CASeries #5: COSMOS
Chapter 30 ♦ Archive
The trip was short, to Valeriana’s relief. She liked the idea of traveling but she didn’t like walking too far at the moment. The library was enough of a destination in itself. However, the keys were meant for a room on a secluded corner inside it, past a maze of aisles and a hallway. Valeriana was a little tempted to look through their collection of books. Then again, she needed to focus on the current situation at hand. If ever she could come back, she would make sure to make time for the library.
It took no trouble to navigate and enter the repository with the guidance of Raegan and Arcana. Behind the doors were rows of boxed files sorted by year and date. The air was musty, thick with the scent of ink and paper. A small table was pushed against the wall by the doorway wherein a man sat working. When he saw the trio, he stood and bowed.
“I told you he wouldn’t have taken the time off,” Arcana said.
“There is nothing to do at home, Lady Arcana,” the man replied with a sheepish grin.
“These records are all investigated information, public news and all other sorts that occurred throughout the years. As you see, it’s quite large and many. We’ve had more than a few hundreds of years of history, so here you have it. It will take a bit to retrieve all the information concerning the subject you’re looking for, probably two or three days,” Arcana said. “You can work with our staff, Sir Jselhi. He will know the way around. With him by your side, it should not take very long.”
“Nice to meet you.” Valeriana dove in for a handshake. “I’m Valeriana.”
Jselhi bobbed a nod with a respectful smile. “I’ll do my best to lend my aid. If you’re looking for a specific subject, we’ll have to do a bit of narrowing. We can talk further later.”
“I could offer you the information myself but seeing as you don’t trust me very much, I think it is better this way,” Raegan stated. “And there are things here that even I am not aware of. I’ll leave this room for your perusal.”
“I got three days.” Valeriana nodded with a sigh, her eyes flying through the room. “Starting now, that is. And seeing it’s midday, I got two days and a half. I’ve got a bit. Then again I need to return in time for the next show. That time’s probably reduced to two days.” She shrugged. “Thank you for this, I really appreciate it.”
“You’re always welcome to return,” Raegan said. “Our doors are always open to De Cirque.”
“I’ve been so doubtful but I’m glad I took the chance,” Valeriana said. “Thank you.”
“There will be lunch in an hour,” said Arcana. “Would you like to join us?”
Valeriana shook her head as she set down Tiger. “I think I’m going to skip,” she replied. “I have a lot of work ahead of me. Less mouth to feed.”
“Alright. Sir Jselhi will guide you out later for a light snack instead. Just in case you get hungry.” Arcana nodded.
“Thank you, Lady Arcana.”
“It’s no problem at all. It’s an honor to help and I understand this matter is very urgent.” She smiled wholeheartedly. “However, you will have to join dinner. I reckon I will have some questions I need answers to. Of course, Raegan will still fill me in on the details but I already have conclusions on my own. Would you be willing to tell a story later? Please?”
“A story?” Valeriana echoed.
“Anything. You must have a lot.” Arcana chuckled.
“Yes, kinda.” Valeriana smiled. “If that’s all, consider it done.”
“Great!” Arcana clapped her hand once and loud. “We’ll leave you alone in peace. I’ll send someone to guide you later.” She bent over to gaze at Tiger’s big blue eyes as he sat on the floor by Valeriana’s foot. “Can I kiss you goodbye, little darling?”
The cat hissed at her.
“I guess that’s a no.” She sighed in disappointment and erected her spine. “Anyway, yes.”
Arcana left with a bounce while Raegan was a smooth sweep. The Spirit Faction lady’s vivacity lingered in the room even after they left through the doors. Valeriana, feeling a bit better with Tiger curling by her ankles, wasted no time and turned to Sir Jselhi for his much needed help. He gladly stood from his seat and complied with her demands.
“So it’s the appearances of Aether. I understand you will make a quantitative data out of this to analyze a pattern of some sort if there’s any.”
