Chapter 07 – V
I nervously step into the building through the main entrance, which is already slid open when I came here. In front of me is an empty reception lobby with nothing but the public relation counter sitting in the center of the room and a few waiting reception chairs at the corners. The whole room is covered in dusts and pile of rubbles. The air is stagnant due to having weak ventilation.
Moreover, the moment I stepped into this building, I could feel my body trembling from an unknown reason.
Was it because I am excited that I am about to get some answers to my questions?
I am not so sure.
In any case, I move inside further, passed the reception desk into a small dark hallway behind it. Since there is no light, the exploration can prove to be quite troublesome. Luckily, I brought a small flash light with me. I never thought I would really get to use it. But since it was small, I thought I should just bring it with me.
Could not feel any better about the idea right now.
It is a requirement by law that all research centers have a substitute energy supply enough to last a few weeks in case of sudden power shortage. As a result, there should still be some spare electricity left in this building, even though the power might have been cut for ages.
I stroll deeper into the dark hallways, looking for a power room. The deep and narrow hallway radiates an eerie sensation. I am not really the type of person to be paranoid of supernatural stuffs, but walking in a dark hallway alone like this is really unnerving. The stagnant air makes everything even worse since all of my movements create an echo. Coupling with the anxiety I felt the moment I stepped into this place, I could easily snap at any time.
Fortunately, I happen to wave my light onto a door with the sign ‘Power Room’ just in time. I gave a sigh of relief before twisting the rusty knob, opening the room. Shining some light into the room with my flashlight, I finally found the spare power generator. Tapping a few buttons on it, the generator starts running and the building becomes lighted in a heartbeat. Now I don’t have to walk in the darkness with a puny flash light any more. That should slightly help maintain my sanity.
However, the uneasy feeling I had earlier still looms.
What could this feeling mean?
What is my instinct trying to tell me?
Ignoring those thoughts, I left the power room and look for a directory. I don’t think I have enough time to examine every room, nor do I want to stay too long in this place. So I should just head straight to where my answer is. There is a list of rooms placed on a small board nearby the corner I took from the reception room. The name of several researchers and their respective offices are listed there. My eyes skim through the list and caught an extremely familiar name: “Hikari Lyra”.
I knew mom used to work in this place before I was born, but she never spoke to me much about it. I remember asking her why she picked the career of an Astrological Researcher and she simply said it was an interesting field.
What could she possibly be working on before becoming an Astrological Researcher at Andoria?
Now that I think about it, I don’t know much about mom’s work before we moved to Andoria. I was only a little girl when we moved to our current house.
The list said her room is on the third floor, so I moved up the stairs promptly. Each step is steep and the staircase hallway has an even more stagnant air. I had to take a deep breath to make up for the air I missed when I got into the 3rd floor’s hallway.
To my left is a window, overlooking the spacious area I fought those men earlier. I can still see the two men in black lying on the ground, as well as their blown up car. To my right is some more narrow hallways, extending to the other end of the building. The uneasy feeling becomes stronger as I stroll into the hallway. Luckily, I don’t have to go in any deeper since mom’s office is only two rooms away from the stairs.
The door is surprisingly not locked. Her office is a simple square room with two cabinets standing behind her office chair. Her desk has a few documents lying on top, but they are neatly arranged. Judging from the tidiness, this is definitely her desk. There is a small computer terminal sitting on the corner of her desk. It is covered by thick layers of dust, but it seems like it should still work. I turn on the machine and impatiently wait for it to boot up. The terminal is a simple database browser. There is a list of projects and experiments that mom was put in charge…at least that was my guess.
I don’t have enough time to go through all of the data files one by one, so I hit the search bar and enter my name as a keyword.
After a few seconds of processing, nothing came up.
Figures. If my true identity is a secret, the keyword would not be so obvious. I tried rearranging my name around.
I close my eyes and concentrate, thinking about a keyword that can be connected to my identity.
Come on, Viola. Think. If I am mom and I want my dear daughter to find out about herself, what would I use as a keyword that’ll make her know about it right away?
As my mind tries hard to think, a sharp pain emerges on my head once again, just like when I recall the iron giant’s name earlier. After that, a keyword slowly forms up in my mind and before I knew it, my fingers are already typing something into the search bar on impulse.
After processing the keyword, one single result was shown up on the screen.
