CASeries #2: LEGEND
Chapter 39 ♕ The Finale
The moment that Valeriana had taken Asthore away, Faolan the demon had transformed into a much wilder character than his previous persona. As of now, he seemed to have detached from the pain troubling him from the wound he received. He took the form of a panther demon, its dark aura swirling about its muscular yet lithe form. It attacked Corvan in such a fearsome degree that the ranker had no choice but to get thrown back from the sheer force.
“Tch.” He grunted. “No trouble since we have a score to settle. I won’t bother holding back like before.”
Valeriana’s words from earlier echoed back into his head, and he smirked as his mouth moved on its own.
“Treat every fight as a challenger?” He smiled. Corvan swung his sword forward only to hit the beast with the blunt end of the weapon. “I’ve always been a challenger. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have gotten to where I am now.”
While he skillfully combated the creature before him, he let his mind wander on the possibilities. The glinting rows of narrow-edged teeth should’ve at least made him cower, but he had already gone through many ‘simulations’ to feel threatened. However, he did notice the absolute change in strength compared to mere copies of battle situations he was trained in. He did not feel the worry though, as he was confident in all the practice he got from the past few years of his life. Surely that would be adequate enough.
‘Asthore . . .’ Faolan growled, but his words rang unheard to his opponent.
“What drives you this way?” Corvan questioned. “That brat has done absolutely nothing to deserve that level of dedication.”
‘Give . . . back . . .’
The demon released an earthquake-inducing roar, its velvety furs trembling as cold wind rushed from its throat and straight onto Corvan’s face. It jumped on him afterwards, pinning him against the ground. Faolan ripped the weapon out of his hand with his teeth, tossing it a few meters away from where they stood.
Corvan had to settle with wrestling the demon—a considerably tough job to do as his strength was completely overpowered by it. It would only take a while for him to be crushed underneath the beast, and even the ground under him had already crumbled from the force and weight combined, burying him halfway into the dirt.
“Im . . . pudent . . . beast!” Corvan literally blazed up in flames, the color of his eyes smoldering as it blended into a slightly warmer color. The emerald shade of his eyes had taken a molten hue, like an igneous river of lava that glowed unearthly beneath the ground. His blonde hair had small sparks of embers and occasionally fire, as the flames licked and curled around his form, charring his clothes in exception for the specialized fabric he had taken the precaution to wear just in case—his pants and everything below.
The sight of him was vicious that even the demon had no choice but to step back as he was burned. The ranker speedily stood up.
“Vishna . . . elderem . . . incantos ve heilm . . .” Corvan grunted, the ancient tongue smoothly rolling off of his tongue. This seemed to have fed his flames as they got even wilder. “Vileamis Arlandos! Vu! Incantos ve heilm! Incantos! Ve heilm!”
Corvan bent into a fighting stance and wielded the flames that surrounded his body. They seemed more like a protective shield and an extension of his hands and feet as they bowed and flexed at every movement he took. It continued to crackle, nonetheless, never seeming to completely follow his commands. Restless, forever moving, and never still.
The demon started taking caution, its red eyes analyzing his whole body as though trying to find a weak point somewhere. It didn’t take very long before it bounded forward once more, its own aura flaring as a sign of retort to Corvan’s initial ‘combustion’.
And, just when the climax was about to start, an arrow came flying towards the panther, the pointed blade burying itself in the flesh of its lower back. Soon after, a lot more followed. If it weren’t for the fire surrounding Corvan, he would’ve been hit too.
The flesh in contact immediately burned and Faolan released a pained whimper as he fell.
“What . . .” Corvan could not hide his shock. “Silver arrows? Where on Valemnia?”
Demons’ animal form usually had thick hides that were impenetrable, however, if silver was doing the job, then it should easily penetrate the skin.
His supposed-to-be prey . . .
“Thanks for distracting it for us.”
He turned and his eyes almost bulged as he took in the sight of the unlikeliest person. “You . . . who are you?”
