CASeries #5: COSMOS
Chapter 47 ♦ Unraveled
After waiting for some time, Tiger finally returned with both Arcana and Raegan in tow. They broke through the surface and swam to the creamy beach, breathless and seemingly awestruck at the sight of the hidden caves. Valeriana splashed on the shallow waters to help both of her friends but only Arcana needed assistance. Raegan was fine on his own.
“Val! I’m so glad you’re alright.” Arcana, being her usual sweet self, jumped forward with a hug. “When you and . . .” Lavender eyes strayed past her shoulder to see Deli sprawled on the beach. “So it’s her. I was wondering who the other one was. Raegan had gone somewhere else so I knew it wasn’t him.”
“Where did you go?” Valeriana turned inquiringly at the Lord Commander. “Anyway . . . that doesn’t matter right now. She needs help.”
“What’s wrong with her?” Raegan waded forward until he broke free of the restraining depths. He knelt beside the Lady Commander, examining her apparent injuries.
“She got hit on the head pretty hard.” She worriedly rubbed her hands together, biting down on her lower lip as she gazed at the supposed Lady Adelline. Valeriana had previously checked twice on her sleeves, making sure she rolled them down and left what she took back to where it was.
“Will she be alright?” Arcana inquired with a creased brow.
“I think so.” The ranker scratched her head. “But she keeps talking to herself.”
“It’s merely reliving memories, I think,” Raegan said. “She will be fine. We need to find a way to wake her up, though. If she doesn’t return soon, I’m betting Aleser will start questioning her whereabouts. He definitely cannot know she came here.”
“Here.” The ivory-haired lady pulled out a small vial from her pockets and went over to Raegan. It contained a sparkling, golden nectar. “You should give her this.”
“Milady, that is quite a rare tonic. It is reserved for you—”
“Nonsense, Raegan.” Arcana firmly shook her head. “Just use it on the poor girl. She needs to be well enough the soonest possible time.”
The Lord Commander sighed but accepted his liege’s offer. Before taking the vial, he propped Deli’s head to his lap. He then squeezed her cheeks and pulled down her jaws, pouring the liquid down to her throat. After emptying the vial, he closed her mouth tightly. Deli instinctively swallowed.
Valeriana watched with bated breath. True enough, in just moments, the Lady Commander was coughing and stirred slowly to consciousness.
“What is that?” the fifth-ranker asked, awed.
“Karva,” Arcana replied. “We found that it is capable of absorbing a small amount of energy at a time. Shortly after we discovered that, we attempted to merge it with the power of healing. Out of every hundred attempts, the infusion is successful. We are still unable to find a better technique to infuse the power into the wine but it is convenient when you need immediate attention,” Arcana explained, approaching the rousing Deli and peering at her by her foot.
“So a healing potion,” Valeriana interjected, following the other girl. “Like a video game.”
“Sort of. Not as effective as one will hope.”
“What about the technique for that thing?”
“Cannot be replicated outside our hands,” the lady replied. “We are very careful not to let the existence of it spill to the other factions. It will be troublesome if they start attacking now.”
“I can see that. The Development Department and the Great Hall will definitely love to get their hands on it, even now. I don’t think that’s possible at the moment, though.”
Deli’s eyes fluttered open. She stared at Raegan, whose lap she was lying on, in confusion. Her weakened hands stretched to the knife tucked on her sleeves but before she had the chance to draw it, the Lord Commander’s strong hands caged her wrists in place.
“I suggest you stay very still, Commander Deli. We do not intend on harming you at all.”
The brunette met Valeriana’s gaze. Right then, understanding lit up her bright greens. “What happened?”
“You passed out,” was the blonde’s brief reply. Her eyebrows knitted as she resisted the urge to ask. She knew it wasn’t the right time but her tongue had other plans. “Who are you really?”
Arcana and Raegan shot her a questioning glance, wondering where in all dimensions her question had come from.
Deli sat up with a frown, fingers stretching over the cut on her head. “I do not understand what you’re saying.”
Valeriana swallowed. She gazed back at her two Spirit Faction friends and breathed. “You know Corvan, don’t you? He owns the ring you took. Probably the other one too.”
