CASeries #1: KNIGHT
Chapter Forty-Seven: Thanks
Valeriana rapidly changed back to her uniform, hair still dripping wet from her recent bath. Chavi accompanied her out of the bathing pools and they encountered a few students on their way out. They seemed curious at the commotion earlier—Corvan coming out of the girls’ bathing pools and Chavi asking for help.
Even so, they came out, trying to seem as though nothing had gone wrong. Corvan, however, trod through the halls like a wet dog, leaving a trail behind him as he sped to the dormitories. People shot him inquisitive looks, wondering what had happened for the young lord to look the way he did. On the other hand, they did not have the guts to ask.
“Do I come?” Chavi asked.
“You were there. It’d be for the best,” she replied, taking Chavi’s hand and pulling her to the direction of the headmaster’s office.
It took no time at all to reach their destination. Valeriana briefly knocked on the door before twisting it open to reveal the pink-eyed albino sitting on the big chair, working on papers strewn throughout his desk. What she didn’t expect was Lord Aeron sitting by the fireplace, sipping tea with no care for the world.
When they arrived, however, he seemed interested, moving his tea and setting it on the round table on his side.
Kylon looked up, examining their distraught faces for a moment before nodding for them to come in. “Valeriana.” He then looked at Chavi, but didn’t seem to know her very well, so he just briefly tilted his head in greeting. “How can I help you both?”
“Something . . .” the current fifth-ranker breathed heavily. She briefly glanced at Lord Aeron before turning her full attention to the headmaster. “Happened in the baths.”
Headmaster Kylon frowned and motioned for them to take the seats before his table. “Come and explain. Make yourself comfortable. You seem rather . . . uneasy. Tell me what happened. Calmly.”
“It was it—I . . .” She took her seat and squirmed in discomfort, brushing her wet hair behind her ear as she tried to gather her wits. “There was a demon in the baths.”
Kylon’s hands stopped their activity. He hadn’t been too invested on the trouble prior to that statement but as soon as the words left Valeriana’s mouth, his full attention was automatically hitched. He put down the pen on his table, shooting Lord Aeron a passing eye who then returned the questioning gaze right back.
“It came out of nowhere.” She sucked in her cheeks. “It dragged me into this black pit that came from literally nowhere.”
“What was it trying to do?”
“Well, I’m sure as heck it was trying to kill me. But if it wasn’t for Corvan . . .” She leaned back on the chair and got lost in a train of thought when the very same man she just mentioned walked in through the doors after a brief knock, like she had done.
He was donned in new and dry clothes with damp hair. He didn’t tie it up like he used to, so it fell flat on his back like a soft curtain, leaving wet traces. He walked in and closed the door, trying to fix his crooked cravat as he made his way inside. It seemed as though he dressed in a rush.
“Headmaster,” he began, then looked at Valeriana. “Have you told him?”
“Not nearly enough,” Kylon replied.
“Then . . .” Corvan started. “I recommend having the barriers fortified. A demon just broke in and attempted to take Valeriana’s life. What its intentions were, I’m not too sure. What I’m sure of, however, is that the academy isn’t safe at the moment.” He glanced at Chavi. “This girl came running outside when I was passing by on my way to my next class. I had to make my way around the campus and pass through the recreation area to get to the training fields when she asked for my help.”
He stopped behind Valeriana’s chair. Chavi quietly fiddled with her thumbs, looking at her friend and headmaster worriedly. “It’s true . . . I—I went to get my things from the lockers. When I came back, Valeriana was gone and the pool turned into . . . something else.”
Headmaster Kylon leaned back, lacing his fingers together. “What were you doing before this?”
“I got into a fight with Courtney,” Valeriana said.
Lord Aeron chuckled and sipped his tea. “I see.”
“I wanted to calm down. We went to the baths,” she said.
“Why did you and Courtney fight?” Kylon probed.
“She was accusing me of what happened with Julian. But I didn’t . . .” she trailed off. “I swear I didn’t do it.”
Headmaster paused for a moment. He looked at Lord Aeron for a moment. “Summon a Gathering with the Twelve. We will discuss this with them. I need their insights and opinions. After this, Lord Aeron, it seems I will have to call for a meeting with the instructors and have them be more watchful. For now, however, no other student will know of this. I trust the Twelve, and you—” he nodded to Chavi. “—will be able to, as usual, maintain the confidentiality of this matter. We cannot risk the panic. Am I understood?”
