Celeste AcademyCosmos

Chapter 72 ♦ Eagle Down

CASeries #5: COSMOS

Chapter 72 ♦ Eagle Down

Valeriana searched the room for De Cirque. True to her suspicions they were forced to stay still—with the other factions included. The finale had already finished and they were already preparing to close the curtains and retreat to the backstage. Unfortunately, they were unable to do any of that after the closing remarks were given. Aliyah had bared her teeth into a savage frown as she prepared to battle.

They had no weapons, though. All of those were left behind.

Well, crap.

“What is the meaning of this?” Arcana exclaimed, eyeing the sharpened weapons pointed their way—like sheep being herded. “The ball was to be a neutral zone.”

“Which makes it the perfect place to kill you all,” Aleser’s voice boomed.

“We have honored this for centuries,” Lord Florence bellowed. “You dare, Lord Aleser, you savage—”

“Well, I don’t plan on honoring it, so shut your trap, Lord Florence.” The lord of fire’s eyes blazed as he sent a sharp glare at the Lord of the Earth Faction.

“This breaks the sanctity of the tournament,” Arcana growled.

“What did you not hear about me not planning on honoring it, Lady Arcana? I do not like repeating myself.” He stepped forward, hands sitting tight on the curve of his back. “I’ll make it clear for you. Make one wrong move, your people die.”

“You’re planning on killing us now? How do you plan on doing it, then? Torch us all to death? That’s all you can spit now, right? You bunch of useless fire!” Lord Youzza said.

Valeriana watched the Wind Faction lord stride forward with his arms open, undaunted by the poking blades that warned him to stay put. His Lord Commander seemed a little perplex as well.

“Milord, I do not think that this is wise,” he said. He then pushed at the chest of a Fire Faction guard who boldly took a step forward to restrain Youzza.

She gazed at the other leaders. Arcana was shielded by Raegan, Maeghan had fallen unconscious in the arms of her Lady Commander, Lord Youzza had his own Lord Commander warning the other factions to stay back as he bantered with the Fire Faction leader and Lord Florence was sweating as he sought counsel with his own right hand man.

“You should be a little more fearful considering I’m holding the decision whether you live or die,” Aleser said haughtily. Deli remained still at his side but she shot glances at the lord whenever he would spout something daring—and a little on the bold, ridiculous side,

“Death doesn’t have enough hold over me.” Youzza huffed, eyeing the lord of fire defiantly. “Didn’t you say you’ll kill us anyway? What sense does it make for me to be fearful of you if that is the case?” he pointed out sharply. “You sure have the guts.”

Aleser laughed. “One of us have to. Did you all expect any less?” he exclaimed. “Rules are meant to be broken, just like how this tournament is not meant to keep the stasis for long. You all have been faithful and that is the reason why you’re in this position now.”

“You bring the wrath of the gods on yourself!” the Water Faction’s Lady Commander yelled as Maeghan stirred in her hold.

“You’re a little too late on the news,” Aleser replied.

“Won’t you tell us your plan then at least, Lord Aleser?” Valeriana heatedly stated through gritted teeth. De Cirque was frozen solid, seeming to not have expected how things would go. Aliyah kept shooting glances at Valeriana, slight panic visible in her eyes.

Aleser’s moon silver eyes dropped to Valeriana’s face. “Now that will ruin the fun, won’t it?” He lifted a hand and waved for his guards to move. They speared through and sliced into the room, dividing the people, separating the leaders from their men. A body, after all, wouldn’t function without a head.

Valeriana was grabbed by the arm roughly, reminding her of the treatment she suffered in the hands of Aleser’s guards—they weren’t actually that bad, but they weren’t exactly the gentlest of hands either. She elbowed one on the face when he tightened the grip so hard it felt that it would leave a bruise.

“Stop it, you bastards,” she said.

“Don’t try to go against it unless you want to be hurt,” said the one beside her.

“You are already hurting me, stupid,” Valeriana shot back. “I’ll come willingly . . . just don’t touch me! I don’t want your fingers near me at all!” She elbowed the man’s hand away and slapped him when he made a grab for her once more.

The guard recoiled when her palm struck his face. “Why you—”

“You,” Deli voice boomed. She sent a sharp glare that deterred the man. “Back down.”

Valeriana glared at the balcony where the two stood and went along the direction they were steering her to. She and Aliyah were sent to the center with the other leaders of the faction. That must mean something, right? The rest of De Cirque and the other factions resembled a robbed bank scenario. All were forced to their knees with hands on their necks, preventing any suspicious movements—even if they tried, there were too many eyes and hands ready to pierce through flesh.

