Sophies Birthday

~ Prologue ~

It’s only a week before Sophies birthday and Charles can’t figure out what to get her. He was stressed with worry about Sophie leaving on her journey the morning after her birthday. It was even harder to pick a gift with Sophie refusing to tell him what she wanted. Charles desperately wanted to get Sophie something she’d adore. Nothing seemed good enough but things rarely seemed good enough for such perfection as his Sophie. She already had a necklace and she liked making all her own clothes. She didn’t like or use any of the normal girly things. He kept trying. He still had seven days to find the perfect gift for his love and he wasn’t going to settle for anything he didn’t deem worthy of her.

~ Chapter 1 ~

Charles ran to a town only a few hours away from Tresnia to try and find a gift there. It was obvious to him no gift worthy of her was in his village. He searched every booth and shop with no luck atall. Not a single item jumped at him screaming it was perfect for Sophie. Cost wasn’t an issue. Now that he was an adult he could do jobs that brought a lot more money. If he for some reason didn’t have enough he could do a job or two and be able to purchase it. Sophies happiness was worth any price.

When he ran out of places to shop at he looked at the sun to see the time. He didn’t have time to go to another village. Sophies lessons would be ending for the day soon so he’d go to the next village tomorrow to hopefully find a gift for Sophie. Charles ran back not wanting to waste a second of time Sophie had for him. Charles was glad Mizano wasn’t working Sophie as hard as Arch worked him. He figured it was because Mizano knew Charles was going with her. He let Sophie have her way in all things but with this she wasn’t getting a choice. He’d go with or without her consent. He wasn’t going to let her face all those dangers alone and risk her getting killed or horribly wounded.

He made it back to town just as Sophie finished her lesson “hey Charles”

“Hey Sophie” He said smiling. “why are you so sweaty? What have you been doing?”

“Just running, how was your lessons?”

“Fine”

“Lets go to the river so I dont get me sweat all over you.” Sophie laughed “alright” She walked by Charles side until they reached the gently flowing river. He jumped in and out quickly. He hugged Sophie knowing she’d just dry the two of them off. Sophie caused wind to rush around them until Charles was dry. “we have a few hours until dinner. What should we do?”

“You should tell me what type of thing you want for your birthday.”

“I told you there’s nothing I want.”

“There has to be”

“You always pick amazing gifts Charles. Why ask?” Charles sighed then dropped the subject. He grabbed Sophies hand saying “I saw a wolf with new pups today. I know she wont let us near them but you can see them from a tree by the cave she keeps them in.”

“That would be amazing.”

“want to ride on my back?”

“we’ll get there faster that way so sure.” Charles smiled and let go of her hand as he knelt down. Sophie climbed on then Charles began to run. Charles slowed when he knew he was close so he wouldn’t startle the mother. He gently let Sophie slide off of him. He grabbed Sophies hand to guide her to the tree. The two climbed up, it was at just the perfect angle to be able to peer inside at the adorable little pups. Sophie wanted to get closer but knew better. The mother would get angry and think they were a threat to her babies.

Sophie loved all animals, especially babies. They were so precious and frail. She would give anything to hold one of those pups. Charles was looking at them too until he felt Sophie wrap her arms around him “thank you so much” Sophie whispered. Nothing brought Charles happiness quite like Sophies happiness. He felt giddy seeing how pleased she was.

“would you eat dinner with me tonight Sophie?”

“Can’t, I promised my dad we would camp tonight in the woods. The two of us are apparently going to hunt and kill something to eat for dinner. He’ll cook it over the campfire.” Sophie looked to the sky. “speaking of which I better get home so we can leave.” Charles was sad but realized he did have to share her. They carefully got out of the tree then Sophie climbed on Charlies back again. He still ran but at a slower pace to give him a little more time with Sophie. When they arrived he reluctantly put her down. When she was in front of him he grabbed her hand placing a soft kiss on her knuckle. “Night Sophie, be safe out there. Don’t go searching for danger.”

“I’ll be fine, my father and I fight well as a team”

“I know” Sophie could see Charles was going to worry like he did over everything. It was charming to her how he fussed over every possible danger. “why wont you tell me you love me you foolish boy” 

“Night Charles” was all she said then went inside. Her father was packing “good, I thought you might stand me up”

“are you kidding? I’m so excited about this.”

“good, lets get going before it becomes difficult to hunt.”

“I’m all set” Sophie said eagerly.

~ Chapter 2 ~

Sophie and Rowne set up camp then began to hunt for a small boar to eat. Sophie wasn’t as quiet as her father since stealth was very little of her training. Rowne spotted a boar and told Sophie to keep still. Sophie obeyed instantly. Rowne stood with the grace of a dancer with his bow. He only used it when he hunted. Rownes uncle lived in a village where archery was taught instead of sword fighting. Each village had it’s own way. Rowne preferred the way of the arrow when it came to the hunt.

His arrow flew straight into the boar killing it in an instant. Rowne always killed animals as swiftly as possible but tried even harder to do so with Sophie in his presence. Rowne picked up the dead animal and took it back to camp where he skinned and prepared it for the two of them to eat. Sophie cooked it since Rowne did everything else. They were eating a few hours after dark. “You did well Sophie”

“Thanks dad”

“You should tell Charles what you want.”

“I dont want anything”

“You’re a liar Sophie.”

“Why do you say that?”

“Sophie, do you think I am blind or just a horrible father?”

“What on earth makes you say that?”

“When we went to visit your cousin every time I had my eyes off of you I found you in the same shop admiring the very same item. You never asked for it but I could see how badly you wanted that thing.”

“Dad, I didn’t ask for it because it isn’t worth the price. I would love to have it but I especially could never ask Charles to get it for me.”

“But honey, he just wants to make you happy. He’s been so tortured trying to think of what to get you.”

“well he can get me something cheaper than that. Way cheaper, I could never ask him to buy me that. You better not go telling him about it dad. I will not speak to you for at the minimum a week. That item is obscene in price”

“Not really, it’s made of some very fine and some extremely rare materials and stones. Its worth the price and you my daughter are worth the money”

“dad I’m going to go home if you don’t drop this right now” Rowne sighed “alright” They finished their food then crawled into the tent. The slept close to keep warm. Charles woke early. He knew Sophie had lessons this morning so he decided to go ahead and set off to Sophies cousin Jacks village. It was quite a ways away but the nearest one he hadn’t searched through yet. He really hoped to find somthing for her today. Now he only had six days to get Sophie a present.

