CASeries #1: KNIGHT
Chapter Eight: Jailbreak
Valeriana groaned as she leaned against the rough wall. She sat on top of the bed, twiddling her thumbs as the frame creaked noisily under her weight. Her eyes scanned the cramped jail she was locked up in and she couldn’t help but groan once more as she assessed what kind of situation she got herself into.
“Hey,” she said to the guard sitting quietly outside her cell. “I’m bored . . .” she grumbled. “Can you give me something to eat?”
The guard, a brown-haired man with brown eyes, shot her a look of irritation through the bars. “You just ate.”
“How about something to entertain myself with?”
“You are not allowed to have anything with you within that cell other than your body and your clothes for precautionary measures. I was given strict orders not to let you be in possession of anything that might aid you in your escape.”
“But it’s boring . . . I’m bored to death,” she complained. “What am I supposed to do? I haven’t taken a bath since the time I was taken here and I stink.”
A few seconds of silence and Valeriana whined again. The guard grunted at her continuous bothersome complaints but didn’t pay attention to her demands nonetheless.
“I need to do something or I’m going to go insane!”
She stood up from the bed and stretched her stiff muscles. The bed made groaning noises as she popped her knuckles and squared her shoulders. She did nothing but sleep, eat, and stare into space for god knew how long.
“Watch me whip!” she began. “Watch me nae nae!”
The guard shot a glance her way curiously, eyeing her as if she was some sort of weirdo. Valeriana ignored him and went on with the task of entertaining herself.
“Every day I’m shuffling!” She did some shuffling somewhere along the chorus and threw in some random steps along the way since she didn’t exactly know the whole choreography.
The guard looked away, shaking his head. Valeriana did not notice him and continued.
After she felt worn out from her little dance session, the boredom settled in for another round. She sat back on her bed and tapped her feet impatiently.
“Hey, Mr. Guard,” she called.
“Oh, I forgot. You don’t know knock-knock jokes. When I say knock-knock, you say who’s there, ‘kay? And for example I said Mickey, you say Mickey who? Alright?”
“Will this keep you quiet?”
“I dunno. Maybe.” She shrugged.
He reluctantly agreed. “Alright.”
The guard hesitated. “Who’s there?”
The guard sighed. “Banana who?”
The guard perked up. “Orange who?”
“Orange you glad I didn’t say banana?”
The poor guard leaned back in his seat with a grunt while Valeriana burst out laughing from her seat. They carried on like that and the guard didn’t respond anymore—although she continued talking.
“Man, I have a lot of good old jokes you haven’t heard before.”
When Valeriana finally got tired trying to annoy the guard, she decided to lie back down and stare at the ceiling. She sighed. How exactly was she going to get herself out of this situation?
She heard a light snore.
Her head snapped towards the guard on duty. He had fallen asleep on that chair when everything finally quieted down. The poor man was probably tired from guarding duties. He wouldn’t wake up anytime soon.
Valeriana relaxed but then tensed immediately as a thought popped into her head. She glanced at the form of the sleeping man and saw a ring of keys hanging from his belt. He wasn’t actually that far. A little effort to reach it and she was sure to get her hands on it.
The girl rolled her eyes. “This isn’t a good idea . . .” she whispered.
It was a crazy idea . . . but it didn’t feel right for Valeriana to just sit by waiting for the next thing to happen. She wasn’t sure about what those weird people would do with her. She wasn’t willing to stay to know about their final decision. Whatever it might be, she was certain it wasn’t anything pleasant.
She stood from her creaking bed, trying to stay as quiet as possible. When she reached the side of the cell where the guard was closest to, she stuck her arms through the bars and eyed the glinting ring that held the key to her freedom. She stretched her limb to its fullest extent until she was finally able to grasp the ring and snatch it close to her chest.
Realizing that she hadn’t breathed for a while, she inhaled and exhaled noisily through her nose. The guard stirred in his sleep, making the girl flinch. She remained still from where she was and eyed his movements, hoping he wouldn’t awaken just yet.
When he didn’t, Valeriana was able to relax. She went through the collection of keys and found that there were numerous of them in one ring. She sighed problematically, deciding to try and see which one would open the door.
