CASeries #5: COSMOS
Chapter 74 ♦ Towards the End
With the factions and De Cirque having decided to team up temporarily to fight off a common enemy, all efforts were now set on defeating Aleser. The steel silence that was built by Aleser’s announcement had been broken like a spell. People dashed for members of the faction of fire, needing no direct command from their leaders. Valeriana was a little distraught in spite of things turning for the better seeing as Deli was still siding with the demented firelord—and by the looks of it, she didn’t have any plans of turning against the man just yet.
Just what are you waiting for? Valeriana thought worriedly. If Deli did not make her intentions known now, there was no doubt she would be caught in the crossfire. With Aleser bearing all the ire of the factions for his betrayal, as his right hand, Deli might be killed.
She couldn’t tell Corvan she found his long lost elder sister only to say she had been killed before she could return to Valemnia. Now that would be a horrible story, wouldn’t it?
But that was not the only reason why she felt the way she did.
The factions were rearing.
After a while, blood was spilled on the ballroom floor. Blades were bathed in red and what was supposed to be soft and mellow music became roars of rage and howling pain. Valeriana panicked amidst the chaos, heart plunging lower after each beat, having never seen a degree of violence so thick. She could feel the ache on her flesh at the sight of gaping wounds and felt her blood run cold the more she saw some spilled. Her fingers quaked weakly and her arms lost all their strength.
Cifaro was quick to protect Valeriana from the onslaught of men trying to take her life. He jumped in front of a guy donned in the red of fire and knocked him off before he could even think of coming close. The blonde could not raise her blade with the intent of taking lives—want as she did to help push back the threat. She had wounded people badly but she would never be able to take it to see them die by her hands.
It was a little too late for regrets, though. The moment she decided to pick up the sword and attend the academy, she would sooner or later need to claim the lives of others—be they demon or not.
“Lheuim ansur,” Cifaro said once more, surrounding her protectively. “If thou canst not take this, thy heart will break before the war can start.”
“I can’t,” she said through gritted teeth. “I know what I’m capable of but I can never—”
While Valeriana stood conflicted amidst the chaos, a blade whizzed past her face. She managed to evade the last moment, letting the tip pierce the marbled floor instead. Following the line of trajectory, she saw the woman she encountered back then in her attempt to escape coming at her at full force—perhaps to settle grudges. A kick in the flower was enough to plant deep loathing and Valeriana only had herself to blame. At the same time, Cifaro was attacked by a couple of men, leaving the girl unprotected.
Valeriana hastily lifted her blade but was a little late in doing so. Her defense cracked at the first onslaught of attack, leaving her wrists trembling at the loose grip. She quickly jumped back, trying to gather her composure, but the woman rushed after her, giving her no space to breathe.
“Get your head in the game, Valeriana!” she heard Aliyah exclaim.
She stumbled but recovered and steeled herself. Tightening her hold around the hilt of her sword, she positioned her body into a more stable stance, meeting the woman head on, this time, a little more prepared for a fight she didn’t expect was coming.
The anger seeped into every strike, rattling Valeriana to the bones both literally and figuratively. Cifaro was right about this—if she could not take this much, her heart would break before the real war could even start.
Sloan and Maeghan had finally broken through the mass of guards that protected the space around the balcony, scaling the walls together and landing before the lord of fire. Both wasted no time to step forward and attack, wanting to take his head. Before they could get an inch closer, Deli stood between them and Aleser, who was still casually sitting, popping grapes into his mouth, watching the events unfold.
“Why are you helping this man?” Maeghan asked.
“How many times have you asked people why they side with who they side?” Sloan shot at the leader of the Water Faction.
“Because you all are ridiculous and hard to understand. What exactly makes you so loyal to this crazed maniac? This world is full of stupidity!”
“That includes you,” Sloan muttered.
“WHAT DID YOU SAY?! I AM ABSOLUTELY NOT LIKE YOU!” Maeghan shrilly countered, putting all her rage to attacking Deli. But it was nothing to the Lady Commander.
She manipulated shreds of water, thin enough to cut through anything, to lash upon the woman. All of it was evaded with almost no effort.
“Damn, no wonder you are appointed the Lady Commander,” Maeghan said.
Deli did not answer and instead received their blows wholeheartedly, parrying them and retaliating with her own.
“This is getting tedious,” Aleser said. “Let’s make things a little more exciting. Use it.”
Deli gritted her teeth at the command.
“Did you not hear what I said, Deli?” the lord of the Fire Faction said. “I said use it.”
“If I were to use it in such a manner—”
“I dislike repeating myself.”
“Then why not do it on your own?” Adelline spat at Aleser. “You’re very well capable of it yourself!”
The defiance in her voice as well as her efforts at pushing both Sloan and Maeghan back caused the fight to temporarily cease. They saw the unwillingness in the Lady Commander, hence, became hesitant to attack.
While this should’ve sent the man boiling with rage, all he did was smile, a cunning look in his eyes as he sucked on the grape so hard it was shredded. He then spat out the seeds and leaned back leisurely. “I can’t control it like you do. You’re a favoured child of fire, a heilm juaire. How can anyone other than your blood possibly be able to wield it?”
“I am not doing it.”
“Take it out right now, Adelline,” Aleser growled. “And do what I say.”
“You’re making me dirty the sanctity of my name with the blood of the innocents—”
“You’ve done it countless of times.”
“I can’t do it anymore.”
“I will say you can’t when you can’t. This isn’t the time to rebel. You think that with this, I’m going to give you what you want?”
Deli’s eyes flashed. She reached into her sleeves.
“You don’t have to obey him, Lady Adelline,” Sloan said, watching the woman’s movements closely.
