CASeries #2: LEGEND
Chapter 19 ♕ To Prelurésia We Go!
The literally faint form of Rowe standing before her seemed almost surreal. She doubted if she could even believe what she was seeing. The fact that she could even see right through him was freaky enough to make her feel somewhat . . . hesitant. But then again, this was considered as Rowe’s ability. His very soul was present before them, the essence of his very existence.
“Wow, Rowe.” She breathed as she looked him over from head to toe. “You’re glowing.”
“Thank you, dear Valeriana,” he replied charmingly, flashing his trademark smile at her.
His voice almost felt nonexistent.
“I mean that quite literally.”
Tamara howled in laughter her statement. “Did you know that you just made an epic joke, Valeriana?!” She wheezed. “Good lords, you’re funny.”
In exception for a few smiles and a giggle from Genevieve, nobody spoke. The tendency of Valeriana to speak unintended jokes was amusing.
Rowe chuckled. “I came here since I wanted to know if there was any news regarding your sudden disappearance.” He then looked at her guiltily. “I’m sorry for my inadequacy.”
“That’s alright, Rowe. You did nothing wrong,” Valeriana said.
“As you can see, I cannot stay long. I’m currently bed-ridden.”
“What? Why?” she asked. “Did you get wounded or something?”
“Do not fret, Valeriana. I merely caught a cold.” He laughed, humor lacing his tone.
“A cold?” Elfre repeated. “Why would you catch a cold?”
“Somehow imagining you lying under the covers with a damp cloth on your head is rather unusual,” Raziel told him. “It’s unlike you to get sick.”
“I agree,” The twins chorused.
The second-ranker merely shook his head and smiled. “It’s not unusual at all. I have someone taking care of me though, of course.”
“You haven’t answered my question yet,” Elfre said.
“Yes. Well, I jumped into the water in an attempt to search for Valeriana. I failed, though.”
“What? You shouldn’t have.” Valeriana gaped at Rowe, her gaze worried and guilty. “Are you alright?”
“It’s just a simple fever that forced me to lie down. Nothing serious.”
“I really appreciate it though.” Valeriana pursed her lips. “To think you even went as far as that . . . I really thank you.”
Rowe nodded. “Anything for you, Valeriana. Now, I really should be going.”
“Get well soon.”
“Keelan says hi. And it seems His Highness was worried as well. He didn’t help in the search for you, though. He said that you were strong enough to survive on your own.”
“Don’t be too cruel to the old man, you guys.” Tamara sighed.
“Says the one who called the old man old,” replied Elfre.
“Uh . . . you did, too.”
Valeriana paid no mind to them, though. “He was worried?”
“He was.” He nodded. “Aneeka said nothing, but I’m sure she’s concerned as well. I can’t tell anything about Brindon. He’s only been unnaturally even more silent when you fell from the ship.”
“Please tell everyone I’m alright,” Valeriana told him. “And thanks again so very much. I’m sorry for causing everyone trouble.”
“Save your stories for some other time,” said Rowe. “I would like to hear them when we all get together again. Expect it to be soon. There are lots of questions we want to ask, you see. Do your best to come back safe, all of you.”
“I will. And you do your best to recover, too.”
Rowe smiled, his see-through form suddenly vanishing as he turned his back on them.
To say that the reunion between daughter and father was awkward was the absolute understatement of the century. Instead of smiles and hugs, all Lord Lienhard received from Seraphina were glares and a cold greeting as though she was meeting an old enemy.
While Keelan had gone off to the kitchen to fill up his stomach that he had emptied all the way to the Central Continent, the others went to get settled in their rooms and Rowe set off to talk to the Headmaster regarding certain issues.
It was a good thing Lord Aeron was there to break off the chilly atmosphere between the two, otherwise, it would take forever before the two stop not talking to each other.
“Lien! My old friend!” Aeron interjected, sauntering forward to embrace the other man. “It’s been a while, hasn’t it? My, you’re looking young!”
“And you let yourself go!” He cackled, patting the Court Leader on the back to symbolize his equal delight.
“Whatever has been going with kava that you asked me to assume his responsibilities?” he inquired, breaking free.
“Fortifying the barriers is the entire clan of the Rosellevienne’s duty,” Seraphina corrected, interjecting immediately. “If I had the ability, I would’ve done so willingly without anybody needing to ask.”
“Too bad you did not inherit my side of the family then,” Lienhard muttered. “I’m sure you would’ve done a splendid job.”
