CASeries #2: LEGEND
Chapter 3 ♕ A Game of Chase and New Nicknames
The Twelve—the eight who entered—followed the man out of the tavern and started trailing after him as he started to walk away. He had a spring in his steps as he hummed a cheerful tune.
“Um, with all due respect, sir,” Tamara started.
He stopped and turned to them with a grin. “It’s been a long time since I saw you, Tama-dear!” he suddenly exclaimed. “You’ve grown so much! Your red hair got even redder since the last time I saw you!”
“Charles, my son.” He turned to the fourth-ranker. “I’m glad to see you’ve grown into a fine, young man. Rumors say you’re quite a schemer. Haha!”
“Hm?” Annoyance creased his features at the man’s words. “Well, when it comes to strategies, I doubt anyone could stand in my level . . . except for Lord Aeron, of course.”
“You’ve grown your hair, young lord,” he said to Corvan, who remained weakened. “I certainly apologize for a while ago! You were always the reckless one. Don’t worry, you’ll be fine after a few minutes. Neutralization does leave you in a weakened state, but it won’t last longer than five or ten minutes.” He patted his head, slightly messing up his hair before looking at Rowe.
He heard the first-ranker say something that went along the lines of ‘I know’ with an aggravated huff before he grunted. “Get your hands off my hair!”
It was then the lord realized he still had his palm on Corvan’s head. He quickly removed his hand with a chuckle.
“A pleasure, Lord Lienhard.” Rowe bowed gracefully before the archduke.
“Ah, as handsome as always, Rowe.” He smiled. “You’ve turned into a lady-killer, haven’t you?”
“I’m a perfect gentleman if I must say so, Your Highness,” he replied.
“Yeah, right.” Aneeka huffed, rolling her eyes. “I have all your lovers trying to murder me in my sleep.”
“My, my, and we have the jealous one,” the lord chuckled, turning to the tenth-ranker with a knowing smile. “How have you been, Neeka-dearest?” he asked.
“Please do not call me that.” Aneeka sighed. “I’m no longer a child. I would appreciate it if you would call me properly by my first name.”
“Request denied,” Lord Lienhard told her before turning to Keelan. “And finally, the chubby-cheeked kid from before. You’ve grown quite thinner since you were twelve, my son.” He chuckled. “Have you grown out of your abundant appetite, young lad?”
“Nah. He still eats at least fifteen square meals a day,” someone quipped from the background.
“Nice to see you, milord!” Keelan enthusiastically greeted. He erected his back and unknowingly let go of Corvan’s arm, causing both to fall over.
Their struggles went unnoticed.
“That’s five times a normal person’s. You’ve only worsened.” He laughed, patting him on the shoulder. “But I see that being one of the Twelve keeps you in a good shape. I’m starting to wonder what will happen if you stop attending the academy.”
And while Keelan and the king’s brother were delightfully engaged in a conversation, Valeriana and Corvan themselves had gotten stuck in quite a situation, initiating another round of debate.
“Are you that weak, you wench?” Corvan grumbled. “You’re getting my clothes dirtied.”
“Shut up, jerk! I’m helping you already! You should be thankful!” The fifth-ranker bit back. “It’s not my fault you weigh a lot. What do you eat? You’re heavy like a pile of fats!”
“These aren’t fats,” the first-ranker argued. “These are muscles.”
“Ah, whatever! Come on, Keelan you glutton!” Valeriana exclaimed. “Help me over here!”
“Oops. I’m so sorry . . .”
Lienhard then spun to look at the twins, who bowed at him eagerly at the same time. “Your names, my dears?”
“We’re the twins, Your Highness. I am called Zevlin and this is my sister, Genevieve,” said the oldest of the two.
“I see.” He nodded understandingly. “A pleasure then. You must be the Sabian Twins, correct? Your father must be proud.”
They nodded feverishly.
“And you are?” he asked Brindon.
The twelfth-ranker looked up at him, apathy shining in his eyes. “Brindon Jintaci.”
Lord Lienhard didn’t reply to his words immediately, expecting him to add something he wanted—like a greeting for example. However, he was disappointed when the boy simply stared back at him impassively.
“Oh,” he said. “Is that all you want to say?”
