CASeries #1: KNIGHT
Chapter Twenty: Hungry Demon
After attending Weapon’s Art, Valeriana had taken a short break to change back into the regular uniform. The next few classes were hectic and she barely understood the lessons. In fact, she barely made it out of the classroom with her sanity.
Fortunately, Chavi was there. The girl did not hesitate to teach her the things she didn’t know. In fact, when they entered alchemy class, she happily demonstrated the sequencing pattern of mixing potions and the right way to put them together. Alchemy resembled chemistry very much with a touch of magic.
Valeriana flipped the book to the next page and sighed, letting her eyes scan the words printed down on the page. She studied the lessons in advance so that she could catch up and understand what the teacher was talking about. It wouldn’t make any sense for her if she listened to something she had no idea of, therefore, she was stuck reading a pile of books she never imagined herself reading.
“I want to go home! I can’t do this all in one day!” she groaned, shoving her face between the pages of the book she was reading. “They can’t expect me to learn all of these overnight!” Her voice was muffled by the pages.
“Enough with that, you can do it!” Chavi smiled at her encouragingly
“Back home, this is supposed to be my summer vacation, too! What the hell is up with this world? Aren’t there vacations?”
“We hardly take a vacation. There’s only the one-month long holiday that lets the students celebrate the founding of the kingdom. Other than that . . .”
“But . . . it’s crazy! You guys are gonna kill me . . .”
A boy suddenly emerged from the shadows—well, not exactly. His footsteps were rather light and his movements minuscule that he hardly made a sound. Unless he purposely made himself known, they wouldn’t have noticed he was there at all.
Chavi and Valeriana paused from their discussion and watched him as he brushed his chocolate brown hair back with a long, slow sweep.
“Fifth-ranker,” he stated flatly. His brown eyes lacked the spirit of a person his age—dull and without a soul.
Valeriana’s brows rose on her forehead. “You mean me?”
“The Gathering. Twenty minutes,” he reminded, alarming her.
There was no doubt that Corvan would turn up his nose knowing she was late!
“Sorry, with all the work that’s supposed to be done, I forgot. Are you . . . that boy from my history class? Brindon, right?”
He nodded uninterestedly. “Let’s leave.”
“Alright, alright.” She snapped the books close and stood from her seat, giving Chavi an apologetic smile.
Her expression was mirrored by an encouraging nod. “I’ll see you later. Go on ahead. I’ll fix this first.”
“Sorry for not helping with the cleanup,” she told her apologetically, waving.
The boy turned slowly to head for the door leading out of the library. Valeriana followed suit and sauntered steadily beside her mysterious classmate.
“You know, you can call me Valeriana,” she told him.
“Val,” he said, shortening her name as though the length of it tired his tongue. Valeriana could not blame him. With her name being longer than the regular person’s, it was quite a mouthful.
Brindon was apathetic. It seemed as though the workings of the world was nonsense to him. His stances were disinterested and his face was blank. Despite his indifference, he was somehow effeminate. He had round, doe-like eyes framed by dark lashes. His hair was flowing, layered locks and he had a round face with meaty cheeks.
“So, how old are you? You look a bit too young to be attending the academy.”
“Thirty-six,” he told her.
“What?!” She gasped, before remembering that Valemnians aged differently from humans.
Valeriana mentally slapped herself.
“Oh . . . sorry. You’re eighteen . . . but you’re still older than me.” He didn’t look angry . . . at least, on the outside. “My name’s Valeriana Kerrigan,” she said.
“I know,” he said indifferently.
“Um . . . okay,” she replied awkwardly as they faced the titanic double doors. Valeriana reached out with a strained smile and pulled them open, which creaked noisily as it was yanked back.
They stepped out of the library and began walking through the corridor, which was almost empty in exception for occasional passers-by. People came and went, heading to the library mostly.
“Where’s the Gathering going to be held?” she queried, looking at Brindon from the corner of her eyes.
She spotted the latter shy away from her gaze, as much as an apathetic person could. “The Circle’s residences,” he answered, sighing as though talking so much tired him out.
“I see,” Valeriana murmured. “Anyway, what do you do?” she decided to ask, willing to change the conversation to something more interesting and a bit engaging. No matter how near he was, she felt like he was a million miles away.
Was it just her or he spoke no more than two words every time he would answer?
“That’s awesome. Maybe you can teach me sometime.”
He hummed in reply.
“So, what else do you do? Any hobbies aside from . . . uh . . . shooting down . . . things?”
He hesitated. “Painting.”
Thank god something’s normal about these people!
Valeriana beamed at him, but as she thought back to her experiences, she realized she never was actually good at it. “I thought I would try it once but I’m totally bad at it.”
“Anybody can do it.”
Four words! What a progress! She never realized she was counting.
“Trust me. I’m hopeless,” she said.
What she admitted was true. She even remembered her teacher mentioning something about her having no talent at all. Her classmates even burst out laughing when they saw what she did. Like they said, they preferred the blank canvas.
“I’m afraid I’m inartistic,” she muttered, slouching her back in disappointment.
“I can help you,” he offered.
“That would be awesome,” she almost exclaimed in excitement, but then gave the boy a look that almost resembled pity. “But . . . you’re seriously going to make a harsh commitment there.”
They traveled across a wide, grassy area before reaching their intended destination. The sun had already set and darkness had enveloped the entire school. The only things lighting their way were lanterns that were hung on every corner plausible. Valeriana wrapped her own arms around herself in a failed attempt to shield herself from the chilly night. The long sleeves of her uniform weren’t helping at all.
“Are there really demons there?”
“Yes.” Brindon cast a glance at the dark, shadowy forest that surrounded the academy.
“Why would an academy be in a place like this?” she queried.
“Part of training.” He eyed the forest as a pair of red eyes seemed to blink behind bushes, watching them with scrutiny.
She shivered. “What was that?”
A growling sound came from a distance, and a red-eyed demon jumped from behind the trees. Valeriana staggered back in shock as the beast, fortunately, hit an invisible, wall-like structure, preventing it from going a step further than its current location.
Eyes wide, she did not feel Brindon making his way ahead of her. She only came to when she heard a rough, raspy voice.
“Time will come. You cannot hide yourselves beyond this barrier any longer!” The voice said, making Valeriana snap out of her trance and run after her guide in fear.
“Hey, Brindon! Wait up!” she yelled.