Darkside being there at that time only meant trouble for the seven of them. Darkside was a group of warlocks, and they spent most of their time traveling from town to town in order to make sure the magical borders were sturdy enough to keep them from entering. She didn't know them very well, since she was an outcast in her town but they had been in their town several times since she was a child.
Now why did she have the feeling that Darkside was who had been watching and tracking their progress? She had found a strange symbol in the study room; it was a strange indecipherable symbol and it was just hanging on the wall as if there was nothing else for it to do. That same symbol that appeared onto the shirts of all six Darkside warlocks, and that was only when she recognized them and realized it was them and not someone else.
They stopped before the seven, leaving just a few meters of distance between their groups. Despite not knowing what was going on or who the other six boys were, the mages beside her started leaning into fighting positions and after sparing them a quick glance, she stepped past them towards Darkside.
"Charlotte." Mark's voice had a warning in it, and though she knew he was probably trying to look out for her, she simply kept stepping closer to the six men she knew nothing about.
"You must be the master, then." The male who spoke was tall, skinny, and fairly young- perhaps even younger than Mark and Mika were.
She frowned at him for a moment before her eyes swept over the other members on his side, finally landing on a bulky blonde haired man all the way to the end, "Who are you, and why are you tracking us?"
"I'm Otto." the burly man had a deep voice as he spoke, his hand sweeping the air to his hand over to the warlocks beside him, "This is the rest of Darkside. You must be Charlotte."
She found herself being horrified by the fact that they knew her name, and a younger male with a mask covering the lower half of his face took a miniature step forward, "Some guy from your town tipped off the radar so all magical personnel would know you were doing something as reckless as finding these rings."
"Reckless?” She heard herself ask, knowing exactly who had tipped them off. Senior Leo had acted suspicious when she told him of the dream, and now she was sure senior Leo had someone sent to look after her like a child.
"Why are you helping them?" It was a different male speaking now. A male who was as tall as Otto but with more feminine features, having her questioning her own looks in comparison to his, "Surely you know the truth about them."
"What are you saying?" That was Mika, and his voice had twisted in an anger she'd never heard from him.
"You don't know anything!" Kaspar was the next to shout, and again, she was surprised at the anger in his tone and looked back at them.
"We know that you were put in your rings because-" It was a shorter male with a round face and spiked blonde hair, his finger pointing accusingly at the mages behind her.
Nico was calmly staring at the males in front of them for a moment before taking a couple of steps and standing beside her, "-You shouldn't speak about what you don't know."
"What? Are you going to deceive her?" A male of average height spoke; a male who also had a gaze that looked into the distance.
"She doesn't need to know our past.” She had to agree with Mark, though she never said a thing. Their past wasn't important to her like their future would be.
Just as the feminine male was about to speak again, Otto held up a hand and effectively stopped everyone on his side from continuing, "We didn't come looking for a fight-"
"I find that hard to believe." Darius's voice was calm, but held anger and she could only gulp down her fear when remembering how Darius had been fighting through those creatures.
"Look, there are things you need to know before you free them." Otto spoke as if Darius hadn't interrupted and she couldn't help but stare at him in bewilderment, "We can't talk while they are around, but when you do want to talk, you'll know where to find us."
"She's not going anywhere near you." Nero stepped forward much like Nico had done earlier and blocked her view of the warlocks. Though she was grateful for the barrier, she wanted to know why Darkside knew everything about the situation despite the fact that they weren't ever around before that time.
Perhaps Darkside really did know something about the BLOOD mages that she needed to learn in the future. Making sure that her mages didn't notice, she caught the gaze of the tall skinny male and nodded. He grinned for a moment before turning back to his sand bike.
The seven of them waited and watched as the Darkside warlocks drove off and disappeared, and she was surprised that none of the mages had gone after them. It was sure that they had at least thought about running after Darkside, since the group of warlocks seemed to be a threat to them, but their tense postures and the glances they sent her spoke differently. They knew that if they ran after Darkside, she'd think it would be suspicious.
"Let's go home." Kaspar was the first to break the silence, with a wide grin and his arms stretched over his head. He walked over to Nero and wrapped an arm around the mage of empathy carelessly, his lips curving into a lazy grin, "You'll be sharing a room with me."
"Just like old times." Nero's excited grin left an imprint in her head as the two walked off with Mark, Mika, and Darius trailing after them and muttering complaints under their breaths.
"They were right about something." Nico's voice shocked her, as she expected him to ignore her and be the first to walk off, but when she turned to him, she found his gaze fixated on the lake that was now flowing smoothly, "There was a reason why we were put in those rings. When you find out why, you might wish to put us back where you found us."
"Mark was also right about something." Nico's eyes turned back to hers slowly, his eyes sparkling with confusion and disbelief, "Your past is your past. It is unchangeable. Your future can be changed, however. You can start all over."
She ran to catch up with the mages after she said that. Nico might not like her very much, or trust her, for that matter; but she knew that she had a duty, and nothing could deter her from that. Charlotte had promised Mark that she'd free them, and she would do it no matter what she was told about the mages. Darius ended up teleporting all of them back to the house, since they were actually pretty exhausted and knew they couldn't fight through them again, but she wondered why he was able to even though they couldn't use their powers against one another.
