CASeries #2: LEGEND
Chapter 24 ♕ The Act
Valeriana did not know what she was supposed to do as she and Aden made their escape. It all happened so fast that her brain was muddled from the recent experience. It did not make sense how her comrades would fall asleep in the middle of something!
When they got to a safe distance, Valeriana sank on the base of a tree. The aura was no longer around her, offering a sense of comfort. Even so, her worry for the group was currently unmatched—not to mention that her heart was beating erratically at the close encounter. She breathed out heavily, wondering what in the world just happened. She couldn’t help but feel guilty for leaving all of them behind.
“What happened back there?”
“The flare of demonic energy.” Aden answered, rubbing his eyes and yawning. “I saw it happen before when there were a few who attempted an uprising. He did the same—put them all to sleep.”
“We shouldn’t have been too complacent.” Valeriana rose. “I have to go back. I have to save them.”
“You can’t go back there.” Aden said, stepping in front of her. “At least, not yet. It’s best if we head directly to the family manor and get your friends out—after planning something out, of course.”
“Gosh.” She sighed. “You could’ve saved Tamara, Keelan, Courtney or Brindon. Why me? I doubt I would be able to stand up to that demon.”
“You were the nearest one. It’s either you or no one else.” He shrugged. “Besides, you did not look affected.”
She noticed. It did not affect her one bit—except the agonizing experience.
“Even so, I need to go back to the others. Who knows what might’ve happened to them?”
Just as she made up her resolve that Aden wouldn’t have been able to do anything to stop her, Tamara’s familiar, Iolani, appeared and screeched across the sky with her deafening hawk calls, flying towards the direction where Corvan and the others previously were. Feeling worried, Valeriana decided to grab the familiar’s attention.
“Iolani!” she exclaimed.
“Shh.” Aden shushed her. “Not too loud.”
With her sharp eyes, Iolani was able to spot Valeriana without any fail. She strayed from her original course and turned so that she was facing Valeriana’s direction. She flew down straight for the girl and landed on her shoulder. She could only wince as she felt the bird’s sharp claws poke her skin through her clothes.
“Iolani,” she said. “What happened?”
‘I should be the one asking thee that.’ She answered. ‘What has happened, Valeriana?’
“A demon. The mastermind, maybe,” Valeriana replied, problematic. “He just showed up out of nowhere and did a small ‘welcoming’. Corvan fought him and seemed to be doing alright when there was this sudden . . . burst of aura or something.”
‘Burst of aura? A wild burst of demonic energy, perhaps? Am I not right?’
“You hit the mark,” she said. “Gosh. Why didn’t we expect that?”
‘This one knew it.’ Iolani huffed. ‘Thou art still kids. Such naïve little things. Thou hadst not gathered enough experience. How foolish.’
She could see the wheels turning inside Iolani’s head. Sure, the Celestial Twelve might’ve been the best students in the academy, but they were just that—students. They weren’t experienced warriors as of yet, hardly even grown knights. Perhaps they were no better than a toddler.
“Geez. When I see those guys, I’m gonna smack them hard.” Valeriana growled. “But this is partially my fault. Gods, I’m so itching to kill someone. I’m starting to think doing this was a very bad idea. I swear these guys are too reckless taking on something like this! Why didn’t I say anything? Why did I only realize it now? Just how dangerous is this anyway? Maybe I had too much faith in them.”
‘Regret comes last, as I have heard.’
‘Thou dost not have to worry at all. Do not forget that thou art still a ranker.’
“Yeah, you’re right.” She blew out another sigh. “I’m carrying the name of the Celestial Twelve, so I might as well do something instead of shamefully backing down. Charles and Corvan will kill me if they ever know I did something cowardly.”
Aden stared at the two of them, confused as he only understood one side of the conversation. It almost seemed as though the girl was talking to herself if it weren’t for the bird staring straight into her eyes. It seemed bent on listening to her every word.
‘What happened afterwards?’
“Everyone fell asleep,” she told her. “Aden took me away.”
‘Ah.’ Iolani sighed. ‘They seemed to have been overwhelmed.’
“Overwhelmed? What do you mean?”
‘One advantage in having the school in a nest of demons is that it allows thee to get used to demonic energies, allowing one to build immunity against it. If thou hadst stayed long enough, it can make thee resistant to demonic influences.’
“So they were overwhelmed and put to sleep? What about Tamara then? She’s graduating this year and she still fell asleep! She should’ve lasted long enough, right?”
The bird looked like it was smirking. ‘Thou dost not have to worry about Tamara.’
Valeriana deadpanned. “Huh?”
‘That demonic energy would have not affected this one’s contractor.’ The hawk seemed almost proud. She ruffled her wings and raised her beak towards the sky smugly. ‘Tamara is completely immune.’
“So you’re practically telling me she fell asleep . . . on purpose?”
‘Tamara might’ve done it to protect the others. Seeing the fact that I, Iolani, am still present, then that means she is fully awake.’
“That girl’s one heck of a good actress. She really fooled me.” Valeriana shook her head. “But Corvan and the others?”
‘They’ve all fallen, most likely. They have not developed enough immunity against the demonic energy. It usually takes about six years of constant exposure to be immune. Anyone who stayed for a shorter time—five years or below—would’ve lasted long enough to endure, but would fall asleep in the end.’
Valeriana thought for a moment. Corvan fought long enough and stayed awake, resisting the power. Although he probably stayed no longer than a year. Brindon was the first to drop on the floor and everyone else followed after.
‘Thou hast not stayed for more than a year in the academy. How were thee able to endure the energy long enough to escape? This one is quite surprised.’
“I don’t know.” She shook her head. “In fact, it didn’t affect me. At all.”
‘That is quite odd. Even so, thou art quite lucky that the demon has not noticed thy escape. Although Tamara is fully capable of getting herself and the others out of this mess, she would still require thy help.’
“What do you think is the best plan at the moment?” She consulted.
‘If thou shalt ask for my guidance, then I would advise thee to follow Lord Rowe’s group. Aside from the fact that Lady Courtney has left them to join thy company, they most likely require one more member to complete them. That, or the company of Lord Charles is fine too.’
“I see. Everything else comes after.” Valeriana nodded resolutely, finding herself agreeing to the bird’s suggestion. “Like Charles advised, I’ll try to regroup with everyone else”
‘I shall be guiding thee, lheuim ansur.’
“Again with that name.” She rolled her eyes. “But, thank you. I appreciate this.”
Valeriana gave Iolani a small smile before turning to Aden—who she almost forgot about. She gave him a sheepish grin as she saw the curious and quizzical look in his eyes.
“Sorry,” she told him. “I need to meet up with the rest of my companions. Are you coming?”
He nodded, albeit reluctantly.
“I apologize for not being able to save your friends.” He sighed, looking guilty.
“I don’t think they need saving. Much.” She sighed and put her hand on her waist. “There’s no time wallowing in self-pity, though. Let’s go.”