They nodded. He stood. Kylon went around the table and straightened his clothes.
“I will join you in the dormitories. Make sure to call the Twelve together. You should be complete in an hour or so. If they have classes, excuse them from it. Tell their instructors it’s under my orders.”
They nodded again.
“What is your name?” he asked Chavi.
“Chavi . . . Audwin,” she stammered.
“You can leave for now, Chavi. If you want to go and rest, please do so. Do you have a class?”
She shook her head.
“Alright. Please remember not to speak a word of this to other students for now. I hope you understand why I’m imploring you to do so.”
“Absolutely, headmaster.” Chavi stood from her chair and made her way out of his office.
After that, Valeriana and Corvan headed out as well and started gathering the members of the Twelve. When all three left the office, the headmaster turned to the court leader who so oddly remained calm in his seat.
“It seems as though we’ll have to move, Lord Aeron. As vice headmaster, do you have any suggestions?”
Lord Aeron stood. He didn’t seem frazzled at all. “Of course, but of course.”
Like Headmaster Kylon predicted, it took, at most, an hour to get the Twelve settled. They seemed to be curious as to why a Gathering was called for so suddenly, but decided to save their questions for later. Valeriana took her seat on the sofa along with the others. Some, of course, preferred to stand. Corvan took his place against the wall.
Soon enough, Headmaster Kylon arrived with Lord Aeron in tow. Another surprising guest came to greet Valeriana, walking through the doors before the headmaster himself could even step in.
Lady Seraphina was like a mother hen and began to fuss. “Valeriana,” the lady knight said. “I heard that you were attacked by a demon. Are you alright? Did you get hurt?”
She had marks forming around her neck, arms, and legs. But other than the bruising, she had no other injuries.
“I’m fine, Lady Seraphina. Corvan arrived there on time,” she replied with a reassuring smile.
“I’m glad. I’ll take you to a trip to Olivia myself later to get those fixed.” Seraphina breathed out in relief. “If something were to happen to you, I would’ve not been able to forgive myself.”
While Seraphina turned to get settled as well, the headmaster started speaking. “It is good that you’re here,” he began. “I wanted to ask for your insights and knowledge in this matter. Being students of different years, I’m sure you know what goes on in your circles.”
The Twelve nodded in response.
When the discussion started, Valeriana had to repeat the same words she said to the headmaster and Corvan supported her recall with his own. The Twelve listened attentively, wide-eyed at some parts, frowning on the others. Sometimes, they spoke and interjected for clarifications.
“So does this mean Corvan saw you naked?” Tamara was so blunt, Valeriana had to cringe.
“N-no . . . that’s not it.”
Valeriana eluded eye-contact as a blush tainted her cheeks. Corvan, as well, turned red and refused to meet anyone in the eye. Everyone seemed to have gotten the meaning of their reactions and had mixed responses. Lady Seraphina had her eyes wide open in shock as the thought registered while Lord Aeron laughed along gleefully with the others.
The door suddenly opened and in came Raziel. “Sorry, I’m late. Did I miss anything?” he asked, shutting the door behind him.
Elfre rolled her eyes. “You just have to be late. What part of important did you not understand?” she asked.
“Being late is fashionable,” said Raziel. “Now, let me repeat, what did I miss?” He decided to stand beside Corvan, leaning against the wall.
“Corvan saw Valeriana naked.” Zevlin sniggered until Genevieve hit him.
“Zev, idiot. Don’t make people misunderstand.”
“Stop it. I-I wasn’t naked . . .” Valeriana could feel herself turning red all over. She was probably even redder than red itself. Her face felt hot as she buried her eyes along with her nose into her palms. It wasn’t at all different from Corvan though. But, blushing while trying to keep an insanely straight face struck even more amusement to everyone looking.
“Oh. I see,” Raziel dubiously asked them. “Is this what the Gathering is for? When is the wedding?”
Valeriana grabbed the first thing she touched and threw it straight at Raziel. The same went for Corvan, he pulled out hidden knives in his sleeves and stabbed the wall inches beside the man. It did not graze his skin, but the speed of it had the sixth-ranker gasping. The blades struck dangerously close, pinning his clothes against the wall and narrowly missing him by hair’s breadth. A box hit the poor sixth-ranker on the nose.
“I wasn’t naked! Alright? I wasn’t naked!” she screamed. “I was wearing a towel, okay? A freaking goddamned towel! What part of that don’t you get? I will make you understand!”
