She was floating.

Sharmaine slowly opened her eyes to see nothing but darkness surrounding her. Weird whooshing noises passed her ears like she was under water. Everything was foggy and eerie as she drifted along the empty plain confused until her softly body landed on something solid.

Drip

She stood to her feet and looked around, getting the feeling she was staring out into an abyss. Suddenly, a bunch of figures appeared, ghostly like with only a shadowy film outlining their being.

Sharmaine stared at the bunch, with a scared expression. Was this a dream? Or something else? She couldn't tell, but the energy emanating from the group was so dark that it made Shar's skin bristle. Who were these people?!

There was one out front though, smaller than the rest with black and gold smog emitting from it. This figure stood out from the others. Sharmaine stared at the figure in awe and fear as it's blazing eyeholes peered on her. The energy pouring from it alone was more sinful than she'd ever felt, yet it had a comforting undertone.

Tremble

The colors around it soon grew bigger and brighter causing Sharmaine to cover her eyes. The energy now was so thick that it was suffocating to breath. With the smog growing stronger, its tendrils swiped out, burning away the flesh it touched. Sharmaine groaned in pain as she tried to pull her arm back. Everywhere it landed left a searing light pouring from the spot that burned really bad.

Scream

Sharmaine tried to retract her body back, but the smog stretching from the figure grew brighter, until it was a painful, blinding light that surrounded Sharmaine's vision leaving her once again shrouded in nothingness.

Sharmaine jerked awake so hard that her body flopped down to the floor. Her head was pounding as pain set every nerve on fire. She curled her trembling body into a fetal as she cradled her head, gasps continuing to flow from her tongue. What was that? These dreams or visions had been attacking her at random and more persistent lately than normal.

She soon raised up and peeked at the sun rays beaming through the window hole. She had been keeping her dreams to herself, having only told Ace because she needed to get it off her chest. Today was the big day, so Ace was already at the guild getting ready. She was used to shaking them off, but at the rate the attacks came it was quite alarming. Maybe someone knew what could be causing them. She needed to get to the guild.

After getting cleaned up and dressed, Shar went to exit her and Ace's townhouse, but stopped short. Looking down, she noticed a small box tied with a bow on the door stoop. A smile graced her face as she picked up the gift and read the top.

'Can't wait to see you', the small note melted away the young lady's worries and made her gushy inside. With a smile she locked up and made her way towards the guild.

Entering the guild, a noisy home greeted Sharmaine's eardrums. The family were bustling around the guild hall with their luggage packed up. Nara zipped up her bag then stepped to Sharmaine. "I'm leaving the house to you while we're away. I trust you to take care of my babies." She spoke.

Sharmaine really needed to vent, yet nodded her head and chirped, "Yes mom." The younger twin was used to playing the second mother role when the guild's fighters had to venture out. The task was a lot of responsibility, but Shar wouldn't dare argue with her mother.

Nara made her way over to Daisy, Lacey and Triton and attacked the three with kisses and tickles. "Aw, my babies, mommy's going to miss you so much. I promise we won't be gone for long. 3 days top. Be good for Sharmaine and don't pick on Pretty Boy while we're gone. He's a sensitive child."

"Hey!" PB shouted out in defense.

Nara gave a giggle.

Footsteps caught the floor, and the group grew serious when they eyed their master stepping into the room.

"Well," He started with a great grin. "We have quite the journey ahead. Let's get things rolling."


35

Summer border


After saying their goodbyes, team rescue Sandova were off on their way.

The rest of the gang went back inside to keep the guild moving along. With majority of the fun members gone, only Sharmaine, Pretty Boy, Rockie, Lacey, Daisy, Triton and Beetle were left to tend the guild.

"And Baytah Dude!" Baytah angrily growled as his faced popped into the scene.

Oh, and Baytah Dude, which meant there wasn't much to do. Rockie sat in front of a television with a grumpy expression with an excited Triton sitting beside him enthused with what was on the screen. The twins were sitting around fondling PB's hair as he frantically fixed it.

"Can we go play today, Shar?" Daisy asked, giggling as she tried to braid the teen's hair. She paused then turned pleading eyes to the woman. "Please." She pleaded being joined by Lacey and Triton puppy dog eyes.

Sharmaine smiled. "Yes darling. I just have a little errand to take care of first then I'll be right back."

"Where do you think you're going?" Pretty Boy yelled, giving the older lady a squinted glare.