Sophie woke up late for her lesson. She bolted out of her fathers tent and ran at full speed. She arrived to see a very angry Mizano “You are very late young lady!” Mizano snapped. “I’m so sorry my father and I”

“do not make excuses! Your life will be on the line in a matter of days!”

“I’m sorry” was all Sophie could say. “You’ll be sorry. Drop and give me thirty”

“But Mizano I cant”

“You’ll spend the day trying to do it. Lets go further out where I wont have to hear the caterwauling of your father if he sees this. You need punishment young lady” Sophie walked out not even being able to fathom doing thirty. She could barely do ten. She was only strong in mind not in body. Mizano knew she wouldnt be able to even if she tried all day. She thought this was ridiculous and unreasonable but Sophie had to obey.

~ Chapter 3 ~

Sophie was nearing tears in her effort to do what she was being commanded to do. In all her attempts she had done well over thirty but Mizano kept screaming and demanding she tried again. Sophie felt more pain than she had in all her life. Mizano had no clue how cruel she was being. Her mind was so occupied with her fight with her husband she barely noticed all the misery Sophie was in. She had been fighting with her husband since last night. If she had been in her right mind she would’ve let Sophie stop hours ago.

Charles didn’t get much shopping done at Jacks village. An elderly woman asked him for help and he couldn’t refuse her. He ended up helping her all day with different things. He actually felt bad for the woman. She obviously had nobody helping her atall which was horrible since she seemed to be in her eighties. The woman kept offering him payment but he turned her down. He was too repulsed she needed to pay somebody to help her out.

Mizanos husband was searching for her. Two young men pointed in the direction she walked with Sophie. He was going to apologize to her for calling her a childish brat until he saw Sophie crying on the ground while Mizano screamed at her. “what the hell are you doing Mizano!”

“what the fuck do you want. I’m punishing my student for being tardy!”

“More like torturing you heartless bitch. Look at her! Have you been doing this since this morning? Do you realize it’s nearing dinner time?” Mizano looked at the sky and then down at the crying girl on the ground. She actually covered her mouth. She hadn’t realized atall the hours passing. Especially since Sophie only just began to cry and not be able to move. She thought Sophie was being a baby but now she saw she had spent the whole day trying to do thirty in a row and failing. “Sophie I’m…so sorry”

“Just go home you selfish brat. I’ll take Sophie to her father” Mizanos husband picked Sophie up. She hated she was crying but she hurt so badly. She just wanted it to stop. Conner kicked the door when he arrived at Sophies. Rowne looked shocked when he saw his daughter dripping in sweat. Her long flowing hair was drenched and so was her clothing. “what was she doing?” Conner sighed “My wife and I had a fight last night that lasted through this morning. It seems she took it out on Sophie. She didn’t realize which isn’t an excuse i know but needless to say Sophie doesn’t have lessons tomorrow. She’s going to be in a world of pain.”

“what was Mizano making her do?” Rowne asked trying not to grit his teeth. “From what I heard her screaming at Sophie it seems she’s been making Sophie attempt thirty push ups in a row since early this morning until I found them just now. I’m sure she’s done well over but my rage filled wife was demanding they be in a row even though she should’ve known that would be impossible to do in one day for a magician who was never forced to do any push ups. Especially after hours of doing nothing but attempting. From the looks of her and her inability to move I’d guess Mizano didn’t give her a single break. I deeply apologize for this.”

If Mizano was a man he would’ve went over there right that second and unleashed his anger but he just took his daughter and slammed the door in Conners face. He took Sophie upstairs and laid her in bed “I’m going to go ask Drea for somthing to help with the pain honey. I’ll be as fast as possible’ Rowne ran out. He hoped Drea had some stocked because if he got pain reliving herbs from a healer he’d have to explain and if he did he might just kick Mizanos ass regardless of her gender. When Drea answered the door she felt a chill “whats wrong Rowne?”

“I came to you so i wouldn’t have to explain. I need somthing for pain to help my daughter or she’ll be crying all night. The poor thing cant move. Do you have somthing I can give to her?”

“Yes wait one second.” Drea was filed with worry for Sophie. Rowne was very obviously in no mood to give an explanation so she’d ask her son when he got home. She guessed he was probably sitting by her bed now. She gave Rowne every herb for pain she had “use all you need ok.” Rowne nodded and left. Atleast now his daughter wouldn’t be awake all night in pain.

~ Chapter 4 ~

Rowne poured a glass of water for his daughter and then went to her bedside. “Sophie sweetie, please take this. It’ll help you feel better.”

“Thank you dad” Rowne helped her sit up since she was having trouble. She ate the herb and drank quickly. “I hope that doesn’t bother my stomach since I haven’t eaten all day.”

“You havent eaten all day!” Rowne snapped not meaning to. Sophie shook her head. “I was late which is why I was being punished. I skipped breakfast trying to hurry and then Mizano wouldn’t let me stop for a second. I probably could’ve managed thirty if i could’ve only rested a little bit.’ Rowne ran his hand through his daughters hair even though it was filled with sweat and dirt. “You’re a magician and she had no business punishing you that way. To not let you even stop to eat. I could wring that little neck”

“Daddy calm down, I shouldn’t have been late. Don’t you go getting Charles upset.”

“Why shouldn’t I?”

“Well Mizano is a girl for starters and itll only make him frustrated because he wouldn’t dare lay a hand on a woman that way. Much like you’re frustrated because you can’t go and give her a good punch” Rowne sighed “I wont mention a thing to Charles, where is he anyway? Its late for him not to be hovering”

“Daddy” Rowne laughed “well he does follow you all day long when he can.”

“I’m not sure, he’s been running a lot lately.”

“If he comes tonight I’ll tell him you went to bed early so you wont need to lie to keep him from being upset. You need to sleep anyway. If you wake in any pain atall the herbs will be on the table. Can I cook you somthing? It’s not healthy to go a whole day without food.”

“I feel sick to my stomach from throwing up earlier but I’ll try and eat.”

“I’ll be right back.” Rowne was even more furious with Mizano now. Charles realized the time and said “It’s very late and I need to get home.”

“Oh please stay the night. I want to cook you dinner for all your help. You refuse payment in the form of money so let me feed you and give you a place to rest since your village is so far away. The most dangerous monsters come out at night. That girl you’ve been going on about will be sad if harm should come to you because you were in the lands between during nightfall.”

