CASeries #1: KNIGHT
Chapter Twenty-Nine: Prepare
The most anticipated day had finally come. Valeriana was already at her wit’s end training for her duel. For the past three days, she had been jumbling her schedule between her classes, studying, and training. The circle was considerate enough to let her off for the time being—especially after her agreement with Charles.
Quincy, Zoel, and Poulette proved to be a big help. So far, their eagerness and enthusiasm with helping the girl made her grateful that she had aides. She didn’t know how to repay them. They told her that she didn’t have to worry and that seeing her attitude towards everything she did alone made them feel inspired to work hard on their own as well. Her display of willpower and resolve was infectious that even the three felt the drive of her spirit.
Seraphina seemed satisfied with the outcome of their training and seemed quite surprised by Valeriana’s display of quick progress.
The girl wasn’t at all able to sleep that night. Like last time, the duel would occur by the first light of dawn. Finding herself at the point of cracking under pressure, Valeriana took out her MP3 player and plugged in her earphones.
It went like that for a few minutes until she got bored. Listening didn’t really help at all like it always did. It seemed that she was more anxious than she thought.
Seeing as she wouldn’t be sleeping anytime soon, she stood up and decided to stretch. She wasn’t feeling like holding the sword since looking at it made her more nervous.
“Might as well do something to entertain myself . . .” she said under her breath, stretching her limbs.
Sighing, she unplugged her earphones and threw them into the bed. She put the MP3 player on its highest volume before she started dancing to Jennifer Lopez. She went along with the music’s beat and started a little slow before she eventually attained speed.
She allowed her limbs to move freely in random directions, letting the music itself judge the best choreography that would represent itself. She didn’t care how she moved really, she just wanted to dance to get all of her pent up frustrations out. Slowly, she felt her anxiety disappear.
“DO THE CHICKEN DANCE!” She started flapping her folded arms.
She threw in some random Kung Fu moves.
She sang the lyrics under her breath, almost breathlessly, while moving nonstop with the song’s melody.
She heard a short squeal when she dragged her hands up her waist and immediately turned to look at the door, jumping in shock. She saw Zoel, Poulette, and Quincy leaning against the open door with fascinated look on their faces. Quincy was quite red, holding both of her hands against her mouth and nose. It was obvious she had been trying to hold back her laugh.
“You guys . . . what are you doing here?” Valeriana asked, brows furrowing in confusion.
“Oh!” Quincy jumped, quickly entering her bedchamber with the other two. “We’re sorry, Miss Valeriana.”
“You saw that, didn’t you?” the fifth-ranker said.
“Please pardon us if we didn’t make our presence known sooner. You were just so good at dancing and all, and the music sounds nice,” Zoel told her, smiling sheepishly.
Valeriana laughed. Zoel stuttered less than when they first met. She was glad that maybe somehow they were growing more familiar and comfortable with her presence. Quincy still acted a bit shy, though. Poulette was as bold as he could ever be.
“Yup! Your dance was so . . . so . . . uh . . .” Poulette paused and tapped his chin to find the right word.
Quincy pushed him aside harshly. “Unique and incredible.”
“I have a feeling you guys are lying to me,” she said, chuckling. “It’s embarrassing you had to see that, too.”
The music continued playing, so Valeriana went towards it to shut it off. She didn’t exactly want it losing its battery life since there were no electrical sockets in this world. When the song stopped, the room was filled with silence. The girl turned to her aides and smiled again. The three looked startled when she did so and stared at the MP3 she had in her hand in wonder.
“What are you here for, again? I don’t think I called for you or anything.” She placed the MP3 down on her bedside table.
“You never do, Miss Valeriana,” Quincy said.
“That’s right, so we decided to come to you instead! It’s an aide’s duty to help their ranker prepare for their duels, after all.”
“It is? I didn’t want to bother you guys.” She glanced up at the clock and out the window. “It’s still awfully early and I don’t think anyone’s up yet in this hour.”
“A lot of our classmates are awake now, Miss Valeriana. Lord Charles and the others are, too!” Poulette informed.
She glanced at them questioningly. “They are?”
“Oh,” she whispered. “I guess I didn’t realize.”
“It looks like a lot of people are coming to watch, Miss Valeriana. They look excited, too. They’re really looking forward to it!”
She sighed. “Well, I’m not.”
“Um . . . can we ask a question?”
“What is it?” she asked, grabbing a towel and using it to wipe off her sweat.
“I hear a voice singing and music playing . . . but there’s no one else in your room. What’s more . . . it seems to be coming from that thing in your hand. What is it?”
