CASeries #1: KNIGHT
Chapter Forty-Two: An Enemy Returns
The rest of dinner night proceeded smoothly in spite of a small stump—that being the incident. Thankfully, the atmosphere resumed its relaxed ambiance and conversations came naturally the moment she went back to her seat. Neither the king nor Lord Gavin commented about the flower she carried. Although their eyes were tinted with curiosity and questions, they settled with formulating their own explanations.
Everything that came afterward was uneventful.
After arriving home, she placed her valeriana in a vase on her bedside table. The presence of the flower gave a subtle pop to her room and was a beautiful accentuation to the classic theme.
While the next day was back to its monotonous routine, the feelings of surreality at having to meet the king stayed with Valeriana. She helped Charles with breakfast and when food was served, the whole circle gathered around the table.
“The summer festival is starting soon! I’m so excited.” Genevieve beamed with excitement as a small clap escaped her hands. “I heard that there’ll be a lot of games!”
“It’s good the first time but it gets boring after a while,” Keelan muttered.
“It’s the same thing every year, nothing new.” Raziel flicked his wrist as he pulled on the napkin on his lap.
“This is our first time,” said the twins in chorus. “So it won’t be as bad!”
“So, Valeriana . . .” Tamara began with a smile. “How was it?”
“Yeah, we’re curious,” Aneeka added. “Care to tell what happened?”
She debated on how much she was going to withhold and how much she was going to disclose.
“Well . . .” she started, shoving a spoonful of egg into her mouth. “For starters, I embarrassed myself.”
“Quite predictable,” Corvan remarked mockingly.
“And yeah, I met a realllllyyyy cool person,” she added, somewhat irked by his interruption. This was a good opportunity to piss the first-ranker off.
“What?” Genevieve squealed. “The prince?”
“Unfortunately, no,” she said. “But there’s Lord Gavin. Turns out he’s a member of the king’s council of advisors and he was there due to job stuff.”
Corvan visibly paused. Valeriana smirked.
“Lord Gavin?” Genevieve’s brows furrowed.
“Corvan’s cousin.” She smirked tauntingly at the first-ranker as he looked away in irritation and resumed noiselessly chewing his food.
“Are they anything alike?” Genevieve curiously inquired.
“Nope. Aside from the looks and everything, they’re total opposites.” She grinned even wider, seeing deepening of the ridges on Corvan’s forehead.
“How was he like?”
“Everything Corvan isn’t.”
“Now, I’m curious.” Tamara chortled. “Do you like him, Valeriana?”
She blushed, but decided to play along. “Well, he passes my standards.”
While not all of the Twelve laughed, the smallest smiles cracked on their faces. Brindon and Corvan, on the other hand, remained stubbornly impassive.
“But no,” she added. “He’s not my type and, as he told me, I’m not within his range of preferences.”
“I’m surprised he even considered you,” Corvan said.
Valeriana puffed out her cheeks. “Bastard.”
“Stupid witch,” Corvan replied.
“Idiot devil,” Valeriana retorted.
The Twelve shook their heads and chuckled in amusement.
“Are you done? I hate to break it to you but—” Charles began.
“We got some exciting news for you, Val,” Tamara cut off the fourth-ranker. “I heard Courtney’s coming back.”
That caught her attention.
“Really?” she intoned.
There was a brief moment of silence. The Twelve watched Valeriana’s reaction to the news.
“Whatever. It’s gotta happen soon enough,” she calmly replied, squirming in discomfort. However, despite her dismissing the matter, it lingered in her thoughts. Her heart jumped to activity like a horse in a race after a gunshot as she started to imagine the scenarios of their confrontation.
She started chewing on her bottom lip.
Breakfast became flatline silent after that, save for the clinking of the wares as the Twelve resumed their meal. Valeriana left the residences after taking the dishes to the kitchen. She made her way to her first class and sank into her seat in History distractedly, ignoring her classmates’ stares of curiosity.
“Valeriana!” A joyful voice cut through the air.
Valeriana looked up to see her eccentric, blue-haired former enemy walking up the leveled floors and stopping beside her table. A fresh daisy bounced on her table. With raised brows she eyed the flower given and its giver.
Zion brushed a blue lock that obstructed his vision. “May I sit?”
“That’s Chavi’s spot,” she nonchalantly replied.
“I won’t stay long.” He blew out a sigh and made himself comfortable on the seat next to Valeriana. Zion looked at her knowingly, a gaze which she mirrored with sheer irritation.
“You seemed to be not your usual self a while ago. Were you thinking about anything?” he asked.