“Thank you mam, I’ll stay. I wanted to do some shopping here anyway.”

“What for?” The old woman said as she walked into the kitchen. Charles followed. “Sophies birthday is coming in six days. I’m looking for a present.”

“Why didn’t you buy somthing in your own village?”

“There wasn’t anything good enough for her there. I love her deeply, she’s my sun and moon, the beat of my heart. I can’t just buy her anything. A gift for my Sophie has to be special.”

“You are so sweet boy. My daughter and her husband own a little shop here in town. They make things out of the rarest and most expensive materials. I’ll take you there tomorrow and I promise you, you’ll find somthing you think is a worthy gift. If you can’t find somthing for her there you wont find something anywhere.”

“Thank you, may I ask you a question?”

“Yes”

“Why don’t they help you around here?”

“They have four children and a business. I hate to give them trouble.” Charles was glad to hear this was from lack of asking rather than children neglecting their mother. He asked another question “where’s your husband then?”

“He died about ten years back. A nasty demon got to him.”

“I’m so sorry mam”

“Don’t be, I was blessed enough to be married to a wonderful man for almost fifty years. We got married right after my coming of age journey.” Charles smiled “you should go with that girl on her coming of age journey and then ask her like my husband did”

“What if she doesn’t love me too?”

“If you never ask you’ll be stuck like this forever. Longing to hold her, live with her and all the other things you’d get if you were married. What if another man finally asks? I can see how deep your love is in your eyes when you talk about her. I don’t think your heart will be able to watch her kiss another man or have babies with him. If you never ask that will be your fate.”

“I’ll try” Charles said feeling like crying. Just the thought of Sophie being married to another man made his heart shatter. Soon dinner was ready and he ate then settled in the old womans guest room. Instead of using the pillow for his head he held it tightly wishing it was Sophie. His eyes slowly shut and he began to dream. “Charles!” Sophie said as she ran to hug him “I have great news!”

“What is it?”

“Kaji asked me to marry him! I said yes! I’m so excited!”

“Tha…that’s great Sophie. I’m so happy for you” Charles forced out as he held in the waterfall of tears trying to rush out. Suddenly he was sitting to watch their wedding. “You may now kiss the bride” Kaji leaned in giving her a long kiss. Charles couldn’t stop himself from getting out of his chair and running. As soon as he started running tears started gushing down his face. He sat in his room and sobbed uncontrollably. Charles felt all the happiness drain out of his body. It was replaced with deep depression. He felt like he was dieing. He would rather be dead than see this.

Charles woke to the old lady shaking him hard “Charles, Charles honey” He woke up “what?”

“I’ve never seen a man cry in his sleep. Are you ok?”

“Yes mam”

“Bad dream about what we talked about?” Charles nodded “You ask that girl soon you understand me. You are a sweet young man and very handsome. There’s no reason she should turn you down. Especially since you adore her so much. I’ve only seen that much love in my own husbands eyes before. I bet you make Sophie weak with that look” Charles laughed “I doubt she knows I love her.”

“Charles you are too obvious for her not to know” Charles laughed still not thinking Sophie knew. “will you take me to that shop now?”

“Of course, breakfast is ready.” Sophie got up feeling worse than yesterday. Sophies dad walked in her room. “Dad, how is it I feel worse than yesterday?”

“Thats normal honey, just try and get back to sleep. I’ll bring breakfast and more herbs for the pain ok?”

“Thank you dad” Rowne ran out and got her the strongest herbs Drea had given him then grabbed the plate he made for Sophie. “here you go my sweet angel” Sophie ate the herbs first then devoured her meal “it’s good to see that appetite back”

“I need to be able to move for when Charles comes to see me today. Luckily he’ll think I have lessons so by the time I’m normally free I’m hoping to be good”

“We’ll just keep you well dosed with herbs. I’ll see if Drea will mind gathering more and staying here with you. I made some commitments today that I cant break as much as I want to.”

“I’m not cripple dad, just uncomfortable. I’ll be ok without you.” Rowne kissed Sophies head “I’m still going to talk to Drea”

“I know, you and Charles worry over me far too much”

“we can’t help it” Sophie smiled then Rowne left to hurry and get Drea gathering. He didn’t want his daughter in pain if she didn’t have to be. Rowne knocked “hey Drea, I have some stuff I have to do today. Sophies muscles are still aching pretty bad and I was wondering if you could gather more herbs for her and make sure she doesn’t hurt herself. My wife apparently can’t miss her tea party. A damn tea party is more important than Sophie apparently.”

“I’d love to tend to her.”

“she’ll try to do more than she should. Make her rest please”

“I will Rowne, quit your fussing and go.” Rowne hugged Drea “You’re amazing, always have been” As soon as he said that he ran off. Drea grabbed a basket and decided just to ask a healer so she could be with Sophie sooner. When Drea had what she needed she walked to Sophies house and went straight to her room “love?”

“second mommy! Come in!” Drea walked in with a smile. Nothing tickled her more than when Sophie called her second mother.

“Oh Sophie, you look terrible.”

“Gee thanks” Drea laughed “what happened sweetie?”

“I got punished for being late is all. I dont want to go into detail. I dont need a babysitter. My dad worries too much”

“It’s your fault for wrapping him and Charles so tightly around your fingers.” Sophie smiled “wheres Charles anyway? I didn’t see him yesterday.”

“Not sure, he’s an adult now so doesn’t always tell me where he’s going”

“That’s true, don’t tell him I dont have classes today. I’d hate to get him upset.”

“alright precious”

“You can go home. My dad wont know you didn’t stay.”

“But I enjoy your company. Why dont I sit here and we can spend the day talking.”

“That would be fun if you want to.”

“I’d love to”

~ Chapter 5 ~

“Thank you so much for these herbs. I’m back to feeling great”

“While you feel good you should shower”

“You would think of the polite way to say someone stinks”

“Sophie, you know thats not”

“Oh no no mom. Just clamp your nose and I’ll hop in that shower as fast as possible before you lose every nose hair you have.” Drea laughed “you’re so bad Sophie” Sophie stood which made a little of the pain return but she walked to the shower anyway. She loved how the hot water felt running against her. She would have stayed in much longer if she didn’t know Drea was waiting on her. Sophie sighed when she realized she hadn’t brought clothes but only Drea was there so she walked out without a care or worry in her towel.

