The Story Continues

Public Displays of Affection

Rahas was starting to feel somewhat...annoyed. Everywhere he looked there seemed to be a sense of romance in the air. Oh, it wasn't overly flowery with shimmering sunsets and poems of unrelenting love. But the things he had witnessed most certainly weren't subtle in any sense.

All he wanted to do was to go for a walk, to clear his head and prepare for his next jaunt into the labyrinth. Of course that was too much to ask for. With his recent bout of 'luck' it didn't surprise him that Simmons decided to tag along behind him, like some obedient puppy.

"Axel!"

The sound of Lynus' voice calling out his landsknecht's name caused Rahas to pause in his steps and instinctively look in his direction. What he saw made him deadpan.

For some reason, Axel had effortlessly hoisted Lynus up into the air, one arm wrapped around the back of his knees as the other wrapped securely around his waist, holding him against his chest.

"What are you doing?" Lynus asked with a slightly flustered expression on his face, though smiling all the same. "Everyone will see."

"Does it look like I care?" Axel retorted.

Lynus' laugh was enchantingly beautiful and sincere, easily heard over the bustling in the streets. Lynus then smiled radiantly down at Axel as he placed his hands on his shoulders, strands of orange hair swaying before his violet eyes that were shimmering with pure happiness. He then leaned forward, his eyes slipping close as Axel tilted his head back. Without any hesitation from either of them, their lips met in a tender kiss.

There were a few coos from those passing by, but nothing more than that.

After what was a long, drawn out minute, the two broke the kiss and Axel then proceeded to carrying Lynus through the streets in his arms, not caring in the slightest that everyone could see them. And Lynus didn't seem to mind, making no attempt to move. He was too busy looking down at Axel, one hand still resting on his shoulder, the other playing with a strand of his hair.

"You're such a show-off," Lynus hummed happily.

"Just letting everyone know," Axel grinned.

Rahas watched them with a scowl on his face, still not all that comfortable with how affectionate and lovey-dovey they were in public. But a quick curious glance at his surroundings told him that no one else was. Maybe they were respectful, or maybe it was because the Guardians were herald as the strongest guild in Lagaard and that no one wanted to fuck with them.

Axel, especially.

Folding his arms across his chest, Rahas decided to continue with his walk, ignoring the sound of confusion from Simmons, who dutifully began to follow him. Luckily, Simmons didn't ask Rahas what Axel and Lynus were doing. Not that he would have answered, anyway.

"Tobyn, wait!"

Recognising another voice, Rahas unwittingly came to a stop, glancing with mild interest in the direction the voice seemed to emanate from. Glancing down a back alleyway, Rahas saw their guild's survivalist Tobyn, stalking along with a sense of pure agitation in his posture. Right behind him was their powerful protector, Jhon, looking baffled.

"What in the world could you be jealous of?" Jhon asked him in exasperation.

"I'm not jealous," Tobyn retorted as he spun around to face the other blond and folded his arms across his chest tersely. "I was just removing myself. After all, it was obvious that I wasn't wanted."

"She was the one who wasn't wanted."

"Then you should have made that known."

"Don't you think I tried?"

"Not hard enough, apparently."

"For the love of-"

Jhon unexpectedly reached out, taking Tobyn by the upper arm and abruptly pulled him toward him. Tobyn barely had the chance to utter a sound of surprise before he found himself pushed up against the stone wall of the alleyway. Tobyn then looked shocked as Jhon planted his hands on the wall on either side of his head, trapping him between the wall and Jhon himself.

A serious look appeared on Jhon's face as he stared straight into Tobyn's eyes. "Do you actually believe that some woman I have never met before could possibly become more important to me than you?"

Tobyn's eyes widen and a dark blush appeared on his face. He stared unblinkingly at Jhon for a few moments before turning his head to the side, staring down at the ground. He seemed embarrassed, ashamed and guilty by his actions.

Jhon's expression became gentle as he removed his hand from the wall beside Tobyn's head to slip a finger under Tobyn's chin, tilting his head back so that he could look into his eyes. "Hey."

The touch was so tender; Rahas could feel his own features heating up. It turned into a full-on blush when Jhon pressed his forehead lovingly against Tobyn's, the blond-haired survivalist releasing a shaky breath.

"I made a promise, remember?" Jhon said. "I'm not going to leave you. Ever."

"…Jhon," Tobyn whispered.

Rahas abruptly turned away, pretty sure he knew what was going to happen next. Unfortunately, in the direction he turned, he was looking directly at Simmons. And the blue-haired landsknecht was staring at the two, his hand in his chin. He looked serious.

Seriously musing about something…? Simmons? No, that couldn't be right.

"It's rude to stare, idiot," Rahas hissed as he pushed him along.

It was embarrassing enough to accidentally stumble across the two. He didn't want to add to that embarrassment further by interrupting them. With Simmons.