The Lady Commander’s back stiffly straightened. Green eyes drifted to blue and locked in place. The honey-golden blonde held her stare with a frown and for moments they were stuck in a contest.
Arcana’s eyes shot wide at the mention of the name, her lavender orbs snapping at Deli’s direction. Raegan, on the other hand, had his brows rising to his hairline. Valeriana might have mentioned a thing or two about the Twelve so they were, more or less, familiar with the other rankers.
“You took it.” Deli snarled.
“I put it back,” Valeriana replied.
“Why? You had the chance.”
“I figured I’ll take it some other way. It didn’t feel right to take it from you while you’re out.”
“My mistakes are mine to pay. Moments of carelessness lead to such mistakes.”
“It’s not a mistake,” Valeriana said. “You helped me. I can’t pay you back with something so ungrateful. I’d rather take it another time.”
“The Sovereign’s Tournament,” the fifth-ranker declared.
Arcana and Raegan were shocked at Valeriana’s words. Deli herself was surprised.
“Are you going to dodge the question?” Valeriana firmly prodded. She wanted to stop demanding answers but the rest of her was clearly not complying.
Deli glanced at Arcana and Raegan and found that they were staring at her with gleaming curiosity and confusion. “I don’t have a reason to deny it,” she said, pulling herself to her feet shakily so that she was straight and tall. “Yes. I am Adelline von Vaushna de la Wylden, first heir to Arlandia, graduated first-ranker of the Celestial Twelve, Commander of the Red Legion of Arlandia, top-ranking Celeste of the first power. And yes, I am Corvan’s sister.”
Valeriana’s mouth dropped and her breath hitched. She knew it was coming yet she could not avoid the slap of truth. She blinked several times at Adelline before looking between her feet, searching for something. The ranker twisted and turned where she stood, inciting the confusion of her companions.
“What are you doing?” Adelline inquired.
“I’m looking for my stomach,” she said. “I think it dropped so hard, I pooped it out just now.”
Arcana snorted. Then she burst out laughing. “HAHA!”
Raegan shook his head. “Honestly.”
“I didn’t take my younger brother for someone who likes clowns.” The commander crossed her arms and frowned in the same manner as her brother. Only then did she truly notice the resemblance. “You cannot blame me for my incredulity. I have always thought he would be betrothed to Alovia.”
Valeriana’s cheeks warmed. “I think you’re mistaken.”
“No? As if the Wylden Cosmos in your hands is not enough proof. Are you saying he would’ve given it away to somebody just like that? Or am I mistaken? Did you take it?” the woman challenged.
“No! I didn’t even know about the godsdamned ring in the first place!”
“The ring you’re holding may be a replica but it’s shaped in the image of the Wylden Cosmos, which is an image of the Wyldens. It may not have the true qualities of the real one, but it bears the same essence. Replica or not, he put it in your hands.”
“You don’t know the whole story.”
“But it says a lot.”
Valeriana decided to change the topic. “Why are you in Varialon anyway?”
“Like everyone else, I was lost. I fell from a battle wherein everyone assumed my death,” she said. “I barely escaped with my life when the water swallowed me and brought me to these shores.”
“How did you meet Aleser?”
“That is a story for another time. For now, I must return to the House of Fire immediately. He cannot know where I have gone, and my time is overdue.”
“Before you go,” Valeriana said, glancing at the quiet cat who sat observing them. “There’s something I want you to look at.”
There was no disapproval in Tiger’s eyes. He merely licked his paws and stood as they went into the hidden tunnel that led to the peculiar chamber. It was the same as Valeriana had left it but there were many things she started noticing that she didn’t see when she first came. Arcana was keen to look at the writings on the wall. Raegan could see them as well but Deli was unable to.
At some point, the lady commander asked what they were looking at. Arcana answered enthusiastically.
“These walls talk about the primordial wars,” she said. “Or something. If I translated that right. De unapanarva geuira. Ol seil vu keurilé lis aris guievoler.”
“Mind translating? I didn’t catch more than half of it.” Valeriana bit her lip.
