CASeries #1: KNIGHT
Chapter Forty-Nine: Not Over Yet
Lord Aeron visited the king as he was requested to do, and, as per his objectives, broke the news. Much to everyone’s relief, they were told King Laedin had given his consent. He sent them his blessings along with the message of his approval, saying he was saddened by the fact that he would not be able to play the necessary role. Prince Bertram, as well, wouldn’t be able to fill in for his father because of certain problems he wasn’t willing to say.
“I was worried for you yesterday, Valeriana,” Chavi told her as the last subject for the day ended. The bells rang, signaling the end of the period.
Time swept by like a train—faster than expected.
“Really?” She stared at Chavi.
“You expect me not to worry about it? You were attacked by a—”
Valeriana’s hand shot out instinctively and covered her mouth before she could finish. “Someone might hear you. We can’t let anyone know.” She pulled her hand back and gave her a warning eye.
Chavi reluctantly nodded. “I-I see . . . I’ll keep it a secret.”
“Anyhow, I have a very important thing to do today,” she told the other girl.
“What is it about?”
“Sorry. I promised to keep it a secret,” she answered.
Chavi didn’t ask more. She knew about the matter very well as it involved her and respected Valeriana’s decision to keep things covert.
“Take care, then,” Chavi said, brow twitching. Her face contorted in pain, hands flying to her head. She pinched the bridge of her nose, closing her eyes.
Valeriana caught this, so she stopped gathering her things and stuck herself to Chavi’s side. Concerned, she placed a hand on her friend’s shoulders. A strange feeling shot through her as soon as she made contact. It was so subtle it was barely even there.
“Are you alright, Chavi?”
“Yeah,” she answered. “My head just ached so suddenly. I didn’t get enough sleep last night . . . I need to rest some more.”
“Are you sure you’re okay?” she asked. “Can I help you to the clinic?”
“No . . . uh . . . please, go where you have to. I’ll go there myself.” She took a deep breath and smiled at her friend. “It’s just a tiny thing. Don’t worry about it.”
“It’s alright. Better be safe than sorry. Come on, I’ll escort you to Olivia.”
Valeriana started leading Chavi away, but the latter fervently resisted.
“No really, Valeriana, please don’t bother. I—”
It took a load of convincing and debates. Chavi did not want to be escorted, saying she didn’t want to withhold Valeriana from performing her duties as part of the Twelve. It wasn’t until the sudden silence and clearing of the normally crowded and noisy hallway happened that they stopped short and bothered to look ahead.
Valeriana’s days in the academy felt worse than it did after Courtney came back. The rumors and the mystery about the setup to make her look bad didn’t help either—and since they lacked the evidence, they could not currently prove Valeriana’s innocence.
“Val?” Chavi looked up at her in concern.
“Are you avoiding me?” Courtney asked.
She turned to face her and felt that strange energy sizzle once more. Although, yes, this was the Dark Continent and demonic energy was rampant around the area, the barrier filtered most of it. To sense this thickness was rather strange.
Her eyes narrowed the former fifth’s way as she tried to discern what was wrong. It simply didn’t add up. “I don’t want any trouble.”
“Why?” Courtney crossed her arms. “If you didn’t want trouble, then you shouldn’t have started it.”
“For the last time,” she began, getting irritated.
It felt frustrating. Without any solid evidence, she would only be brushed off. When trying to convince this girl, she seemed the type which one would need evidence as sold as a diamond to sway.
“I never did anything, alright? I never planned anything and I never will.” She took a deep, calming breath. For now, she would have to choose to walk away. “Now, I really have important things to do today. I want to finish them before Corvan starts screaming in my ear.”
She spun, turning her back on the former fifth-ranker. She started to take long strides away when Courtney spoke again.
“Don’t turn your back on me when I’m still talking to you,” she said.
“It’s alright, Valeriana,” Chavi whispered. “Don’t listen.”
