CASeries #2: LEGEND
Chapter 17 ♕ Dolphins and the Bracelet
After freshening up and changing into new clothes, Valeriana joined the Twelve on the deck among the crews who were joyfully passing the night through carefree singing and dancing. Though their voices might’ve not been the best, the mood they created was so infectious that some of the rankers joined along.
She gazed at the hairpin she found on her hair and felt a weird sensation inside her chest. Something happened that she couldn’t remember. How did this hairpin get between the folds of her hair?
The fifth-ranker rubbed her temples as she sank in deep thought, feeling a slight headache somewhere. She couldn’t have hit her head, right?
Valeriana had spent the rest of the afternoon cleaning up herself in her room and trying to recover from the previous incidents that happened just a few hours before. Everything simply felt surreal that she had a hard time believing it. Nonetheless, she was glad inside to have her bracelet back at long last, and to still be alive and breathing. She could somehow make out a gap in her memory. Something happened after she had fallen off that ship, but she could not remember what.
It felt nice for the girl to not finally be covered in serpent slime as she insisted on calling it, finding the fact that it was disgusting to call it spit or saliva—which was the truth.
Tamara was skipping around in circles with her arm hooked with one of the ship’s sailors, a bottle of rum in one hand as she belted out a loud, glass-shattering song to accompany the jubilant strumming of a wooden guitar and the dramatic melody that came from the accordion.
“And I find meself looking out to sea!” she screamed as her red hair wildly swayed with the ocean breeze. “Oh dear mermaid, please come to me!”
“You shouldn’t sing that song.” Charles sighed. “You might actually summon one,” he told them warningly.
Under the golden, glowing lights that came from the hanging lamps, everyone stopped short in their activity and stared at Charles with open uncertainty and wonder. The silence was deafening, save for the awkward moment when one of the sailors accidentally dropped a bottle and it started rolling on the wooden flooring.
“I only wish to sing with thee!” Tamara pumped her fist in the air and broke the wall of silence.
The strumming then started again along with the cheerful clapping and stomping of those who joined the celebration. The accordion began to play its part along with the chorus of voices that started with the music and everyone resumed their activity as though nothing happened at all.
The fourth-ranker blew out a deep breath.
Until now, Valeriana still wasn’t sure of how she was going to exactly explain to them what happened prior to her getting spat out to their ship’s deck by a mischievous serpent. The Twelve demanded her to elucidate the matter to them so that they would be able to tell Rowe the next time he—or his soul, rather—decided to come by. Besides, she knew they were secretly dying to know what exactly occurred after she fell into the water and the wonders of her coming out alive and unwounded after being clearly stabbed during the demon attack. Problem was, how could she even try when she couldn’t remember anything at all? Heck. She had been trying to search her mind for answers. She was forgetting a lot, which was obvious.
She was saved from answering by an excited yell. “I found us dinner!” a man exclaimed.
The crew laughed and gave out cheers of joy from the news, cups of wine hitting one another. The song didn’t halt though, and only grew louder and wilder.
Valeriana watched the man who cried out earlier haul some nets from the water, heaving at his best. Some men came forward to help him pull in the catch, their grunts evident as the sound of flipping and struggling. Their muscles flexed as they planted their feet on the floor and moved their arms in a smooth, alternating manner.
It wasn’t long before they managed to get the net on board with their fresh catch, which, to Valeriana’s horror, looked utterly familiar.
“Oh lookie here, maties! We ‘ave dolphins!”
She gasped as she heard their cries echoed in her ears.
“Let us go!”
“This isn’t fair! We didn’t come to become dinner!”
“These dolphins . . . they are . . .” She paused. “Oh my god!” Valeriana screamed as the man took out a knife and prepared to stab the poor creatures. “Stop the hell where you are! Don’t do it!”
“Valeriana! It’s Valeriana!”
“Valeriana came to save us!”
The man looked up and stared at her as she ran forward hurriedly and grabbed the knife from his hands, hurling it to some direction. It spun as it cut through the air with a gentle swooshing sound, disappearing into the darkness of the night before a faint splash echoed.
The whole crew including the Twelve gaped at her in shock. The music stopped abruptly as the attention of those who were present redirected towards the girl. Aneeka, who just came out of a door that led to the captain’s cabin, paused from her tracks as she saw Valeriana run forward screaming for some reason she didn’t quite understand—in fact, no one did.
“Valeriana, what are you doing?” Charles demanded as he followed with heavy steps.
“I don’t know—I just! Wait. You know my name?”
The dolphins seemed to be jumping with joy.
“Valeriana? Explain yourself.”
“Talking . . . somehow, you two can relate so much to that word.”
“Because we’re called Chit and Chat!”
“Yes . . .”
Valeriana ignored Charles and bent down to caress the two dolphins on the nose through the series of knots and strings that made up the net. “You guys . . . I have a lot of questions, and somehow, I think you can answer them. What’s going on?”
“We needed to deliver some message for you! We were also worried what happened!” chirped Chit as he wiggled on the floor.