“Alright, let’s mind all the sorting later and retrieve the data first. We’ll start with the earliest records. They’re all over here.” He ushered her to the other side of the room where the lofty shelves soared to the ceiling. A meek ladder leaned securely on the side.
“Wow, that’s pretty high,” she muttered.
“I can do most of the climbing,” Jselhi said.
“Oh, no.” She shook her head. “I’ll be fine. This is nothing.”
While Jselhi conscientiously looked for the topic she needed, Valeriana was often distracted by files that caught her eye. The archives had a bunch of information that was of no use to her but there were many fascinating matters that molded an image of an emergent city that was working on a system based upon a prevalent understanding of preexisting governance—that is, Valemnia. She could see the remnants and influence of the world beyond which conformed to the reality experienced by the people in Varialon.
It had the spirit of the other world, just not its most redeeming quality—unity.
“Miss,” said Sir Jselhi. “I’ve already retrieved the files you need.”
“Wha—you did?” she looked down at him from her place on the ladder, holding an irrelevant file. She felt bad, watching him as he looked up at her with a kind smile. “No, seriously?”
“Yes. But only files from the last . . . five hundred years.” He leafed through the papers, as though confirming the fact. “That should be enough to give you the much needed statistics, right? It will take longer if we take into consideration the earlier records.”
“Yes, yes, that’s already okay. Oh man, I feel so bad.” She shoved the file back where she found it and climbed down, hopping to the floor and dusting off her hands. She wiped a bead of sweat on her brow with her knuckle and gave the man a sheepish smile.
She was given a patient nod. “Some of the other files are through here,” he said, nodding towards a door she never noticed. “If you’ll just open it for the both of us, then I can leave these on your table and leave you alone. I think I must’ve closed it when I went inside last time. Old habit.”
“Oh, sure.” Valeriana ran to open it for him.
The door cracked open and the man shuffled inside, gingerly placing pile upon pile of files. Tiger meowed. He walked up to Valeriana, gazing at her pleadingly. She’d ignored him the past two hours looking through the archive. He must feel rather lonely, having been snubbed the entire while. Sighing, Valeriana bent down and gathered him in her arms.
“Come here, Ti. You keep quiet later, okay?”
He meowed as though to say yes and scaled her clothes, settling around her neck like a scarf.
She laughed. “What the hell are you doing?” She tried to take him off but he remained adamant on staying. “Suit yourself.”
The walls were bare and the space was tight. It was, however, large enough to fit ten people at once. Jselhi left the data on the table for her and promptly left afterwards. Valeriana thanked him. She moved to get to work, shaking her wrists and stretching her neck as she pulled back the chair.
She left the door ajar as she felt it was tight enough in the room. The small window for ventilation didn’t give her a better chance at breathing.
Although the table was quite spacious, it felt cramped and flooded. Looking at all the things she would have to go through, two days didn’t seem enough time. It might—if she sacrificed a few nights of sleep.
“Let’s get this over with.”
To start with, Valeriana browsed through. She intended on getting the gist of it first—the reasons they were drawn out. The Spirit Faction’s earliest record on the god’s appearance made available to Valeriana was five hundred years. There were no real reasons. Every appearance seemed rather out of whim and had no real patterns—this was especially true in the case of Arland.
She’d gotten through half of the stash under the bright concentrated lamp lights on her table when Jselhi knocked on the open door. “Miss Valeriana?”
She looked up, feeling like an office lady with a would-be visitor. “Yes?”
“Ten minutes into dinner. There’s a guide waiting for you outside to guide you to the table.”
“Ah,” she muttered, the realization that time was running came back to her. She looked over her desk with a bite of her lip, fingers stretching over the messy pile on the surface. “Wait a moment. Let me just gather my wits.” She yawned, rubbing the bridge of her nose.
“Alright.” Jselhi turned.