Valeriana took another deep breath, trying to keep her wits where they should be. Right now, however, her hands were trembling—not from anger, but frustration. She wanted to scream, but it wasn’t like that would do anything useful.
“I don’t know what Julian is spouting but I didn’t do it,” she told her. “What will it take for you to believe me? What will it take for you to see?” She clenched her fists and resisted the urge to punch the other girl.
“These arguments are nonsense. If you wish to prove your innocence, fight me.”
Valeriana’s eyes narrowed.
“Right here.” Courtney paused as her eyes further narrowed, lips quirking mockingly. “Right now.”
Fighting outside a duel was against the rules.
“You can’t expect me to bite that trap,” Valeriana answered. “Fighting won’t prove my innocence. It doesn’t present evidence, just violence.”
“In this situation, do you think that applies?” Courtney asked, stepping forward.
The energy rippled and seemed to be getting a bit wilder. Valeriana no longer had any doubts.
“If you’re innocent, then prove it to me. Through a fight.”
“Is that a challenge?”
The two glared at each other furiously. Courtney’s eyes carried unprecedented sharpness and resilience—but Valeriana’s did too. And at the moment, their gazes were trained to one another—unyielding, unwilling to back down.
The spectators grew wary. Even Chavi could not hide her anxiety.
“Val, how about we leave now? I’ll call the headmaster to step in for you—”
Valeriana cut her off by holding out a hand that stopped her amidst her speech. “Don’t,” she said. “I’m sorry for having you involved, but this is my problem.” She turned to the former fifth. “Now, please, Courtney, I don’t want to fight you. I’ll present you a solid evidence in due time.”
“When is that going to be? After you escape? After you leave? I don’t trust you.”
Courtney’s eyes never left hers. The tension was reaching its culmination. She wouldn’t dare initiate the fight, but it was beyond doubt Courtney would. She had been acting far more reckless than ever that she didn’t even bother asking for a proper duel. As to why she was acting so bloodthirsty, Valeriana got a hunch, but she wasn’t willing to finish the thought.
Valeriana felt her shoulder tense as she moved into a defensive stance. Courtney saw this and wasted no time. She immediately moved forward to assault her with a strong swing of her fist.
“I will not fight you!” she exclaimed.
Valeriana evaded her attack and blocked her hand with her arm, stopping it with her left before grabbing her wrist with her right and twisting it onto her back. Courtney retaliated by moving her free arm, attempting to elbow the girl on the nose. Valeriana, however, was able to predict this attack and moved to the side to elude her assault.
“Still not fighting me?”
Courtney strictly kept her eyes on Valeriana’s movements and Valeriana did the same. With her hand twisted, Courtney used her feet and kicked Valeriana on the shin, causing her to move back from the hit.
Valeriana managed to block most of her attacks and they went at it for a minute or two, creating a deadly dance. The fifth-ranker refused to fight though, moving only when necessary to defend. There were times when Courtney would land a punch and she would stagger—still, she never made her move.
“You’ve certainly improved, human,” Courtney said.
“You are right, I’m not the same girl in that arena before.”
They pulled back, hands fisted and feet shifted widely apart in position. Something wet trailed down the side of Valeriana’s mouth. She also felt a slight sting on the corner of her lips. Gently brushing the part with her knuckle, she saw a hint of blood.
Valeriana had a busted lip and it wasn’t at all a pleasant feeling. She tasted the metallic flavor of blood on her tongue as it seeped through her teeth. The unsavory and coppery taste it possessed urged her to spit it out—which she did.
Chavi stayed on the sidelines but was cheering for Valeriana fervently. “Come on, Val . . .”
“You will still not fight me?” Courtney asked. “Are you seriously thinking you can win without attacking?”
“I told you, I’m not fighting.”
“Shut up!” the former fifth yelled. “If you will not fight me, then I will make you!”