“Oh. We haven’t met before?” He tilted his head and regarded the ranker with his ash-colored eyes, and the dirty blonde hair that fell on his forehead. It was too late when Corvan recognized him. “I was with your group . . . Aden, remember? Lord Corvan, right? How could you have forgotten me so easily?”
“You are that . . . man from back then? What do you think you’re doing?”
It was almost as though this person took a three hundred and sixty degree turn. He was different from how he introduced himself. There were people who stood behind him holding weapons of their own.
“I lead the uprising.” Aden confidently stated. “I’m sorry for deceiving you, but it was necessary to get the plan going”.
“Unbelievable! To think you used us for your scheming!” His flames roared at the display of anger.
“Relax. I didn’t lie to you about the condition of the city.” He countered. “We just let you take the initiative in reconquering Loquin and took advantage of your lead.”
“However I hear it, it is unacceptable.”
“So it seems my suspicions were right all along . . . Aden Cassius.” Charles walked forward, his blade reflecting off what little light there was—which was mostly from Corvan. “You gave us some good trouble. Bringing your friends . . .”
“Tch.” He made the sound irked. “Look, let us just take the demon with us so we can restore the city like before.”
“I’ll be the one to decide that.” Corvan angrily stated.
“Geez, why do you have to be selfish? Are you seriously doing this for your own pride—”
“This matter has a deeper meaning than just your act of effrontery.” The Arlandian prince argued. “Do you seriously think that restoring the city is so simple that it will be done through the death of this demon? What utter fools!”
“You don’t understand!” Aden growled. “Thousands of innocent lives have been taken because of this demon! Yet you protect it! You do not understand the need for vengeance—”
“Watch your words!” Corvan bellowed at him. “I know the thirst for vengeance better than anyone for one of my own has been mercilessly massacred by a demon! Yet, my vengeance shall be bordered by justice and be done within the walls of the gods’ protection. You are no Celeste, and you have no knowledge in exorcising demons, so stay out of this! If you do not wish to concede, then you shall have to go through me before you get to this demon!”
The young lord saw Charles eyeing him with an unfathomable look on his face. The fourth did not say anything but his mouth twitched a small fragment that signified he had planned to, but did not.
“Corvan! You’re on fire!”
The sound of large, beating wings echoed from a distance and a body fell from above. Valeriana clumsily rolled onto the ground and unsteadily brought herself up to her feet, mouth dropping and eyes widening at the sight of her unimpressive move.
“That played out better inside my head,” she told herself. “Geez! Avaro you could’ve dropped me better!”
Aden looked irked. “So Miss Valeriana decides to show herself?”
“Tree Man! Where’ve you been?” The girl enthusiastically exclaimed. “I thought you were in trouble so I tried to make a cool entrance but things didn’t work the way I planned them to. So what’s up you guys? What’s up with the tension—”
“Good lords! We’re not having a casual conversation!” A vein popped on Charles’ forehead as he gave Valeriana a scolding glare with disdain.
“Oh?” The girl seemed confused. “But I thought we were all friends!”
“Can’t you see what’s going on?”
It was the same moment that Asthore landed with Sunny and they knelt beside Faolan, whose form had receded back into his usual one. Except, for some reason, he had gotten considerably smaller. His tall frame shrank and he looked far more . . . younger. Avaro gracefully folded his wings as he gave one last glance at the demon and strode over to his contractor.
“Oh god . . . Tod!” The girl cried, her hands trembling at his arrow-ridden body. “I . . . I’m sorry! This is my entire fault.”
“Big bwother?” Sunny tilted his head to the side. “Why did big bwother get smow?”
“God! Sunny! Why are you with them!” The rebels looked shocked at the sight of the child.
They attempted to run to him if it weren’t for more of the Twelve appearing and impeding their advances. Valeriana was surprised to see the gathering of the group, in exception for a few faces. There was Charles and the twins who came from one direction, Brindon, Keelan, and Raziel from positioned above the marbled hedges on another side—with everyone minding their own business, Keelan was still obsessing over the chicken leg and Raziel to himself.
“We told you to stay at home!” Chirped the rebels.