“Trouble brewed while you locked yourself in your own little world. For the love of the gods, when are you ever going to be serious towards your duties as the archduke?” The lady’s face turned red as the blood rushed to her head. Pursing her lips, she turned to the opposite direction and looked away. The woman breathed deeply to regain her composure and started to walk off.
“Phina, my dear,” said Lienhard with a rare sweetness to his voice. “I have very important matters to discuss with you later. How about coming over for tea and cakes?” he suggested, smiling calmly at his daughter.
“What sort of important, is that?” she asked, pausing and looking over her shoulder. “If it’s the usual, then I have better things to do.”
“Oh no, not at all.” The man saved his hand dismissively.
“Alright then, I’ll come over two days after today, assuming you’ve done your part.” The lady knight placed a special emphasis on the last word before continuing to leave. “Well then, if you’ll excuse me.”
Lord Aeron rubbed his chin as he watched silently from the sidelines, knowing better than to interrupt such a delicate moment between father and daughter. After Seraphina disappeared from both their sight, the Court Leader gently steered his friend away.
“Well, two days is short. If we want to finish in time for your tea party, we ought to start now.”
Lord Lienhard unwittingly chuckled. “It seems that nobilities make the worst fathers, don’t they?”
“That seems to be the case.” Wisdom glinted within the eyes of Lord Aeron as he threw back the mop of ash-blond hair on his head. “But nobilities make the most stubborn children as well, don’t you think?”
“No truer words have been spoken.”
The sun was a scorching ball of pale, yellow beams as the two old-timers made their way into the field. The weather was delightful within the academy despite the fact that they were situated in the Dark Continent. Well, whoever even assumed that the place was only full of dark, nightmarish things? Well, sure, the somber forest ahead was full of demons, but that was just about it.
“I remember studying in these fields,” said Lord Aeron. “Good times.”
“Why did you want to go here first? Should we not have headed to the Central Chamber immediately?”
“Don’t tell me you have forgotten what you have requested from me from before?” The archduke faked a perturbed countenance as he popped his knuckles and ran a brief scan of the barrier. A pulse vibrated throughout the entire membrane and Lienhard closed his eyes and felt a knit forming between his brows.
“Did you find anything?”
Lienhard stepped back and gazed at the magical wall of protection. “This barrier is fine, actually. Haven’t you already asked someone to investigate if this’ll remain intact or for any damages? You should be at least capable of that, right?” he exasperatedly questioned.
“I know, but I wanted to confirm it,” the other man replied. “You see, there’s a situation I need to tell you about.”
“Oh? Interesting. Let me hear it.” He gave a smile. “While I work on the fortification. I have only two days, after all.”
Seaside town of Kudor on the Near North
Traveling by sea for ten days helped Valeriana discover more about her newfound ability. In fact, in just a short time, she was starting to get used to hearing animals talk that it wasn’t that freaky anymore. As she experimented with her ability, she found out she could block it if she wanted to, which she had been doing for a while now. It was hard to sleep with voices talking all the time, after all.
Valeriana was starting to enjoy herself, looking out the deck wrapped in thick blankets. For a moment, she didn’t bother thinking about who or what she actually was. There was something in her guts telling her waiting was the best idea at the moment.
“You look happy,” said Corvan with an uncaring expression, eyeing her questioningly as the ship continued to approach the faraway port that was to be end to their journey of crossing the ocean.
“I made it my motto not to let anything bother me, alright? I won’t think about anything depressing, so yeah!” She stretched her arms and yawned, raking her hands through her hair which has turned a bit wavy from being exposed to the salty sea air. “Goodbye, ol’ mighty sea!”
Corvan didn’t know how he was supposed to answer, so he remained quiet instead. It felt awkward just standing without saying anything, so he began to distract himself with other things that didn’t concern the fifth-ranker. He gazed at the calm waters and inhaled the chilly ocean breeze.
The ship had started to travel slower now that they were reaching the port. The pace they ran at was utterly slow that it grated on his nerves. He was impatient to get this over and done with.
It wasn’t like he hated travelling by sea. It was only that he was anticipating the freedom of walking on land—firm, steady ground that didn’t often rock or sway based on the mood of the waves.
Being surrounded by a seemingly limitless pool of saltwater was one of the things he hated the most. His attitude was understandable, seeing as being born with the element of fire defined a majority of his characteristics. An Arlandian would normally feel uncomfortable to be in a place where he was in total disadvantage, hence his impatience.
“So we’re finally here,” Charles stated with a misty breath. “Not quite there yet, but near.”
Corvan fought the urge to roll his eyes. Charles being a Larkovian, he was sure to be in a state of bliss. This was his element after all. And he meant that with a literal sense.