"What were they doing?" Simmons asked him the dreaded question.

"I don't know," Rahas hastily answered.

Determined to finish his walk, Rahas took a short cut to the centre of town, passing by the recognisable Shen as he did so. Thankfully, the ronin gave him nothing more than a curt nod, never the one for conversation.

As they parted ways, the sound of feet running caused Rahas to come to a stop. He watched from the corner of his eyes as the blond-haired Magnus unexpectedly appeared and rushed over to Shen. He then did something surprising for such a meek alchemist; he wrapped his arms around Shen's left arm, pulling the ronin to an abruptly stop, startling the older man. Shen immediately paused, snapping his attention to the blond.

"I-I'm not a d-danger," Magnus said, his voice trembling and his eyes watery. "Am I?"

Shen frowned deeply. "Who told you that?" he asked.

Shakily, Magnus pointed over to a small group of male and female explorers, a dark-haired female alchemist at the forefront. They seemed to be gossiping amongst themselves, glaring with unfounded annoyance in Magnus' direction. Rahas hadn't seen any of them before, so it was obvious they weren't anyone important.

With Magnus holding onto his arm tightly, his face pressed against his shoulder, Shen slowly turned to look at the group that seemed to have given Magnus a hard time. When they realised that Shen was looking at them, they froze, a couple of them swallowing thickly from fear.

It was hardly a surprise, though. The look the stoic ronin gave them as he reached for his blade was virtually lethal. It made Rahas shiver and Simmons tense. He couldn't imagine how those receiving the glare were feeling.

"He's not the one who is dangerous," Shen stated in a low, icy, deadly hiss. It wasn't a threat or a promise, but a statement of fact.

Rahas was torn between feeling annoyed and amused by the way the group quickly dispersed, scurrying away like the useless vermin they were. Rahas wasn't close to the blond-haired alchemist, but he knew how meek he was. And it did make him bristle to think that someone could stoop so low to pick on the meekest member of the Guardians.

It was sheer jealousy. Pure and simple.

Shen continued to scowl as he dropped his hand from his blade. It appeared as though the matter was sorted with, but the look in his eyes gave the impression that he was going to ensure that those explorers never hurt Magnus' feelings again.

"You shouldn't listen to such fools," Shen said to Magnus, allowing the blond to keep his hold onto him.

"S-sorry…" Magnus murmured, but made no attempt to push away.

Shen continued to look down at the Guardian's alchemist before sighing. He then abruptly pulled his arm from Magnus' grip before drawing him into his arms, holding him against his chest. Usually, Magnus would have made a noise of surprise. Instead, he simply pressed his face against his chest and wrapped his arms around his back. Awkwardly, Shen wrapped his arms around him in turn, offering him some comfort, even if it was uncomfortable for him to do so.

A little baffled by the embrace, having never seen the two in anything like it, Rahas turned away, nudging Simmons to do the same. He didn't know what the ronin would do to them should he realise they had witnessed the entire thing.

"What were they doing?" Simmons asked him.

Rahas groaned. "None of your concern."

"Hey, Rahas!"

Rahas somehow managed to bite back another groan when he recognised the voice.

"On a romantic stroll, are we?" Macerio asked him, obviously referring to Simmons with him.

A scathing retort sat on the tip of Rahas' tongue as he spun around to face Macerio, but he paused when he realised that Macerio wasn't alone. No, he was carrying Lirit on his back, his arms hooked under Lirit's knees with Lirit's arms wrapped tightly around his neck, his chin resting on his shoulder.

"I tripped and hurt my knee," Lirit explained sheepishly before beaming brightly as he turned to look at Macerio…fondly. "Luckily, Macerio was there to prevent further damage."

Rahas was almost afraid to ask how. Especially if the light blush on Macerio's cheeks were anything to go by.

"W-well, need to keep moving!" Macerio suddenly exclaimed, his flush getting slightly deeper while Lirit's expression barely changed. "Need to go see the mother-hen to heal Lirit's knee. You know how Lynus can be."

Lirit practically giggled as Macerio readjusted his hold on him and made a bee-line toward the inn. "See you later, Rahas!" he called out.

Rahas blinked before narrowing his eyes, feeling annoyed.

Couples…

Couples everywhere!

"Wouldn't it have been easier to carry him in his arms?" Simmons unexpectedly asked.

Rahas dragged his hand over his face. "I don't know…"

Dropping his hand from his face, Rahas' frown deepened as a look of distaste appeared on his face. It didn't surprise him at all to see Hamza lurking around the city. That man always appeared when he was least expected or wanted. However, he was slightly surprised to find him in the company of another, a silver-haired troubadour. He had seen the other man before, but didn't know who he was.

They were walking together, chatting easily as the strolled up a set of stone steps. However, the two were momentarily pulled apart when a child raced up the steps in a hurry. As the child rushed passed the silver-haired troubadour, he stumbled, his heel slipping off the edge of the step he was standing on. Being thrown off balance, it was quickly obvious that he was falling – backwards.