“Uh-uh. Stay where you are.” Zion growled, brandishing a sword at their necks. “I’m seriously pissed off right now. I had to combat mutineer-wannabes instead of the good scenes where Valeriana was and I practically had to do nothing from the last few hours while letting that barbeque jerk flame up and impress the only girl I’ve got my sights on!” Fire literally puffed from his nose, his ears even a little warm on the side as it puffed smoke.
Valeriana felt irked hearing him rant. “I was glad you weren’t with me! Jerk!”
And while the argument was going between the others, Asthore looked at Sunny as the boy reached out and touched the forehead of the demon. “You know Tod?”
“Big bwother give Sunwy food,” he muttered. “He help Sunwy. Big bwother good.”
Tod opened his eyes, a bright shade of green flecked with black greeting them. “A-asthore . . . you’re okay . . . Sunny?”
“Awe you huwt? Big bwother?” Sunny’s eyes watered as he leaned over and shook him a little, making Tod wince.
“Just . . . a little . . . wound . . . haha.” He coughed.
“I can’t believe it . . . you haven’t changed at all.” Asthore reached out and brushed a streak of black hair away from his forehead coated with sweat, the color dominant over a small blond few. “You really are Tod,” she said. “Not even a year older than when I last saw you that day.”
“Don’t fall asleep like mama.” Sunny said as he turned to meet the guilty eyes of the rebels. “You all bad!”
“But he . . .” Aden stammered.
“Idiot.” Asthore whined. “What got inside your head you did this?”
“You did.” He smiled. “You see, Thorie. I did not do this because I wanted to get back on your father for doing that.” His face saddened, his eyes shimmering. “I did this for you. To make you a good leader for this city. Just that . . . was enough for me.”
“But it’s too late! What am I supposed to rule with the city in shambles like this?” She muttered, tears falling out of her eyes. “I need to fix it all first . . .”
He chuckled again. “So you see it now? That’s good. I guess it’s finally time then.”
Tod’s black-stained green eyes fluttered to Asthore’s face as the clouds above them started forming. The environment suddenly morphed as though the world melted, the wilted plants disappearing and reverting into old frost plants, covered in a small heap of snow. Flakes glided softly through the air and landed on the City Lady’s eyelashes. The sudden brush of coldness painted a small hint of pink on her cheeks. The previous autumn-like state of the city disappeared, and the old, distraught version of Loquin itself had vanished and was brought back to normal.
“Your city . . . is safe, milady. After all, if it wasn’t, what is the use?”
“That city . . .” Corvan’s eyes bulged like saucers. “That was an alternate dimension. So, everything had been an illusion this entire time?”
“What?” Valeriana and the rebels were confused.
“The change of weather . . .” He trailed off.
The fifth gasped. “The city in shambles!”
“You mean they weren’t real? No way!” Someone yelled.
The faces of the other Twelve who did speak spelled confusion and shock, especially Courtney, who just decided to walk forward then and approach the spoiled brat she had learned to call a friend over the past few years before. She knelt beside her and placed a comforting hand on her shoulder.
“Child,” Courtney motioned for the small boy. “Come here.”
“I don’t wike you!” Sunny hissed at the other woman, his words carving disbelief on the former ranker’s face. Sunny hid behind Asthore instead and seethed at the Evereeshan princess from the other lady’s shoulder.
Asthore managed a small smile. “You still aren’t good with kids . . .” She sighed.
“Then what of the missing men and those things in the tunnel?” They heard someone question, coming from the direction of the twins.
“The Evereeshan soldiers . . . are all fine. They are not harmed in anyway.” Tod whispered. “I temporarily detached the souls from their bodies and housed them in puppets. But since the strings were cut, they were freed . . .”
Charles was amazed by his confession as though he found something interesting. “In order to conserve the pieces of your soul, you took whole ones from bodies and acted as a puppeteer. I must say that is a brilliant scheme,” he muttered.
Tod was about to reply when his lady shushed him.
“Don’t speak.” Asthore chided him softly.
“The demon’s right.” Rowe queued in. “I sent Cheveyo to scout the area, he has just reported about them sleeping.”