“I didn’t bring clothes so I’ll ahve to change here. You have what I have so I dont feel like it matters if you see me naked.” Sophie dried then pulled on some pants and her favorite shirt. “what did you get into yesterday that gave you such a bruise Sophie?” Sophie was confused then she realized “oh, you’re talking about on my side. Charles accidentally gave that to me. He forgets how strong he is sometimes when we’re wrestling. Its been there a few days so should go away soon.”

“Does Charles know?”

“Why would I tell him somthing like that? He’d probably break down in tears. Honestly I just seem to bruise kind of easy anyway.”

“Thats sweet of you not to mention it.”

“Well its on accident. He’s very gentle with me always mom its just easy to forget when we’re wrestling or any of the other stuff we do just playing around. The biggest reason I dont mention it is that he’d quit playing with me like that if I told him. Your son acts like I’m porcelain enough as it is.” Drea laughed “yeah, he just cares for you so much”

“I know, I dont think there’s a man out there sweeter than Charles is to me.” Charles and the old lady made it to the little shop and her daughter came rushing towards the old woman “hey mom, who do you have with you?”

“A nice young man who helped me with some things yesterday.”

“You didn’t tell us you needed help mom”

“You have your four children and this shop honey”

“It doesn’t matter mother.”

“I’m sorry, I’ll ask you or your husband next time. Right now this young man needs to find a gift for the woman he loves.” Charles was amazed at all the beautiful things they had in their small store. He looked around at everything until a music box caught his eye. The moment he saw it he knew thats what Sophie needed. It was absolutely exquisite and he knew Sophie would love it. That music box looked like it was made just for her. There wasn’t a doubt in his mind she’d adore this. Charles opened it. Even the music was perfect. The song reminded him of somthing Sophie had been humming for awhile. He looked at the price and sighed because he was short for it.

“Do you know of any job I can do here that will earn me twenty gold?”

“Is that how much you are short for that music box?”

“Yes mam”

“I’ll overlook the difference as thanks for helping my mother.”

“Mam I couldn’t”

“You could and you will. Give me what you have and take the box. Twenty gold less than it’s marked is still a good amount of profit for us.”

“Thank you very much” Charles handed her his money and she wrapped it up for him. “I knew you’d find somthing here Charles” Charles set Sophies gift on the counter then hugged the elderly woman “You led me to the perfect thing. Sophie will be so happy. I can’t thank you or your daughter enough”

“Thank us by asking that girl to be yours. You better atleast be engaged when I see you next young man” Charles smiled and picked up her present again. He told them bye then set off for home. It was lunch time now and he should’ve eaten first but he wanted the music box safe in his closet before anything could happen to it. Drea and Sophie were cooking until Drea flicked some flour on Sophie playfully. Sophie grabbed a handful and threw it at Drea. Before they knew it eggs, flour, spices and berries were all over the kitchen and living room as they chased eachother laughing.

Charles could hear their laughter when he stopped in front of his home. He walked inside quietly and noticed the food everywhere and the two girls wrestling on the floor. Sophie had berries in her hand while Drea had eggs. He contained his laugh and rushed upstairs to place Sophies present in his room. He was coming back down when Sophie slipped on a mash of ingredients on the floor running from Drea. Sophie covered her face for the fall and was shocked to feel Charlies arms wrap quickly around her. “When did you get home?”

“Just now, you two should be careful when you do this.” Charles stood Sophie up and then laughed when his mother came in. The two of them looked silly with eggs, berries and flour all over them. The girls looked around “lets get cleaning Drea before Paul gets angry.”

“I’ll help” Charles said through his laughter. Sophie felt a warm glow of happiness even though he was laughing at her. It seemed like he was happier than normal. Drea and Sophie started on the kitchen while Charles did the living room. They went into super cleaning mode and got it done pretty quickly. Sophie hugged Charles then both Drea and Sophie went to wash off as fast as they could. When they came back down Sophie said “Thanks for helping us and for catching me.”

“No problem. I don’t want to hear my dad yell any more than you two do. He’s no fun.”

“I’m going to help your mom so he isn’t mad his lunch isn’t on the table when he gets here.”

“Can I do anything?”

“You can sit down and look handsome” Sophie said pushing Charles into a chair. He smiled as she began to help Drea. They finished just as Paul walked in “hey honey” Drea said quickly “and I thought lunch would be cold by the time I got here.”

“Sophie and I got carried away with somthing and had a late start on lunch” Drea said unable to hold back a giggle which made Sophie laugh too. “You always turn my wife into a child” he said looking at Sophie. Sophie wasn’t sure how to respond. She could see Charles was already starting to get angry at his dad but those two were rarely happy with eachother anyway. Paul said nothing more so Sophie said nothing.

~ Chapter 6 ~

After they ate Charles stood “want to go to our favorite tree Sophie?” She nodded and followed him out. As they walked he said “I hope my dad didn’t make you feel uncomfortable.”

“He never does. I know he’s just a grumpy jerk. I feel bad for him really, must be horrible to be in a terrible mood all the time.” Charles smiled “You would feel bad for him.”

“What’s the supposed to mean?”

“You just have the biggest heart out of anybody alive. I’m glad you and my mother had fun today. How did that get started?”

“She flicked flour on me then I threw a handful at her. Before we knew it you were home.”

“I’m glad I got home when I did or you would’ve fallen on your face and probably busted your nose.”

“I would’ve been fine. I’m not made of glass” Charles smiled again as they arrived at their tree. Sophie climbed up first then he followed. When they were settled by eachother Charles asked “what did you two do today?”

“Just talked really. Where have you been?”

“I went on a run again and an old lady needed my help. She needed so much help I had to spend the night.”

“And you say i have the biggest heart out of anybody. You sell yourself short. You’re the sweetest man I know. You even beat my daddy and that’s saying somthing” Charles really wanted to give her his present right now. He wasn’t sure how he was going to wait five days. “Hey Soph, I was wondering if maybe tomorrow you and I could have our own birthday party. This one is really big and special and I wanted to have a day with just the two of us. I’ve planned everything.”

“aw that’s sweet. It’ll have to happen the day after tomorrow though. I think I have lessons with Mizano. She canceled them today and may cancel them tomorrow too so I’m not sure. I’ll come over and get you if she cancels again. So is the day after tomorrow fine if I have lessons?”

