When she woke up in the morning, Mark was gone. Charlotte don't know when he got up and left, but she know she woke up alone. That was exactly what Darius did to her, and she couldn't help but be bitter about it. What’s the point of sleeping with her if they were just going to leave? Ignoring her bitter thoughts, she got dressed and headed out the door with her nightmare playing in her head.
She hadn't told any of the mages about the shifts in her nightmare, though she didn't understand why they'd need to know about the shifts. If it was a nightmare about one of the other mages, they'd worry. If it was something else, they'd worry. The last thing she needed was for them to worry. Quickly, she changed into a new pair of pants and a shirt and sighed, reaching out for the door.
As she opened the door, she realized someone was opening it from the other side, and blinked at Angelo's narrow-eyed expression. He was looking at her as if he was suspicious and was planning to unearth any secrets she had hidden. Without missing a beat, he walked into the room, shut the door behind himself, and blocked her view of the door.
"You ran away from me yesterday." he cut in, walking forward as she walked backwards. Somehow, she ended up on the bed, and he was still standing in front of her with amusement dancing in his eyes, "Why?"
Why? What would she tell him? That she was afraid of turning into what they were dreading? That every time one of them doubted her it felt like a stab in the heart? What would she tell him without it sounding like a lie or a hope for his pity? Charlotte sat on the edge of the bed, fidgeting with her fingers and trying to avoid answering him to the best of her ability.
"I knew it. You are just like the others." His voice was full of bitterness as he spoke, and he turned back to the door, his shoulders dropping just slightly.
"I'm scared,” She had spoken without realizing the words were in her mouth, and when she looked up at him, Angelo turned to her with his eyebrows furrowed in confusion.
"Of what?" He raised a hand and waved it in the direction of the door, a scoff escaping his lips, "You have nine mages under your command. Nine mages who have sworn to protect you until the day you either free us or return us to their rings. What would you need to fear?"
"That's exactly what I'm afraid of." There was panic filling her heart again, the kind of panic she felt when she had found Ion, and the kind of panic she felt when she found out she was descendant of the ones who put her mages into their rings, "I don't want that kind of power! What if I take advantage of it? What if I hurt you? What if-"
"Do you plan to take advantage of us?" his voice had gone quiet, and a fragile expression took over his face, "Do you plan to hurt us?"
That set of questions didn't leave her any time to hesitate, "No."
The look he sent her was a mix of belief and caution, and he had walked over to her with a hand outstretched before him, "Angelo at your service, master."
"Charlotte, please.” She corrected him before taking his hand, and just as he pulled her off her bed, the room door opened and before she could even register what was going on, Angelo was kissing her.
"We'll finish up
later, okay?" He winked at her before leaving the room, shoving past a
tight-lipped Douglas and a furious Mika.
"Angelo, you pervert!” She didn't have to see Mika to know he had run down the stairs in search of the mage of light.
While the youngest mage ran off, Nico gave her a weary look, "We weren't interrupting anything, were we?"
Pressing her own lips into a firm line and ignoring the stinging of her cheeks, she ran down the stairs following Angelo and Mika. The two of them, as well as the other six mages were in the kitchen and she watched in confusion as Angelo ducked his entire head under the kitchen faucet in order to wash his lips.
"Whoa, what's going on?" Mark was holding Mika back as he asked, his arms wound tightly around Mika in order to keep him in place.
"That pervert forgot how to keep his hands to himself!" Mika hissed, finally breaking Mark's hold off him in order to stand there with his arms crossed over his chest angrily.
Percy, who had been rubbing Angelo's back as if the shorter mage was puking or something, turned his head to look back at Mika with mirth in his eyes, "Don't burst any veins, Mika."
"Mika, calm down and tell us what happened." Nero slowly put a hand on Mika's shoulder and was relieved that Mika hadn't jumped on him instead.
"He kissed Charlotte." That was Nico's voice; calm despite the irritated position took against the wall.
That was enough to have Darius shove Percy out of the way and lift Angelo into the air by his collar, "Did someone give you the permission to kiss her?"
“I didn't know I needed your permission to kiss someone." Angelo answered back, his lips curling into a smirk as he glanced towards both Percy and Kaspar, "Do I need your permission to kiss someone?"
Though Percy had gone quiet with his gaze focused on Angelo, Kaspar's usually joyful demeanor sobered and his lips contorted into a grimace, "To kiss just anyone? No. To kiss Charlotte? Yes."
"Did you forget she is our master?" Dale's voice was scolding Angelo quietly, but when Charlotte glanced at him, his eyes were filled with a pain she couldn't understand.
"Sheesh, it was just a little peck. Fine, I won't kiss her again." Angelo pushed Darius away from himself and wiped his mouth with the back of his arm, "I haven't regretted kissing someone so badly since the time I kissed Percy, anyway."
Everything had gone silent with Angelo's confession, as if it was completely unexpected and no one had anything to say about it. Suddenly, Percy ran forward and slapped a hand over Angelo's lips, "Ang! You said they'd never speak of it again!"
As Charlotte watched, her heart dropped in its cage. Angelo made it sound as if being close to her was a mistake, yet he had been the one to initiate the kiss, and even then his eyes didn’t seem to harden from how they had been fragile earlier. Angelo had to be putting on a facade, yet she found herself wondering why it meant so much that they all had to make it seem like being close to her was bad.
