Hamza's right arm was useless. A large jagged gash of broken and seared flesh started from his shoulder and went all the way down to his elbow. He did not know the true extent of his injuries, but he was more than certain that there was muscle and bone damage.
He, however, didn't feel any of the pain. Adrenaline and desperation was leaving him thankfully numb.
The loss of blood, however, was making it difficult for him to think and plan. He had managed to dodge the Wyvern's powerful energy attacks, but while trying to protect Cedric, he was lightly grazed. It showed how powerful the Wyvern was. A mere side-swipe left him near incapacitated.
He was lucky that he had survived as long as he had. But…he wouldn't be able to last much longer. He had taken them refuge behind a tree, kneeling on the ground with Cedric clinging onto him in fear and desperation. There was nothing he could do. Not with his arm nearly severed and his sword nowhere to be found.
"W-what are we to do, Hamza?"
Not wanting to take his eyes off the calculating Wyvern, Hamza simply tightened his left arm around Cedric's shoulders, pulling him against him. Staying as close as possible, Cedric pressed his tattered cloak against his right arm in a futile attempt to stem the flow of blood.
All he had left was enough energy to distract the Wyvern, giving Cedric the time to run. He had a warp wire, but they were ineffective when a FOE had instigated a battle. The power of such a beast cancelled out the power of the warp wire, making such an escape impossible.
"Hamza?" Cedric said in a soft whisper.
"You must run," Hamza urged as the tree they were hiding behind was suddenly and destructively splintered above their heads.
Cedric shook his head frantically before he buried his face deeper into his shoulder, his arms tightening around him. "I want to be with you…" he whispered softly.
Hamza felt the air escape his lungs, and yet he closed his eyes as he readjusted his arm around Cedric's shoulders, holding him closer. He wasn't afraid. Just…he regretted the method. He regretted not being more open with his guild mates. Was it fitting or ironic that they should met the same fate that their teammates met seven years ago?
At least he knew his guild would be fine without him as leader.
With a trickle of blood trailing down from head, dripping down between his brow to his nose, diverting toward his left eye, Hamza gazed up at the Wyvern. It was as tall and breathtaking as he remembered.
"You're…just as formable as the last time we met," he murmured as the Wyvern, flapping its wings furiously in the middle of the room, stared him down.
The Wyvern landed heavily close to where they were resigned to their fate. It then lowered its head and opened its mouth. The air crackled with intensity. It was about to unleash yet another of its powerful energy attacks. There was no dodging this one.
It was so close he could almost touch it…
Suddenly, there was a distinct sound of metal lashing out, striking a solid object. The terrifying energy that was gathering around the room suddenly dissipated. The Wyvern made a sound that could only be described as a noise of distress as its head whipped to the side, away from Hamza and Cedric but some equally powerful force.
The Wyvern…? It appeared slack jawed, off-balanced and stunned.
"Back off, you piece of shit!"
Hamza felt his eyes widened and his breath hitch in his throat. He immediately recognised that voice.
"No…" he murmured as several figures appeared before him, purposely placing themselves between him and the Wyvern.
His guild…? All of them? They couldn't be here. It was too dangerous!
Axel was at the very front of the group, placing himself directly in front of the Wyvern. His back was hunched, his shoulders tense as he gripped the handle of his axe in a violent grip. There was a large chip within the blade of his axe, a testament to the power he had to wield in order to stun the Wyvern.
It also showed how much power Axel had at his disposal.
"Magnus!" Axel called out as the Wyvern continued to look stunned, shaking its head in an attempt to clear it. "Can you create a wall of ice to give us some coverage?"
"Yes!" Magnus surprisingly stated without hesitation as he strode to the front, the air crackling around him as he called force his greatest strength. He raised his hands in front of him, his arms straight and strong as a fearsome focus appeared in his eyes. "Cocytus!"
A deathly cold accumulated within the room as shards of ice suddenly sprouted up from the ground, snaking across the floor in one solid wall. The wall of ice separated them from the Wyvern, momentarily blocking them from its view. It also led straight to the narrow path, their only escape route.
Hamza, however, knew that such a structure would not slow the Wyvern down for very long.
"Great job!" Axel complimented.
"I-it won't last long," Magnus conceded with a frown.
Axel nodded his head, having already suspected that himself. "It'll last long enough."
"Hamza! Mr Cedric!"
Before Hamza could say or do anything, his view was suddenly filled with the sight of a highly concerned and somewhat frantic Lynus. He was kneeling in front of him, his hands immediately seeking out his wounds and injuries. He glanced over at Cedric, the silver-haired troubadour having fainted from the stress. Although unconscious, he wasn't in any distress. No, he was more concerned with him.
After spying the potentially life-threatening injury on his arm, Lynus became more focused. Reaching into his bag, he pulled out a handful of thick, white bandages. Throwing aside his blood soaked cloak, Lynus uttered both healing and refresh spells, one after the other, as he wrapped his arm tightly.
"How are they, Lynus?" Axel asked as he glanced over his shoulder.
"The sooner they get out of here, the better," Lynus said rather tersely, barely pausing in his healing.