“Sounds good, I really hope it can be tomorrow though.”

“Why’s that?”

“I’m just really excited about the present I bought you.”

“Yours are always the best presents so I’m excited too. I should cut your hair before i leave since it’ll take me a long time to get back. When would you like me to do it?”

“anytime you feel like.”

“Lets sit up here awhile longer and then I’ll cut it.”

“perfect”

“Can i have a hint about what you got me?” Charles shook his head. “aw please”

“Be nice to me and don’t beg. I really want to surprise you.”

“alright” They got down about an hour before dinner time so Sophie could cut his hair. She grabbed scissors and then sat by the river with Charles. It didn’t take very long to cut his hair any longer since he kept it fairly long now. When Sophie was done she hugged Charles. He stood up with her and ran into the water jumping in. When he stood up Sophie was laughing. Charles just smiled at her then without a thought kissed her head. She didn’t seem to mind so he just carried Sophie home. “You have a good night Sophie. Please come get me as early as possible if you don’t have lessons.”

“I will” He set her in front of her door then watched her go inside before going to his own home. When Charles got home his mother was cooking. He came up behind her and gave her a quick hug. “How was your afternoon with Sophie? I see she cut your hair again”

“It was great. Can you watch me make a cheesecake? I want to do it myself but I want it to be good for Sophie. She agreed to have a birthday party before her birthday with just me tomorrow or the day after.”

“awe sweet. After dinner I’ll watch you make cheescake for Sophie”

“Thanks mom, want help?”

“No dear, your father is in his room and you know how he feels about you cooking.”

“and I care because?”

“Just save me the trouble sweetheart”

“alright, want to see Sophies present?”

“Oh please, you find her the most amazing things”

“I think this beats anything I ever got her. It was definitely the most expensive but like always dont say anything about the price”

“Just hurry and bring it down love.” Charles ran up the stairs and came back with the music box. Drea turned the stove off before turning around and gasped. “Son, that’s beautiful. Absolutely gorgeous.”

“It’s a music box” Charles said winding it up then setting it on the table. His mother opened it. “what a pretty song, Sophie hums this same thing doesn’t she?”

“Yeah, I thought she made it up but it must really be a song since this plays it.”

“I think Sophie just may cry when you hand this to her. I can’t imagine what this cost you.”

“If it makes Sophie happy it was well worth the money.” He sighed and almost went off into a daydream thinking about Sophies smile. His mother snapped him back into reality. “go put this away before somthing happens to it.”

“Yes mam”

~ Chapter 7 ~

After dinner Sophie asked her dad if she could walk to Mizanos to see if she had lessons. He said it was fine so she left. When she arrived Sophie knocked lightly. Mizano answered and pulled Sophie into a hug “I’m so sorry honey. Please tell me you don’t hate me. I wasn’t thinking.”

“I don’t hate you, all is fine I swear. I just wanted to see if I still had lessons tomorrow.”

“If you feel up to it.”

“I do, I’ll see you in the morning then.”

“see you in the morning.” Mizano said as more tears fell down her cheeks. Sophie started on her way home when Kaji about gave her a heart attack. He saw her walking to Mizanos before and decided to hide in some bushes on the way home. He jumped out making her scream and electrocute him. Kaji couldn’t move his body hurt so much from the current “God damn…I didn’t know I’d scare you that badly…”

“sorry” Sophie said as she helped him up “you shouldn’t do that you know. I thought you were some sort of monster” Kaji hugged Sophie “sorry, just wanted to have some fun. What’re you doing out after dark?”

“I went to see if I had lessons tomorrow.”

“Do you after what Mizano did?”

“It wasn’t as bad as I’m sure my father makes it sound”

“still”

“Yes I do, I need to get home and get sleep for the morning. Where are you going?”

“Pauls meeting me at his house and then we’re going to the mountains. We decided to start our journey at night when it’s nice and cool.”

“Be safe”

“always” Sophie started to walk away and Kaji said “you find me when you finish your coming of age journey”

“why?”

“I’ve got somthing to ask you but can’t until you’re an adult” Sophie looked at him confused “just find me ok?”

“I guess after I find Charles” Kaji laughed “Bye Sophie” Kajis joints hurt badly from that jolt. That was a very stupid mistake before a long walk but he hadn’t anticipated Sophies quick reaction. He knocked on Dreas door and she answered. “Paul is almost ready sit down”

“Thank you” Kaji sat down groaning. “are you ok?”

“I’m fine, I just learned a valuable lesson tonight is all” Drea laughed “what did you do?”

“I thought it would be funny to scare Sophie. Turns out not so funny’

“How’d you scare her if she’s home?”

“well on my way here I pass her home and I saw her walk out and head to Mizanos. She must have had a question for her so I hide in the bushes I know she’ll pass on thr way back. When she comes back I jumped out at her and next thing I know I’m laying on the ground with everything hurting. Her electricity has a mean bite to it. It surprised me. I didn’t think I’d frighten her as badly as I did to be honest.” Paul came down the stairs laughing at Kaji. Charles was finishing up Sophies cheecake very glad to hear Sophie got Kaji good for scaring her.

“Don’t think I’ll be slow for you because you’re an idiot.”

“Wouldn’t dream of asking sir” The two men walked out then Drea joined Charles again. “perfect sweetie. Just put it in the fridge now”

“Thanks for the help mom”

“all I did was look at you. I’m going to bed now ok honey”

“Night mom” Charles went up to his room and sat down on the floor with Sophies music box. He hoped she’d love it as much as his mother did. If Sophie had lessons tomorrow he planned to show Rowne too. He’d know for sure how Sophie would react. If he didn’t think she’d love it he had time to hunt somthing better down. The morning would be four days until her real birthday. As Paul walked alongside Kaji he said “I invited you on this trip to talk to you about somthing.”

“Yes sir?”

“Your father told me you got a ring to ask Sophie to marry you when she gets home.” Paul took a very serious tone. “yes I did and I warned Charles when we were younger I’d do it. I told him if he didn’t have the balls to ask her out before she became an adult I’d do it the second she became one. He can’t be pissed. Did you tell him?”

“No because I dont want him to murder you but mind these words boy. Charles may not kick your ass if Sophie says yes but I sure as hell will. You can expect if she says no he’ll beat you till you can’t move. That’s if he shows mercy. I may not show a great deal of affection to the ones I love. I’ve just always been a hard man but make no mistake I love my wife and son very deeply. Is asking her worth either me or my son kicking your ass?”

