Months had long since passed the evening when Howl had seen Ophelia once again, his heart was cracked just a bit but it glowed even more for seeing her again. It seemed every time he saw her, she changed none but seemed to brighten in beauty. His door had now become something of wonder, a spinning wheel sat next to the door with four colors to indicate the places to transport to. Kingsbury being one of them just so that he had a way to keep his contact with the woman and his heart.
The days ran long, especially with the calls to war upon him. His thoughts surged as he partook in them, although against every drop of reason in it. A neighboring kingdom had traded with their land but somehow the oil traded had leaked (by their hands) and he blamed them, putting a war on for show, to make a mockery out of them.
Howl and his master estranged Madam Sulliman were to take part in the war together and in all honesty, he had no need or thoughts to do what was asked of him. So in part he did the minimum effort so his head would not be at the chopping block.
Sitting in his large chair in front of Calcifer he took notice to the clutter that had begun to pile on top of each other, prizes from the places he had gone to and things he found beautiful were beginning to take part in his house and no thoughts were placed upon them. Until he thought of how she would think of it and then he would sigh and find a new position to lie in for he did not have the mental ability to keep his thoughts of her, the war and how he kept his castle all at once in his head and after a few moments, he fell asleep to the soft crackles of his fiery friend.
Ophelia had taken to walking around the back alleys of the kingdom as to not be constricted of people by her side all at once. She had a weird thing of too many people touching her at once and quickly wanting to run away, as if her body was seemingly enclosing on itself. Her thoughts were clamped and she was immobile until she could regain her thoughts, thus taking less used ways to get to her destinations.
As she walked around, her ears would usually pick up on conversations not meant for all ears like on the war, how come the King was pushed around by the wizard in his castle and where Howl's castle was put in Kingsbury (or as the Kingsbury men called him, Wizard Pendragon). Another day and another soft murmur of people around her, that is until something shot past her leaving a couple shouting guards in its wake.
They're clamor consisted of things such as bringing this child to war, a thing of magic is no joking matter no matter how young, he is needed. She looked down the old alley to see a red haired boy running away quickly from the impending doom behind him. The soldiers were still a bit in front of Ophelia as she could tell and without another thought she quickly took off, after the child.
The soldiers had thought they only scared her with their excitement so they paid her no mind, that is until the young wizard in training tripped over a rock and was fallen over, clutching his knee to his chest. In no time he was gripped in arms tightly and then continued to rock around as if still running.
The young child began to panic until a voice began to soothe him quietly, the motherly voice came from above him. A beautiful woman with light green eyes looked down at him, her hair had begun to fall from the ponytail it had been in tickling his face with its golden strands. She smiled faintly at him before tucking him into her cloak and dashing out into the busy streets. Her heart pumped faster as the footsteps of scattered soldiers came from behind her and the bodies around her pressed against her warm body to make it hot and sweaty. Her thoughts were over run by the mindless touches of everyone else until the young boy in her arms squirmed a bit and she took to protecting the boy before her useless fears succumbed her.
There was one place she knew as safe, one area of the world that no one dared to barge into, well it seemed except for her. She shuffled back and forth through the crowds and found herself standing in front of the doorway, the place she didn't really want to come to but knew it was her only chance. And with that, she knocked.
Howl laid stiffly on his chair, his eyes shut as he breathed in and out softly as he slept. The thick amount of air around him gulped quickly into his nostrils and back out to produce more. The simple action was quickly interrupted by a loud knock on his door, he choked on the air he had been in the middle of breathing and fell right out of his chair. Glaring at the door he sat up, rubbing at his eyes before sitting back in his chair with no intention of getting the door in his irk.
"Howl, aren't you going to get that?" Calcifer asked quietly as he looked at the man of the house timidly, the knocks came again, louder. Howl crossed his arms over his chest like a child.
"Howl." Calcifer scolded quietly.
"Howl!" A voice called as well, bringing the blonde man from his anger quickly. The voice of an outstanding beauty came to him and he quickly stood walking slowly to the door in disbelief. "Howl, it's me. Ophelia?" She called again, she never came to him. What sort of trickery had someone gone to? "Howl please, it's important!"
He scrambled from where he was inching slowly to an almost sprint and opened the door for her, she rushed inside and sat down quickly on the wooden floor clutching something to her chest. Howl walked slowly to her, confused and bewildered at her looks and just… her. She was disheveled, hair everywhere clothes ruffled, cloak holding something. It squirmed. Someone.
She opened her arms and unwrapped the cloth to reveal a seven-year-old child. She looked up at him with great sadness as the child sat cross-legged like she in front of her. "They wanted to use him for the war." She remarked, looking to the child rubbing his red hair from his face in comfort.
"They've been doing that for a while now."
"What? Children as weapons is no war, it's pathetic and cowardly. A child has no means to see horrors so young. Even if blessed with magic, the King has no right to pursue this."
"It's not the King I'm afraid, but Madam Sulliman. She has not found herself with the liking of numbers and has come to raising it with children. We seem to be winning for who would want to kill a child like you would kill a man. It's easy with someone of your like, same thoughts, ideals, experience. Yet a child…" He looked down at the child on the floor close to tears. "is naïve, childish, weak. It's the ultimate excuse to surpass this war."
Ophelia rolled her eyes at his words and looked at the boy who continued to stare at the two. "Hey kid, what's your name?" She asked quietly, taking his small hand in hers.
"Markl." He whispered quietly, scooting closer to her.
"Alright Markl, would you like me to take you back home?" She asked with a small smile that Howl found really made her face to what it should be.
"I don't have one miss." He whispered to her, shaking next to her as he had moved closer to Ophelia as time went on.
"Oh sweetheart, well… um," She looked around the room before seeing Howl watching the two. "Howl, could we talk in the other room for a moment." He nodded slightly and the two made their way.
"What is it?"
"Would you take him on as your apprentice?" She exclaimed, clutching the fabric of his shirt, looking up at him with pleading green eyes. He looked at her with a conflicting expression.
"He's just a child."
"A child without a family though." She looked at him then sighed. "Listen, I would take him home if I could, but I can't. My family wouldn't accept him and he'd be even more of a black sheep. If you leave him here with you I'll come whenever I can. Make dinner, clean around the place, et cetra but please would you keep him here." He didn't seem to give until she looked up from twiddling her thumbs. "It means you'll see more of me, Howl." She said with a sigh, knowing she was just leading him on but she knew something may come out of it.
He sighed rubbing a hand over his face with a sigh. "Alright, okay, I'll do it."
She gave him a wide smile before kissing his cheek. "Thank you Howl, I'll try my best to repay you for your kindness."
"Maybe a kiss on the lips will be enough payment." He laughed leaning down to her face.
She only laughed in his face before walking away from him. "Maybe another day, pretty boy."
Ophelia walked into the room with Markl, she looked to where he had been and noticed the vacant spot before hearing quiet muttering from the fire place. He and Calcifer had begun to talk to each other. "Markl." She called and the seven-year-old child walked over to her, she picked him up into her arms and smiled at him. "Howl's going to take you on as his apprentice, so you're going to stay here and I'll come visit whenever I can." She said with a small sad smile.
He smiled at her and poked her nose. "Okay, I'm very happy. Thank you so much miss and mister Howl."
"Oh no, no. I'm Ophelia." She said to him.
"You're not married?" He asked with a perplexed look.
"Well then maybe one day."
She only sighed before replying "Maybe one day."
She left soon after that and Howl's heart began to thrum like a butterfly inside Calcifer and the young boy could only watch on with no way to help.