CASeries #5: COSMOS
Chapter 64 ♦ Inextinguishable
Deli’s green eyes lit up with rare fire. It blazed as it zeroed in on Valeriana—so wild it was impossible not to feel the heat of it.
“Are you nervous yet?” Deli inquired softly as the poor general sauntered back to the Fire Faction’s corner, leaving the match to the Lady Commander.
“Me?” Valeriana huffed. “I am not nervous.”
“You’re shaking.” Deli stared pointedly at her knees.
“I am scared, holy sunuvabeetch,” she muttered.
The Lady Commander shook her head and frowned at the term that flew out of Valeriana’s mouth, understanding very well what it meant. “You normally don’t admit that to your enemy.”
“If it isn’t already clear to you, I’m not normal.”
She could see people running their hands over their faces—like a facepalm of some sorts—when they heard her reply. However, they did not judge her for her fear (well, most of them). Considering how frightening the Lady Commander truly was, there would always be a tinge of uncertainty and dread at having to face her.
Deli was silent and calm for a scalding fire, but she was the sort of flame that could endure the rain for many days and still live. If there was a specific thing that described her best, it would be Corvan’s aureoles—warm, calm, but carrying a sense of danger and power so potent, it would eat thousands of yards in one blow. Despite the comfort those cozy balls brought, Valeriana felt that it wasn’t all it was for, knowing Corvan.
“With your audacity, I thought fear was not included in your vocabulary.”
“Clearly, you have misconceptions of me. But, please, can we just get this fight over with?” she asked breathlessly, taking her most preferred stance that had all the elements of balance to prepare for the woman’s attack.
“Worry not,” the Lady Commander told her, drawing the sword from her waist, letting the hilt spin in her hand in a seemingly defying act of gravity.
Valeriana had nothing as flashy. Her moves served her very basic needs. While her style could be a bit boring, it was the effectiveness that mattered and not the performance or entertainment merit.
“How can I not worry? What are you people up to?” Valeriana muttered, skeptic of the Fire Faction’s actions.
But the answer came, not in words, but a full forward thrust, a sharp turn that left a stiff curve drawn on the dirt before a strike came down at her from the upper right side of her vision. Valeriana swiftly responded to the opening assault and defended herself firmly—but at this bout, she could do no more than that.
To free herself from the overwhelming barrage, she retreated, avoiding the last strike that came dangerously close to her neck. The feel of the wind brushing her skin after it wrapped around Deli and tore down at her through each move made Valeriana’s adrenalin kick in. Each strike was strong and firm as well. She was contemplating how on Earth—or Valemnia, Varialon, whatever—she was supposed to take down this wall, but she had to throw in a few attacks just to see how the Lady Commander was going to react. If she kept herself on defense, nothing was going to happen—except for a certain loss.
She stifled her doubts and dove in without hesitation. The littlest of those could change the outcome of the battle. Arisce said that failure was not an option—which meant there was little to no room for her doubts and fear.
Deli welcomed her attack and defended beautifully. For a few moments, she took the aggressive turn. Even so, the Lady Commander quickly saw an opportunity when Valeriana made a clumsy step. And like a wolf, she lunged and nipped. The blonde vacillated on her feet as the sharp sword tore at her arm. Blood was quickly spilled and Deli’s hungry bade seemed to revel in it.
“Shiznits,” Valeriana muttered. “I don’t wanna be pessimistic, but I’m most probably damned. Or dead. Maybe torched. Or all. But yeah, I know, just shut up and do it as usual.”
Deli raised a brow, seeing Valeriana stumble forward while muttering and hissing at the same time. She spared the stinging wound that ran nearly perpendicular to her elbow a brief glance—so short she barely saw how it was. Eye on the game. Any distraction could lead to a worse situation.
“You mutter to yourself like a lunatic.”
“Tell me something I don’t know.” She held onto her sword tightly and stepped forward.
This was the time to use everything she knew.
To think she had to be wounded like this for the Wind Faction—bullcrap.
“Like water.” Valeriana grunted, letting her limbs move freely. “Of Earth.” The freedom needed anchor, the ocean needed the bed. “Like wind!” she whistled. The small invocation was enough for Cifaro to stir. The wind moved to her—his—bidding, making her movement easier, resisting less to help improve her speed and execution, as well as preserve her energy. It was a strange feeling, but comforting at the same time. “And of spirit.”
Deli watched her closely, her brows wrinkled. Even so, the woman matched the rising cadence of the fight and the fire grew to a seemingly massive sea of flames as if hell was in sight.
Valeriana’s movements were barred—gagged like a powerless peasant. She stumbled once more, lost from the distraction, but defended herself in time for the next attack that came looming from Deli’s sword.
“How clumsy,” Adelline commented.
Valeriana wanted to retort but she was too out of breath to do so. The heavy strike had pushed her back a little so she exerted an equal force to counterbalance. Like a bull, she huffed, drove forward and executed a bunch of attacks, her breath sharp through her lungs with each swing. The incessant clanging reverberated in her ears, her muscles trembled at the exertion.
“You know,” she muttered, making sure only she and Deli could hear her following statement. “You insult like your brother. He must get it from you.”
She spun, sword angled tight around her waist. Deli caught the attack with a downward swing, guiding Valeriana’s blade to the ground, holding it there for a few moments before swiftly jabbing. The blonde hastily evaded, letting the weapon pierce the air beside her instead.
Adelline’s movements were light and swift. “And your style resonates Seraphina’s,” she commented.