“The primordial wars. A time of strife where fate rolled. Lévan’re de ariste na leivaner tuir’e de tála. Challenging the inevitable in spite of the stars pointing differently. Alé dohn sa kaveilan—de amel ad kaliervo de aris. Leave it to nothingness—the friend and enemy of fate.” The ivory-haired lady breathed heavily. “These are quite jumbled. They’re like running thoughts,” Arcana said. “What of these primordial wars? Are there any records of these in Valemnia?”
“Rarely,” Adelline replied. “After the Great War, most of the historical records concerning the primordial times were wiped out. Burned in large fires, mutilated . . . any accounts that could’ve been written by people were not given any chance for the would-have-been writers themselves perished. It’s why Valemnia’s most remembered earliest times are the Great War. There are rare accounts, such as those in Loquin.”
“Loquin,” Valeriana repeated. “You mean that city in Preluresia. That Loquin?”
“Yes. Why?” the lady commander inquired.
“It’s a long story. I’ll try to explain some other time, but you’ve got to see this first.”
They came to a stop before the bundt cake chamber which the other three took in with awe. Deli, Arcana, and Raegan did not hesitate to move around, bearing the same curiosity and wonder as Valeriana when she first entered.
“I found these . . .” She glanced at her cat. “By accident. All these sections have something written on them. This has Emava.” Valeriana waved to the burning rose. “That one—” she pointed to the lion with a fire mane. “Is Wylden.”
“Like her?” Arcana gestured to Adelline.
Valeriana nodded. “All the names of the high families are here. Except for the king’s.”
“That’s where you’re wrong,” Deli said, her green eyes pinned on the column bedizened with the intricate combination from all sections. She moved towards it like a bee to a flower, head tipping back as she traced its length. “Rosellevienne,” she said. “All unified in spite all odds. It is the similarity of all things different. Where the sky and land meets. Where all elements are connected.”
“I didn’t think that.” Valeriana felt stupid at having missed the centerpiece. Now that enlightenment dawned, she gravitated towards the column as well and examined it more closely. Arcana and Raegan instinctively did the same.
“It is the core. It’s the most important.” Deli traced the lines with her fingers. “But why is this here?”
“That’s what I want to know.” The blonde scratched her head, turning to her two other companions who were looking even more overwhelmed by the minute.
Arcana and Raegan were starting to look more and more like gaping fishes. Their eyes snapped to all directions, trying to take in corner from corner whilst listening to their conversation. Whenever they would say something interesting, they would tune in and gaze at wherever Valeriana and Deli were looking.
“I was thinking that maybe Varialon is connected to Valemnia in more ways than being a City of the Lost. It may be related to the primordial wars, like indicated in those walls.”
“You mentioned something about Valemnia suffering,” Deli began. “Do you care to elaborate more on that? You were quite passionate about it.”
“Your Lord Aleser’s ignorant blabber just got on my nerves is all. It’s an imbalance,” she replied. “Demons started attacking all of Valemnia’s spiritual facets. First was the Gilerads of the North, Preluresia. Arlandia came next, then Larkovia.”
“Aetheria?” Adelline prodded.
“Yes,” Valeriana said, eyes shutting close at the memories of the fallen guardians. She had never actually seen them although she did have the pleasure of talking to their departed spirits. They were the ones who brought her to Varialon.
The fifth-ranker’s eyes shot open wide as an idea popped in.
“What of the Ivalis of Denovegasia?” The Lady Commander shifted so that she was facing Valeriana fully. Seeing the look in the girls’ eyes, however, made her stop. “Valeriana.”
Pulled out of her thoughts, she turned to Deli. “What?”
“They’re okay. We managed to prevent anything from happening to them by offering protection.”
“And the other guardians weren’t given enough support?”
“It’s not like that,” Valeriana replied. “Look, it’s very complicated, all right? Celestes were posted and tasked to guard the guardians of each continent after what started to happen in Preluresia and Arlandia. It was chaotic, actually. I heard that most of the people died defending the facets. I was personally in the Undines’ Sea during the battle for the Larkovian guardians. Even places like Celeste Academy were attacked. The coronation of the king, as well.”
“A coronation,” Adelline intoned. “Of who?”
