Chapter 15 – V
The caramel haired girl leads us deeper into a one-meter wide alley until we come across a relatively tight square block, roughly eight meters in perimeter. This space also serves as some kind of an intersection due to having three other paths branching off this block.
“No one should be able to follow us in here,” said the caramel haired girl.
“I see. I guess we can take a breather here,” the staff girl sighed in relief and leans against the wall nearby, “Phew. I’m beat.”
“Oh, that’s right. We haven’t introduced ourselves yet, haven’t we? I’m Auria. Auria Remil,” the caramel haired girl introduced herself to us.
“I’m Sophia Estella. Nice to meet you girls,” the staff girl said.
“Hikari Viola. Hello,” I introduced myself as well.
“…Hm…Viola?” Sophia muttered then carefully observes my face.
“Is something wrong with my name?”
My name seems to have piqued her interest.
“Uh…No…It’s just…I felt like I’ve seen you from somewhere before…But I can’t remember where.” The staff girl kept looking at my face for a while. “…But actually, let’s just forget that for now. I owe both of you a long explanation, didn’t I?”
“Oh yeah, right. What was all that about?” Auria asked again, “I heard both of you talking while I was trying to chant the spell. But it’s pretty weird. It’s like both of you are standing next to me when you weren’t…I hope I’m making sense here.”
“No no no. I understand. It made perfect sense. I was puzzled and thought the same the first time I did that,” Sophia replied, “Back then, our thoughts were connected because of this.”
The staff girl points to the pendant hanging around her neck. It appears to be a weird shaped emblem – a metallic ring with a huge Y-shaped symbol in the middle.
“It’s called the [Connection] Pendant. It’s an ancient relic that amplifies the Zodiac Link among Zodiac Angels,” she explained further.
“Zodiac Link?” Auria and I spoke up at the same time coincidentally. Thank goodness I’m not the only one lost here.
“Eh. How do I put it?” the emerald eyed brunette ruffled her hairs, looking for the right words, “You girls know that we are the reincarnations of the 12 Zodiac Angels of that bedtime story, right?”
Auria and I look at each other puzzlingly as if asking ‘Did you know what she was talking about?’
Obviously, I don’t. As a result, both of us turned back to Sophia and shook our heads.
“O…Oh…I see. Let me explain it then,” Sophia said then proceeds to answer us with another question, “I’m sure both of you heard about the [Tales of Star Ocean] right?”
This time Auria and I nodded. Who on Athenia have never heard about it anyway?
“Zodiac Angels’ souls, even after losing their immortal bodies to seal the Ophiucus Angel, are imperishable. They are forever destined to wander the cosmos waiting for the day to be reborn into another worldly host,” Sophia explained, “We are the bodies that hosted the souls of those Zodiac Angels. So it is not wrong to say that we are the reincarnation of them.”
The word ‘reincarnation’ piqued my interest. I am not a believer of stories like reincarnation and the after-life. But if what she said is true, then perhaps this could be the last piece of the puzzle I was trying to solve!
The VIOLA that was experimented at the Cancerian Laboratory might have been the previous incarnation of the Zodiac Angel within me!
That’s it! Perhaps that was why I am experiencing those nightmares. Those visions must be the memories of the events that happened to my previous incarnation 20 years ago!
…Wait…No. That cannot be. Upon rearranging all the information again, there are still some missing pieces. This ‘reincarnation theory’ did not explain why mom referred to herself as my ‘friend’ in the video. Not to mention the fact that my previous incarnation and my current one are both coincidentally named ‘VIOLA’. Or could it be that mom was my friend in my previous incarnation, and she knew that I am the reincarnation of her friend?
This theory is too convenient.
“Anyway, the point is, the souls of the Zodiac Angels are linked to one another by an unseen force governing the stars in the sky. Because of that, it is possible that when that link is temporarily strengthened, the Zodiac Angels can hear the voice of one another or experienced what the other angels are experiencing.”
Sophia’s voice snapped me out of my thoughts. While the reincarnation theory sounds very plausible, it left too many holes. Unless there are other pieces that indicate otherwise, I guess I’ll keep this theory at bay.
On the other hand, Auria seems to be fascinated by Sophia’s story. She was listening intently and outright expressing her interest, while my mind was paying only half of my attention to her.
“Um…I don’t mean to be rude, and it’s not like I don’t believe you, Sophia. But how did you know so much about all this anyway?” I asked her skeptically.
It has been almost a week since my journey started, and all I’ve got is pieces of information that does not connect to one another at all. But all of the sudden, this girl is spoon-feeding all the information that I’ve been searching for all this time. It seems too good to be true.
