CASeries #5: COSMOS
Chapter 68 ♦ Learn From the Past
Hearing about what happened to Charles and Tamara made the Twelve grow rather restless. They were well aware of the dangers that came with the missions, even if they merely tagged along as trainees. As of now, the previously packed seats around the dining table were seemingly abandoned. The room was bleak. Without Charles’ food and Tamara’s rowdy, out-of-topic comments, they were left with a boring and unpalatable meal.
The only ones left now where the gravest faces; Corvan, Brindon, and Rowe. Among them, the moody ones, were Elfre, Keelan, Raziel, and Zevlin. Seven out of Twelve—where had the half gone?
“I don’t feel like eating,” Keelan told them, pushing on the blank plate and throwing his forest-green eyes around the room. Had the eleventh-ranker stated that some other day, they would’ve thought the end of the world was near. However, if even the glutton in the group could not swallow his food, how can the rest?
Rowe, as usual, was quiet. Elfre was unmotivated, grinding her teeth and she picked dirt under her nails.
“How bleary,” Raziel commented, blowing at the curly tangerine locks that fell on his forehead.
Elfre pushed the food around her plate, uninterested. Corvan, on the other hand, had opened another one of his books and was mindlessly leafing through the pages. It was the scraping of Elfre’s fork on the porcelain plate and Corvan’s rhythmic page-flipping that warded off the domination of silence.
After a while, the front door was bombarded by large knocks. If things were like before, their guest would’ve had to repeat himself several times to be heard over the noise, however, with the quietness, it had easily cracked through the walls.
Glances were shot around until Brindon stiffly stood, wordlessly leaving his seat to answer the door.
“Look at the life sucked out of this room!” a loud comment reverberated. Lord Aeron strode into the room with a vivacious smile, his thick, calloused fingers pulling back his ashen hair.
For the first time in a while, life had finally come.
“What are you doing here?” Corvan inquired, his eyes trained on the page he was reading.
“I thought you kids might be lonely.” He took his seat on Valeriana’s chair. “I was somewhat wrong,” he said, pausing. “YOU’RE MISERABLE.”
“If you’re just here to state the obvious, leave,” Elfre said, gazing at the man impatiently through her lashes.
“Why must you always be so vicious?” the court leader inquired with a tip of his head.
“And why do you always feel the need to meddle?” she shot back with narrowed eyes. “You’re probably here for another one of your crazy business. We don’t need that right now.”
He cackled. “Really? You don’t?” he inquired teasingly. “At least they’re fun. Rather than rotting here.” He made a grab for the untouched dishes on the table, piling a healthy heap on his plate. The first bite, however, ended with a vomit. The remaining members of the Twelve eyed him soullessly.
“Miserable indeed,” he commented.
“Just what are you here for?” Corvan inquired, shutting the book close.
“I finally have your attention?” he asked, pushing the plate away, a little disgusted. “Who made the food?”
Silence. No one seemed willing to admit.
“Never mind who did, it’s not really important,” he said. “As members of the Twelve, you all hold an important part in the guarding of this world’s biggest weapon. You must be curious why we let students handle the job instead of experienced knights.”
Lord Aeron watched their eyes turn to him in attention.
“By default, as long as there is no person with a claim to the title, all previous titleholders must hold on to the keys until a new person can take over. Do you think I do not know what you’re doing?’ he asked.
They looked away.
“Why does it matter?” Zevlin asked, scratching his head with a sigh. “It’s our responsibility to make sure that the keys don’t fall in incompetent hands.”
“If you saw all those people, you’d think the same,” Raziel supported.
“If you’ve come here to scold us, don’t bother. We know what we’re doing,” Elfre told him.
“Are you that insistent on me leaving? Do you really not want me here so much?” He raised a brow as a pout graced his lips. “Well, I’m not really here to scold you or tell you anything. I just don’t know what to talk about.”
“So what are you here for if you don’t plan on telling us anything?”
“To check on you.”
That statement seemed to end with a question mark rather than a period,
“I don’t believe you,” Keelan said skeptically.
Aeron held out both hands. “Why do you think I’m here?”
“Usually, when you’re around, something happens,” the eleventh-ranker said. “And ‘checking up on you’ should mean ‘I’m here to watch.’ If there’s anything else other than that reason, I won’t eat for a week.” His eyes were grave.
For moments, there was silence. At least until a new set of knocks fell on their front doors once more. Brindon, once more, wordlessly stood from his seat to greet their new guest or guests—whatever it might be. Aeron crossed his legs, letting his fingers lace and rest around his knees. Eagerness flashed in his eyes, clear enough to indicate the accuracy of Keelan’s prediction.