[The Reunion Project]
Opening the data file, a list of sub folders is shown on the screen. The following is the name of the sub folders.
Among these four folders, I randomly picked the ‘Sample Profile’ folder since the word ‘profile’ piqued my attention. And I was not wrong. I was astonished by the item presented on the screen. It said:
Subject Name: VIOLA
A small photo was attached on the top right corner of the page. It was the picture of a girl with purple hair, but slightly longer than mine. Still, there is no denying that this girl must either be me, or related to me one way or the other.
This is no doubt what I came here for.
I plug my MP3 player into the terminal and copy all the related folders. Despite its nature as a music player, it can also be used as a data storage device.
Talk about convenient.
If there was no commotion outside earlier, I would have sat here enjoying the file for a little while. But I cannot afford to stay here any longer. As soon as it finishes copying, I pull out my player and leave the room. I need to get out of this place before the cops get here. After that I’ll find a computer terminal to view this file somewhere in Cancer City.
By the way, the keyword that linked me to this file is ‘ZODIAC ANGEL’?
Now that’s a real surprise because I was not expecting to see that fairy tale came out of my mind.
The ‘Zodiac Angels’ are the main characters of the [Tales of Star Ocean], an extremely famous bedtime story. There is not a single soul on Athenia that has never heard about the story.
In essence, the Zodiac Angels are literally the goddesses who created our world. Some sources said the story is actually a true legend about how our world was created. But the majority of people just take it as a mere bedtime story. I thought it was an interesting story, but never really took it seriously. I mean, a bedtime story is just a bedtime story. There has never been a proof that the war between the 12 Zodiac Angels and the Angel of Ophiucus is true.
Upon stepping out of the office, I found that the uneasy feeling I had earlier is still there. When I was in mom’s office, I was so excited to find a lead to my questions. But now that I got out of the room, curiosity starts to take over and makes me wonder about what lies beyond this narrow hallway. I have no idea why all of the sudden I became interested, but something just told me that there is ‘something’ significantly relevant to me.
My head turns towards the source of the eerie sensation and found that it came from a double sliding metallic door at the end of the hallway. I tightly grip my lance and march towards the door, sliding them opened anxiously. To the front of me is a messy room, covered with several marble tiles. There are several broken flask scattered about a metallic table in the middle of the room. Five computer terminals and a few other unfamiliar electronic devices are stationed at the corner of the room. All of them have broken screen and does not seem to be functional any more.
As I step into the room, an eerie nostalgic feeling suddenly embraces me.
What is this place? Why do I feel like I’ve been here before?
I stroll around the room, skimming through the tools and materials left behind. After a while, I found myself standing in front of a huge glass capsule, stationed at the corner of the room. A huge metallic label engraved on top of the capsule reads ‘VIOLA ANIMA’.
I approach the capsule nervously.
Is this thing what I think it is?
Once I stood in front of the tube, I took a deep breath and gathered my courage to turn around.
Blood instantly drains from my face as I saw the vision in front of me.
I am standing in the laboratory in my nightmare!!
The second I realized that, several visions flow into my head. An intense headache penetrates my brain, making me lose my balance. I lean against a nearby table, clutching my head with my left hand. The pictures of the nightmare emerge right in front of my eyes again.
The view behind the glass tube.
The awful smirk of that old man.
The faces of all the researchers.
Everything became a lot clearer. I still do not recognize all of them, but I am sure I know the female researcher in that team.
She is none other than mom!
More questions appeared in my mind, popping like the popcorns behind the glass. Mom was a researcher of that project; she was a part of whatever those men were doing to me.
Who is she really?
What were they doing?
Why did she hide this from me?
I have been keeping my cool for so long, but apparently I’ve reached my limit. As my sanity snapped, everything became dark. My mouth suddenly screams from frustration and the feeling of betrayal. When my senses returned, I found the glass capsule broken down to shards with my hands tightly gripping my white lance.
As I puffed from exhaustion, my eyes caught a sight of another similar glass capsule, stationed right next to the one I just broke. I shakily walk over to the other capsule and read the label engraved above it.
Who could that be?
Was there another ‘Viola’ who fell victim to that horrible experiment?
“Well well well. You really did return here after all.”
Suddenly, a creepy voice echoes from behind me.
I know this voice.
How could I forget about it?
