CASeries #1: KNIGHT
Chapter Thirty-Seven: The Reflection
Valeriana felt anxious about having to meet Valemnia’s current monarch. The whole day, she spent nothing but thinking about how she should conduct herself.
Despite of the anxiety for the upcoming dinner with royalty, Valeriana also had yesterday prodding the corners of her mind. The way Charles and Tamara acted last night was totally out of their character. She wanted to ask the two of them about it, especially Charles, and see if she could get them to talk but felt it was better if she stayed out of it. She wasn’t the type to pry.
When the time came that Valeriana needed to prepare, the girls—including her only girl aide—rushed to her side to help. They rivaled Valeriana’s enthusiasm. Not wanting to burst their bubble, she silently went along with how everything went.
Tamara’s room was, as expected, grand. It was luxurious and was slightly larger than Valeriana’s. She had a round canopy bed dressed in velvet duvet and walls covered in shelves of books that it could rival the library.
Still, it was nothing girly.
However, shock was an insufficient word when they saw her walk-in closet. Now this was girly. Half of the entire room was filled with intricately decorated ball gowns, casual dresses, formal dresses, and more dresses. Her collection made all the girls scream. Despite the disappointment that settled in moments after, knowing they weren’t being used, their thrill had been skyrocketing so much it left the former feeling thick with dust.
Valeriana saw a red dress from the corner of her eyes and pulled it out. There were frills running down the right side and was laced with ruffles and black trimmings, emphasizing the crimson. It was pretty but she put it back since it was low-cut, not to mention a bit puffy.
“What kind dress do you think will suit Valeriana?” Genevieve asked, holding a pink, bejeweled gown in her arms.
“Hey, guys! Take it easy! I’m not going to a party or anything.”
They didn’t as much as glance her way.
“I think something with those gold curly things,” Aneeka answered.
“This?” She pulled out an insanely gold dress from top to bottom.
“What? No! That’s too much!” Aneeka shook her head furiously at Genevieve’s suggestion and pushed the dress back. “I said curly things! Not an overly golden gown! Are you insane?”
“Ah, I see.” She nodded.
“Then why don’t you try this one?” Elfre suggested as she pulled out a gown from her side and held it out for them to see.
The gown was sky-blue and, like Aneeka wanted, had small embroideries sewn on the fabric with a golden thread. The front was decorated with small, glittering jewels arranged to make up shapes. The fabric was made entirely of fine silk smooth to the touch. The simplicity of the dress’ design made it look all the more pretty.
“Elfre!” Genevieve squealed. “You are a genius!”
“So, it’s the one?”
“It’s the one!”
Quincy had, once again, drawn a bath for Valeriana to take. They readied the gown on Tamara’s bed and dragged the girl to the water to scrub off any dirt that clung to her skin.
The bath and the pampering were a bit too much. Still, this was the first time they would see the human girl dress up in a beautiful gown, so the girls couldn’t help but get excited. Valeriana wasn’t bad-looking. She had the kind of beauty that needed accentuation, meaning she had to dress up to make it more evident. However, she was, more often than not, oblivious of her potential qualities and did not present herself well.
Valeriana had no idea what they were doing. There was a brush fanning her cheeks on the right or something lining her brows before someone would suddenly pull back her hair, practically breaking her neck off her shoulders.
When everything was finished, she breathed out a sigh of relief. Her scalp felt numb and her face felt strangely thick. Looking at herself in the mirror, she saw a foreign face looking back, making her gape at it in bewilderment.
“Is this me?”
“You look beautiful,” murmured Genevieve. “In fact,” she said and sniffed, tears pooling from her eyes. “I didn’t think it was possible.”
“What? You’re bad!”
Tamara chose the time to come in. “Are you girls done?” she asked.
When her eyes landed on Valeriana and locked with the latter, they went wide with shock. Placing a hand over her mouth, she slowly approached the girl and circled her, looking her up and down as if she was a specimen she never saw before. Valeriana followed Tamara with her gaze, frowning at the third-ranker as she was scrutinized.
“Larkov!” Tamara gasped. “Is that you?”
Valeriana frowned, crossed her arms, and started tapping her feet impatiently. “Did I really change that much? I thought dresses and makeup cannot change someone’s face.”
“Larkov! It is you.”
“Thank you so much, captain obvious.”
“Larkov!” she said again, this time with even more disbelief.
“You just said that,” she answered irately.
“Larkov!” she repeated.
