The Ring Bearer: Being Found

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Chapter 21

The group had gotten home safely after finding Dale, and Nico had grabbed the eighth mage by the arm and pulled him up the stairs to what she assumed was their shared room. For a moment, the others had stared at each other as if they didn't know what else to do, and then Kaspar realized that Percy didn't have a place to stay and dragged the tall mage up the stairs.

In the end, Charlotte was in the living room with Mark, Mika, Ion, and Nero- the four of which continued to stare at each other as if they didn't know what else to do. She knew she probably should have decided to rest, since she haven't been able to do much of that recently, but her gaze fell down onto her pistols and then back to the mages.

"I'm going to go out.” She didn't explain where she'd go or what she'd do, but after speaking, she had walked out the front door. Someone was calling after her from behind, but it seemed like they all trusted her to come back safely if she went on her own.

A few minutes later, she found herself standing before an old training field. The town was still half-destroyed and full of the stench of decaying flesh, but she was relieved to see there were still some training targets and dummies that she could use while practicing. Though she knew the mages could and would protect her under any circumstance, the fact was that she wasn't willing to be a dead-weight and a liability. If they were ever to go through another town that they had control of, she wanted to be able to fight alongside them instead of wait for the mages to take care of everything for her.

As she pulled her pistols out and aimed them at the training targets, she started to remember what happened when Ion and she had been fighting together. Her pistols, which had been average and old pistols with slow firing abilities, had somehow been able to shoot out bullets of the mages' powers. A ball of wind for Mika, a time stopper for Mark- she wanted to see if maybe she could figure out how to use the abilities.

"First, Mark.” She muttered it under her breath, closing one eye as she raised one pistol to the target, and fired; and surely enough, a bullet in the shape of an hourglass shot out of the pistol and as soon as it hit the training target, it was as if time had frozen around the target. On her side, though, time was moving the way it had been before she shot the pistol. Lowering that hand, she raised her other hand and aimed with the other pistol; a hum escaped her lips as she fired, focusing on Mika's power. When she fired, it was the ball of energy in the form of wind that she recalled from when Ion and she had fought them.

The bullet she had fired with Ion's power had disappeared the second she pulled the trigger, reappearing just before the target and piercing it. For Kaspar's power, the bullet had hit the target the target and its post decayed as she stood there gaping; only then realizing she’d have to move to another target.
For Nico, when she fired, the bullet hit the target and a sheet of ice quickly spread and covered the entire target, then melting and washing the target away. For Nero, the bullet hit the target and it looked as if the target collapsed and destroyed itself; and she had to move to another target for that, as well. The bullet that was using Percy's power also destroyed a target, but for his power, it was because it burnt the entire target as well as the post supporting it.

"That's the last target, too..." For a moment, she was upset that she had been stupid enough to destroy all the targets, but then she remembered the eighth mage and his power of healing. It was a long shot, honestly, but she fired the pistol anyway and was surprised that the bullet actually healed the target that Percy’s power had destroyed. With a relieved grin, she looked down at the pistol in her hand, "Dale's power is my absolute favorite."

"I'm a little offended." Her eyes widened in surprise and she spun around to see who was there, and surely enough, Mika was right there with his arms crossed over his chest. Though he said he was offended, his eyes were sparkling in amusement, and his lips were pulled back to show his toothy grin.

"How did you find me?" Her voice was wary as she asked him that, since she hadn't told any of the mages where she was going, but Mika shrugged and walked over to the target that she had fried using Kaspar's power.

"I follow the wind, so its sudden shifting caught my attention." He turned back to her, his back resting against the post holding the target up, "Why are you training out here by yourself?"

For a few moments, she couldn't answer him. What could she tell him? That she felt useless in comparison to them and thus needed to make sure she could pull her own weight? It was true, of course; but she didn't want Mika to think lowly of her.

"I miss fighting." It was true, though it wasn't the reason why she was out there at that moment, and she had a feeling Mika knew about it. Shaking his head, Mika walked over to her and wrapped his arms around her, sighing gently.

"I miss my life from before this mess started, too." As quickly as he pulled her into his arms, Mika had let go and walked away from her, taking a seat in the middle of the training space. Charlotte wanted to ask him what he meant, but then he laid down with his arms tucked under his head.

Instead of laying down like the mage of wind decided to do, she sat up and watched the sky above us, wondering what Mika could have meant by saying what he said. she know Ion had briefly mentioned a life before he had become a mage, and that Kaspar had told her of his friendship with Percy from before they became mages, but what about Mika?

"When I was a human, I was a dancer." his lips curved into a grin and she looked down at him, slowly grinning herself when she saw the thoughtfulness in his gaze, "I was pretty damn good, too, winning competitions here and there. Everyone said I looked like I was flowing with the wind whenever I danced... I guess that's what brought the unwanted attention, as well. They said they'd help me become even more like the wind. So I was reborn as Phong, though I choose to hide under Mika."

Her eyes pulled away when she noticed the bitterness his tone had taken on, because she couldn't stand to see someone as sweet as Mika be bitter about who he had become, "Well, I don't know about your dancing, but you are the wind to me, Phong."

Mika, who didn’t seem offended in the slightest at her calling of his name, slowly sat up and turned to her, his eyebrows furrowed in confusion as he took in her words, "I am the wind? What do you mean?"

"Calm, but easily excited. Gentle and soothing, yet dangerous when angered.” She glanced at him as she said that, glad to see the smile that was slowly taking control of his face again, and the wind breezed around us as if it were agreeing, "Protective, and always there. Phong, you are the wind."