“The serpent was bad, we thought he ate you!” added Chat as he pushed his nose further into Valeriana’s palm.
“But he dropped you off here, so we wanted to know if you were alright.”
“We can’t really deliver the message without coming close. We purposely let ourselves get caught so we could get to you!”
“That’s reckless! What if I wasn’t here that time! You could’ve been turned into sushi!” she exclaimed, lightly tapping the two on the forehead as she scolded them. Something about that way of scolding gave her a sense of déjà vu. “Anyhow, I’ll get you out of there immediately.” She began tearing into the net until she managed to free about half of their body.
Never realizing that everyone else were watching her with wide, confused, and curious eyes, Valeriana worked on freeing the two dolphins until she succeeded. The man who caught them from earlier had his mouth hanging open as he watched the girl tamper with the strings of his precious fishnet.
“We’re so sorry. We were trying to call out to you a while ago but you weren’t responding. So we thought this was the only way.”
Valeriana’s shoulders sagged. These poor little dolphins could’ve been her dinner because of her. “I’m sorry, I was cleaning myself. I didn’t know,” she told them apologetically.
“Don’t apologize, Miss Valeriana! Just so you know! The message!”
“Oh, right. What is the message?”
“You might’ve forgotten what actually happened, but memories do not matter. If you were to remain attached to the memories you obtained in this journey, you will only be more confused and it will make things a lot more complicated. You have to go with what you feel and go where the wind takes you. Only then will you really find the answers you seek.”
“So something really did happen?” she asked, eyes wide in horror. “Why can’t I know?”
“We don’t know anything. We’re sorry,” Chit sadly told her. “We only did what was asked of us.”
“But if it’s you, we’re sure you can do it! We have very good judgment.”
“You don’t have to worry at all.”
Valeriana was able to tell the difference between the two dolphins after quite a while. Chit had a more stout and chubby figure than Chat, who was slender and had a bigger tail. Chit’s nose was short and he had a small scar on his jaw while Chat had a sharper fin on the back than Chit.
“I really can’t know anything? Like, who did this, for example?”
“You already have everything you need, Miss Valeriana! You don’t need to know anything else!”
She shook her head and sighed with a small chuckle. “Are you alright, though? Does it hurt anywhere?”
“I see, that’s a relief,” she said. “Now let’s get you back into the water. Don’t come any close to a ship ever again because I will not be there to save you next time, okay?”
“Anything for you, Miss Valeriana!”
“You guys are so . . .” She shook her head as she looked into their beady eyes. “Cute.” Valeriana then redirected her gaze towards the catcher. “I’m sorry, can you let them go for me just this once? I promise I’ll help with fishing out dinner.”
He nodded reluctantly at her request as he continued to gaze at her with wide eyes.
Valeriana then lifted Chat into her arm and walked towards the railings of the ship. “You’re unexpectedly heavy,” she muttered before throwing dolphin into the water as gingerly as she could.
After a loud splash, she shook her hands and wiped them with her clothes.
The man followed shortly, Chit in his arms as well. “W-what do I do with this?”
“Oh, just throw him in gently. I think he’ll be fine.” She looked down at the creature. “You will, won’t you?”
“I’m fine, Miss Valeriana! Just throw me in like you did to Chat.”
“Right. Just throw him in,” she repeated, nodding approvingly.
He allowed the dolphin to slip from his arms straight down into the ocean below.
Another splash echoed and the two dolphins finally were set free, much to Valeriana’s content. She enjoyed hearing their songs of gratitude as they swam off happily. She really hoped they would deliver her thanks to the ones who saved her life safely. It had been more than a few hours since they left the port. It could take them long to go back.
“Valeriana.” Charles had her elbow in his grip the next moment and was suddenly dragging her away. “A word.”
She momentarily forgot. “Oh.”
Valeriana wanted to simply curl up into a ball because of the demanding looks the rankers were throwing her way. Charles had dragged her into the captain’s cabin—after requesting permission from the one who occupied it of course— as soon as she finished her talk with Chit and Chat a little while ago. Now, the other half of the Twelve who joined the trip were all present. Aside from them, there was no one else.
“Now, do you mind telling us what exactly happened back there?” Elfre inquired with a frown, her arms crossed and her hips cocked to the side.
“I’m not sure how I’m going to react about you talking to fishes,” Raziel pointed out.
“Dolphins technically aren’t fishes.” Elfre flashed Raziel a pointed look and pursed her lips into a straight line. “Idiot.”
“They have fins. They swim. They live in water. I don’t see what’s not fishy about them.” He chuckled at his own words which made an unintentional joke while Elfre merely rolled her eyes and looked the other way.
“Since when in the world can you talk to dolphins? I thought you can only understand familiars—but even animals?” Tamara could not hide the disbelief on her face as she continued to let the questions roll out of her tongue.
“No . . . uh . . . it wasn’t always like this.” Valeriana quieted, unsure of how she was going to explain.
