CASeries #5: COSMOS
Chapter 59 ♦ Ablaze
Corvan waded through the shallow pools and stopped when the water reached his waist, staying still for a few moments as his muscles bunched with each clench of his fists. The water was silk on his skin, cool to the touch and calm. Soon, however, it would turn into a chaotic sea with him as the brewing storm.
His skin had been further bronzed by the sun with the training he had done throughout the months. He realized pushing himself to do the most absurd things would give the most chances of achieving his goals. While he was helpless on certain things, he did have the power to do others. Chasing down a silhouette would lead him down a pointless road. He would not let it lead him astray. He would find his own path so that when his direction returned, he would only walk forward with his head held high.
“You bear the mark of Arland,” he remembered Vallore saying. “As I carry the blood of my kind, I am obligated to tell you this. You are a favored child of fire, heilm juaire. As if you don’t already know this.”
“What bearing does that have on me?” Corvan asked. He’d only regained the barest of consciousness. Avaro’s tainting had done him ill which he didn’t think he would recover from at all. “Being favored has not necessarily put me in a favorable situation.”
The drakon had smiled, flashing his fanged teeth. “Your trials are your favor. Arland will not put someone through so much if he does not care—the love of the gods is no comfort and security, it is their hell and fury.”
“What point does he wish to get across, then?”
“All the gods love games,” Vallore told him. “And Arland wishes to make a bet.”
“Bet? He has the words of fate, what risks will he take for an outcome he already knows?”
The young lord stared at the golden eyes. They had a hallow shimmer, like Arland himself had borrowed the drakon. “Contrary to your thoughts, fate is not will. It is the choice. The will is left in the hands of the people and their choices will nail their futures. So this is a question he is asking you—are you willing to make a bet?”
“What will it be?”
“A chance to unravel or a chance at madness. Your victory will mean significance—to you, your name, your power. Your loss will mean significance—to you, your name, your power.”
“All or nothing?”
“All or nothing.”
After having received the Blessing of Fire from Vallore then, he had been experiencing changes—changes he was told would only become more aggressive in the future. The power he was given bordered on chaos. If he could not prove himself a worthy vessel, if he did not surpass his limits, the promised transcendence would lead to his depravity.
Fire lit up around his hands. Unlike before, he could feel the perilous surging of heat—the dangerous feeling of being burned. The thought of being devoured by his own fire made his heart race. The excitement and the fear sent a thrill through his veins. His fire was changing, evolving. If he could not keep up, it would leave him behind as a trail of ashes.
While he hated the water before, it was what kept things from going awry.
“You know, Corvan, this is funny,” Zevlin commented from the edge of the pools. “But I guess it’s effective. If I had this idea before, things probably wouldn’t have ended that way. I can’t complain, though.”
Corvan answered him with silence, focusing on the fire in his hand. The first-ranker watched the color flicker from red to a near blue before hissing and throwing his fist into the water. Loud sizzles and popping bubbles appeared but it took a while before the fire truly died. Even below the surface, it stubbornly fought to stay alive.
He lifted his hand back and saw the reddened skin.
In spite of Corvan wanting to stay calm, his panic was growing. The fire he could not even call his own had become significantly stronger. No matter how hard and intense he trained his mind and body, there was simply no improvement worth noticing in the control and tolerance of his new fire. He might be taking meager steps, but the heat was reaching new heights in stride.
In spite of his frustration, he tried again. The red fire was his to control but the one that bordered on blue was still too wild for him to tame. In spite of his many efforts to wield it the way he wanted to, the flames refused to heed his command. They would flare, rebel, and suck his energy every chance they got until he would kill them and put them out before he totally lost control.
He hated the feeling of having to put out himself—his own fire. Helplessness and powerlessness ate away on his guts. There had been an instance in the last month wherein he nearly wreaked havoc on his Power Control class which had not only led to his humiliation but also to the endangerment of the people around him.
Sometimes he questioned why he even agreed to the stupid bet—for what? A chance for what?
“You know,” Zevlin began. “I didn’t actually tell anybody what really happened to me during Arland’s reckoning.”
Corvan paused. He looked up from the pools.
“Although it was true that I was being burned by my own fire. It was my worst fear . . . and Genevieve. I thought I had burned her like I did to our house. I cried for days. I mourned. I really thought I lost her.”
Silence. The older of the twins sighed deeply.
“Then I realized I had to let her go,” he said. “I had to let her go to the cold. I remembered walking through the forest with her ash in my arms. My whole body was weary. I felt the hunger, the depravation—but it was all numb compared to what I was really feeling.”
The first-ranker, by then, had turned his full attention to Zevlin. His brows were furrowed deeply like usual but it was due to the deep thoughts that went through his mind. “You did not tell this to Genevieve?”
“I understood it all back then already. She had problems of her own,” he told Corvan. “I didn’t want to add to her burden. She’d been carrying a lot of pressure from me since we were young.”
“Do continue,” Corvan said.
“I came back to the place where it all started. I went back to the wreckage. There was nothing there—except the fire was still alive since I had set it.” Brown eyes blinked. “I stopped there. I didn’t want to enter. I was scared. I didn’t want to be anywhere near it but when I tried to turn back to find another way, I realized I had been surrounded by flames. Everywhere. The heat felt real. Eventually, it started feeding on my flesh. It felt like my skin was constantly being seared and melted. I remembered counting—waiting for it to end, waiting to die. It never came, though. It never came.”
