CASeries #1: KNIGHT
Corvan felt Valeriana tremble in his arms as the color quickly left her cheeks. Her skin—ashen as paper and as pallid as ice. Her breaths came in short, anxious gasps are her azure blue eyes went blank and empty—as though she was looking at something else. He heard her swallow before she collapsed and lost the strength in her legs.
“Valeriana!” he exclaimed. “Valeriana! Arland . . .”
Seeing as she was not responding, Corvan made a leap for the necklace of protection. He placed the broken item on the palm of Valeriana’s hand, forcing her fingers to close around it. Tamara rushed forward and supported her. The third-ranker tapped on her cheeks, trying to get her to come out of the state she was in.
“Come on now, Val,” she whispered. “Stay with us.”
“Tamara!” the Headmaster called, holding Courtney in place. “Call for Lord Aeron immediately! Corvan, how is she?”
As Tamara made a run to obey the Headmaster’s instructions, Corvan tried to snap some sense into Valeriana.
She wasn’t breathing.
However, the pounding of her heart made it clear she was still alive. She just went into a state of shock.
“She isn’t breathing.”
And neither was she responding.
“Snap out of it!” Corvan growled.
He pulled back his hand and allowed it to land on her cheek with a loud thwack! This seemed to snap her out of her stupor as she inhaled a great amount of air and started breathing once again. She blinked hastily, appearing bewildered.
“Come,” he said, pulling her to stand on her weak knees. The first-ranker then turned to the headmaster. “I’m bringing her to the infirmary.”
She quivered, however, and clung to him. “I can’t . . . I—”
Valeriana was cut short. Corvan hooked his arm under her knees and hoisted her towards his chest. The girl looked shocked to find the world spinning and the weight she was trying to support gone. It didn’t seem to sink right in, taking her a bit to realize what just happened. Her eyes, when they zeroed in on him, could not have widened even more.
Her mouth flapped as she took in the close proximity of their faces. “Did you . . . you slapped me.”
“Justified by your act of utter stupidity,” he snapped at her, and quickly paced down the corridor towards the infirmary.
She felt the stinging on her injured cheek. “I hate you.”
“I saved your life,” he said matter-of-factly.
“Why are you carrying me?”
“Then I’ll drop you. But I’ll make sure to see a bed before doing so lest your impression of me being a jerk intensifies even more.”
She shook her head and kept silent. It would appear she didn’t have the energy to argue at all. Corvan tuned in on the people they left behind and heard the headmaster say, “You will wait in my office until the matter clears up.”
It did not take very long to get to the infirmary—with Corvan’s long strides and the pace on his legs.
He placed Valeriana on a vacant bed as Olivia came rushing forward to ask what was wrong. Valeriana still clung to the broken necklace, somehow glad it was still working despite the bad condition. It usually glinted bright when she looked at it, and there was a faint trace of warmth whenever she touched it.
However, now, there was nothing. It was cold . . . like an ordinary jewelry. It felt like it abandoned her for good.
“Nothing that can’t be physically healed, however . . . if something happens, I want you to be ready,” he told her, the usual air of composure surrounding him like the overbearing noble he was.
Olivia gave a quiet nod before walking over to Valeriana to ask if she was comfortable. The look on the girl’s face was disconcerting that she just had to come over and check on her condition.
“You’re perfectly healthy—in exception for the distress you’re showing. Your mental state is somewhat unstable,” Olivia told her, patting her head.
Corvan narrowed his eyes, but a hint of relief showed in his emerald orbs. He crossed his arms as he made his way towards the far-end side of the room and leaned against wall. “Then, we wait.”
He trained his eyes towards the direction of Valeriana, watching her try to get herself together. She murmured reassuring things under her breath, telling herself that she wasn’t going to die and all other things that gave her comfort.
“God, that was close,” she whispered. “First my bracelet, and now this necklace.”
A few seconds later, the court leader came in with Tamara following closely. The look in his eyes said he was bothered, but there was somehow a look of excitement on his face.
“Whatever happened now for you to call for me so urgently?” he asked.
“Court leader!” Valeriana stood up. “The necklace was broken!”
“Hm? Calm down now, child. Calm down,” he said as he went over to her and pushed her to sit back down. “The necklace was broken you say?” he asked in wonder, peering at the broken item inside his fingers. “Did you die?”
“Yes, because I’m just a ghost now.” She deadpanned.
He laughed. “Oh, I see.” Aeron waved at her dismissively. “Let me see that—”
“No freaking way!” she exclaimed, jumping away from him and holding the necklace close to her chest.
“Is that so?” The court leader leaned back and rubbed his chin. “Oh, look! I actually brought someone important to see you.”
“What?” She looked towards where he was pointing. “Who?”
Lord Aeron snatched the necklace from her hand and threw it to the other side of the room, catching Valeriana by surprise as the object was taken from her tight grip. Corvan and Tamara were more than shocked seeing his actions.
“What are you doing?” Tamara gawked.
As Valeriana tried to reach for it desperately, the court leader pushed her away. “Now, come on, Valeriana—sit back down!”
“You trying to kill me?” she exclaimed. “Tamara!”