“Yes it is honestly, I’ve never met a woman like Sophie and I probably never will. She’s worth whatever beating I get.”

“Fine, just wanted to warn you. Now that you know the consequences I can unleash my anger fully if she says yes and crushes my son. I fear what may happen to him if she says yes but I guess if he had warning it will be his own fault”

“why dont you think he’ll beat me up if she says yes?”

“Because he truly loves her and wants her happy. Everything Charles does is in some way for Sophie. If she tells him her happiness is with you he’ll accept it.”

~ Chapter 8 ~

Dawn came and  Sophie quickly got ready to meet Mizano in their normal spot. She kissed her fathers cheek grabbing a biscuit on her way out that she ate as she ran. Mizano still looked sad when Sophie got to her “stop it Mizano, you act like you beat me or somthing. I’m alright”

“today will be an easy day regardless ok?”

“It doesn’t have to be but ok.” Charles slowly went about getting dressed. He knew Sophie would be busy atleast until lunch so he was in no real hurry. He walked downstairs and noticed his mother wasnt there. She had left him breakfast though and a note telling him she wouldn’t be back until after lunch or near dinner. He sat down and ate what she left him. It wasn’t that cold so his mother must have left not long ago. Charles was happy to have the house peaceful. He liked his mother there but any time his dad was gone it made the house seem happier and lighter.

He hoped Paul would be gone tomorrow when he brought Sophie over to give her his present. Charles planned on giving her that first because he was so excited about it. He just knew Sophie would give him a big smile and hug him. He could almost feel himself spinning her around. He hoped he’d get a kiss on the cheek for it but he wouldn’t set his expectations too high. He’d rather be pleasantly surprised than disappointed.

When he was done he walked over to Sophies and knocked. He would have Rowne follow him to his room so that there wouldn’t be a chance of Sophie seeing her present. Rowne answered “she has lessons Charles”

“I know sir I’m here for you. I bought Sophie her birthday present and I want you to tell me if you think she’ll love it. I do and my mother does but I’d feel better if I had your confirmation” Rowne smiled “She always adores your presents but I’ll come look anyway.”

“Thank you Rowne” Charles nervously took Rowne into his house and had him sit on the couch. “wait here” Rowne nodded and Charles took Sophies music box out of his closet. He walked downstairs and handed it to Rowne. Rowne looked shocked and he didn’t speak. Charles worried it wasn’t such an amazing gift. “Why aren’t you saying anything sir? Isn’t it beautiful?”

“Only you Charles.”

“Only me sir?”

“Sophie is going to kill me because she’ll never believe I didn’t tell you about this.”

“about the music box?”

“You got this from Sophies cousins village right? You’ve heard her hum the song in this box?”

“Yes sir but I thought she may have heard it elsewhere.” Rowne shook his head still smiling widely. It still amazed Rowne how perfectly Charles knew his little girl. He managed to buy her the thing she desperately wanted but wouldn’t ask for without a soul telling him about it. “when we went on that long trip to visit Jack she was in that shop every day holding this music box and admiring it. She’d only leave when it closed or her cousin wanted her to do somthing with him. Sophie was mesmerized by this thing. When we left she was sad that she’d never see it again. I just can’t believe you bought her this box without anybody mentioning that to you.”

Charles couldn’t believe it “If she wanted this so badly why didn’t she tell me all those times I asked her what she wanted?”

“i asked her the same thing and she told me it was too expensive to ask for.I threatened to tell you and she got angry at me because she didn’t want you to spend all your money on her. I’m surprised you had that much money Charles.”

“I was short but I helped the store owners mother and gave them all I had. I saw this and thought it was made for Sophie. I felt right away she’d love it”

“Like I said only you. You know her so well. You couldn’t have picked a better present. I just hope she believes I didn’t tell you and that you did this all on your own. Hell I’m not sure I’d believe me if I were Sophie.” Charles almost couldn’t contain his joy any longer. He was overwhelmed with happiness that he got her somthing she wanted very badly. He only wished she would have told him about it a few weeks ago when he started asking. Sombody else may ahve bought this before he arrived at that store since she didn’t tell him. He was grateful to the gods he got it before sombody else did. Charles hugged Rowne “I’m so glad I showed it to you. I can’t wait for tomorrow when we have our own birthday party.”

Rowne smiled “Sophie told me about that. That’s sweet of you. Which I know it’s only because you want a party where you dont have to share her with the rest of us” Charles blushed and Rowne placed a hand on Charlies shoulder. “You’re a very good man Charles. I’m so happy my little girl has you”

“Thank you sir. I try to be everything she deserves” Rowne just smiled and walked out. Charles picked Sophies music box up off the couch and put it away in his room. Now he especially couldn’t wait for tomorrow. Charles knew Sophie would believe Rowne didn’t tell him. She’d ask him to promise and he’d be able to. Charles decided to take a nap to speed time along before he burst with anticipation and happiness imaging Sophie response to her gift.

~ Chapter 9 ~

Charles woke to Sophies voice around three in the afternoon. He got scared for a second and quickly looked around his room to make sure her present wasn’t in sight. “are you ok Charles? You seem upset.”

“I’m alright, I was just worried I may not have put your present up before i went to sleep. I obviously did though.”

“Damn, if only I could’ve seen it. Now I must wait for tomorrow.” Charles hugged Sophie “How was your lesson?”

“Long and boring. What did you do today?”

“Nothing really, what is there to do without you.”

“The things you do with me” Sophie said with a smile making Charles let out a breath of laughter as he smiled back. “what do you want to do?”

“Philip asked me on my way here if we’d go fishing with him.”

“If you want to then lets do it.”

“alright, he’s waiting outside your door. Grab your pole and then we’ll go get mine.” Charles got up adn grabbed everything he needed then they walked out. “Oh good you’re coming.” Philip said excitedly. “we need to get my stuff from my house.” Philip nodded and the two boys followed her. She went in and her father was doing push ups in the living room “hey sunshine, what’re you doing?” Rowne said getting into a sitting position. “I’m going fishing with Philip and Charles”

“Can an old man come?”

