CASeries #1: KNIGHT
Chapter Sixteen: First Day
“The academy is divided into areas for the different year levels. This one is your building until you move to your second year.” Corvan made no hesitance to slip past the gigantic doors about ten feet tall, so Valeriana followed curtly. The first thing to come to sight was a large, curved, marble staircase that was narrow on top and wide at the bottom.
Students were huddled in groups and their unannounced arrival immediately attracted attention.
They continued to climb the steps in silence, not minding the many stares shot their way. After reaching the top, they turned to their right and traveled through the corridor to their left and stopped in front of the sixth door.
“You should smile more,” Valeriana boldly told him. “If you keep frowning, you’ll have wrinkles. It’s too late for you, though, I can see the lines becoming visible.”
Valeriana frowned in aggravation. “Really,” she muttered, rolling her eyes.
“I’ll be busy with my own business so ask someone else to guide you around. Good luck on meeting the quota.”
He left after that.
“Geez. Way to go ignoring me. He keeps telling me I’m weird, but look who’s talking.” Valeriana sluggishly turned and stared at the brass knob of the wooden door standing before her. She took a deep breath and grabbed the knob, creating a small crack into which she first peered for a few seconds. She slipped right in and was greeted by—thank goodness—a typical college classroom. With a few modifications of course.
She was afraid she would spot something more . . . unusual.
There were many vacant spots so she moved to climb the steps, trying to ignore the many eyes that followed her.
A boy, who was sitting sideways facing the aisle, stuck out his foot. She caught it and frowned, purposely skipping over. Instead, she was met with his other foot that locked onto her ankles and ended up tripping at last. She landed on her front with a loud bang and high-pitched shriek, causing the whole class to erupt into gleeful laughter.
Some things, no matter how tired the cliché was, evolved at some point.
Valeriana felt embarrassed that she couldn’t even show her face. The urge to scream bordered on her tongue, but she bit the inside of her cheek and held herself down. She stood back up on her feet in silence.
Maybe the thing about being a member of the circle was a bad idea after all.
Valeriana cleared her throat and dusted off her clothes, trying to regain her lost face. The feet of the dude who tripped her was still sticking out, so as revenge, Valeriana lifted her foot and brought it down harshly. It landed square on his with a loud thwack.
The boy screamed in agony. Valeriana felt a little rush of pleasure from it, so she put more pressure on it intently, chewing on her lip until she heard something crack. Valeriana then took a step back, pretending to not realize what she had done.
The laughter immediately died down and everyone fell quiet.
“Oh.” Valeriana gasped with a hand on her mouth, feigning innocence. “I’m sorry. How stupid of me. I already tripped over it but I still didn’t see.” She paused and looked at him, concern and self-ridicule misting her eyes.
The other students watched on with mild horror and shock.
Before he could continue speaking, Valeriana reached for her shoulder and started stretching, much to the shock and confusion of many. “Ouch. I think I hit my shoulder or something . . .”
She swung her outstretched fist side to side until she accidentally hit the boy who tripped her on the face hard. Once. Twice. Thrice. Her movements made it obvious she was attacking him purposely, but she pretended otherwise.
“Oh my gosh. Sorry. I’m so blind, right?”
Some of the students snickered.
She sighed. “I think it’s better for me to get a seat. I’m really sorry. Next time, bro, keep your limbs to yourself so I don’t end up crushing them, ‘kay? Otherwise, if this happens again, I might end cutting them and shoving them down the barrel.”
Valeriana then breezed through the room with a disgruntled eye-roll and settled next to a girl who stared at her in awe.
“Hey . . .” she greeted with a smile.
She leaned on her table and stared at Valeriana’s face with her brown eyes. “That was pretty mean . . . but funny. Mean but funny. And he deserved it,” she said, giggling as she played with her French braid. “Julian had always been callous. That gave him a taste of his own medicine.”
“Judging by your uniform . . . you’re also a member of the Celestial Twelve. Although I haven’t seen you with them before.” She jerked her chin towards the lot sitting on the other side of the room. “You’re probably the new girl.”
