It was becoming more and more common for the members of the Guardians to be personally requested for an important quest. Whether it was fighting a certain type of monster that had become dangerous to rookie explorers or missions of search and rescue, more and more quests handed into the bar was geared solely toward them rather than a free for all for other guilds.
It was a sign that the Guardians were becoming popular, while also becoming trusted amongst locals and explorers alike.
Normally, Axel didn’t mind such requests. It gave him something to do and it was a way to contribute back to society, back to the people that welcomed him and his guildmates so warmly.
On this quest, however, there were two things that were annoying him. One, it was a search and rescue. Now, normally, that didn’t bother him. Guilds and guards get into trouble all the time. Accidents happened. Unpredictable things were a common occurrence in the labyrinth.
But this one involved a flighty landsknecht who suddenly decided that she had a point to prove and set off into the labyrinth – alone.
Yeah. That was beyond reckless. Axel was pretty confident in his own skills, but he wasn’t arrogant enough to head in alone. Her guild had a right to be worried for this idiot. He looked forward to giving her a piece of his mind. If she was still alive that was.
The second thing he was slightly agitated about was the fact that he knew that there was something wrong with Lynus. As a highly trained and regarded medic, it was no surprise that he was often requested to accompany them on these search-and-rescue quests. If the person (or persons) they were looking for needed immediate medical help, none was better equip than Lynus himself.
But as of right now, Axel knew he wasn’t feeling well. Lynus insisted that he was fine and by appearances he looked fine. But something still felt…off. Whether Lynus knew it and was hiding to prevent worry or concern, or legitimately had no idea himself, Axel felt that Lynus was off-colour.
There was a slight flush to his cheeks and it wasn’t from the pleasant autumn air of the second stratum. And his beautiful violet eyes looked slightly unfocused and it wasn’t from the glare of the midday sun. He also wasn’t moving as fluently as he usually did and it wasn’t entirely due to having worked a few hours at the hospital before being sent on this quest.
Axel wanted to ask again whether he was really all right, but held his tongue. He had already asked that question a couple of times so far. He didn’t want to push his luck and have a slightly huffy Lynus to deal with.
Oh, he wasn’t hard to deal with when huffy, mind you, Axel just didn’t want to stress him out any more than he already was.
The sooner they found this reckless asshole, the sooner they could leave and the sooner he could try to convince Lynus to spend the rest of the day with him in peace and quiet.
Axel was pulled from his musings when a prickly feeling of being watched raced up his spine and he pulled himself to a halt. Beside him, Jhon and Tobyn did the same while Lynus instinctively ducked behind them, not uttering a word. Chi-hung took it upon himself to stay close to Lynus as possible to protect him; reassuring that he would be safe and Axel could fully concentrate on the possible danger around them.
They stood in complete silence for a few tense seconds when a flurry of leaves and twigs suddenly burst through the thick shrubbery of the naturally formed walls around them.
Axel immediately reached for his axe and drew it as two figures suddenly appeared directly before him. Tall and the colours of red and green. Withering vines with flowery buds filled with sharp teeth that were snapping and chattering hungrily.
A couple of fangleaves.
Axel wasn’t particularly worried. They were annoying, no doubt about that, especially when they tried to bind them in some way or boosting their own strength, but still relatively easy for them to deal with. His axe could cut through the vines easily.
Gripping his axe in both hands, Axel sprung forward to engage the bristling fangleaves in battle. Jhon was beside him while Tobyn stayed behind them, expertly and effortless firing off accurate and deadly arrows. Axel and Jhon had both grown used to the sound and feeling of arrows whizzing by their heads, neither of them remotely worried of accidently being struck. Tobyn could shoot a venomfly in mid-air and leave its wings perfectly intact.
The battle against the fangleaves was a short one with only the plant monsters themselves receiving any injuries.
With a satisfied sigh, Axel lugged his axe back into its usual position on his back and he stepped back to allow Tobyn to see if there was anything worth salvaging from the monster corpses while Jhon watched over him, still cautious.
Instinctively, Axel turned around to look for Lynus, to see if he was all right. But when he realised he couldn’t see him anyway, he immediately began to internally panic.
He didn’t sense a back attack. And there was no way those fangleaves got pass them, pass him, for even a second.
He was about to shout his name when Chi-hung suddenly bolted toward one of those seemingly man-made stone and mortar pillars. He then stopped and was focused in on the other side, a place Axel couldn’t directly see where he was currently at.
So he jogged forward as well and made his way over to where Chi-hung was.
As he rounded the corner, he breathed a sigh of relief when his gaze fell upon the tangerine-haired medic. A fraction of a second later, however, he felt his brow furrow with concern.
Lynus was leaning his back against a tall stone pillar as he desperately, and shakily, dug around in his medical bag for something. He honestly looked worse than before. He either wandered off during the battle in hopes of healing himself quietly without arousing concern. Or had suddenly felt sick and wandered off without meaning to, which was a dangerous thing to do regardless. Whatever the case, he looked simultaneously flushed but pale. He was trembling, shivering, as he leaned heavily against the pillar behind him and unfocusedly dug around in his medical bag.
Next to Axel, Chi-hung made a low growl, one that revealed that he was rather displeased. Axel understood exactly what he was feeling and idly ran his hand along the mighty white-tiger’s neck in an attempt to pacify him. He then turned his full, undivided attention onto Lynus and reached out to place his hand on his arm, slightly fearful that he could just keel over at any second.