They clanged noisily every time she moved, so the girl tried to minimize her movements as much as possible. Eventually, the fifth one she tried worked and the door finally opened. A bubble of excitement welled up in Valeriana’s chest. She couldn’t help but smile at her success and jump elatedly from where she stood.
Wasting no time, she pushed the doors open. She heard a loud creaking noise as it moved on its hinges and felt the guard on duty groan while it did. She went still for a second, staring at him with wide eyes. He woke up within a few moments and caught Valeriana standing outside the place where she was supposedly locked in.
Heart jumping to her throat, Valeriana turned hot on her heels and bolted to a sprint. She went as fast as her feet could take her, throwing a look over her shoulder to find the guard scrambling to get up and eventually coming after her.
She ran through the long, dim halls and turned to random directions hoping it would take her somewhere that led out of the building. The footsteps behind her grew louder. She heard the occasional demands for her to stop and their little chase apparently caught a lot of attention that a few more guards began to join in.
“Stop! Stop right now!”
She urged herself to run faster, throwing the things she found along the way towards them to slow them down. Her little tactic was old and overused, but it worked like a charm. The guards finally lost sight of her until the current path she took broke into two different directions. She took no time hesitating and dashed to the right, knowing that they would probably split up at that point to continue the chase.
A guard appeared ahead, making Valeriana pause. She wanted to fall back but found that there were more of them behind her, so she bravely dashed forward like a bull and tackled the guard ahead. When she managed to get close, she kicked the daylights out of his sensitive area and ran past him. The poor man fell on the floor, crying like a tortured pig.
She saw a flight of stairs and dashed for it, taking two steps at a time until she finally reached the top.
Air puffing from her mouth, she saw a door to her left. A woman dressed in a casual dress holding a woven basket entered it while humming. She caught a small peek of where it led to and saw a ray of bright light that hopefully came from the sun and . . . was that a garden?
She dashed towards the door unhesitatingly. The door was closed by the woman right when she was in front of it.
“Waittttt!” she exclaimed.
She collided with her along the way, causing a bunch of fresh fruits to roll on the floor. She caught the frustrated glare of the woman, so she returned it with a sheepish smile instead. She whispered a small but sincere apology towards her before turning to face the door.
“I’m sorry! I’m really sorry!”
“Wait! That portal is—don’t!”
She burst through the doors and was mildly shocked when the garden she thought she saw was replaced by . . . something else.
She looked back to the direction she came from and felt her brows furrow in confusion. The wideness of the halls she ran through the moment before did not fit the size of that building. It pulled at her mind and she beat up her brain in an attempt to find the logic behind it.
A startling sound gave her a start, making her realize the sort of dilemma she was in. “Oh, right,” she muttered.
A boy strutted by with a girl under his arms. They bore the same style of clothes.
He had something strapped around his waist. It looked like a sword.
“Sorry!” she exclaimed, pulling it off along with the scabbard.
“Wha—hey! That’s mine!”
She scrammed, hearing the guards chasing her catch up. She rounded a corner and pressed herself against the wall, panting. She held the sheathed sword in front of her.
She shut her eyes close and breathed in deeply, hearing footsteps coming her way. “Breathe, breathe . . .” she told herself. As the footsteps got louder, she swung her readied weapon and hit the unfortunate person right on the forehead.
She heard a low grunt of pain as the person she bunked fell on his behind. Looking past the current position she considered as her safety zone, she saw a guy—who wasn’t a guard—lying on the floor, looking up at the ceiling. He seemed . . . not himself at the moment.
Realizing what she had done, she freaked. “Shiznits! I’m so sorry! I didn’t mean to hit you! I was—”
She immediately dropped the weapon and tried to lend a hand to the man while apologizing, only to be brushed off in a rather rude manner that made her cringe.
The guy dusted off his clothes and swept back a few strands of his hair. Seeing guys with long hair was a rare sight back home, so Valeriana couldn’t help but gawk at the man before her. Not to mention, he looked scalding. Hot was an insufficient word. Scalding.
She was jolted back to reality when he glared at her, his emerald-green eyes flaring with daunting intimidation. Valeriana looked around and saw that they were attracting attention. Gazes were directed their way, curious and shocked.
“I’m sorry,” she apologized once more.
“Stop apologizing,” he said as he picked up a book Valeriana never noticed. “I should’ve listened when they told me not to read a book while walking. Should I have been aware, I would’ve been able to react properly,” he muttered to himself.