“I said stop!” She stomped her feet. “If you continue doing that, I’ll start getting out of this getup to get you to shut up.”
“NO!” Aneeka and Genevieve spoke.
“We worked so hard on this!” Aneeka growled.
Tamara shook her head immediately. “This is just too shocking. You are . . .” She stared up at her face and then paused as a flicker of recognition flashed across her face. “You . . .”
“What?” She inquired in impatience.
“You kinda look like . . .” she trailed off. “Ayslia.”
Genevieve, Aneeka, Elfre and Quincy all scampered and pushed at each other to get a better look at Valeriana’s face. The poor girl nearly stumbled on her low heels and suffocated as they crowded around her with childlike curiosity.
“You’re right!” they all said.
“She’s a look-alike!”
“She looks like the lady on my jar back home!” Elfre told them.
“Idiot!” said another voice which she couldn’t see who spoke but probably belonged to Genevieve.
“I can’t believe it,” Tamara muttered. “You look so similar.”
“Hey, do you think she’s the reincarnation of the queen?”
“That’s absurd! How did the queen become a human?”
“She isn’t even a Valemnian,” Aneeka added.
“And besides, if she really is a Valemnian, she won’t need that thing she wears around her neck.”
“Hey, why don’t we try removing it?” Genevieve suggested.
Valeriana blanched. “Don’t even freaking dare! Stay away!” she told them. “Are you guys trying to kill me?”
Genevieve had been staring over the shoulders of Tamara and Aneeka. Being a tad bit smaller than the two girls before her, she struggled, pushing herself on her toes as she stuck her hand through the gap between the two and reached for the necklace. Valeriana tried to get her to stop to no avail. Soon, she was trying to fight all of them off until someone finally opened the door.
“Where’s Valeriana?” Corvan’s voice echoed from the doorway. “Can you not be faster? Lord Aeron and Headmaster Kylon are waiting for you downstairs.”
Using the moment they were distracted, Valeriana bolted to a run and dashed towards Corvan, shutting the door close behind her and dragging the latter downstairs. Once far enough, she slowed down and glanced at the young lord she was towing behind.
Figuring he didn’t like being dragged along, she let go of his wrist and apologized. “Sorry. Got caught up in a moment there.”
When he didn’t reply, which was entirely unusual, she looked at him and locked gazes with the first-ranker. She saw him staring at her with a look of bewilderment on his face.
“What? Not having one of your smartass replies?”
For the oddest reasons, he suddenly looked away, avoiding eye contact. “Do you prefer that I speak?”
“No. It’s just weird for you not to have that attitude of yours. I was expecting you to say how dare you drag me or you cannot just go off running or even why are you not listening to anything I say, you goddamned stupid witch while you have this look on your face.” She willfully contorted her expression into that of an angered frown which Corvan usually had plastered on his face.
“See? You’re making that face again.” She then reached up towards him and tugged on his cheeks. “Try smiling for once!”
The moment her hands made contact with his skin, Corvan seemed scalded. He jumped away from Valeriana in shock, brushing her arms off.
“What? Am I too hot for you? I get it, I‘m gorgeous.” Valeriana smirked arrogantly. She continued eyeing Corvan, expecting a smartass comeback. Strangely, none came. “Holy shiznits, you really think I’m pretty? Thank you, arrogant dude!”
He huffed. “Who’s arrogant?”
She raised a brow. “Whatever. For a jerk, you’re kinda red. I didn’t pinch you that hard, did I?”
He took a long stride forward and continued evading Valeriana’s eyes. “Shut it. Just follow me out.”
Valeriana frowned. “Geez. You really are a jerk. It’s not everyday I get to look like this. I deserve a compliment.”
It took them less than a minute to weave through the rest of the ribboning stairs before finally arriving at the lounge. The court leader sat on the sofa with Headmaster Kylon and some of the other male ranking members of the Twelve.
When Valeriana emerged from behind the first-ranker, the court leader jumped. “I knew it! How lovely you are tonight, Valeriana my dear.”
“I guess I’ll thank you for a change,” Valeriana told him.
“Now, now, don’t be so harsh.”
“Valeriana! You look beautiful!” Keelan said.
Raziel eyed her with appreciation. “You should dress like this more often.”
Valeriana chuckled. “Thank you, everyone,” she answered. “Now that I think about it . . . I’m so nervous!”
Headmaster Kylon stood and headed out. Lord Aeron offered her his arm and with a small smile, she accepted his good graces.
“Shall we get going now, my dear?”