CASeries #2: LEGEND
Chapter 14 ♕ What Once Was Lost Will Return
It had already been more than an hour and a half since Rowe and the others departed. Charles was off somewhere having his usual conversation with Tamara who, as usual, continued to tease him until they eventually started yelling at each other. The twins were bickering as anticipated, arguing over which was better between sailing during the day or at night.
Raziel, on the other hand, was admiring the view of the ocean as he stood upon the ship. The sixth-ranker described the scene poetically, his words so heart-touching that some of the crews listened closely to him speak—which encouraged him to continue. Elfre looked more than aggravated listening to him blabber on and screamed at him for being so annoying. Raziel replied dismissively, saying that she did not know how to appreciate the art of words.
Corvan was unsurprisingly the quietest of them all, seemingly unperturbed by the things happening around him. His green eyes reflected the golden sun, the direction where the previous ship was headed.
A breeze blew against his face, playing with his hair as it cooled his slightly sweaty skin. His eyes narrowed slightly at this, knowing that this wasn’t the ordinary sea breeze. It was something more, and he knew what it was.
“Rowe,” Corvan whispered as he turned. “What happened?” he asked, eyeing the man before him—or his soul, rather.
“I don’t feel delighted to bring you this news,” Rowe answered, his face looking guilty and worn.
He was barely visible to the eye, but his words echoed in Corvan’s ears as if he was really there. Until now, the first-ranker did not feel comfortable being able to see through him as if he was only a veil on a bride’s face. It felt strange.
“Tell me,” he said.
“There was a demon on board,” Rowe told him. “I did not notice it immediately since I’m not that sensitive to their presence—not to mention they used a masking, but when I did, it had already been too late.”
The others seemed to have notice Rowe’s presence that they came forward in wonder.
“What’s going on?” asked Elfre. “Did something go wrong?”
Elfre’s question was ignored and Corvan continued to press on about the matter, feeling bothered about the recent incident he unfortunately wasn’t able to be in.
“A demon?” He narrowed his eyes. “Where is it? What did it do?”
“That demon was a mere doll. The puppet master is somewhere else. I’m sorry, everyone. Because of the fact that I wasn’t cautious enough, it got Valeriana.”
“Valeriana?!” Everyone gawked at the second-ranker.
“Is she alright?” Tamara worriedly exclaimed. “How is she?”
“She . . .” Rowe sighed as he turned to everyone. “Got stabbed and fell into the water.”
“WHAT?!” they all roared.
“What happened? Did you get her back?”
“I apologize,” he said. “I have no excuse.” He shook his head.
“Simple to say, you weren’t able to do anything?”
“I jumped in and tried to save her. God knows how long I’ve been swimming, but there was no sign of her.”
Corvan turned away and gripped the edge of the ship’s railings as he clenched his jaw while the others looked beyond distraught.
“That . . . stupid . . .” He sighed.
“When did this happen?” Charles calmly inquired.
“About ten to fifteen minutes after we left the port.”
“More than an hour passed since then. You only found the time to tell us now?” He continued.
“It was hard finding the right time. There was chaos on board and the captain insisted on double checking everything as we went on. They didn’t let us be until he was reassured that everything was alright.”
“I’ll be sending Marius to scout the area for any signs of Valeriana until it’s time to leave. We have less than two hours left until we depart. We’ll find her.”
There was a quiet pause between the other members of the Twelve. After the recent panic back in the academy for the attempt of killing Valeriana, they did not suspect anything. This was the second time a demon went after her—and it actually got the girl this time. It was starting to look as though someone actually was after Valeriana’s life.
“I have to tell you that I’m feeling quite suspicious,” Rowe declared, his thoughts similar with the others’.
“You’re right,” Tamara said. “This isn’t the first time, is it?”
“It’s not,” answered Elfre.
“Anyhow,” Charles breathed. “We have to focus on finding Valeriana. Send out your familiars if you can. It’ll make the search faster.” He turned away from the group and walked off. “Hurry. We do not have the time.”
Everyone headed off of the ship towards different directions to start the new mission they were supposed to accomplish in just less than two hours.
To say the least, being in a company of undines was a strange experience but it was fun nonetheless.
The water from the ‘magical’ fountain tasted heavenly—and it wasn’t only because Valeriana felt thirsty—but as she gradually continued drinking it, it started to taste rather bland and unpleasant. This was normal, as explained by Diana, so as to prevent anyone from getting entirely addicted into taking it and to signify the fact that it was taking effect.