“Probably just like everyone else.” Charles chimed in. “The real City of Loquin is in deep slumber.”
“Wait. I don’t get any of this.” Valeriana exclaimed, sporting a troubled look.
“Demons never really had that kind of power to change seasons.” The fourth said. “It was just a little assumption, but I wanted to prove that theory.”
“And it seems the one about him being a mere, naive child is correct.” Rowe deduced, staring at his small, injured frame. “We have been dealing with a half-fledged demon all along, a literal child.”
“Tod . . . Tod, I don’t understand what anyone’s saying!” Asthore exclaimed. “I demand you tell me this instant!”
“I’m sorry, milady. I’m too tired.”
Asthore poked the arrow on his back and whimpered quietly. “Can we help?”
More of the Twelve filed in until the group was complete. One by one, they brought out chains and linked the hands of the rebels together.
“By the name of Valemnia and the power vested in us by the King, you are hereby arrested for your insurgency and insubordination. You will face trial as deemed fit by the Court and you shall carry the punishment you deserve.”
“We’re allowed to arrest people?” Valeriana wondered out loud. “I didn’t know that.”
“We’re knights-in-training but we’re allowed to have half of the privileges of an ordinary Celestes, since we’re the Twelve.” Zevlin explained as he lightly ushered the back of a captive. “Hey, you trio! Do something to help!” he yelled to Keelan, Brindon, and Raziel.
Genevieve decided to come forward and lend her assistance in removing the arrows due to her healing abilities unlike the rest. Asthore hesitantly trusted her approach and scooted a bit nearer to Tod’s side, lifting his head to her lap.
One by one, Genevieve worked on the arrows. Valeriana watched her work with mild fascination and cringed occasionally every time Genevieve would pull.
“It seems that your wishes had already come true, my son. I had done my best to lend you the help you needed. If only you had trusted me sooner.” Marcy trod towards them his hands folded behind him.
“Marcweller . . .” Asthore further softened until the tears began threatening to spill once again.
Genevieve briefly gathered every single arrow she had taken out and stacked it to one side. When she was done, she pulled herself away and gave them the space they needed. “I wasn’t able to completely take out all the arrows. There is one left, and I believe it has pierced deeper than anything else. I cannot heal the wounds inflicted on him by silver completely, but I was able to close the wound I made on his shoulder halfway.” She grinned guiltily and backed away from their sight.
“You did that to him?! And what kind of healer are you not being able to close the wounds all the way!”
“Thorie . . .” Tod softly brushed her fingers with his. “I did it because I didn’t want to involve anyone else.”
“It’s alright . . . since everything’s back together, just focus on healing. Everything will be fine.”
“I’m afraid he can’t do that,” Rowe said. “From what I see, his soul is far too broken and tainted to make it far. And even if he does heal, he’ll turn into a demon soon that we’ll have to exterminate him by then.”
“No!” Asthore yelled at them, looking frantically between the Twelve. “I will not allow you to do so!”
“We have no choice,” said someone else.
“I chose this, Asthore. I knew it a long time ago.” Tod told her with a broken smile. “The price is harsh for using the darkness to have your way. It is included in my contract. My soul will have a piece taken away every time I use it, and my body will be consumed by evil until it reduces to nothing. But it is worth it . . .”
“No, it’s not!” Asthore screamed. “I did not ask for any of this! Why?”
Tod looked up at the sky, his eyes reflecting the soft shimmer of the falling snow. He gazed at the silky curls that fell loosely on his lady’s shoulders and flexed out his fingers in front of him to touch them, simultaneously wiping off the tears that coated her cheeks.
“You have cried a river.” He laughed softly. “It’s worth a lifetime. Perhaps after this you will be stronger.”
“But I need you . . .”
“You don’t.” The half-demon countered. “Do you . . .” He breathed deeply. “Remember that snowy day? I always see it . . . I always . . .” A smile curved on his lips. “At least I saw the fountain with you, but that was only how we both imagined it would be.”
“Tod? You mean that wasn’t real, too?” She whimpered. “Tod . . . please, hold on. I don’t want you to . . . I don’t care if the fountain wasn’t real at all.”
