CASeries #1: KNIGHT
Chapter Thirty-Three: Out of Energy
Days in the academy started early and nights ended late. Weekends were not rest days for Valeriana as she used the time to brush up on her archery skills after she botched her first session in class. Her clumsiness was like a chronic disease, often causing her instructors to sigh and shake their heads. Surprisingly though, she had good foundations in hand-to-hand combat, deploying interesting tactics to take down her opponents. In this area, she proved to be a frontrunner and received praises from her instructor. On the other hand, her clumsiness with weapons and lacking knowledge were major pitfalls.
Fulfilling the quotas weekly required going into a combat arena in demonology, handing over the envelope they were given to a moderator who would then record the numbers of win. They were given a variety of stimulations, encountering different kinds of demons with a level corresponding to their own strengths.
For the members of the Celestial Twelve, they were given an extra pressure and their enemies were stronger than the ones ordinary students would have to fight. Valeriana’s first efforts in the combat arena to fulfill her quota had been a failure and she barely managed to take down one demon. There were disappointed shakes of the head and gazes of disapproval as she walked out fuming, but she did not dare lower her head.
When she came back the next day to try once more, the onlookers were given a change of pace. Despite Valeriana failing on her first tries, she made sure she would never repeat the same mistakes. She improved on her experience, taping on the holes she left and wounding them tight.
She also did her research.
“Low-ranked shadow demon whatchamacallit or something,” she muttered, holding the sword in one hand as she eyed her opponent—or at least tried to. Currently, the demon literally lurked in the shadows where it could hide itself, camouflaging with its environment. “Very covert in movements though mechanic in nature, driven by instincts . . . and emits poisonous miasma detrimental to health and mentality when inhaled.”
They were expecting Valeriana to confront the enemy upfront like most of the other students had done. However, she moved towards the light and held out the blade of her sword, using its smooth surface to reflect rays of light throughout the room. There was shrieking when one of the rays came in contact with a shadow in one of the dark corners. The girl swiftly moved towards it, knocking down a lizard from the wall and piercing through it with no hesitations.
She withdrew her sword as the simulation dissipated, nodding her head once in satisfaction. Valeriana lifted her head and gazed at the moderator who was looking on with mild curiosity and surprise. A small smile pulled on her lips before it disappeared completely.
“Next!” she exclaimed, the thunder in her voice pulling the souls of the spectators back to their body.
Compared to the other students who ended early, she finished her quota the day before the deadline. The moderator who was tasked on monitoring progress could not help but give her a nod of acknowledgement for her efforts. Although her achievements so far were pale in comparison to the other rankers, her determination and perseverance were worthy of notice.
Of course, these ‘determination’ and ‘perseverance’ were not without consequence. Her nights consisted of thick books, hot teas, and were pretty much sleepless as well. During the mornings, she would help in the preparation of breakfast after which she would attend her classes and exhaust herself with different physically and mentally straining exercises. When her classes finish, she would go back to the residences to do her chores and at night she would immerse herself into catching up through research.
She was pretty much Cinderella with no prince charming. Even if she did, he was probably a jerk. The Twelve was a handful lot. Although they had moments of kindness, they were generally very lazy and carefree. Most of them, she would find minding their own business, practicing their own thing.
Once, she saw Zevlin struggling to control his flames. He ended up burning some of the equipment in the Twelve’s personal training yard, which then left his eardrums ringing from an earful of lecture from Charles.
They minded their own business, yes, but they were still a pain either way. Especially since she ended up having to clean up after his mess herself.
Thankfully, they also offered her help in honing her skills, offering their free days.
This day was such as day.
All geared and prepped, Valeriana aimed for the target and fired her arrow with shaky hands. Corvan observed her shot closely, his gaze following the line of trajectory before the tip whipped past the target. Valeriana disappointedly broke her stance and placed her hands on her knees while breathing in deeply through her mouth.
“Can you not even give a proper aim? This will be much harder on horseback,” Corvan stated as he folded his arms. “Well, I guess this is a nice improvement. The first time, you cannot even shoot the arrow properly.”
Brindon wordlessly agreed, dropping the hand that held the bow to his side.
“I already showed you the proper stance for this, right? How many times do I have to tell you to balance your weight? Also, fix your arms.” Corvan adjusted her arms to a lower position, as if to straighten it. “Your arms are too tensed. You can’t be reckless here. The thing most important about archery is accuracy.”