“He has successfully taken the throne?”
The Lady Commander sighed in relief. “That is good to hear. So what got you so lost in thought before?” the Lady Commander inquired.
“It’s a good thing you asked.” Her brows furrowed. “The Chicovas were the ones who sent me to Varialon. I was trying to piece together what that meant just now. They seemed to know about it so well.”
“I do not understand. Just what is your involvement in all this to be invited to Varialon?”
“I came to seek Aether’s blessing.”
“For myself,” she replied. “My abilities were suppressed at birth. I grew up with it locked in so hard that now I’m a messed up piece of crap. Varialon is my last shot after the Chicovas were wiped out from the face of Valemnia and now I’m stuck in here looking for a god who just might never show up. Not to mention I have to return by the end of the year or else I am doomed to be stuck here for another decade.” She exhaled tiredly. “That sums it up.”
“Who is your family?” Adelline stepped towards Valeriana.
“That’s complicated.” She scratched her head. “My father is Celeste Garvyn Vernados Elgar. Due to some twisted sort of event, I brought up in Earth and had to get my all the cool powers locked away—probably due to a botched attempt to keep my entire life a boring, old human one until I met a demon parading the streets one day after I tried to chase down a thief and Seraphina saved me. Then everything went down the drain.”
“You’re of noble blood and knightly background.” The Arlandian lady had a loose grin. “If your father has a Vernados in his name. It only means he’s a branch family of a branch family who’s lost their right to the High Seat.”
“Val, you never told me that!” Arcana exclaimed with an excited clap. “That’s too awemazing. You’re of noble blood!”
“That sounds weird.”
“Shouldn’t your name not be Kerrigan, then?” Raegan pointed out.
“It’s not established. There are many more complicated things happening so, yeah, I’m unofficial. Besides, I like Kerrigan. Anyway—anyway! Why did this become about me? We were, hello, looking at this thing and figuring out how to get out of this goddamned place!”
“We’ll give it another thought another time. Whatever this place is will definitely help in finding the key to Varialon,” Adelline thoughtfully stated. “The borders will show in less than a few months. We will continue investigating this place to find out as much as we can so that when it is time, we are left with only a few questions to deal with. You must bring this news to Arisce, but tell no one else about it. I will have to try and keep this from Aleser as well.”
“No,” Valeriana said. “Actually, tell him about it.”
“Uh . . .” Arcana intoned in the background.
“You will have to tell him something about where you went or he will get suspicious of you,” the blonde reasoned. “Besides, he is looking for an answer. We are looking for it too. Even if we’re not on the same page, it might give him a path to start on other than using the beasts. If he still insists on using the beasts, then we’ll deal with it another time. But think about it. You can be working on the same case as us, helping in finding a way back home, without actually having to do it by yourself or working with us directly.”
“She’s right,” Raegan said.
Adelline glanced at the Lord Commander before turning back to Valeriana. “What if the other factions know of this?”
“It will give them doubt. The most important thing is to not disclose where it is. Anyway, with the wall Aleser is building around the factions, I doubt they can breach anything.”
“Until the Sovereign Tournament,” Raegan interjected. “You must not forget that there is a risk that Liberia will fall into the hands of the Water Faction—who are full of non-believers. If they do something to this place, we’ll be unable to find answers.”
“Just cross the bridge when we get there! Let’s just know as much as we can know. We’ll fight tooth and nail for everything when the time comes.” Valeriana squared her shoulders. “Unless you guys have brilliant plans.”
“No. But let’s think,” Arcana stated.
“I’ll be in contact with you lot, then.” Adelline shifted for the door. “Until then, do not do anything reckless and do not approach the borders.”
“I still need to go here next week. This is the only place Aether showed up last time, remember? I can’t give up now.”
“Like you said, just cross the bridge when we get there. I’ll find a way to help you.” The Lady Commander then exited the tunnel. “Wait for my word,” her voice echoed.
Arcana, Raegan, and Valeriana watched her back as she left before they exchanged glances and debated on what to do next.
“I’ll list down as much as I can from this . . . uh . . . session,” Raegan spoke, pulling out a soggy notebook from his pockets. “Or not.”