“. . .” Brindon merely eyed the man through his glassy, soulless eyes. “Yes.”
“You aren’t much of a talker, aren’t you?”
“No,” he answered.
Lienhard smiled and ruffled the hair of the boy. “Nice to meet you.”
Before he had a chance to look at the sixth-ranker, Raziel himself took the initiative and made his greeting as flamboyant as his personality. “It’s a huge honor to finally meet you, Your Royal Highness.”
“Ah, an honor,” Lienhard said, laughing while urging the sixth-ranker to stand from his stylish curtsy. “Your name, my son?”
“Raziel Aslan,” he answered.
“Once again, it’s a pleasure.” He patted him on the back.
“Elfre Baudion.” The seventh bobbed her head. “I don’t need your gracious words, the pleasure’s all mine.”
He chuckled. “Alright, as you wish.”
He then turned to the last of the group, eyeing her awestruck form who currently stared at him in wonder. “And being the last of the group, you must be Valeriana Kerrigan.”
“What?” She snapped out of her reverie. “Huh?”
“It’s an honor of meeting you.” He extended a hand for her to shake.
“Oh . . . uh . . . me too.” She took his offer and shook his fervently with her good hand. “My name’s Valeriana,” she said.
Corvan huffed at her absentmindedness and huffed, muttering something that sounded strikingly similar to the word stupid before looking away. The rest of the Twelve laughed at her display of stupidity, but did not comment on it.
“I know,” Lienhard answered.
“Uh . . .” She reluctantly pulled her arm back, letting it rest on her side. “Really?”
“Of course.” He nodded. “So I assume you all know who I am?”
They all nodded while someone exclaimed words of affirmation. They had their eyes trained to the brother of the current king of Valemnia, who hid his exotic features under the sanctuary of darkness offered by his cloak.
“Seeing as you were sent out here, what business do you have with this man?” he asked them.
“We need your help,” Charles said. “We are in dire need—”
“No,” he told them, cutting off his nephew-in-law before he could even finish.
“I haven’t even started—”
“I do not feel obligated to take part in any affairs concerning the kingdom or Celeste Academy.”
“But you must hear us out, sire,” Rowe told him. “This is a matter of life and death!”
“No,” he firmly said.
“But you have to!”
“I already distanced myself from anything related to the kingdom.”
“But that’s not possible,” Valeriana said. “I mean, how can you?”
“Cease this pointless behavior, Lord Lienhard.” Corvan seemed to have snapped at this point as he slowly regained his strength. “No matter how much you try to escape, you are of noble birth.”
He sighed. “You do not understand.”
“Our request doesn’t have anything to do with political affairs,” Tamara informed. “We’re here simply to ask you to lend us your power in fortifying the barrier of the academy. It’s weakening and we cannot afford to let the condition worsen.”
“Fortify the barrier of the academy, you say? I cannot really comprehend why they built such a place in the middle of a nest of demons. It’s absurd.”
Did he not know that his ancestor’s tomb was right underneath the whole castle?
“Oh, right.” He snapped his fingers. “I tend to forget.” He chuckled. “So is that all you need of me?”
“Yes. That’s all we ask.”
They all nodded. Whereas Valeriana and a few others looked hopeful, Corvan and Charles remained poker-faced, especially Brindon.
“Well . . .” Lienhard turned his back from them, his hands flying and lacing together while it rested on his nape. “I may consider it . . .” he trailed off, chuckling. “If you catch me!”
He then broke into a run, dirt spraying in the air. The Twelve’s eyes widened at the suddenness. They looked at each other before hurriedly shooting off from where they stood, running after the eccentric man who was supposedly the king’s brother.
Corvan grunted in displeasure. “A game of chase? What kind of childishness is this?”
“Are you even sure he’s royalty?” Genevieve queried. “He sure is a weird one.”
This small village literally became his playground—or was it like that from the beginning? The Circle heard that Lord Lienhard was a strange man. Dealing with him, as was said by plenty of people, was so frustrating that one could go crazy.
The Twelve stopped in their tracks, looking in every direction. They had gotten themselves stuck in the worst place possible—a crowded street.
Dozens of people were walking all over the place and the path was so narrow that there was barely any place to squeeze through. Annoyance painted the faces of Celeste Academy’s ranking members as no sign of the lord came to sight.