“Ow! Anything but the face!”
“Whoa, easy.” Tamara held up her arms in surrender, seemingly unwilling to further push the girl despite her looking like she wanted to.
“Calm down for a moment.” There was a slight frown between Rowe’s brows.
Aneeka shook her head and crossed her legs. “Getting hotheaded won’t get you anywhere.”
“Wow!” Tamara exclaimed. “Am I hearing this from you, Neeka?”
“Shut it. I’m not in the mood.” Aneeka clicked her tongue, disgruntled. “And don’t call me Neeka.”
“But it’s cute.”
“About those rumors,” Charles started, deciding it was time for a change of topic. “They have caught my attention so I decided to do a little investigating.” He nodded at headmaster, who momentarily caught his gaze to show his approval. “Julian has the motive to injure himself and blame it on you. Even so . . .” He took out a small notebook and began to flip through the pages.
“What did you find?” Tamara asked.
“A couple of witnesses can testify that they have seen you with Chavi. That Julian and a couple of others had their alibis.”
“But that’s impossible. I can assure you guys that I have never done anything like that at all.”
“The time you were seen was around forty-five minutes past three at noon, during the twenty-minute break for the third years before classes ended.”
“Three-forty-five?” Aneeka quirked a brow. “That’s my schedule for Demonology, the same time as Valeriana’s. I saw her fighting an exercise in my class so she couldn’t have been there that time.”
“Yeah.” Valeriana felt hopeful. “I got lost on my way to my class and ended up in hers.”
“What?” they chorused.
“It’s a long story.” She shrugged.
“Well, if that’s the case, then the event is highly unlikely,” he said as he speedily started writing down Valeriana’s side of the story and Aneeka’s account. “Fourth Year building is directly across the First Year one, but the lunch hall is considerably far. It would’ve taken at least six minutes to get there. I was getting suspicious since your classmates said you ran late for class at that hour—around fifteen to twenty minutes which gives you enough time to put that scene to act.”
Everyone listened to him rant about his findings, musing to themselves and having their own ideas.
“The last twenty-minute break for first years, third years, fifth years, and seventh years come before the rest’s, which makes it possible—however, with the way things are going, I doubt Valeriana will allow herself to be late for class. I also heard that our current fifth-ranker is most likely to spend her break in the library trying to get her work done.” He sighed.
“So it’s a setup? That Julian have some nerve—trying to make Valeriana look bad,” Zevlin said.
“And trying to get her and Courtney to fight,” Keelan added. “But why?”
Headmaster stood up. “This conspiracy will be investigated upon. Leave the questioning of Julian to me. I’ll ask for the assistance of Cail on this matter.”
“Who’s Cail?” Val asked.
“He’s a Direct Controller capable of telling if someone lies.”
“I’ll talk to Courtney for this to have the matter die down. We’ll work on this problem silently. We cannot have any more issues rising about Valeriana’s behavior. It will be detrimental to her life as a student in the academy.”
“That’s not the only problem,” Lord Aeron started. “There is no doubt that this creature that attacked you is a demon. The question here is how a demon managed to get into the academy and why it attacked you specifically.”
“Maybe because it thought I was an easy prey.” Valeriana grimaced. “After all, who better to target than a human?”
Lord Aeron didn’t say a word to refute hers.
“If a demon managed to break through the academy’s defenses, then it only means that the barrier is in dire need of fortifying,” the headmaster said softly—but loud enough for everyone to hear. “It is as Lord Corvan has said.”
There was silence.
“So it was possible,” Valeriana said. “Headmaster. The morning before Zion challenged me to a duel, I felt the . . . it. The chandelier collapsed afterward. Students would’ve been harmed.”
“By it, did you mean . . .” Tamara made scooping motions in the air.
“A demon?” Aneeka finished.
She nodded. “Kinda? Yeah . . . I’m not sure.”
“Well, if you are interested . . .” Kylon began. “I heard this complain from an instructor and when I went to check the condition of the rope, I realized something.”
“What is it?”
“It was a clean cut.”
Their faces turned even graver.
“So your words are possible, but as for the motive, I am at loss.”
“Maybe it really is meant for you,” Keelan said. “And by that, I mean the attempt of killing. But why could they be possibly targeting you? Of all people? There’s Corvan . . . and then there’s Rowe.”
“Maybe.” Brindon nodded.
“Is it possible, I wonder . . . I also felt something from Courtney, too.”