Valeriana didn’t let it distract her. She moved forward fluidly, sword arching overhead with a low growl.
“Do you know her?” Deli inquired softly, parrying the blow like it was nothing.
This woman was not trying at all.
“She taught me.”
A small smile appeared on Deli’s lips. “She didn’t teach you enough.”
Oh, shiznits, Valeriana mentally stated.
Deli cut in swiftly from the right and followed it with a roundhouse kick. The speed gave Valeriana no chance to defend herself. She stumbled back a little too late and the brunette’s foot hammered at her face. Valeriana wheezed and leaned to the side, blood dripping down her chin.
Still, she gritted her teeth, caught herself before she fell and retaliated with a strong swing of her own fist. “Goddamn it.” Valeriana grunted, eyes narrowed at the Lady Commander. Surprisingly, she managed to land a jab on Deli’s cheek, forcing her back.
Adelline recovered swiftly from the punch, shifting on her feet. Her body made a rapid turn on the spot, knees jutting out to strike Valeriana at the gut. The blonde managed to block it with her palm, fingers gripping the fabric of the commander’s pants and hauling her to the side. Even so, Deli’s balance was monstrous and it did little to throw her off.
She ended up looking like an idiot.
“You try so hard,” Adelline said with a bemused smirk.
“It’ll be an insult if I don’t,” Valeriana retaliated.
A sharp punch landed on Valeriana’s left cheek. Lightheadedness kicked in for a few moments before the girl straightened and mirrored the attack with a forward kick. Deli weaved to the side, letting it cut through nothing.
In spite of the frustration, Valeriana contained herself. Overwhelming emotions led one to act mindlessly. It was the very first lesson she had gotten from her fight with Courtney. So, endlessly, she muttered to herself, “Control. Control.”
“You’re obviously frustrated,” Deli told her.
“Thanks, Captain Obvious.”
“Why don’t you use that element?” she asked. “You know you won’t win if you don’t.”
They’re pushing me, she realized, glancing at the Lady Commander and Lord Aleser. No wonder they asked for a switch. Coming down here was a bad idea.
“So that’s how it is, then, huh?” Valeriana whispered.
Instead of letting it get to her, she smiled. The blade she wielded flew and struck at Deli. They returned to exchanging blows with the blade.
“You’re curious, aren’t you? Or should I say confused?” Valeriana inquired under her breath, the smirk playing on her lips as the exchange heated even further. While she stumbled, trembling from exhaustion and the crushing force that was the Lady Commander, Valeriana persevered. She probably wouldn’t win this fight—but what mattered was that she tried.
They were expecting a lot from her if they were hoping she would win against Deli. Hell, this woman was obviously around Seraphina’s level—and knew her personally, it seemed. Whatever Arisce was thinking right now, Valeriana could care less. Deli wasn’t giving it her all at the moment and it scared her to know this woman’s true limits.
“Really. It took you a while to catch that. How slow,” Adelline commented.
Valeriana would have rolled her eyes if she didn’t have to keep them on her current opponent. “How this how that, whatever.”
“But no. You’re still curious aren’t you?” the Lady Commander prompted. “Or should I say confused?”
“About what? Why are you asking a question I just asked you right back?” Brows furrowed. “Are you trying to distract me?”
“Partially,” she replied.
“I get it. Is this about those? Why? What is it about the key and the ring that you need for your revenge so much?”
“To be quite honest, I have no need for the key. It’s just the ring.”
“Then why the hell did you take both?”
“Because they come in the same string,” Deli shot at her.
“You should’ve at least returned the other one!”
“You had the chance to take both, why didn’t you?”
“Because it wouldn’t be fair.”
“Nothing in life is fair. If you insist on being fair, you’ll be the one deprived of it.”
“But the cycle will end with me,” the blonde retorted.
“Is this how you really think? It’s hard to imagine someone so optimistic still live in this world. And so thoughtless of herself.” Deli slashed at her with the blade. Valeriana stepped back to avoid it, grunting as she caught the next attack with her own weapon.
“Well, someone has to do it.”
The commander smirked. “I know how you do it, though,” Deli told her with a soft whisper.
“What are you talking about this time?”
“Your secret, of course. You really think I didn’t know?”
Valeriana narrowed her eyes at Deli. “Then spill the beans, Sherlock.”
Deli’s blade swept by and so did her voice. “Your animus.”
The blonde’s eyes widened. At the same time, she felt the skin on her side open.
“Did you really think it was a secret?” were Deli’s next words. “Don’t worry, he doesn’t know.”
“How do you know?” Valeriana gritted her teeth and clutched her side. It came away with blood. “Oh shiznits.”
“Why don’t you think? Your mouth can’t do all the running all the time. I’ve given you enough clues to piece together. You seriously can’t be that stupid.”
“For all I know, all you gave me were wounds, dumbass.”
“Wrong, dumbass,” Deli retorted. “Now, are you going to try to win this fight? Or are you hell bent on losing it? You do know what will happen if you lose, do you not?”
Valeriana pulled on her last reserves of energy and, soaked with sweat, dove forward for another attack.
“You will lose a town,” Deli said. “Either you give this your all or you get nothing at all. Whatever Arisce is trying to do, she won’t be able to push through if you don’t. But she took this risk, so she must feel it is worth it to let out a few surprises, right?”
“Not until you pulled your surprise.”
“You surely don’t expect this to be a one-sided battle. We won’t stay quiet and take a loss—or rather, he won’t.”
Valeriana clamped her jaws. “You know what? Godsdamn it all to hell! Sierra vu eldon sith!”