CASeries #1: KNIGHT
Chapter Forty-Five: Demon's Attack
The news about Courtney’s challenge had already spread throughout the entire academy by the end of the day. It was the hottest topic of discussion among the student body. People were wondering about what Valeriana was going to do now that Courtney had returned.
This information was basically the truth and it was inevitable to be the center of everyone’s attention.
However, the thing that appalled her about the rumors was it said discomfitting things. She knew that people had the tendency to misinterpret—and exaggerate—what they saw, but the extent of the stories circulating was so disturbing it made her want to ram her head against the wall.
Although Courtney did have villain potential and a bad temper, she wasn’t as narrow-minded and hard to get along with like some other people . . . maybe.
She wasn’t aiming to please anybody, but she wanted peace. That would not come unless people viewed her in a positive light.
“What?” the other girl whispered. “I heard Valeriana had plans her own! Someone told me that she and that girl sticking around her—what was her name? Some said they tried to kill Courtney!”
Valeriana was aggravated. “Who’s killing who?” she asked.
The gossipers were startled. They turned to her with round, wide eyes. Their fingers visibly trembled, knees knocking together. Both gave her a brief bow and a nod of acknowledgement before scurrying off.
Valeriana had always been a willful girl, albeit a reclusive and strange-minded one. Although she wasn’t antisocial, she disliked having to unnecessarily put up with people she didn’t like—which was most of them. People loved gossips, but they were blind to the truth. It didn’t seem very different in this world.
As they all left, she sighed to herself.
The day felt as though it would never end.
It would’ve been easier if Chavi was there with her, but once again, the girl was nowhere to be seen. They last met during lunch. She disappeared sometime after Alchemy and wasn’t anywhere to be found.
Right now, she was headed to their Demonology class.
Groaning, she reached for the familiar door and pushed through it. She went inside without thinking and looked around, expecting to see the usual classroom scenario, but was horribly disappointed by what greeted her instead.
Decaying ash-colored walls with blotches of stains the shade of brown and black. She could taste the air and that horribly disgusting, putrid scent that wafted under her nose. There were no chairs or tables—not even a board for lectures. There was only a dug-out hole at the far side portion of the room—which was unbelievably large in size—where it went as low as ten feet deep. There was a dark cage with rusting bars at the farthest corner.
Her jaws dropped.
Valeriana’s face turned beet red as all eyes turned to her. She backed away from all the unfamiliar faces and tried to leave. However, unfortunately, the teacher arrived looking very disappointed and somewhat upset.
This wasn’t her teacher.
These weren’t her classmates.
Heck, this wasn’t her class!
She tried to apologize, but was glared at by the teacher. “Uh . . .”
“You were late five minutes.”
“I—” She tried to reason out that she got lost—while daydreaming—and wanted to rush out of the door as fast as she could, but the teacher looked as though she wasn’t going to allow that any time soon.
“You aren’t even wearing the appropriate clothes for the exercise today! Didn’t I say to get ready?” She growled a sharp-toothed growl and stared pointedly at Valeriana with slanted eyes that made her shut up. “Never mind.” She huffed. “If you don’t wish to follow instructions, then don’t. But,” she gave a pause that made chills crawl down the girl’s spine. “You are going first.”
“What?” She gaped.
This can’t be! She had to explain that she didn’t belong in this class.
As she panicked, the teacher pushed her into the hole, prodding her to jump in. “But you have to understand that I—”
“I will accept no excuses!” she exclaimed.
She threw Valeriana a long sword before forcing her to jump into the hole. The girl did so hesitantly, wary of the stares of pity being shot her way. No one seemed to want to speak up—not with the mood the teacher was in.
Her feet echoed with a soft thump and she tried once more to protest as she looked up to meet the teacher’s eyes. “You have to listen that I—”
“I will not listen to anything you say until you finish this test,” the teacher interjected. “And that is if you survive.”
“What?” she found herself asking.