Valeriana raised a brow at his monolog.
He then turned to the girl. “And why are you indiscriminately swinging your weapon? That is a major offense punishable by suspension!”
“I didn’t exactly have a choice,” she said. The way he said it had been offending and he looked at her funny. “It wasn’t my fault you weren’t paying attention.”
He looked somewhat taken aback as he continued massaging his forehead. It was starting to look really red . . . and bulging.
He growled and made a face as if preparing to tell her off. However, before he could speak, his eyes caught sight of her strange attire. After all, she was still dressed in casual jeans, rubber shoes, and a black tee.
Astonished by the oddness, he fell into a spell of confusion. “You do not look like a student. What are you doing here in the academy?”
“I just sort of . . . ran in here. I didn’t know.”
He glared at her. “You didn’t know?”
Valeriana opened her mouth to explain when she heard loud footsteps and loud voices. Glancing once over her shoulder, she tried to run but was stopped when the guy’s hands grabbed her by the collar and held her in place.
“You dare leave? You have not answered my question.”
“Now is not the time for this!” she exclaimed, trying to wrench herself away from his grip.
Seeing as the man wasn’t willing to let her go, she dragged him with her and began to navigate through another corridor. She absolutely had no idea where she was but it didn’t matter. What she wanted to find right now was a place to hide.
“I demand you to stop this instant. I desire not to mishandle women.”
She ignored him and focused on finding a good hiding place. The place was intimidatingly big that she hoped it would hopefully play to her advantage. She allowed her eyes to rake across her surroundings and found a small, open door that led to a dark and dusty-looking room. Valeriana dragged the guy with her but was halted when he refused to move.
“What do you think you’re doing?”
“Isn’t it obvious? Hiding.” She hissed and yanked him with all her strength that he stumbled on his feet. When he tried to protest, she practically kicked him in. “Just get in!”
Valeriana dragged him into the small, cramped room and pushed him into a dark corner. The girl closed the door behind her as quietly as possible before she squeezed herself in a tiny, cramped space between some old chair and a table.
The guy didn’t look pleased at all. “Why did I allow myself to get dragged into this nonse—”
He was cut off when Valeriana clamped a hand over his mouth and shushed him to keep quiet. A crease of anger appeared between his brows and he glowered at the girl threateningly. If looks could kill, she would probably be buried six feet underground.
“Shut it already,” she told him.
They heard a chorus of footsteps echoing outside the door. Valeriana tensed and she felt the guy glaring at her harder. She listened closely to the conversation outside until he decided he wasn’t willing to put up with their little game and yanked the girl’s hand away from his mouth. Fortunately, by the time he spoke, her pursuers were gone.
“I will not get involved in silly trifles such as this.”
“Shut up and keep quiet!” she hissed at him. “You’re the one who wanted to come!”
“Does being dragged and forced to keep quiet come from someone who wanted to come, woman?” He snapped.
“Well, you obviously didn’t want to let go!”
“Because you were suspicious,” he argued. “Those guards were after you. You must be a convict of some sort.”
“I am not a convict! I was kidnapped and being held against my will!”
“And those guards are of the Celeste Dispatch Division,” he said. “So yes, you must be a convict.” He made another sound of irritation before he stood up and began to head out. “I can bear this no longer.”
“What the hell do you think you’re doing?!” The girl stood up and seethed.
“Leaving, of course. And telling everyone.” He stopped before shooting Valeriana a look over his shoulder.
“What the—are you serious?!”
“What do you think? Each second I spend with you only gets me more agitated. Do not drag me into this nonsense or else I will be impolite.”
“I did not ask you to spend time with me.”
“Said the one who dragged me along.”
“Like I said—you did not let go!” She stomped her feet and scowled at him, clenching her fists.
He looked away with a snarl and burst through the door, causing it to hit the wall with a loud bang. “You obstinate, stupid commoner.”
He took long strides out of the room and left Valeriana in a state of shock with widened eyes at his statement. When she finally snapped out of her trance, she went after him while fuming and almost screamed.
“What the hell did you call me? Stuck up, idiot prick!”
The guy gritted his teeth as his brow made a visible twitch of aggravation. “Wench!” He marched towards her with heavy footsteps, hair flowing behind him. “I’ll have you learn your place! Have you no breeding? First, you hit me and now this?! You’re testing my patience!”