“Of course. If they don’t like it we can always punch them in the gut” Rowne laughed “that’s my girl” The two got ready and walked outside “Hey Rowne”

“Hey boys” Sophie grabbed her fathers hand and they all walked to the best fishing area. Rowne dominated the conversation with Sophie but Charles just enjoyed listening to Sophie talk. Rowne wanted to take advantage of this time with her. Every day that got closer to her leaving got his nerves in even more knots. Rowne was terrified his daughter would get hurt or killed by somthing. He knew Charles wouldn’t let her go alone but it still didn’t keep him from worry.

They all sat down with Sophie between Rowne and Charles and fished the day away. Sophie was sad when the sun went down. It didn’t feel like they had been out there very long. Each of the men carried their fish home while Rowne also carried Sophies. Charles hated he couldn’t hug Sophie bye when they got to her home but took comfort in the fact tomorrow he’d get to celebrate her birthday with only her. Rowne was excited when his wife wasn’t cooking dinner yet. He ran upstairs to find her reading on the bed “Oh god it’s dinner time already? Sorry sweetie I’lll start now.”

“Sophie and I caught fish today. Will you make somthing with them?”

“I’d love to. I’ve been wanting fish actually.” Rowne smiled and walked with his wife to the kitchen. The three made dinner as a family as they talked about their fishing trip and made jokes with eachother. By the time dinner was ready Sophie was close to tears with laughter. She hoped when she had her own family things would be this happy. She knew if it was with Charles it would be. They ate and Sophie took a shower to get the fish smell off of her. As soon as she was done she brushed her hair then got into the bed. She went to sleep quickly with anticipation for tomorrow.

Charles was so excited he woke before the sun did. He showered and put on the most recent shirt Sophie made him and his favorite pair of pants. HIs heart was already racing in his chest. Charles was nervous and hoped she’d enjoy her day with him. He especially worried about how his cheescake would taste. His mother watched him make it but he still worried. Once the first suns ray traveled over the horizon he made his way to Sophies. To his pleasant surprise she was on her way to his house so they met somwhere in the middle. He smiled “So you’re excited then?” Sophie nodded.

He took her hand and paused when they reached his living room. He picked her up then asked “would you close your eyes for me?” Sophie quickly complied and he took her into his room and set her on his bed. Charles picked up the music box then knelt in front of her holding it up. “Open your eyes now” Sophie covered her mouth as she took a sharp intake of air. “Charles” was all she could manage to say. She took it from him and he smiled at the happiness,near tears and disbelief that danced in her eyes. “You shouldn’t have spent this much on me. Did my dad tell you about this?”

“No, I was looking in nearby towns for a gift and I saw this. As soon as I did I knew it was perfect for you.”

“But it cost so much”

“Nothing is too much for my best friend if it makes you happy” with that Sophie began to cry and set the box down. She then got off the bed and stood. Charles got up knowing she wanted to hug him. As soon as he was hugging her she gave him three very long kisses on each cheek then one on his forehead. Tears were still streaming down her face as she went back to simply hugging him. “Thank you so much. This is the best present you’ve ever gotten me. You’re so wonderful Charles. The most amazing man I know.”

“You’re welcome Sophie. Please don’t cry” Sophie wiped her face then pulled back so she could look into Charlies eyes. The two stood there with their eyes locked absolutely motionless for awhile. Charles knew she’d be happy from what Rowne said but he didn’t expect this. His stomach was packed with butterflies and his heart had that familiar flutter as he looked deep into his Sophies eyes. The urge to kiss her almost overwhelming him but he couldn’t right now. She may kiss him back only out of the happiness that filled her and he didn’t want that. If he tried he’d be taking advantage of the situation and she may regret it or he may be tempted to do somthing he’d regret doing if it upset her.

He wanted to just stand here all day. Suddenly there was a knock at his bedroom door which made Sophie break the eye contact. He answered it seeing it was his mother. Drea saw Sophie in the room and said “oh Sophies already here. It can wait until tonight I’m sorry”

“Its fine, you sure it can wait?” He knew that moment with Sophie wouldn’t start back up again anyway so he may aswell help her. “yes it can. Have a good day you two.” That moment was the nearest charles ever got to actually being upset with his mother. “Lets take your present to your room then we’ll come back and have the cheescake I made you.”

“Ok” Sophie said softly.

~ Chapter 10 ~

When they were in Sophies room she asked “before we go back want to sit with me and listen to its beautiful music?” Charles smiled “of course” Charles sat down on Sophies floor and she sat between his legs laying back against his chest. He wrapped his arms around her stomach to keep her close. She wound the music box up then opened the lid. Charles just looked down at Sophie loving how relaxed and happy she seemed. When the song was over Sophie set the box down beside them to turn and hug Charles again. “Thank you, I can’t thank you enough for this Charles.” He hugged her back tightly. All the thanks he needed was this. She kissed his cheek again holding it there for a long time. “we can go now” she whispered.

He picked her up with a feeling of absolute bliss. He hoped he would be lucky enough for her to stay this affectionate all day. Charles was glad he met that old lady and found somthing to make Sophie happy. When they arrived at his house he set her down and pulled the cheesecake out of the fridge. He placed it on the table then got out two plates and a knife to cut it with. He watched Sophie as she took her first bite. His heart began beating again when she smiled “You did perfect. This day couldn’t be more perfect. I’m so lucky to have a friend like you Charles.”

“Please Sophie, I’m the lucky one.” He said as his gaze turned once again into one of complete adoration, devotion and love. Sophie almost quit breathing because of it. This was a particularly intense time. She broke the eye contact and kept eating the very delicious cheesecake he so lovingly made her. Sophie smiled thinking how her real brithday party would be nothing compared to this day. It was only breakfast and she didn’t think this day could be better.

When they finished Charles set their plates in the sink then took Sophies hand as they left the house. Sophie looked up at him “where are we going?”

“Today is nothing but surprises so don’t ask” He winked and she said “You aren’t going to carry me?”

“You wnat me to carry you” he said with untamed excitement in his tone. Sophie laughed and he blushed a deep crimson. Charles picked her up with Sophie still giggling at him because his redness wasn’t going away. She laid her head against him as he cradled her. Sophie started to hug him again as they walked. Finally the burning in his face stopped. He hated when he lost control of his tone like that. Sophie was surprised when she found they were going a way she had never gone before. Charles of course always admiring Sophie noticed and said “I found this area when I was doing a job. When I was chasing the creature it took me through an area I thought you’d like.” Sophie smiled and thought “are you ever not thinking of me?” 