Still, she couldn’t help but feel suspicious . . .
Her wound was healing favorably, but she couldn’t afford to stay much longer for the clock was ticking and time passed the longer she stayed. Although she did like to stay longer to try and recover completely, she didn’t feel at ease merely sitting around.
“Just wait a few minutes more,” said Diana, patting her on the hand in an attempt to qualm her worries. “I swear you won’t get left behind.”
She gulped. “But . . .”
Clyte was skillfully weaving her hair in some complicated hairstyle behind her while humming a delightful melody absentmindedly, a comb made of mother-of-pearl sitting beside the undine as she worked on Valeriana’s honey-golden tresses with expert hands. She occasionally added ornaments in her hair as she went on, decorating it with flowers and something else.
“Tell you what, Val,” said the male undine. “Just sit calm and let me do something first, so that you won’t be too anxious about getting left behind by your friends.”
“Are you sure you’re not planning on eating me anymore?” She practically whimpered. “I really swear I’m not tasty! I even got an extra fat on my belly and I swear it doesn’t taste good.”
Diana gave her a look from the corner of her eye, amused. “Valeriana, I already told you that if you had said yes, it would’ve happened, but you didn’t. Are you planning on changing your mind? It’s not too late.”
“N-no . . . I’m good. Really.”
“Seriously!” Clyte exclaimed. “We drown people, we don’t eat them.”
“That’s still not comforting . . .”
“I bet you’ll be more scared if we show you the teeth.”
Elvira and Clyte’s faces morphed into a sharp-toothed, piranha-like appearance that Valeriana belted out a scream that would’ve put Whitney Houston or Charice Pempengco to shame. Afterwards, the two changed back to their charming appearance and everybody else started laughing.
“Ahh! No. Please, no! Mom!”
Calder guffawed, flapping his tail. “Relax, we were just joking.”
“No! Just no!”
“How about this? Maybe it’ll put you at ease?”
Valeriana eyed Calder questioningly as he inserted two fingers into his mouth and blew a sharp whistle that echoed all throughout the cave. She had to cover her ears from the intensity of the sound, but the quietness afterwards and the reassuring smiles of her undine friends eventually encouraged her to relax herself. With nothing but the gentle trickling from the narrow-edged rocks growing on the cave’s ceiling, Valeriana looked around in wonder.
“What just happened?”
“Just wait for a few moments, and watch the water closely.”
Valeriana didn’t do as instructed and peeked through her fingers instead as she sat quietly until several movements caught her eye. She squinted to get a better look and shrieked when two bodies jumped out of the water in a perfect arch simultaneously. The familiar sound from the animals also caught her by surprise, but a large smile broke on her face when she realized what they were.
“Dolphins!” She then frowned and glared suspiciously at the undines. “They aren’t secretly sharks, are they?”
“Why don’t you see for yourself?”
Calder, about half of his tail submerged into the water, reached forward and beckoned the two dolphins to come forward. They seemed familiar with the undine and obeyed his gesture tamely—not surprising at all since they were naturally friendly.
The dolphin looked up at him and started creating short and high-pitched sounds as Calder petted them affectionately. Valeriana was mesmerized by the display and felt the sudden urge to do the same as well. Inwardly, as she watched, she was mildly envious of Calder being able to be friends with such adorable creatures.
“Their names are Chit and Chat.”
Valeriana’s brows shot up at Calder’s weird tastes—some oddball he was. “Chit and Chat? Seriously? As in chitchat?”
“Doesn’t it sound endearing?” He grinned.
Valeriana, despite wanting to, did not utter any protest as Diana chuckled beside her. “I get it. They’re cute,” she muttered.
“Oh, do cheer up,” said Clyte. “Kava didn’t just call them for a show, you know.”
“Chit and Chat can watch out for any ship leaving the port so they can come back to us immediately should they see anything,” Elvira explained, smiling softly.
“Isn’t that right, you fish-balls?” Calder cooed at them.
Now this was even weirder.
First, Chit and Chat. Now, fish-balls? What kind of thoughts was this man having for him to come up with such strange—not to mention quite stupid—names? Diana suddenly laughed, and only then did she remember they could read minds like open books.
