retribution'. Regardless if it was warranted or not.

He had better keep an eye open for her.

… … … … …

Several hours after his confrontation with Kaesha, Tobyn was still musing about it. He couldn't get her accusations out of his head. She couldn't be right, could she? It wasn't because of him that…

No, it couldn't be true. Surely, Grigory would have told him, right?

Still…Kaesha held onto the belief that she was right, that it was his fault that their mentor died. When someone was so certain of themselves, reason held no place. She was going to get revenge against him somehow. He just had to wait and see…and hope that no one else would get involved.

Tobyn was pulled from his thoughts when he felt a hand land on his shoulder. He turned away from the open window he was gazing out of at the inn to look over at Jhon. The blond-haired protector was free from his usual armour, dressed in casual clothing.

"Is there something wrong?" Jhon asked him with genuine concern.

"No, it's nothing," Tobyn automatically replied before sighing and turning to look out the window again. "Just…you remember Kaesha, don't you?"

Jhon thought for a moment. "Fleetingly."

"She's back in town, apparently," Tobyn said as he turned away from the window and folded his arms over his chest. She probably followed Grigory in or something. "We had words."

"Ah," Jhon murmured with a look of understanding on his face. "Still as hostile as ever?"

"You could say that."

He debated about whether or not he should tell Jhon that Kaesha promised revenge against him, but decided against it. Jhon would immediately insist on protecting him from her retribution. Tobyn didn't want that. He didn't want Jhon to get hurt because of him.

Tobyn suddenly felt incredibly uneasy. Someone was watching them, from far off in the distance. He wasn't used to that feeling at the inn. The inn was his and his guild's sanctuary. But there was definitely a feeling of unease in the air. The hairs on the back of his neck suddenly stood up on end, his senses becoming even more refined. Something was going to happen.

"What's wrong, Tobyn?" Jhon asked him.

As Tobyn turned his attention to Jhon, there was the distinct sound of a projectile cutting through the air. A split second after that...there was an arrow sticking out the right side of Jhon's chest...

"Jhon!"

Immediately reaching out to the blond, Tobyn was able to catch him before he fell to his knees. There was a look of surprise on Jhon's face, yet there was a distressing sense of...emptiness in his gaze. With his breathing suddenly becoming laboured, Tobyn realised that the arrow came from the bow of a survivalist.

A survivalist who knew poisoner.

Dammit, it was her.

Holding Jhon in his arms, Tobyn looked out the window to see a familiar silhouette standing tall upon a roof top some houses away. Her long blonde hair floated in the wind as she lifted a hand aloft, revealing a bottle. In her other hand, she made a motion with her hand, revealing five fingers twice before showing three.

Tobyn knew immediately what it was and what she wanted. The bottle held the antidote and she was challenging him to a battle on the thirteenth floor of the labyrinth.

She then turned and ran across the rooftops. She knew he would follow her.

Turning his attention back to Jhon, he knew that whenever there was a foreign object had pierced the body, he was supposed to leave it until there was a capable healer around. But the arrow was poisoned and he couldn't let it stay a moment longer. He had to get it out, to limit the injection of poison.

Gripping the arrow with his hand, Tobyn squeezed his eyes shut and gritted his teeth. He then pulled, hard. Jhon instantly made a noise of pain and blood began to gush from his chest. Grabbing his scarf from around his neck, Tobyn pushed it against the hole in Jhon's chest.

"I'm so sorry," Tobyn whispered as Jhon's strength continued to fade.

With glassy eyes, Jhon parted his lips to say something, but he breathed a gasp instead, his throat closing in. The poison was taking full effect now.

Lowering Jhon to the floor, Tobyn felt tears prick at his eyes, but he blinked them back. With his long blond hair curtaining over his shoulders, he lowered his head and softly pressed his lips against Jhon's. He lingered there for a moment, breathing a soft apology one last time before he pushed back and leapt to his feet.

Rushing out of the room, Tobyn almost collided with Axel who seemed to be milling about idly. A look of surprise appeared on Axel's face, but before the redhead could open his mouth to ask what was going on, Tobyn abruptly pushed past him.

"Help Jhon," was all he said before disappearing into his room, to grab his bow and traveling gear.

"Help Jhon?" he heard Axel repeat before he then heard a loud curse, obviously having popped his head into the room he had vacated quickly. "Tobyn, what the fuck?!"

Tobyn shook his head, mostly to himself, before slinging his gear over his shoulder and rushing out of the room. Again, he almost collided with another, this time Hamza. He made the motion as if he wanted to grab him by the arm and pull him back for an explanation, but with his arm still in a sling, Tobyn was easily able to sidestep him.

"Poisoner arrow," Tobyn said as he kept moving, not allowing anyone to stop him, to box him in. "There's an antidote."

He then spun on his heel and ran outside, toward the labyrinth.

"Tobyn, wait!"

… … … … …

"Why, hello again young man."

Slightly surprised by the voice that seemed to recognise him; Lynus clutched his shopping against his chest and turned around. He relaxed a moment later when his eyes fell upon the familiar figure of Grigory, the man that looked after Tobyn for a few years before he became an independent survivalist.

"Oh, Mr Grigory?" Lynus greeted as he walked over to the older man, whom of which was sitting comfortably on a park bench with a few wild birds loitering by his feet as he fed them breadcrumbs. "How are we today?"

"Good good. Just feeding the birds," Grigory replied before he made a motion with his hand for Lynus to take a seat beside him. When Lynus did so, he turned his attention back to the birds he was feeding, the hand gripping his walking stick unexpectedly tightening. "Mind if I ask you something?"

