Eating Clouds

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Chapter 17: New Tactic

Chapter 17: New tactic

Even after Ozzy himself had climbed up the ladder to the surface, he still didn’t understand the reason for Dawn’s uncomfortable behaviour. He tried to analyse the ladder and the surroundings of it, trying to see what he was missing. There was nothing out of the ordinary, and Eddy eventually lost his patience and pulled the boy’s ear, scolding him to hurry up.

“You promised not to do that!” the boy cried out. The little elf snorted.

“I didn’t promise anythin’!”

When both Ozzy’s found the green ground of the field, the elf relieved him by jumping off his shoulder and making his wings appear once again. Ozzy silently thanked him for not doing that right next to his ear, saving him from yet another painful experience.

Dawn had already made her way over to a figure who stood near the edge of the sphere, which surrounded the area of the field. Ozzy had to blink and cover his eyes with his hand against the glimmering silhouette. The man was apparently wearing a full knight’s armour, including a helmet. Both the girl and the little elf casually strolled over to the stranger, while Ozzy held back a little.

Not because he was scared, but because he was in awe. He’d never seen a real knight before.

Every body part was covered with iron plates shaped like the spot they’re supposed to protect. As Ozzy came closer, he could see that the wide chest armour was decorated with a single cross on the left side, surrounded by thorns of a rose’s. The front of the helmet looked more like a raster, with only small stripes to see through. From the back of the armour stuck a giant red feather, which swung around quietly whenever the knight made a slight movement. From the shoulders down a brown cape followed him around, around his hips the knight wore a belt with several smaller weapons. In the grass near the warrior’s feet lay a big axe, also decorated in the same stile as the chest armour. Its sharp edges showed traces of the many battles it was used in.

Dawn walked up to this fearless knight and placed her hands on her hips, in that annoyed manner she always used to do things in. “You done yet?”

“Just a little while longer” the voice under the helmet responded. The knight faced the upper sides of the sphere, were a clear crack could be seen in the sunlight. The man held his gloved arms up, making invisible signs in the air. Ozzy watched as the cracks disappeared inch by inch. He couldn’t see the magic, but he could see what it was doing.

The knight was both a warrior and a wizard. The little boy felt happy just to be in the presence of such a person.

Perhaps he should get an armour just like that, for when he’d return to the book store. He’d wonder what Gerald would say.

“Oh boy, what’ve you gotten yourself into this time? No, not in here! Careful now! What? No m’am, he’s not with me. And most certainly not with the shop…Ozzy! Not the children’s corner!”

After the last cracks disappeared and the sphere was as good as new, the knight turned around. From up close he was even more breath taking. The armour was so well crafted it looked like a statue in a rich man’s house. It was just like the pictures Ozzy had seen in the adventure books.

The knight raised a hand and waved at Ozzy. The boy blushed, and bowed his head, feeling a bit shy. He raised a sorry hand and answered with a slow wave.

The knight chuckled under his helmet, while Dawn rolled her eyes for the thirtieth time that day. “C’mon, Osman! Why the long face?”

Ozzy looked up. The knight pushed up the raster in front of his face, revealing two giant turquoise eyes and a wide nose. Buck grinned proudly, placing a fist on his chest. “Didn’t expect that from me, eh?”

The big man laughed as the little boy shook his head in embarrassment. The little elf and the girl exchanged looks, because they could relate for once. It didn’t last long, because Dawn’s eyes reminded Eddy of the weird events of that afternoon. He couldn’t shake the feeling something wasn’t right with this girl.

Buck sighed and removed the helmet off his head, revealing a skin covered in sweat drops. There were no signs of wounds anywhere, where just a while ago he was bleeding all over. His hand disappeared under his chest armour, his fingers taking hold of an object Ozzy couldn’t see.

Then, before he could even blink, the armour disappeared. There was only a soft click, and almost like a curtain, the armour rolled up and disappeared into a silver medallion.

The big man whistled of relief, wiping the sweat off his forehead. “Man, it was hot in there.”

Ozzy recognized the medallion from the time he walked through the underground castle for the first time. It lay with Dawn’s belongings, at her corner of the grand space.

Buck kept whistling as he walked over to a spot in the shadows of a tree, away from the sun. He gestured the rest of them followed him there. As soon as they sat down in the grass, the expression on the demon hunter’s face changed to serious. He stared at Ozzy, almost glaring at him, which seemed impossible to come from the cheerful man. The boy evaded the turquoise eyes by looking at the ground in shame. He’d done something wrong, he knew it. What it was exactly, he didn’t.

Buck took a deep breathe, and Ozzy prepared to be scolded. He expected a barrage of cursing and accusations, a verdict, a fitting punishment for what he’d done. But no such thing happened.

“I must apologize.”

The boy looked up in confusion. Buck was the one bowing his head, looking at the ground in shame.

“I’d made a miscalculation. Thinkin’ the water would be enough to get rid of the mark….how stupid!”