“Oh, good lord.” Aneeka wheezed. “Go on without me.”
Rowe immediately was beside her, arms around her shoulder and encircling her waist. He supported her as her knees gave in, holding her against his chest before eventually picking her up like a bride and walking off.
“We’ll have to go to a place less crowded,” Rowe told them. “Don’t mind us.”
“What’s wrong?” Valeriana asked.
“Aneeka’s claustrophobic.” Elfre remarked beside her.
“I never knew . . .” the girl said.
“She tries not to show it,” Brindon said. “But it’s inevitable.”
“It’s rare to see you talking more than one or two words.” Elfre nodded at him. “I guess this got you excited?”
A crease appeared between the fifth-ranker’s brows. “He’s excited?” she asked, eyeing Brindon’s expressionless face. “It’s not showing . . .”
“Forget looking at his face,” Zevlin said. “His emotions don’t show physically.”
“This is no time for an idle chat!” Charles growled at them. “Split in all directions! We need to catch His Highness!”
“Oh right! Forgot for a moment,” Valeriana remarked.
“Idiot.” Corvan hissed. “Keep your focus on the task at hand.”
“Forget it. You come with me. I don’t want you doing anything idiotic.”
“Wait! Why should I come with you?! Everyone’s going alone!”
“Just shut your mouth and do as I say!”
“What’s your problem?” Valeriana grumbled, watching every member of the Twelve disperse. They were hoping to cover more ground in attempt to chase Lord Lienhard and defeat him in his little game.
“Be grateful I even bother looking out for you, useless witch,” Corvan grumbled back.
“You call me stupid at first and now you call me useless?! How dare you, Corvan von Vaushna de la Wylden?!” She pointed at him accusingly. “From now on, you’re officially Lord Jerk Wad-en!”
“What did you just call me?” He turned to her with deep scowl.
“Jerk Wad-en!” she repeated defiantly.
His lips twisted in anger, his eyes narrowing at the girl. “This is it! I have been tolerating you! I will not allow you to insult me any further!”
“Well, you called me useless! So we’re even!”
“Since you’re fond of nicknames, how about I call you Zero-iana since you’re useless anyway!”
“Agh!” She stomped her feet. “Jerk Wad-en!”
She paused. “Jack-aushna!”
They panted at their breathless exchange of words, letting a few moments pass.
“Roaring Tiger? Seriously?” Valeriana inquiringly eyed the first-ranker.
“You should’ve said something smarter than Cold Prince.” He looked away. “If you’re done, let us leave. The more time we waste bickering with this nonsense, the harder it’ll be to catch Lord Lienhard,” he pointed out.
Although Valeriana wanted to protest again, she decided to keep her mouth shut and followed the young lord instead as he sprinted towards the north. There was no denying he was right. They needed to set their argument aside for later and focus on the current ‘activity’ Lord Lienhard started.
It was either they win or lose.
It was no exaggeration to say that the fate of the academy’s safety rested entirely on the outcome of the so-called ‘game’.
CASeries #2: LEGEND
Chapter 2 ♕ Meeting the Brother of the King
Kelton’s Den was easy to find. People came and go. One could say there wasn’t a second that somebody did not go in or go out. The place was buzzing with people so it was noisy. The sound of constant chattering had reached their ears before they stepped foot in the building and greatly intensified when they neared the source.
“I don’t think it’s advisable if we all go in,” Rowe told them. “I’ll take a few of the Twelve and remain outside to secure the vicinity, just in case a certain somebody gets the idea of escaping. It also helps with the attention.”
“Good call,” the twins said. “But we wanna go inside!”
“Alright. Those who want to go inside then go, if you don’t, stay with me.”
“I’ll stay,” Aneeka said.
“Me too.” Elfre sighed, brushing back her coffee-brown hair.
“I am quite certain the sight of this pub’s interior will be too unsightly judging from its outward appearance. I will remain here and gaze at the beautiful evening sky,” Raziel told them—poetically, as usual.
“How about you, Valeriana?” Rowe offered.
“Well, I kinda wanna see what’s inside. Is it fine if I go?” she asked sheepishly.
“I’m still hungry, so maybe I’ll go!” Keelan exclaimed.
