The Ring Bearer: Being Found

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Chapter 23

While Percy jumped up in excitement, screamed Angelo's name, and ran up the stairs with a frantic Kaspar running after him to make sure she wouldn’t take out her anger on him, the other five mages stood where they were and turned to look between herself and Nico. Nico held a hand out to them, and after a moment, the other mages climbed up the stairs and she was alone with Nico.

"I-is something wrong?" His eyes were stern as he watched her, barely keeping in the question he wanted to ask her. He was still standing beside her as she sat in the chair, and slowly crouched before her.

"Why did you call him by name, Charlotte?" He wasn't angry, but she felt some sort of anger as he spoke, he was questioning her and doubting her, and she had no idea why, "And don't tell me you don't know. I’ve heard stories from the others- how did you know our names before you claimed us?"

"But I really don't know.” She shook her head frantically, feeling like an idiot because she didn't know what to tell him, "They kept telling me I said the names of the mages before I found them, but I never learned their names before meeting them."

Nico didn't seem to be very convinced, but sighed and ran a hand over his face in resignation.
"I don't understand any of this." His eyes snapped up to her then, and there was a mix of desperation, anger, and longing in his eyes, "Why is it you? Why are you the one who's able to claim us? Why not someone else?"

Was he expecting her to answer that when she herself have been asking those same questions without getting an answer? Charlotte was the loser, the outcast of her town, and all of a sudden, she became someone who had dreams about rings, found mages, and promised to free them. She had no idea what she had to do with them, and she had no idea why it had to be her and not someone else. She could barely shoot a target during training, and had clumsy feet.

"I don't know the answer to that, either, Nico, but I do know this," His eyes hadn't strained or moved away. However, the look in his eyes softened just a touch as if he knew it was just as hard on her as it was on him, "I have the ability to claim you all and to free you, and I'm going to do it no matter what it takes."

Dropping his head for a moment, Nico's shoulders shook, and though she thought he had gotten angry, it was just that his shoulders were shaking in laughter and he looked up at her in relief, "I know you will, Charlotte. Though this entire situation is completely strange, I know that you are never going to betray us."

As his last statement swirled in her head, Nico got off the ground and made his way up the stairs to get ready for their next adventure. They had just gotten Dale, and the short amount of time that separated finding the next mage was surprising, but also relieving. Though it was weird and exhausting to have to go and find them all so quickly, she wanted to reunite all twelve of them, because she knew they were imperfect even after losing just one.

Slowly, she stood and climbed up the staircase to change into dry clothes, but she stopped at the top of the stairs when someone’s body blocked her. Nero's, to be exact.

"There's something about you that makes it easy for us as mages to trust you." Nero's lips curved into the lopsided grin she was seeing often from him, and he brushed past her to get down the stairs, "Don't betray us."

Nico said she wouldn't betray them, but Nero warned her not to betray them as if he was sure it would happen one way or another. She still wasn't even sure if they trusted her or not, but either way, her job was just to unite and free them.

When she had returned to the living room after changing, the front door was wide open, and she could hear the mages' excited voices shouting about either how excited they were to find the next mage, or how annoyed they were to find the next mage.

"I swear if that guy puts makeup on me while I sleep, he's going to get it." Darius's voice was bitter as he spoke, and she couldn't help but tilt her head in confusion as she heard him speak.

"Why do I always walk into weird conversations?” She muttered it to herself, but Darius was standing nearby and chuckled as he heard it.

"They're only going to get weirder here on out." He nudged her as he spoke, too, and she couldn't help but smile at the changes Dale had undergone since she found him. While he was afraid and only spoke when he needed to before, he was a lot more relaxed now, and she was always awestruck when she saw his one easy going smile.

"Charlotte's here, now let's go." Mark quickly walked off as if her sudden arrival was the perfect reason to stop the conversation where it was.