Valeriana dragged the bowstring with an arrow fixed on the spot, pressing it against her cheek. She stepped into the proper position and tried to balance her weight like Corvan said.
“I can’t do this, I’m so tired,” she muttered weakly. Her knees caved in. At the same time, her fingers loosened and the bow and arrow slipped free.
“Hey! Valeriana!” Corvan’s voice rang. His strong arms wound around her back and waist securely, breaking her fall.
“Go away, you evil dude,” she grumbled.
Corvan’s brows twitched at her half-conscious statement.
“Rowe!” he yelled and the charming chap came rushing forward. Few of the Twelve who were watching had been taken aback by the suddenness of the girl collapsing, but did not make any move to interfere. “Take this girl. She disgusts me.” He lifted her from the ground and threw her into the arms of Rowe, who was barely able to maintain his balance when he caught Valeriana.
Rowe sweated. “She’s heavy. How can a person who looks very slim possess such a heavy weight?”
“You never notice. But during lunch break, she eats like a pig,” he stated. “Take her to the infirmary.”
“I’ll try my best.” He grunted and adjusted the position of Valeriana whom he held.
Corvan grunted and frowned. “Seriously,” he said, raking his fingers through its long strands. “Fainting in the middle of training, I’ll make sure to work you off to death later.”
It took a few minutes to reach the infirmary, and the pair received stares from the other students along the way. After successfully arriving, Rowe gently set down Valeriana on a bed. He called for the healer and turned in time to see Corvan with his back against the door frame.
“You can relax, Lord Rowe. The girl will be fine,” the healer assured and swept the curtains to get to work.
“What are you doing here, Lord Corvan?” Rowe smiled while asking. “Are you guilty?”
“No, I’m not.
“Lord Corvan, where is your heart?”
“It’s not my fault that she doesn’t know anything.”
“And it isn’t Valeriana’s either,” Rowe pointed out. “You’re pushing her really hard, Lord Corvan. That’s terribly cruel of you.”
“Stop playing the role of kind lord, Rowe. You’re such a hypocrite. You say we push her so hard yet you said nothing until she fainted.”
The healer then came out while shaking her head. “I’m sorry, gentlemen. She’ll need to rest for a while,” she said. “Looking at her condition, she had greatly overworked herself. I think she might’ve pushed herself too hard.” She then nodded at the both of them. “Let her stay here until she wakes up. I’ll go and get some other work done.”
With that, she walked off and sat back behind her desk.
“I suppose I should’ve taken a firmer stance,” Rowe whispered, his brows furrowing in guilt.
“Trying to escape scrutiny, are you? Just admit you’re not as kind as you ought yourself to be.” Corvan brought a pair of deriding eyes up Rowe’s face, yet all he was given was a patient smile.
“I do not claim to be perfect nor am I as kind as you say I ought myself to be.”
Not a second later, someone came running through the doors with a bang. Startled, they all looked up to see a flash of midnight blue hair appear. Zion came in, panting.
“Is she alright?” he asked, slightly sweating as he entered.
“Excuse me?” the healer sitting behind her desk frowned. “Can you not see there are people resting in this place?”
“I apologize,” he said, yet there was not an ounce of apology in his eyes.
Zion’s eyes went over to the two standing near the bed where Valeriana slept. He flipped back the hair that was matted against his face and grinned at the sight of the two highest rankers. “Well, how nice to see you, Lord Corvan, and you too, Lord Rowe.”
Rowe frowned at the sight of him. “It’s a pleasure.”
Corvan was more open with showing his despise. “Why are you here?”
“Isn’t it obvious? For Valeriana, of course. You should know by now, Lord Corvan,” he told him. “I have staked my claim.”
Corvan could not help but snort at his statement. “You are horrible at decision-making then. The city of Brunhild will have a troublesome time having you as their baron.”
“Or will they?”
The young lord glanced at Valeriana, who slept soundly on the bed where she was put. The blankets covered her to her waist with her one of her arms resting on her stomach and the other resting on her side. She was breathing through her parted lips which were pallid.
“I don’t want anyone unnecessarily making her suffer,” he told him. “So, Lord Corvan, I recommend you do not do this again unless you want your position taken away from you.”
“And who are you to threaten me? Remember your position, Zion. Should you be deemed incapable, your title will be wrested away from your hands. Your father will be thoroughly disappointed.”
With that, Corvan turned towards the door and left.
Rowe nodded gratefully at the healer and smiled at Zion. “Well, then . . . we’ll be taking our leave. Please look after her.”