“Then what?” asked Corvan, feeling a muscle under his eye involuntarily twitch from all the stress of having to think about the reason. Valeriana’s uncertainty didn’t help either. It only helped fuel his irascibility.
“You see . . . um . . .” She fidgeted. Bringing her head up, she looked at the people who had her surrounded from every direction. Her anxiety rocketed for this reason and her mind went blank.
“Everyone, I think we need to give her some space.” Charles grabbed the shoulder of Raziel and dragged him back to make his point clear.
“Alright, then,” Corvan said as he and everyone else did as Charles asked and stepped back to give Valeriana the space she needed.
The rest quieted at his statement and trained their gazes, which were full of confusion and inquiry, towards Valeriana. The girl made a visible intake of breath as she cast her gaze down on the ground and cleared her throat to prepare herself.
“I think Rowe already briefed you with what happened a while ago,” she said. “I fell into the water after being stabbed by the demon . . . or something,” she muttered.
“That’s the thing,” Elfre said, her green eyes blinking. She raked her hand through her hair with a sigh. “You obviously aren’t wounded. And that nasty cut on your palm is gone too.”
Charles flicked his forefinger open and held it up in front the seventh. “Let her speak.” He then nodded towards Valeriana just a few moments later. “Then, explain.”
“To tell you the truth, I was wounded,” she said. “I actually thought I was gonna die when I fell in. I lost consciousness a few moments afterwards. When I came to . . . it was Marius swallowing me up. I can’t . . . remember anything at all.”
“You can’t be experiencing . . . memory loss, right?”
“Well . . .” Valeriana told them. “I don’t know . . . but I feel like something heavy happened back then. Something changed. Something big. I don’t know what, but those dolphins were involved.”
They all turned to her curiously.
“So . . . you can’t remember?” Tamara assumed.
Disappointed, she shook her head.
“Then what did those dolphins tell you?”
“Um . . . well, uh, that memories are not important—or something. I’ll only be confused if I attach myself to memories.” She paused. “But, seriously, I’ve never been more confused in my entire life. And I feel kinda betrayed . . . not to mention, I’m scared.”
“If we can’t obtain any information from you this way, then we’ll have to make do with another,” Corvan said, pondering greatly himself. He couldn’t help but give Valeriana a mild look of curiosity. “Well, let’s start with this. How do you feel?”
She shrugged. “I don’t feel bad or anything. In fact, I feel better. I’ve never felt better. Despite the confusion, I’m at ease. Like, there’s a big progress with everything. Myself.” Valeriana then beamed up at them.
“Looks like you’ve gotten into a state of inner peace of some sort,” the first-ranker stated. “I guess that’s all there is to it.”
“Inner—what? This isn’t some sort Kung Fu movie, is it? Don’t you go quoting Master Shifu now.”
“Another movie?” Tamara excitedly latched to the girl’s arm. “What’s it about? And who’s Master Shifu?”
Before Valeriana could attempt to answer Tamara’s inquiry, Corvan started to speak.
“But if that person is able to make you forget what happened, then that means it isn’t just anyone. After all, even the most powerful Direct Control users are not able to perform memory-altering. It can only mean that it’s one of Valemnia’s guardian spirits. And, considering we’re in Larkovia, which is the Land of Water . . .”
“You might’ve encountered my continent’s guardians,” Charles interjected, making Valeriana and everyone else raise their brows as they anticipated the continuation of his statement.
“Undines,” Tamara, Charles, and Corvan spoke in unison.
“Whoa.” Valeriana was awestruck. “What? Hold on, I think I’ve heard that somewhere before.”
“They’re like mermaids, but they’re basically ocean royalty,” Charles explained. “But if you met one, I’m wondering how you’re still alive. I heard they love to drown people. How you came out without a scratch—not even the ones you had before—is a real wonder.”
“Drowning . . .” She shivered. “Do they eat people?”
“From what I heard? No . . . they’re too sophisticated for that. But they do carnage once you trigger their bad side, not to mention they’re very mischievous.”
“Well, at least . . .” Elfre said.
“Anyhow, there’s no use pursuing this matter if you can’t remember anything useful. Let’s talk about something else,” Charles said, taking her bracelet out of his pocket and giving it back to Valeriana. “I didn’t get much out of it, but I observed things which felt uncommon.”
Valeriana felt a twist in her guts. “What is it?”
“Firstly, the illustration on the surface of the bracelet is the same as those etched on the doors and walls of the royal palace. It is the pattern commonly embroidered into fabrics and carved on jewelries such as this. You can call it a part of Valemnian culture.” He fixed his glasses as he eyed the object intently. “It also radiates weak magic—a magic with the purpose of suppressing and protecting. This kind of magic is not permanent and needs to be strengthened every now and then to maintain it—much like the barrier that surrounds the academy but still different.”
“I . . .” She stared at the jewelry on her palms.
“How did you get your hands into this sort of object?”
“My father gave this to me. I did consider this special, but I didn’t think it was that special.”
Charles looked at her suspiciously. “Who is your father?”
She returned his gaze. “Janus. Janus Kerrigan.”