CASeries #2: LEGEND
Chapter 11 ♕ The Scarring Lion
After returning to their given rooms, Valeriana took her much needed bath before they were eventually called down for dinner. Her hair still somewhat damp from a relaxing soak, she slipped into some dress Tabina lent while her clothes were still being washed. It was hard only having a single set of clothes since she never actually expected to stay out for more than a few hours.
“Dinner will arrive shortly,” said Farron as he took his seat on the very end of the table. “For now, please help yourself to some bread and butter.”
Elfre glanced at Charles’ direction repeatedly and swallowed hard, not bothering to hide the fact that she felt nervous.
Keelan moaned in frustration and looked at Corvan pleadingly. “Hmmm.”
Exhaling heavily, Corvan flicked his hand once and the glowing strip vanished. Keelan rejoiced and thanked the first-ranker before lunging for the loaf of bread in front of him. Aneeka, who was sitting beside Keelan, hit him on the shoulder.
“Manners, Keelan! Manners!”
Farron laughed at this. “I’m reminded that I have not met all of you just yet.”
“You’re already acquainted with Rowe, Corvan, Tamara, and Valeriana,” Charles said. “Why not start, Raziel? I’m sure you’re very much looking forward to do so.”
“Why, of course.” Raziel flashed his best smile and started blabbering away, much to everyone’s annoyance.
Valeriana looked around inquiringly. She didn’t remember Corvan introducing himself to Charles’ so-called friend. But then again, she was immersed in a conversation with Genevieve that time to actually be aware of what happened before she introduced herself.
She tugged on the sleeve of her borrowed clothes, feeling somewhat uncomfortable having to wear a dress. The only occasions in which she wore such things were the parties and different events that required formal wear—especially the meeting with the king. Other than that, she didn’t prefer to be dressed in similar attires akin to billowing skirts and frilly gowns. She often tripped on lengthy fabrics clumsily, and that happened a couple of times during her dinner with King Laedin.
Without her realizing, Lienhard entered the room free from the concealment of his hood. His golden hair and eyes blended with the lights which glowed in a similar hue. The illumination was given off by the candles the chandelier held while it was hoisted on the ceiling directly above the dinner table.
His sudden appearance caught Farron by surprise.
He coughed. “Golden eyes? You . . . aren’t royalty by any chance, are you?”
“You can just call me Lienhard,” the man answered with a grin.
“The king’s brother!” He practically jumped off of his seat.
Lienhard stopped beside him, his hands clamping on his shoulders. The impact resonated throughout the dining area. Farron was eventually forced back down to sit. “Relax, you need not do anything. Treat me like you would treat any normal guest. Are we clear with that, young man?”
“I . . . suppose so.”
Dinner went by weirdly and quite awkwardly that barely anyone spoke—until Charles asked Tamara and the others what they were doing earlier. This question made Tamara choke on her meal and the others stop short, fleeting eyes exchanging looks before the girl finally answered.
“We came around by chance and accidentally heard you.”
“So you decided to listen in?” he continued, never ceasing from eating his dinner but only spoke after he swallowed.
“Not really. We were just curious,” the third-ranker told him, not at all stuttering as if she already laid out answers to give him prior to the expected interrogation.
“Only you,” Aneeka muttered, rolling her eyes.
Tamara shot her a brief glare.
“Anyhow, you’ll be having no dessert after meal as punishment,” he said.
“What?!” The girls gawked at Charles in shock, except Valeriana.
“I’m fine with that,” the fifth-ranker said. “I don’t like sweets anyway.”
“I noticed that,” the fourth-ranker answered, eyes concentrating on his plate. “Never did you touch anything sweet—even the confections I made that tasted best.” He made a short pause before looking up and gazing at Valeriana with daring eyes. “That is why you’ll be the only one eating dessert among the girls—their portions are yours, too.”
Valeriana’s spoon made a sharp clang against the plate as she stared at Charles in horror. “How . . . could you?” Her voice quieted.
Valeriana knew that there was no way she could ever forget—how a whole, freshly baked, saccharin-sweet apple pie was forced down her throat.
Now she knew how to never cross the fourth-ranker ever again.
Looking on the bright side, it was a good thing Charles didn’t question them any further or all of them would have already died in embarrassment.
