CASeries #5: COSMOS
Chapter 44 ♦ A Deep Plunge
The fight started in a heartbeat. His beautiful sword sliced the air with a sharp whistle. Valeriana felt the inferiority of her own weapon and was tempted to draw Cifaro—which was more dangerous, both for herself and her current opponent. While there was no physical harm involved, there definitely would be a lot of other pains concerning the aura. Not to mention if she revealed her ultimate weapon, things would definitely be a lot tougher than they already were.
Their blades sang at every strike. Compared to Valeriana’s awkward movements, the enemy possessed the grace of water. Now wonder he insisted on calling it The Ocean. While there was no creativity, there was certainly reason.
She felt the nostalgia at the thought of water. It was her very first lesson with Seraphina and also the very first element whose blessing she received.
“You look so determined,” the masked man commented. “But also a little bit distracted.” He slid a foot forward as his blade circled around him like a barreling wave in a stormy sea.
Valeriana gritted her teeth, rigidly catching the attack. She felt like the rocky beach, endlessly bombarded by angry waters.
The waves on the blade gave an extra bite. Valeriana’s sword was often carried along with every movement, severely limiting her mobility. It felt like she was being tugged—more like hauled—by strong currents. Whoever this person was had developed and familiarized himself with his blade so well, he was formidable.
By the looks of it, this would probably hurt a lot worse than a regular blade.
Valeriana pulled back, putting some distance between herself and the enemy to breathe. She sized him up, mentally noting to herself that if she stuck with the regular way of fighting, she just might not be able to survive. She didn’t need to win this one but if she gave up, she would be seen as an easy target.
Then again, there were still those two. But it didn’t exactly feel right to leave it up to them to save her own butt. Either way, she had to show her strength somehow.
She recalled her lessons at the academy—her very first lessons—and remembered the balancing of the elements. A true warrior would know how to be all—passionate like fire, firm like the earth, flowing like water, free as the wind, and sincere as the soul. Passion, resolution, limber, unboundedness, sincerity. While one was great, it was not more so than the other elements. Combined, they made a perfect whole. Alone, they had weakness and strengths.
Seraphina’s element was the firm earth yet she managed to replicate the fluidity of water effortlessly. Valeriana believed she could do it as well. She had to.
“What shapes the ocean?” she inquired softly—not towards the masked man before her, but to herself.
In her mind, she uttered the answer. The earth.
“What pulls it to the sky?”
“What changes it?”
“What bonds it to the others?”
She hardened her form and envisioned herself as the bed that cradled the sea. If she wouldn’t be able to control him, she would force him where to go.
Water’s weakness was its most defining quality.
Valeriana stepped forward wholesomely. She didn’t attempt to meet his attacks head on like before. Instead, she took narrow and sturdy moves like tall, pointed boulders. She took stuttering faints while slowly moving in, striking at the most unexpected of times. She became the bite of fire and wisped into the swift air.
Her enemy’s advance was split apart before it got the chance to land. But she did not stop short to celebrate and took wide, heavy strikes to continue countering his flow. It was a bit of challenge since he was adept in evading so she guided his moves and awaited the right moment.
“You cannot rely on one element to tide you through a battle.”
She could feel him thinking. His eyes were narrowed, probably at the sudden change in the rhythm.
Valeriana did not stop. She continued. Her relentless pursuit eventually landed him a slash on the chest, cutting through his black garments and revealing a tattooed chest. Blood quickly dripped from the wound, soaking the ripped shirt. Seeing a successful attack on the masked leader, the girl stepped back to catch her breath. Even if she went in for the kill now, she didn’t have much energy.
Her opponent growled. “Water may not be shaped on its own but it makes way for itself!” he exclaimed. He turned swiftly and slid a foot forward, swinging at Valeriana from below.
She caught his blade with a loud, shattering clang. Valeriana’s breath stuttered at the sudden burst of strength but she forced back her rhythm and stepped in with an attack of her own. She pushed him back and guided his sword to a turn, using his own power against him.
He clearly dominated the strength arena. Trying to win the game would do her no good.
Valeriana’s foot then stretched to a swift kick, targeting his legs in an attempt to throw him off balance. He evaded easily, large hands shooting to grasp her ankles and lock it in place.
“Shucks,” she muttered.
His blue eyes flashed with a sharp glare and his grip further tightened—so much she could feel her bones being crushed.
In two seconds flat, he had her flying and rolling on the dirt like a bowling ball.
The ranker caught the cliff at her periphery and panic rose in her heart. While she managed to straighten herself out after barrel rolling, she didn’t stop in time.
“Shiznits!” she exclaimed as her body shot out. She dangled from the edge, grasping the thick roots of the tree. However, since it wasn’t enough, she forced herself to climb a bit more. This posed a bit of challenge, especially since she refused to let go of her weapon. “Gods forgive me, I don’t wanna die.”
She climbed. Her muscles screamed. She refused to look down, knowing it would only fuel her fear.
Once high enough, she threw the hand with the sword and plunged its blade into the ground. It buried itself around five inches deep, enough to help her rise.
She tried to find support for her feet but found none. The edge was a little too steep and narrow.
Valeriana took a deep breath and, despite the agony, put all of her weight on her arms.
