The Story Continues

The Wrong Room

Macerio pressed his back against the wall as he peered down a seemingly empty hallway of the inn. It was quiet. Maybe a little too much. But it appeared clear, empty. It should be safe to traverse.

“Macerio?”

“Lynus!” Macerio squeaked as he all but jumped a foot in the air. He pushed away from the wall and turned around to spy a certain orange-haired medic a few steps behind him, his head tilted to the side with a curious expression on his face. “When did you get to be so sneaky?”

“Quiet out of consideration for the patients trying to sleep at the hospital,” Lynus answered quickly with a shrug and righted himself before a small, but knowing smile appeared on his lips. “Are you hiding from Binah again?”

Macerio wanted to deny the question, but didn’t see the point. “I’ve been successful so far,” he said instead.

“Oh?” Lynus chuckled tiredly. “Better be careful. She knows this inn like the back of her hand.”

Macerio winced and had to resist the urge to skittishly glance at his surroundings. Instead he looked at Lynus and noticed that he looked tired, haggard even. “You were at the hospital again? You’ve been there a lot.”

Unexpectedly, Lynus sighed and tugged his hair free from his ponytail. “Unfortunately there’s been a spate of patients suffering from contaminated food poisoning.”

“Food poisoning?” Macerio repeated in alarm, his eyes widening slightly. What kind of fiend would poison food?!

“From one café in particular,” Lynus said before a smile of reassurance appeared on his lips. “Don’t worry, the food here at the inn is safe. Especially the chocolate. The guards are looking into it. All we are doing at the hospital is watching over those who are affected. Still, someone has been purposely poisoning these people. We even found evidence of capsules being used. Sorry, I’m rambling. I’m going to take a nap or something.”

“Yeah, you do that,” Macerio replied. He was about to say something else, but a terrifying sound cut through the air.

“Macerio~!”

Macerio tensed and spun around to look at his surroundings frantically. Then he heard it, the jingling of bells of a tambourine. Binah was coming.

“Shit, gotta go,” he whispered as he turned on his heel and sprinted down the hall, just vaguely registering Lynus warning him not to dive into anyone’s room in his desperate attempt to hide.

But he ignored it. He could deal with a few disgruntled inn patrons easier than he could face off against Binah. That pink-haired troubadour could be scary.

After darting around a few corners, he came across a door that was slightly ajar. Perfect.

Without a second thought, he made a dash for the door and pushed it open to jump into the room and then closing the door right behind him. He turned to face the door with his hand on the handle and pressed his ear against it.

At first all he could hear was silence.

Then…the bells.

“Macerio~ You can’t hide from me. I will find you~”

That was honestly terrifying.

He stayed silent as the bells grew closer and he could hear the sound of someone skipping merrily through the halls. The sounds suddenly stopped just outside the door and Macerio held his breath. She…hadn’t heard him, had she? Troubadours had incredible hearing…

After a few long, intense seconds, the sound of bells started up again and Binah hummed merrily as she skipped away. “Come out, come out, wherever you are~”

Macerio waited until he could no longer hear those dreaded bells before he released the breath he had been holding in a sigh of relief. He turned around to rest his back against the door and had to smile to himself. He had eluded her.

He was safe from her. For now at least.

Heaving another sigh of relief, Macerio found himself wincing as he glanced around the room. He didn’t even check to see if anyone was inside before throwing himself in. But, thankfully, he couldn’t see anyone. No one in the single bed and no one at the table under the window. So the best thing he should do was to leave as abruptly as he entered.

But as he continued to glance around idly, a strange contraption on the desk near the window caught his attention. It appeared to be a brewing kit of some kind. He had seen Lynus use one in the kitchen of the inn to create some medicine for Becky once. There was a candle acting as a flame with a metal tongs on a long lever holding a glass bottle with a strange tar like substance over the flame, the liquid boiling slowly inside.

Curious, Macerio found himself wandering over to get a better look.

On the desk were a few pieces of yellowing papers with words he didn’t quite understand scribbled across. There was also something else. A small rubber like objects that were in the shape of vitamin pills that Becky often had to take.