If migrating birds were the sign for changing seasons, Lord Aeron’s presence was the one for a spectacle.
True enough, it truly was something worthy of coming for. King Bertram arrived before the remaining members of the Twelve, dressed humbly and with a presence that was coming to be more and more from someone who held the crown.
“Good evening,” he greeted.
They all stood. “Your Majesty.”
“Do sit, please. I come here on personal terms—or, rather, I wanted it to be as casual as possible.” The young king’s eyes navigated around the room, taking in each face present until they landed on Aeron. “This is all of you?” he asked.
“I hope I’m not disturbing.” He pointed to the chair Aneeka usually took and asked, “May I?”
“Do help yourself,” Rowe said. “Pardon the state of us. The days haven’t been well with the rest of us gone.”
“I can see that. Is this a bad time?” the young king inquired.
“No.” The second lord shook his head. “Please, no time can be better.”
“Alright then, I will not be staying very long,” he said. “I know you all are probably going through a lot. These dire times, things have become rather unpredictable—and there is nothing more frightening than the unknown. I have come to ask you all a favor. I do not know who else to rely on other than people from my own years. I have asked for the counsel of the other lords and ladies. They decided I should consult you all instead. They will stand by our decisions and support us in every turn.”
The second-ranker’s brows furrowed. The others tensed a bit at the discussion it was leading to.
“I do not know you all very well, so you may think that what I am asking is quite large—maybe even ridiculous. However, we are left with little choice. It is thanks to one of you that we have avoided large tragedies and while it pains me to see that you are not all complete, we can only strive to keep ourselves together until the time comes that you—we—reunite. As those from the same generation, we cannot let anyone else shoulder these burdens. If you are prepared to face the inevitable future, then you can listen to me,” he told them.
“What is it you need done?” Elfre asked. “We will do our best to help you.”
“It’s not like we planned on doing anything else,” Zevlin supported.
Bertram smiled. “Sorry for beating around the bush. Let me be straight with you. I want to reestablish the ranks of the originals as it had been during their time.”
“Re—what?” Keelan’s jaw dropped at the image that formed in his head.
Everyone else were just as dubious. Aeron’s snicker echoed but it did nothing to free them from the surprise.
“Yes,” Bertram said. “I have noticed that, in the past few months, you’ve broken up. And I know that this is a very big concern for you.”
“We aren’t complete,” Zevlin whispered.
“Not,” Brindon agreed.
“I am aware that the way of the Celestes might not have been the path you think is most suitable or that you needed to sort yourselves to be ready for it. We have formed a strict boundary around the concept of who should defend this world, but I have come to a realization that all who can, who wants, must take up arms. The best army is not just of swords or shields, but of brilliant minds, of skillful hands—in art, in words, in creation. Celeste Academy may be taking measures to prepare, but at this rate, victory is still far from being reassured.”
“So what do you plan on doing?” Raziel inquired, wide-eyed.
“First, I am opening the ranks to those who are worthy and those who can fight and contribute, with the talent, the ability to do something different that can contribute largely in the coming years. For all we know, there are many unfulfilled potentials, unrealized realities, because of the lack of opportunities.”
“That is understandable,” Corvan said. “And honestly, it is brilliant idea. But how do you suppose you will be able to sustain this?” he asked, frowning. “Will we be able to pool enough resources to support your cause when disaster left and right has left our lands in ruins?”
Bertram smiled at the young lord. “You have inherited your father’s tendency to be the devil’s advocate.”
“I think that really is what the Wyldens are made of,” Rowe stated with a chuckle.
“I get where you’re coming from Lord, Corvan.” The young king seemed suddenly taller in his seat. He leaned forward and, in one turn, the table appeared to have transformed into a council. “No one in this world is without a purpose, a role. We have the combined power of an entire world to support our cause.”
“Okay, um, sorry for interrupting. I’m just a little . . .” Zevlin trailed off.
“You plan on throwing open the doors,” the older of the twins began.
“Yes,” the young king replied.
“What about the standards?”
“It shall not be lowered of course,” the king told him. “Standards have to remain if we want to maintain a certain quality. Let me put it this way. It is more suitable to usher an age of common prosperity rather than pooling all resources in one direction, sacrificing stability. Instead, resources should go all ways. What I am proposing is a contribution method. Services are provided in all directions, even if it’s just the most basic of them. Think that, instead of paying your tax in money, you can pay it with what you can do if you are very good at it. Basically, we all become pillars of one cause.”