Ozzy blinked, locking eyes with Eddy in the hopes of getting answers. The little elf just shrugged his little shoulders.

“It seems” Buck continued, “the Demon Bird’s power’s greater than I’d anticipated. He’s smarter and more dangerous. It’s rare for a demon’s mark to resist the Holy Water like this…to disrupt personal memories and subconscious in the way he did.”

“The….Holy Water?” Ozzy repeated. Dawn nodded, crossing her arms.

“The Lake I took you to was filled with purified water, also referred to as ‘Holy Water’. It’s supposed to clear every trace of a demon…but apparently the mark he left on your back doesn’t want to leave you just yet.”

Ozzy gulped, remembering the cold stinging in his back. He hadn’t felt them after leaving the Holy Water, but the mark was still there. He was still in danger. And these people too.

“The mark” Buck added, “managed to take control of several parts of your mind already.” The demon hunter rose his arms when the boy’s eyes widened, alarmed by the scary description. “Don’t panic just yet. It’s just your memories he’s been trying to get…does the name ‘Gerald’ ring a bell?”

Ozzy froze, and felt as if all the air was pushed out of his lungs. From what he remembered, he’d never mentioned the book seller before to anyone, not even Eddy. Buck couldn’t possibly know him.

The demon hunter nodded slowly. “So it does. You kept calling out to that person while the mark tried to take over your body…huh? Hey, don’t panic! You’re fine.”

The breathing of the boy had fastened, and Dawn poked her uncle in the stomach with her elbow. “You need to work on delivering bad news to people. Look what you’ve done now!”

The big man scratched the back of his head uncomfortably. He cleared his throat before continuing, while the boy still hadn’t fainted. “You can still be saved, Osman! I’ve come up with a new strategy to recover you from the demon’s claws!”

Ozzy could only understand bits of what the demon hunter was saying. The cold was spreading from his spine and it burned. Pieces of his memories of the book store flashed before his eyes, mixed with images of a shadow coming towards him from the sky.

“Well, get on with it, then!” Eddy grumbled at the demon hunter. “He’s really losin’ it over here, y’know!”

“Right…but shouldn’t I tell him about the blast?”

“NO!” the girl and the little elf said synchronously, but unnoticeably, that was just what the boy needed to wake up.

“Wait” he said, and three heads turned towards him. Ozzy leaned with one hand on the ground, his head facing the grass. He breathed heavily, as if he’d run through the entire forest and just paused. When he looked up, he had the determination of a runner ready to run a few extra miles. “Tell me.”

Buck blinked in surprise, locking eyes with Dawn. She shrugged, as her efforts to get the boy some rest were waved off like nothing. Eddy could only stare at the boy in daze. Ozzy seemed to have grown a bit, if he was not mistaken.

“Well, uh” Buck broke the silence, “so, yeah, the blast. The mark spread over the upper half of your body, into your mind, taking control of some of your memories. For most of the victims, this means the end. But…in your case…uhm…” Buck paused, trying to find the right words. “Well, you either resisted so much, or took control again. But you couldn’t control all the magic the mark was giving you, and so it was released all at once. It blasted a hole in the cave, and even through the outer sphere.” The demon hunter glanced at the spot in the shield, which he just repaired. “By doing that, the blast signalled the demon who marked you. And it headed to here…so that’s kind of what happened.”

Ozzy breathed in and out, taking all of that information in and tucking it somewhere in his mind so he could think about it later. The one thing that kept repeating in his head was the word ‘magic’. He now had magic. And a massive amount of it. He shattered earth and even other magic with it.

Buck said he had no control over it.

“So, that’s what happened” the demon hunter continued. “Now, the plan I had in mind was to use the remaining Holy Water to-“

“Wait” Ozzy interrupted. He straightened his back, feeling the mark on his back clearly now. It was there. His magic.

He sat up, looking the demon hunter in the eyes. Even Dawn was shocked by the sudden change in expression of the boy’s face. It even worried her a little.

“You said something about control, right?” the boy asked. Buck nodded slowly, his eyes cautiously scanning the boy’s body. Did it already happen…?

The man had a feeling where this conversation was going, and he didn’t like it one bit.

“But what if” Ozzy continued, and he felt a smile appearing around his lips, “I could?”

The demon hunter quickly shook his head. “No. Not happening. I can’t allow it.”

The little elf agreed, but was more aggressive about it. He jumped up, waving his thin arms in the air. He ran over to the boy, slamming his tiny fists against the bigger knees. “Ozzy, you idiot! That’s dark magic! Just because you want to become a wizard doesn’t mean you can use any kind that get thrown at you!”

Dawn frowned, and seemed insulted. “I’m sorry, but what’s wrong with dark magic?”

Eddy glared over his shoulder, grinding his teeth. “Lots of things once it gets in the wrong hands!”

Buck crossed his big arms, murmuring in disagreement. “Dark magic is dangerous, I know that as a caster myself.” He looked up at Ozzy, who still seemed hopeful. “I’m sorry, but I can’t allow it.”

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