“Well, my mother is the Zodiac Angel of Virgo. 20 years ago, she, along with the 11 other angels, managed to stop Ophiucus from her previous coming,” Sophia explained, “Oh yeah. That’s how I knew about the names of those monsters too. Mom told me about them.”
…20 years ago again? What’s with this number?
“But the battles were fierce and severe. She was separated from the others and never met them again,” the staff girl paused for a while, as if looking for the right words, “And…well…long story short, let’s just say my mom knew about the next coming of Ophiucus. She knew that she alone cannot stop this awakening. So mom and I started looking for other angels.”
“I see. No wonder you know so much,” Auria nodded in agreement.
Uh…I think you buy into stuffs too fast, Auria.
“Ophiucus’s previous coming…? Why have we never heard about it before? I mean, that wasn’t exactly a small thing. Shouldn’t it be on the news or at least in a history class?” I asked.
“…News…? News!? Oh…Oh!!! OOOHHHH!!!! A…Are you…THE Hikari Viola on the news!? The one from the murder news in Andoria last week!?”
Instead of answering me, the girl’s eyes widened as if she saw a celebrity from the television. Auria turns to me with the same face.
“So that’s why you thought I look familiar,” I shook my head, “Yeah. I don’t know what the news have been feeding everyone, but I didn’t murder my mom. If anything, I was actually chasing after the bastard that did that.”
“…So the news was a lie,” Auria said and mumbled something else inaudible to me.
“I see. This is certainly a surprise. I didn’t expect you to be the same person as in the news,” said Sophia.
…What? They believed me right away?
“Wow, you girls are so gullible,” I chuckled.
“…Huh?” Sophia and Auria raised their eyebrows at the same time.
“Don’t get the wrong idea, okay? While what I said is true, I find it funny how both of you believed in the words of a supposed-to-be fugitive from the news right away,” I said, “I’m sorry, though. I meant no offense.”
“…Oh…Uh…Well…You don’t really seem like…a bad person. In fact, our hearts connected earlier, remember? That allowed me to slightly know you more,” Sophia said.
I guess that makes sense.
“Well, I believe you, Viola,” Auria added with a stern look, “The news on the television these days aren’t always true. There are many times those news were intentionally rewritten to please the audience or to benefit the person who rewrites it…Perhaps…the person who authorized the distortion of that news is trying to force you to surrender yourself.”
She is very sharp. Her voice is serious and her eyes are telling me that she meant every word she said. Her deduction skill truly amazed me.
“Bingo. I’m surprised you could tell so much.”
“I assume you know ‘who’ is chasing us, right?” Auria asked some more.
“……The Nebula Corp.”
My short response creates a spark within both girls’ eyes.
“So both of you ran into them too, huh? That makes it the three of us,” Sophia muttered with an anxious face, “I guess there really is nowhere safe for ‘Zodiac Angels’ on Athenia anymore.”
“Anyway, Sophia. Let’s go back to what we were discussing earlier,” Auria proposed.
“Oh, sorry. Yes, Ophiucus’s previous coming. It was a much smaller scale. She did not send her messenger and army openly into the city like this one. According to mom, she guessed that Ophiucus was just scouting our world. Then again, we also don’t know how she could make such a move if she was sealed.”
“Could it be that the original Zodiac Angels’ seals are growing weaker?” Auria suggested, “I mean. It probably still has enough power to hold some of her powers back, but not all of them. That’s why she could send out her troops down on Athenia.”
“That’s what my mom and I thought. In any case, assembling all the 12 Zodiac Angels is essential. We all know that Ophiucus’s power alone is stronger than the 12 Zodiac Angels combined. Therefore, we’ll need every arm we have to stop her from fully awakening at all,” Sophia explained, “If Ophiucus’s seal is fully released, that would spell doom for Athenia.”
A long awkward silence quickly fills the air. I honestly don’t know what to say about this.
Our world is doomed?
I started this journey because I just want to know who I am and to avenge my mother. But now I am one of the only 12 people who can save our world?
This is a little too much for me.
“So, what do you suppose we should do?” Auria asked some more, “This sounds like a very big thing, and I’m not really sure I am following this.”
Don’t worry, Auria. Me too.
“This might be a little too sudden to ask, but would you girls join me in looking for other angels?” Sophia proposed, “I was looking for the other angels with mom when these Ophiucus spawns attacked. We were separated and I have been trying to join up with her since then. But I was caught up fighting against the Spiders and the Strikers. Before I knew it, I was already standing at the Central Square where I found both of you.”