Sharmaine gave him an innocent look and spoke softly, "Who me? I just have to step out for a minute."

"But you're on baby duty. Stop that!" PB yelped as he flicked away the twins' pestering fingers. The girls scattered off with a squeal.

"Yeah, I might need a favor. Can you wat-"

"No." It was sharp and direct.

Sharmaine puffed out her cheeks and said, "Oh please. I'm just going into town to meet a friend for a minute. It will not take me very long at all."

At that, Pretty Boy looked away from his mirror with a suspicious look. "A friend. What kind of friend?"

"None of your business kind." Sharmaine sniped back.

"Must be a boyfriend then. Do you really think that now's a good time to be dating?" Pretty Boy stated giving her a petty laugh.

"Will you watch them or not, please?" Sharmaine asked instead. She wasn't normally the bickering type.

"Not," PB settled with, turning his attention back onto himself. "I'm busy. Find somebody else."

"Fine." Sharmaine grumbled, then turned to the kids. "Looks like we're going to play."

"YAYY!" The twins and Triton cheered loudly.

"Tch, kids." Pretty Boy grunted in disgust.

"I pray you never have children, P." Sharmaine snapped towards the teen and turned up her nose.

"I have to change into my play bangles." Daisy said, twisting her wrist to let her bangles dangle around. She grabbed Lacey's hand and pulled the girl up to their bedroom.

Triton bounced in his seat and turned to Rockie with a smile. "You coming too, right?"

Rockie blew out a breath. "I'm on house arrest remember. Even if I wasn't, the park isn't really for me anymore." Rockie mumbled out, staring blankly at the tv.

"It'll be fine, Rockie." Sharmaine spoke and only got a humph from the teen. She chuckled then stepped to him prepared to ruffle his hair, but her body instantly seized up. Her nerves rippled under her skin and her eyes wavered on Rockie's back.

Lately she had been getting some weird vibes from the teen, but she was ignoring them. Yet, as the days has moved on, the aura that was wafting from him was growing stronger. She couldn't lay her finger on it, but whatever it was seemed to have her body on edge. Like it was debating on whether to fight or flee.

Suffocating

"Shar?" The sound of her name snapped her back and she looked over to Triton, peering up at her with worried eyes. "Are you okay?"

Sharmaine did a mental reset, then gave the boy a smile. "Yes, I was just lost in thought. I'm going to grab some things from the kitchen and then we will be on our way." She said then walked through the kitchen door.

The two boys sat, silently watching the tv.

Triton slyly peered over at Rockie, then looked down at his lap and started to speak. "Rockie, I'm old enough to understand that we have an age gap between us, and I get that you're getting older. That you are older. All my life, I've been chasing behind you. You're my best big brother."

"Awe, tyke. You're my best little bro." Rockie gushed loudly with a goofy smile as he slung his arm around Triton's neck. "I love compliments, but where is this coming from?" Rockie asked poking into the kid's cheek.

Triton blushed as he gazed deeper into his lap. "I'm just not ready for things to change."

"Whoa, Trit. Nothing will ever change between us. So what, I'm not into playing at the park. I'm still your big brother Rockie." Rockie reassured the boy, playfully squeezing his neck in the crook of his arm.

However, everything was changing. In the past few months, Rockie has experienced a little too much of life. Experienced trying battles. Experienced horrifying truths.

Experienced real fear.

Even now, he felt as if he was spiraling, and no matter how hard he tried to stop, it wouldn't. He couldn't explain it and wasn't smart enough to comprehend. It just was weird. He was blind to it at first, but having sat in the house for a month, it had the teen soul searching. He honestly thought he was ready, but he was not. He had to get serious. As he was now, he couldn't protect anyone. He had to get stronger.

"I promise won't nothing change between us, Triton. You're my rock." Rockie said, giving Triton an earnest smile, then stood to his feet. "Now, you go have fun. I'll be here when you get back." He beamed and headed for the back door.

"Right. What are you going to do?" Triton decided to ask.

"Oh, I'm going to train for a while." Rockie said and was out the door.

On the road...

An old, shaking bus rolled down the dirt road, shuttering each time a pop passed from the exhaust. It trudged along as it finally passed a 'Goodbye Jasmine' sign and rode out into the desert land. The ride was long, loud, hot, and musty and because of Ace weight, the bus's rear was dragging to the ground. The gang was smooshed up in-between the overcrowded space.