“Why, isn’t this flattering?” Valeriana stated mockingly, looking at the other leaders they gathered at the center. Maeghan was dragged forcefully and dumped on the floor, making the blonde wince at the thump that echoed after.

They were forced to stand on a straight line, with guards on either side, keeping them still. Seeing as they all had blades poking at their neck and waist, they could not as much even breath.

“Lowlifes!” The Lady Commander of the Water Faction yelled in alarm. In spite of how much she wanted to attend to Maeghan, there were guards barring her from doing so.

“You know what they say,” said Aleser. “Whenever there’s execution, you usually go for cutting off the head. I’m going to do that both figuratively and literally. Then you cut off the arms and legs until they become so minced nothing is left.”

Valeriana sighed. “Why’d you have to choose me? Clearly, I’m not even close to a head.”

“You are,” Aliyah said. “Just full of air.”

“Oh, you little—are you on my side or not?” Valeriana indignantly exclaimed. “What the hell do you even mean by that?!”

“Deaf head, you heard me,” Aliyah continued with an eye roll. “In fact, it’s so full of air that they’ll probably be blasted away when they try to cut it off.”

“Why you—” Valeriana suddenly got pinched by Arcana from under.

“I kind of agree with her,” said the Spirit Faction’s lady with a sheepish smile.

“So blood won’t be spilled tonight,” Youzza followed. “But there will definitely be a lot of air.”

She looked at both Arcana and Aliyah, a little on the clueless side. She was a little horrified they were ganging up on her at such a time. Judging by the look on their faces, though, they were quite serious—although a little mocking.

What? Were they trying to tell her something?

“Val!” Runner yelled, shaking in fear and worry. He tried breaking past between two guards that sanctioned off the rest of the groups.

“Stay down!” Said a guard, bearing down on the boy by the shoulder.

“I’ll be fine, hun. Don’t go doing anything reckless,” Valeriana said—yet she honestly didn’t know just how she would be able to get out of the situation. Aleser wasn’t joking at all.

“This is ridiculous,” Arcana muttered. “If I had known things would be like this, I wouldn’t have followed the rules at all.”

“Regrets come last, Lady Arcana. Regrets come last,” Florence said.

“Don’t say that,” muttered a groggy voice. Lady Maeghan had already roused from her unconscious state. “Those who try to break the order will only have chaos raining down upon them.”

“I establish my own rules, Lady Maeghan. Where is the chaos in that?” Aleser shot back.

“Oh, shut it, Aleser,” the Water Faction lady muttered as she struggled to sit up. “Something strange just went through my head just now,” she whispered. “I thought I was dying considering all the memories that flashed before my eyes.”

Valeriana rolled her shoulders and looked away guiltily—but not before she threw a short glance at Celine’s Key around Maeghan’s neck. It was much more beautiful up close.

“You’re too much of a tough weed for that,” Florence commented as he eyed the lady. “Actually, make that a screaming tough weed.”

“A mandrake you mean,” Youzza cut in.

“Oh shut it, you fools,” she chastised, cradling her head. The blades shrieked as they brushed, warning her to move steadily. Maeghan kept her hands where they could see them and moved to stand. “You are fat,” she told Florence. “And you.” She looked at Youzza. “You are all bark and no bite—not that you have any means to bear your teeth. Incompetent.”

Arcana laughed into her palms, her shoulders lifting as she tried to hide her smile.

“You are childish,” Maeghan said to Arcana, hearing her simper.

“What do I have to do with this? I didn’t insult you.” The lavender-eyed girl pouted.

“Enough.” Aleser’s hand swept in from of him. “Begin the execution.”

“Oh, sh—” Valeriana was grabbed by the neck as a blade was raised to cut her head off. The same went for the others.

They were forced on their knees, forced to bend.

“How did you say it again?” Aleser said with a smile. “Off with their heads!”

The honey-golden blonde shut her eyes close as the sharp blades caught light as it was swung down. “CIFARO!” Valeriana screamed, her power shooting to the soul ring around her finger. The energy took but a moment to shine and a bright burst of light bloomed forth from her hand. The sight was almost surreal to see as the Gilerad emerged in all his beastly glory, his form ghostly haloed.

As he made his presence known, a wind gust so powerful knocked all those who were standing down—Aleser’s guards. Members who did not belong to fire had been previously forced to their knees. A huge roar resounded, so loud the building trembled from the reverberations.

The distraction was enough for everyone else to move. Faction members took their chance, stealing the weapons from the guards of fire’s hands and using it against them. Meanwhile, Cifaro knocked down those that had surrounded the faction leaders and Valeriana, giving them the chance to retaliate and take their chance to attack.