“Are we already in Prelurésia?” asked Valeriana.
“We have long crossed their territorial jurisdiction,” Charles answered. “The City of Loquin is not that far. Only about six hours of nonstop journeying by land.”
“And yet another one.” Valeriana’s shoulder sagged at this statement. “Seriously! Can’t we just be there already? I’m really tired. We’ve been on this since the last two weeks! Agh! I wish I just stayed with Keelan and the others. Just how freaking big is this world anyway?”
“Why don’t you try and see for yourself?” Corvan asked wearily, secretly sharing the girl’s feelings about the whole trip.
“Do it yourself. I don’t wanna argue about anything with you today. I’m supposed to be in a good mood!” she exclaimed.
“Shut it. If I was given a choice, I would rather be back in my own room doing my own business. If only it wasn’t required of a ranker to be on trips such as this, I wouldn’t even bother.”
“Please tell me this is worth it,” she muttered.
“Don’t be like that, you two!” Tamara cried, entering the scene with a carefree smile. She squeezed herself between Corvan and Valeriana, resting her arms around their shoulders and pulling them close. “We just got out of prison and you want to go back in already? Where’s your sense of adventure?”
“I’m sorry. I don’t have any.” Valeriana pushed her away.
“Not all people desire such things in life like you do, Tamara. Do keep that in mind,” Corvan added, lifting Tamara’s hand off his shoulder.
“Be in a good mood, everyone! Aren’t you happy we’re finally in Prelurésia?” Genevieve giggled as she appeared, her older twin walking behind her.
“Isn’t it exciting to finally have something to burt up . . . bat up . . . b—what was that again? Gods, my memory is failing me.” He looked up to the blue sky as he racked his mind for the right word for his sentence.
“It’s beat up, dummy.” Genevieve playfully pushed at his chest with a laugh.
“Right.” He cleared his throat. “Isn’t it exciting to finally have something to beat up after a long while? We rarely get challenges nowadays. And demons are good target practice!” he cheerfully told them.
“Hopefully, it will be worth it,” Corvan muttered.
“I don’t feel good about this.” Valeriana sighed.
“Well, it seems you have to face this, Valeriana. I initially planned to send you back to the academy since you’ve barely enough skills to face an actual demon, not to mention a whole city of them,” Charles told the girl thoughtfully.
“But I suppose it’s inevitable. Fate has its ways, you know. Maybe you’re somehow destined to be here on this mission with us.”
“And destined to die doing it, maybe?” Valeriana concluded.
“It’ll be your choice if you want to die or not,” Charles replied. “Just remember not to go down without a fight. It’ll be a shame among the Twelve.”
“Dying itself is already a shame.” Elfre quipped as she came along. “So make sure not to die or you’ll be labeled as the most shameful ranker in the history of the Celestial Twelve and all the hard work you were doing for the past two months will be put in vain. It’ll be the worst death ever.”
“Right,” Valeriana said sourly. “Thanks for reminding me.”
“Since everyone is now here, I just want to make something clear.” The fourth-ranker cleared his throat and adjusted his glasses, looking down on the pocket-sized notebook he recently took out from one of his pockets. “This mission might just be the toughest we’ve actually encountered broken up like this,” he started. “I checked things with the headmaster a few days ago regarding the state of the City of Loquin. Lord Aeron himself was looking into the matter until we informed them of our current objective.”
“What did they say?”
“They weren’t happy with us acting on our own, but . . .”
Everyone was listening attentively to his announcement, their eyes and ears trained solely in his direction. His words seemed to have made the atmosphere somewhat tense.
“It has reached my ears that there recently were nine squadrons of knights that were wiped out in repeated attempts to retake the city.”
“Has there been any news of those who resided within?” Zevlin asked.
Charles shot a brief glance his way. “No. Since everyone who entered never came out, there was no one who can tell what was actually happening inside. Based on the story I’ve heard, it started since approximately about a month ago. Black snow started to fall from the sky and shrouded the city in darkness they’ve never before seen.”
“Black snow?” Valeriana repeated. “This is like hearing one of those horror stories, only that we’re actually in it and we’re going to attempt to solve it or something,” Valeriana stated. “But there’s one thing I don’t get.”
“What is it?”
“How in the world were you able to talk to the headmaster and Lord Aeron?” she asked.
“Common sense.” Charles hit her on the head with his notebook as if trying would make her understand. “A carrier pigeon.”
“A carrier pigeon?” Valeriana mulled for a few moments. “Oh.”
“Now back to the past topic.” The fourth sighed. “We need to first find the reason for the black snow.”