K.O grumbled as he stood crushed between King, Champion, and Ace, who was pressed into the back window. Others surrounded them, mostly men while the women and children took the available seating. Ivy and Nara sat along the seats with Parker, Queen, Manna, and Belle seating across their laps. Each rock and bump the bus made caused the load to cramp even tighter against the other.

"I'll be happy when you start getting better transportation." Nara grumbled up towards her husband. The man has always been frugal, but it was only so much of his cheapness she could handle.

King let out a sheepish chuckle. "Awe, come on. Who doesn't enjoy seeing the sights. Living the experience."

"Not with other people's crotch in our faces." Nara seethed and turned her head.

She supposed she should be grateful though. Her husband was a lot of things, with cheap being his most dominant trait. Good thing, the mission was in another border, otherwise the man would've had them walking there instead.

"I'm glad somebody said it," K.O's voice was muffled as bodies pressed against him.

"The bus could barely hold our boy back there." Ivy added, throwing Ace a look.

"Oh, I'm good." Ace grunted out, attempting to be as convincing as possible. "I'm behind King 100 percent. His word is law."

"Me too." Sketch's head suddenly popped up from King's backpack with a chirp. "I have no complaints."

"I bet you wouldn't. And that's so like you, Ace. Suck up." Ivy gritted out, and the family soon started to bicker.

Passengers side-eyed the group.

"Calm down my crew." King silenced the lot. "Now I know ya'll have a problem with the way I handle things, but guess what? It's life. Just like everybody on this bus, we are commoners. Walk the same grounds and bleed the same blood. Hoping for a brighter future. So please, for the sake of my pockets, bear with the ride arrangements for now."

There were a few murmurs, yet the lot grew quiet relenting to going along with the man.

"Thank you." King let out.

The trip took a total of five hours. Soon, a few skyscrapers could be spotted in the distant which grew into a bigger city as the bus drew closer. The design of the town was like a desert metropolis.

The bus slowly neared to a stop a few miles outside of the city and the bus unloaded.

As they walked on, the family eyes sparkled in amazement.

Keron was the biggest country in Summer border. Once being ran by an honest emperor, it was now in the hands of his only heir, empress Ariah. Over the last years, Ariah's smarts and mechanics have advanced the country to what it was now. Though surrounded by nothing but dry desert and the sun, this metropolis resembled more of a futuristic fortress. Just like how peaceful and beautiful the place look, Keron was led just as smoothly having a minimum of 5% crime rate year-round. Non-magics and magics alike lived and roamed the country at ease and peacefully. It really was beautiful. Buildings seemed to touch the sky with how tall they were.

The doves' eyes twinkled in bewilderment as they watched small drone vehicles zoomed through the sky and automobiles and pedestrians filled the streets. They had never seen anything like this place.

"This place is huge." K.O gushed out with a whistle as he took in the land.

"Really insane." Ivy added. "They even have mini spaceships!?" She said pointing at the drone.

King chuckled. "Those are actually called drones. Over here, many people use them as travel mean."

"Travel?" The family asked in astonishment.

"They just fly wherever they want to?" Ace asked confused.

King let out a chuckle. "Oh my children, you haven't seen nothing yet."

"Excuse me." A voice chirped from behind the family, and they turned to see a slender, tall fluffy woman step to the lot with a white sign that had 'Dove Clan' written on it with a marker. She was adorned in a long green dress with a matching hijab. Her face though resembled a rat.

"Dove Clan? I'm here to take you to see the empress. My name is Kristilla." The lady spoke with a still voice.

The family followed the lady until she approached a medium giant bubble drone. The group rode through the city with ease before they finally reached the tallest building out there. The drone soared through the clouds then broke through them to saw the entrance the palace.

Once the drone parked against the pavement, Kristilla stood and went to get off.

"Ok crew. This is your first time over here and meeting the Empress. Be on your toes and be respectful. These are about to be our biggest moments of our history so take in everything with stride. Who are we?!"

"Dove Clan!" The family cheered.

"Alright." King said and the group confidently marched off and towards the door. Two piles of stone pillars stood on the sides of the doors. When the group reached the doors, the stones suddenly came to life and stood at attention.

What was normal to Kristilla, had the doves jumping out of their skins from fright.

"Do not fear, Doves. They are merely our guards." The lady spoke to calm the group. She then turned and pushed the big doors open. "Now it's time to go in."

... brain break ...