“Well, you guys suit yourself,” Aneeka stated.
And with that decided, the others entered Kelton’s Den.
“Sure is lively,” Tamara commented.
They were greeted by a cramped space filled with ruffian-looking and suspicious individuals chugging down bottomless mugs of alcohol. Laughter echoed in split second intervals, sometimes overlapping that the mutterings and casual conversations were obscure.
Corvan leaned to the side effortlessly just as a knife came whistling towards him, letting it strike the wall. Valeriana could hear the item vibrate as it got buried about an inch deep into the wood. She had to admit she didn’t like how it sounded—although Corvan did look cool.
She doubted she would be able to do that if it was her, though.
“Doesn’t this place seem a little bit too . . . dangerous?” she asked.
“Then go and stay outside with Rowe and the others if you’re hesitating,” said Corvan.
Valeriana shut her mouth, not wanting to leave. “I’ll just hide behind you.”
Genevieve patted her on the back. “You’ll get used to it soon enough. This won’t be the only time you’re going to be sent to do this kind of thing.”
“The heck do you mean?”
She didn’t get to hear the answer of Genevieve as the room suddenly went eerily quiet. All eyes turned to their direction, either questioning, suspicious, or curious.
The Twelve were anything but ordinary. They carried themselves with an air of intimidation, demanding attention everywhere they went. They were confident, somewhat threatening, and people knew they were not to be trifled with instinctively at first sight. Although they did act childishly and a bit inappropriate when not in public, they weren’t any less than what they seemed.
“Oho,” a voice cut through the silence. “My, my, what do we have here?”
A woman approached them, her fingers curved under her chin. Valeriana noticed the freckles that dusted her cheeks and nose along with the energetic fire that lit up her ash-colored eyes.
“Some pretty guests we have ‘ere.” She approached Zevlin and traced his neck with her sharp nails. “Tell me.” She grinned at Zevlin that hinted seductiveness. “What brought you here?”
“I think I should keep our business private,” he replied, leaning backwards.
“Oh, really? Won’t you tell me, please?”
Her nails dug into his skin, drawing blood. Valeriana wanted to go forward and tell the woman off, but Tamara held her back.
“Hey! Keep your hands off my brother!” Genevieve shrieked, running forward and shoving her off.
The woman took a fighting stance but Charles, who stood beside the first-ranker, swiftly dug out one of his knives hidden in one of his sleeves and held her at the tip without any second of hesitation. She stopped short instead.
“I may not be much skilled in handling knives, but I assure you I’m good enough to cut your neck,” he told her bluntly, his tone icy cold. “What is your purpose?”
Valeriana flinched. Charles kept his tone strict and polite most of the time, but he never sounded like this before—at least, he never used such tone.
“Save this for later,” Corvan said, sighing. “We have important business to attend to.” He made his way around the troublemaker and completely ignored her presence.
Charles hid the knife back in his sleeve. “As you wish.”
The woman made a noise of irritation in the back of her mouth. “Hey! You think you can turn your back on me after that?” she told him angrily. “Are you not aware of the policy that newcomers should receive a beating from me?”
“Ah, what the heck.” The eighth-ranker took a handkerchief from his pocket and wiped away the trail of blood that made its way down his neck, ignoring the woman’s statement rudely.
Genevieve buzzed around him like a bee, scolding him like a mother. “Put some pressure on it so it’ll stop! Seriously, stupid! Let me do it instead. You don’t know anything about this sort of stuff, so hands off.” She slapped his hand away and gave him a shot of her healing power. There was a bright flash of blue, making him jump from the suddenness.
“Geez, can’t you be gentler when treating somebody?” Zevlin whined, raking his fingers through his dark red hair.
“Are you hearing me?!” the woman screamed.
Corvan huffed as he turned to face their challenger, seeing as she was already somewhat red from the humiliation. “We are not obligated to follow any policy,” he told her. “I don’t see why either of us should waste our time doing insignificant clashes that would hardly make anything worth of our stay here,” he said.
“What did you say?” The woman clenched her jaw as she watched the group walk past her and advance into the room. Valeriana felt hesitant to follow and debated whether she should apologize for the entire group’s behavior or remain quiet.
“Valeriana.” Brindon tugged her away. “Ignore her,” he advised.