She looked away and rested her head on her table. “None of your business,” she muttered.
“Right,” he muttered. “Are you worried about something?” he queried. “Like Courtney’s return? She’s coming today right?”
“You really don’t have to worry about someone like her. You defeated her before, right? That means she’s no more than an insect.”
“No.” She faced him. “That insect almost managed to slice me in half.”
“You shouldn’t really let these things get to you, Valeriana. Courtney can never best you.”
“Don’t say things that aren’t true just because you think they’ll please people. They don’t help at all,” she snapped.
“Do you think I’ll say these just to please you?” he said, laughing. “See here, Valeriana. I may be trying to win you over but that doesn’t mean I won’t be frank. If you’re ugly, you’re ugly. If you’re fat, you’re fat. I won’t lie. Do you need me to say that you look like you didn’t comb your hair this morning?”
It wasn’t as though she wasn’t aware of it. She shot him a glance before looking forward in dissatisfaction. “I know. But I don’t feel like fixing it so leave me alone.”
“And I hope you don’t mind me saying that you look adorable as well,” he added, the seriousness fading. “But you’re obviously not taking good care of yourself.”
Valeriana leaned into her palms uncaringly.
“It may not seem believable but you’ve got great potential.” He leaned forward and smiled at her. Unlike the other smiles he gave her before, this one seemed genuine and comforting at the same time. “No one can easily defeat me in a real battle.”
He held up a finger. “I’m still talking. Courtney may have possessed the position as fifth-ranker, but now it’s yours. You took it from her from a real fight.”
She waved her hand at him dismissively. “It’s just—”
“Don’t say it’s luck. There’s no luck when it comes to skills and natural talent.” He smiled. “You have those yet you deny you do. The battles you win are a proof of the fact that you are—talented. So stop denying it and be proud. Human or not, you’re still the fifth-ranker. You have it because you earned it. Don’t let just anyone take that away.”
She paused and mulled over his words.
“Think about it. A lot of people are expecting so much from you,” he stated. “You’re here for their trust and respect. How can you get other people to believe in you when you can’t believe in yourself? So accept it already and be confident about it.” He grinned at her encouragingly. “Didn’t you say that there are people who placed their faith in you? Don’t let them down. Don’t let Courtney drag you down. She’s just a small obstacle to your happy ending.”
“Don’t make her sound too much like a villain. She should be more than that,” Valeriana said. “You believe in happy endings?”
“I didn’t,” he said, a smile on his lips. “But I do now.”
Her brows shot to her hairline. “You know how to talk.”
“I only try with you.”
She shook her head and waved him off. “Go back to your seat. Chavi’s coming and I don’t want her getting intimidated because you’re sitting where she’s supposed to be sitting.”
Her hands flew to her chest. She felt the warm metal on her chest clinking against the other necklace she wore around her neck.
One was the key to the tomb of King Friedel—given to her as a symbol of her official inauguration as the fifth-ranking member of the Celestial Circle. The other was the protection she had so that she could adjust to Valemnia’s power pressure.
“You won’t let everything you worked hard for go to waste because of one girl, right?” he asked as he stood.
She shook her head. “No. Thank you.”
“You can pay me back with a date.”
She gave him a look of disapproval.
Zion scratched the top of his nape as he grimaced. “Give me a chance, will you?”
“Look, I’m not interested. I’m sorry. I appreciate your sentiments . . .” she told him. “But I don’t want to be in a relationship. And you’re not my type.”
“If you give me a chance, you might change your mind.”
“It’s still no.”
Seraphina walked through the doors, causing everyone to scramble. Zion dashed to his seat, afraid of being scolded. Valeriana shook her head lightly, chuckling under her breath.
“Oh, Mr. Brunhild.” Seraphina raised a brow. “It’s a miracle to see you in class this often.”
“Well, it’s a good miracle.” He looked knowingly at Valeriana’s direction.
The lady knight shot curious glances at the two. “Anyhow, I’m glad you’ll be joining us today. However . . . that doesn’t change the fact that you missed the first three weeks of my class, so a punishment is in order.”
“You’re on cleaning duty for just as long as you’ve missed my class and I don’t mean just this room. Three weeks’ worth of public service.” She looked about the classroom and eyed her snickering students. Zion didn’t look pleased at all. “That also applies to everyone in this room.”
Everyone stopped and stared at their instructor in shock.
“Unless your reason is excusable, if you dare be absent for no reason pardonable, punishment is due. You are attending the academy for absolutely no cost and there are lots of people out there who desire to be given your spot. Do not waste this. Be responsible. Do you understand?”