Zevlin visibly trembled, goose pimples trailing his skin. He wiped off a sweat from his brow and closed his eyes as though he was playing back what happened.
“When it did stop, the demons came—and that demon that killed my mother and father. They chased me down. I was hunted. Dear gods, there had never been anything that made me feel so alone then. I tried to fight but only more of them came. So I ran. How long it was, how far, I don’t remember. I only stopped running when I saw a ravine. At the bottom was a wild lake of lava that raged down like a steep river. Until I figured out a way to cross, I tried to fight again.”
“Even if you couldn’t win,” Corvan stated.
“I couldn’t,” he said. “I didn’t know what happened after that, though. I just remember saying I would rather die by my own fire rather than any other hands. So I let go. I jumped down.” Zevlin shook his head.
“So what is your point?” the first-ranker asked. “Do I let my fire burn me so that I can control it?”
The eighth-ranker chuckled. “No, of course not. I’m just saying there might be another way to go about this. Like, what are you trying to do?”
“Control the fire, like I’ve always done.”
Zevlin gazed at the first-ranker with squinted eyes. “You know, I don’t take myself as a good advice giver like . . .” He cleared his throat. “Uh, yes. But I think your issue with control is the problem. I mean look at what you’re doing.”
Corvan’s frown deepened further. He did think it was a little ridiculous but if it meant being able to solve the crisis, he was willing to do it. Being a little lost, he thought it wouldn’t hurt to try—not to mention this seemed the most effective and less risky way to train his control.
“What do you suggest I do, then?” the young lord asked.
“I don’t know.” The eighth-ranker shrugged. He splashed with his feet. “I’m just as clueless as you are. It’s just that things may not be as they seem. If there’s one thing I realized for all these years I have feared my fire, it’s that trying to subdue it is the most impossible thing for any wielder. The elements were never ours to control. It’s just that this mindset has been pushed into our system since we were kids.” He scoffed. “Power Control? I always found it a little ridiculous.”
The young lord fell into deep thought. While he debated in his mind, his body pulled itself from the shallow pools. The soaked pants rode down his waist as he moved to the open grounds of the Arlandian palace’s training yard, the cold air hitting his bare chest and gnawing at his wet clothes.
Zevlin, a little dubious, stood and followed the first-ranker, stopping at the threshold of the yard to maintain a distance between himself and the young lord.
Corvan moved to a stance, letting the fire engulf his arms. This time, however, he made no move of suppressing it. Instead, he let go. He let the fire have its way.
He didn’t stay still. He moved his arms, throwing kicks and punches. The flames bellowed and roared at every strike, bursting with explosive might. The blue fire eventually took full force and, in one huge burst, engulfed the air like a stormy cloud.
Zevlin had taken a step back, jaws dropped at the sheer, destructive force that was escaping the young lord. The heat surged towards him, making him sweat.
It took minutes but Corvan was not contented. He drained his energy reserve and let out all the fire in huge bursts so that it would not have the privilege of slow destruction. Eventually, the flames died themselves but the sight they left behind was horrific.
The Ember Palace’s training ground was prepped for intense fire so the surroundings were not damaged very much. Corvan, however, was a wreck. His skin had not only taken the redness, but were also burned and singed on some parts. His clothes, which were fireproof, had taken some fire—one could only imagine just how hot his fire truly was.
“What the actual, bloody hell!” the older of the twins exclaimed. Zevlin ran forward just as people appeared in the training yard, curious. The flaming clouds were simply too large and conspicuous to ignore. “Are you okay?”
Corvan hissed. He staggered forward and nearly collapsed but Zevlin did not know how to help him. The burns looked painful and touching them would hurt worse than any hell.
“Holy Arland,” Zevlin muttered. “Never mind that question. Let’s get you to the healer.”
With the help of the nearby palace staff, they brought Corvan to the infirmary where the healer was attending to other patients. Seeing the young lord, people were put into a state of panic. The medical staff shot to work. They disinfected the burn and soothed it with ointment while the head healer assessed the injuries, jotting down the treatment he would need.
Lady Saskia later burst into the room. “What on Arlandia happened?” the woman exclaimed. “I was out busy planning for the cake and now I hear you doing something so reckless!”
“What did I say about celebrations, mother?” Corvan seethed as an especially tender part on his body was dabbed.
The high lady gasped. “I blurted that out?”
Zevlin nodded. “Yes, you did, Your Highness.”
“Still!” she exclaimed. “What were you thinking doing this just before the celebration?”
“Even if there is one, it’s not in a week,” Corvan reminded.
“That doesn’t excuse your recklessness! Oh, good lord Arland. You just recovered from that wound and now this.”
“Mother, please,” the first-ranker muttered. “I know what I’m doing.”
Saskia placed a hand on her forehead, face reddening. “Sometimes, I just do not know what to do with you. You wish to kill yourself? Fine! Go ahead and do it. I will not stop you next time!” She then rushed out of the room, door slammed behind her.
“You did it there,” Zevlin stated.
“Shut it. Go back to the academy.”
The eighth-ranker raised his hands and made his way to leave as well.