CASeries #5: COSMOS
Chapter 46 ♦ Hey there, Delilah
Valeriana wanted to linger but she was reminded of Deli’s condition so she rushed back to the Lady Commander. Like Tiger said, the woman was as she left her—unconscious. She was sure the cat knew of the way out but she was irked by his grumpiness that she opted to find it on her own.
She took a dive back into the pools and found an opening underwater that led to the hidden beach. They hadn’t gone any other way through to end up wherever they were so she concluded it must be the way out. While Valeriana was tempted to find out immediately, she didn’t go through it just yet as she was hesitant on leaving Delilah behind. The woman was not in the best of conditions.
‘You could’ve just asked me,’ Tiger told her.
The blonde gave him a stare and silently turned away. After the silent treatment for the first three months, he suggested it as though he had actually been talking. She was still a little irritated at her cat for treating her like he did. While it was a childish sentiment, she could not stop herself from acting out a little.
She checked on Deli’s pulse just to make sure the woman was still alive. After feeling the faint beat on her fingertips, she leaned back and thought hard about how she was supposed to help the woman. It seemed as though the Lady Commander was not in a threatening condition at the moment but that didn’t mean she was well either.
“If I could heal you, I’d already done it,” she told Deli. “I don’t know how many times I’ve said it, but if I had internet, I’d be googling right now. Not that anybody can help me at the moment.” Valeriana sighed.
At last, she decided to turn to her cat. Tiger sat waiting, watching her silently. Like he always did.
“Since you came here on your own and you know your way around, go back upstairs and see what’s happening. I’m very worried about Arcana. If she isn’t well, go tell Raegan what happened at the cliff and the fight. If she is well, find a way to bring her here,” she narrated. “He knows about Deli anyway. So it should be no trouble. But do something about Arcana. If she’s in a bad shape, run here right away.”
‘You are ridiculous,’ he replied. ‘What is it you really want me to do?’
Valeriana realized that her panicking state left her mind a little muddled. She fingered her blond locks and took a deep breath, trying to gather her wit.
“I just said go to Raegan. Yes, I know. But I realized just now it’s stupid if we wait for him to come. It’s probably much better if you run to me first. Then again, if things aren’t going well, do anything you can to help her.”
‘Tell me my priority. Do I run to you right away? Do I help her right away?’
Valeriana scratched her head. “I don’t know. Do what you think is best. The answer depends on the circumstance, really. I’ll leave it to you to decide,” she told him.
‘You really think a small cat can do anything.’ Tiger grumpily turned to the direction of the water but did not say anything else. Although he was unwilling, he followed her instructions.
“You’re not just a small cat,” she said. While Valeriana appreciated his help, she would definitely appreciate it more if he was a little more enthusiastic.
‘I regret taking up this job.’
“You say as if you had someone give it to you.”
‘It’s because you’re a lot of work.’
‘Say that to yourself.’
Unable to come up with another retort, Valeriana decided to curse. “Cat crap! Shame on you!” The blonde huffed and kicked some sand on her cat. He hissed at her before diving back into the depths. His movements were solid and practiced. It was as if he’d grown some fins and speared through.
She could imagine dogs swimming but cats? Tiger hated water. Yet, this time, he didn’t act on his hatred for it.
Weird cat. Weird, weird cat.
Valeriana tiredly returned her attention to the unconscious woman. Clueless, she sat there, staring at Deli hopelessly until help arrived. She didn’t want to continue dragging Deli around in case she had more severe issues.
The gash on the woman’s forehead was starting to swell but the wound had clotted and the bleeding stopped. The most probably cause of this was falling debris. After all, even after they fell into the water, the cliff continued collapsing—from one, small sword and a kick.
The blonde worried for Arcana as well. She would have went there by herself but that would mean leaving Deli alone. Besides, after having been defeated by that man, did she dare go up against him a second time?
So she sent her cat.
If it happened during common circumstances, it would be ridiculous. At the moment, it didn’t feel too strange. Tiger had a lot more going than he was letting on. How did he even know about this place if this was the first time he’d gone to Varialon?
Unless it wasn’t the first time.
That cat managed to come to Varialon somehow after she remembered leaving him behind!
She tried to preoccupy herself with thoughts on the hidden chamber. Her body angled towards the direction of its tunnel entrance but she stopped herself, unwilling to leave the unconscious commander on her own.
“Thirteen sections. Twelve is filled, the last is blank. Is this the reason why that person from the original Celestial Knights wasn’t mentioned directly?” she mused. “But if that is the case, there is more to the oral traditions than is known. I need to somehow find out what is it really that happened. I wonder if that’s possible in this place? It’s not too far-fetched. There’s that chamber there after all.”
Valeriana shot a glance at Deli. There was a pained twitch on the woman’s brow, fingers trembling as it fisted on her stomach.
