CASeries #2: LEGEND
Chapter 38 ♕ The Finale Begins
Valeriana was mildly getting tired of having to restrain the spoiled girl she recently kidnapped. Asthore’s demanding and overbearing attitude was slowly getting onto her nerves that throwing her off was becoming a seductive temptation. Avaro continued to display a seemingly endless supply of patience and said nothing as he continued to fly, but Valeriana’s mouth trembled and words were attempting to break free from her pursed lips.
“I demand that you fly us down this instant! This is not how you treat a lady and I absolutely detest being manhandled! Just wait until Faolan beats down that egotistical jerk you call your first-ranker and I assure you I’ll have you beheaded by him the very second he catches up to us! So I suggest that you—”
Valeriana’s face was red with anger. “Can you shut the hell up for a damn moment and give me some peace and quiet? I’m not the most patient person in the world and I can assure you that I’m willing to drop you off this height the very next moment you open that ringing siren you call your mouth!”
She was starting to sound like Corvan.
They were currently a hundred meters off the ground. If, previously, Valeriana would have absolutely freaked knowing they were that high up in the air, the anger and irritation she was feeling blocked off everything else. For now, she could think of nothing but find a way to have the brat slam her mouth shut.
Asthore was not the bit intimidated. “I shall not believe you! You would have not taken me away if you had no use for me! I refuse to believe that—”
When she finally reached her breaking point, Valeriana carelessly—and literally—threw Asthore away that she started screaming her throats out as she made her way down.
Avaro gave a small chuckle and casually looked at the girl from the corner of his eyes. ‘This one believes that lheuim ansur would not want the kid to die.’
“I’m sorry.” Valeriana answered. “She just made me . . .”
‘’Tis nothing that this beast cannot fix. Just hold on tight and try to remain composed for the sake of appearances.’ He told her.
“What are you going to do exactly?”
With a swift but graceful swing, Avaro folded his wings and just . . . dropped. Valeriana could not help but shriek at first but forced herself to contain her scream. And although her stomach felt queasy at the velocity as they approached the ground, it was nothing entirely new.
She had to get used to the notion that this was going to happen frequently, so why not try to adjust to it now? Summoning up her bravery, she reached forward and held on to the beast’s long mane and squinted in an attempt to see through the wall of wind.
“Does this hurt?”
Avaro seemed slightly taken aback, but the expression his eyes showed altered slightly. ‘It does not.’
“Okay, let’s get the girl.”
Avaro flew in the same pace as Asthore as she fell. The brat could not help but scream and glare and fume at the same time as both of them came into view.
“Do you swear to keep your mouth shut and give me the peace and quiet I want from you for the rest of the ride? Maybe then I’ll think about bringing you back to your precious Tod.”
Asthore looked at Valeriana, shocked. “You know of Tod? How?”
“A little birdy told me.” She rolled her eyes. “Are you gonna swear or not? Cause you’re gonna fall.”
The girl looked down and saw the ground fast approaching. She squealed. “Yes! Yes! I swear! Now get me out of this dilemma! Before I—”
Avaro spread his wings as Valeriana made a grab for the little lady and smoothly got back on track. A small cry escaped Asthore’s mouth, her eyes shutting close at the smell of danger. Her fear was unneeded, however, as she was cushioned safely against Valeriana’s secured embrace. When she no longer felt as though she was falling, she slowly opened her eyes and looked down.
“What? Where did you take me?” She glowered at Valeriana. “Take me back to Loquin!”
Valeriana rolled her eyes. “Sorry to break it to you but . . . this is Loquin.”
“You are not saying . . .” A small squeak of regret and guilt trembled with her voice and her eyes widened considerably as she took in the sight. The sight of her previously glorious city—now in shambles . . . in ruins. “No! This is not Loquin . . .”
“I did not expect it to be this bad either. All it took was mere days, and your city destroyed itself.”