He walked until all Sophie could see was yellow, pink and blue. All the trees had leaves that were one of those colors. The ground was blanketed in the fallen leaves which made the ground look beautiful. “do you like it.”

“Very much” She kissed him on the cheek again and he set her down. He had never gotten so many kisses from Sophie. This was becoming the best day he ever had. Charles followed Sophie closely. He was taken off guard when she threw some leaves in his face. He laughed and soon leaves were flying everywhere as the two laughed. Charles noticed a particularly big pile of leaves and threw Sophie in it. He offered his hand. When she grabbed it he stood her up and took the leaves  out of her hair. Many hours had passed so it was lunch time.

Charles got down so Sophie could ride on his back. He took off in a sprint once he was sure she was on good. It amazed Sophie how he could run on so many leaves and not fall. He didn’t even come close to it. She wondered if she would have been a good warrior. She had come to question her choice frequently now that her coming of age journey was so close. Charles didn’t stop until they were in front of a fruit tree. “it just ran you passed everything didn’t it?” Charles laughed and let her down. “No, I ran around so I’d know where one was when I brought you here.”

Sophie just smiled at him. They sat down beside eachother and ate. When Sophie was done she laid down placing her head on Charlies lap. He decided this definitely was the best day of his life as those beautiful eye looked up at him. He had never seen such happiness in her eyes before and he was glad to have caused it. “what monster were you chasing?” He finished what he was eating then said “do you want to know about the whole thing or just what the monster was?”

“Tell me everything that happened on the job of course.” Charles would have loved to hold the hand she had laying on her stomach but refrained just keeping his hands at his sides. “Pretty much a woman in a nearby village comes here to collect things she needs to make the stuff she does for her shop. There was a pretty big demon here who called himself Halfor. A very ugly and almost disturbing looking thing. She needed sombody to get rid of it and was paying a lot for the job to be done so of course I took it since you were gone and I had nothing to do. That was the fastest creature i think I’ve ever chased. After I lobbed off one of his arms he took off running and wouldn’t stop. For how menacing he looked he was surprisingly easy to take down once I could finally catch him. I’m happy I took that job so I could find this place for you.”

“Me too, this was fun.”

“I have more planned for you.”

“I look forward to it. Do you want to sit here awhile or are you ready to go?” 

“I’m ready when you are.”

“well you’ve been carrying me crazy so are you tired or aren’t you?” Charles laughed “we can sit here for a little bit if you don’t mind”

“Of course I don’t” Sophie said as she got up. Charles was sad for only a brief moment because a second later she was in his lap laying against him. He put his arms around her stomach again as they just enjoyed the view and air. “you ready?” she asked as she almost fell asleep. He stood up with her and started walking to the creatures he had to show her. Sophie was becoming more awake as Charles walked. Sitting with him that way before was so relaxing. Soon Charles went into a cave. It wasn’t very far in when Sophie saw Milbis and had to stifle a squeal from the cuteness.

He let Sophie go first because he scared them the last time he was here. They took to Sophie right away as most small creatures did. She loved their little squeaks and wished there was some way to record that adorable sound. She played with them until the small Milbis began to yawn “I seem to have worn you little guys out. I’ll come again another time. Goodbye” They all squeal in unison to tell Sophie bye. Sophie ran into Charles who was standing not far off and gave him a bear hug. “Those are ridiculously cute!” He picked her up and walked them out.

~ Chapter 11 ~

“why’d you stand so far away?”

“They are afraid of me. If I would’ve come over they all would have ran.”

“They wouldn’t have”

“I’ve tried going near them twice”

“were you covered in blood or anything.”

“The first time yes”

“Well you probably spooked them the first time. You should try to go over with me next time.”

“I was fine where I was. I was near enough to see you if anything tried to attack.”

“are we going to an animal or place?”

“I guess I can tell you that. It’s another animal.” Sophie smiled “You don’t have to carry me Charles because I asked at the beginning of the day.”

“It’s your birthday Sophie. Of course I have to carry you.”

“It’s not really my birthday.”

“It’s your birthday with me.”

“True, and this one is far better than the other one will be I’m sure. You’ve been so amazing today Charles. Thanks for going to all this trouble for my birthday.”

“This one is very important and you’re my best friend. I had to make it special.” Charles looked down at Sophie making her heart race. She wished he’d ask her out or stop looking at her like that. It always made her want to kiss him. “Close your eyes” She did and he stood her up and took her hand. Charles whistled and Sophie heard somthing approaching. It licked her hand and she opened her eyes.

Sophies eyes were once again lit up. Charles smiled and sat down to watch her have fun with the Qwerl. He felt so relaxed and happy hearing Sophie laugh and seeing Sophie smile as she talked to and played with the creature. They stayed until the sun began to set. Sophie walked over to Charles who stood. She wrapped her arms around him. “Thank you for today.” Tingles slowly moved through his body as Sophie kissed his cheek. She smelled so nice. Her embrace was so warm and her lips on his cheek was heaven. He couldn’t even imagine what it would be like to actually kiss her.

In his dreams it was indescribable. When she stopped he cradled her and walked slowly home. He knew she had lessons until her birthday so today was there last bit of fun time before her journey. Her birthday would be annoying because Kaji would come. He didn’t mind her parents, his mother and Philip but Kaji he hated because Charles knew he still wanted Sophie. Charles for the first time during today was tense as he listened for anything coming.

They made it back to the village without incident and Charles took Sophie home. When they were at her door Sophie gave him one last long kiss on the cheek. “Today was absolutely amazing. You are a wonderful and very sweet man. I feel honored I’ve gotten to grow up with you and we’ve spent so much of our time together. Every day I’m with you is a gift Charles and I hope you always remember that.” Sophie hugged him and Charles was ready to cry. Today was the best day of his life. He felt like crying because he didn’t want it to end. Charles watched Sophie walk inside then went home. He crawled into his bed and hugged his pillow.

The next two days were very slow without Sophie and her party was annoying like he thought it would be because Kaji was all over her. If Charles could have gotten him alone Kaji wouldn’t be walking. At the end of the day Sophie said bye to everybody and gave Charles a much longer hug than the rest. “You better behave while I’m gone Charles” Charles just smiled since he was going with her rather she liked it or not. He hadn’t mentioned it already so if she didn’t want him to go he didn’t have to fight with her about it the last few days. As soon as everybody was gone she ran to her room to hurry and sleep for the adventure that waited for her in the morning.

~ The End ~

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