Celeste AcademyCosmos

Chapter 58 ♦ Cordiality

CASeries #5: COSMOS

Chapter 58 ♦ Cordiality

The second day of the tournament began its course. It would cover the last three sets and would decide which group would move on to the next round of the tournament. Each participating group was required to have at least one town in order to qualify for the second round or else they would be disqualified.

Lord Youzza of the Wind Faction was in a terrible mood. His commander, the tall man with long, auburn locks, was receiving the brunt of his irritation. It was understandable since one more loss would put them in a precarious position. Not to mention he kept shooting dirty glares at the circus as though doing so would take back the two towns he had already lost.

At the moment, Earth, Fire, and De Cirque were sitting calmly in their seats. These three had already won one match or more so they had some leeway into the second day. While Fire’s possession of Lavanya was taken by De Cirque, they still had control over Mardiya and Liberia. To be ousted from the competition, they would need to lose all remaining matches.

Earth startlingly had a new addition to the towns they already controlled—courtesy of the fight they won over the Water Faction yesterday. Their position in the first round meant they had a definite grab on the second round of the tournament. It meant that even if they lost every single succeeding match they would be having that day, they would still be qualified.

Then there was the dark horse, De Cirque, with control over Lavanya and Prevnia. They would still need to defend these two towns over the entire course of the second day so, as calm as Arisce was in the face of this pressure, Valeriana and some of the others were panicking—Maridie, especially.

“Good day to you all!” the announcer began. “We are faced with the final day of the first round. I would love to pass the time with an introduction, but people are clamoring for the fights! I will not keep you for very long. The first match of this day is between the Water Faction and De Cirque. Send your fighters down, please!”

Maridie, restless and nervous as she was, tottered into the arena readily while the Water Faction sent down a girl a little older than the half-undine. Lundie rocked restlessly on his heels as he watched from the sidelines. Arisce approached him, a hand on his shoulder as she spoke to him in a hushed voice. Lundie would nod and reply.

Valeriana threw her gaze around the arena as the two, competing groups exchanged formalities. Her eyes caught Zion’s and they held each other’s gazes for a moment before the blue-haired lad looked away with a frown, his Adam’s apple bobbing with a heavy swallow. He seemed to be confused about what happened yesterday. Deli and Aleser as well looked heavily troubled.

If this was Arisce’s way of confusing the enemy, it was working.

Actually, now that Valeriana thought about it really well, people who didn’t know of her Direct Control would end up thinking her element really was wind. Those who knew, however, were confused the hell out.

It was a good tactic. How it would work out in the end was the question.

“In the name of De Cirque, I challenge you for the town of Fora!” Maridie’s voice reverberated.

“In the name of the Water Faction, I challenge you for the town of Prevnia!” replied the other girl.

Valeriana played with the citrine ring on her finger as the fight between Maridie and the Water Faction representative started with a prompt from the announcer. Words were exchanged and the opponent drew a thin sabre whose tip fell slowly to a firm point to the ground. Maridie, on the other hand, brought out knuckle blades which glinted under the light. The half-undine then took a stance that showed off her flexibility and balance. One leg was stretched out wide while the other bent at the knee.

In a beat, they launched forward, closing the gap to exchange the first few blows. It would be, as punny as it sounded, testing the waters.

The Water Faction’s representative did not wait to use her element. She wielded it closely with her sabre like it was an extension of it. She drew on the moist air and the looming clouds, pulling the water from around them, forcing it to condense for the battle.

While the people in the front were soaked wet from the streams of water spraying to every direction, they did not attempt to move away as it would be futile. The early shower seemed even enjoyable for some even if it irked the others. The people of the Fire Faction, on the other hand, had the funniest reactions. The averse faces and the sudden appearance of umbrellas made De Cirque’s members break into a fit of laughter.

Valeriana was reminded of a certain event back in the academy when she first came and wasn’t used to seeing people on fire. She chuckled with a shake of her head.

“They came prepared,” said one of De Cirque.

“Seems people of Fire really hate getting wet.” Lundie laughed.

“Well, it’s troublesome, especially if you have to fight,” Aliyah muttered.

“What do you guys do when you’re taking a bath and you’re attacked?” Lundie asked out of curiosity.

“It’s not that we can’t use fire in the presence of water. It’s just hard to. But to use fire while in water would take real talent and power. It’s basically circulating the element fast enough that it comes alive even if it’s continuously killed.”

Which further reminded Valeriana of something. She sighed and closed her eyes for a moment. She missed Valemnia. She missed the Twelve.

And although it was hard for her to admit, she missed him.

To fight water with water, however, although the blonde had her opinions, she didn’t question Arisce. The woman was smarter when it came to these things. If there was a Charles plus Aeron combo in female form, it would be her.

Besides, it seemed their aerial performer was doing quite well against her opponent. Maridie’s strengths included flexibility and her powerful command over the waters. The years’ worth of training under De Cirque was not only fun to watch, but deadly in combat. The girl was very skilled. The way she used her knuckle blades would daunt any trained warrior—she wielded it unhesitatingly and with unrivaled accuracy. The preciseness of each slice landed Maridie’s enemy a few wounds while the quick thinking and trained maneuver made her almost impossible to touch.

The frustration quickly rose to an elemental attack, with the opponent drawing on the moist air. She formed it into a whip of water before lashing it forward. The thin whip whistled as it sliced the air. Maridie easily avoided the first lash as well as the second one when it descended. The acrobat’s body bent and flexed easily. The seemingly unavoidable attacks appeared clumsy and inaccurate with each smooth bend and casual flip. She sprung on the ground with her hands, she cartwheeled.

