Shiki found himself sitting at a table in the far back corner of the Stickleback Bar an hour or so after opening. It was ungodly brisk that morning, prompting Shiki to actually put on something warmer than he usually wore. He didn’t like to wear anything to tight, especially because of the several scars he had on his back.
But getting a cold certainly wouldn’t help either. Though having Gerald nurse him back to health would make it worthwhile.
Hmm…nah, he’d doubt he’d be able to convince Gerald to wear a nurse’s uniform. But it would be a very interesting experience!
A sharp pain in his left arm quickly pulled Shiki out of his daydream and he uttered a silent sigh as he shifted his arm in hopes of finding a comfortable position. He was grateful that they weren’t heading into the labyrinth today. Simmons said he had “Training” with Rahas while Gerald had a few other errands to conduct.
Another sharp pain from his arm caused Shiki to grit his teeth.
His arm has been aching like a right bitch lately. It was just due to the cold weather seeping into his old bones. But it was still bothersome.
The chair next to Shiki was suddenly pulled out. Unbothered, however, Shiki turned to watch as Gerald silently slipped into the chair next to him.
“You should speak with Lynus about your arm,” Gerald gently insisted. As he had done for a while now. “He might be able to help with the pain.”
Shiki subconsciously curled his left hand into a fist and relaxed it, before repeating the previous motion several times to remind himself that while his injured limp was indeed painful and incredibly ugly, he could still use it. The pain was not something he was unfamiliar with, nor was it something he couldn’t handle. That kind of physical pain was easy to deal with.
“Ah, he’d probably cry upon seeing it,” Shiki said idly. “And after the stress he’s been under? It can wait.”
Gerald’s frown deepened. “But you haven’t been sleeping well,” he pointed out. “Is it your arm? Or…?”
He trailed off, his expression changing into that unfair look of concern and guilt. And Shiki sighed.
Nightmares were something he was all-too familiar with, as well. They weren’t a bad as they were before he returned to Lagaard and his family. They had lessened significantly, especially when Gerald was resting next to him and his son was safe in his own bed.
But they would still arise every now and again. Enough to disrupt his sleep. And Gerald’s sleep as well, it seemed. Though he had tried to keep quiet about it, he should have known Gerald would notice.
A sudden disgruntled shout pulled Shiki from his musings.
The sound of chairs scraping loudly against the floor quickly followed, originating from the other side of the bar prompting Shiki to glance over out of habit. Even though the sound itself was very familiar and all-too common in the bar. But he was feeling particularly paranoid that day, so he had to look to ease his mind.
His gaze landed on the two old drunkards that often spend their days at the bar, drinking, talking, arguing, making bets with Cass. They were veteran explorers, though retired ones now. And they, unfortunately, they had the practice of nit-picking at gung-ho novice explorers, too.
And that appeared to be the reason for the sudden raised voices and the scraping of chairs against the floor. The two older timers involved in a face off of sorts. With the angry flailing of arms from two obviously young adventurers. And the oldies looking at them with tired, bored expressions. Of course, that only riled up the youngins even more.
Nothing pissed off a gung-ho explorer more than pure dismissiveness. Especially from a retired old timer.
A fight was likely to break out. Great. And it wasn’t even midday yet.
“You know what I’m gonna do?” one of the youngsters practically bellowed, echoing easily around the half empty bar.
Then, from the main entrance of the bar, another group of explorers walked in. These explorers, however, were instantly recognisable. None more so than the redhead at the forefront.
“You ain’t going to do shit,” Axel suddenly said as he pointed directly at the rowdy explorer. “Sit the fuck down or get the fuck out.”
Amusingly, the pair of young explorers spun around to face Axel, expressions of rage on their faces. But their fury soon dissipated into looks of realisation. An array of emotions was seen, however those mostly akin to that of fear and nervousness were the most prominent.