“I’ll always be with you, don’t worry. Hey, you, Nevanian prince.” He turned to Rowe with a soft nod. “What of the spirits of demons?”
“In the afterlife?” The second-ranker inquired and was answered by small nod. “There are two paths in a cycle of infinity. Dark souls are swept by the river of constant purification. They say it is painful, tormenting, as the evil that clung to your soul is ripped off, piece by piece. But afterwards, you ascend into a river of smooth waters until it reaches the waterfall of reincarnation, and the soul is given the chance to live once again. Every soul goes through that cycle, but demons’ souls have a tendency to linger in the purification stage for a while.”
“I see. I would be seeing you again, milady. In my next lifetime. Perhaps then, nothing would barricade us from being happy.”
“The gods have seen your suffering.” Rowe sadly told them. “I am quite sure that you will see the happiness you seek in that next lifetime.”
“That sets me at peace . . .” He breathed.
Valeriana tore up at the scene. She unconsciously stepped closer to Corvan’s fire, choosing to stay ‘warm and toasty’ as she blew her nose on a handkerchief.
“Geez.” Zion said in annoyance. “He’s taking his time dying. What are you waiting for?”
“Bastard!” Valeriana exclaimed.
“One last request, milady.”
“Anything for you, Tod.”
“Would I have the honor of . . .” His voice fell into a whisper that only Asthore was able to hear the rest of it. Even so, her eyes widened in response and displayed a look of shock.
“Is it too much to ask for, I wonder?”
Asthore shook her head and smiled despite the salty rivers dripping from her chin. She then bent down and captured his lips with her own.
“Ahhh!” Elfre squealed in shock and excitement.
And with that, the last of his breath left his body. Valeriana took notice of a small glow from inside his chest and turned to everyone to see if they saw it as well. When no one reacted, she cautiously took meager advances. For some reason, the glow attracted her like a magnet. Asthore was still ‘busy’ so she deliberately placed her hand on where the glow was situated and was shocked when it started growing. Courtney eyed the girl with disbelief but did not dare say anything. A string curled up around her fingers. Valeriana pulled on it curiously and an inky black thing floated out, his chest heaving as it left his body.
“Valeriana!” Rowe and Aneeka yelled in horror.
“Oh no, oh no! What did I do?” She looked at it in horror as the thing glided towards her. “Ahhh! God! God!”
She cowered away from ‘the thing’ but all it did was softly touch her fingers. It held little warmth. Valeriana peeked from her closed lids and watched as it settled between her hands. It had a smoky, greyish and black smoke curling about it like something out of a dry-ice effect.
“Rowe! What do I do with this thing?!” she cried.
Asthore ignored her shouts and pulled herself up, admiring what was left of her sweetheart, relishing the last warmth of his skin. Her soft sobs echoed in everyone’s ears and Sunny sadly hugged her from behind, his eyes and lips trembling.
Rowe and Aneeka were speechless themselves while the others watched, confused.
“What’s going on?” Keelan asked innocently.
Valeriana stared the object between her hands in fascination, deciding to take the initiative and caress it like a delicate piece of treasure. She felt a vibration coming from it, before the black melted away from her touch, replaced by a hue of pure white like snow. Valeriana gazed at it in wonder, eyebrows knitting and lips curling. The ball-shaped thing was chipped on the sides and had a big gaping hole on one space, as though the black thing had fed off of it.
She took a huge breath. “Is this . . .”
However, the smoky black stain that she managed to wipe off of it clung to her skin like glue while ‘the thing’ twisted and turned until it vanished to nothingness. What was left of it was a small crystal that reflected rainbows. It had perfect symmetry on all sides and was shaped like a little diamond.
“A soul crystal.” Rowe’s jaw dropped. “I’ve never seen . . .”
She was horrified when the black sticky substance marked itself into her hands, shrinking until it0020was shaped like a small mole on the middle of her palms. She looked at Rowe and saw him frowning.
Disregarding it, she moved over to Asthore and offered the crystal.
“I think this belongs to you.”