Before he could leave, however, Valeriana drew his attention back. “Jselhi?” she began.
“No ma’ams, just . . . Val. Call me Val.”
“Yes . . . Val?”
“Well, just wondering—not all of the gods’ appearances are legit, right?” she inquired.
“Like are they really the gods?”
“Ah, yes.” He straightened his posture, rolling back his shoulders. “Have I not included investigations?”
“Yeah, they were there,” she said.
“Some of the other appearances were never investigated properly, probably because they really were the gods. But I’m not sure about it myself.” He scratched his head. “I’m not very familiar with this, I’m just an archivist.”
“Sorry. But if those investigations were true, then that means Aether never appeared. Aether’s appearances were all debunked.”
Jselhi halted, gazing at her confused face for a few beats. “The faction is quite harsh when it comes to those things. They don’t like the name of Aether being used lightly. I’m sure there is once . . . or twice . . .”
“The suspicion it was really him happened only once during the winter solstice, two hundred twenty-nine years ago, at the ravine bordering the Sea of Celine and the coast of Liberia—in the Fire Faction territory.” She pointed to a file she was reading.
“Yes, that one.”
“But you can pass that sighting as a mirage,” she complained. “How will that lead me to anything significant?”
He rubbed his nape and shook his head. “I’m . . . I’m not sure. I’m sorry. Have you gotten through everything you were given?”
“No,” she said and instantly felt embarrassed. “I got to about two-thirds with semi-casual browsing. I’ve been taking down notes . . . but everything so far is hopeless. My will to get to the bottom is decaying with every negative,” she told him, her head tipping back to look at the ceiling. “This is hard.”
“That’s how it feels when you’re searching for answers,” he said. “There is hope until you go through the last paper. But you might not even need it at all. These are all just something that might be useful in your search but I’m sure you can find another way. Not all answers are written in papers.”
She stared at him. “Thanks. I needed that, I guess. Alright, then. Which way to the dining room?”
“Now that, I can’t answer. Probably just ask the person outside.” He jerked his thumb to point to his right, the direction of the door that led out of the repository.
“Thank you. I’ll leave this for a while then.” She shifted on her chair to stand but stopped short. Should she clean up first?
“Leave those as they are,” Jselhi said, seeming to have read her mind. “No one will touch them. I’ll make sure of it,” he assured, his palm open and high. “I’ll also try looking into more of the other records. You need legit or supposedly legit appearances?”
“No, no.” She shook her head. “You’re already doing a lot of work. And now I’m off to dinner, I feel like a jerk.”
“I didn’t say I’ll do it now. I also need to eat.” He chuckled. “Besides, I doubt you’ll know your way around anyway,” he teased with a large smile. “Go on. It’s my job. Things get boring easily around here. I’m happy to do some interesting work.”
“You’re awesome but please hold off the searching until I’m back.”
He gave her a wily smile that said he would do otherwise. None of the warning glares she gave him would deter him, it seemed.
She grabbed her notes and folded them into a square, shoving them into her pocket. She stood from her seat and headed for the door, peeking under the desk to find Tiger. Jselhi’s poke on her arm and the tilt of his head drew her eyes to the little cat which had apparently gone ahead. His tail curled as he stood by the door, waiting for Valeriana to follow.
“You sure you don’t want to get carried?” she asked him.
Tiger surprisingly shook his head.
Deep in her heart, she was unhappy with being rejected. “Alright, let’s go. But don’t think you don’t have any explaining to do,” she warned him with an eye-roll.
Her guide was outside waiting. He looked every bit as enthusiastic as a warm morning.
Tiger remained steps ahead, seeming to know which way to go. It seemed as though she had no need for another guide at all. It would be sad and unsettling to ditch him, though.
“Seriously, when are you going to talk to me?” she asked the cat under her breath.
Blue eyes shifted to meet hers, having heard the question with his keen ears. His voice remained hidden save for a small meow and a twitch of his tail.