The pair immediately turned back around, spat something inaudible to the two regulars before they hastily left the bar under their own accord. Axel watched until they left before he turned to his guildmates, his arms immediately wrapping around Lynus once more as they stopped by the bar to speak with Cass.
Shiki snorted with amusement. “Even the rookies have heard of Axel.”
Gerald sighed. “Probably for the best. That way he doesn’t have to throw them out. Having Cass complain about replacing the windows or doors gets tiring after the hundredth time.”
Cass complaining about having to spend his own money for repairs wasn’t anything new. Shiki couldn’t help but feel worried, though. About the thought of Axel gaining popularity.
“He has Sandra’s eyes, you know,” Shiki said suddenly, sedately.
Gerald shifted in his seat next to him, turning so that he could glance in Axel’s direction also. “I guess he does. He’s…not quite as reckless, though.”
Shiki uttered a half laugh and shook his head. No one was as wild and reckless as that woman. But it was just one of her charms.
But…there were to be people out there who would relish in the prospect of defeating a powerful landsknecht.
Just like that…bastard.
Subconsciously, Shiki’s hand reached out to snare Gerald’s.
Shiki remembered that bastard’s face clearly. The one that took Sandra from him, from the world. The smirk he wore. The insanity of his eyes. The glee in his voice. Yet he remembered the utter loathing he held toward Sandra the most.
He said that he hated Sandra’s eyes the most. How they looked at him in anger. In a wild rage. How she wasn’t afraid of him. How she fought back. The audacity of her fighting back.
He would hunt everyone with her eyes, he said. Just to spite him. Just to ensure that that infuriating woman would be destroyed from all of existence.
That was why Shiki tensed when he first met Axel. His eyes were strikingly similar to Sandra’s. Same shade, same slant. Everything. It made him wonder if they were somehow related. Though Sandra had no living relatives, to her knowledge at least.
Related or not, Shiki couldn’t help but hold a bit of protectiveness toward the redhead. The fact that he was Lynus’ beloved, his everything, made him worry that perhaps that murderous bastard that took Sandra might actually follow through with his threat to hunt down those with her eyes.
They say that Axel could take care of himself. Take care of others. And he had proved that several times already. But…so could Sandra. And look at what happened to her. She should have been the last person anyone would try to mess with.
He…would never allow Lynus, sweet, caring Lynus, to experience that kind of pain. The pain he had endured.
Shiki shook his head to rid himself of those dark and disturbing thoughts. His hand released a hold of Gerald’s upon realising that he had his hand in a nearly crushing grip. Instead, his arm automatically sought out to slip around Gerald, his Gerald, and pulled him closer to him. As a form of comfort and to ground himself in the present.
“What’s wrong?” Gerald immediately questioned in a concerned manner, turning in his hold slightly. Not moving away, rather closer to him, turning to face him.
Ah, Gerald. Always worrying about him.
Shiki smiled broadly before he placed a chaste kiss to his lips. “Nothing’s wrong, love. Just thinking about landsknechts. Shame I missed the beginning of Simmons’ fledging relationship with Rahas.”
Gerald didn’t look all that convinced by his false reassurance, but he knew better than to interfere with his attempt to rid himself of his previous thoughts. He knew him, after all. Knew when to press him and when to hold back. Instead, he nodded his head idly and rested comfortably against him.
“Honestly, it happened so suddenly,” he replied. “One day he barely looked twice at Rahas, the next he was giving him flowers. Kerri probably had something to do with it, though I don’t know what happened exactly.”
Shiki laughed at the image that popped into his head.
He…was likely worrying for nothing. Axel was part of a powerful guild. The most powerful in Lagaard, if the praise from both guards and other guilds alike were any indication. Axel himself exhibited extraordinary strength.
That was what the old timers of the city referred to him as. The Guardian of Astonishing Strength.
If anything should happen, if some…murderous bastard dared showed his face in Lagaard…if Shiki himself couldn’t stop him, then the Guardians would.
No point worrying.