CASeries #2: LEGEND
Chapter 6 ♕ The Truth
The air harshly howled around Valeriana, bringing her long hair to dance with the flow. Her clothes, which were loose, whipped around her body, the sound of the cloth being thrashed around violently. Valeriana squinted, feeling that the coldness against her eyes made them go dry.
She clung tightly on the thick mane around Avaro’s neck. It was hard to disregard the pain that throbbed on her palm as she continued to latch on for her dear life. The winged lion advanced faster than she ever did in her seventeen years’ worth of age, and although she found the speed highly exciting, there was a feeling inside her belly that sent her insides flipping in all directions.
She didn’t know if she was supposed to feel excited or scared. The ground wasn’t that far, but it would hurt to land on the cold and hard dirt.
Avaro aimed straight for Lord Lienhard. It made sense for Corvan to use this opportunity once and for all to cease the troublesome lord while he had a worthy ally by his side.
Avaro folded his wings and shot for a quick dive, making the girl scream even louder as if she was riding a roller coaster. She could feel the hum in her ears as they zoomed.
Before they hit the man, Avaro skillfully spread his wings and buffered most of the impact with them. As a result, they all but gently tackled the man to the ground, a deafening round of gasps ringing from the spectators. A man scurried away with a startled yell.
Lord Lienhard groaned from under the massive body of Avaro, mumbling a few things in complain. “I never expected someone to jump on me. Good gods.”
The girl held her mouth close, feeling the need to vomit everything she ate a few moments ago.
“O-oh my gosh,” Valeriana struggled to get off of Corvan’s familiar. Her legs felt wobbly that she almost fell over, but she sooner managed to find the strength in her legs. She crouched by the lord’s side. “Are you alright, Your Highness?”
“I don’t think I have any broken bones.”
“I express my humblest apologies to thee, he who carries the blood of the Chosen.” Avaro bowed his head. “This is all but an order from my contractor.”
“You should blame Corvan,” Valeriana told him as she gently nudged the beast to the side and helped the lord to stand back up on his feet. “Avaro is totally cool. He means no harm and offers his apologies,” Valeriana said.
The king’s brother eyed the girl with surprise before eventually bending his hips forward. “How surprising,” Lienhard said, grunting as he popped a bone in his backside with a crunchy sound. “Ooh.” He breathed out in relief before continuing. “You can understand the words of the Celestial Beast, Valeriana my dear?”
“A Celestial Beast, or a Vileamis Niemu. Whatever term, it means the same,” he pointed out.
She shook her head. “So that’s what it means? I’ve been wondering what the heck he’s been talking about a while ago,” she said, wrinkling her brows from the lack of familiarity.
“You are not familiar with the Ancient Language?” he asked, stretching a little bit more. “What have you been learning in the academy all this time, then?”
“I think that’s something third years learn. I’m not even on my second. Or maybe that was fourth. I heard someone say something about it, but I didn’t pay much attention. My bad,” she ranted.
“Is that so?” He paused for a moment. “Oh, right. I forgot. Those born in wealthy and high-ranking families are given the privilege of learning the language without having to wait for their fourth year in the Academy. The complexities of the language make it impossible to understand without being properly taught and learning the language comes equally with great responsibilities so they’re given only to those who managed to at least survive for half of their training years.” He scratched his head from the confusion.
Corvan suddenly fell from above, landing smoothly on the ground. He stood up, all composed and poised despite the recent marathon he just ran. Beads of sweat trickled down his skin, dripping down from the sides of his face and coating his forehead in a thin, glistening sheet.
“Valemiuer is a very sacred tongue. Learning it is serious business,” Avaro said.
“I don’t really understand half of it but my guess is that it’s very important?”
“Why, of course.” Lord Lienhard then groaned. “I’m barely on my hundredth year of age, but goodness me, I’m getting old.” He chuckled. “But, my dear, be aware that learning Valemiuer is very crucial to those who want to excel in battle.”
“Why is that?”
“Because, with whatever kind of Power Control you have, controlling it with the ancient tongue makes it a hundred times more powerful than ordinary.”
“Wow, really?” Valeriana remarked. “But I think it’s useless for me. I don’t have any of those anyway,” she muttered in disappointment.
“What dost thou mean?” Avaro questioned. “All Valemnians have distinct controlling power bestowed upon them.”
She didn’t answer his question since she didn’t understand herself anyway. Luckily, the arrival of the others saved her from having to answer.