“She’s one of the types who like getting involved in fights,” Keelan said. “We shouldn’t try to cause any trouble while we’re here.”
“Um . . . but she’s . . .”
The Twelve—eight really—kept their eyes forward.
They continued to ignore her which only fueled her rage.
“This is the first time I’ve seen Caoimhe look so angry,” a gruff voice said, not bothering to lower his voice as he talked to the man that sat next to him.
“You can say that again,” another replied.
Frustrated, the woman, whose name was apparently Caoimhe, brought a couple of pointed blades shaped like stars hidden somewhere underneath her clothes and threw it at each one of them.
Valeriana, feeling something coming for her, instinctively turned and caught the object before it even had the chance to bury itself in the skin of her back. She didn’t do it like a cool, experienced heroine would. Her hands shot out on their own as she saw the blade zooming straight for her—and a little bit clumsily too.
Shocked, she stared at the blade when it pierced the soft flesh of her palms with a gasp. It stuck out her flesh like a gruesome sculpture of some sort. Blood trickled to the floor, dropping in tiny rivulets with a soft plop. It stained the floor with a crimson shade, making her eyes go wide.
She turned to the Twelve to see that they all dodged the ones thrown at them expertly. It seemed they all went unharmed, save for herself. All eyes were on them once more—well, it wasn’t like those eyes left them in the first place.
“Hey! What’s the big idea?!” Tamara exclaimed.
“Goodness!” Genevieve said. She went over to Valeriana when she saw what happened. “Are you okay?”
“Well . . .” She looked at the blood welling up from her wound. “It’s not that serious. I got something worse before.”
Genevieve applied pressure on her wound like she did with Zevlin. Valeriana grimaced as she watched her comrade pull the blade out. “What’s with you and Zevlin getting injured all the time? You’re bleeding a lot, though,” she said.
“It’s really nothing. I managed to catch it in time,” she said. “Living in the academy does a lot of things to you. It’s scary.”
“Let’s just thank the gods that nothing worse happened. If you’re going to catch a blade, at least catch it between your fingers!” she said. “But this wound is pretty deep. You should be glad it didn’t go through.”
“Ah.” She hissed when her tender flesh was poked. “That’ll be yucky,” she commented.
She rolled her eyes. “That girl has the same temper as Courtney, don’t you think?” she asked, taking out something from her pocket and wrapping her hand with it.
Valeriana cringed as blood soaked through the thin layer of bandage Genevieve used to dress her wound with. “Yes . . . well . . . I guess so. Ouch! Ugh, I guess I really should’ve stayed behind with Rowe.”
“Just in case.” Genevieve paused and placed her palm over Valeriana’s wounded hand. “Let me heal you a bit.”
“I didn’t know you knew how to heal,” The fifth-ranker told the other girl, watching her hands glow. The girl was almost as good as Olivia. The only difference was the light she gave out. A soft shade of blue.
“If I knew you knew how to, then I would’ve gone to you instead of Olivia.”
“I’m not exactly good at controlling my healing abilities, to tell you honestly,” she said. “I can only do simple things. I can’t heal any major wounds.”
“I-I see . . .”
“Well, aside from Valeriana getting hurt, no one else sustained an injury,” Charles evaluated.
“How brazen,” Corvan’s voice sharply cut through the air. The first-ranker turned, flashing a pair of peeved eyes at Valeriana before turning to Caoimhe. His glower worsened, causing tension to rise within the room like crackling electricity. This time, all eyes literally turned to the guy and the room turned painfully quiet one could hear a pin drop.
“Do you think I will tolerate your impudence?” he asked her. “I’ll teach you what it’s like when you act out impertinently in my presence.”
“Well . . . this is entirely unusual,” Tamara said. “But heck yeah! A fight!”
“Hey, Corvan.” Keelan gulped. “Calm down, will you?”