"Don't be so hasty, Marky." Kaspar walked up to the younger mage and slung an arm around Mark's shoulder, ignoring the way Mark squirmed under his touch, "Don't you want to tell Charlotte about the time you dressed up like a girl?"

A girl? As Mika, Dale, Percy, and Darius started to snicker; she walked over to them and peered up at Mark's reddened face in curiosity, "You dressed up as a girl?"

"It was a long time ago." The redness from his face was quickly spreading to his ears, and she couldn't help but feel guilty about teasing him.

"Angelo has an obsession for makeup and manipulating us into doing whatever he wants." Mika joined as they walked, slinging his own arm around Mark's unoccupied shoulder.

"He promised Mark candy if he dressed up." that was Kaspar's voice again, and she glanced around Mika and Mark to see his smirk had widened, "We just never expected Mark to overdo it."

That caused for Kaspar, Percy, and Mika to laugh at Mark's distressed state, but she had already turned away and stared at Dale in suspicion. Though he had handled the map before, he preferred just walking without having the responsibility of leading us to the next mage. He was holding the map then, however, a frown twisted onto his face and a deep sigh reverberating off his chest.

"Don't worry about it," Percy's voice surprised her and she quickly turned back to see him winking over at Darius, "He's just sulking because they're finding Angelo before the love of his life."

"Percy!" Darius's growl had Percy's face freeze instantly, and she was surprised to see Darius so angry at the goofy male. Then again, it was Darius, and Darius had some anger issues, "I do not love him! I am in love with-"

The other mages had stopped in their tracks, but she had kept going since whoever he was in love with had nothing to do with her. Before she realized it, a tear had escaped her eye, because she just thought of how the boys lost all the people they loved and had to go on for many years without love.

"Charlotte..." Mika's voice sounded close, and when she looked up, Mika was watching her expression closely, "Why are you crying?"

Wiping her eyes, she turned back to Darius to see his own expression was much like Percy's was earlier, "The person you love. Are they still living?"

"Why should I answer?" He got defensive and for a moment, she thought she should just leave it, but her feet had walked over to him and she stopped just before him, causing Ion to gulp, "O-okay. She's alive. Calm down, Charlotte. I don't need to be punished like Kaspar and Percy were."

Now she didn't punish them the way a master would punish a slave, but she did punch them a couple of times, and both mages were too busy trying to protect their faces to fight back.

"Good, then there's a chance you can be together.” She smiled at the thought before her eyes wandered to the rest of the mages, "When I free you, you can all... well, be happy again."

"I am happy, though." Mark's voice was gentle and full of sorrow as he spoke, but he turned and continued walking to where the Chapel was on the map. She stared after him for a moment, and then the rest of the mages passed her, leaving her at the back with none other than Nico.

"They're getting attached to you." Nico's voice wasn't accusatory or anything, but the faintest of frowns was playing on his lips as he spoke, "The other day, Mika told me that if it meant being separated from you, he'd rather be attached to that ring for the rest of eternity."

That caught her off guard. Mika had already asked her to stay with them after she freed them, but even saying he'd rather be with her than be free? She didn't like it at all. They've longed for freedom all the years they were mistreated and left hidden and separated from one another, but they suddenly wished to stay with her?

"I don't want that, Nico." Nico turned to her again as she said that, his eyes widened in disbelief, "Even if I can't be with you all after you're free, I'd much rather let you live again in peace."

"Douglas. Call me Douglas." Her eyes widened as much as his own did, since she never expected even him to become so comfortable that he'd tell her his name. His eyes were straight ahead as they walked, though his frown turned into a small smile, instead, "Sometimes, having someone to tell you how to live is freedom. I learned this when I was still getting ready to take the throne."

"The throne?" Her eyebrows furrowed, because thrones usually meant castles, which usually meant power and a lot of it.

"Yes, I was once a Prince." Nico's hands folded behind his back, a light chuckle as he continued, "People get so used to being told how to live that when they're given the freedom to tell themselves how to live, they don't know what to do."