“You…” I turn towards the owner of the voice in rage. The bastard is wearing the same black coat he wore on the day he killed mom. The black hood covered down to his nose, making it impossible for me to describe his face.
“You have always been so easy to read. I thought I’d enjoy tracking you down a little longer,” he chuckled.
“How did you know that I am coming here?” I hissed at him.
“Of course I know. How could I forget about this place?” the bastard chuckled some more, “Besides, it was me who led you here…through your nightmares.”
“W…what?” my jaws dropped opened.
“That’s right. I was the one who called you here; the place where the game of cat and mouse began.”
“What happened here? Tell me!” I point my lance at him, tightly gripping it with two hands. But even then, I can still feel my hand shaking so hard.
“What happened here? Heh heh,” the bastard mimicked me, looking off to the other corner of the room, “You really can’t hear it?”
He is really getting on my nerves.
“I can still hear it. It is still echoing within this very room!” He turns back to me. “The screams of the angel having her wings torn away from her!”
That was the last thing I spoke to myself. Before I knew it, my whole already lunges at the bastard, aiming for a slash at his neck. However, in a blink of an eye, a long sword materializes onto his hand from thin air, blocking my slash with ease.
“It seems that your powers have not fully returned to you yet,” said the bastard, chuckling some more.
Every time he laughs.
Every time he speaks.
My anger builds up.
I want this man to die. He must die by my hands. I want him drowning in the puddle of his blood, asking for my forgiveness as I shove this spear down onto his pathetic face.
I want him to die.
He HAS to die for me to sleep well at night.
But he is still standing there, mocking me.
…Why won’t he die?
I can literally hear myself screaming in rage as I desperately try to land a hit him. I thrust, slashed, smacked, and did every single thing I could to bring him down to the ground. But none of my attacks reached him at all.
Why aren’t my attacks connecting?
Were all the fights I won so far just a mere fluke?
“JUST DIE ALREADY!!!!” I slam the lance vertically downwards, and that instant, an energy wave burst out forward, blowing up everything in its path.
Unfortunately, the bastard manages to bend away, effectively dodging an extremely linear attack.
I have no idea what just happened.
“Yes Viola! Hate me more! Give me more rage! Let me see your true power!!!!” The bastard spreads his arms, spouting nonsense.
Seeing his guard opened, I quickly exploit it and aim for another vertical slash. Unfortunately, that bastard brushes off my slash in just a single swipe, throwing me off my balance. As I was about to fall backwards, he closes in and thrusts his palm onto my right breast, pushing me further behind. I felt my hip hitting against the table behind me. The impact caused all the papers and glass tubes on the table to fall off to the ground. A sunburn pain spreads over the area he just pressed.
How dare he touched me like that!?
I can feel the rage constantly building up blinding my thoughts. I wanted to be the one who kill this bastard, but at this rate, maybe I cannot afford to be picky.
I screamed to the top of my voice, calling out my humbled servant out of desperation.
“Ahahahaha!!!! Calling your Zodiac Beast now, aren’t you!?” The bastard laughs mockingly, swinging his sword playfully.
He knew about Zubenes?
Why did he know so much about me?
Who the heck is this guy?!
“You’re not gonna get the last laugh!” I grit my teeth vengefully.
“Oh yeah? Where’s your ‘humbled’ servant now? Hm?”
Didn’t he say he will always answer to my call?
“Well well well, Viola. I enjoyed our time together, but I’m afraid I am on a rather tight schedule!” The bastard shrugs then swings his sword, creating a similar energy wave I made earlier. However, I was not on guard so I had no time to dodge it. I place my lance horizontally, attempting to block the wave, but it was no use. The blast threw me across the room, ramming into a wall behind.
He’s supposed to be the one who gets hurt, not me.
I try my best to hold my balance, but before I could focus, the bastard is already rushing straight at me. I blindly swing my lance at him to defend myself, but it missed. He bends down only slightly, dodging my slash with ease. After that, he presses his palm against my face and shoves my body against the wall behind again. The impact made me loosen my grip on the lance, and before I know it, the lance was no longer in my hand. My whole body falls to the floor helplessly, but even then I still suck up the pain and force myself to stand.
“Ho. You’re pretty tough. Looks like I really underestimated your endurance.” The bastard smirked. Despite being so close to him, I still could not see his face under the hood.
Just who is he!?