“That is a brilliant idea, very idealistic, maybe a bit impossible—” Elfre began.
“You’re too pessimistic,” Keelan cut in.
“—but what do we have to do with all this? Aside from your plans of . . . reformation? Are we the people you have in mind? Or do we recommend people to you?”
Bertram laughed. “First of, let me ask you a question. Should you aid me in this, do you think we will be successful?” he inquired.
“It’s not far-fetched?” Keelan intoned with uncertainty.
“Well, how do we know the answer until we find out?” Elfre softly stated, eyes flashing knowingly.
“I hold your invitations.” Bertram took out long envelopes in deep blues. They were simple in nature but looked rather plump. “This is where I’m getting at. I found things that may be of interest to you. These are the areas you may want to dabble in.”
Each envelope was thrown dexterously at each person present. Surprisingly, even Lord Aeron had one.
“Me?” The old man cackled. “Are you sure? I am not part of your generation. I am wayyyy past.”
“We will always have a place for you,” Bertram replied. “We will need your wisdom and guidance so we do not stray from our paths.” The young king tipped his head at the court leader’s direction.
Elfre tore into the envelope and ran a brief sweep of its contents. So did the others.
“Business.” The current sixth-ranker smiled. “Well, I suppose I can do this.”
“Miss Elfre, I would like your hand in this arena. Your rather fierce and straightforward nature is perfect for these affairs—not to mention your background and experience. We will need to ensure that these merchants be fair, that their greed doesn’t devour them, that they do not take advantage of these times to hoard the wealth to themselves.”
“This is a lot of power, though,” Elfre told him. “Are you not worried I’ll take advantage of this?”
“I will not hold it against you if you think about yourselves so long as you can draw the line. These windows will serve as, not only a responsibility, but opportunities for your personal success. Consider the benefits you reap included in the rewards and privileges these positions shall give. It will be impractical to think that utter selflessness will lead to success. I believe in the self helping the rest. Be well, serve others well.”
“Children?” Zevlin intoned, gazing at his paper, a little dubious.
“Do you not think they are important?” Bertram smiled.
“No. I kind of like it.”
“I heard about how much you love taking care of others and those younger than you. Their welfare and future will heavily be influenced by you. With that, you are on the path to become the next headmaster. You have to learn from Sir Kylon well.”
“Uh . . . he’s still young. I do not think he needs replacing,” Zevlin told him, wide-eyed.
“But he needs a hand,” the young king said. “Headmaster welcomes the idea. Do not think I didn’t consult him about this.”
The young kind nodded.
“So . . . mine is art?” Raziel queued in. “I have no protests.”
“You know beautiful things best, I heard. We need someone to preserve the finest pieces. They are important to our culture and our future.”
“I want his job,” Brindon stated, glaring at Raziel. His eyes were sharp enough to slit the seventh’s throat.
“Why? What did you get?” Keelan inquired, gazing at the unopened envelope in Brindon’s hands.
“Didn’t look yet,” the twelfth muttered.
“Really. Open it already.” Keelan cut through the flaps and brought out the papers for the poker-faced ranker to see.
“I want you to focus on creation,” the king told him. “There must be beauty in things we create as well as strength. I’ve been told you had excellent talent in craftsmanship.”
Brindon nodded. “Okay.”
“As for the lords, I know how hard enough it is to be the rulers of these continents. I want you to continue minding your lands. What you do directly affects everyone, maybe even more so. With this in mind, I have come to discuss with the other lords and ladies to hasten your ascension so that you will know firsthand what to do. You will still be guided by the previous titleholders, as is customary, but the power will be yours to wield.”
Keelan froze. “No . . . wait . . . I’m not ready.”
“It’ll be alright.” Bertram gazed at Keelan with a smile. “We all have each other. I was never ready to hold the throne myself. Thankfully, the kingdom hasn’t collapsed just yet.”
“But why us?” Elfre inquired. “Of all people who are better, worthier?”
“You all can learn. I am not looking for who is the best, but who can be. It is better to look at the possibilities rather than the results. I am not asking you to rise above all others, although you’ve already done it at some point and you must. Just believe in yourselves and nothing will be out of reach.”
There was silence.
“Now, do you accept?” Bertram inquired.
“Yes,” Raziel said without hesitations.
The others followed.
Keelan was last. “Okay.”
“Good. I’ll be leaving. All the details you may need is included in the envelope. I’ll be seeing you soon.”
“What about the others?” Zevlin inquired. “Do you plan on inviting them too?”
The young king smiled. “You’ll be seeing them soon.”