The Story Continues

Last One Standing

Macerio wanted to move.

But he couldn't.

Standing rigidly, all he could do was stare forward. At the dark, misshapen monsters that surrounded him amongst the towering trees of Yggdrasil labyrinth. They looked so large, so menacing. Never had he seen them before. Not like that. Not so…scary.

He was shaking. Trembling so bad that he couldn't stand up. He fell to his knees before sitting haphazardly onto his heels, his arms falling limply to his sides. He couldn't breathe. His heart was beating rapidly in his chest. His chest felt tight while his stomach churned.

Ambushed…How could they have been ambushed like that?

With eyes wide and his head spinning, Macerio tried to part his lips to yell out to his teammates. But he couldn't make a sound. He wanted to scream. Why? Why couldn't he scream?

He could hear the monsters. All of them. There were so many. Snarling and growling. Hungry and vicious. They were gleeful of their attacks. He could sense their glee.

He couldn't hear anyone else. Lynus? Axel? Jhon? Tobyn? Where were they? Why weren't they calling to him?

They were dead...all dead. They had to be. They wouldn't...they wouldn't leave him alone otherwise, right? They wouldn't abandon him. Not like that.

Dead...

"I'm…all alone…"

They were gone...

"I don't want to be alone…"

No...No...No...No!

"…I'm not going to be left alone!"

Shakily, he raised his gun and pressed it against his own temple.

He won't be the last. He won't be the last one standing. He won't watch as everyone disappeared around him. He won't be left behind.

"Macerio!"

Macerio immediately tensed. With the gun still pressed against his temple, he slowly turned toward the source of the voice. All he could see was Lynus standing in the middle of the battle field. He was trying to get to him.

He...looked just like mum. When she was yelling at him to run. To run away and never look back. To run away when she had no possibility of fleeing. She kept...looking at him. Scared. Not for herself...for him.

"Everything's going to be ok!" Lynus said to him, his voice cutting through the static of his mind. "We're all here! We're not leaving you!"

Not...leaving him?

There was something shadowy behind Lynus. It was rearing up. Towering over him. It was...going to hurt him. It…looked just like the one that…killed mum.

…Edgewolf?

Was…Lynus going to be leaving him, too?

No, he won't be the last one standing. Not again.

The gun fired and everything went black.

… … … … …

A canopy of pink petals was the first thing Macerio saw when he opened his eyes.

He was lying on his back. On the ground. The ground beneath his back was hard and cool, but his head was resting on something comfortable and warm. He quickly realised, slightly puzzled, that had his head was resting on Lynus' lap, the orange-haired medic gently running his fingers through his hair in a comforting manner.

Immediately, the view of the pink canopy of the fourth stratum was replaced with nearly four identical expressions of concern. Crouched next to Lynus was Axel, resting against his axe for support. And as Macerio lolled his head to the side slightly, he could see that Jhon and Tobyn were also crouching low on the ground, kneeling close to him.

They looked…worried.

They all looked healthy, though. A few nicks and scratches, sure. But no injuries. Which was…an intense relief. For some reason he was expecting them to be…badly hurt. He must have had that dream again. The one that was based on a memory for long ago. One of his mother, replaced with the faces of his teammates?

Did he faint or something? A sleep spell, maybe?

Macerio frowned, feeling dazed. "A dream?" he murmured as he gazed up at Lynus.

Lynus gave him a slow shake of his head. "Not quite."

"What happened?" Macerio asked, frowning deeply. "Spill."

"A spell of some kind," Lynus said as he continued to gently run his fingers through his hair. "A curse or hex. Something that instilled the sense of fear. Your sixth chakra was blocked, causing your emotional state to fall into a constant state of fear."

"Fear…?" Macerio repeated slowly.

Then, it hit him. The memories of what happened, of how he felt, of how he wanted to shoot himself rather than to deal with the fate of being alone washed over him in a stomach churning wave. He frantically covered his face with his hands and released a low, painful groan.

"What's wrong?" Lynus immediately asked him.

"This is mortifying!" Macerio practically shrilled, despite still covering his face with his hands.

"Easy now," Lynus soothed as he removed his hand from his hair to grasp at one of his wrists, tugging in an attempt to pull them away from his face. "No, it's not. Everyone has a secret fear. No one is truly fearless. To have a fear isn't a weakness."

"But I totally froze!" Macerio yelled as he removed his hands from his face, instead balling his hands into fists and squeezing his eyes tightly shut. "What if…what if I was the last one standing? I couldn't do shit!"