“I’m glad this whole chasing business is over, then,” the fourth-ranker muttered with a hidden tone of complain.
“Ugh. I’m dead tired.” Elfre panted.
“A little workout is good, Elfre.” Raziel winked. “I don’t mind being sweaty in the least.”
“Oh?” Elfre looked up at him with her brows raised. “I would’ve expected the opposite coming from you.”
“Come on.” Raziel chuckled. “I look good in glistening sweat, don’t you think?” He brushed back the hair that was matted to his face.
“Uh . . . no. Like hell you do,” Elfre said, scoffing. “That’s disgusting.”
While Elfre and Raziel debated, Genevieve went to Valeriana’s side and started fussing about her reopened wound.
“We’ve got to change those bandages! They’re soaked with blood!” the younger twin exclaimed. “You’re really careless!”
“I’m fine, really. It’s nothing,” Valeriana tried to assure her, but was brushed aside without hesitation.
Corvan huffed. “She should blame that on her own stupidity.”
“Shut up, you ass! You should blame it on your inconsiderateness!” she argued.
Keelans took the first few moments catching his breath before he stomped over to the king’s brother with a fierce glare. “You better give back what you took!”
“I will.” He chuckled. “Can’t a lonely man play with kids once in a while?”
“We aren’t kids anymore and you know that!” Elfre pointed out adamantly.
“I was just trying to get you kids to loosen up.” He shook his head in amusement, still bent on calling them kids despite their protests. “You looked like you were all ready to go as rigid as ice from the tension. It seems that this little game did a good work.”
“You never really change, do you? Nevertheless, I never really expected it to be this easy.” Corvan sighed. “No matter. Is everyone here?”
The fourth-ranker glanced between everyone and saw the twelfth, the eleventh, the third, the fifth, the first, and the list went on. Everyone in total was present in exception for two people. There was no sign of Rowe or Aneeka among their little group.
“Is Aneeka still facing that problem?” Lord Lienhard asked them.
“Yes.” Tamara nodded. “She still hasn’t gotten over it.”
“You have yourself to blame for that!” Keelan exclaimed, pointing at the lord. “Now where’s my food?!”
“Easy now, child.” He patted Keelan on the back. “I will make it up to you.”
“My stomach cannot wait!” The eleventh-ranker wrapped his arms around his own stomach, trying to suppress the growl that nevertheless came. “I want my food!” he said in the manliest way he could muster while pointing to the lord.
“Pathetic,” Corvan muttered.
Tamara hit him on the back of the head, practically knocking him over. “You’re starting to sound like a seriously spoiled brat, you know that?” she said indignantly.
“The bottomless void you call your stomach. Will it even ever be satisfied?” Zevlin asked, quirking a brow.
“Ow.” Keelan rubbed the part where Tamara hit him and frowned. “It’s not my fault!” he yelled before turning to the king’s brother. “Where’s my food?! Don’t tell me you ate it all!”
Lord Lienhard chuckled humorlessly. “You see . . .” his voice quieted. “When I was tackled . . .”
With a look of pure horror, Keelan diverted his attention to the ground. With a cry, he fell on his knees. “No!” he exclaimed, his eyes burning. “I-it still must be good. I mean . . . it didn’t stay there for more than a minute, it should—”
With a growl, Tamara kicked him on the back and scowled at him. “You’re disgusting, Keelan! It already fell! As soon as it did, it’s inedible!”
“How can you say that!?” Keelan cried. “You’re wasting perfectly good food!”
“It’s dirty!” Tamara pointed out.
“B-but . . .” he stammered and his bottom lip quivered. His forest-green eyes twinkled with sadness as a gentle caress from the wind sent his neck-long, strawberry blond hair dancing.
Keelan then stood up. His hands gripped the shoulders of Lord Lienhard and started shaking him vigorously. “It’s your fault! How could you! Now I don’t have anything to eat! And it’s all because of you!”
“I never actually realized he was this obsessed with food!” Valeriana murmured, her hands unconsciously caressing Corvan’s familiar. “It’s not normal at all!”
“Dear goodness,” the lord grumbled. “You’re making me dizzy,” he said.
“Keelan! Unhand him!” Charles scolded. “Despite his foolishness, he still is the brother of the king!”
Keelan stepped back hesitantly. “You have to promise!” he then said.
“Alright, I do. I promise,” Lord Lienhard muttered with a relieved sigh.
“Are you done?” Corvan asked. “Let’s get out of here. We have no more business in this town. Is everyone here?”
