A New Purpose Found
Rahas had been frequenting the bar a lot these past few days. If he wasn’t at the bar, hanging out in the shadows, watching and observing, he was on the first floor of the labyrinth training. That was if Macerio and Lirit didn’t drag him further into the labyrinth for quests. He couldn’t bring himself to linger long at the inn much anymore. Lynus was there, after all. And he was getting a little tired of seeing that guilty and apologetic look on his face whenever they happened to be within sight of each other.
He wasn’t sure if anyone else, well, knew about what had occurred in the labyrinth that day, but he was pretty sure Axel knew. Either Lynus told him or he had figured it out himself. But the way the red-haired landsknecht would narrow his eyes in warning at him whenever they were within sight of one another was pretty fucking telling. He hadn’t said nor did anything yet. Probably out of duty to the guild and to Lynus.
No one else knew, though. Except for Hamza, but that wasn’t a surprise. That nosy old fart seemed to know everything. Sometimes that was a good thing, other times it was so utterly fucking annoying.
Roughly running his hand through his hair, Rahas took to his feet. He didn’t want to sit and think anymore. He was getting sick and tired of running the memories of his major screw-up over and over in his head. Shoving his hands into the pockets of his jacket, he headed over to the memorial wall inside the bar.
Cass had a single wall of the bar covered in photos of the guilds or explorers that he had taken a liking to during his years as the bar-keep. Rahas had glanced over a few times during his frequent visits, but never bothered to actually wander over to have a look. He wasn’t interested in looking at pictures of old timers, anyway.
But at that very moment he wanted a distraction.
Stopping just in front of the wall covered in photos and plagues, Rahas sighed as his shoulders sagged in defeated annoyance. When he said he wanted a distraction, he wasn’t expecting an idiotic one. But, fine, whatever.
“What are you looking at?” Simmons asked him.
But before Rahas had the chance to mutter a response about boredom, having just approached the wall, and minding his own damn business, Simmons suddenly perked up and smiled widely.
“Are you looking at my parents’ guild?”
Rahas arched an eyebrow, though he wasn’t all that surprised to realise that Simmons’ parents were explorers, too. But...he had never mentioned them before.
“Which one?” Rahas asked instead.
Without any hesitation, Simmons lifted his hand and pointed at the large photograph in the middle of the memorial wall. “This one!” he said excitedly. “Guild Nova.”
It was just simple curiosity and the need for distraction that made Rahas turn to look. First, nothing caught his attention. Five people, two women and three men, all of various classes, heights, and ages. But, as his gaze fell on the man standing just behind the woman at the very centre of the photo, his eyes widen and his heart unexpectedly leaped into his throat.
Everything else around him faded as Rahas staggered forward to get a better look at the photo. He briefly heard Simmons say something, but it was incoherent to the thundering pulse in his ears.
T-that man...the wild hair, the lanky posture, the whip by his side, his red eyes, the half-smile on his lips. He had...seen those things, that man, somewhere before. B-but, no...it couldn’t be.
“S-Shiki...?” Rahas murmured.
“That’s right!” Simmons beamed, sounding and looking proud.
Rahas felt sick as his body trembled slightly. “H-he was a d-dark hunter.”
“Yep!” Simmons continued to appear proud of his family. “Cass says he was the best that Lagaard had ever seen. Even folks at Etria had heard of him. Isn’t that cool?”
Rahas had to place his hands against the wall to keep himself upright on his feet. Simmons continued to prattle on and on next to him, but nothing he was saying was registering in his mind. All he could do was stare at the photo, at the man known as Shiki.
It couldn’t be a coincidence. The man in the photo had to be the same as the one who...
The man who had also been a captive of Taksony.
The man that was actually the very first person, before even Lynus, that Rahas had actually grown attached to.
The man that taught him the basics ins and outs of the dark hunter class.
The man he had all but delivered to certain death after it was clear that there was little more he could teach Rahas at such a young age.
The man that Rahas watched being dragged away to by the guards to his death and not doing a single thing about it.
The man whose painful memory Rahas had suppressed for all these years.
That man...was Simmons’ father?
H-he...got Simmons’ father killed…
Oh god, he was going to throw up…
“What’s wrong?” Simmons suddenly asked him. “Are you feeling sick? Do you need to go to the hospital? Should I get Lynus?”
Rahas shook his head and squeezed his eyes shut. “W-what happened to your father?” he croaked out.
Simmons was unnervingly quiet for a few long, intense moments. “I don’t know,” he eventually said, his voice dropping with sadness and a small sense of confusion. “They say that he went missing in the labyrinth. Mom disappeared a few years after, too.”
There was another drawn out, utterly intense silence before Simmons murmured quietly, “I hope they found each other.”
That was it. The tears that had been blurring Rahas’ vision for the past few minutes finally pushed past his tightly closed eyes and began to roll down his cheeks. He slammed his head against the wall in attempt to stop them, but it, of course, didn’t work. He was crying now. And he couldn’t stop.
Fuck, no…it wasn’t fair. Why…why did Shiki have to be taken? He was a father and a husband, for god’s sake! Taksony only went after those he knew he could control. Did…no, that bastard couldn’t have threatened Simmons’ life to get his father’s cooperation, right?
Rahas felt a sob hitch in his throat when Simmons’ unexpectedly wrapped his arms around him, pulling him against his chest in a comforting manner. Naturally, Rahas struggled to get away from him, but his arms were strong, yet surprisingly they weren’t hurting him in any way, shape, or form.
Despite himself, Rahas turned toward Simmons’ embrace and buried his face into his chest that was free of armour. The blue-haired landsknecht, thankfully, didn’t ask him what was wrong. He just held him, one arm around his back as he ran his fingers of the other through his hair.
He shouldn’t be doing this. He shouldn’t be crying into the arms of the son of the man he had inadvertently killed. He shouldn’t be finding comfort in him. He should be blubbering and begging for forgiveness, right? But…what if Simmons wanted nothing to do with him after learning the truth? Would he even understand?
Fuck, no…he couldn’t be abandoned again.
Damn it…he couldn’t help Shiki. He couldn’t save him. He couldn’t do anything. But his son…was there. His son was alive. Simmons was an idiot, foolish, and reckless but he was Shiki’s son. And he was alive. The only person left of Shiki’s lineage. And…protecting him at all costs was all that Rahas could do.
“Sorry if I made you cry,” Simmons unexpectedly said to him.
Rahas squeezed his eyes shut and shook his head. He was the one who should be apologising. For his father, for the way he had been treating him. But…things were going to change now. He couldn’t tell Simmons the truth. Not yet. But he could make sure that the idiot keeps himself alive. He’ll make it up to both Shiki and Simmons.
Yeah, that was what he would do now.
That will be his new purpose.