Chapter 17:

The Cat and the Valkyrie

There's a Demon in my Basement!

Ciana had always loved watching the dragons fly. It felt her with a certain kind of anticipation, knowing that one day, she would be up there with them, fly on one herself. It would take a long time for that day to come, though. Despite being hundreds of years old, if one would judge her by the standards of a human - they would conclude that she was still a child.

“One day,” her father had always said, “Be patient.”

And so Ciana was. She was patient. Everyday. Until she wasn’t. It might have been more something one would call an accident rather than an actual infringement of the rules. But it was one nonetheless. The consequences would be dire, she was aware of that. However, for now, that was the least of her worries, since she had to survive the situation she was currently in first. She had managed to stumble into the Mortal Realm. Without meaning to, but a little dragon had nagged open a portal, as the young ones sometimes do. She should have reported it once she noticed, but she didn’t. The fascination for the world behind it had been too big to ignore. So she had hesitated and the unstable portal had done the rest, by growing.

And once it had laid hold of her, it brought her into the deserted alley she was currently sitting in. At least it was what she felt could be an alley. The road beneath her feet was covered in cobblestone, to the left and right of her there were buildings and some lamps which harboured small flames, supporting the moon in its endeavours to shine.

Later on, she would learn about the way Mortals kept track of time and the fact that she stumbled into the 19th century.

How long would it be, until the other Valkyries noticed her absence? And how much longer for them to localize her? Could they even do so, if she was here? Or should she change location?

A place filled with divine energy would be a good start. That’s what she should look for. It would make it easier for her kin to pick her up.

Ciana had to admit, the Mortal Realm was filled with all kinds of amazing creatures. Some of them turned as old as some of the Gods themselves, others only had the lifespan of a few hours. Yet, all of them shared the same fragileness. It was kind of fascinating.

However, her initial enthusiasm was crushed once she realized how little divine energy there was left in this Realm. The Mortals build their cities, their streets without regard to anything. They only knew of destruction. Even after managing to find a source that probably used to be filled with it a few decades ago, she’d only find a small amount. It was never enough. Every place she visited was lacking.

“Did the Gods leave this Realm?” she wondered more than just once. That question kept on repeating itself in her head over and over again.

One day, she had decided to give up. She didn’t know how much time had passed since she initially stumbled down here. However, by now the Mortal Realm had changed so much and their cities had grown even bigger. There was no land anymore, just the dark paths laid out by the Mortals. Maybe the earth itself would just open up and swallow her whole if she just waited long enough.

A small creature approached her. At first, she ignored it. But the little feline decided to just lie down in her lap. Confused, she looked down on it. It had dark-red fluffy fur and pointy ears. Ciana blinked a few times before she realized that she had learned at one point what creatures like this are called. Cats. It was a cat who had just laid down on her legs as if they were the most comfortable of beds.

“...Are you also alone?” she wondered while lightly scratching the cat’s neck. A quiet purr was her answer. “Yeah. It sucks. I know.” With a sigh, she leaned against the wall behind her. “You sure are warm. Thank you.”

From that day onward the cat was her companion. He couldn’t speak, obviously, but she still named him and crafted a collar for him and etched his name into it. Drake. The cat was better than any dragon she could have met at home anyway.

And so it was also with her when she managed to finally reach the end of her search she had stopped believing into. A source of pure Divine energy. There was a lot of it and nothing had managed to tamper with it. She felt like crying once she felt it in the distance and by the point, she had reached the Sakura Tree she was full-on sobbing. Finally, after all those years - she could go home. Now she just had to wait, she just had to-

“...Sorry, kid." Sakura gave her a pitiful look.

"They won’t come and get you.”

"What do you mean? Of course they will! They must have noticed I am gone by now and with all this divine energy, I can just-"

"Kid. They won't do it, because they can't." Sakura sighed. Listening to the young Valkyrie’s story had been heartbreaking, even for her - and she would deny to even have emotions on a regular basis. Telling her about the war would be even worse. "No amount of Divine Energy will make this possible. The Valkyries are dead."

Ciana stared at her. She blinked while slowly tilting her head, trying to understand what she had just said. She failed. "...What?"

"Come here. Sit down." Sakura guided her to the tree's root and sat down with her. "There had been a conflict between Zeus and Hades. Most Valkyries died and the few surviving ones left the Olympus. There is nobody who can get you."

"N-no…" Ciana shook her head in disbelief. "That can't be true! It just… it can't!" She didn't realize she was screaming at the time. Only later she would when her voice got sore and her eyes got red.

"I'm sorry. I-... You can stay here for as long as you want."

"But- that is not- I don't want that!" Her fists slammed down on the ground beneath her. "I wanna go home!"

“There is no home anymore. Sorry.”

The girl stared at the spirit in disbelief. Then she dropped to her knees. This couldn’t be true. It was just… not possible. How could it?

She shook her head, her entire body shaking while she tried to fathom Sakura's words. The cat next to her stood up to her and rubbed their head against her palm, trying to be of some comfort. It didn't work. There was nothing that could mend this kind of pain except for time itself.

For a long time, Ciana had decided against moving away from the tree. Despite the spirit telling her, it wasn't possible to return home, she couldn't leave. Where would she even go?

Keeping herself hidden from the world with a simple spell, she just sat there on tree's roots, the cat keeping her company.

Every now and then Sakura would bring them some food which Ciana occasionally touched. Most of the time she just made sure Drake ate something.

It wasn't until Sakura lost her patience that this situation changed. "You. Get out and do something. Nobody will come back if you just sit here and drown in your self-pity!"

Ciana looked up before averting her gaze again. "Nothing will change either if I do something." A melancholic smile was on her lips. "They won't come back."

Drake rubbed his head against her hand, trying to divert some of her attention to him. Almost out of reflex she started scratching the red feline.

"But you're still here. You still have a life to live. And I will make sure you do so." Sakura crossed her arms in front of her chest.

Ciana just stared at her. A life to live - what did that even mean? At this point, it just felt like an empty phrase to her. Still, she knew when she wasn't welcome anymore. And so she just picked up Drake, stood up and left.

Real Aire