"You were a Prince.” She whistled, because she hadn't expected to be so close to anyone that was meant for a throne, but she wasn't so entranced by his words that she couldn't formulate a comeback, "Just because you haven't been in control of your own lives for years, it doesn't mean you can't learn to take control of them again."

"Your future is yours to live, Douglas, not someone else."

They had lapsed into silence after that, since the trouble makers had caused another argument with Darius and led Nico to watch them like an angry and overprotective parent. Charlotte couldn't help but take glances at the male beside her; only then seeing all the "Princely" qualities to him. Dignified and stern, calm and calculating, loving yet cautious; just like the water.

"Oh my-” She had walked into Kaspar's back as he spoke, cutting him off effectively and bringing herself more confusion as to what was going on.

"Ang..." Mark's voice was just over a whisper, and the youngest mage was shuddering in place as he stared up at the Chapel she remembered from her dream.

“He's here?" the next voice belonged to Dale, full of doubt and heavy with worry as he walked closer to the half destroyed Chapel.

“Help me.”

Charlotte followed Dale, ignoring Mika’s call to be careful, her eyes following the several swirls and patterns on the underside of the stained glass in search of the spot she was looking for.

"I think I see it." There was a mix of fear and hope in Nero’s voice, and when she glanced over at him, he was pointing at the center of the roof, and she looked at it from underneath the stained glass, relieved that it was the dark spot after all.

"Percy! Get down from there!" Her eyes snapped to where Nico was standing and anxiously watching Percy, who was almost halfway up the side of the building before it started to shake and a curse unknowingly left her lips.

“Help me.”

"I can fix it!” She called to the other mages and as they looked at her like she had gone insane, she tried remembering how to call on the mages' powers. She had been able to use Mark's power when needed, Mika's power, Darius's power, Kaspar's power, Percy's power- and there was no way she wouldn't at least try to use Dale's power to help them reach the next mage. That was when everything turned the familiar yellow-orange hue she remembered from the dream, fading away slowly and leaving a perfectly structured building in its wake.

"How did you do that?" Dale's voice trailed after her as she got closer to the building and a giddy Percy.

“Help me.”

The tall male tried to scale up the building again, but when she had gotten closer, he turned to her and tilted his head to the side as if to ask her what she was trying to do, and she simply pointed to the building. Percy bent down slightly and cupped his hands together, and after she stepped onto his hand, he raised her up as high as he could, allowing her to do the rest of the work. It hurt a lot more than she figured it would, and she laid on the roof, heaving for a few minutes before finally catching her breath and her dignity and crawling over to the ring box.

Slipping and rolling down the roof hurt a lot more than she thought it would, and she couldn't believe how many times she had already gotten hurt while simply trying to find the rest of the mages. Thankfully, when she fell off the roof, Darius had teleported himself closer and caught her in his arms, his lips contorting into a smirk.

"How can I leave you when you're always falling for me?" He winked as he said and she rolled her eyes, shoving at his chest so he'd let her go. He did, laughing as he put her down.

"What are you waiting for?” She almost glared at Kaspar's expectant gaze but ignored it and fumbled with the velvet box in her hand before opening it.

There was a small ball of light on the center of the ring, and after running her finger over it and admiring the gemstones, she pulled it out of the case and slipped it onto one of her fingers. It seemed that when the white light started to shine, it was shining brighter than the other rings; and when the light faded, her jaw dropped.

In front of her stood a male who was much shorter than Percy was, his dark eyes matching his even darker brown hair and his lips pressed into a firm line of disapproval. Though it seemed like Percy was going to jump him and suffocate him in his glee, the mage of fire stared at her and allowed her to get the first greeting done, "Who are you?"

Slowly, his arms lifted and crossed themselves over his chest, and a scoff escaped his lips, "Get on your knees and kneel, you peasants. The mighty Angelo has arrived."

Charlotte had a feeling that adding Angelo to the trouble-making duo was a bad idea.

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