CASeries #5: COSMOS
Chapter 52 ♦ Ridiculous!
Varialon, the Sea of Celine
Four months later
The opening festivities was like Independence Day for a country under siege for three hundred years. People were boisterous. Their energy levels were overwhelmingly high. Confetti showers rained in stuttering beats that the ground was a sputter of rainbows and pavement. In spite of the many faces that dotted the streets of Mardiya, only the select few would be able to enter the main venue—that is, the competitors, the leaders of each town, and their entourage.
De Cirque served only as fuel to the fire. The raging excitement became further riotous in their involvement. After the notorious inactivity of the most famous performers in all of Varialon for the past four months, their appearance in the Grand Opening of the Sovereign Tournament only further encouraged the subscription of the thousand eyes to the long-awaited competition.
The parade they presented in the winding paths of Mardiya was a sight to behold. Among the most eye-catching were the iconic Lundie and Maridie in their improved breathtaking stunts and enhanced synchronization. Aliyah, the ringmaster, was ever better with her green fire and powerful stage presence. Aoute became known for the edgy blades he spun between delicate fingers. The others were stars of their own, bright and hot, brilliant in every act.
The last one in the line, who people came to know as Banshee, was trailed by the many beasts of De Cirque in a silent stroll. Contrary to her name, she was a quiet march to the parade—yet there was something not quite as hushed as she seemed. The light smile did not quell the eerie storm that brewed under her feet, the halo of lightning around her shoulders and the sharpened appeal of her azure blues.
Her presence was a blatant declaration of rebellion, not only because of the stories she had given with the many performances she had with De Cirque, but because she carried the unerring insurgence to the current stability Varialon has tipped itself in. Not only were doubts planted in the hearts of many at her mentions of the other world, but the recent discovery of an ancient ruin in the now sanctioned caves of Liberia had planted even more discord among the people.
All knew that the parade was a mere free taste to the sumptuous meal to be prepared. Hungry eyes followed the artists in their entry to the barricaded grounds—a place they knew would be very hard to enter. Yet news and updates to the tournament was all people needed to satisfy their curiosity. So long as this was satiated, order was maintained.
The vast venue was set under the sunny skies, in the open fields of the Fire Faction territory. As it was morning, the sun had not quite reached its throne. Sections were divided evenly between each participating faction. As they were accustomed to, there were only six—Earth, Fire, Water, Air, Spirit, and the many guilds and organizations in attendance shared the last space among themselves.
“Welcome all to the Sovereign Tournament!” the reverberating voice of the announcer echoed far and wide. He carried with him the resonance stones that amplified his voice a hundred times over, allowing many to hear him clearly. “A bright, blessed day it is indeed for we have once again come to witness this jovial occasion to honor our leaders.”
Among the crowd was a clear divide between the many colors that symbolized each faction. Their leaders were at the forefront of each divide, proud and tall. Arcana and Raegan were swathed in citrine robes accentuated with silver, Aleser and Deli in their crimson red and black apparels, a man in a bright blue armor posted beside a tall lady whose head was lined with a silver coronet carrying a deep blue centerpiece, two men in deep greens and browns, and yet again two more men in heavy whites.
“May I ask each faction to please come forward so that we can decide on who fights against who first?”
As expected, leaders including Arcana and Aleser stepped forward and approached the announcer. Their strides were long and straight, eyes shifting to meet one another’s to shoot a subtle threat.
Unexpectedly, instead of just five heads bobbing towards the center, there were six. Dubious, people turned to the strange face and found Arisce walking forward as well.
“What’s going on?”
“What is De Cirque up to this time?”
Whispers arose. Brows curled and foreheads creased. Confusion spread on the many faces before laughter broke out.
“What in the name of the gods!”
“Is this a joke?”
The host was stunned senseless at the sight of the troupe leader heading down with the others. Valeriana stood in line with Aliyah and rest of De Cirque with unreadable expressions so, in spite of the people trying to get a clue about what was happening based on their reactions, they remained clueless.
Until Arcana smiled.
The faction leaders were alarmed as they continued sauntering. Seeing the lady of the Spirit Faction’s gaze meet Arisce’s was enough of a sign that something big was going to happen—if not ridiculous.
They halted at the center of the open venue around the same time, with the announcer in the middle of the circle they formed, holding a tinted jar of colored globes.
“I am confused,” said the announcer, his voice reverberating as he met Lady Arisce’s eyes.
“You need not be,” Sloan replied curtly. “I think my intentions are pretty well made clear.”
“Preposterous,” muttered the lord of the Wind Faction under his breath.
The woman with the silver coronet, the lady of the Water Faction, growled. “What absurdity do you plan on stirring next? First you spread lies and now you have the face to walk down here—”
“De Cirque is taking part in this competition, Maeghan,” was Arisce’s firm reply, cold blue eyes even colder than the deep blue sapphire sitting on the woman’s forehead. The declaration instigated gasps and widened eyes. “From what I remember, my circus sets the standards for absurdity. You are no authority in that matter.”
“Tha—it is Lady Maeghan, to you, Arisce.”
“Well, then, Lady Maeghan, why the look? Is your Water Faction so intimidated by my circus?”
“Intimidated?” Maeghan harrumphed as she spread a fan before with a snappy click. “You wish I am.”