“I am not a dog,” she told him. “Asshole.”
His fingers shot off in a flash and he had Valeriana pinned against the wall, his fingers tight around her neck. The girl could barely register what happened. She only felt the overwhelming impact of the wall against her back, causing her eyes to go wide from the unexpected course of pain it caused.
“I’ve had enough.” He growled. “You’ll stay here until those guards find you. I do not care what you’re running away from. I did not want to make this my business, but you made me.”
Despite her current dilemma, she refused to back down.
“I know your type,” she told him. “You must be one of those kids who never had someone tell them off because they’re all wealthy and powerful and everybody wants to kiss their ass.”
The eyes that pinned her in place got far sharper. “You shut your godsdamned mouth,” he told her. “You have absolutely no right to address me that way.”
“And what? High society dudes like you ought to learn. You called me a commoner?” She huffed. “That makes you what? A damnable noble?”
“What’s a noble without a commoner, anyway?” she spat at him. “That’s right. Nothing. So before you tell me to know my godsdamned place, you might as well know yours.”
The fingers holding her in place tightened even further. He was about to open his mouth to retaliate when he was cut off.
“Unhand the girl, Corvan.”
He turned to meet the eyes of the owner of the voice.
“Headmaster Kylon,” the guy who held her by the neck remarked.
“What did I tell you? This girl has grit.” Another voice chuckled. The familiarity of it sent shivers down Valeriana’s spine, making her whole body rigid in the process. “You can let her go now, Lord Corvan. Poor girl won’t even stand a chance against your strength. She’s very fragile you see.”
Corvan, seeing the arrival of the man, reluctantly released her. His eyes smoldered with fury. “Be thankful.”
“Yeah. Sure. Thanks for nothing,” she responded, glaring at him. “And I’m not fragile, excuse me. I almost got mangled to pieces by a demon and survived, got dragged into another world and survived, escaped from your prison and survived, so I’m pretty sure I’m not fragile. If there’s anyone fragile, it’s this dude here with a swollen head.”
“Have you no arrangements, young lord?” the man asked asked.
She craned her neck and followed the sound of slow-paced footfalls, black boots gliding across the floor. White hair flashed against the light and a pair of pink eyes addressed rude guy she stood with.
“I am currently vacant until the next hour,” Corvan replied with a sihg.
This time, the other man accompanying the albino man spoke. “Of all the people you encounter, you really had to meet the first-ranker,” he commented, a smile pulling at the corners of his lips, revealing a pair of dimples. This simple twist in his features emphasized the wrinkles at the corners of his eyes, giving him a mature but calm demeanor. “Good good, I was wondering when you’ll try to escape. What took you so long?”
Valeriana tilted her head to the side in slight confusion, trying to tap into her memory. She was sure she heard that voice somewhere before.
She gasped. “You’re the one from that court!”
“What did you say it was, court leader?” the other man asked. “Are you sure she can handle the training? Without perseverance, this girl won’t survive. However, judging from the stunt she pulled just now and her enumeration, she has a chance.”
“A fact,” Lord Aeron agreed.
Valeriana looked around in panic. Guards came from all possible directions, blocking all probable routes of escape. The girl was finally besieged. She gulped in trepidation.
“I’m damned,” she whispered under her breath.
“Excuse me,” Lady Seraphina said, squeezing herself through the thin margin between each guard. “Where is Valeriana?”
Valeriana stood nervously in the midst of it all, her back turned against a confused-looking Corvan. He still looked rather irritated.
“What is going on?” he demanded.
“Well, it’s sort of hard to explain . . .” Lord Aeron paused for a moment to think. “To cut things short, Valeriana here is a human. It’s not like we’ll be able to hide it.”
His eyes widened a fraction and his brows curled. “A human? Here? How come?”
“It is hard to believe,” he continued, nodding. “But the situation is somewhat complicated.”
“This would’ve been better if you let me go!” she yelled at them.
Lord Aeron turned to her. “It’s not that simple.”
Valeriana crossed her arms. “If you’re all worried about me telling people what happened, then erase my memories! I bet with all these crap, you can do it!”
“The art of erasing and rewriting the memory is a whole lot of trouble and is currently an underdeveloped method. It has many side-effects including memory loss and insanity, ironically. Would you like that?”