“Aneeka and Rowe aren’t here,” someone supported.
“They’ll be able to handle themselves just fine,” Corvan answered. “If there are no other concerns, let’s leave.”
“Avaro, can I ride you again?” she whispered to the beast, a glint of excitement in her eyes.
“Go on, young one,” Avaro said. Valeriana mounted Avaro’s back excitedly, earning a look of disdain from Corvan. She merely stuck her tongue out and made herself comfortable. almost never call out on your familiar,” Genevieve asked as they all turned and left town. “And Valeriana’s riding him. I would’ve never guessed.”
“You only noticed now?” Zevlin teased his twin.
“Of course not! I’ve just been dying to ask but because of the show Keelan was putting, I was distracted!”
Zevlin snickered at the excuse of Genevieve, making her frown.
“The stupid witch is hopeless when it comes to keeping up,” Corvan told them. “She’s a clumsy fool.”
Valerian clenched her teeth shut at the insults, but tried not to let it get to her. Instead, she stuck her tongue out at him. “You jerk-waden! Do not call me a fool! And stop insulting me like I can’t hear you!”
“Do not worry, lheuim ansur.” Avaro chuckled as he, too, started to run with the rest. “Heilm juaire means no insult to thee. He’s merely teasing.”
“Teasing? Like hell with the face of his.”
“Do trust this one’s words, my child,” he said. “Thou wilt only fuel the fire by acting aggravated.”
Valeriana smiled at the pun Avaro gave. In a way, fire really suited Corvan’s personality.
“Jerk-waden?” Genevieve raised a brow at the new nickname.
“I mean. He’s a big jerk wad,” Valeriana reasoned, scratching her head. “So I took a part of his name and combined them.”
They all stared at her as if she grew two heads.
Tamara started laughing. “Ha! That’s epic! Nice going, Val!”
“Very creative indeed.” Lienhard chuckled.
They continued walking until they were on the outskirts of the town, free from prying eyes. The lights from the little town looked pretty when seen from a distance. The next town wasn’t until a good distance away.
All there was ahead of them was a sandy road lined with trees. Moonlight broke through the leafy branches, and though it offered illumination, it wasn’t enough.
“Avaro,” Corvan said.
“What is it, heilm juaire?” The familiar hastened his pace for a bit so that he was walking beside his contractor.
“Send some lights ahead so we can see where we’re going. I do not feel easy with this darkness.”
“As thou wishest.”
Just as Valeriana was wondering, the beast opened his mouth and two balls of fire escaped from his powerful jaws. To her amazement, they were airborne. They floated around Valeriana for a moment before shooting ahead and lighting up their path with a fiery burst.
“Wow,” Valeriana said. “Avaro, you’re really cool.”
“Wait until you see him in his full form,” Tamara remarked.
“His full form?”
“That appearance is just friendly and casual as you would say,” Zevlin told her. “Avaro has a battle form that’s not too friendly and something he shows to his enemies if needed. Otherwise, if the opponent’s weak, he won’t even need to change. With his state of power, I doubt it would happen often. He’s already as strong as an average Celestial Beast in its fullest power in that friendly form.”
“Can I see it?! Can I see it?” she fervently asked with child-like excitement.
“That is not for me to decide.” Avaro glanced at the first-ranker.
“Can I, Corvan?” She looked at him pleadingly.
“No,” Corvan replied indifferently.
“It’s unnecessary,” he said.
“Why? I want to see it.”
“I will not do something just because you want it,” he bluntly said.
She pouted. “Whatever,” she murmured, feeling disappointed. “You’re really amazing though, Avaro. I don’t know how you ended up being Corvan’s familiar.”
Some eyed her with palpable curiosity.
There was a rumble in the back of his throat that sounded very much like a chuckle. “This one chose heilm juaire for a reason. Although humility itself is a big characteristic that a hero must possess, ‘tis the entirety of his being that is important. His whole self as an individual.”
“Is that so?” she asked. “I guess Corvan all in all isn’t that bad. I mean, aside from being a jerk he is the first-ranker.”
“Will you stop insulting me like I’m not here?”
“Ha.” Valeriana shot him a pointed look. “Like you have any right to say that at all!”
“Wait a moment.” Elfre raised her hand in the air as a sign for them to hold up. “I do not get this. You can hear Avaro, Valeriana?”
“Yeah, well . . . I guess?”