“I know you are,” she replied with a soft smile. “Well, is that not possible, announcer?” she inquired. “It’s not like we’re going against anything in the rules.”
“This—uh . . .” the man stammered.
Lord Aleser’s low chuckle took over. Eyes swiftly snapped to his direction, wonder, question and disbelief in a tight mix.
“I knew I had to expect something,” the Fire Faction’s lord stated, a wide, toothed smile on his lips. “There are no rules that bar the participation of others aside from the current factions. So, why not?” He laughed, the moon silver eyes narrowing as they met Arisce’s.
“This cannot be serious,” said the man dressed in green. He was stout and on the short side with a puffy chest and a long beard. “Is this another one of your acts? Surely it must be.”
“You undermine my circus, Lord Florence. We may like joking, but we don’t play games. Not in the manner you think we do.” Arisce’s cunning smile flashed, instilling discomfort in the leaders except for Arcana and Aleser. “You must know better.”
“Why all the fuss? This shouldn’t be a problem,” Arcana finally spoke, her fingers folding before her calmly. The youthful glow on her cheeks and the small, rounded face was, as ever, the epitome of innocence. A cheerful and childish aura rolled about her, further amplified by the subtle restlessness she was exuding. “Lord Aleser is right. We have no right to say who can and cannot fight for the power over the towns. Just that we fight.”
“You would allow a mere circus to hold power over towns?”
“There were no rules and specific credibility mentioned that filtered competitors—just the capability,” Arcana countered, eyeing the man in white who just spoke with the most passionate spite. “You can refer back to the original text, Lord Youzza. Anyone can become a leader of the city’s towns.”
“Then why does your Spirit Faction just not take this circus under your name if you intend on helping spread this absurdity?” Lord Youzza laughed. “Even if there is no credibility, there is an unspoken rule—ethics, concerns, if you must. Any potential sovereign over a town must be first approved by the people. Would they even allow a ridiculous band of entertainers to dictate the future of a town? And what rules will they set to maintain order? That you all ride in carriage with one wheel?!”
Laughter echoed. Those who were not in favor of De Cirque all jeered at the members of the circus.
“Then, why not ask?” Arisce responded with a challenging glare. “Ask it,” she prompted. “Ask the people.”
Solemnity fell on many heads. While they wanted to treat it as a joke, the gravity in the troupe leader’s voice wiped out the smiles of their faces. Arcana turned to Arisce with a crease between her brows, perhaps worried.
This wasn’t bound to end well.
“Th—er . . . those in favor of De Cirque taking part in the competition, do raise your hand,” the announcer began.
For the first few moments, there was silence.
“Why the hell not?!” a voice from the crowd resounded. “It’s just fighting anyway. What’s the big deal?!”
“Just defeat those jokesters if you’re so keen on it!” followed another.
“That’s right! If they want to make a fool out of themselves, let them! That’s what they’re here for anyway, isn’t that right?!”
Valeriana slapped her forehead with a small sigh as Aliyah shook her head. Riotous laughter echoed in the venue.
People were not going to treat De Cirque seriously.
At least, not at the moment.
Arisce smiled. “You heard them.”
Silence permeated between the leaders. They exchanged disapproving glances. Arcana and Aleser were all for it, even so. The Wind and Water Faction, on the other hand, were strictly against it. The Earth was stuck in between, unable to decide whose side to go with.
“We’re short one ball,” cued the announcer.
“Just throw in a rock. Whoever picks it up will go against De Cirque,” Aleser said, picking up a stone beside his shoes and promptly shooting it into the jar. It landed inside with a neat clink. “Since De Cirque’s so insistent on joining, let them draw first.” The Fire Lord tucked his hands into his pockets and laughed insultingly.
In spite of his agreement, the affront attitude he was throwing towards De Cirque was nothing short of nerve-grating. Still, Arisce remained calm and casual as though the recent turn of events was within her expectations. She stepped forward, tucked her hands into the jar without looking, and plucked out one colored globe.
“For the first match, De Cirque against the Wind Faction,” the announcer declared. “Lord Youzza, please step forward and draw.”
The head of the Wind Faction stepped forward with a scoff. He picked the yellow ball.
“For the second match, the Wind Faction against the Spirit Faction,” he droned. “Lady Arcana, please step forward and draw.”
She did. The red ball came into her hands.
“For the third match, the Spirit Faction against the Fire Faction,” he said. “Lord Aleser, please step forward and draw.”
Aleser plucked the green one.
“For the fourth match, the Fire Faction against the Earth Faction. Lord Florence, please step forward and draw.”
Lord Florence picked the blue ball.
“For the fifth match, the Earth Faction against the Water Faction. Lady Maeghan, please step forward and raw.”
An ugly frown twisted on Lady Maeghan’s face. The result was already obvious. “Need that really be done?” she asked.
Yet, since it was formality, she picked up the dumb rock from the tinted jar and threw it away without any care.
“And for the sixth match, the Water Faction against De Cirque. These six matches will account for the first two sets in the first round of the tournament. The third, fourth, and fifth set will be decided on later.”
“Well, then. De Cirque and Wind Faction, please prepare your fighters for the first match. Your battle will start in an hour.”