“Well, if you are assembling Zodiac Angels, then just your luck. I came to this city with two other angels. But we got separated when those monsters attacked the city too,” I replied, “So how about this? You think of a rendezvous point, and when I meet up with my friends, I’ll take them there.”
While assessing mom’s video is very important to me, grouping up with other Zodiac Angels should take priority. Nebula Corp is a force to be reckoned and it means business. Since all of us are its targets, it only makes sense for us to assemble and make a stand against it. Nat and Van would probably agree with me on this.
“That’s not a bad idea. Let’s see…,” the staff girl paused and pondered, “How about the [Orion Observatory]?”
“[Orion Observatory]?” Auria repeated.
“Yeah. My mom was working as an astrologist there before all this mess happened. She knew about Ophiucus’s coming from the arrangement of stars. I’m not sure how that works though.”
The Orion Observatory, contradicting its name, is actually the name of a small scholar city, located a short distance to the south of the Galaxia City. It is famous for its world biggest observatory tower, and as a result, it quickly became the center of the scholars who are interested in the studies of the stars. Mom told me about how she wanted to work there a couple of times. She calls it the ‘Haven of the Astrologists’. However, since she still loves and feels somewhat committed to her job, she decides to just stay in Andoria.
“Agreed then. Once I find my friends, I’ll take them there. And then I’ll contract you again,” I replied.
“Thanks,” Sophia smiled, “What about you, Auria?”
“I…W…Well…,” the caramel-haired girl is mumbling with words, as if hesitating to answer us directly. It took her a couple of moments before she could find the right words.
“My younger sister is also a Zodiac Angel,” Auria explained. That did not exactly surprise me since I know two other Zodiac Angels who are siblings too.
“…But she was captured by the Nebula Corp two days ago.”
“WHAT!?” Sophia and I cried out at the same time. Auria was slightly startled by our scream, but continue explaining nevertheless.
“Y…Yeah. But don’t worry. Another angel and I are on our way to bring her back. That is why we’re here. But I got separated from her when those monsters attacked the city,” Auria said, “According to my friend…I mean, the angel who came with me, my sister was being held captive in a small research center just outside of Grand Central. She also told me that she has some knowledge about how Nebula Corp performs experiments on Zodiac Angels, so it will take some times before anything horrible can be done to her.”
“In any case, that is definitely not good,” I gritted my teeth anxiously. I’ve seen what those people can do to a Zodiac Angel more than enough and definitely do not want something like that to happen to someone else.
“Y…Yeah,” Sophia muttered nervously in agreement, “Maybe…we should focus on getting Auria’s sister out of that research center for now.”
I agree. No one else should experience something horrible like my nightmare.
“I appreciate your concern, but don’t you girls have something else to do too?” Auria politely and subtly turned down our offer. “Sophia. You have to meet up with your mother. And Viola, you have to meet up with your friends.”
Sophia and I remained silent, at lost for words.
She was absolutely right. I’ve been separated from Nat and Van for quite some time now. Meeting up with them should be my first priority.
“Don’t worry. I’ll be fine. I’ll rescue my sister and we’ll go to the Orion Observatory together. I promise,” the caramel haired angel assured us with a smile. She might be able to lie to someone else, but not to me. Behind that smile is a frightened girl, overwhelmed by the trouble in front of her. She was trying her best not to let us carry her burden.
“Okay. Then that settles it. I don’t feel right, but it is undeniable that the three of us have something else equally important to do,” Sophia concluded, “So for now, let’s do what we have to do then meet up later at the [Orion Observatory]. We’ll exchange our numbers, just in case one of us got there ahead of the others.”
I nodded in agreement as I pull out my cell phone.
“Um. My cell phone is with the angel who came with me. She…uh…confiscated it,” Auria said shyly.
“…Uh. Why would she do that?” Sophia asked puzzlingly, raising her eyebrow.
“When she rescued me from the Nebula Corp’s men, she was…um…afraid that I’ll call my boyfriend for help,” the caramel haired angel scratched her cheek in embarrassment.
“I can see why she does that though,” I muttered, “The corporation would do anything to fulfill its goal. Calling your boyfriend would definitely drag him into this mess as well.”
“…Yeah. That’s what Miki said,” Auria nodded, “Anyway, I’ll just give you girls my numbers and I’ll tell her about rendezvousing at Orion Observatory when I meet her again.”
The three of us quickly exchange our numbers then keep our phone back in place.
“Well then. You girls take care! See you girls later!” said Sophia.
Hence, the three of us moved on separate ways to regroup with our friends.