“I’m on it!”
“Nobody. Move,” he commanded, his eyes narrowing. Tamara froze at the unusual display of expression until it melted and was replaced by the usual smile. “Look here, my dear,” the man gently stated. “You are not going to die.”
Her breathing stopped—heck her whole world did. “What?”
Tamara and Corvan exchanged glances. “What?”
“It’s just like I said.” He shook his head and forced the girl to sit back down. “Humans cannot see and hear demons, unless something was done otherwise. It turns out that my primary conclusions were correct.”
“Well, it’s simple!” he exclaimed. “You got the necklace removed, you didn’t turn to ashes—then you’re not human! I was actually wondering when in the world you would discover! My goodness you were so slow—”
Valeriana wanted to jump and strangle the court leader—which she did so without any hesitance. She started screaming while squeezing his neck furiously, causing the poor man to choke and wave for help. Corvan and Tamara, although somehow dazed at the recent revelation, snapped out of their reverie and ran forward to pull the girl back.
“You freaking evil court leader, you!” she screamed, struggling at the hold of the two. “How can you do this to me? You told me I was going to die when that damn thing comes off and now you tell me I’m not human? You trying to kill me by heart-attack anyway? And you knew all along?”
“There’s no excitement if I just tell you!” the court leader exclaimed.
“I hate you! I hate you!”
“Look, Valeriana . . .” He wheezed, stumbling. “I said that you will immediately be reduced to ashes when you come in contact with Valemnia’s power pressure—but you didn’t.”
She slowly stopped struggling and brushed off their hands. “Stop it.” She hissed, breaking away from the hands that held her still.
“You see, how do I put this?” Aeron sighed and massaged his neck.
She stared at him, waiting for him to continue.
“Ah. Should I be telling all this to you now?”
Valeriana was breathless.
“Nah!” Aeron dismissively waved her. “I don’t think you’re ready.”
“Why you—” She pounced on him for the second time, strangling his neck. “You’re going to freaking tell me or I’m going to freaking kill you!”
“Valeriana!” Tamara and Corvan pulled her off for the second time.
“Good gracious!” Lord Aeron yelled. “I’m already old! Don’t cut my life short!”
“Then, tell me!”
“Look here, my dear. I do not know much. My knowledge itself is limited. I cannot answer your questions.” Aeron grinned. “However, you have a mission to attend. I should have something for you when you come back. So, gather your thoughts and find yourself. For now, you have a mission to attend to.”
Surely they wouldn’t expect her to be fine with it and brush it off!
“He’s right.” Tamara placed a hand on her shoulder, but the confusion in her eyes and curiosity was evident. “We have to find the king’s brother.”
She tried to protest.
“You can look forward to talking to Lord Aeron when we come back,” Corvan said, crossing his arms as he took in the sight of the hunger for answers reflected inside Valeriana’s azure blue orbs. “It’s almost time to leave.”
She hated to go. She wanted answers. “You can’t expect me to put this aside! I want to know! I still have so many questions—”
The door burst open and two of the Twelve—the twins—came to sight.
“Hey, you guys. There you are,” said Zevlin. “Did everything go okay? We heard you got in trouble with Courtney.” He paused as he saw the court leader. “Lord Aeron?”
They did not know the extent of what actually happened. Tamara and Corvan were called to the scene because they heard about the clash of the two. It would have been very chaotic if the other Twelve were to join in to check on them, so they left it to the first and third-ranker to do the job.
“You wouldn’t believe what happened,” Tamara said, breathing as though she was still in a state of disbelief. “Everything was a blur.”
Genevieve ran forward. “You weren’t harmed, were you? We all know Courtney has a bad temper, but it was unlike her to act so . . . rash.”
“Anyhow, since you’re fine, it’s time to go,” said the male of the two. “Charles sent for you. The portal is ready and everyone else is, too.”
“I am not leaving until I get answers!” Valeriana growled. “The truth is my right! You’ve already taken away my freedom. I demand an answer! I demand the truth!”
Zevlin and Genevieve looked confused at her outburst.
“Unless, you want to stay behind?” Corvan added.
“You should know that we aren’t willing to wait for you while you strangle the old man for answers he isn’t willing to give.”
“Can’t give,” Lord Aeron cleared.
But, a part of her wanted to stay behind and ask some more questions. However, looking at the face of the court leader, he didn’t seem like he would be willing to give her what she wanted. Or that, like he said, he couldn’t.
This man was frustrating!
“Hey!” She turned to glare at Aeron. “Don’t even think that I—”
“I know.” The older man nodded. “I understand how you feel. But now is not the time. There’s a reason why your father did not tell you.”
Lord Aeron grimaced.
“Don’t ask me.” He grunted. “This time, I can honestly tell you that I have no idea. However, I am confident you can find those answers yourself.”
“You really don’t have anything?”
He sighed. “The things I have cannot help you, but I will tell you one thing.” He came forward and firmly grasped her shoulders. “Whatever happened was not an accident.”
Valeriana swallowed. “I deserve to know, Lord Aeron.”
“You do, but the truth does not come on its own. Sometimes, you need to reach for it yourself.”