Valeriana followed the direction she guided her to and found two people who wore the uniform unique to the Twelve busily chatting amongst themselves. There was one girl and guy who bore an uncanny resemblance to one another.
As though feeling her gaze, they simultaneously shot an inquisitive look Valeriana’s way before waving a hello. She didn’t know how to answer so she smiled back instead. They seemed friendly enough. The girl had a kind smile while the guy looked easygoing.
Her eyes then momentarily gravitated to the other guy sitting beside the two. He was blank-faced and bore the uniform of the Celestial Twelve as well. Unlike his friends, he didn’t seem to give a crap. His hands rapidly ran down a piece of paper, with no intention of looking away.
“Those people at the back are also members of the Twelve,” her acquaintance informed.
“I can see that.” Valeriana turned her attention back to her current seatmate. “But I thought it was Celestial Circle.”
“Circle or Twelve, they’re still referring to the same group,” she said. “So . . . you’re a human.”
“Y-yeah.” Although she probably shouldn’t be flustered, she was. “My name’s Valeriana.”
“I know.” She laughed and held her hand out for her to shake. Valeriana reluctantly accepted. “Chavi Audwin.”
“Nice to meet you.”
Their hands broke off. Chavi crossed her legs and leaned back on her chair, looping her arms over her chest.
“I saw you fight. You were really impressive,” she whispered, looking impressed yet incredulous. “Rumors say you didn’t have proper training beforehand and the duel was just scheduled yesterday. Is that true?”
“Well, yeah, but Lady Seraphina did help me learn a few things before I was sent down the arena.”
“Really?” Her brows flew to her hairline. “Lady Seraphina is remarkable, but I doubt you could’ve actually learned that much. How long did you even have?”
“Ten hours at most. She let me sleep for a few.”
“Unbelievable.” She shook her head. “Courtney was scary, though, wasn’t she?” Chavi tapped on her arm restlessly. “She went Valdis crazy that I was so scared of just even looking at what happened next. Those winds she stirred were beyond powerful. Good thing it didn’t get out of the arena.”
“I—” she was cut off when the door shot open with a loud bang.
Hollering voices just outside the door echoed. The one yelling sounded oddly familiar.
“Shut it, Kylon! Your tricks are maddening!”
“Pardon me, Seraphina.” Headmaster Kylon laughed. “I really—”
Three loud booming noises came in a row and the tables shook with a tremor that traveled through the walls.
Lady Seraphina strode into the room with the headmaster hot on her tail. “Get out of my sight, you barbarian! Do not show me your face!” She then kicked close the door which hit his face.
She walked into the room and smacked her palms on the top of the wooden desk positioned in front of the class. Everyone vigilantly stood from their seat altogether. Valeriana almost fell off trying to catch up.
“Take your seat,” Lady Seraphina said and everyone complied. “No further explanations. I’ll be your teacher from now on,” she said. “It seems your previous professor won’t be able to make it with a few family emergencies, so I’ll be taking their place.”
Though Valeriana was surprised, the excitement was far heavier. The tension and anxiety she had been feeling since a while ago, as well, was lessened with the presence of a familiar face. At the moment, she trusted Seraphina better than anyone in this entire world. And that wasn’t an exaggeration at all.
She put the book she was carrying on top of the table and flipped it open to a page. Seraphina carried on with the discussion casually. “I want you to properly introduce yourself, Valeriana.”
Eyes turned to her way.
“Though most of the students here have watched your fight with Lady Courtney, I am guessing some people aren’t that acquainted with you yet,” she said. “And you arrived a week later after classes started, so it’s better if you say a few things about yourself.”
Valeriana rose from her chair. “My name is Valeriana Kerrigan,” she spoke. “I’m seventeen and . . . I come in peace.”
That was a pun for aliens, considering she came from another world. They didn’t look like they got it, though. She sat back down, feeling the rate of her heartbeat speeding up.
Well, that was horrible.
“Seventeen? Isn’t she so terribly young?”
“Humans look so old in that age already?”
What? Valeriana was alarmed. Is that person saying I look too old? How dare she!