Macerio picked up one of the oddly shaped objects and vaguely realised what it was. “Capsules…?”

Wait, Lynus said something about capsules being used to poison patients at a particular café. This…couldn’t be a coincidence, right?

Macerio suddenly felt someone stepped behind him and a hot breath against the back of his neck. Before he could turn around or even make a noise of alarm, an arm suddenly wrapped around his middle to pin his arms against his side as a slightly damp cloth was placed over his mouth and nose, and he unintentionally drew in a sharp breath of surprise. As he did so, the pungent smell of sleepgas filled his lungs and he felt his eyes widen in absolute surprise.

He stared at the window to see a reflection of himself and someone else, someone who was a good foot taller than he was. And they had…a piercing gaze.

“It’s rude to enter Santo’s room without permission,” a voice hastily murmured to him as his stare held his in the reflection of the window.

Macerio was unable to respond. His eyes suddenly drooped and his vision blurred. The sleepgas was taking effect. His mind and body felt heavy as he fell into unconsciousness.

What felt like only a few minutes later, Macerio slowly opened his eyes. His head was spinning and his vision was blurry. He squeezed his eyes shut before forcing them open. He slowly realised that he seemed to be lying down. On his side. On something hard and flat. The floor?

Did he faint?

No, wait…

Macerio’s eyes widened upon the abrupt realisation that he didn’t faint. And that he couldn’t move his arms.

There was something covering his mouth, a thick material that went around his head. His wrists were pinned behind his back and something akin to a course rope was tied around them tightly, looping around his wrists and pinning them together. He immediately twisted his hands and tugged with his arms in an attempt to loosen the bindings, but all he managed to do was to bring himself a sense of discomfort when the rope rubbed against his wrists.

As he clenched his jaw to ignore the burning sensation of his wrists, he abruptly realised that his ankles had also been bound together tightly. And he found himself wiggling his legs in another desperate attempt to loosen yet another set of bindings. Having his legs free wouldn’t do much for him, but it would make him feel somewhat less vulnerable.

“Struggling is fruitless.”

Macerio stilled as his heart skipped a beat. He abruptly tilted his head back to look in the direction of the only window in the room. There, at the table and sitting on a chair was a man he didn’t recognise at all. Greyish-silver hair, piercing yellow eyes, and dressed all in black.

He…?

It took a bit of effort, but Macerio was able to pull himself up into a sitting position, though it hadn’t been easy with the way his arms were tied behind his back and his ankles tied together. But he somehow managed.

Curling his legs against him, Macerio lightly thrashed his head around in an attempt to dislodge the piece of material that was gagging him. He wanted to ask the bastard in front of him what he was doing. Why he had restrained him. And…what he was planning to do with him. However the gag remained firmly in place and all Macerio could do was glare at the strange man in hopes to mask his fear and uncertainty.

As he stared at him, Macerio realised that he was carefully filling the capsules with the strange black substance. He must be the one who had been contaminating the food of that café Lynus mentioned earlier. There was no way an actual medic, war magus, or alchemist would take a person hostage if they weren’t doing anything illegal!

The man suddenly stopped what he was doing and snapped his head around to him, his yellow eyes piercing and sharp. And for a solid minute he stared at him, not blinking once.

Macerio unconsciously felt himself hunch his shoulders from the intimidation.

“Why are you looking at Santo with judgemental eyes?” the man suddenly asked him. “Santo has no choice but to do this. They need to suffer the consequences for the hurt and suffering they have inflicted upon Santo. They need to understand that you can’t take away Santo’s meaning for living without punishment. It needs to be done.”

…What?

Was…he talking in third person? Was his name actually Santo or was he speaking about someone else? What did he mean?

“Santo has done anything wrong,” he continued with his rambling. “Santo may have made a few people sick, but unlike that wretched family, Santo hasn’t killed anyone.”

…Killed anyone? Who was he talking about? The owners of the café he was targeting?

“Santo is a good person,” the man stated as he mercifully turned those unblinking eyes away from him and reached for something on his desk. “But Santo is hurting. That monstrous woman took beloved away from Santo.”

