CASeries #1: KNIGHT
Chapter Nine: Celeste Academy
After the incident, Valeriana was taken for a tour of the academy. It was reasonable for Seraphina and Headmaster Kylon to tag along, but what she didn’t understand was why the arrogant prick from earlier had to come as well. It wasn’t at all pleasing to know he was somewhere near.
“I don’t get why he should come along.” Valeriana pointed at Corvan with a frown.
He made a sound to express his irritation. “I was heading this way until you knocked me down.”
“Whatever.” She rolled her eyes.
The ground she was stepping on was made of concrete tiles and ended three steps away to her right. It was replaced by patches of lush, green grass that were evenly trimmed. A marble and granite fountain stood in the middle of the area.
She let her eyes wander some more. There was also a long, curved sandy path ahead. Tall pillars stood in place of the wall.
“Welcome to the Alcantra Vileamis Academe.”
“Celeste Academy,” Seraphina spoke.
People roamed wearing identical uniforms like any regular school. However, the gazes of the students were mainly focused on Seraphina, curious and mildly excited.
“Well,” Headmaster Kylon started. “Since you’re going to be staying here with us for the next eight years, I hope we get along.”
“Er . . . sure thing, headmaster,” she hesitantly replied.
“Good. Celeste Academy expects a lot from its students. You see, we have one objective. It is to mold the youth into soldiers that can fight demons.” He released a troubled sigh at this. “It is such a shame, though. A lot of our students either quit halfway or die so we often lack people to train. But we have a lot of willing recruits.”
“Mostly from training.”
Seraphina elbowed Kylon, eyeing him with disdain. “He jests. Do not believe his jokes.”
The headmaster chuckled. “The eight years of education filters those truly worthy of graduating. Although we receive hundreds of willing learners during the early stages, most of them are removed by the end of the training.”
Seraphina sighed, massaging the spot between her eyes. “Can I talk to you for a moment?”
“How important is it?”
“Then, Lord Corvan, I entrust the young lady to you. Tell her everything about the school and the entrance exam. Don’t forget to lead her to the dormitories.” He threw Corvan a key and it was caught perfectly. He then stepped aside and held out a hand for Seraphina to take. A soft smile dangled on his lips and his eyes glinted with mischievousness.
“What entrance exam?” she asked in panic.
“I’m sorry to leave you so soon,” Seraphina whispered to Valeriana. “I need to arrange a few things, but I’ll try to check up on you immediately afterward.”
Her eyes widened fearfully. “You’re leaving?!”
“I will come for you, Valeriana. Expect that,” she reassured her. “For now, I must do . . . something.”
“Come,” Corvan irately said. “I still have matters to attend to. The sooner I get rid of you, the better.”
“Oh, shut it.”
He glared at her, but said nothing and began walking towards the opposite direction where the headmaster and Seraphina went instead. She jogged to catch up with Corvan’s long strides and walked behind him closely. She looked around. This place didn’t seem that bad.
Valeriana looked up at Corvan’s face and pursed her lips. It was such a waste of good looks. Realizing what she just inwardly admitted, she frowned and decided to simply look ahead.
A few minutes of silence and they arrived in front of a five-story building.
“This is it,” he said as they casually entered through the front door.
“You said this is the dormitories for girls. How are you supposed to go in, then?” Valeriana curiously questioned.
“I’ve got special permission,” he answered indifferently.
They walked through the long and narrow hallway. The walls were ridden with doors and had a pale yellow finish. Valeriana was so engrossed looking around that she didn’t even notice the scrutiny of the people as they passed. She looked over her shoulder to see if the grumpy dude was following. Corvan did not pause a step. He flashed the key to a woman behind a desk when he was given a questioning look.
Soon, they came to a stop before a door with the number two-three-four. Valeriana watched as Corvan shoved in the key and unlocked it. When he turned the knob, the door simply wouldn’t budge. After a few more nudges, he lost the patience and kicked it open instead.
“This is your room,” Corvan said, pointing to the dark area inside. “One snap opens the light.” He snapped his fingers and light flared inside.
“That’s sort of cool, how’d you do that?”
“It’s an installed mechanism.”
“You guys are unexpectedly high-tech in a weird kind of way.”
When Valeriana’s eyes landed on the room, she was dumbfounded and her mouth hung open.
She stared at the cramped space with a debris of wooden furniture. The room was dusty and cobwebs hung on the corners of the wall. Judging by the looks of it, this place hadn’t been cleaned up at all.
“Can’t you give me something more decent to sleep in?!” she yelled as she clenched her fists.
“Do not take it the wrong way. It is a tradition for newcomers to fix their own room. No one will do it for you.”
“You’ve got to be kidding. This is how you treat your students?”
“You’re not exactly being treated like a queen,” he told her. He then threw her the key with an irritating smirk and she caught it in midair with a glare. “Just clean it up.”
“Easy for you to say.” She huffed and spun to face hell. “Why do I have to do this?” She took a deep breath and rolled up her sleeves.
“About your entrance examination.”
She looked at him quizzically. “Do I have to?”
“Do you think that you’ll easily enter this academy? Of course not.”
“I know. I’m not stupid,” Valeriana said, frowning.
“Really,” he retorted, throwing up one brow higher than the other.
“Are you insinuating something?”
“Someone will come take you later. You better get this wrapped up soon,” he said and then turned and walked away. “Have fun.”
