CASeries #5: COSMOS
Chapter 12 ♦ Groundbreaking
Valeriana had been wary and cautious. She still didn’t know Arisce very well—whether or not she was really Sloan Bane, the woman who her father trusted and told her to find. There were no direct verbal confirmations, but the woman did imply several affirmations and her actions proved who she was. Perhaps it was because the name was treated as taboo. Even so, Valeriana had her doubts. Whether or not it was a good decision to tell her the truth, she would know as soon as she asked her father.
Despite the iciness of Arisce’s blue eyes, however, there was warmth and sincerity. They were eyes that reminded her so much of the affectionate lady knight who she remembered had gone out of her way to investigate the Demon Society by unorthodox means.
Her heart stuttered in panic but she remained calm on the outside, taking off her backpack. She sat on the bed and stuffed it under. “Can I call you by your name instead of Arisce?” she asked.
“If that will make you trust me better, then do so,” she replied. “But do not let the others hear it, not even Aliyah.”
She nodded and opened her mouth to begin. Her voice had been soft as she recalled the days she lived in Earth. She mentioned her family but did not dwell on the topic as it was heavy. She remembered how it would be hard from then on to continue being in touch with them. It would even be harder for her mother who, to begin with, had already been so disapproving of the idea and her sudden departure.
Arisce was quiet and still the entire time save for her incisive gazing, the rhythmic rise of her chest, and the small turns of her head. Valeriana had been reluctant to start talking, especially since she was not sure where to start. However, after overcoming that hurdle, the story smoothly flowed. This had been the first time in a while that she was able to run her mouth without the fear of being subjected to judgment. Arisce did not react negatively and was a surprisingly really good listener.
Eventually, it all ended with her being breathless, her recount of the events that led to her coming to Varialon—and no, she did not mention Corvan, only the barest of the story needed to understand the whole ordeal.
“The night is deep,” Arisce told her. “Rest for tonight. I will come find you tomorrow. Good night, my darling, and rest easy. I will find a way to help you.”
Her cold fingers brushed her ear and combed through her hair. The woman then snapped her fingers that dimmed the light in her room, leaving through the flaps soundlessly that it felt as though she was never there. Valeriana caught the lingering scent of lilies as she moved to lie down, throwing the covers around her as she drifted to sleep. The jade sphere sat inside her bag, forgotten.
It had been dreamless, peaceful after a long while. She didn’t know how taxing it could be visiting the dreamstate every day.
Eventually, the morning crept in like a burrowing snake. It was soundless. What gave it away was the cry of birds as well as the gurgling waves as they hit the shore. Valeriana stirred, but felt the weariness weighing her down like gravity, rendering her unable to open her eyes for more than few blinks before drifting back to sleep.
“Aha!” A loud exclamation startled her awake as hands grabbed her limbs and lifted her. The bed disappeared, her comfortable blanket ripped off, and she was carried out.
“What the—what are you guys doing?” she groggily inquired.
She saw Bonjo, Lundie, Maridie, Runner, Beard, along with faces she recognized but could not put a name on. The sky was sunny and bright already as seagulls flocked in the air—it was a blatant sight, especially since it was staring her in the face. She heard the waves and their thunderous laughter.
“Where are you taking me?” she exclaimed.
They started swinging and she found a huge dive down a cliff. Sea foam bubbled on the surface as ripples from the strong winds shuffled against the rocky walls.
She screamed. “You guys! No—”
They then threw her away and she belted a Whitney Houston song at the top of her lungs. “No! No way!”
The soar was not short. It lasted two to four seconds at most. Her back then hit the cold water and she sank deep. The impact hurt her skin—it felt like a huge clap on the back. There were laughs echoing at the top of the cliff as she broke to the surface, her hand flying to her face to free it of the matted hair and water.
“You guys goddamned you all!” she yelled at them as she tried to remain afloat. All she heard were laughter.
She struggled to swim for the shore, but realized there was none in exception for the hill of De Cirque. She grumbled under her breath and finally found something to step on when she swam close. The moment she stepped forward, however, the water stirred from under and the ‘land’ rose to startling heights.
For the second time that morning, she fell, slipping and losing her balance from the suddenness of it. With a squeak, she rose to the surface once more and found large eyes observing her like a rare specimen.
“Sorry,” she said, grinning sheepishly. “I didn’t mean to step on you.”
“Are those kids being mischievous again?” the Giando asked.
She sighed and shivered. “They, like, pulled me out of bed and threw me into the ocean.”
The large beast leaned back into the water. Valeriana felt a current that pulled her close to the giant before it lifted its head once more and faced the direction of the group. Laughter was still sharp and in staccato.
Valeriana raised a brow and laughed when water spewed from the beast’s mouth, roaring straight for her assailants. They all screamed in shock. Some were even sent flying off the cliff themselves. Either way, they ended up as soaked as the honey-golden blonde.
“Karma’s a sunuvabeetch!” Valeriana cackled.
“No fair!” Runner hollered. “You got John on your side.”
“You guys started it!” She laughed before turning to the beast, sweet satisfaction of revenge clear on her face. “Thank you!” she exclaimed.
Curiosity gleamed in John’s eyes as he regarded the fifth-ranker. Still, he remained calm and quiet. He retreated back under the water, his eyes slowly closing. The water sloshed around his gigantic head, accommodating the penetrating weight. Valeriana swam—more like flapped, really—towards ‘land’ and heaved herself out of the water. Her clothes weighed her down and she fell over a couple of times.
“Let me help you!” A hand swept down like saving grace and helped her out. It was a good thing she was wearing long-sleeves or else she might’ve sparked another memory intrusion.