Someone nudged her, and when she checked, Nico was slowly pushing her into another room, "Let's leave them to their lover's quarrel, shall they?"
Percy and Angelo hadn't heard them, but the other mages slowly nodded their agreement and six of them went off to another room while Dale made his way to the backdoor. Because of the way he had looked when he spoke to Angelo, she was worried about him and found herself trailing behind him to the backyard.
Dale was sitting underneath the shade of a tree, and when she walked up to him, he patted the ground beside himself without looking up at her. She sat beside him like he wanted, and as he leaned against the bark of the tree, a thoughtful smile lit his face.
"You're not mad at him, are you?" Dale asked, and she shrugged back as a response.
"He was right. It was just a kiss, no matter how unexpected it was."
"He shouldn't have done it. I did it before and it was a mistake." Dale shook his head, his lips frowning and his shoulders tensing as he spoke, "I used to be an intern for the largest magical corporation in the world, named Freedom. I was surrounded by people who loved knowledge like I did; people who wanted to heal the world and advance it in any way that they could. Then one day, I met a girl named Sienna. Sienna was the most brilliant out of all the people that worked at Freedom, and told me there was a way to harness power from the Gems of Eternity and use it to better the world. The fool that I was, I was captivated by her determination and her will, and I fell for her as she gathered the strongest, bravest, most desperate men in the world. When she told me I could be a part of it- that I could become something great in order to help our world- I believed her. Then, I was turned into this. Because I didn't stop her, eleven other men were ripped out of their lives and turned into Sienna's puppets, and the puppets of everyone who claimed them after Sienna did."
She knew she had an ancestor with a similar name centuries ago. Did that mean Sienna, the beautiful and brilliant woman Dale fell for, was her ancestor? Did that mean that Charlotte really did have relations to the people that cursed these mages?
"You mean you're afraid of one of them falling for me?” She asked him to be sure.
"No matter how incredibly honest and sweet you are, Charlotte... there's always a possibility." He looked grave as he confirmed her suspicions, and his gaze moved down to his lap. She put a hand on his back and rubbed it much like Percy had done for Angelo.
"I wouldn't want it either, Dale.” She smiled at him gently, pulling herself away and getting to her feet, "So don't worry, Dale; I won't let it happen."
"It's not like you can change how we feel about you." After he spoke, she stopped where she was and turned to him, but Dale had also gotten to his feet and walked past her into the house.
When she had gotten into the living room, Angelo was sitting in the corner of the room with his arms crossed over his chest in a sulking manner and the rest of the mages were keeping as far away from him as possible.
"Charlotte!” She looked over to Mark and saw that he'd gotten up and walked over to her, his hands on his hips and his lower lip jutted out in annoyance, "You make sure you let us know if this pervert attacks you again.”
The rest of them were angry as well? With what Dale said, she was now unsure of how any of the other mages felt with her near, and whether or not they shared in his sentiment. Without answering Mark, she climbed back up the stairs and into her room, making sure she locked the door behind her so she could rest in peace.
She didn't know where she was, but she knew it was an odd sight. It was dark around them as they stood there in the massive earthy space. Below their feet, grass was swaying and tickling at them, but just ahead, the grass disappeared and turned into a rocky terrain. She inched toward it, seeing that the rocky terrain had actually been a cliff of some sort. Ion was beside her as she neared the edge of the cliff, though the other mages were just a few feet behind the two of us.
Peering down from the edge of the cliff, she noticed that it was pitch black and she couldn't see anything down there; and especially not the ring box she knew she was supposed to find there. It was pitch black all around us as well, though Angelo had created some small orb of light in order to allow us to see each other. Although she was terrified when she stood at the edge of the cliff, she couldn't help but gasp because it was beautiful. There were stars shining over their heads, and if they were on a cliff, water had to be nearby.
When she peered over the edge again, she was surprised to see a ball of light floating ahead of Ion and she to show her what was down there. Charlotte couldn't see the ring box from all the way up on top of the cliff, but she knew there was a stream of water rushing by. When she glanced back at Ion, he had gotten onto his hands and knees in order to see better, but his shoulders were shaking because there was no way for them to see below the ledge. Then, after taking in a deep breath, and berating herself for even thinking of the idea, she dove from the cliff right into the water.
Thankfully, she didn't die from the impact of the water, and she didn't fall onto any rocks, either, but there was a current pulling at her and making it difficult to get closer to the water. Finally, though, she climbed onto the rocky shore under the cliff and took in deep breaths, looking around for the ring box. The floating ball of light followed her down to the shore and lit her path so she could see around herself clearly.
Then, she spotted the ring box. Ion was at the top of the cliff, and just under the ledge he sat on, the tenth mage's ring box was wedged between the other couple of rocks. Just as she cupped her mouth to call out to Ion, the most terrifying thing happened. The ledge that Ion had been sitting on crumbled, and both Ion and the ring box were falling.
When she had sat up after her nap with her head in her hands and her eyes looking out the window to watch the clouds roll by, it had finally clicked.
The reason why she had dreams to let her know where the mages were was because her ancestors had been there when the mages were hidden.