However, before the expression of shock could register on the other man's face, Hamza reacted, sweeping in and catching the other before any damage could be done. He had one arm wrapped around the man's shoulders, the other under his knees. There was absolutely no hesitation on Hamza's part. He didn't even appear off-balance. He just scooped the other into his arms like it was the most natural thing in the world.

"Ah, once again, Cedric, it seems that you've had too much to drink," Hamza stated in a casual, easy manner, holding the other man so effortlessly in his arms as if he was like a bride or delicate princess. There was no embarrassment, no sense of discomfort from either of them.

To Rahas slight horror, it seemed like they had done something like this before…

Cedric made no attempt to push himself away. Instead he folded his arms over his torso and let his head fall back over Hamza's arm that was holding his shoulders, letting loose a light-hearted laugh. "Nice catch. Are you my Prince Charming or Knight-in-shining-armour?"

"Oh, I don't know," Hamza replied breezily. "Which of the two must constantly deal with drunken song birds?"

Cedric lifted his head up, a smile on his lips as he sighed dramatically, wrapping his arms around Hamza's neck. "You best carry me home, then," he said in a teasing manner, looking far too comfortable to be held in Hamza's arms. "As I'm clearly too drunk to walk straight."

Hamza rolled his eyes, yet surprisingly, kept the other man in his hold and proceeded to do just that. There was some more banter between the two, but no complaints.

Rahas felt somewhat nauseated. Hamza was like…his grandpa, or something. Seeing him like that…was unnatural.

Shuddering, Rahas found himself once again glancing in Simmons' direction, the idiot unnervingly quiet. He had been quiet pretty much the entire walk. What was more unnerving was the look of contemplation on his face. He was considering something.

Rahas didn't even want to know what it was.

"Was that-?" Simmons began to ask.

"I don't know!" Rahas abruptly cut him off.

Deciding that he had seen enough on what was supposed to be a mind-clearing walk, Rahas headed back to the inn. Again, with Simmons in tow. He wanted to lock himself away in his room for a while to get away from this…lovey-dovey nonsense.

Gah! It was like he was surrounded by couples!

With only a few streets left to the reach the inn, Rahas unintentionally found his attention drawn to yet another familiar face. Although he had never had any contact with the man, he recognised him all the same.

It was the blue-haired survivalist from a lesser known guild. Ryker or something.

And he seemed to be trying to avoid someone. If he sticking to the shadows and trying to be as silent as possible was any indication. Despite being a survivalist, though, he wasn't exactly good at it. Especially not the way he was limping around. However, when he skittishly tried to duck into a back alleyway, he abruptly stiffened and immediately spun around, a look of mild fear on his face.

And when he did so, Rahas saw the reason why he was trying to conceal himself. Almost made him feel sorry for the blue-haired survivalist.

A hand shot out from the shadows and grabbed Ryker by the shoulder, causing him to freeze. He then slumped in defeat as none other than Darrell stepped from the alley, granting Ryker a smile that was anything but comforting.

"Now, Ryker, didn't I tell you to keep off that injured ankle of yours?" Darrell asked him, causing a light blush and a subtle grimace to appear on Ryker's face.

"It couldn't be helped," Ryker insisted as he tried to shrug of Darrell's hand and remain somewhat defiant. "I'm the only expert gatherer in my guild. And we needed those material pieces."

Darrell continued to smile that smile of his. "Is that so?"

Before anyone could react, Darrell unexpectedly grabbed Ryker by the arms, spun him around abruptly and then flung him over his shoulder. Rahas couldn't help but blink in surprise as Ryker made a sound of shock and embarrassment.

"What are you doing?!" Ryker practically shrieked as he flailed, his hands instinctively holding onto the rim of his ranger's hat. "Darrell!"

Darrell, however, didn't seem remotely bothered by Ryker's struggling. He simply placed on arm across the back of Ryker's knee, the other lifting up to press against the small of his back to keep him safely on his shoulder.

"I need to re-strap that ankle of yours," Darrell said without leaving any room for argument as he spun on his heel and headed down the alleyway of which he had appeared from.

Rahas had to admit that he was sorta impressed by how strong Darrell was. He was tossing Ryker around like he weighed next to nothing. And it felt as though that wasn't the first time something like that had happened.

Again, Rahas found himself glancing at Simmons from the corner of his eye. However, this time a feeling of utter dread washed over him and he paled considerably. It didn't take him long at all to put two and two together. Simmons had been there with him, watching the other 'couples' and looking at him with a strangely 'thoughtful' expression on his face each time one passed by.

…Idiot was thinking of doing the same to him.

"Hey, Rahas-?"

"Not on your fucking life!" Rahas hollered before turning on his heel and running for his life – and dignity!

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