It was Aoute, the knife-throwing genius.
“Sorry they did that,” he said.
“Yeah, no harm done,” she muttered, but still felt the lingering irritation deep inside. It was not too bad to be angry and was only mainly due to being woken up when she least wanted to be.
Her wakeup call was certainly a shocking one. If she had an alarm like this, she probably would be scared to go to sleep.
“It’s a ritual thing,” Aoute told her, green eyes blinking before he held out a bundle of blue in his arms. “I have some clothes here for you from Lady Arisce. Take a bath before breakfast starts.”
She jumped at the chance and washed herself after the unwanted swim. They had mild, natural soaps that was nice smelling which she also used on her hair. She then changed into the clothes she was given. It was a sleeveless, tea-length dress with an empire waist and boat neckline. The pale blue was a nice compliment to her honey-golden hair and a pop to her azure blue eyes. She didn’t have any other shoes aside from her boots. Thankfully, it wasn’t too strange-looking pairing it with a dress.
When she was done, she was guided to the dining ‘room’.
Breakfast was being served when they arrived. The smell of food was thick as Bonjo grilled fishes and seasoned them with spices. Three, long tables were set under the open skies while large banana leaves carpeted its surface. Rice was piled on top and spread in large heaps. She stared at it inquisitively before she took her seat on the bench along with the others and bid them a good morning.
Fish and rice, partnered with chilies soaked in vinegar and soy sauce and tomatoes.
The meal was taken with the drone of conversations. Arisce was wearing a red dress and her ebony brown hair was tied up to a low knot by her nape. She sat behind the largest table, her seat on the far end, overlooking the whole troupe. She gave Valeriana a smile, but preoccupied herself with the conversation she was holding with Aliyah. The shortie wore pants and a loose blouse, her eyes as sharp and reproachful as ever.
Valeriana had been taken in talking to one of the other members of the troupe. So far, they all had warm smiles and welcoming arms despite their tendency for pranks. And by the looks of it, they were eyeing the girl as a new target.
“Valeriana,” said Arisce as she stood. “Come with me.”
The table turned quiet after the woman spoke and eyes latched onto the two with curiosity. The honey-golden blonde stood, feeling a little awkward as she followed the woman. She had nearly forgotten that she told Arisce everything last night. Not to mention she forgot to talk to her father about it, falling asleep as soon as her head hit the pillow.
No words were spoken as they walked side-by-side, eventually stopping before the cliff she had the most unfortunate chance of meeting this morning.
“John, venio ere. Antuigo vu vesoil tor revou.”
The huge turtle-like head rose from the water. John craned his neck to look at the two ladies standing on the edge of the cliff.
“What dost thou need of me?”
“This is Valeriana, who I have heard you’ve already met this morning.”
John’s eyes swiftly went from the woman to the girl standing beside her. “Voiue, that is correct.”
“John, you’ve been here since the beginning of Varialon,” Arisce said.
“He what?” Valeriana looked up at Arisce in shock before she turned back to the giant. “How old are you?”
Her questions went unanswered.
“What say you about luring the gods?”
John’s curiosity flashed. “The gods only pay attention to things that interest them. Thy best chance is to do something extraordinary and stirring, but then I doubt they would even bat a lash.”
“They kinda sound like Lord Aeron and Lienhard.” Valeriana sighed. “What exactly interests those guys?”
“Groundbreaking, you say? I can do that,” the honey-golden blonde said. “I can just set fire to this whole city and bomb everyone like it’s World War Three. But I can’t. I don’t like killing people. And I don’t know how to make bombs. How exactly do you make groundbreaking trouble without killing anybody or bombing a city?”
“Maybe you don’t need to cause trouble,” Arisce said. “Objectively saying, it won’t be. But for the people, maybe it is.”
“Can you hear him?” Valeriana asked, waving to the beast. “And I didn’t get what you just said. What do you mean by it?”
“Of course not,” she replied. “I cannot hear him. I’m relying on your responses to make of this seemingly one-sided conversation. As for your second question, I will address it later.”
“So the girl can hear beasts. A Direct Controller.” The beast’s eyes blinked slowly. “Very unusual,” John commented.
“Why is everyone so shocked by it?” she asked. “Is talking to beasts so—”
“—unusual.” Both Arisce and John said at the same time.
That put a period to the topic.
Her brows knitted. “I have another question.” Valeriana held the giant’s steady gaze. “How do you leave Varialon?”
“How will thee?” he asked back.
She pursed her lips. “I don’t know.”
“Find out.” He then retreated back under the water, leaving behind bubbles and restless waves.
Valeriana turned to Arisce in frustration, her lips pressed into a thin line. The woman subsequently stared back. A small smile lifted the corners of Arisce’s lips and her brows quirked, a hint of mischief in her eyes.
“If only leaving was as easy as asking a Giando about a way out, I would’ve already long since left this place.”
“But if ever we find a way to return,” Valeriana began. “Would you take the chance to leave?”
“No.” Her voice had a firm period, however, there hung a ‘but’ in her sentence. “Not without De Cirque. Short as it may have been, these people are my family. I want them to see the world they have missed.”
Valeriana took a deep breath and sighed.
“Now that you know . . .” Arisce trailed off. “People in De Cirque are trained. When will you begin yours?” the troupe leader asked.
“By the looks of it, we have a lot of work to do with you. Insufficient knowledge of Valemiuer and you need to further your control of the winds should you want to keep up that charade. After all, the less people know of your true power, the better. The people of the factions can be greedy. They will use any means to win over the other factions.” She swiftly began to walk away, leaving Valeriana stumbling after. “Find your limitations. Break through them. That’s what we’re here for.”