It sent a hole through her heart. Dilapidated houses, shattered windows, crushed walls, and broken doors. The place was void of the liveliness and alacrity she once used to admire. The snow that used to sit on the rooftops now gone, the white pureness absent—leaving everything bland, dark, and grey. With no exaggeration, the city was in shambles.
Asthore was distraught.
“Loquin cannot live alone,” Valeriana said. “Your declaration of the city’s isolation cut off the flow of goods that supported your people. Prelurésia’s literally an ice-haven, so crops aren’t able to grow—which basically means no food. Add in the constant changing of the weather.”
It was all making sense.
“Everyone might have broken into other people’s home in an attempt to find some food that could ease their hunger. The melted ice is stagnant from the lack of flow, so it might’ve made everyone sick.” Valeriana’s mind worked around the possibilities and the harsh reality. “Your citizens are dying.”
“So I . . . because of my selfishness . . . I destroyed everything my father worked hard for. Why? Dear lords, why? I’m so foolish . . . so foolish . . . what should I do? Oh gods, what should I do?”
Valeriana looked down at the girl in pity, feeling bad for a mere teenager to be burdened with such thoughts of having to revive the city she herself destroyed. She must be having those chest-constricting, heavy feelings of disappointment and self-anger.
“I did all this . . . no wonder everyone . . .” She looked up at Valeriana, her icy-blue eyes filled with pain. “Kill me.”
Or she was not thinking of reviving it at all—but dying herself?
Valeriana was filled with shock at the statement, but she made no hesitance to push Asthore off of Avaro for the second time in mild annoyance. Asthore herself was a bit taken aback. However, in contrast to the results the spoiled brat had been expecting, she landed on the ground with a loud thump—not harshly enough to break any bones in her body or to make her bleed but just enough for a bruise or two.
“O-ow . . .” She grumbled. The younger girl looked up at Valeriana as she and Corvan’s familiar landed softly. “Why did you push me?”
Her clothes were now messy and she looked far from her groomed self.
“Because I can’t kill you.” The fifth-ranker answered her unhesitatingly. “You know, you seriously get on my nerves. You’re such a spoiled brat! Even at the very end, you’re so selfish you keep only on thinking of yourself!”
“I already said I deserve to die!” Asthore screamed.
“That’s crap!” she exclaimed. “Dying is not enough to atone for the mistakes you committed. You think that’s gonna make up for it?” She huffed and jumped off of Avaro. “Sure maybe the people will be happy you died but that doesn’t mean it’ll give them back what they lost.”
“But I . . .” She balled her hands into fists and gripped her torn dress.
“You seriously think that’s gonna solve anything?” Valeriana approached her and knelt in front of her, her expression hard and the look in her eyes unyielding. “If you ask me, death is such a lenient punishment for you.”
Asthore gave a slight gasp as her tears pooled nonstop.
“Death will ease your pain and you can be with everyone you love on the other side, but that won’t solve the issues and problems you left behind and fix everything you’ve done. You think your death will revive this city?” she asked her, her voice harsh. Valeriana could not almost recognize herself.
“N-no . . .”
“Do you think it will heal the sick?”
She shook her head.
“Well, get this damn straight, you brat. If you really want to make up for it, you’re gonna stay alive and spend the rest of your life serving the people of your city.”
“You want me to become a slave?!” Asthore yawped disbelievingly. “I will not—”
“Why are you so narrow-minded?” Valeriana growled. “What do you think a leader is? A boss? Just telling people what they should do? The position of a leader is a lot more than that! Idiot!” She smacked the girl’s forehead. “A leader should think like a follower! You’re never in charge! You sit there to serve the people, and not have the people serve you! So get that through your head because whether you want to or not, you’re going to go back in that stupid manor of yours and fix everything!”
“What if I don’t want to?”
Valeriana’s face twisted in anger. She never felt so much irritation her entire life.
‘Lheuim ansur, come. Leave the girl.’
She turned to Avaro. “Why?”
‘Just trust this one. This girl has not seen enough to truly understand the magnitude of the damage she’s done. Let her see for herself. There’s more learning to experiencing than being taught.’