“I was told not to let you live,” the man of The Ocean muttered as he stopped before her.
“You don’t always do as you’re told, do you?” she inquired softly, sweat sliding down the side of her face and further soaking her top.
“Unfortunately for you,” he began. “I will this time.”
Before he could do anything, a white blur jumped on him from behind. His instincts were sharp enough to evade and fend off the first sequential attacks.
“Ah . . . I see.” He did not let his new assailant distract him further. Whilst facing Arcana, he horse-kicked Valeriana’s firmly lodged sword, causing it to tip backwards like a train lever. “You took out my men that fast? Very good!” the masked leader said.
“Good Aether!” Valeriana exclaimed as she frantically clawed at the edge. Her sword broke free from the ground and flew back like a bird when she tried to pull herself back up. Within a heartbeat, she lost grasp of it. The poor thing went past her fingers and took a deep plunge below. “Oohhh good lords.”
Hopeless and breathless, she clung tight on the roots and the ragged edges of the cliff. She felt like a gaping fish out of the water trapped by a bait.
A battle ensued between Arcana and the masked man. Meanwhile, Valeriana concentrated on not letting go. Thankfully, her struggle didn’t take very long. The willowy wrists swooped in and she found herself looking up at another masked face underneath the saggy hood. This time, it was familiar.
“You—Del . . .”
“Just help me here, you idiot,” the Lady Commander scolded as she gripped Valeriana’s gloved arms.
“You—” Valeriana stammered. That phrase reminded her so much of a certain someone.
“What are you waiting for?” the woman growled.
“I—well . . .” She struggled to lift herself. “Okay.”
Deli was surprisingly powerful as Valeriana was pulled up with almost no struggle. The narrowing of eyes, however, indicated otherwise.
The blonde ranker grunted. Her waist had finally come to greet the steep cliff when a crumbling imbalance tipped her back down. Rock pieces brushed her arms and ended up with the same fate as her sword. Deli’s eyes widened as she tightened her hold on Valeriana’s arms, her body shifting to find stable grounds as she pulled back the blonde with more urgency.
It took a few moments for the thought to sink in. The cliff side was collapsing.
“Why is this happening?” Valeriana exclaimed as her feet dangled. She could feel Deli’s hands tightening so much that her hand felt the cold prickles from restricted blood flow. “Do the gods like seeing me dangle from cliffs so much?! If I’m not the one pulling people from cliffs, I’m the one being pulled from cliffs!”
“It’s probably due to the sword,” the other woman said. The ground broke open like a gaping mouth, revealing the teething roots that held it in place. But not for long. “Keep holding on,” she said as she freed her other hand, leaving Valeriana’s wrists so that she could grasp the nearby boulder.
“My instinct is to sing Avril Lavigne,” Valeriana began as she took a deep breath, stifling the urge to belt out one of her favorites. “I’M REALLY TEMPTED. IF I DON’T SING IT, I’LL DIE.”
“YOU’LL DIE EITHER WAY SO FOR AETHER’S SAKE DON’T THINK ABOUT IT!” was Arcana’s scream. The ivory-haired girl ducked to avoid the critical swing of the tattooed man in the mask. While the current fight with the Big Boss had her occupied, she could not resist telling off the honey-golden blonde.
“If you know better, you’d shut that mouth.” Deli tried to use the boulder for some strength. She once more tried to pull up the poor Val.
But the cliff itself wasn’t on their side. The crack ate further back and caused the gaping wedge to further widen. This had the poor Lady Commander stretching so far down, her limbs tugged to their limit.
“I won’t . . . I won’t . . .” Valeriana muttered. “Just pull up! Pull up!”
“Do you not think I’m trying?!” Deli growled.
Their worst fear then happened.
The cliff cracked and the steep tip broke apart like a cookie crumble. Valeriana sucked in a shocked breath as she fell a few inches down, stopping only at the tight tug on her arm.
The blonde ranker had closed her eyes at the thought of death, but was surprised when she stopped short. Tipping back her head and lifting her lids, she saw that Deli herself had fallen off as the grounds she was relying on had drastically disappointed her. In just a few seconds, the rocky tips were making enormous splashed below.
Thankfully, the Lady Commander clung tight on the boulder she had used to pull up Valeriana. The bad news was that it was slowly tipping over at the weight of the two girls.
“Shiznits. Shiznits.” Valeriana grasped Deli’s wrists so hard it turned blue. “Arc—”
“I’M SORRY,” the Spirit Faction’s lady yelled. “I’m a little bit too preoccupied at the moment.”
The rock tipped back further.
“TIGER!” she yelled. “TIGERYOUFREAKINGCATDOSOMETHING!”
The sound of battle continued but footsteps rushed to their direction. Arcana peered down the cliff, pulled back the tipping boulder, and reached for Deli’s hand. Their skin barely brushed when large hands towed back the lavender-eyed lady’s shoulder and the boulder was kicked off.
“Karma bite you in the ass!” Valeriana screamed. Her stomach flipped and turned as she felt the loss of gravity below. “KARMA IS COMING FOR YOU, YOU SUNUVABEETCH! IT’S CO—AAAHH!”
Large splashes stirred the calm, blue pools below.