“Are you sure, Valeriana?” Rowe inquired. “You can’t be hasty with this. It’s implying a lot of things.”
“I’m not . . . blaming or implying that she may be responsible for anything that happened, I’m just saying what I saw and felt. If I’m wrong, then I’m wrong,” she told them. “Besides, she was trying to make a truce and she intended to make an agreement until that happened. And that incident happened way before she even came back to the academy. So I’m sure that would mean something else.”
Charles noted it all down, nodding weakly in agreement to the current fifth-ranker’s words.
Seraphina’s brows knitted. “Let’s not make this known. I suggest we keep this a secret and investigate it quietly.”
“That was exactly my idea,” Kylon replied. “But we need to do something about the barrier. We have to fortify it, just in case. But currently, we can neither rely on the prince nor the king.”
“But there is one other person,” Lord Aeron said.
Seraphina casted a look at the court leader at his words, her eyes sharp as if daring for him to continue. Aeron merely looked away and sighed.
“We must seek the assistance of Lord Lienhard. Being the king’s younger brother, he also wields the ability to create and strengthen a barrier.”
The Headmaster continued, “Such tasks are commonly entrusted to the king. However, considering the situation, we have no other choice.”
“Has the king really gotten that weak?” Valeriana asked in concern.
“Where should we find him?” Lord Corvan muttered tiredly. “Last time I heard, he’d gone missing again, abandoning his duties pretending to get kidnapped before escaping entirely.”
“Lord Lienhard is quite the stubborn man,” Lord Aeron stated. “Have you seen him, Lady Seraphina?” he asked her. “He must’ve said something to you as you are his daughter.”
With this said, Valeriana stared at her guardian in shock. It took a few moments to remember being told that Seraphina was the illegitimate daughter of the present king’s younger brother, which must’ve been this man.
“He wouldn’t tell me even if I asked him, Lord Aeron. You should have an idea, aren’t you two close?” the lady answered.
“Well . . .” he shrugged. “If I recall correctly, he sent me a letter inviting me to a tavern in Larkovia he’d taken a liking to.”
“Then, when should we go there?” the young lord asked.
“Who’s going?” Elfre interjected.
“Us, of course,” Corvan answered with a matter-of-factly tone. “We’re going to get Lord Lienhard ourselves.”
“Are you serious?” Valeriana asked in disbelief.
“Can we come too?” the twins unanimously inquired.
“You all cannot come. Perhaps just Valeriana and—”
“Headmaster, please!” some of the Twelve simultaneously implored.
“Wouldn’t it be suspicious if we just happen to send Valeriana away after what happened?” Tamara began. “Just send all of us together! In that case, it would seem as though she didn’t have any choice but to come, being the fifth-ranker.”
Her argument was sound. Because of their insistence, Kylon sighed.
“I think this will be a good idea especially with what’s happening right now between Valeriana and Courtney. Perhaps you leaving the academy for the mean time in an assignment will be the best. It’ll say you aren’t under suspicion,” Seraphina supported.
“Even so, I will leave no stone unturned,” the headmaster’s voice came threatening and harsh. “If I somehow found out you are responsible, Valeriana, you know the consequences.”
“Yes, Headmaster.” She nodded nervously.
“Stop scaring the girl, Kylon,” Seraphina reprimanded him, casting a protective look at the said girl. “You know that that idea is far-fetched. Valeriana has no motives to perform those acts. It is unlike her. It is she who has been targeted this entire time.”
“Still, you cannot deny the possibility.” Kylon turned to the court leader. “Do us a favor and tell the king immediately, will you, Lord Aeron? If he still possesses the ability to fortify the barrier, then we will rely on him.”
“Everyone . . .” someone whined.
“No problem,” Aeron replied.
“EVERYONE!” the voice hollered.
They all turned to the source of the sound.
“What is it?”
Raziel came to sight. He was still stuck on the wall, the knives Corvan threw at him held the poor guy in place. He was whining, looking uncomfortable and impatient in his current position. Tamara raised a brow questioningly at him. With the position the knives had pierced, he was rendered immobile.
“Can someone get me out of here now?” he asked them.
“Actually, you make a good decoration,” Valeriana commented.
“Come on, just rip yourself out. You’re strong enough, aren’t you?” Tamara crossed her arms and gazed at the sixth-ranker tauntingly.
“I do not want to further ruin this uniform,” he bit back angrily. “I only have seven!”
“That’s a lot.”