Pumpkin King

Chapter 23

They held the ceremony at the place he died. You couldn't call it Lighten Town anymore. After all, Lighten Town didn't exist anymore. There weren't even ruins left. Just a ten mile wide, ten mile deep crater. And at it's very center was a tombstone. They didn't have a body to bury, so it was all they could do for the funeral.

It was raining, but the members of Pumpkin King stood around the tombstone in solemn silence, all dressed in black as the rain fell on them. Jack stood at the front of the crowd, wearing an expensive looking suit instead of his cloak, which looked disproportioned with the pumpkin on his head. He didn't seem to care that he was getting wet as he bowed his head in silence. In his hands was something made of stone. On one side of him stood Bertrand. On the other side were Becky and Erk.

Erk looked over at her and wasn't surprised to see her staring blankly at the ground. She hadn't once looked at the tombstone since they got there. On Erk's right was his grandfather, who had been adamant on coming. His back was straight, adding another foot to his height, and he even neatly trimmed his beard for the occasion. He stood there with his arms folded against his back, his white hair slick with rain.

Erk himself felt numb. He'd been to funerals before. He worked in a train yard. Accidents happened. But this time…it was more personal. He was standing over the grave of one of his friends.

Behind them stood the rest of the guild. Charlotte and Sara were crying. Erk knew they were, but for some reason, his ears refused to register the sound. Lucinda seemed to have put aside her feud with Charlotte, because she had her arms around both girls, trying to console them. But she had tears in her eyes as well.

Next to them were Crest, Julio, and Dante. Crest had known him longer than any of the other guild members. So none of them blamed him for the silent streaks of tears coming from his eyes. Julio and Dante looked about as numb as Erk did.

Off to the side of the rest of them were Tamashi and Lorelai. They hadn't been around long enough to really get to know him, so they stood there awkwardly. Tamashi sported a black eye. She had made a comment about finding his body and bringing him back for a tea party…It took Erk, Dante, Julio, and Crest to get Becky off of her.

They only members that weren't there were Rose and Val. They hadn't managed to wake Val up, so Rose volunteered to stay behind to watch over him.

But the Pumpkin King weren't the only ones there. All around them were people he had helped. Friends and clients…along with every former citizen of Lighten Town. They all stood in the center of that crater, mourning for him.

Then one by one, they started walking up to the tombstone. And it was Pumpkin King tradition to leave a gift on the grave. As Master, Jack went first. He carried with him the piece of stone, which Erk could see now was a carved to look like a pumpkin. When he reached the tombstone, he place the it on top. There was a small glow that lit up the crater and the pumpkin fused itself with the tombstone.

Then Jack bowed his head again and said quietly, "You kept you're promise, my friend, and protected my seedlings. All those years ago, you told me you sought atonement. And I believe you've earned it." Then he raised his head and walked away, only for Bertrand to take his place.

One by one, the rest of the guild went up to the tombstone, left gifts, and said a few words. When Erk finally went up, Jack turned to his grandfather.

"You didn't need to attend, but thank you for coming."

The older man shook his head. "Sir, keep those thanks for someone who needs 'em. That man saved my grandson." He looked at Jack. "It is an honor to be here."

Jack was silent as Erk rejoined them. And soon, everyone in the guild but Becky had gone up. So slowly, the crowd started to thin. People trickled away slowly after paying their respects. Eventually, only Jack, Becky, Bertrand, Erk, and his grandfather were left.

They stood there in silence until Erk's grandpa grabbed his shoulder. "Come on. Let's go home and leave him to rest."

Erk nodded but as they turned to leave, Jack stopped them. "Actually, I'd like a word with your grandfather." He said to Erk. "Think you can make your way back on your own?"

His grandfather opened his mouth to protest, but Erk stopped him. "It's okay, grandpa. I'll meet you on the train." He said. Without saying anything else, he turned and started the walk up the crater and to a train that was waiting for them all.

The two watched him go. "You've done an excellent job raising him…" He paused, realizing he didn't even know the older man's name.

"Frederick." He supplied, a small smile managing to find its way on his face. "Not many people ask my name. Just know me as Erk's gramps."

Jack nodded. "Thank you, Frederick." He said seriously. "Erk is a good kid…but he's going to blame himself for what happened." He looked at the tombstone. "Look after him. I'll take him off mission until he sorts himself out."

Frederick looked visibly relieved. "Thank you, Jack. That will really help."

Jack nodded and the two shook hands before Frederick started up to follow Erk.

That left just Jack, Bertrand, and Becky.

Bertrand was in front of the tombstone, careful not to step on any of the gifts, while Becky was still in the same spot she'd been standing on since they arrived. She was probably freezing from the rain.

Jack stood next to Bertrand and they sat in silence for a moment before he started talking quietly, so Becky wouldn't hear them.

"Got word from the Magic Council." He said, anger quietly seeping into his voice. "They've never heard of anyone named Jilo, let alone sent someone to collect him." He glanced down at Bertrand. "That means he had an accomplice, maybe more than one." Bertrand's face didn't betray his feelings, but he gripped his cane so tightly that the wood creaked under the strain. "We will find him and whoever else he's working with. And we'll wipe them from existence."

Bertrand's hands were practically shaking with suppressed rage. "For once," he said slowly, "I completely agree."

The two both looked down at the grave which read:

Here lies Latran Dalmas

A Pumpkin King wizard

And a new man

But while they said their final farewells, they didn't see Becky staring at them, eyes wide with shock and hair slick with rain. That shock slowly changed to rage as she heard every word they said.

Back in Pumpkin King, Rosemary was leaning against rafter next to Val, watching him sleep with a bottle in her hands.

She took a drink from the bottle and took a deep breath, resting her head in her arms. "So much I've sacrificed." She said to his sleeping form. "At this rate, my life span will start to shorten. I can deal with the strain, but the same scenery day after day…it gets tiring. I couldn't even attend my friend's funeral today." She took another swig and tried working up the energy to glare at him. But in his sleep, he didn't even register her presence.

She set the bottle down and slowly closed her eyes. "All because of you…"

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