CASeries #4: WARSONG
Classes did not resume like the usual. The recent turn of events had put the academy in a crisis, causing most of the students to leave like fleeing birds in the face of danger. Because of this, the start of the second semester was halted indefinitely. No one knew when the academy would recover from such an attack, especially since it gave people the notion that it was not the safe place it once was.
It had never been safe, never. But, it couldn’t be helped.
Unlike the Celestial Twelve, there weren’t many people in the academy who were willing to stay after they knew demons managed to infiltrate. This was exactly the reason why the headmaster wanted the situation handled delicately. Unfortunately, luck wasn’t playing on their side. No one died from the encounter, thankfully, but the blow Celeste Academy took was huge. In the face of such a big event, the fall was simply too hard to bear.
Thankfully, the crown prince was present and served as a buffer. If the demons got their way, the entirety of the world would be in a much bigger ruckus. The prince wasn’t a demon, but what of the king? They were debating whether or not to release the truth about the summoning. Even if it helped, no doubt it would not account to much. If things took turn for the worse, it wouldn’t be helpful at all and would only serve as means to an end.
“I apologize for having delayed this Gathering,” Headmaster Kylon began as he looked between each member. Zevlin had gone back to rest in the infirmary and Genevieve buzzed around him like a busy bee. They were the only ones not present. “Unfortunately, I have brought more bad news than good ones.”
The Twelve were feeling anxious ever since last week. The academy felt vacant and empty in contrast to the buzzling crowd they saw days before. The betrayal of a fellow student was weighing heavily on their minds. For Valeriana, there was no denying it was far heavier since this traitor had been one of the first faces that welcomed her when she first came. But Chavi was being held, and the demon they captured before, the one who had passionately hit on Corvan, had escaped. There was a sign of relief on the first-ranker’s face when the news came, but it came with a hint of distress.
“I am afraid the activities within the academy would have to be . . . suspended,” the headmaster said and a deep sigh followed.
The Twelve voiced out their protests but the headmaster was quick to get them to settle down. His face was pained as he spoke.
“I am deeply sorry, everyone,” he said. “But this decision is temporary. I am unsure about how things would go about this. Even so, the only issue here had been the fact that demons have managed to get past the barrier and cause havoc. No lives were taken. We still have a chance to set things right.”
“But how?” asked Tamara.
“We will persevere,” Kylon said. “If we run with our tails between our legs, then we will not be fit to be called Celeste Academy.”
“How about the—” Raziel started, but was cut off when the doors abruptly burst open and Lords Lienhard and Aeron came stumbling through the door with their hands around their shoulders, laughing about stupid things that did not make sense. These two were like long lost twins with their attitudes that it felt almost hard to tell who was who.
“Long live the walls we crashed through!” they sang.
“Lalalalala! How did that one go again?” Lienhard asked.
“I don’t know. Perhaps—oh! I know. How the kingdom lights shined! Just for me and you!” Aeron sang.
They then looked at each other, peered into their eyes as though looking through a telescope and sang in chorus, “KEEP YOUR E-EYES OPEN! I WANNA SEE YOU BE BRAVE!”
“Geez, these two,” Valeriana said as she looked at them. “Are you drunk?”
“Perhaps we had a bit of alcohol,” Lienhard pointed a finger to the ceiling as he pulled himself and his brother-in-arms—quite literally at the moment—to a sofa. “I do not know why but those songs kept on playing inside my mind even after a week!”
“That’s what we call Last Song Syndrome,” she told them.
“Well, our case is severe!” Aeron exclaimed.
“Raziel, you were asking something a while ago, right?” Elfre shot a look to the new seventh-ranker, ignoring the two men.
“Yes,” he muttered. He didn’t look too pleased to be interrupted, even by the archduke and Court Leader. “I was wondering about the students we lost.”
“If they wish to leave, let them leave.” Corvan’s voice was cold and harsh as he subtly raised his chin. “Hard times determine the worthy. If they’ve left from such a simple attack, they aren’t worthy to be students of this academy.”
“Although you make a point, majority of the students we lost belong to DevDept. They aren’t particularly capable of protecting themselves. If we cannot provide a place where they can safely do their work, we’ll lose a good force behind us as knights,” Charles told him.
There was a heavy pause before Headmaster Kylon addressed their concerns.
“We will offer an alternative residence in a month’s time,” the headmaster said. “We’ll open the Rosellevienne campus in the Central Continent for this. This addresses the issue of a safer learning environment for all the students. However, I am honestly opposed to this. Training the resistance to demonic energy is crucial for every knight.”
“It’s only temporary, right?” Keelan said.
“Yes, of course, but how long it will stay this way is the question.” Kylon patiently nodded his head. “As the Celestial Twelve, you are one of the pillars that makes this academy stand strong. I will need to rely on you for a lot of things.”
“But the Central Chamber will remain unguarded if that is to happen,” Raziel said. “We cannot leave as guardians of the heaven’s sword.”