“A thousand lives does not compare to the one I value,” Deli replied. She took out the Wylden Cosmos. “I apologize.”
Valeriana’s heart jumped. While she had focused primarily on the battle at hand, she had an ear in the conversation between the leaders at the balcony.
“What are you doing?” Valeriana exclaimed frantically. She looked at the woman general who was fiercely fighting her. A little desperate to break free from the battle, her aura flared instinctively. She delved into the memories and let the momentary distraction take over before she broke free of the trance and struck an attack on the woman. The pommel struck the side of the woman’s head, rendering her unconscious.
Valeriana looked up, watching Deli don the Wylden Cosmos on her middle finger. “Cuivera vu eldon ri,” she whispered. Searing heat appeared on her hands. Valeriana was startled at the sudden aura that flared from the ring.
“What?” the blonde said, astonished. “The Wylden Cosmos . . .”
Deli wielded the invisible fire and lashed it at Maeghan and Sloan. There was no time to dodge or run. The two women put up barriers with their weapons as they were struck. In a flash they were thrown out of the balcony and hurled to the wall across the hall.
Seeing them fly caught a few eyes. Sloan had managed to pull a few strings—literally—that helped her from flinging too far off. Like the woman version of Spiderman, she tugged on her strings from the ceiling and launched herself back to Deli. The momentum gave her a chance to tackle the woman, which she was so easily able to do. Both then fell off the balcony. Sloan landed on her back, curling up in pain, as Deli landed on her stomach.
Valeriana launched to action, wanting to run to Sloan’s side. The fear of Deli, however, deterred her. One strike of that invisible fire and she was sure to die without even knowing she did.
The attack left severe injuries on the troupe leader. The fire was simply too hot that it didn’t even leave behind fire. Instead, Sloan had had layers of clothes and flesh incinerated. Like laser, she wasn’t even allowed to bleed.
Maeghan, having been flung across the hall, was an unconscious heap on the ground. She too, was in the same state. Sloan was struggling but unable to stand so she looked up at the Lady Commander with narrowed eyes as the woman towered above her cruelly. The crowd parted, fearing the flames they could not see.
Deli then wielded a big fire—although unseen by the naked eye, it could be felt by the sudden rise in the temperature. She prepared to let it rain down on the troupe leader when a desperate youth stumbled from the crowd and landed on her knees before the Lady Commander.
“Stop!” Aliyah yelled. “Please,” she said. “Please.” She tore the earring off, leaving the lobe bleeding. But as the ornament left her person and was sent hurtling across the room like the two women, her body changed.
Her café au lait eyes changed to moon silver and her hair became a striking blue. Her face, which had always carried a mature disposition, had visibly softened, making her seem younger.
“What the actual fu—” Valeriana dropped her blade. “—dge.”
Deli stopped short. Aleser stood.
“WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON?!” the blonde exclaimed, clueless as her mother back on Earth. “What the hell is happening?!”
Sloan stirred where she lie, bleeding through her lips. Her eyes watered at the sight of Aliyah. “She—the child under Aleser’s hands is not . . . your daughter,” she said. “When I broke into the Fire Faction years ago, I replaced the child with a puppet carved from a part of her flesh imbued with a part of my soul.”
Valeriana stared on, slack-jawed.
“This is . . . Aliyah,” Sloan said.
It took a while to process what was happening, but by the time it dawned, Deli was overcome with tears. The woman dropped all her weapons at the sight of Aliyah kneeling before her. She reached out, hand trembling, to cup the face which bore resemblance to hers—nose, the shape of the eyes, as well as the lips.
“What the hell . . .” Valeriana trailed off, dumbfounded. “How is this . . . I didn’t . . . shiznits.”
People looked on with the same face as well. They were just as confused and shocked to the bones.
“You mean to say . . .” she looked at Aliyah. “I’ll be damned.”
Seeing the moon silver eyes and shock of blue hair, there was no doubt—could Aliyah actually be the daughter of Deli and Aleser? Then what was this relationship the entire time? She could not wrap her mind around it. “I’ll say it just this time. Kids, cover your ears. Holy sh*t.” She turned and rubbed her forehead. “My head is aching. I can’t . . . no, I just can’t. This is too much for my poor brain.”
Aleser, with gritted teeth, bellowed, “Do not think you have escaped your restraints just because of this.”
“Enough,” Deli said hoarsely. “I have obediently served by your side because of my daughter. There is no reason for me to continue doing that now.”
“I still have something else in my hands. But I know my limits,” Aleser said. “All guards,” he began. “Retreat.”
“No,” Deli countered firmly. “Stay. I know not all of you wished for this confrontation. I can assure you all that those who does not leave with him will see mercy.”
“By all means. If you wish to take my men from me, do so. You may think me crippled without you but you are not the only thing that keeps this faction running.” He smirked, eyes ablaze with fury. “If you all wish to stay, then do so. But you will have no place in the New Society.” He then calmly left behind the curtains and left the procession hall in an attempt to flee. Obviously, he had no other choice. Those who could run, did. Those who didn’t lowered their weapons and submitted to the other factions.
“I need to go after him,” Adelline said, fists clenching as he gazed at Aliyah and Sloan. “He will probably take my familiar. Lorein is the only thing he has that belongs with me.”
“Then we will go,” Valeriana told them, stepping forward, voice loud and brows furrowed. She then blew a sharp whistle and all of De Cirque’s beasts entered the procession hall. One of them was Tyson, whose wingspan had accidentally knocked down a few people on the way. “If he’s taking your familiar, we will need the beasts to catch up with him,” Valeriana said, looking at Adelline in the eye. “It’s time for you to end this.”
Adelline firmly nodded.