"Promise me something." When she turned to Mika, his eyes were fixated on her, and she couldn't read the emotions they held, but something had her nodding even without being able to understand what he was going through, "Promise me that you'll stay with us even after we're freed."

His words alarmed her just slightly; since she hadn't thought too much about what was to happen to them all after she freed them. Mika didn't actually wait for an answer and stood up with a hand outstretched towards her. She took it without hesitation and the two of us walked back to the house even though her thoughts still swam in her mind. What was she supposed to do with herself after freeing them, anyway? Was she supposed to return to her old life? Would her life be different in any way? What about them? Will freeing the mages also free their world from the threat of them?

The scent of meat filled their nostrils as they walked into the house, effectively pulling her out of her thoughts and confusing her at the same time. When had they gotten meat, and how were they able to cook said meat? The other mages answered her questions as she and Mika made their way to the back of their house, where in the backyard, a small pile of wood was on fire and roasting what seemed to be rabbit meat. Her stomach flipped at the sight of the meat; she wasn't very big on unusual meats, but it smelled wonderful when she remembered all the bags of rice and curry they had been eating.

"There you are!" Percy ran forward and held out plates for both her and Mika, with pieces of rabbit meat on them; and Mika and Charlotte had to let go of each other in order to eat the meat.

She looked around Percy to see a sullen Dale sitting under a tree in the yard, and after handing the plate back to Percy, she made her way to the eighth mage, "Are you alright?"

There were tears shining in the gentle mage's eyes, and she followed his line of sight to the rabbit. When she looked back to Dale, he nodded his head and stubbornly wiped the tears off his face, "It's alright; I'm just being dumb."

"No you're not.” She sat down beside him and wrapped an arm around his back. Though Dale flinched for a moment, he relaxed into her touch as she rubbed his back, "I can understand how highly you think of other life."

For the first time, a wide smile appeared on Dale’s face, "You don't think I'm being a wimp?"

"No one ever said you were a wimp." Both of their heads snapped up to watch as Darius walked over to the pair, sitting down by her and laying down with his head on her lap. By the lazy and content grin he wore, she assumed he already ate his share of rabbit.

"Ion is right, Dale.” She grinned and nudged Chai lightly with her arm, pulling herself away in order to run her fingers through Darius's hair, "Being considerate of another life doesn't make you a wimp."

"He trusts you enough to tell you his name?" Chai glanced between her and Darius for a few moments and eventually shook his head in amusement.

"But why are you both so trusting of me, anyway?” She asked them both, and Darius turned to her with a soft stare that almost had her looking away shyly.

Dale answered, though his gaze was following as Mark and Mika ran around the yard with a laughing Nico trailing after them, "I’ve begun to learn that when Darius trusts a person, it's alright for me to trust them as well."

"The other day, when they had started arguing in the desert, Kaspar said something." Dale closed his eyes as he spoke, his grin turning into a slight frown, "That it was the first time that we found someone who cared about us and didn't want to use us. You're the first to make us feel like we're real and that we're not just objects used to gain power."

"When you first claimed me, I was afraid." It was Mark who was speaking, and she slowly looked up to see the other mages coming closer to the three with their own plates of rabbit in their hands. When her eyes glanced from Percy's burnt hair to Nero's lopsided grin and finally back to Mark's eyes, she was surprised to see the tears that Mark was shedding, "I thought it was impossible for me to feel like I belonged, even if you kept saying you'd only help us."

"And now?" Her voice was quiet as she spoke, and she had bowed her head because she was honestly a little worried about what he'd have to say to her.

"What do you mean now?" Kaspar scoffed, and she looked up at him to see he had risen an eyebrow skeptically, "Mika had gone to look for you when you left the house, Dale and I killed an animal, Percy almost set the house on fire while cooking the animal, and you have Darius sleeping on you."

"I haven't been here very long, but I’ve never seen the kids be so childish." that was Nero, and her eyes fixated on his lopsided grin once more, "And Kaspar, I haven't seen anyone who puts up with him as well as you do, not even Percy."

Nico slowly sat down on the ground before her, and while she had turned to look at him, his gaze was on Darius's closed eyes, "All I know is that Levi would kill me if he saw this."

"That's the best part, though!" Kaspar exclaimed, clapping his hands together with a loud cackle escaping his lips, "I can't wait to laugh at his uptight face when he meets Charlotte!"

"He's not uptight!" Mark was pouting as he called back, his arms crossed over his chest in a sulking manner, "He’s a great leader!"

The others had turned to glare at him, though Mika had simply shoved him to the side in a bored manner, "He just says that because Levi spoils him."

"I spoil him too, don't me?" Percy demanded, his shoulders sagging in defeat, "Why doesn't anyone ever like me?"

"Do you really have to ask?" Darius opened one of his eyes to peer up at the tall male in bemusement. On her other side, Dale had snickered at Darius's tone and quickly looked away so he wouldn't insult Percy further.

"Levi is going to kill me." Nico buried his head in his hands as he spoke, a grunt escaping his lips as he listened to the other mages bicker, but she watched Nico, wondering why he'd say such a thing. It wasn't the first time the mages had told her about a mage called Levi, and she had yet to even dream about the mage they mentioned. Who was he, anyway, to make even Nico sound like he'd be in trouble?

As they continued to bicker, she leaned back against the tree and watched them silently so she wouldn't interrupt or get them to turn on her, instead. She hadn't expected to find herself being so tired, but she was, and she eventually ended up drifting to sleep.

Only to see her nightmare had returned.


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