“I do not prefer trouble.” Charles pushed his glasses up and sighed. “But if you are going to fight, Corvan, I want you to not to bring too much damage since this business brings a lot of revenue to the town.” He took out his notebook and started looking over god-knows-what. “Inflicting damages would cause the local government to support it re-establishment. The corresponding official organization would then have to take responsibility for it by releasing funds . . . but, then, I could always ask the Arlandian Legislature to take responsibility for their heir’s actions . . .” he ranted on and on before taking out a small pen and scribbling down notes. At that point, his voice toned down degrees that he was all but muttering to himself. “I could also throw in an additional twenty percent for damage penalties for defying the Supreme Continental Alliance Treaty . . . yes, that would garner about sixty percent more than the usual earnings this pub could acquire in two months. That would prove to be very beneficial to the Larkovian economy . . .” He closed his notebook after a while and hid it in one of his pockets. “All right Corvan, you can go ahead and go berserk as you wish.”
With that, the fourth-ranker gave a bone-chilling grin that screamed of his deviousness.
Valeriana frowned. “You’re going to leave it like that? You won’t try to do anything?”
“Well, it’s not like anyone wants to stop Corvan.” Tamara shrugged, hooking her arm around Charles and dragging him away. “Let’s get out of here.”
“The door.” Brindon did a one-eighty.
“Hey! You guys are forgetting what we’re here for!”
A man stood up from his seat in front of the bar and made his way to the scene. His chair scraped against the floor, causing a loud disturbance in the quiet room. “Ah, what a bother,” he complained under his breath. “Although I hated to leave my seat since somebody else would take it . . . and I waited a long time to find a vacant spot, too! I suppose I have no choice.” He yawned heavily.
His footsteps caught the attention of Valeriana, who looked his way curiously with confused eyes. He looked over the familiar face of the son of the Lord and Lady of Arlandia who bathed in fire. The flames crackled and licked around his body, filling the room with warmth. Still, no matter how wild the flames seemed, it never once seemed to harm him—or his clothes, for the matter.
“Alright,” he said. “Play time’s over,” he told them. “Children these days really have the tendency to get into a fight often. Such impatience.”
Charles frowned at his sudden interference while the others merely gaped at his audacity. The man then went over to the first-ranker, placed a hand on his shoulder, and smiled. The fire parted for his hands—which was enough to astound everyone. Corvan glared at him threateningly until he uttered words which made everyone gasp.
“What are you—”
“Nullieros,” he said.
The flames that burned around the young lord’s form immediately dissipated, sizzling as if water was splashed onto him. Corvan himself felt taken aback after having his own power negated unexpectedly that he staggered, feeling his strength suddenly drained from his body. Valeriana ran immediately to his side, catching him before he slumped and fell on the floor.
“Ah, god, you’re heavy,” the girl muttered, struggling to keep her back straight.
“I’ll help!” Keelan exclaimed, running forward and pulling on Corvan’s other arm.
“We’re making quite a scene here, people,” he told them, watching as Keelan effortlessly towed the first and fifth-ranker with him. “I think it’s better if we take this to another place.”
“You are . . .” Charles gaped for a few seconds before giving out a sigh. “And here I thought I could obtain quite a hefty sum of cash for the National Funds . . .”
“Really, Charles? Really?” Valeriana could not believe how cunning this man was.
The man began waving away glibly at the people. “I hope you enjoyed the show here, everyone! Courtesy of Kelton’s Den!”
“What?” Everyone gaped at him.
“Ah!” the guys laughed, their cups making loud thump. “So that’s what it was! Good for ya, Caoimhe! Ya’re a good actress! Me didn’t know ya knew how tah do sumthin’ else other than fightin’. Bwahahaha.”
Everyone went back to their businesses, letting the noisy chattering come back.
“Seriously, you kids.” The man sighed. “Can’t you do something without making a scene? The Celestial Twelve should be more discreet.”
“It’s inevitable,” Charles said, as he leaned over to bow. “But, let us pay our respects to His Highness—”
Charles was stopped short when a bread was shoved into his mouth, shutting him up completely. He looked up in shock, instantly taking the food out. The man chuckled at his dumbfounded expression and headed out for the door.
“I didn’t know they produced such good pastry . . .” the fourth muttered to himself, chewing on the small piece that he caught between his teeth. “Note to self—make sure to discover potential goods for mass production. I must speak with the baker. Lord Lienhard, I must know where you got this!”
“Don’t get yourself in a fight with these kids, you’ll only lose,” Lord Lienhard said to Caoimhe.
Those words seemed to have come as a shock for the girl as they all headed out of the tavern, gone as fast as they came.