“What’s wrong?” Axel asked again, this time adamant that he won’t be satisfied with ‘I’m fine’ or ‘it’s nothing’ like numerous times before.
Lynus glanced up at him, his gaze unfocused and he attempted to smile. But it was shaky at best and he swallowed thickly. “Just…feeling a little dizzy all of a sudden.”
Axel was about to ask if dizziness was the only thing he was experiencing and what needed to be done to help, when Jhon and Tobyn both made their ways over to them as well, their concerned expressions focused in on Lynus immediately.
“Is something wrong?” Jhon asked as his gaze shifted from Lynus to Axel.
Knowing that it was Lynus instinct to reassure and deny his own ailments, Axel answered for him. “He says he’s feeling dizzy, but I think there’s more to it.”
Jhon’s expression was that of concern while Tobyn seemed to scowl lightly next to him. “I knew something was off,” he muttered as he turned a sharp gaze in Lynus’ direction. “You should have told us sooner.”
His shoulders slumping in defeat, Lynus sighed as he reached up to press his hand against his forehead. He closed his eyes and pressed his lips together tightly. Axel had to tighten his hand on Lynus’ arm when the medic suddenly swayed, on the verge of becoming off balanced. “I…I have a fever,” he said simply.
Honestly, Axel had figured as much. “You had one before entering the labyrinth, didn’t you?”
Lynus peeled open his eyes, of which were still unnaturally unfocused and gave him a somewhat sheepish look. “It was just a low-grade one,” he insisted. “Nothing to worry about.”
Axel was highly sceptical. Had anyone else had this ‘low-grade’ fever, Lynus would have insisted they stayed in their beds and rest for the day.
Axel turned to look at Jhon and Tobyn. “You two, along with Chi-hung, continue the search for that brainless idiot,” he instructed. “I’ll take Lynus back to town.”
“No, Axel, I’m fin-” Lynus automatically started to protest.
“I’m not having you risk your life for someone who doesn’t value their own,” Axel said sternly, interrupting him.
He didn’t like to speak like that, especially to Lynus, but he felt he had no other choice. Lynus may not truly value or care for himself, but Axel did. And he wasn’t going to let anything hurt him. Including Lynus himself.
“You’re far more important than this idiot we’re searching for,” Axel added, his voice firm, but kind all the same.
Lynus was silent as he blearily looked at him before the words he had just spoken seemed to register in his fever-hazed mind and he looked positively meek and ashamed as he simply nodded his head.
Though Axel was glad to see that Lynus had decided to cooperate rather than insist they push forward regardless of his ill-health, he couldn’t help but feel his concern for the sweet medic grow. He must be feeling really unwell if he gave in so quickly.
He might have to make a quick stop at the hospital just for reassurance.
“Getting Lynus back to town is a good idea,” Jhon said with an agreeing tone as he glanced reassuringly in Lynus’ direction. “Don’t worry about us. Tobyn and I have been through these floors many times before. And with Chi-hung with us, we’ll be sure to find this person. And for added measure, we’ll take her straight to Dr Stiles and let him deliver the much needed lecture.”
Honestly, Dr Stiles giving that lecture would be more intimidating than Axel could ever hope to be. Best leave that stuff to the experts, yes?
“I’m sorry,” Lynus murmured meekly as he suddenly looked frailer and paler than before.
“It’s fine,” Jhon returned kindly. “We’ll meet you back at the inn to check on you there soon. Don’t worry about a thing.”
With that said, Jhon motioned for Tobyn and Chi-hung to follow, and they did so silently, Tobyn glancing worriedly at Lynus while Chi-hung paused for a second to rub his head against Lynus’ side before trotting off to follow Jhon.
Axel watched until they were out of sight before he turned his attention back to Lynus. He immediately noticed how tired he looked and he knew that he was feeling intense guilt for not only worrying the others, but also, in his mind at least, slowing them down. But he choose not to point out how silly his guilt was as it wasn’t silly to Lynus, and instead reached out to remove his bag from his shoulder.
Slinging Lynus back over his own shoulder, Axel quickly but carefully pulled Lynus toward him before picking him up into his arms. Lynus had long grown used to Axel picking him up, sometimes literally sweeping him off of his feet, that he quickly settled down in his arms and got comfortable for the walk back.
With his armour in the way, Axel couldn’t hold Lynus the way he wanted. He would have to wait until they returned to town before he could physically comfort Lynus the way he needed to be comforted.
“Are you angry?” Lynus softly asked as Axel began to walk.
“I’m not angry,” he said before he uttered a sigh and shook his head. “Not really. I’m just…frustrated that you can seem to apply your caring, nurturing nature to yourself.”
Lynus looked unfairly ashamed as he turned his gaze to the ground. But Axel couldn’t apologise and say he didn’t mean it. He did. It did frustrate him to no end that Lynus didn’t seem to care for himself at all. He knew why, but it still got to him.
“It…honestly frustrates me, too,” Lynus said softly as he subconsciously curled closer to him. “I don’t do it on purpose or anything. I just…”
Axel resisted the urge to utter another sigh. Instead he leaned forward to press a chaste kiss to the top of Lynus’ head, subtly and gently curling his arm tighter around his shoulders and knees.
“We’ll work on it later,” he said softly. “Now, let’s get you back to town. Also, if you do anything like this again, I will have no choice but to get Dr Stiles involved.”
Lynus made a noise, a whine that was of slight fear. “That’s mean,” he murmured as he ducked his head under Axel’s chin.
Axel simply chuckled as he headed for the geopole to warp home as quickly as possible.