“I’ll figure something out,” Kylon said.
“There is one more pressing matter that needs addressing,” Corvan told them. “When we met with that demon from the year five building, he asked us for the keys to King Friedel’s tomb.”
Headmaster Kylon’s eyes snapped to Corvan after he spoke. Lord Lienhard and Lord Aeron tuned in curiously. “The keys, you say?”
“The keys. You mean those keys?” Elfre leaned forward. “No wonder that demon kept on—” As though struck by a bolt of lightning, she grasped the area around her wrists under her sleeves before sighing in relief. “Ah, thank the gods.”
“Nobody lost their key, right?” Valeriana asked out of concern.
“I don’t really keep it with me,” Keelan announced.
“Don’t say that out loud!” Elfre scolded him.
“Ouch, ouch . . .” He leaned away from Elfre, sulking. “I’m hungry.”
“Be careful with those keys,” Lienhard said. “Not only do they open the doors, they also open the sarcophagus. If they get their hands on Ouranos, it’ll be the end of us.”
“But won’t they have no chance of taking it? It’s a holy sword,” said Elfre.
“Anything can be corrupted,” Kylon told them. “Ouranos is no exception.”
“Oh, that’s bad,” Keelan said.
“Bad,” Brindon agreed.
“We’ll be all doomed if that happens,” Valeriana muttered.
“Was that what they were after or was it only one of their motives?” Keelan asked, his normally cheerful face creased with a frown of suspicion. “Because it is as though they predicted that we would come after them in the manner we did. Separated in different buildings, broke into different teams, trying to handle the problem as quietly as possible.”
“It seemed we played in their hands, but they weren’t as successful as they hoped.” Charles thoughtfully rubbed his chin as he trailed off. “But I still don’t get why we students have to handle the keys to such an important treasure. It’s like lowering the bait to a shark’s mouth with such a weak line.”
“First it’s cooking, now it’s fishing,” Tamara said.
“For all we know, it’s—” Kylon began.
“Tradition,” the Twelve said.
“Well, that tradition is dumb. That demon from before totally had us by the scruffs of our collar. It took all of us to give him a fight and we’re expected to carry the keys to an important holy treasure that they can possibly use to obliterate us,” Tamara said. “Great idea.”
Aeron and Lienhard laughed. Aeron, especially, seemed to find this amusing.
“It isn’t like it was my idea.” Kylon gave her a look. “Do you think I made the rules? I, too, was a carrier of a key when I was in your position.”
“Even if they had your keys, they wouldn’t be able to open the sarcophagus,” Aeron said as he laughed. “As to why they cannot, that’s an ultimate secret.” He winked.
Seeing as they had no chance in knowing whatever the ultimate secret was, they let it go.
“But our biggest problem just yet might not be the academy being suspended. Rather, it may be that demon Valeriana and I captured that managed to escape,” Corvan told the others. “He left bearing important information that may endanger Valeriana’s life.”
“What?” they chorused.
“What happened, exactly?”
“I am unsure, but one of Valeriana’s abilities surfaced,” he muttered but then realized the Twelve might not be aware of what Valeriana could do so he cut himself off. His emerald green eyes flew to Valeriana’s face, watching her reaction.
“Really? What’d you get this time?” Tamara asked. “Wasn’t it the animal thing the last time? Oh right, did you get the third blessing? You never mentioned it before. Why would it endanger your life? It isn’t like the demons weren’t after you already.”
Corvan held himself back from speaking. Whether or not Valeriana reveals the matter about her purifying abilities to the Twelve was her choice. Rowe curiously looked at the current fifth-ranker.
“I never got to mention it to you guys because I could not figure it out. I was scared you’d think . . .” She swallowed. “That you’d think ill of me.”
“Why? What is it?” Aneeka asked her.
“Look, Val,” Tamara said. “If it isn’t already obvious, you can trust us. It might’ve been short, but we’ve been through a lot together.”
“It’s not like it’s still a secret,” Valeriana muttered. “That demon already knows it, you guys should as well.”
She looked at the glove that covered her right palm and shakily tugged on the fingers. It slid off her hands smoothly and she clenched her fists before letting go. She let everyone see the mark on her palm.
Words were halted. Even Tamara firmly kept her mouth shut. They let Valeriana speak.
“Remember when the soul crystal from the demon guy appeared?”
“Yes, well, it all started at that time. The second time it came was with Cifaro. Every time I purify the soul, it comes with a soul crystal.”
“Purify? What, are you saying you can . . . purge out the infection somehow?” Aneeka inquired.
“I don’t think it works like that. I’m not sure about the extent of this ability myself.”
“But when the demon touched you, he burned his hand,” Corvan stated matter-of-factly.
Lord Lienhard decided to speak up. “Let me see your aura.” He approached her with seriousness as he made her sit up straight. His eyes scanned her from head to toe, but he probably wasn’t looking at her physically. “A stabilized open channel at the heart. Right now, you only need to have the channels at each palm to be cleared. Did you get a blessing recently?”