Courtney conjured a wind blade and shot it to Valeriana’s direction. The girl was momentarily shocked to see that the former fifth even dared use her Power Control out of a dueling arena! She had no time to idle around, though. She jumped out of the path where the attack was headed and stumbled as it went overhead—cutting off some of her hair.
The other students began to run away.
Valeriana scrambled to get to her feet as another one came her way. With a hiss, she leaped away and watched as the floor exploded into rubbles. A stream of curses spewed out of her mouth.
Unknown to her, she ended up bumping against Chavi, who stood clueless where she had left her. She then looked over her shoulder to see Courtney conjuring another one of her blades of air.
Valeriana immediately tugged on the girl’s upper arm and pulled her out of the way. The wind blade crashed into the wall. Small pieces came flying all over the place with one hitting the top of her head.
The explosions were deafening, echoing throughout the long halls. It was as though a wrecking ball was hurtling through the building.
Valeriana’s head snapped towards Courtney. She was about to summon another of her attacks. Valeriana jumped on the former fifth before she could even have the chance to raise her hand again. She grabbed both of her arms, trying to hold them in place. It wasn’t easy. Courtney proved to be a lot stronger than she looked.
“Stop it, Courtney!” Valeriana screamed at her, hands firmly wrapped around her wrists. The onslaught of demonic energy was shocking, to say the least—there was no denying it now. “You . . .” She grunted. “Cannot use your element . . .”
The current fifth-ranker pushed the former back, knocking her completely out of balance. They both fell, Courtney being under Valeriana as both of them struggled for dominance. Although the human girl was trying to keep her enemy under control, the idea was a lot harder to execute since Courtney possessed tumultuous strength.
“Stop rampaging!” She growled at her. “Look, I get your problem, but this isn’t the way to vent your anger! And you’ve got to listen . . . I don’t even know what’s going on, but you’re . . . not yourself!”
Courtney merely seethed. “You should’ve given me what I want.”
“Geez!” She grunted, trying to force her arms down. “Why are you so freaking hotheaded? Do you plan on slicing everyone here to pieces? You should get a hobby! And by that, I don’t mean throwing those things around!”
“I do not handle it well when someone betrays the trust I haven’t even given to them,” Courtney said.
“No one betrayed anyone.” Valeriana snarled. “Now freaking stop it, Courtney! Just stop! I’ll get you some help from Olivia if you just—”
Courtney struggled from under her, refusing to give in. Valeriana suppressed the girl by starting to lock her arms on a wrestling hold—a move similar to the one she used on Corvan but somewhat different due to their current position.
“What’s going on here?” a voice boomed. “Stop this commotion at once!”
Valeriana was slightly distracted by the demand. Courtney saw this and took advantage of the chance, pushing Valeriana back and reversing their positions. The girl gasped as she was suddenly pushed down hard, Courtney pinning her down forcefully against the floor. Courtney pulled her hand back and landed a punch on her face.
Valeriana groaned as she felt the impact. It hurt so much her vision swam and the dizziness made her go blind.
She pushed Courtney back and immediately jumped on the other girl. The former fifth grabbed Valeriana’s collar as a reaction—along with the necklace of protection. She usually kept it hidden under her clothes but must’ve come out during their fight. The key to the tomb of the First King remained hidden, as it was somewhat longer than the other necklace.
“Break it up!” someone yelled—a voice Valeriana recognized as the Headmaster’s.
A pair of arms grabbed Valeriana by the shoulders, pulling her off the other girl. Courtney maintained a firm grip on her collar. The abrupt pull from behind and the former fifth’s hooked fingers on her necklace caused it to be snapped, resulting to it sliding off her neck as Courtney herself was dragged away by the Headmaster.
The soft clink and the absence of the jewelry around her neck caused Valeriana to release a strangled gasp. She attempted to reach out and catch it, but it fleetingly slipped between her fingers and fell on the floor.
Valeriana’s froze in place as she stared at it. The clink resounded and the thick demonic energy that gathered around Courtney dispersed, leaving the former fifth looking befuddled.