Pumpkin King

Chapter 10

Erk was sitting at the bar with Julio and Dante. His two friends were scheming a new prank they wanted to pull on Lucinda. Behind the bar and cleaning a mug, was Latran. His suit sleeves were neatly rolled up and his white gloves were pocketed out of sight. He enjoyed playing bartender every now and then. He listened to the two's plan and shook his head with a smile, glad it wasn't going to be him.

But Erk wasn't scheming with them like he normally would. His mind kept flashing back to what happened the day before.

Charlotte slowly got to her feet, setting the repaired stuffed animal on the bar counter. She sniffed and hiccupped once before running for the door.

Erk was about to run after her, but Crest grabbed his shoulder tightly. Erk looked up at him and was shocked to see a pained look on even his face. His grip was so tight that Erk almost shouted out in pain. Then suddenly, he let go. It was only then that Erk noticed that Crest was shaking. Before he could ask any questions though, Crest silently walked to the door with a dark air around him.

"A penny for your thoughts?"

Erk blinked, shocked out of his thoughts, and looked up to see Latran holding a coin in front of him. His eyes were soft and he had a small smile on his lips. He had always been good at reading people, so he knew when someone had something on their mind.

Erk rolled his eyes at the coin, making Latran shrug and, with a twirl of his fingers, the coin vanished. Erk sighed. "I'm just…wondering about what happened."

Latran smiled sadly and went back to cleaning mugs. "Yes…that was your first exposure to it. Charlotte hasn't had an episode like that for a while now."

Erk eyed the man quizzically before asking, "I thought Crest and Charlotte were friends? What happened to make her cry like that?"

Latran shook his head. "I'm afraid it's not my place to tell that tale." His voice went low. "I can't say much but let me tell you this. Haven't you ever wondered why Charlotte, a celestial wizard, has never summoned any of her spirits aside from Nico?" With that, he turned his back to Erk. He waited a few moments until he heard Erk's stool scrape against the floor and his footsteps as he walked away. Then he clenched his jaw and said, barely above a whisper, "Master, I'm not one for praying. But I pray that this works."

Erk stood in front of the job board. It was located right next to the staircase that led to the bar. It wasn't large. Since Pumpkin King was still a relatively new guild, they didn't get as many jobs as some of the older guilds did.

The Master was still allowing him to take jobs, so he hoped that it would distract him if he took one. He saw jobs for killing monsters, raiding bandit hideouts, and even one for performing at a little girl's birthday party. But none of them really appealed to him. Then his eye caught something. On top of the request was the title 'Break the Curse'. The description read, 'A magic key is bringing misfortune to me and my family. Help us be rid of this curse.' Underneath it was a picture of a pitch black key. Erk's eyes widened. Not just any key, a celestial key.

He glanced around until he saw Crest sitting at a table looking gloomy. No one was willing to tell him what happened. So he'd have to go to the sources. And what better way than to go on a job with them.

He put on a confident smirk and walked over to Crest. He sat down in front of him and slammed the job request in front of him. "Hey Crest, take a look at this."

Crest didn't lift his head as he scanned the paper. Then his eyes widened and he let out a shaky breath. "What are you doing?" He asked darkly.

"Nothing." Erk said with a shrug. "I found this job on the board and I thought that Charlotte might be interested in it."

"What makes you think she wants to go on jobs?"

"Well she is a guild wizard. And she's a celestial mage and this job clearly deals with a celestial key." Erk raised his arms in the air. "There's no one in the guild better qualified for this job!"

Crest's eyes narrowed as he took another look at the job request. "Maybe this is what she needs." He muttered to himself. "If she could summon him again, he'd be able to help her heal." He looked across the room at Charlotte, who was sitting at the same table as Jack and Bertrand, sipping tea. Then he made eye contact with Erk and nodded.

The two walked over to the table and put the request in front of Charlotte. "Charlotte." Crest started. "I know that it's been awhile since you last went on a job. Ever since…ever since last time. But you should take a look at this one."

Charlotte's eyes widened and she took a quick look at Jack, who nodded his head towards the paper. The girl picked it up gingerly like it would burst into flame. After she read it over she gasped and shook her head vigorously.

"Charlotte." Jack said gently. "I know it's hard. But you need to start working again. Three years is too long. You need to make a living again." He looked at Erk and Crest. "You two will go with her?"

They nodded.

Charlotte was shaking. Her gripped tightened on the request. "Do I have to?"

This time, Bertrand is the one who spoke. But instead of his usual scolding tone, it was gentle and soft. "Child, what happened in the past, you need to move past it. It might be painful, but perhaps this will be the first step along the path to healing."

Charlotte looked at the four of them. Then, ever so slightly, she nodded her head.

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