“Go, Maridie!” Lundie howled.

The best thing was how Maridie didn’t passively focus on dodging. She closed the distance between herself and her opponent. With each inch that she covered, her opponent stepped back and grew frantic with the assault.

At some point, Maridie had the other competitor caged in, badgering her with relentless attacks until neither could breathe from the exchange. Valeriana could not help but gasp a little at the combo the acrobat was throwing. A slash from the blade followed by a high, roundhouse kick to the face, then a jump and a knee to the stomach. The execution was not only precise but quick.

Try as the other girl did to parry the blows from Maridie’s thirsty blades, she failed to catch every turn and slice. In the end, the opposing competitor fell, landing on her back as the weapon’s teeth hovered at her neck. Pinned in place, paralyzed, and bleeding with Maridie’s blazing eyes staring down at her from above. Her wrist twitched as it tried to lift the sabre but the flash of pain on her face and the swelling of her hand said something might’ve happened along the way.

With shame, the other girl declared the loss of Water Faction. “I—I surrender.”

Lady Maeghan stood from her seat, fuming at the turn of events. “This is not possible!”

“Yo bish, you just saw it happen,” Valeriana muttered under her breath, rolling her eyes at the cynical lady.

People, however, were cheering. Lady Maeghan’s voice, shrill as it was, was muffled by the resounding howls of the audience.

The announcer later butted in. “In possession of Prevnia, Lavanya, and now Fora! The winner of this match is De Cirque! Three matches in a row! Will they live through the first round of this tournament with no loss? One, definite fact—they have secured a place in the second round of the Sovereign’s Tournament!”

Maridie stood back, letting the other girl go and nodding respectfully at her opponent. “It was a good fight. Thank you for it,” she said.

“You didn’t even use your element,” replied the girl. “I wanted to have you and see you use it—I heard what you can do.”

“I’m sorry,” Maridie told her. “We were always told to never rely on it too much and I didn’t want to use it as well. Although combat and power increases several times with the use of the element, it all must start with the self. It is not all the time that we can draw on our connection.”

“I do not understand.”

“Our power is only borrowed from the gods. It is not ours to have forever. We may define ourselves with the elements we possess and the name of the gods we worship, but stripped bare from all this power, we are one and the same.”

Maridie retreated to De Cirque’s place in the venue and was greeted with cordial hugs and congratulations from her co-members. The girl from the Water Faction, cradling her wrist, went back as well. She was met with cold glares and a spiteful rebuff from Lady Maeghan which she accepted with a lowered head.

Meanwhile De Cirque continued roaring with victory. Lundie was wild in his place, throwing his fist in the air as he screamed in joy. Runner, Beard, Bonjo, and the many others were jumping and hollering. They weren’t ashamed to show their delight in spite of the many frustrated glares shot their way. Arisce, however, was not smiling, but smoking her pipe. It seemed that it was too early for the woman to celebrate.

While most of the other factions remained quiet, the common folks were going wild as well—some with laughter.

“This is unbelievable!”

“They’re really serious about it!”

De Cirque is raking through this competition like beast!”

Along with it was, of course, disbelief, but the news was being welcomed better than the troupe previously thought. While it was a strange circumstance, the display of power and competence in battle erased—if not changed—the people’s initial views on De Cirque.

“You all, quiet,” Arisce stated.

The simple command was heeded by all of the circus. They fell into a stiff silence.

“I do not want to seem hardhearted but you must show tact when it comes to celebrating a step towards victory,” she told them all. “I do not want our circus to be further grating on the other faction’s nerves. Remember, humility and sympathy makes true victors. These fights had not been perfect. Go and reflect on the things that could’ve cost you the fight. A battle is not won until it is done.”

Like scolded children, they hung their heads.

“Do you hear me, De Cirque?

“Yes, Lady Arisce,” they replied in chorus.

“Good.” Clouds of smoke flitted about her. “We have two fights left in this round of the tournament. How do you suppose we should go about this?” she asked them.

“Considering it’s Arcana we’re going to fight last, are we going to really fight?” Valeriana inquired.

“We are still competing factions,” Arisce said. She then turned. “Beard.”

The bearded man snapped to attention. “Yes?”

“Do you want to fight against the Earth?”

Shocked, the man’s jaw dropped. “Me?”

“No, I was talking to Bonjo,” the troupe leader replied with a thick dollop of sarcasm.

De Cirque laughed.

“I can do it!” Bonjo voluntarily stepped forward.

“No, you idiot!” Beard beat at Bonjo’s chest in an effort to push him back—then withdrew and regretted it when his fist landed on steel.

“If you don’t, then I will,” Jester, as usual, waddled forward in his tight pants, shoes squeaking. The butt part seemed as though it would rip at any moment.

“How do you expect to fight in those things?!” Lundie exclaimed.

“I’m a good enemy distraction otherwise,” the clown insisted.

“You’re just going to make them laugh.” Beard frowned.

“And what are you going to do? Kill them with your beard?” Jester countered.

De Cirque was laughing again.

“Yeah, his beard is kinda sharp,” Valeriana said jokingly.

“Cleans better than a floor brush,” Maridie added.

“Hahaha!” came the bout of laughter.

“You all, I’m going to beat your asses!” Beard fumed.