Valeriana ended up puking everything she ate outside the house after dinner, seeing as she could no longer hold in the intense, sickly sensation that kept on crawling up her throat. She never could really handle extremely sweet things—seeing as she absolutely loathed the overwhelming explosion of the taste within her mouth.
After forcing down the last bite, Valeriana’s hands flew to her mouth and she ran out of the room, gagging. Everyone stared after her in confusion, their foreheads creasing in question. It took a moment for them to realize.
Although the entirety of those who witnessed the embarrassing display understood the reason why she ended up in such a state, Valeriana could not hold back the fact that she wanted to curl up in a corner and just shut away the world.
She was forced to retire to bed early after being offered a warm broth to calm her protesting stomach from the lack of food. She vomited everything she had after that whole pie. The dessert was also disgustingly sweet that it was obvious Charles was doing it on purpose to torment her.
The mentioned fourth-ranker, however, apologized afterwards. It seemed as though he never expected any of these events to transpire when he was setting up his punishment plans for the girls. He, himself, made the broth for Valeriana. It was enough to quiet the growling from inside her belly.
She hoped that she would be fine the next morning. It will then be their journey back to the academy to escort Lord Lienhard, while the rest of the Twelve would travel straight to Prelurésia in order to fulfill their part of the deal.
“Are you feeling fine now?” was Charles’ question when she came downstairs later that morning, her unruly hair somewhat untamable despite her constant effort of fixing it.
“My mouth tastes like crap,” she muttered. “I wish I brought some toothbrush.”
“You can chew on some mint leaves,” he answered, holding out some to Valeriana. “Are you well enough to travel?”
“It’s not that worse like last night,” Valeriana told him, accepting the mint and shoving some into her mouth. “I’m good. I just . . . don’t think I’ll be able to look at food right now or I’ll want to puke again,” she mumbled, smelling the sharp minty scent as she continued to crush the leaves between her teeth.
“Now I see the extent of your detestation to sweets.” Charles fixed his glasses before slinging a knapsack over his shoulder. “I never knew it was this bad.”
“Well . . .” She shrugged. “I guess I got traumatized from having to live with an obsessed lover of sweets for such a long time.”
“Shouldn’t the result be the opposite?”
“There’s this incident I would rather not talk about,” she told him, shaking her head.
“Anyhow, are you ready to travel? We’re leaving in a few moments.”
“I don’t really have anything on me except for the clothes I wore. Everything I packed before was . . . finished.”
“Ah, yes. The sandwiches.” He sighed. “Did Keelan eat them?”
She could only shrug. “When I looked . . . they were gone.”
“No need to ask questions, then.” Charles turned to leave. “Get the others after you finish getting ready and tell them we’re leaving. I’ll go and give my Farron my thanks for letting us stay the night.”
“Can’t we go later?”
“The ship leaves in a specific time, we cannot be late or we’ll have to wait until next week for the next docking.”
“Oh . . .” Valeriana nodded reluctantly before walking back upstairs to gather the others.
When she managed to get everyone to go downstairs, Charles was immersed in a conversation with Farron. Though it was probably just him thanking the guy for letting them impose so suddenly without any prior notice, Valeriana knew that there was something deeper between the two of them—like a deep bond of friendship that lasted for more than a decade, probably.
“Next time we play chess, let’s do it in my office.” Farron laughed.
“I thought the bedroom offered the best privacy so far. Are you sure no one would disrupt our game the next time if we play in your office?” Charles inquired.
“Then how about I visit you next time?”
“How about you don’t?” he said.
“You always are.” Farron looked saddened.
“I’ll just write you a letter.”
“Are you upset that I beat you in our game?” He chuckled, patting Charles lightly on the arm.
“You cheated when I turned my back,” the fourth-ranker accused, glaring at the man pointedly that it would’ve been threatening if it was any other person. Farron, on the other hand, wasn’t at all fazed.
“Of course, I did not. I would never.”
“No matter.” Charles frowned before turning to leave. “We’re leaving. I forgive you because of your generosity, but don’t expect this event to be ever repeated because I’ll kill you if you do it again.”
“I feel threatened.” Farron laughed. “Do come back, though.”
“Not for another six years,” he said, never ceasing from his casual stride.
Valeriana and the others, by the time that Charles already passed through the main doors, stopped before Farron to give their thanks. Tamara also apologized for interrupting before she walked off with a calm face—though she probably was embarrassed inside—and the others simply followed her out.