“My poor poor Viola. Look at all that beauty gone to waste. You really shouldn’t have struggled,” the bastard said mockingly.
Now, I am really pissed off.
If I can’t use my lance then fine! At least, let me hit his face.
I raise my right fist aiming for a punch, but then he grabs it and pushes me back against the wall again. This time however, he thrusts his sword onto the concrete wall right next to my head. I don’t know if he was trying to kill me or threaten me, but in either case, he succeeded in making me scared. My legs are now trembling despite my big speech about killing him earlier. He presses my right wrist against the wall and pushes his body against mine. Backed up against the wall, I have no more space to move or fight his immense strength. I angrily glare at the bastard hooded face, but all the anger and rage instantly turned into fear when I noticed his face moving closer to mine.
What is he trying to do?!
WHAT IS GOING ON!?
My mind screamed as I felt his lips pressing against mine. Various emotions stirred up in my mind.
Fear. Panic. Confusion. Anger. Just to name a few.
Is there a single word that summarizes the emotions going on in my mind right now?
My heart pounds so hard. My whole body is pressed against the cold concrete wall behind along with my right wrist. His body pushed on to mine, giving me no space to move at all. His right palm caresses my left cheek, holding my face so I cannot turn away. His lips touched mine, lustfully tasting them.
I angrily pound onto his right shoulder with my left fist, which he surprisingly left it free. My right leg kicks onto his shin over and over again. However, his body is hard and sturdy as a rock. Not a single hit causes him to flinch at all.
What happened to all the strength I had earlier?
The strength that knocks out two men without breaking a single sweat.
The strength that smacks a missile back to the copter that fired it.
Where are all of them now?
Just before my mind becomes blank, all of the constraints on my body suddenly disappeared and my body falls to the floor. I turn my head up and discover that the murderer has jumped away from me. He is looking at another direction as if he just dodged something. I don’t know just happened or why he suddenly let me go, but I’m definitely not just going to lie down here.
However, even though my body is now free of any constraints, my strength did not return. My body tumbles down to the ground not long after I attempted to stand up.
“Hey, you okay!?”
I heard a girl’s voice as I felt my body being held up by someone. My eyes are barely focusing. All I can tell is that she is just about the same age as me and has shoulder-length hot red hair.
My voice is so weak and soft. Maybe I ran out of voice from all the screams I made earlier.
“Let’s just say we’re your side,” said the girl. After that, she turns her head the other way. “Vanny! I got her! Let’s get the hell out of here!!!”
She’s not alone?
I turn my head towards the same direction as the red haired girl and found the bastard struggling to dodge an assault from another girl’s chakram. She has long dark green hair and wears a rather skimpy outfit; a black sleeveless vest covering over a white tank top, a black mini-skirt, and a pair of knee-high boots.
Because he left his sword on the wall earlier, the murderer has no weapon to fight back. All he can do is avoid hits from her. That girl is an extremely good fighter. Her attacks are swift and precise, taking advantage of all openings without delay. The bastard tries to resist a few times by throwing his fists at the girl, but all of his attempts to resist ended up in getting scratched by her chakram.
Her reflexes are simply amazing. She is definitely faster and more agile than me.
“Well, it has been fun. But we’re leaving,” the green haired girl taunted and took a step backward. She swings her chakram forward once, and suddenly, a ferocious gust of wind blows into this windowless closed room from behind her. The gust was so strong that the murderer was blown away towards the entrance of the room, along with a few objects in the room.
I want to see if he was squashed by the tables, but the red-haired girl carries me onto her back before I could see. The girl raises her fist and punches right into the wall. In a single strike, the concrete wall was cracked open into a huge hole. She jumps off the hole with me on her back and lands on the open ground in front of the laboratory without flinching. My eyes slightly widened up in shock.
We were on the third floor for crying out loud!
How did she land without feeling a thing like that?
The girl keeps running forward steadily without looking back. I heard the sound of footsteps following closely from behind, so I assume it was the other girl with green hair.
My eyes gradually lose its focus and before long, everything becomes dark. The last thing I feel before my consciousness fades is being laid down on a soft cushion and the sound of a car’s engine starting up. I still don’t know if these two girls are truly a friend on my side or a foe in disguise, but anything is better than being violated by that psycho.
There is nothing more I can do for now, so I just let my consciousness slip away and leave everything to these two mysterious girls.