“Seventeen?” Seraphina looked confused.
Oh, please! She exclaimed mentally, frowning in annoyance. Not you too!
“Ah!” the lady knight said, realization dawning. “I forgot to tell you that our ages are numbered differently.”
“What?” She deadpanned.
“In order to not get confused, your equivalent age to Valemnian years is thirty-four. Valemnia’s time frame is different from Earth’s. You can spend two years in Valemnia and only one year will pass in your world.”
“How does that work?”
“It’s a bit hard to explain,” Seraphina said. “But timeframes between different dimensions may shift. I’ll elaborate further on this some other time. Alright then, since Valeriana is done with introducing herself, I want to make things clear.” Seraphina placed a hand on her waist and smacked the surface of the table once more. Her eyes were sharp as she scanned the room.
They nearly jumped.
“I expect nothing less than a good performance from you all, whether a commoner or a noble.”
Seeming to remember something, the woman took out envelopes and started calling names. “Dion Fer? Remain in your seat. These are your quotas for this week.” She looked around and saw a boy raise his hand.
Valeriana was clueless. As though the lady knight detected this, she shot a brief look the girl’s way and decided to explain. “For all the newbies, perhaps I need to explain. As you all already know, the main point of this school is to raise knights capable of slaying demons.”
She didn’t like how this sounded.
“And this school aims to increase your experience in that matter. You are tasked to fulfill these quotas as a part of your weekly training. If ever you fail to meet what number is assigned to you, you will be put on probation that will probably result in expulsion. Not only that, to all the members of the Celestial Circle,” she waved towards the kids at the back that caused all eyes to turn to them. “You get five times the normal quota given to regular students.”
Valeriana’s mouth fell.
“Valeriana Kerrigan.” Seraphina sent a blue envelope the girl’s way. It was different from the normal envelopes given out to the others.
There were three more of the same envelopes and they were given to Brindon Jintaci, and Zevlin and Genevieve Sabian. These three must be members of the Twelve as well.
Not wanting to shock herself from the contents of the envelope, she decided to keep it away for now.
“Don’t worry. You don’t kill real demons. They’re just simulated. The Development Department is responsible for them if you don’t already know.”
“That doesn’t sound comforting,” Valeriana muttered. “Geez. I get five times? I trip over air. How can I defeat demons?”
When Seraphina was finished handing out the envelopes, she stepped before the blackboard and started. “Today, I’ll start with the basics. We will recall the things you have learned before. Valeriana will be an exception for now. I won’t call on you to answer but listen carefully. You’re given a month to get accustomed to the academy’s ways and learn the basics. Use your time wisely.”
“Raise your hands, those who can answer,” Seraphina said. “About how many demons are out there, so far? The latest official count this year.”
A hand shot up almost instantly. Seraphina nodded towards the girl. “Yes?”
Her classmates curiously directed their stares at her as she rose from her seat and answered the question asked. “Nine hundred and sixty-seven thousand, eight hundred and thirteen . . . and counting.”
“You answered accurately. Now, taking into account these numbers, there used to be more than three million a few thousand years ago, but the rate of the demon population dwindles as we go on with our lives. Of course, it is nearly impossible to take into account the exact number of demons as there are territories in the demon continent that even we do not dare enter. This count pertains to the demons that we’ve handled—and by handle, I meant those that we managed to detain alive and release back to where they should be.”
“Ma’am?” A girl raised her hand.
“Why don’t we just kill them?” she suggested. “Why just release them back into the Dark Continent when you can lessen their population further and eradicate them completely? I know we’ve had the upper hand and we’ve had them in control, but just how much is the scope of this control? And how are we certain that they will not overturn this power?”
“Well.” Seraphina took up the chalk and started writing across the board. “There are reasons as to why we haven’t eradicated them, as you say. History, as is our subject, has the answer.”
In big, bold words, keywords were marked across the surface.
ENERGY. BALANCE. POWER.