“What do you mean by I guess?!” Elfre exclaimed. “This is not exactly a small thing, you know!”
“Not a small thing,” Brindon repeated.
“To be capable of hearing a Celestial Beast in a contract,” Charles mused. “I’m starting not to doubt the business about you not being a human.”
“Right.” Valeriana quieted. “I keep forgetting.”
“Pardon me. What is this business about thee being a human, lheium ansur?”
“Well, to tell you the truth . . .” She sighed. “I didn’t really grow up in this world,” she said to Avaro. “I recently discovered the issue myself.”
“Hm. Sounds heavy.” Lord Lienhard chuckled. “It seems as if you are going through an unbelievable change, my dear. It must be shocking.”
“I find it unbelievable alright,” Valeriana agreed.
“So ‘tis why thou hast avoided the question a while ago?”
She hesitantly nodded in answer.
“With the actual discovery of thee being able to hear my words, ‘tis already proven. Not just anyone can hear us. Thou hast to have great spiritual awareness. And this one does not think that humans possess that quality.”
“It’s as he says,” the first-ranker said. “Now that I think about it, you seem to have great spiritual awareness. Considering your sensitivity to demonic presence, you can also hear the words of a Celestial Beast.”
“So what does that mean?”
Charles sighed and shook his head. “If you are a Valemnian, you have not shown affinity with the elements so far in exception for spirit. Considering your current state, there may be a great chance you’re a Direct Controller. Of course, it’s not certain. If we are given enough decent clues about your identity, however . . .”
She allowed a huge sigh to escape her lungs.
“There are a lot of possibilities. I’m not about to start telling each one,” he told her.
“There is no need to feel depressed. Thou shalt know who thou art soon. I heard there are people like Valeriana from the Land of the Spirits.”
“The Land of the Spirits? Aetheria?” she repeated aloud, puzzled.
“My encounters with people like thee are scarce considering I originate from a different continent. Forgive this beast for not being too helpful.”
“No, it’s fine,” she said.
Elfre scrunched her brows, feeling like the girl was having a one-sided conversation with herself.
“He’s right,” Corvan said, being the only one aside from Valeriana who could hear his familiar’s words. “Most of the people with the same abilities like you come from that place.”
“So Rowe . . . ?”
“Rowe has a very good connection with his soul coming from the family of de la Nevan, but he is not the same as you.”
“Yeah. I figured.” She sighed. “This is frustrating.”
There was a pause as they all glanced at her.
“Val, I think you need to move on,” Tamara said. “I mean, there’s no use sulking, is there?”
“You need to stop overthinking things,” Corvan said before turning to look at her with a comforting gaze the girl rarely saw. “If you think about it, it’s the truth that changes everything, and not being either a Valemnian or a human.”
She gave Corvan an inquisitive look before nipping on her bottom lip. “I really didn’t expect those words to come from you of all people.”
“He’s right, though.” Zevlin smiled. “Human or not, does it matter?”
“I know.” She then smiled. “But it isn’t easy adjusting and accepting.”
“Dost thou feel anymore bothered?”
“A little,” she told Avaro honestly. “But you’re right.” She chuckled. “Like you guys said . . .” Valeriana then smiled at Corvan. “It’s time to move on.”
Corvan looked away but gave a hum of agreement.
“It’s not being you that matters. Because either being one of the two, it’s the truth that changes everything,” Lord Lienhard said, rephrasing Corvan’s words from before. “No words can be truer. How I never realized. You are far wiser than you seem, Lord de la Wylden.”
“I think that Valeriana’s attitude is starting to rub off on you, Corvan!” Tamara remarked jokingly.
“Rub off,” Brindon agreed.
They started to laugh.
“Thank you, everyone.” The girl smiled.
“No problem!” Tamara said. “Don’t dwell too much on it! We’re here for you!”
“I just realized, though,” Valeriana told them.
“What?” Elfre asked, scoffing.
“If I’m actually one of you guys . . .” she trailed off. “Does that mean I can get a familiar too? And those cool power control thingies?” she asked them excitedly. “I mean, I do get one of those, right?”
A round of laughs once again echoed.
Corvan merely smirked. “Maybe.” He then added. “It would make you less useless if you have abilities like ours.”
“Hey!” She growled. “Stop calling me useless!”
“It seems to me that heilm juaire enjoys teasing thee.”
“Teasing, you say? Teasing my ass! Or no—that sounds wrong, but . . .”
She was cut off by another bout of laughs.