“Never mind. Geez.”
Seraphina finally managed to find her way in and stood in front of Valeriana. She placed both hands on her shoulders, gently squeezing them. “Thank the gods you’re okay. You had me worried when they said you escaped. Rest easy, anyhow.” Seraphina smiled. “Everything’s been sorted out.”
She looked up at the woman in relief.
“Lady Seraphina,” Headmaster Kylon remarked.
“Headmaster,” she greeted, turning to look at the man.
“It’s good you came here yourself, Valeriana. So that must mean you already made your decision,” Lord Aeron told her, stepping forward. The guards made way for him to pass.
“Ah. You escaped so suddenly that you didn’t even hear it out?” Aeron smiled tauntingly. “Should I tell you?”
“Just tell me already!”
“Alright. Such impatience. What is up with youth these days?” He sighed. “Well, I thought of something good to do with you during your stay.”
“I’m not staying.”
“It’s that or die.”
“I knew you’d agree!” he said, making Valeriana frown. “You can attend this academy. It’s quite fortunate. It just started a new semester last week.”
“Attend the academy? This academy?” She looked around. “This is an academy?”
“Precisely. I wasn’t sure about you being able to pace with the other students because of your circumstance but I leave that to you. I discussed this with the other court members and we had a bit of a debate, but they all agreed in the end.”
The headmaster turned to the guards and waved his hand dismissively. “Thank you for your hard work. It’s alright now. Please leave this to us.”
The guards lowered their weapons before saluting all together and taking their leave. Lord Aeron continued to explain things to Valeriana as they left.
“You can either choose to attend this academy or continue to be detained as a prisoner. Allowing you to train as a knight is probably the best choice since having a human as a Celeste is advantageous. Because of safety purposes, the gates are never opened. Current circumstance requires, however, the re-bridging of our worlds. If ever you survive and graduate from the academy, you’ll be a representative—the ambassador of human-kind. Quite a fancy title, don’t you think?”
Valeriana froze on her spot. “Survive? Do you mean I can die?”
Lord Aeron grinned. “It depends.”
“I agree with the court leader,” Lady Seraphina said with a nod.
“This is the best solution. After all, there are instances where demons manage to break through the gates, just like what happened before. You lived the life of a human, therefore, you know the dealings of the human world. You can deal with the situation easily,” she said.
“So, Valeriana, what about it?”
“I’m not actually sure,” Valeriana muttered. “Me? Hunting demons? Gosh, I can’t imagine it.”
“If you choose to be kept imprisoned, that will be terribly useless of you.” He paused, shaking his head. “I’ll be certain to work you to slavery.”
“That’s right. If you don’t want to take the alternative choice, then you’d best end up in servitude.”
She took a deep breath. “Alright, fine. This doesn’t make any sense.” She put a hand on her head.
Slave? She thought. This is equal to not giving me a choice.
“What about this academy? This is where you train knights? For hunting demons?”
“Let me, Lord Aeron,” Headmaster Kylon said.
The court leader stepped back and allowed the headmaster to step forward. “Please do.”
“Celeste Academy is the training grounds for knight-fledglings. We recruit young ones with great potential and enhance their abilities through relentless training for eight years.”
“Eight years?” Valeriana felt dizzy and stared at the Aeron guy. “My gosh, that’s so—will you please allow me to tell my family about this? I think they’re already worried.”
“I’ll handle the business with your family.”
“No,” she firmly stated. “I have the right! Damn it all, I’ll escape this hell-hole as many times as I need to if you won’t let me.”
Aeron exhaled heavily. “Alright. Write a letter to your mother and I’ll make sure she receives it. Give it to Lady Seraphina or Headmaster Kylon after you finish. Any other questions?”
“Where am I?”
Corvan gave her an irritated stare. “You’re in Valemnia,” he said.
So he was still sticking around? “I thought you’d be gone by now.”
“Why don’t you?” he retorted.
“Shut up. This is Valemnia?” She looked at Seraphina, who nodded at her.
“Yes,” she replied.
“It’s not Earth?”
This felt surreal. Her brain turned into soup at the revelation that her world literally stopped as she tried to process the information.
“Well, then. My business is done here. I still have to know more about humans being able to see demons, so I’ll be taking my leave.”
With a cackle, the court leader walked away.