Macerio honestly had no idea what the hell he was going on about. Who was Santo? Was he referring to himself? And who was this ‘monstrous woman’? Who killed what? What was going on?!

When the man suddenly stood up, the chair screeching across the floor from his abrupt movement, Macerio hastily scooted himself back as Santo walked over to him with a trinket box in his hands. He felt his back hit the side of the bed as Santo knelt in front of him.

“This is all Santo has left of beloved,” he said as he opened the box.

Macerio glanced down into the box and reeled his head back in shock.

W-was…was that a severed hand?!

The skeletal remains of what looked like a human hand with a silver ring on one of the fingers sat poised on top of a filling of red satin, seemingly meticulously well preserved and cared for. But…

Who in their right mind would carry around a severed hand?!

“This is all Santo has left of beloved,” he repeated as he stared freakishly into Macerio’s eyes the second Macerio snapped his head up to look at him. “They killed her and took her away from Santo.”

A lump of fear lodged itself in Macerio’s throat and he felt sick to his very core. True terror hit him square in the chest when he abruptly realised that the man before him, the man that had essentially captured him, obviously wasn’t of sound mind. He was a lunatic.

He was the captive of a very deranged man.

Tears threatened to form in Macerio’s eyes as he desperately tugged and pulled at the ropes bounding his wrists. He didn’t care how much damaged he was doing to himself at that point. He needed to get free, to get away from this lunatic. He wasn’t safe. He was in danger. He wasn’t sure how much, but some who willingly poisoned strangers and carried around a severed hand was capable of anything.

“You look so much like Santo’s beloved,” Santo suddenly said to him as he closed the trinket box and reached out to trail his fingertips down Macerio’s cheek. “Santo will keep you safe.”

Macerio whimpered and felt himself tremble from fear at the touch. He closed his eyes as he abruptly and fearfully turned his head away from Santo’s hand in an attempt to put some distance between them.

No way! T-this guy was insane! He didn’t actually think he could keep him here, right? N-not possible. His guildmates would be looking for him now. He was sure of it.

T-they had to be…

“Macerio?”

Macerio tensed as he abruptly turned his attention to the door of the room. That was Lynus’ voice calling his name!

Despite the gag, Macerio instinctively tried to get the medic’s attention, even to simply make a noise of some kind. But Santo abruptly lashed out and pressed his hand over Macerio’s mouth and nose, so forcibly that he was pressing Macerio’s head back onto the bed behind him.

“No sound,” Santo whispered at him, his eyes still unnervingly wide and unblinking. “Don’t utter a sound. Santo does not wish to hurt you. Santo don’t want to hurt people. But Santo given no choice.”

Macerio whimpered again and had to look out from the corner of his eye at the door again.

He could see Lynus’ shadow just under the door as he passed by and he felt his heart sink. However, a second later his shadow, or that of another’s, abruptly reappeared in the direction Lynus had went and paused right in front of the door. He seemed to linger there for a moment and Macerio felt his heart leap into his throat.

Suddenly, it appeared as if Lynus had taken a step back before abruptly darting off with the sound of his feet rushing hastily away.

D-did…did he ‘sense’ he was there? Did he feel his fear?

“Santo can’t stay here,” Santo muttered as he removed his hand from Macerio’s mouth and nose and abruptly stood up.

Slumping forward to breathe through his nose, Macerio’s heart hammered in his chest as Santo began to gather up his equipment and shoved them into random bags in a hasty manner. Santo was obviously planning to escape, but what was he going to do with him? Was he going to do something to him, to stop him from talking? Would he poison him to keep him quiet? Or would he…try to take him with him all because he supposedly looked like his beloved?

Virtually pushing everything off of the table and into a knapsack, Santo tied it off before dropping it abruptly to the floor and turning to look at Macerio once more.

Macerio hunched his shoulders and pushed himself back against the side of the bed as Santo stared down at him with those ungodly piercing eyes. He swallowed thickly when Santo slowly walked until he was right in front of him. W-what was he going to do?

