“Rahas, we must talk.”
Rahas felt himself wince upon hearing Hamza’s voice. He turned around to find the war magus a few steps behind him, a serious and somewhat terse expression on his face. It honestly wasn’t something Rahas had seen all that much and it made him feel instantly uneasy. “About what?”
“About Shiki,” Hamza replied simply.
Again, Rahas felt himself wince. “...I see,” he murmured as he glanced around at their surroundings. He had just been wandering the town aimlessly for the past thirty minutes and had found his way to the central park, a place frequented by other explorers. Including Simmons.
“Not here,” Rahas said as he turned to face Hamza once more. “I don’t want Simmons overhearing.”
Hamza nodded his head in understanding. “Very well. Let’s us return to the tearoom then.”
Knowing that there was no way of getting out of this conversation Rahas nodded his head and followed. “Fine.”
Their trek back to the inn and into the tearoom was a silent one. A little too silent to be honest. Rahas had dreaded the ensuing conversation, but he knew he couldn’t back out now. It would only make things worse.
Also, since Hamza wanted to talk to him about Shiki, it meant only one thing…
“Lynus saw the photo, huh?” Rahas asked as he stepped into the tearoom and kicked the door shut behind him.
“Yes,” Hamza answered as he turned to face him, his brow furrowing slightly. “He’s upset.”
For the umpteenth time in the past five minutes alone, Rahas winced. “Yeah,” he murmured as he idly rubbed the back of his neck and made his way over to the seat by the window. “I thought he would be.”
“How long have you known?”
Rahas idly shrugged as he sat down, his back pressed against the glass of the window. “I saw the photo a while ago.”
Hamza nodded his head as he swivelled a chair around to face Rahas by the window and sat down. “And you couldn’t tell Lynus?” he questioned as he leaned forward in his seat and leaned on his legs with his elbows.
“No.” He tried, but he couldn’t. He didn’t…want to see him cry again.
“I guess that is understandable,” Hamza went on to say as his eyes briefly flickered toward the closed door and a frown appeared on his lips. “He was very upset.”
And Rahas was pretty sure Axel was feeling overly protective. He may hold a grudge against him, but won’t say anything because of Lynus. That thought kinda pissed him off, but if it were the opposite, he’d be the same. Still fucking annoying, though.
“I had honestly forgotten about him,” Rahas muttered as he roughly scratched the back of his neck. “About Shiki. Until I saw his picture, I mean. Lynus probably didn’t. He says he remembers the names of all the hostages.”
“What do you remember of him?”
Rahas sighed and dropped his arm idly to his side as he glanced over his shoulder at the window behind him. “...Little things. Like how he taught me to view every window as an escape route. That higher the hiding place, the more advantage you’ll have. And to find someone or something to protect and make it my purpose.”
“...That sounds like Shiki,” Hamza muttered.
Rahas turned to look at him. “You knew him?”
Hamza gave a slight nod of his head. “I wasn’t personally close with him, not like Gerald and Cass,” he explained. “But I knew of him. A lot of locals and explorers did. Honesty, the little things that you have done, and still do, remind me of him. I couldn’t place it before, but now it makes sense.”
“...He was there about a year before Lynus arrived,” Rahas found himself continuing. “He tried to look after the both of us, you know?”
He remembered that one scene from long ago. It was about a week into Lynus’ capture and the gentle medic was crying silently into a pillow in the corner of his room. He remembered how Shiki walked in and shielded him from prying eyes while he comforted him. He remembered Shiki pulling him aside some time later and taking him by the shoulders to look into his eyes.
“Lynus isn’t like us,” he had said to him. “He can’t handle this and he shouldn’t. We need to protect him, no matter what.”
Rahas tried to do just that. Lynus looked so small compared to him and Shiki. But he…was too reckless with his own safety, prompting Lynus to try to protect him instead. Which was a stupid thing to do. He was the medic; he could just heal any injuries Rahas sustained.
“How long was he there?” Hamza asked, pulling Rahas from his memories.
“Who fucking knows?” Rahas replied with a slight snort and folded his arms gruffly across his chest. “Four, five years? Days blur into each other. Fuck, if you want to get technical, I don’t even know my age. 17? I could be younger or older. No one knows. Doesn’t fucking matter, I suppose.”
He honestly didn’t remember much before Shiki arrived, and even his memories of the other man were shaky at best. It was probably from the trauma and stress he had to endure for so long. And when…when Shiki was taken away from them, all but kicking and screaming himself…he didn’t want to leave. He didn’t want to leave them. He wanted to live with them, for them…
He just wanted to protect them.
Rahas clenched his jaw tightly and painfully as he stared at the floor in front of him. “He wasn’t...like the other hostages,” he mumbled. “He was older. More of a smartass. I didn’t realise that he...was a dad. Though, thinking back he acted like one. Heh. Shit.”
Why Taksony would go after a father was something he still couldn’t comprehend. The man had attachments, ties that would make him far more uncontrollable than those who were younger and easier to manipulate.