The fifth-ranker stood up and walked towards the magnificent beast. Within a few seconds, she was sitting on his back and preparing to take off. Asthore seemed shaken and perplexed by her action that she watched her move with skepticism.
“What are you doing?” The younger girl asked.
“Is this really alright?” Valeriana whispered to Avaro.
‘It is for the best.’
Asthore clumsily hurried to her feet and jumped forward. “You can’t leave me here!”
In a matter of seconds, Valeriana and the beast were gone. And the girl was all alone.
“HEY!” The brat hollered. “You can’t! I demand you come back here!”
Devoid of hope and filled with fear, her knees crumpled and she slumped against the moist floor. She used her hands to support her body, her head dangling as strands of her hair flew forward and stuck against her wet cheeks. She wiped them off, unconsciously smearing dirt on her face.
She trembled and wept at her own insolence, her mind reeling at the thoughts of guilt and utter resentment of the things she had done for the past few days—mere weeks when she had ascended to the position. A few hours and short minutes was all it took to destroy the thriving city his father and all his predecessors spent their entire life building. It didn’t even take a year.
Yet, with all the things she had done, did she truly deserve the sweet lull of death? To sleep for the rest of eternity in peace without having to regret the things she had done because of her selfishness and obliviousness?
No. That girl was right. She deserved something much worse. Perhaps her suggestion of servitude was really the right thing to do—she deserved to suffer.
However, on Valeriana’s side, they did not truly leave Asthore behind. They merely took cover on the roofs of the homes where the little lady could not see them.
It turned out that Avaro had more than the mere idea of leaving the girl alone to fend for herself, but if they were truly to make her see what they wanted her to see, then they would have to tweak a few things and guide her. Valeriana was still unsure as to what the ancient beast was truly planning, but she decided to let him do his thing and went with the ride instead.
Avaro rested on his paws, Valeriana sitting impatiently beside him. “How long is she gonna cry like that? We’ve been up here for like . . . an hour and she’s still not doing anything.”
‘It’s been mere seventeen minutes.’
“That’s a long time on my part.”
It was almost as if Avaro sighed. ‘Sometimes, dear Valeriana,’ The beast paused. ‘Though thou dost not wish to physically leave someone behind, thou canst be there with them spiritually and watch over them through means no one can imagine.’
Valeriana watched him with her wide, azure eyes and curiously gazed at the miniscule vibrations that sent his furs trembling. After a few moments, his jaws slacked open and a small butterfly with a glowing color of blue escaped from his mouth. It fluttered down towards a narrow street from the side and disappeared around the corner.
“What exactly was that for?”
‘Why dost not thou watch?’ Avaro asked her. ‘It is better to see for thyself than hear from me.’
The sound of giggles echoed faintly at first until it grew louder. From the very same corner the butterfly disappeared to, came a small boy around the age of four or so . . .
The butterfly then diminished, its light fading into small sparks that left the little one wondering where it went. It was then that his caramel-colored irises caught sight of a crying girl and approached her slowly.
“Hey, awe you alwight?” He grabbed a small stick and poked her, which caused the girl to lean back and evade the next few assaults.
“Leave me alone.” Asthore croaked out, the supposed yell coming out as a mere, broken whisper.
A small body cuddled next to her and pulled on the hems of her skirt.
“Hey! I told you to—” She was cut off when she saw a small boy wrapping the fabrics of her torn dress around him. His head poked through a large hole which looked as though it was strangely made for him.
He laughed, a strange twinkle in his eyes. “You warm!”
“Your speech is incomprehensible.” She bluntly commented, wiping her tears away.
His face twisted in confusion, his lips somewhat dried. His freckle-covered cheeks and reddened nose brought him an innocent charm. He would look dashing if it weren’t for the unkempt hair and ragged clothes. “Incompwemble?”
He squeezed his face in an attempt to properly pronounce the word. “Incompwenible! Incompuwinirible! Incowbiniple!”