“Release the demon!”
“Huh? What demon—wait! What the heck!” She looked around in panic until her eyes landed on the cradle of darkness sitting quietly from behind the cage.
This did not feel good.
She tightened her grip around the weapon she was given and chose to prepare herself instead as the bars were raised. The loud creaking and whirring deafeningly rang in her ears, and since the teacher wouldn’t listen, maybe she should just focus on whatever was coming.
“That demon is a swift one,” said the teacher. “You will not be able to simply see it coming. Don’t rely too much on your sight.”
Valeriana was waiting for the feeling of ominous presence, but nothing came. If it was a demon, she would’ve already felt its aura from that distance. She looked up at the teacher questioningly. “This isn’t a real demon, is it? A simulation?” she asked her, but all she received was just a questioning stare.
She had been fighting these things for the quota. Of course she would know.
Valeriana’s hackles rose as a brush of wind touched her cheek. She glared at her surroundings, panicking slightly as she contemplated what she was supposed to do next.
This didn’t seem to be the same level as the simulations provided for the first year students.
“Holy shiznits what level is this?”
“Watch out!” an exclamation echoed. Nimble hands drew a nearby sword with a shing and the blade was quickly thrown at the spot behind Valeriana, pinning the demon that was about to pounce on her. As if that wasn’t enough, she heard the cocking of a gun followed by its swift roar. A bullet came flying, spearing through the creature and lodging itself on the wall behind it.
Valeriana turned, only to see the demon disappearing with a puff—not exactly like the scenario she saw with Seraphina.
Gasps of awe came to her attention and she quickly looked up, only to see Aneeka with her eyes narrowed down at her. She almost fell over in relief.
The tenth-ranker blew on the gun she held and tucked it on her waist belt.
Aneeka turned to meet the teacher. “Spare the girl. She’s not from this class,” she said. “That’s Valeriana Kerrigan, fifth-ranker—a first year.”
The teacher raised her brows. “A first year?”
Aneeka nodded as she moved to help Valeriana out of the hole, slightly hitting her on the back of the head as though to scold her.
“Thank god you’re here. I would’ve died, I swear.”
“What in the world are you doing here?” the tenth-ranker asked her.
“I was on my way to Demonology, and I got lost.” She grunted as she climbed up and stood up to face the other girl properly.
“Good gods.” Aneeka shook her head. “Don’t you know you went to the wrong building? It’s the one across this one!”
“Oh . . .” Valeriana scratched her head.
“Now I see what Corvan meant by stupid.” She blew out a sigh as Valeriana opened her mouth to argue. “And don’t deny it.”
She shut her mouth.
“So this is the fourth year Demonology?” The fifth felt herself shuddering. “Those things are far stronger than what we fight for the weekly quotas.”
“No advancement means no improvement. Now go, you’re late.”
“You were too.”
“At least I didn’t get lost on my way to class.”
Now that, she couldn’t argue with.
Perhaps this day was the worst of all days. To think that Valeriana actually went so far from the first year’s building and went into the fourth year’s and put herself in danger—all because of her absentmindedness and, she hated to say it, stupidity.
She was starting to doubt her sense of direction, too.
She came to her real class late. It was a good thing that her teacher wasn’t as evil as Aneeka’s and showed her leniency.
Nevertheless, she couldn’t help but think back on the events that happened during that unfortunate dilemma. Needless to say, Aneeka was amazing.
Good thing Chavi was finally present in Demonology class.
“Val!” the brunette exclaimed, beaming.
“Chavi.” She breathed. “Gods, where have you been?” Valeriana kept her voice low so as to not attract the teacher’s attention.
“Sorry, there were things I needed to do,” she truthfully told her, sheepishly giving her an apologetic look. “But, I heard about the rumors. I know I shouldn’t be listening—number one rule. But . . . just but!”
The human girl sat. “I know.” Valeriana nodded, her eyes narrowing as she remembered the words they contained.