“This?” She held up her gadget. “It’s called an MP3 Player. It’s loaded with pre-recorded music, so you can play it any time you want and anywhere.”
“Amazing. Is that one of the so-called human technology?” Zoel fixed the glasses around his eyes.
“Anyhow, I’ll get your bath ready, Miss!” Quincy made her way towards the door that led to her personal bathing space.
“You don’t really have to do that,” Valeriana said.
“I will still do! Zoel and Poulette will get all your things ready,” she said.
The girl sighed, but smiled at their enthusiasm. “I feel really bad making you guys do this. Thank you anyway. You’ve done so much already. I wanted to do that myself but . . . I guess there’s no stopping you guys, I might just as well back down.”
Quincy giggled before she disappeared into the bathroom. Valeriana heard the water running later on. She turned towards the other two, and saw them poking the MP3 Player curiously with their fingers.
Valeriana laughed. “There’s no need to be scared,” she told them. “It doesn’t bite. This thing’s not even alive. It’s just a device with music.”
“I-Is that so?”
“Sure. Here,” she forced the object in his hands. “Be gentle or you’ll break it.”
“A-alright.” Zoel looked down at the item on his palms.
“It’s . . . pretty,” Poulette commented, leaning over his friend’s shoulder.
Zoel pressed a random button and music started to blast off its tiny speakers. It wasn’t that loud, but it was enough to startle the boy it almost flew out of his hands. He held it away from him and stared at it in arm’s length, eyes wide.
Katy Perry’s Roar was playing, so Valeriana couldn’t help but chuckle. “I really hate this song,” she muttered as she moved to a corner where her books were.
Contrary to her statement, she suddenly started singing along.
Poulette stared at her curiously. “You aren’t the best singer, are you, Miss Valeriana?”
Valeriana went beet red at his statement. “Ah, I sang and I said I hate it too . . . n-no. I’m . . . not really good at singing.”
The two held both of their hands against their mouth, trying to hold back the fit of snickers threatening to spill from their lips. Valeriana went even redder and bit her lip in embarrassment. She probably shouldn’t have opened her damned mouth.
“It’s not nice to laugh, you know.”
Poulette giggled. “Your singing is horrible.”
“I know. I’ve been told that millions of times already.”
“But this song is really good,” Zoel said. “Why do you hate it, Miss Valeriana? It actually suits you.”
Both of them nodded. They all went silent and continued to listen until the chorus came.
“It’s perfect! But I think we have to change lion to dragon. That’s Zion’s alias, and we don’t really want to offend Lord Charles and make him think we’re challenging him.”
“Wait, what? What are you planning? And I thought only the Twelve’s got aliases?”
“Zion was recognized for his talent,” Zoel explained. “He’s called the Snapping Dragon because he bares his fangs to anyone he considers a threat—those he considers strong. He challenges anyone who interests him, but after he got his purpose, he purposefully loses in the end . . . although he would win easily if he tries.”
“He loses on purpose?”
“That’s right. He said so himself—that he didn’t want to win any fight not worth winning.”
“So that’s why Corvan was so pissed off . . .” she mused.
“And that being one of the Twelve, which was a big honor to be a part of, was boring and that the responsibilities that came with it are just burdens.”
“So he’s going to lose anyway? I guess I don’t have to worry about anything,” she said.
“I wouldn’t be too complacent, Miss Valeriana,” said Zoel as he fixed his glasses. “Zion leaves his enemy in a state of utter shame before he declares his loss—so it’ll be clear to anyone if you lost or not. Even if you win formally, you won’t receive the recognition of anyone if they saw you like that.”
“Agh. He sounds . . . like a jerk. A total eccentric jerk,” she said. “But it’s not good to judge. What are you planning to do with this song, anyway?”
“To cheer you on,” they replied.
“Oh, please no . . . I already told you, I hate that—”
“Alright!” Quincy screamed as she burst from the bathroom. “The bath’s ready now, Miss Valeriana! I put in Lavender scented oil!”
“Where’d you get that?”
“It’s one of mine,” she told her.
“That’s nice but . . . I’m going to get dirty any way.”
“It’s nice to smell good, though.”
She grunted. “Whatever. Thanks anyway.”
“You’re welcome! Now, let’s have you take a bath!”
“Ah! Um! Er . . . Miss Valeriana!” Zoel ran after both of them. “It won’t stop!” he cried, pointing at MP3 Player which continued playing.
Valeriana laughed. “Here, hand it over.”
After the girl finally was able to teach him everything he needed to know about the device, Quincy pulled Valeriana towards the bathroom while Zoel and Poulette set out to do their own tasks.