"That was the purpose of the spell," Tobyn unexpectedly said.

"That doesn't help," Macerio muttered through gritted teeth, truly and utterly infuriated at himself.

"You weren't completely frozen," Axel said as he tapped him on the forehead, causing Macerio to open his eyes to look up at the redheaded landsknecht. "A monster was about to attack Lynus, but you shot it out of the air."

"Even amidst your own fears," Jhon continued, his tone comforting. "You were able to tell when there was a threat and how to react accordingly."

"…I did?" Macerio murmured.

That was right. He remembered. He remembered pulling his gun away from his temple and aiming at the shadow behind Lynus. He remembered how Lynus flinched slightly from the sound of the gun before an expression of surprise appeared on his face as the monster crumbled into a useless heap onto the ground next to him. After that…there was a look of relief before morphing into concern as he turned back toward him.

After that everything went black.

"Y-yeah, I remember."

"You scared the hell out of us, too," Axel suddenly said.

"I did?" Macerio asked before he found himself lolling his head to the side to look over at their blond-haired survivalist. "Even Tobyn?"

"…Of course you did," Tobyn answered softly as he looked away, appearing embarrassed.

Macerio had to admit that he was a little surprised. The only time he seen any worry or concern from Tobyn was whenever Jhon was hurt. "How?"

Tobyn was silent for a moment, seemingly struggling with words to say. However, after a nudging from Jhon, he finally admitted. "...You're usually either obnoxiously cheerful or adorably grumpy. I…don't like you being silent."

A-adorably grumpy? D-did he really think that?

"You didn't respond to any of us," Jhon continued, sounding pained. "We couldn't reach you."

"We all tried, though," Axel added.

Macerio slowly nodded his head. "I couldn't hear any of you," he admitted, biting the inside of his mouth in a desperate attempt to push away the memories. He, however, soon furrowed his brow in confusion.

"But…I heard Lynus," he said as he rolled his head back to look up at Lynus. "Why?"

"Honestly, I'm not sure," Lynus admitted, giving a light shrug of his shoulder before smiling gently. "But I'm glad that my voice was able to reach you."

"Maybe it's because Lynus is synonymous with healing," Tobyn suggested.

Jhon immediately made a noise of agreement. "Hm. If Lynus is still alive, then everyone else is, too."

Yeah…that was true.

Macerio sighed as he closed his eyes, willing his body to relax. "…Can I tell you guys something?"

"Of course," Lynus immediately answered.

Macerio pressed his lips together for a moment before sighing again. "My mum was killed by a monster," he admitted bluntly, earning himself several gasps of surprise and empathy. "A wolf. Edgewolf. I want…to find it and kill it. For her. But not if…"

Not if it makes him the last one standing.

"We understand," Axel said, sounding understanding, as if he had just read his thoughts. "When the time comes for you to face it in battle, we'll help."

Macerio felt a smile tug on his lips. "Yeah…"

"Do you want to rest a bit more or would you like to head back home?" Lynus asked him after a moment of silence.

"I'm…all right now," Macerio replied, although he made no attempt to move from Lynus' lap.

"If you're sure." The way Lynus was running his fingers through his hair was quite soothing.

"When we go back," Macerio said as he opened his eyes to look up at Lynus once more, giving him a slightly pleading expression. "Don't tell Rahas or Tiffany?"

Lynus smiled warmly at him. "Don't worry; no one is going to make fun of you for having a perfectly logical fear. And I promise that your fear will never come true. Not while I'm here. Ok?"

Macerio returned the smile. "Ok."

"Now," Lynus started to speak, a slight hint of amusement in his voice. "If you were to be struck by a madness spell and did the polka while striping, then that would be prime blackmail material indeed."

Macerio snorted to cover up a laugh. "The polka?"

"I've, unfortunately, witnessed it before," Lynus confessed.

Macerio immediately felt a sense of amusement bubble up inside of him. "The hospital? Who?"

"Now," Lynus tisked lightly. "Patient confidentiality."

"I bet it was Simmons."

"No. Close, though."

"Tiffany?!" Macerio all but yelled, a large grin appearing on his lips. "Please tell me it was Tiffany!"

Lynus smiled at him. "Patient confidentially," he said simply.

With his head still resting on Lynus' lap, all Macerio could do was clutched at his stomach and laughed loudly, unaware of the expressions of utter relief on the faces of his teammates.

"Aw man, I wish I could have seen that!"

"…Welcome back, Macerio."

"Huh?"

"Hm? Nothing."

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