“Energy marks the presence of many remarkable faculties in our world, but the dominating one that envelopes everything is what we have come to know as the power pressure.” She wrote ‘power pressure’ to the arrow drawn down ‘energy’. “This energy, as we all know, has enabled our people, for thousands of years, to wield the elements they are most compatible with. It’s a medium between the physical body, the spiritual body, the aura, and the world around us. This connection we forge with power pressure determines the element we wield.”
Students nodded at her explanation as though it had been common knowledge—but this explanation was new to Valeriana and she was more than engrossed absorbing the new information.
“Of course, constitutions are entirely different issues as is the circulation of the energy between the three levels—body, spirit, aura; which I’m sure you’ll learn in power control. However, I just want to relate these constitutions to demons, and the power pressure to demonic energy. Then again, this will also be covered by demonology but in order to answer your questions, I will have to mention it.”
They were all quiet, but intently listening.
“Ma’am.” The boy at the back, who Valeriana remembered to be a member of the Twelve, raised his hand.
“More like a great guess,” he answered. “But perhaps the reason why we cannot eradicate demons completely is mainly because we don’t have any means of . . . dispelling the demonic energy that demons draw from, to exist, and for the basis of their power?”
“You’re partially correct,” Seraphina told him, nodding his way. “But dispelling, we can do—purifying, we cannot. Dispelling is a complicated process that only healers can learn to do, and that is only diverting the demonic energy to the direction of the Dark Continent and allowing the power pressure to settle in its place. Purifying, however, is completely eliminating the presence of demonic energy, which, until now, we are unable to do. This has stemmed back to the Great War, and you can quickly conclude why our forefathers had trouble barely winning.”
“But demonic energy didn’t use to exist,” said one student in the front.
“And you are wrong, yet again.” Seraphina shook her head.
This made them all look dumbfounded.
“Demonic energy existed. It was drawn from the blood of the Progenitor Kingdoms, that is—”
“The divided states of power where the different elements raged war against one another, competing for leverage and power over the others,” continued another student.
“You are all smart students and have done your research, good job. And yes, that’s correct. This darkness was brewed from the conflict between the different kingdoms that existed thousands of years ago—all before we were unified under one name. And the First King Friedel himself knew there was no way of completely eliminating the enemy, as you will put it, and even after he died, after many lines of successive rulers, nobody has found a way. Therefore, we have no choice but to put up with it, pass on the arms that one generation wielded to another—forging a new one once it breaks and wielding it again. We have no choice but to fight.”
Valeriana sighed and massaged her forehead. She watched everyone in the classroom take out some paper and their ink bottles with a feather as a pen. No matter how she looked at it, it was definitely weird. Some had a more convenient pen, but this wasn’t Earth were pens could be borrowed and not returned. Maybe they came as a form of luxury over here, making her regret ever taking ballpens for granted.
Each table, however, had its own supply of ink bottle and feather quill—perhaps for public use. “I’m guessing this must be cheap,” she whispered.
Taking out her own bottle of ink, she tried to figure out how exactly she was going to open the goddamn thing. When she finally did, she nearly spilled it empty. Thankfully, she managed to keep it inside just fine.
“Phew.” She grinned, happy to have avoided the accident.
“So I’m guessing you’re the human girl.” Valeriana felt a hot breath on her neck and she jumped, startled. She turned sharply and came face to face with an unfamiliar person. She screamed, unwittingly throwing the bottle of ink forward and spilling the contents all over him.
“Larkov!” he exclaimed.
“Oh no.” Chavi gushed along with the whole class, mouth dropping at the scene.
“I think you should learn not to just pop out of nowhere, Claude.” Seraphina frowned in displeasure. “Unless you want more ink spilled all over your face.”
“Pop out of anywhere? I’ve been here all along! I was waiting for you.”
He was there all along?
Valeriana gasped after realizing what she had done. Claude just chuckled and took out a piece of cloth to wipe off the stain from his face and clothes before it even dried. “Pardon the suddenness,” he commented, his face creasing in amusement. “I should not have startled anyone. This will be hard to get off, even so. I would probably end up looking like this for days.”
