Chapter 18:

Truth Among Rivals.

Full Moon! Through the Rings of Love

The further into this realm we walked, I started seeing sand everywhere. The humidity and swamp had all but left, now it was just dry heat.

Needless to say, it wasn’t much better at all. It put us all in a foul mood to go from one extreme to another.

Fortunately for us, the Favron birds hit a sudden growth spurt and were large enough to ride on across the coarse surface. We had the hot sun beat down on us the whole time, but at least we didn’t have to worry about walking.

“How much further must we go?” Luna asked, trembling from the heat as she held onto my back while we rode the bird together.

“No clue,” I replied. “But I think that this road is going to end soon.”

That was just an educated guess at best. A very, very loosely defined road was our only marker of civilization. It started to appear at the end of the sludge swamp.

The only reason I figured it would end soon is because we’d been on it a while, and these rings had more or less been light on travel distance.

“This is peasant work!” Charlie shouted, faintly laying on the bird and crying. “My skin is burning! My beautiful skin is melting!”

Out of all of us, he had the lightest skin. Luna had a tan complexion, and Zumi and I were not too far from that either. We wouldn’t be burning as easy as him, but we weren’t immune.

Admittedly, I hated this too. It was a miserable trek and I wanted to get it over with. But his complaining was making it all the more worse.

“Careful, Charlie. You might cry away all the water in your body.” I commented.

“Silence! Pre-mage!”

“I'll say what I want.” I grumbled. “I’m sick of hearing all the whining.”

“Why must you make this worse?!” He barked back. “Why did I agree to come with before? Was I crazy for trusting these people?”

“You came because the world will lose magic otherwise.” Zumi argued. “Both of you need to quit whining about each other!”

Everyone was irritable. However, Luna was the least so.

“Please everyone, don’t fight. We have to work together." If it weren't for her, we'd probably have given up by now.

Luna managed to keep the most energy out of all of us, despite being the most physically exhausted. She probably had her royal bloodline to thank for that.

Just thinking how much longer we may have to walk was getting me even more upset. But Luna gracefully keeping herself together behind me gave me a little motivation to keep going.

A little bit further…a little bit further…


How much water had we gone through here? Zumi’s create water spell was losing potency because she’d used it so much on us.

We were in a bad way after a few hours of travel. I was starting to really worry we’d taken a wrong turn or something.

“There!” Luna shouted. “A respite!”

A blurry building of sandstone came into sight. Could this have been a mirage? I’m sure we’d seen a few on the horizon by now, but they were well away from the path.

Either way, it was in our path. Going there might have been the best thing for us.


Finally, we made it to the building. It definitely couldn’t have been a mirage, because we were close enough to touch the sandstone.

We all cautiously entered the building.

It wasn’t great, but it was out of the sun and much cooler. The drawback was that it was really stuffy here.

“Man, I’m hot.” I whipped the sweat from my brow. “Do we really not have any magic to deal with this?” I asked.

“We don’t. None of us were training to be adventurers, so we never bothered taking those spells.” Zumi answered.

Yeah, that’s about right. Never thought I’d curse the day I was raised in a temperate climate. How about that?

Charlie was breathing like a dog in here. I felt bad for him, but nearly half of our water reserves were given to him already. He really couldn’t take the heat.

“Agony! What agony!”

“You doing okay, man?” I asked, helping him take a seat in the corner.

“No, but I’ll live. I’ve been in worse places than this with my master.”

I’d always figured he and his master went to strange places. What would motivate someone to want to even become an egresser mage if this could happen?

“Why did you want to take this magic class anyways?” I asked.

As I figured, he wanted to get rich quick using his power. But his explanation surprised me.

“I was worried that if my father ever lost his wealth, I would be called upon to provide for my family. You see, he’s very ill. Not deathly, but he cannot work anymore.”

“Really? Dang…” I pat him on the shoulder. “I had no idea.”

“The more I try to impress people, the more attention I get. Even if my stories are complete fibs, at least people will know my name. I’ll be able to get work then.”

Why was he telling me this? We were having a serious man to man right now, and we hated each other.

“What’s gotten into you? I thought you hated me. You’ve never told me your life story.”

He scoffed, then he waved his hand in a denying motion.

“Bah! Fool! I never…I never really hated you. But you drive me up a wall with how much you waste your potential.”

There he goes again, saying I’m a waste. It didn’t take long to get back to the status quo.

“Charles…” Luna chimed in, “what do you mean by that?”

“I mean he is an artistic man, and he doesn't even try to make it anymore than a backyard hobby.” He glared at me. “You’re not perfect, nobody is but me, but at least you could try and show off a bit. People would be very impressed.”

So, Luna was right. He did admire my skill as an artist. But since when?

“How long have you felt this way?” I asked.

“Since we were children. I always noticed you were terrible with magic. But when you picked up a paintbrush, you put all the other kids to shame. Even some wand painters can’t come up with the imagination you have.”

“I see…” I sat back against the wall next to him. “So, you figured making fun of me would get me into professional art?” I teased him.

“Don’t be a fool!” He growled. “Just take the compliment and don’t waste your talents anymore. Perhaps I’d hire you, when you're more skilled.”

His compliments were surprisingly encouraging. It made me want to come clean too.

“I’ve always thought you were an interesting guy. Training to become an egresser mage must not have been easy.”

“It wasn’t,” he huffed. “Especially when you have a pervert for a mentor.”

“Pervert?” Luna’s head tilted with curiosity. “Hmm…”

We all knew the Portal Master was a perv, it was part of the reason we didn’t want to hunt him down in the first place. Nobody really knows where he is, anyways.

The temperature in the room was starting to drop a little the more we were talking. It was getting a lot more bearable.

“Princess Luna, may I ask you something?” Charlie started.

“Of course.”

“I realize you are on a mission to save humanity from losing magic, but why is it important to you?”

That was a great question. I can’t believe I didn’t think about it. Why did Luna care what happens to humans?

“Well…” she became flustered. “you see…why ask that?”

“Because no matter what happens, you’d be largely unaffected. You’ve been kind up to this point, but there must have been some motivation.”

Luna had one of the kindest hearts I’d ever seen. I was jealous that she had so much goodness to spread around like confetti at a festival. She literally made me want to be a better person.

But even with all her kindness, something must have motivated her to begin with.

“I realized…that you wouldn’t have had anything to protect you from monsters! And there'd be a war!” She sounded like she just came up with that answer on the spot.

“I’m glad you're a bad liar, Luna.” I smiled. “What’s the real reason?”

She huffed a few times, then tightly clenched her dress.

“I’m not lying! I swear!” She shouted, then ran into a different room. We could hear her sulking.

“Brother, you should go talk to her.”

I was worried that if I learned her real reason for helping us, it would ruin her image. But Zumi claimed that no matter what her reason was, she wanted to help, and we needed to help her right now.

“She’s our friend, and you're soon to be wife. Go talk to her.”

“Yeah…” I sighed. “Wish me luck, everyone.”

Charlie patted me on the back, then gave a thumbs up. “Good luck, pre-mage.”

I swear, for a moment…he had a twinkle in his eye.

Mario Nakano 64
Taylor J
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