"You shouldn't be here…" Hamza insisted, dizzy from the blood loss. "It's too powerful."
"We're not going to kill it," Axel suddenly stated. "We're going to incapacitate it. Lynus, tells us where the aim to effect it's status."
Tearing his gaze from his healing work, Lynus looked at Axel with an expression of surprise on his face. He, however, pressed his lips into a thin line as he glanced over at the Wyvern that could still be seen over the top of the wall of ice. He studied it silently for a moment before his eyes narrowed slightly. He then suddenly glanced over at Macerio, beckoning him over to him.
"Macerio," Lynus said as the brown-haired gunner knelt down next to him, gripping at his gun with both hands. Lynus leaned close to him as he pointed to the Wyvern. "Aim for just under the chin or the hinge of its jaw, where you can bind its head and mouth."
Macerio narrowed in on where Lynus was pointing at and he nodded his head. "Got it!" he said as he leapt to his feet and sprinted off to the side, setting well-aimed shots directly at its head, just over the wall of ice that Magnus was focusing on maintaining.
Lynus then indicated to Tobyn, the blond-haired survivalist doing the same that Macerio did, slipping onto the grass to kneel next to him. "Tobyn, there's an artery on either side of its neck," Lynus explained as he indicated to his own neck, his fingers immediately seeking out the pulse points. "Aim sleeper there and it should put it to sleep right away."
Tobyn looked at where Lynus was indicating to before glancing up at the Wyvern. It didn't take him long to work out where the Wyvern's pulse points where in its neck.
"Right," Tobyn said as he, too, leapt to his feet, heading in a similar direction that Macerio did. And as he set his bow with the appropriate arrows, he called over to a fellow guild-mate. "Rahas, can you aim for the wings? We don't need it taking to the air to get an advantage over us."
"I'll see what I can do," Rahas said as he immediately cracked his whip. He looked and sounded somewhat dubious of what he could do, but he was willing to try anything.
"Let me sing Mercury for you," Lirit said with a smile as he held his lute easily in his hands. "That should be able to increase your speed. The best form of protection is not getting hit in the first place!"
A loud roar suddenly resonated around the room, alerting everyone that the Wyvern had regained its senses. And was becoming annoyed.
"The best way to stun it is to aim for the side of the head," Lynus said to Axel as the wall of ice began to shatter around them, despite the way Magnus was trying to build their only refuge. "No matter the skull, the temple is the weakest part. If you can hit it hard enough, you might even damage an artery."
"My main goal is just stunning it for now," Axel replied over the echoes of attacks being fired off by his teammates. "Jhon, Shen, you two get Hamza and Cedric out of here."
"Understood," Jhon said as he hoisted his shield onto his back and dashed his way over to Hamza. Jhon's protective skills would be very useful in such a battle, but he was the only one strong enough to aid Hamza as the loss of blood made it so Hamza could not help himself.
Wordlessly, and reluctantly, Hamza released his hold on Cedric and allowed Shen to pick Cedric up into his arms, holding him easily and carefully.
"Chi-hung, any kind of distraction would be useful," Axel continued to give out the orders. He then turned to Lynus and placed his hand on his shoulder, pushing him toward their only escape route. "Lynus, go."
Lynus, however, dug his heels in and refused to move. "No, I need to heal any injuries here. Hamza and Cedric aren't in any danger of losing their lives. I will heal them when we're all safe."
Axel looked as if he wanted to argue, but after hearing a loud curse one of their battling teammates yelled, he quickly realised that Lynus was right. As he usually was. "Ok. Stay at the back," he finally relented.
Jhon positioned Hamza so that his arm was around over his shoulders and behind his neck. He then helped him to his feet. Jhon wanted to help him in such a way that it wouldn't cause him more pain, but he also wanted to get him to a safe place as quickly as possible in order to return to his teammates sides and help out in battle.
"This might be a bit rough, Hamza," Jhon said to him.
Despite his dizziness, Hamza managed to grant the blond-haired protector a small smile. Relying heavily on Jhon's strength, he tried to focus his attention on moving, to get away from the danger as quickly as possible so that he his guild would not be facing danger for longer than they had to.
He, however, couldn't help but listen to their struggle. He could hear them shouting to each other over the shrieks and roars of the Wyvern.
"Lirit, trying singing Erasure for us!"
"God dammit, succumb to the head shot already, you asshole!"
"Tobyn, try to alternate between sleeper and poisoner!"
"Fucking Cuffs already!"
A loud whip crack cut through the air, the sound of a shriek quickly following. A mere second after that, there was a triumphant yell. "About time!"
Rahas…he must have been able to prevent it from flying like he had set out to do.
The sound of someone running toward them caused Hamza and Jhon to come to an abrupt stop. Unexpectedly, it was Rahas who appeared next to them. Using his whip, he tied it around Hamza's upper arm, prompting a hiss to pass from his lips. However, he knew what he was doing. He was using his whip as a tourniquet. He must be leaving a bit of a blood trail as he walked.