“Alright, stop it. You need not force yourself. It’s too much for your tongue to handle.”
Valeriana could not help but feel . . . touched at the scene. “Avaro . . .” The words faded from her mouth and instead, her hands worked their way through his soft furs.
The boy giggled. “My name Sunwy!”
The kid gave her a frustrated glare. “It’s Sunwy! Sun-wy!”
Sunny nodded. “You?”
“It’s . . . Thorie.”
“Stop it. That’s annoying.”
But her harshness was not at all able to repel the innocence of a mere child. “Why you cwying? Did you mommy don’t wake up too?”
Asthore looked up in disbelief at the kid. “What? What did you say?”
“Mommy don’t wake up,” he said, pushing himself against her in an attempt to seek warmth. “Sunwy wake up, but mama don’t.” He paused. “Mommy so cold. Maybe she hungry so I go look fow food. But Sunwy founded Thowie!”
“Your mother . . . what?”
“Mommy just sleep. Sunwy go look fow food, maybe she wake up!”
“How about your father?”
“Sunwy don’t know.”
Although his words were somewhat a bit hard to understand, Asthore could more than comprehend what had happened to the little kid that she could not help but weep over it. Valeriana herself, in their hiding spot, was getting emotional.
“Mommy told me befow sleep.” He started. “No use cwying. Cwying not make me full. She said! BE STWOOONNGGG!”
The girl could not help but ask. “Do you have any money to buy food? You look hungry.”
“I twy to buy but no one give,” he told her. “Money not wowk.”
Asthore stood on her wobbly feet and Sunny followed after, her dress wrapped around him as though a cape. “You know, I have food in my house. You want some?” she inquired, drying her face with her hands.
“Ooh!” He nodded enthusiastically, and his stomach grumbled in response.
The girl looked around her to find the way which they came from. Since she had her back on a certain direction, she chose to go through with that path instead. It had been years since she had her stroll in town, and a lot had changed since then. Aside from the unrecognizable broken pavement and rubbles scattered on the ground, the streets were dark and cold.
With a slow trudge, both of them began their journey to the family manor. However, judging from the length she traveled previously, it would take them more than a few minutes to get there.
“It must be . . . this way . . .” She nervously whispered.
Every step she took got heavier. If it weren’t for Sunny by her side, she would’ve broken down once again and ran to a path to which she didn’t know what led to. She couldn’t believe she could be this weak, and just trying to think of the possible dangers of being out here made her tremble from fear. What if anybody recognized her at all? They surely hated her guts. If they saw her, they would probably beat her down and take her life.
The boy was oblivious to her sufferings, even to his own loss. She wished she could have his innocence—the ability to be so carefree.
The street resembled a walk of the damned. Everywhere she looked, there were cowering eyes, or angry eyes. They looked at her with desperation, contempt, envy, as though they would swallow her any moment. At often times they would hear strangled screams, moans of hunger, and cries of suffering.
And though at through her sight it might’ve been exaggerated by her paranoia, it was no doubt true that the citizens of her city were more than desperate enough to find some food to steal from one of their own. It had been weeks since they received the proper nourishment and the supplies of food kept in the manor—she refused to give. She even had the demon prepare a feast on the behalf of her guest’s arrival. Thinking back to what she had said before . . .
‘No one’s eating!’
God, that girl was right. Dying right now wouldn’t give the people of Loquin what they lost. It wouldn’t give them food—wouldn’t make them full. What would happen to Sunny once she died?
“Thowie.” Sunny called out. “You okay?”
“I was just thinking . . .” Asthore paused. “I’ve got to make this right.”
‘And she finally gets it,’ Avaro said. ‘It seems to this one, Valeriana, that it is time to go back. Has lheuim ansur learned something?’
It seemed as though Avaro did not only do it for Asthore, but Valeriana as well.
A smile curved on her lips. “Yeah, I think I did. Let’s go.”
Valeriana mounted Avaro and they both swooped down to snatch the two off the ground.