“I’m kinda tempted to return to see if there are more things to . . . well, see, but I don’t want to leave you by yourself,” she spoke—as if Deli heard her.
Naturally, she felt restless basking in the permeating silence, feeling as if she was doing nothing to solve the current dilemma. She rocked to and fro where she sat, fidgeting and chewing on her lips.
Deli was making sounds where she lie. Whether it was a good thing or not, she was unsure. She kept a watch over the woman just in case, eyes raking over her body for any malicious signs. The woman’s aura flared with life, but it was weak. This alone unsettled her.
If her brain made sounds, it would be creaking from having made too many turns in a beat.
A few minutes into that position, she cast another glance at the Lady Commander before turning to look at the rippling pools before her. She thought she caught sight of other auras tied against Deli’s body. They were faint, drowned by the energy and presence of her aura, but a little too familiar in feeling. Right then, a eureka moment came over, causing her breath to hitch and her stomach to do flips. She stiffly dragged her eyes back to the woman, heart quickening.
“Oh god. Oh god no.” She cupped her cheeks, her blood running cold. “I can’t do this—I . . . it’s not right. But I should take it back. It’s my chance . . . should I do it?” she muttered. “I should do it . . .”
It was wrong. Still, she scooted closer to the woman and ran her fingers down the length of Deli’s arm where it came over a budge. Her heart pounded harder as she rolled up the long sleeve, fingers trembling.
Deli was wearing an armlet of elaborate design. Thread-thin gold was intricately woven into the image of fire. Nestled under it was a crimson velvet pouch the size of her palm. With a small tug, it came loose. She tugged the mouth open and poured the contents into her palm. The chain, the key, and the Wylden Cosmos rolled free. Along with it poured relief, having finally gotten what she wanted after everything.
But something else tumbled down after the necklace. It was a flash of gold hitting her thigh before settling on the creamy grains by her knees. She looked down with a frown, finding a crystal-encrusted golden band with a jewel centerpiece of liquid gold. The jewel had a stirring quality. Light played under the surface like molten lava.
“What the—what the heck.” She looked at her palm and back again at the thing by her knees, confused. “Wylden—” She pointed at the ring on her palm and pointed at the other thing. “—Cosmos.”
She picked it up. Grains stuck to her skin as well as the ring but she was too struck by wonder to even care.
Her frown further deepened, confusion tiding in like a tsunami.
Then lightning struck.
And it became a storm in her mind.
“Two Wylden Cosmos-es. Two. Freaking. Wylden. Cosmos. Es.” She thought back to Corvan and remembered his words. “You—this!” She eyed the unconscious Deli and saw her eyes moving beneath her lids.
Valeriana shot to her feet in disbelief, her heart—which had been running a marathon before—had lodged itself up in the back of her throat so hard she began choking. She curled her left hand around the necklace and held the other ring with her right. She fisted them and walked around the cave in circles, debating her assumptions, thinking, thinking, thinking.
“You—you!” The blonde pointed at Deli. “You’re supposed to be dead! Corvan told me you died! Unless you didn’t! You went here. After how many goddamn years! And the reason why he can’t find the real ring is because it’s not even in Valemnia! I should’ve known. I should’ve known. No wonder. No wonder.”
After spending many moments wallowing in her shock, she decided to put the ring and the necklace back into the pouch.
It all made sense now.
Feeling shaken by the discovery, Valeriana shuffled her way back to Deli’s side and calmly settled beside her once more. The brunette had a mild resemblance to Lady Saskia now that Valeriana looked closer, especially the eyes. The nose, the lips. On the other hand, she had Lord Rupert’s hair and brows.
This woman was not just any breacher.
She was the Lady Adelline of the Wyldens—the former crown heir to Arlandia’s highest power, eldest daughter of Rupert and Saskia. She graduated as a Celeste and shortly died on duty—or so everyone thought.
Deli was Corvan’s older sister, the one Emmillyse never knew.
Why else would this woman have another Wylden Cosmos?
“Did you steal it?” Valeriana accused. “No, you didn’t. How could you?” She paused, taking a deep breath. “No wonder you said you didn’t trust me. You don’t think . . . you don’t think I can protect it. You knew it was a fake. But you still took it. I feel so stupid not realizing sooner.”
“I should probably return it. It isn’t mine anyway.”
Whether she wanted to admit it or not, she didn’t want to give it back.
Still, she stuck the pouch back under the Deli’s armlet, spreading it out evenly so that it would not bulge so much and fit in the small gap. With it was a sigh. Her mind was in turmoil, as was every other part of her body and soul.
“I’ll find another way,” she muttered. Valeriana pulled her knees to her chest and rested her chin on her knees. “Somehow.”
Only the woman who can keep the fire grounded is worthy of the Cosmos.
That woman was not her.
Not at the moment.