Lynus rested his shopping on his lap. "Yes, of course."

"Has Tobyn mentioned his mentor to you?"

"Only fleetingly," Lynus replied, feeling both curious and uneasy. He didn't want to pry into Tobyn's past without his permission.

Grigory nodded his head. "Has he mentioned his name?"

"…No, he hasn't."

"Ah, no surprise," Grigory murmured more to himself, then to Lynus.

Lynus became silent as well. Tobyn had never told him his mentor's name. In fact, he referred to him as such – his mentor. While others might accuse him of being cold and uncaring, Lynus had a theory to the real reason.

Calling someone by their name meant a personal connection. They weren't just a statistic anymore. They were a person. Tobyn wanted to distance himself from the pain and memories by referring to the man as his mentor. That didn't mean he thought any less of the man – if he did, he would not be so haunted by his untimely demise. It was just a coping mechanism. A way to detach himself from the trauma.

"He's name was Keshet," Grigory unexpectedly continued. "An extraordinary survivalist. How he managed to get ambushed by a FOE during a quick jaunt is still hard for me to get my head around."

While Tobyn hadn't gone into much detail about what had happened to his mentor, he never mentioned anything about an ambush. "I thought he was tracking a FOE?"

"Ah, well...not exactly true," Grigory said in a somewhat sheepish, uneasy manner. "He was simply gathering materials for..."

"For?"

Grigory sighed and lifted his hand to pinch the bridge of his nose. "I've never told Tobyn this as that self-efficient survivalist would blame himself. Keshet was in the labyrinth that day gathering ingredients for medicine. Tobyn...he had a terrible fever."

"Oh!" Lynus gasped, immediately catching on. "I see..."

Grigory lowered his hand and gave Lynus this somewhat tormented look. "I didn't want to tell him, you see."

"No, I understand."

"That boy," Grigory muttered as he leaned back into the bench and looked up at the blue sky above. "He takes a lot of things to heart, you know? Hates causing trouble for others."

Lynus nodded his head. That was one of the first things he had noticed about the blond survivalist after first meeting him. When he and Jhon were arguing about who was hurt and who wasn't in the middle of the street. "Yes, I know."

"I worry about that boy." Grigory sounded tired all of a sudden. "At least that protector of his takes his class seriously. Someone needs to make sure he took care of himself."

"Jhon's very determined," Lynus added with a smile.

Grigory continued to prattle on, seemingly wanting to get a few things off his chest. "Keshet had other pupils, you know? No surprise that many of the youngins' idolised him. Tobyn was his favourite, though. Saw the boy as his son. Took him under his wing when no one else would."

Lynus felt a frown tug on his lips. "What do you mean?"

"Tobyn was a very sullen, silent child," Grigory explained. "After being abandoned by his mother, he found it hard to get close to anyone. 'Why?' He would ask, 'when they'll just leave me as well?'"

Lynus looked down at his lap, his hands gripping at the material of his pants tightly. What a truly sad mind state to be in. To be afraid of connecting with others. But he knew Tobyn didn't want to be lonely. He may like being alone, but that didn't mean he wanted to be lonely.

"Keshet's death hit a few people hard, as you can imagine. One student in particular," Grigory suddenly huffed, sounding and looking rather annoyed. "Silly girl. She was in love with a man three times her age."

"In love?"

Grigory gave an irritated wave of his hand. "As I said, stilly girl. Keshet did nothing to encourage her one little bit. In fact, he was rather unnerved by her seeming obsessiveness of him. She had even started following him in the labyrinth. In the shadows, mind you. Some days it was hard enough getting out yourself, never mind trying to chase someone who didn't want to be caught down and getting them to safety, too."

Lynus remained silent for a moment, allowing the information to slowly register in his mind. "…Sorry if I'm intruding, but I can't help but sense some hostility from you toward this young pupil."

Grigory sighed loudly and suck further into his seat. "I have no proof, but a theory is; she was in the labyrinth at the same time Keshet was when he was killed."

"…What a terrible burden for a child to bear," Lynus whispered softly.

"An old man like me shouldn't show anger toward a child," Grigory added as he struggled to heave himself into a straighter seating position. "And I've never said anything. But the way she acted afterwards, blaming Tobyn for everything…Bah! Such a depressing topic. What's done is done."

Lynus nodded his head slowly, sensing that the older man had said what he wanted and needed to say and was done; he didn't want to dwell on the topic anymore. "That's true enough, I guess."

"Lynus!"

Over the bustling sounds of everyday life in Lagaard, the sound of someone calling his name was startling. Lynus instinctively jumped to his feet and clutched his shopping bag tighter to his chest.

"Wha-?" he murmured as he looked around before abruptly turning back to Grigory and bowing his head slightly in apology. "S-sorry, Mr Grigory, it seems like I'm needed at the moment."

Grigory simply made a shooing motion with his hand. "Off with you."

Turning on his heel, Lynus headed in the direction he thought he heard his name being yelled at the top of someone's lungs. Mere moments later, he was almost tackled by a familiar brunette in a forest green coat.

"Lynus!"

"What?" Lynus immediately asked as he took Macerio by the shoulder, looking at him in the face. "What's wrong?"

Panting, as if he had run all over Lagaard looking for him, Macerio drew in a deep breath before blurting out, "Inn. Now. Jhon. Poisoned. Arrow!"

Lynus really didn't need to know any more than that.

"Let's hurry."

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