“I never knew people in the academy were like this at all!” She threw her hands in the air before bringing it down on her sides with a soft thump. “The rumors were never like this normally. But, for some reason, they’re very exaggerated. I try not to let it affect me, but it’s a bit too much.”
Valeriana merely kept nodding, agreeing to her every word. “I never even knew Celeste Academy was full of gossipers.”
“Well . . .”
The doors were shot open and a frantic voice came ringing. “Is Miss Valeriana in this room?”
The girl perked up when she heard her name and glanced towards the teacher to find him seething. She stood. “Sorry, sir.” She turned to the one who entered. “What is it?”
“You’re needed outside.”
Valeriana bowed to their instructor apologetically before dashing out to follow the boy who so suddenly appeared. Chavi chose to come along as well despite being given a threatening glare by their instructor.
“What’s happening?” she asked.
As they made their way out of the first year’s building, they realized a crowd has formed around the entrance. It was noisy and very claustrophobic. Bodies were huddled like a flock of penguins, making it unnecessarily hot and suffocating.
“What’s going on?” Valeriana asked.
“I don’t know,” her friend answered.
Valeriana saw a flash of auburn hair, making her eyes widen. The sea of bodies parted, revealing the very person she least expected to see.
Courtney was heading her way right that very moment and her eyes were dangerously narrowed as she trained her eyes on Valeriana’s confused and intimidated form. Valeriana absolutely had no idea what was going on, and having Courtney looking like an enraged bull didn’t help either.
The former fifth stopped before the current, lips pressed into a thin line with her fair skin tinted by a soft shade of pink—from anger maybe? Something about Courtney chilled her to the core—the uncomfortable coldness swept in, but she managed to hold herself from shivering. Her skin, however, reacted differently. The goosebumps wracked the length of her arms, legs, as well as her neck right up to her head.
Valeriana opened her mouth to ask something when Courtney’s hand drew out the sword from her waist. The whisper of the blade being made her swallow heavily.
“Draw your sword!” Courtney exclaimed.
Valeriana brought her gaze to meet a pair of auburn pools boiling with contained fury, looking confused and innocently bewildered at the suddenness.
Something was very wrong. This was very wrong.
“What are you talking about?”
“Draw your sword!” she repeated. “Do not make me repeat myself, Valeriana!”
Chavi, panicking, grabbed the sword hanging off the waist of another student and threw it to Valeriana. “Val! Catch!”
As soon as she caught the weapon, Courtney rushed forward. With barely any time to react, the girl held up her sheathed sword to block her incoming attack. There was a loud clang and she was almost thrown back from the force if she hadn’t managed to maintain her balance and push the other girl back.
“What are you doing all of a sudden?!” Her eyes narrowed. “I wasn’t—”
“My aides are under my protection. You make a move against them without any plausible reason, you are insulting me!” she said, making her gape at her in shock.
“Do not even dare deny it,” she said. “Julian may be a fool but he never lies.”
Valeriana shook her head as she blocked another assault. “No . . . I didn’t do any—”
“Shut your mouth!” she roared.
A man came rushing forward and stood between Courtney and Valeriana. It took her a few moments to realize it was Sir Hajji. The frown on his face was evident as he yelled, “Stop this! Immediately! Academy regulations forbid fighting outside duels, practicums, and class activities. Especially without supervision! Sheath your weapons at once!”
“You’re here, aren’t you? Then supervise!” Courtney growled.
Courtney didn’t let herself be hindered by the man’s warnings and attempted to dive forward if Hajji hadn’t disarmed her by bringing out his own weapon and blocking her next assault.
“Stop it! Lady Courtney, I will have you suspended once more if you do not!”
Finally, the former fifth stood back and let her arm rest on her side, albeit hesitantly.
Courtney pointed a finger at her face, disregarding the presence of their instructor. “Remember this,” she told her. “I will not let it pass.”