“Doesn’t black indicate demonic activity?” Zevlin pointed out. “This is obviously the work of some sort of demon.”
“It’s not like no one hasn’t noticed that yet. What I meant to say was that we have to find the reason for the attack. I do not think that there has been an incident involving demons as severe as this one for the past four centuries. After the Siege of Andrana, demons have become less active. To think they’ve managed to take over a big city such as Loquin.”
“But I think something like this happened before.” Tamara furrowed her brows. “The takeover of Handria on the Southeast.”
“It was not that of major problem and was easily controlled. Handria was merely a small town on Denovegasia, too.”
“I have a question, though. I know I’ve read this in one of the books, but . . . I’m still quite unsure about it since I don’t really understand.” Valeriana looked between the faces of her comrades, eyes full of questions.
“If demons are becoming active, does that mean they’re leaving the Dark Continent to spread menace or something?”
“Basically,” Charles began. “Demons who are in the Dark Continent are trapped there and cannot leave. The presence of the king’s barrier prohibits them from roaming the lands outside. However, there may be occasions where a hole will appear and they escape. Now, considering the fact that the strength of the king is directly proportional to that of the barrier’s, we’re having problems. Lord Lienhard might just not have to fortify the barrier around Celeste Academy, but all the others aside from it as well.”
“Now, I don’t know what to make of this situation very much, but I do think that I can conclude that this isn’t just any normal attack. I think it’s some sort of sign.”
“A sign for what?” asked Elfre.
“Something ominous. I’ll keep my mouth shut for the time being, what we should focus on right now is what’s ahead of us.” With that, Charles loosely turned his body away as a wind blew against the direction his was facing, ruffling his and everyone’s hair.
The whole group turned their gazes ahead of them, sensing the complete halt of the ship as they docked on the port. This was their stop. In contrast to their enthusiasm a while ago, the look of seriousness spread across their faces as they thought of the possible events that would occur during their attempt to retake the City of Loquin.
“This is where you all go,” said a man with an oversized hat with a feather decorating the tip.
“We thank you for taking us in, captain. We’re forever grateful to your kindness,” said Charles as he lightly bowed his head for a curt nod towards the man.
The man roared with laughter as he massaged the graying hairs of his chin. “Anything for you, my dear boy. You all are fun to be with. It brings light to this boring ol’ trips I do back and forth. I wish you luck on your journey.”
This captain was a complete contrast of the other captain that commanded the ship that Valeriana rode on before. This man was kind and very hospitable towards the passengers he received. He had been nothing but welcoming ever since Valeriana arrived.
“We thank you, old captain.”
“I don’t mind. But don’t call me old.” He chuckled. “Well then, I won’t be keeping you any longer. Go on and be free!”
As all of them bid him their goodbyes and walked down the platform. Since Valeriana was the first one to get off, she was the first to notice the awaiting surprise. The sound of the other rankers’ chatters and rolling waves faded from her attention. She just simply couldn’t believe her eyes.
She then stopped, staring open-mouthed at the people before her.
“Valeriana?” Genevieve stopped beside the girl and looked to the direction she was currently gawking at. “What’s wrong—”
When she saw what she saw, they both could not hold their surprises. The same went for everyone else.
“Welcome to Prelurésia. We’ve been waiting.”
Valeriana screamed in excitement. “Rowe!” She looked past his shoulders to find the other half of the Twelve present as well. “Everyone!”
As the others came closer to see for themselves what was going on, a flash of strawberry-blond hair run forward.
“Va-ler-ia-na!” Keelan sang as he rushed forward lightheartedly with a big grin. “You’re alright!” He then jumped on her and crushed her into a big hug.
“In the name of the king!” Tamara whistled with a smile.
“Don’t forget about me.” A flash of blue hair came to sight, electric-blue eyes glinting under the rays of the sun. “Did you miss me, Valeriana?”
The girl sputtered as Keelan broke away from her with that grin on his face. “Z-zion?”
“What are you doing here?” Corvan did not bother to hide his disapproval as he stopped beside the others as well.
The Snapping Dragon was pushed aside harshly as an unexpected character came forward to reveal herself.
“Out of my way.”
“What in the world—you’re here too, Courtney?” Genevieve exclaimed.
“Do you think I’ll let you handle the affairs of my land? You’re terribly wrong. Even if I’m not a ranker, Prelurésia is under my family’s control and responsibilities. If there’s something concerning it, then it concerns me as well.”
“Oh my god.”
“Did you like our surprise?” asked Rowe while he chuckled.
“Well, well.” Charles fixed his glasses with a knowing grin. “Things just got interesting.”