“Shut up, jerk!” she yelled after him.
Valeriana entered what she began considering as a hell-hole. She fixed her hair into a ponytail and made sure the scrunchie secured all of the strands of her hair in place. She found cleaning supplies sitting beside a pail of clean water.
They must’ve anticipated this somehow.
“What do they see me as? A slave?”
She began arranging the furniture inside the room. Some chairs were toppled over and the surfaces were all dusty.
Luckily, there was a big window. It was a big help in dusting the bed’s mattress and letting out the thick air that accumulated within the room. She fanned away the cobwebs with a duster and scoured the floor to remove the thick buildup of dirt. This continued until her cleaning water had turned horrendously dark and she had to refill it.
By the time she finished, the sun had set. All that was left to do was roll out the mattress and cover it with fresh sheets. When it was all done, she collapsed face first on the bed. Fatigue nagged her sore muscles, making her feel languorous. Her eyes felt heavy and sleep was tempting her to lavish in its darkness.
“I shouldn’t even be here.”
It was then that loud rapping on the door yanked her out of her drowsiness and she fell out of the bed in fright.
She heatedly wrenched the door open, glaring at Corvan who stood with his arms crossed. Compared to his primped and proper self, she was pretty sure she looked the worst. Her hair was disheveled and she stank with sweat.
“What do you want?” she asked, lacking enthusiasm.
He covered his nose, staring at her in disgust.
“I know I smell,” she gritted out. “Just tell me what you came here for and leave,” Valeriana told him impatiently. “I want to go to sleep.”
“You cannot sleep.”
“So I’m basically being robbed off of my basic human rights!”
He gave her a brow raise, but the corner of his lips twitched. He must’ve found that funny for some reason. “Human rights?” His tone was mocking. “You still have your entrance examination.”
Valeriana cursed under her breath, came out, and slammed the door shut behind her. “You people really are getting on my nerves,” she confessed. “I get knocked out, locked up, and now, this. You don’t even allow me to sleep! You don’t even give me a chance to bathe before taking me to this exam thing!”
“Are you coming or not? Unless you want to go back to that prison.”
Given no choice, she reluctantly followed Corvan’s lead and left the dormitories.
The cold wind knocked into her once they were finally outside. Like having a shower from a bucket of water and ice, it prickled her skin like cold, sharp needles. This wasn’t the same kind of cold feeling she got during the winter season. It was empty. Just coldness. It was hard to describe it but it seemed totally out of place.
“Are there demons here?” she asked.
Corvan, who had been walking ahead, stopped in his tracks and turned to meet her eyes. “Don’t you know where you are?”
“No. Do I look like I do?”
He had that look that said he was ready to roll his eyes any second, but he didn’t. Instead, he pointed to the sky. “Look above you.”
“And what’s that gotta do with my question?”
“Just do it.” His tone held impatience, so she did—look up, that is. “Do you see small, golden sparks? It wasn’t very noticeable during the day, but since it’s dark out, you should see a couple.”
Small flashes that came in the color of gold. They came briefly and passed, like currents traveling through a wire. They weren’t stars, but they resembled stars.
“What are those things?” she asked in wonder.
“That is the barrier.” He then pulled her attention to a distance where a lone lamppost stood near an intricate network of metals towering a couple of meters to the sky. The currents were present there as well. “And what you see beyond those gates is the Forest of Valdis. You are in the Dark Continent, in the heart of the nest of demons.”
She doubled over at his words and blanched. “Are you serious?”
He moved forward. “I am not one to joke.”
“But why are you going to put an academy, where students are, where people are, in the middle of the enemy base? Are you people crazy?”
“It’s been that way for a long time,” he said. “So I don’t recommend you asking so many questions. You’ll understand them in due time.”
“So who’s running this thing? It must take up a lot of power having that up twenty-four-seven.”
“Of course. Only those with high magical capabilities are able to put up that kind of barrier, mainly those who descended from the royal family.”
“But that’s like . . . so common in TV shows,” she muttered.
The spot between Corvan’s brows wrinkled briefly after hearing her statement. “A barrier is not as simple as you think. Like creating a castle in a matter of seconds, it’s complicated. A barrier’s walls are solid and possess strong protective power that is impervious to force or any kind of attack.”
“Ah-huh. What about the common people? Don’t they get to protect themselves too?”
“There are two kinds of barriers. A barrier of any element is short-lived and cannot withstand the magnitude of strong attacks—very temporary that can’t even last more than ten seconds depending on the user. We call it a wall. It’s mainly used for combat involving element-wielding.”
“Well, isn’t that cool,” Valeriana commented.
There was a brief pause and they resumed walking. “I heard from Lady Seraphina.”
“You can feel demons.”
“Why? Can’t you feel them the way I do?”
“I can see them. But I cannot feel when they’re near.”
“Lady Seraphina seemed able to somewhat make them out.”
“That is because she trained her senses. Demons have . . . movements that are peculiar and unique to them. Once you come to familiarize yourself with those movements, you’ll know. It’s one of the reasons why this academy is here.”
She trembled at the thought. Knowing that those things were just sitting outside those gates made a shiver run down her spine. Corvan’s eyes were as cold as what she felt when he looked over. His voice dropped several octaves and she felt the warning in his voice.
“That is if you manage to stay.”