“I’m finished!” Clyte cheerfully cried as she moved back slightly to admire the job she recently finished. Her eyes gleamed bright with pride and exhilaration, clapping her hands thrice with a squeal. “Oh wait.” She took a golden hair-pin and slipped it between the folds of her hair.
Valeriana touched her neatly done up-do. “What exactly did you do?” she inquired, turning her head to look at the little undine girl questioningly. “This isn’t your way of killing me, is it?”
“Don’t mind! It’s really beautiful, isn’t it, Elvira?”
Elvira nodded approvingly. “It is.”
“Diana?” She looked at the older woman hopefully.
“You made her even prettier, that’s for sure!” the man replied, chuckling.
“I feel like my neck’s gonna be snapped off,” she said. “It’s kinda heavy.”
“I want your hair to stay this way forever!” Clyte said. “Can you not remove this until you get to the ship at least? Oh pretty please?”
She stared at Clyte’s cute, puppy dog eyes and sighed in surrender. Seriously, just thinking this kid could turn into a monster gave her goosebumps. Who could resist, though? “Alright . . . I guess I can bear with it for a while.”
Clyte cheered. “Rejoice!”
“Are you sure you don’t want to become an undine, Valeriana? You’re looking more the part,” Calder said.
“Nah, no thanks.”
“Alright, well . . . Chit and Chat,” Calder began. “Tell us when a ship is leaving, alright?” He then turned to Valeriana. “Do you know which way it’s headed?” he asked.
“It’s supposed to be towards Prelurésia . . . north, maybe?”
“Then, that’s it. If you see any ship headed towards north any time soon, make sure to tell us, alright?” he told the two dolphins. Both made high-pitched noises in response before jumping back down underwater and swimming away.
Clyte continued to do the last finishing touches for Valeriana’s hair when she suddenly caught sight of the necklace around her neck. The beautiful shining that the key emitted was eye-catching, even from under her clothes. The little undine girl was mesmerized when she saw this.
“Your necklace is pretty!”
Valeriana looked up at her in wonder. “Oh, this? Well, it’s not necessarily mine but I’m guarding it for someone.”
“You guard treasures, too?” Elvira asked in amazement.
“A very important treasure.” Valeriana nodded.
“I just realized this, though,” Valeriana said, horrified as she looked towards the water where the dolphins disappeared into. “Where’s the way out of this cave? I mean, there must be some door or something, right?”
“The entrance to this cave is underwater.”
“No way! I don’t freaking know how to swim! I’ll only drown! Wait . . . it can’t be . . . when it’s time to leave . . .”
“We’re here, lheuim ansur. We’ll guide you through!” Clyte said cheerfully. “And for the last time, we’re not gonna kill you. We won’t hurt you unless you hurt us first.”
“I really don’t trust you.” She looked at the little undine girl questioningly. “Where did you get that word, anyway?” she asked her. “I mean—that lheuim ansur something.”
Avaro called her the very same thing.
“It’s from the Ancient Language,” Clyte answered casually while shrugging. “Didn’t you know?”
“No. I know what it is. But I don’t know what it means exactly.”
She tilted her head to the side in confusion, her webbed ears twitching as she did. “Lheuim ansur means ‘strong beauty’. It’s what a flower is called in the Ancient Language with the same name as yours. Valeriana—isn’t it pretty?”
“So that’s what it was. I do agree, though. They’re beautiful.” Valeriana nodded understandingly.
“Oh, right,” Calder said, his tail flipping as he snapped his finger. “I saw a sea serpent a while ago when I was out hunting for food.”
“A sea serpent?!” the girl asked, horrified.
“It didn’t mean any harm, that’s for sure. In fact, it seems to be looking for something. Not to worry.”
“Won’t it be dangerous?”
“If we do nothing to disturb whatever it’s doing, I don’t think it’ll attack us.”
The conversation continued, allowing Valeriana to further learn about Clyte and the others. As her knowledge about them expanded, she started to think that she was put in this position for a good purpose—to enlighten her about things she obviously didn’t know and let her learn moral lessons about life supposedly . . . or something.
She took a few more drinks on the so-called ‘fountain’ until it suddenly turned horribly bitter that she wanted to spit it out. It was the same time that Chit and Chat rode in and started dancing around, putting up a show for everyone.
“Well, Valeriana,” Diana said. “It’s time to go.”
“You don’t mean . . .”
“For the last time, you won’t die!”