“Do you...know of Simmons’ mother?” Hamza suddenly asked him.
Rahas frowned and turned to look over at the war magus. “No. I didn’t want to ask. Why?”
Hamza seemed to hesitate for a moment, contemplating whether or not he should tell him something that must be important if he brought it up in the first place. “...Sandra was her name,” he finally said. “And a year after Shiki went missing, she...was violently murdered.”
“Murdered?” Rahas repeated as he sat up straight, his eyes widening. “But she was a landsknecht, right?”
“Who the hell was responsible?”
Hamza sighed aloud and shook his head. “We don’t know. No suspects. No closure.”
Rahas stared at the other man for a moment, allowing for what he just learnt to mull around in his head. “...Are you telling me the fucker is still out there somewhere?”
Hamza didn’t answer him. He didn’t have to.
“What...what about Simmons?” Rahas found himself asking as he took to his feet. “Was no one worried that the fucker might come after him?”
A subtle expression of surprised appeared on Hamza’s face for a moment, but it soon smoothed out into stoic professionalism as he arched an eyebrow at him. “Simmons was also badly injured during that event. Left for dead most likely. He has no recollection of what happened. Though Gerald was indeed worried that someone might return to finish him off, that was nine years ago now.”
That would explain the scar on his forehead.
Though it was nine years ago, Rahas couldn’t help but feel a jolt of protectiveness race through him. If that fucker could take out a full grown and titled landsknecht, than literally anyone could be a victim. And he found it hard to believe that the asshole would leave a potential witness behind, child or not. If they had the capacity to murder a mother and landsknecht, then their moral compass wouldn’t exactly be in high working order.
“Maybe they were waiting for him to become a landsknecht, too,” Rahas muttered to himself.
“Nothing,” Rahas responded before he furrowed his brow in thought. “Wait...did you say a year after Shiki went missing?”
Hamza gave him a questioning look. “That’s right.”
At first Shiki had been somewhat compliant. But around the time Lynus turned up he suddenly became very defiant and unruly. Reckless with his own life. Rahas had thought it was due to Lynus, seeing as he was a skinny, skittish kid, smaller than Rahas was back then. He simply put it down to Shiki feeling protective of someone vulnerable and meek, someone who definitely should not have been there with them.
Rahas’ eyes widen as bile suddenly appeared in the back of his throat. “Fuck,” he muttered as he abruptly sat back down. “Holy fucking shit.”
“What?” Hamza asked him with subtle alarm in his voice. “What is it?”
Rahas stared at the floor as his hand clutched his head. “No, he couldn’t have?”
Hamza was suddenly in front of him, a hand on his shoulder. “Rahas?”
Despite himself, Rahas stared rambling, his body unwittingly trembling. “M-maybe Taksony didn’t have all his information right. Maybe he thought Shiki to be a loner explorer. Not a father, not a husband. What if...what if he sent someone to kill his family as punishment? To tie up loose ends or something? Fuck!”
“Rahas, we don’t know-”
Rahas abruptly leapt to his feet and spun around to face the war magus. “If that bastard had the influence to kidnap a veteran dark hunter, than he had the influence to wipe out an entire family!”
Hamza tried to say something to comfort him, but Rahas didn’t hear it as he began pacing back and forth erratically.
It couldn’t be a coincidence. One year into Shiki’s capture he suddenly turns reckless and flighty. And one year after Shiki’s disappearance, his wife was murdered and his son left for dead. It just could not possibly be a coincidence, right? Taksony must have been responsible. His guards, his mindless little minions were able to control up to five hostages at a time. It should be easy for any one of them to simply slip into Lagaard, murder someone, and then leave.
Was that bastard attempting to spread his influence to Lagaard? What was he after here?
Hamza suddenly snared him by the arm and forced him to look at him. “I do not wish to do so, but if you do not calm down, I will slap you,” he said in a stern, firm manner.
Rahas stared at him for a moment, startled. Oddly enough, though, he did find himself calming down. He didn’t know why. There was…just something about him at the moment that made him feel substantially calmer.
…Maybe he was overreacting a bit. “…Tch. Fine…Sorry.”
Hamza breathed a sigh of relief before he dropped his hold on his arm and his expression softened considerably. “If Taksony is responsible or not, we do not know. We may never know. Though that is not satisfactory in any way, it’s all we have. We must accept that. Taksony is dead; he will not hurt anyone else.”
…Yeah. Shame that Lynus had to be the one to do it.
“I now understand why you have been following Simmons around lately,” Hamza continued as he reached out to place a reassuring hand on his shoulder. “And I won’t ask you to stop. You feel obligated to Shiki to look after his son. And, that’s fine. If you wish for that to be your purpose, then you will have our support. You are safe here, Rahas. Everyone is. We’ll make sure of it.”
Rahas turned his gaze to the floor. “…Yeah.”
He…really hoped that he was right.