Doing something even more surprising, Rahas nudged Jhon out of the way and took his place. "I'll take it from here," he said. "Protect Lynus. I took out a wing, but it's still pissed."
Having the mind not to argue, Jhon simply removed his shield from his back and harnessed it easily with one arm. "Alright," he uttered before vaulting toward the battle.
Before Hamza could ask him what he was doing, Rahas levelled him with a glare. "I'll chew you out later, old man," he said as he all but dragged him from the room.
Although it was difficult for the both of them, Rahas managed to help Hamza up the narrow pathway and toward the exit. Every step they took, Hamza felt himself getting weaker and weaker. But he kept moving. The sooner he was out of the way, the sooner his guild could get themselves out of danger.
As they stepped into the large chamber with the sealed door, the unnamed male gunner was immediately seen loitering around. He was no doubt concerned for his guildmates after hearing such fearsome noises. He, however, wasn't making any attempt to actually go and see what was going on.
Well…orders were orders, after all.
"What the hell is going on?" the gunner asked, but Shen silenced him quickly with a stoic and cold stare.
Shen then carefully lowered Cedric onto a patch of soft grass near the sealed door that was remarkably still open. After ensuring that Cedric was breathing, Shen then stood up tall.
"Will you be able to protect them?" Shen abruptly asked as he gripped the handle of his blade tightly, his back straight and his shoulders tense.
"We'll be fine," Rahas quickly insisted as he helped lower Hamza to the ground, next to where Cedric was resting. "Get them out of there."
Shen didn't need to be told twice. With a focused look in his eyes, Shen raced back toward the raging battle, no hesitation or fear in his posture. Just sheer determination.
Leaning against the base of a tree, Hamza closed his eyes and rested his head back against the bark. He tried to control his breathing, to slow his heartrate to prevent further blood loss. However, he could still hear them. He could still hear them battling.
They were still in dangerous.
"Don't worry! I'll heal any injury!"
"I'll stun it one more time! Tobyn, Macerio; you've got one shot!"
Hamza clutched his shoulder tightly, finding it difficult to breathe. Please, whoever was listening, he'd willingly give up his arm, give up his entire life, just let his guild return alive. Please let them live…
…Yggdrasil…Don't take them, please…
Another deafly loud shriek caused Hamza to wince and the trees around them to tremble. As the leaves from the trees fluttered around them, there was a sudden and tense silence. It was a deathly form of silence.
The silence was soon disrupted, however, a loud noise that could only be described as a thud, like something big and heavy crashing to the ground.
After that a voice broke the quietness with a loud command. "Let's move, people!"
Hamza opened his eyes and sat up straight. He looked over at Rahas, the Dark Hunter having heard the same thing he did. In silence, they both looked over in the direction of the only path leading to the Wyvern.
There was the sound of running feet. Then, from around the corner, people appeared.
One, two…eight. Eight of them. All of them.
They were alive.
All of them.
Hamza immediately felt intense relief. A sense of relief he had never felt before. He sagged against the tree, tension completely draining from his body. They actually did it. They outwitted the Wyvern. They had escaped.
His guild quickly made their way over to him, Lynus immediately fussing over him. Hamza wanted to push him away so that he could check up on Cedric as his health hadn't been the best the last few days. However, Lynus would not budge. His concern was focused solely on his arm. He wasn't asking any questions, he was just uttering healing spells under his breath.
Hamza knew his silence wasn't exactly good. His arm was worse than he thought.
"We want some answers, old man," Rahas suddenly demanded, appearing as if he wanted to do nothing more than to kick him in the head or something. "What the hell? You're always going on about how I shouldn't venture into the labyrinth alone, and what do you go and do? And what's with this key? How long have you had it? Why haven't you told anyone?"
He asked some good questions. Hamza could feel that everyone else wanted to know as well. They were just more subtle about it. "I have my reasons," he insisted.
Rahas' right eyebrow twitched. "And they are?"
Readjusting the whip that was being used as a tourniquet, Lynus sighed and made a quick motion with his hand for everyone to keep their questions to themselves for now. The way Lynus was able to quieten everyone with a mere motion of his hand was actually quite impressive.
"Rahas, easy," Lynus said in a firm, yet still somewhat understanding and gentle manner.
"No, it's all right," Hamza said wearily. "It's understandable that you have questions."
They were sure to have a lot of hard questions for him. But it was all right. They deserved to know the truth. The very least he could do was to tell them everything that had happened.
"Hey." That gunner was still hanging around, having staying silent in the background the entire time. "Where's my guild?"
A look of surprise appeared on Axel's face and he looked around at his guild mates, all of them wearing a look of confusion. "Good question," he said. "We didn't see anyone else there."
Hamza sighed loudly and touched his forehead with his left hand. "That's because they no longer exist," he stated with remorse in his voice.
Although they were ruthless and reckless, no one deserved to be killed like that.
Everyone fell into an uncomfortable and dense silence.
"Let's head back to town," Lynus said. "I'll need to look at your injuries more closely. We'll take Mr Cedric with us."
Giving a new task to do, everyone banded together once again to help Hamza and Cedric back into town and to safety.