She pulled her hand back. “Uh . . . I’m sorry. Really. Do you need help?”
“It’s fine. It’s my fault. Anyway, I shouldn’t have scared you. Does anyone here mind?”
“Here!” A student volunteered with a wave of his hand.
Water flew out of his clothes, only leaving behind dark stains. He dropped the water into Valeriana’s bottle of ink.
“I should’ve known it would only take out the liquid content and leave the color. How foolish. But it’s like a face mask now,” he said, peeling off a whole patch from his face. It even stuck a bit to the skin. He looked down at it. “I never knew my face was so dirty. Who knew I’d have this much gunk in my skin?”
Although the girl was awestruck by the brief display of . . . magic, she hurriedly spoke, “Sorry.”
“I’m fine, don’t worry,” he said, laughing. “You’re starting to sound like some person I know.” His laugh softened into a smile as he suddenly looked nostalgic from what he said.
Seraphina cleared her throat, fist on her lips. “What did you come here for, Claude?”
Hearing Seraphina’s call, the man named Claude redirected his gaze to Seraphina. He smiled. “That isn’t a way to greet a lord, is it, Lady Seraphina?” He made a slight mockery obvious by the tone of his voice. Valeriana shut her eyes close and carefully sank back in her seat.
Valeriana relaxed on her chair. “Oh . . . I’ll never get used to this.” She lifted her hands up and went back to massaging her forehead.
“You seem troubled.” Claude smiled kindly at Valeriana. He was bent over, his face nearly close. He possesses nearly identical features as hers. He had golden hair layered into locks and deep, blue eyes that mischievously twinkled like a pair of sapphires. His features depicted a slightly childish and immature look, unlike Corvan. He was pretty short too.
“Uh . . . I’m really sorry about the bad greeting, sir.” She grinned at him sheepishly.
“Hmm,” he rubbed his chin and straightened his back. “It’s not a big deal.” He radiated with optimism and pointed a finger at the ceiling while keeping his other hand strictly on his back. “It’s half my fault anyway, so don’t worry.”
A loud and impatient sigh escaped Seraphina’s lips. “Cut to the chase, Your Excellency.”
Claude happily turned to Seraphina with his over-optimistic smile. “I came here to deliver the news!” he exclaimed. “I’m sorry for my rude appearance a while ago, but you are being called to the palace.”
“For what reason?”
“I apologize, I’m currently off-duty.”
Claude shook his head. “It’s a special request from the king. It’s urgent and important. I was tasked to bring you back no matter what.” Claude rushed towards Seraphina and grabbed her by the wrist.
“But can’t you see I’m in the middle of a—”
“Goodbye, everyone.” Claude winked at the class and pulled Seraphina out of the door.
Valeriana stared at the spot they were previously standing on with disbelief. The class started muttering things as well, curious about what the king would want with the Celeste.
“Amazing, isn’t he?” Chavi said. “Too bad he took away our teacher, though,” she said, looking more pleased than disappointed. “Well, I suppose that ends the class!” She yawned.
Valeriana’s eyes dropped wearily and her face hit her desk. “What have I gotten myself into?” she grumbled.
Students began rising from their seats, taking all of their things with them. Chavi stood up with the grace of a dancer and showed off a single pirouette before frolicking towards Valeriana. “I guess it’s time to go. Why don’t you come with me? I have soooo many questions to ask you.”
Valeriana remained the way she was. “What’s so interesting that only I can answer?”
“I’ve heard that I’m interesting so many times,” Valeriana muttered dramatically. She mentally counted how many people said the very same thing. Being caught by surprise with unbelievable abilities was starting to get old.
“Come on! Up on your feet!” Chavi grabbed her by the shoulders and dragged the lifeless teenager to stand.
Valeriana lazily followed Chavi’s guide and flashed her an exhausted look through her eyes. “What?”
“Let us proceed to the library. Since it’s a summoning, Lady Seraphina probably won’t be back for a day or two,” she said, smiling. “You need to learn the basics, right? I’ll help you. Now cheer up and let us go!” Chavi made no reluctance to usher Valeriana out of the door.