They left her alone when they got into the house; Mark had joined Kaspar in showing Nero their current room, and the other three had gone off to find Nico's room. Though she was tired and a part of her just wanted to go back to her room and sleep, she knew that she had to sort out her thoughts before she could. So, she plopped herself down onto the sofa and tilted her head back to look at the ceiling as she pondered what was going on.
Why did the sorceresses hide the mages in their rings? Why was it so "reckless" of her to find them? Why was Darkside warning her? What were the mages so afraid of her knowing about?
"If you think so hard, your brain might fall out."
When she looked up, Nero was standing at the foot of the stairs with a childlike lopsided grin on his lips, his clothes traded in for a pair of pajamas that made her wish she had just gone to sleep instead.
"You and Kaspar are perfect for each other.” She mused; crossing her arms and watching the mage rub the back of his neck with a sheepish grin.
"Mind if I join?" he motioned to the spot on the sofa beside her, and after shifting to make space for him, she gave him a nod.
"Where are the others?"
"Oh, the kids? They all went to sleep." He shrugged lazily as he took a seat, his legs kicked out before him and his head tilted back like hers was just moments before, "Nico went to shower, that water imp."
"... The kids?” She asked in confusion, glancing at him and then towards the staircase.
"You didn't know, right." Nero chuckled as he ran his hand through his hair, shifting in his seat to make himself more comfortable, "I'm the eldest mage out of the twelve of us."
"You?! The eldest?!" If she didn't know Mark and Mika were the youngest two, she would have picked Nero to be the youngest, what with his excitable personality and young facial features.
"Yeah, yeah. I get that reaction a lot." He shrugged as he said that and she smiled back at him sheepishly, knowing he probably got annoyed when people did it to him so often, "I have a question for you, though. You don't have to answer."
Just hearing him speak sparked her curiosity. He was probably going to ask her why she was finding them all or something, but she knew she had to be polite and ask anyway, "What is it?"
Nero's gaze shot over to the staircase before returning to her, whispering as if he was worried one of them would come and listen in on their conversation, "The younger mages. What do you think of them?"
"They're amazing." Her mouth moved before she could even think of what she wanted to say, and she felt a smile grow onto her lips to mirror what was shown on Nero's, "They love each other and take care of each other like they're brothers or something. Then, they're always messing with each other and trolling each other. If they argue and Mark starts to cry, they smother him in hugs and apologies."
The mage stared at her for a few moments before he stood and crossed back to the staircase, throwing a gaze over his shoulder at her as he climbed the stairs, "They were right. You are different."
What could he have meant by that? Was he thinking something else of her before he decided to talk to her? Why did he so wise seem despite his young face and personality? Why did he seem to have such a gentle smile when he looked at her? Did that mean he accepted her or that he was thinking of a way to get rid of her?
It was a long and eerie hallway, the chandeliers above swaying from side to side dangerously. She had no idea where she was, but something about the walls was oddly familiar. Her feet were padding against the ground slowly, fearfully, as she walked, her eyes darting around as if something would jump out of the shadows and attack her. Then, she had turned around in a sudden and frightened manner.
Something was following her, and she didn't know what it was. All she knew was that a small light was shining in the distance and it was slowly creeping closer to her. She did the only sensible thing and turned again, running in her original direction and throwing several glances over her shoulder. She was horrified to know that the light, whatever it was, was following her.
Then, she ran straight into a dead end, barely rubbing her face and groaning because she knew that probably hurt more than it looked like it did. When she turned around, she noticed that there was barely another way to escape from the lights and then her eyes found a door. It was a longshot, but she opened it and shut it behind her, hoping it didn't make a sound for the light to find.
An arm grabbed her from behind as soon as she figured it was safe enough to hide in the room for a few minutes, and she turned her head slowly, her mouth dropping open in order to scream at the top of her lungs.
"Wake up, dammit!" Darius's voice wrenched her from the nightmare she was having, and her eyes darted around at her surroundings as she took in shallow breaths.
Charlotte had somehow dozed off on the sofa, though she was surprised to find the mages standing around her with worried and possibly agitated expressions on their faces. She wondered what could have agitated them before her hand flew to her mouth. Could it be that she actually screamed... and loud enough for them to hear her?
Then her gaze went back to Darius, who had been holding her by arms, and she pulled herself away as she jumped up. There were still bruises from their previous adventure and she was freaking out over the nightmare.
"Charlotte, are you okay?" Mark leaned toward her with his hand outstretched, but much like with Darius, she leaned away and made sure her gaze was fixated on the ground.
"B-bad dream." that was all she could mutter, and after the mages glanced at each other in worry, Mika gently pushed her back onto the sofa and took a seat on the ground with Kaspar, Nico and Mark. Nero sat on her right while Darius refused to leave from her left side, and they sat there together for what seemed to be an eternity before she found herself drifting off again.
Like what Darkside and Nico had told her, she didn't know much about the mages she promised to help. However, she did know something; and that was that those boys been kind and sat with her for hours after she woke them up with her screaming, soothing her and telling her several times that everything would be okay; that they would be there to help, and she almost believed it.
She would have believed it more if their words could stop the eerie hallway from popping into her head every time her eyelids shut.