“You are not Santo’s true beloved, but you look like Santo’s beloved,” Santo unexpectedly mumbled as he squatted down in front of Macerio to stare unblinkingly into his eyes once more. “Santo will protect you from wretched woman.”

That scared the hell out of him. The only thing Macerio needed protection from was the deranged man in front of him!

Releasing yet another whimper when Santo made the motion with his hands to physical grab him, Macerio closed his eyes and tensed in wait for the man to physically manhandle him. However, just before Santo could touch him, there was the sound of feet, numerous of them, stomping just outside the door where they abruptly gathered.

The door to the room was then abruptly kicked open. There was no warning. One second it was locked tight, the next it was bouncing off the wall behind it and three intimidating figures stood on the threshold.

“Macerio!”

Tears of relief welled in Macerio’s eyes when he recognised the three figures. Axel, Jhon, and Tobyn. He was safe now.

The three didn’t bother to ask questions or demand answers. They just launched themselves into the room, and toward Santo who was still crouched in front of Macerio.

Macerio closed his eyes and tried to curl away from the impending violence so not to get in the way. He could hear a few curses and grunts of annoyance and anger, along with Santo shrieking something about being innocent. But he tried not to listen. Normally he was fine with watching such chaos unfold, but with this he wasn’t comfortable in watching. He didn’t know what Santo was capable off, how dangerous he could be.

He didn’t…want to see if one of his guildmates got hurt because of him.

“Macerio!”

Macerio snapped his eyes open when he heard Lirit’s voice and he felt a feeling that was a mixture of relief and fear touch him when Lirit along with Lynus knelt beside him.

“Are you all right?” Lirit asked him as he reached around him to untie the gag as Lynus focused on the ropes around his wrists.

“H-he’s the one responsible,” Macerio said instead of answering Lirit’s question. “I-I think he’s the one poisoning those people at the café.”

Lynus’ eyes widen in shock before he pressed his lips together in frustration and turned his gaze to the scuffle on the other side of the room. “Axel!” he called out.

“We’ve got this!” Axel shouted back. “Get him out of here!”

With the bindings falling away, Lirit abruptly hugged Macerio tightly before physically pulling him to his feet.

Numbly, he allowed Lirit and Lynus to drag him out of the room and usher him toward the tea room. The next few minutes was a blur of fussing and answering questions of concern as he was placed on the couch near the fire place, a blanket draped around his shoulders and a cup of hot chocolate shoved in his hands. Lirit sat next to him with an arm around his shoulders as Chi-hung sat at his feet, his chin resting on his lap.

Despite the fear and uncertainty he had just been through, he felt safe and protected where he was. He found himself leaning against Lirit’s side, his head on his shoulder without much thought given. And Lirit simply held him close, running his fingers through his hair as he explained what had happened while he was held captive.

He had been missing for over an hour and they were getting worried. He, along with everyone else, split up to go in search of him and Lynus, with his miraculous skill to sense the auras of his guildmates headed in the part of the inn he had last seen and felt him. It wasn’t until he passed the room he was held in and felt his intense spike of fear that he realised how much trouble he was in. Not wanting to risk pulling him into more danger than he potentially was already in, he immediately went to get help. Axel, Jhon, and Tobyn were the first three he came across.

And without even a second of hesitation, they set off to rescue him. Murderous and ready to kick ass.

That…made him happy to hear.

He didn’t really snap back to reality until Hamza knelt down in front of him with a concern look on his face. “Macerio, it’s fine now. He’s been restrained and handed over to the guards. Can you tell us what happened?”

Macerio opened his mouth to tell him the little that he knew but his gaze flickered over to the door when three figures suddenly entered. He felt immediately relief once again when he recognised them, Axel, Tobyn, and Jhon, all unharmed but seriously pissed off. Tobyn, more noticeable of the three. Jhon had a hand on his elbow, all but holding him against his side, almost as if preventing him from turning on his heel and going for the bastard again.

They…were probably going to be really protective of him for the next few days. And he didn’t mind at all.

“Well,” Macerio said as he turned back to Hamza and offered him a shaky smile. “I’ll start from the beginning…”

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