Leading the way out of the mansion with a flashlight in hand, I turned to check again that everyone was following. Mikado and Azo were clowning around as usual while Myrtle kept a wary eye on them from the rear, with Wisteria trailing them in saddening silence. It felt like she was trying not to get her hopes up, but also that her heart wouldn't listen to her. Cobalt brought up the tail, his eyes vigilant and his senses charged up at the prospect of finally having something to do.
We all had a common mission but each of us had handled it differently. While I had been self-assured that I would remember the path to the base camp with ease, Wisteria's vibe constantly swung between cautious hope and deep dejection. I had decided to leave her be for the moment because Myrtle had done a pretty good job of easing her fears. And I wasn't really suited to the role of a pacifier or sympathizer, so I had felt immense gratitude towards Myrtle for taking over that responsibility with natural ease and comfort. In fact, apart from Cobalt, she was truly the only one amongst all of us who was calm and collected in this whole business.
Azo and Mikado couldn't bring themselves to act with seriousness, although I knew that they were very determined to bring Azurite back to the mansion unscathed. I had realized that their carefree demeanor was more often a facade to mask their true emotions than a reality. Maybe that was the reason that they shared such an amazing rapport. However, I had sensed the mask slip off their auras many a times but had not thought it wise to comment on that. The simple reason for this omission being that they were not fully aware of my powers as yet, and I really wanted to keep it that way until we got back home safe.
But it was Cobalt's reaction that had me confused no end. At times he seemed to be the leading force for this expedition and yet, at others, he seemed to withdraw into some kind of self-imposed shell. I had the vaguely irritating feeling that he was trying to hide something from us, or maybe from me. I felt a little uneasy that there was such distance between us after the moment of intimacy that we had shared earlier in the kitchen, but I hadn't been able to disagree when he had suggested that I lead the pack and he bring up the rear guard. And he did look prepared to guard us all if it came down to that. Wearing the armor that he had painted into reality, and wielding the sword that he had created, he marched on with a determined look in his eyes.
Getting back to the present moment, I began to have second thoughts about our endeavor. I wasn't even wearing protective clothing, leave alone combative gear. Cobalt had his armor, Myrtle could make plants work under her command, Wisteria could disappear from sight, Mikado could fly his way out of trouble and Azo could teleport to a safer place, but what about me? Would mind games be able to protect me against bullets or any other weapons that the enemy might use?
Thinking of stopping and talking to the others about my dilemma, I paused for a second before I realized that we had actually come to the edge of the clearing. The base camp, if memory served me right, was not more than a five minute walk from where we were. I stopped in my tracks, wishing I had taken more time to think things through but just then I heard a cackle of laughter from behind me.
"Azo, Mikado. Could you guys just zip it for two seconds?"
"Oh! Jeez Mom, relax. What's going on?" I didn't know who spoke these words because the moment I heard the word 'Mom' in a sentence addressed to me, I began to see red.
"MOM. You had the audacity to call me Mom?" Forgetting all about my earlier order, my voice rose beyond my control and I would have yelled some more if Cobalt hadn't stepped out of the darkness and placed a warning hand on my shoulder.
"No, Carmine. Don't lose it right now. I think I hear someone coming in our direction." With that, a sudden silence befell our little party and we all waited with bated breaths for an arrival which we didn't think would be a welcome one.