“Yes,” she said. “The Blessing of Fire from Vallore.”
“Oh?” Tamara’s brows shot up. “Where’s that guy anyway? I haven’t seen him since the festival.”
“Isn’t it obvious? You guys made him practically do all the work. You wonder why he isn’t here?” Aneeka put her chin on her fist as she leaned back on the couch.
Valeriana chuckled. The poor drakon was very much like she was when she first arrived. With the way things were going, he wasn’t far from becoming a part of the Twelve.
“At this point, I think you know your specialty. Whereas I am especially capable of neutralizing abilities, your specialty may be of purification. This is such a rarity,” Lienhard muttered. “A Direct Controller with the ability to purify demons, I have not heard of this at all.”
Lord Aeron watched with mild interest and the others were dead quiet.
“If this is what I think it is, no matter what happens, the demons must not know of your existence. Unless, of course, they are already quite aware.” The archduke frowned and he returned to his seat. “And from what I heard, they already are. Dear gods.”
“The demon said something along the lines of him not being aware of this trump card,” Corvan said. “Perhaps they aren’t aware just yet, but how much do they know? Those words can mean a lot of things.”
“Perhaps trump card along the lines of Valeriana being the trump card or Valeriana having a trump card,” Keelan muttered.
“Why would they be after you otherwise if not for this reason?” Elfre asked. “You can what? Burn demons whenever they touch you. You’re practically the bane of their existence.”
“Whatever happens, I’m quite sure you earned more spark in their radar,” Rowe said. “You have to be careful, Valeriana. They’re given more reason to go after you.”
“Were you planning on telling us?” Elfre asked.
Valeriana lightly shook her head. “Honestly, I didn’t know. I was really spooked at that time so I didn’t know what to do. I’m still learning about this, so I think it’s imperative I get the remaining blessings.”
“In this coming month, maybe you should make use of the time the academy is suspended. Which continent do you need to go to?” Raziel asked. “You’re quite fortunate since we have representatives from all of them.”
“I think the Blessing of the Mountains is next,” she said. “The Blessing of the Soul is last. I don’t really know if I should get them this way, but whatever.”
“Let’s go visit my place!” Keelan shot a fist in the air. “It’s been a while since I went home and I’ve been itching to go hunting! We’ll prepare a feast, I’m sure my family would be glad to have you.”
“Trust Keelan to think of a feast,” Elfre said.
“But at least you have the high noble family of Denovegasia hosting you,” Aneeka told her.
“And I’m sure Brindon would love to go home!” Keelan added. “We never really got to have a sleepover at my place.”
“I would love to,” said Brindon as he nodded vigorously. The unusual energy made it obvious he was excited. “It’s been a while.”
“Then it’s settled. Valeriana, go with Keelan and Brindon. I’ll be arranging a few things with the undines of my continent.” Charles wrote down a few things in his little, blue notebook. “I’m sure everyone would love to travel.”
There was a chorus of agreement.
“But I have a few questions with regards to what happened in the festival,” said the fourth-ranker. “I have little knowledge of the summoning. I have tried researching on this matter, but I have found no sufficient information about it in the library.”
“You cannot,” Kylon told him. “After all, all things that utilizes demonic energy is forbidden. The information you seek can only be found in forbidden sources and demons themselves. However, this summoning that Chavi used bears similarities to the mechanism in portals only that it is much more dangerous and direct with regards to the subject it will transport.”
“The most unsettling thing about this matter is that it is powerful,” Rowe whispered. “Is it possible to use this in such a large scale?”
“No, of course not.” Kylon shook his head. “The portals utilize the power pressure of Valemnia and the power of the five elements. Summoning is much more discreet, utilizing demonic energy, but taxing to whoever does it. If used in a large scale such as what Chavi had done, worst case scenario is that it will use up life force.”
Valeriana gazed at the headmaster. She was trying to find the courage to ask, but her fear rose time and time again before she could even open her mouth. Inwardly, she felt glad for a lot of things—the prince and his transformation, Zevlin and Genevieve—but the issue with Chavi had been weighing heavily on her mind.
“Headmaster,” she said. “Can I request you something?”
Headmaster Kylon obviously had a hint of what she was going to ask for, but nodded. “What is it?”
“I want to see Chavi.”
“Val,” Tamara started but she firmly held her ground and shook her head.
Nothing was going to stop her, not with the look she had in her eyes.
“Even if it’s just a short moment,” she pleaded. “I need to ask her. I need to talk to her. Please.”
Headmaster Kylon showed a moment of hesitation as he sighed. “She’s being held in a containment facility in the Celeste Dispatch Division. If you want to see her, you’ll need to go through a few procedures.”
Valeriana was hopeful as she gazed at the headmaster.
“However, I’ll try to get you a pass.”