Lady Maeghan, however, surprised everyone when she took out a concealed weapon of her own. It didn’t matter whether or not it broke the rules so long as they could survive the night.

They should’ve known things wouldn’t proceed as smoothly as they seemed.

“How in the—”

“You should’ve checked twice!” Valeriana waved her hand, silently sending a command to Cifaro to knock down everyone from the faction of Fire. As the Gilerad pounced forward to do as she bade him to, she lunged for the nearest guard, throwing a punch to his gut and wrestling the weapon from his hands.

She stepped into a stance and defended herself from the next attack, evading a blade slashing her way before taking a swing from the weapon she had acquired. It was not a sword, rather a glaive.

She was reminded of Charles somewhat by this. He wielded these things like no other—Tamara too.

Aleser was calm, however. He didn’t look that rattled at all to see everything descend to chaos. In moments, the ballroom floor turned into a battlefield. What danced were fists and what swung were blades.

“Send the second wave in,” Aleser said.

More guards flooded into the room. The sheer number of them meant he had planned this ahead of time.

“Damn,” Aliyah muttered as she angrily swung a fist.

“This is more than the number of guards he proclaimed he had,” Raegan said.

“He was secretly building an army? Sick bastard,” Youzza exclaimed.

“He wasn’t the only one who prepared ahead,” Maegan told them. “Send the eagle!” she commanded.

“This night is crazy!” someone yelled.

“Don’t state the obvious. Besides, this is beyond ridiculous!” someone else replied.

“Eagle? What eagle?” Valeriana looked questioningly around the room to search for the ‘eagle’ but was disappointed by seeing no bird. She shouldn’t have taken it literally because it clearly meant something else.

The room was flooded once more from the windows. Valeriana had to groan when the water tided in from outside once more.

“Oh my god.” She gasped, seeing her soaked feet. “What is up with this place and flooding water! Why on earth does this keep happening?!”

“Eagle is down!” the Water Faction’s Lady Commander exclaimed.

Aleser gritted his teeth.

“You can keep building walls to keep out the water from the sea, but the skies always have an abundant supply of them,” Maeghan said, eyeing the lord of fire with a grin.

“Maeghan, you crazy bit—” Lord Youzza was splashed at the face, stumbling back as he was soaked from head to toe. He was forced to stop short, muffled by the water that came rushing for him. “THEY AREN’T THE ONLY ONES SURPRISED! WHAT THE—”

The doors broke open and some of them were tided to the long halls. The battles resumed shortly after, the confusion rising higher with each passing minute. The flood died after the water had escaped, but the guards belonging to the faction of fire were a little inconvenienced being thrown to the element they hated the most.

“How long did they have to summon that much water?”

“We didn’t take very long. We already gathered the clouds before the ball even started,” Maeghan said, revealing it.

“No wonder you guys were early,” Arcana commented.

“The early bird gets the worm,” the Water Faction lady replied.

Valeriana had to admit this woman was quite witty. She had her ways, somehow securing a bunch of other weapon without having to directly wield a blade—aside from the one she concealed in herself, of course. How was she even able to hide that thing without them finding out?

Oh. They helped handle the perusal upfront. It was no trouble to have sneaked that in considering Maeghan had men in the ranks.

Then why weren’t the other circles allowed to meddle as well? Clearly, the situation was a bit unfair!

“Val!”

Valeriana turned at the sound of Runner crying for help. While he’d taken shelter from behind Beard, the poor man was chained by numerous guards attacking him from all sides. Heart dropping, Valeriana made a run for the kid as a blade swung his way—but she was too far. The poor boy saw what was coming and turned, eyes widening and feet frozen in fear.

“RUNNER!” she yelled, hastening her pace and sprinting as fast as she could. “DON’T YOU DARE!”

Just as she thought she wouldn’t make it, the man stopped short as though a god given miracle. Valeriana didn’t dare do so as well and made sure she had the boy before throwing an agitated punch the man’s way.

“You merciless bastard!” she growled, watching him land on the floor with a thump. She turned to the boy. “Are you okay?” she asked.

“Yes, tha—Lady Arisce!” the boy exclaimed excitedly, eyes drawn to a spot over her shoulder.

It was only then did Valeriana know what stopped the man from killing Runner. Arisce’s long and spidery strings whistled as they flew back to her hands. Valeriana followed the subtle shimmers in the air and finally found the face she was looking for.

“It seems the second round started a little too early,” the woman stated.

Valeriana was more than glad. “Lady Arisce!” she said, mirroring Runner’s look of excitement.

“The Water Faction aren’t the only ones prepared.” Arisce blew a sharp whistle. Loud roars echoed from behind her.

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