Chapter 16 – V
After parting from Sophia and Auria, I move out of the alley and dial Nat’s number. The call seems to connect but there was no reply from her. I try again with Van’s number, but the result is the same. They are probably busy running or being caught up in a fight with those monsters. I took a peek out of the corner of the alley and look out at the street. No more civilians can be seen running on the streets. Most of them probably have already evacuated out of the city while I was busy fighting that big monster.
Several navy blue cars with the logo ‘Nebula Elite Forces’ (NEF) painted on it filled the city. Each car is packed with armed elite soldiers, prepared to eliminate the remaining hordes of monsters roaming the city. The fight at the Central Square earlier was so chaotic that I did not notice the absence of the dark hole in the sky until now.
When was it removed?
And more importantly, how?
Could it be that defeating the big abomination earlier also closed the dimensional hole?
In any case, with no more reinforcements on the monsters’ side, everything should be under control. Even though they are normal humans, the NEF has an arsenal full of war weaponries like the Heat Bazooka, which fires a miniaturized compressed fireball that explode upon contact with the target, and the Laser Cannon that can literally melt down a concrete wall in a second. Well, that’s what the movies and war documentaries said anyway. I have never actually saw a real one myself.
Unfortunately, with the NEF moving about the city, it means that I can no longer stroll around leisurely. It is possible that these guys are also ordered to capture me on sight as well. Since I cannot make any contact with Nat and Van right now, my best chance is to go back to a place where we are mutually familiar with: the central library. Backtracking should not be too hard. All I have to do is run back to the central square and cross the street without getting caught. After that, it is a straight path back to the library. However, I have to be disappointed because by the time I reached the central square again, it was already closed off. Many NEF officers are investigating the area, so backtracking through the square is no longer an option.
“…Damn, I really could use a map of this city right now,” I mumbled to myself, thinking of a backup plan. I try tracing back the path I took when I ran after the turtle. The path cuts straight up north towards the center of the city. If I keep moving south, I should be able to get to an area near that library some how. With that in mind, I immediately run out of the alley onto the footpath and head south down the streets, sneaking pass the areas crowded by the officers. Fortunately, they are busy taking care of those abominations and most of them did not even notice me when I ran behind them.
After a while, I found myself standing around the border of the residential and the recreational area. Since it is around the middle of the day right now, this area is rather empty because people went out to work in the industrial district and the kids are out to schools. With people already evacuated out of the city, this district seems very much like an abandoned town right now. The NEF apparently has not move into this area yet since I don’t see any of them around here at all. This means I probably don’t have to worry about sneaking around for a while. I move on deeper into the residential area, constantly trying to call Van and Nat. But as usual, there is no reply from them even though the call connected.
“Damn. What are you girls doing?”
I cannot help but worry about the two of them. Now that I think about it, it’s pretty strange. We have known each other for only about two days, but I already felt like I’ve depended on them.
Suddenly, a loud screech echoed from all directions as those monsters from the library, a.k.a. Strikers according to Sophia, jumped down from the houses’ roofs. There are quite a number of them and they rapidly surround me in just a few seconds. Even though they don’t have much talent in attacking individually, they seem to at least know how to use their numbers to their advantages.
I quickly keep my cell phone back inside my pocket then swiftly pull out my lance once again.
“I guess ganging up on a girl is all you guys are good for,” I insulted those monsters. Well, they are probably not offended since I doubt they can even understand my speech.
Before any of us could make a move, a tremor struck the area and the ground cracked up, throwing some of the monsters surrounding me off balance. Suddenly, a mysterious figure leaps down from the air and smashes a couple of those monsters with a huge weapon resembling an axe. Carefully observing her, she appears to be a girl roughly around my age. She has shiny silver hair, tied up into twin ponytail. At first glance, she also appears to be approximately as tall as me.
“What the? Who’re you!?” I asked out of instinct.
Was she the one who caused that tremor? If so…does this mean that she is—-!?
“I see you could use some help so I butted in,” the girl replied with an answer that did not exactly answer my question before standing up, “I hope you don’t mind?”
“…Well, two is always better than one,” I shrugged and chuckled.
Without any further exposition, both of us rush head on at the monsters surrounding us. I take care of the group in front of me, while the silver haired girl attacks the batch behind me. Like usual, these monsters do not pose any real threat in a close quarter combat as long as they are kept from ganging up. They don’t seem to have any other special tricks hidden up their sleeves as well so the rumble ended shortly after it started. As a result, I took the chance to observe how this mysterious girl fights.
She does not seem to have the reflex that Nat and I do. Although her footwork in close quarter combat is fantastic, each of her attacks is slow and she does not seem to like stringing her attacks into combos either. However, her swing is extremely firm and deft, no less than Nat’s. So far, I’ve only saw her hitting these monsters with the blunt side of her weapon. However, each hit does not only stagger but literally sends those monsters flying away from her. Since these things are not very tough, she probably does not see the need in slicing them with the bladed side. Furthermore, every time her weapon hit the ground, the area around her would shake, forcing her enemies to lose their balance. Strangely enough, she seems to be able to hold her balance extremely well despite the shaking.
“And that should be all.” The silver haired girl hangs the axe on to her back after smashing the last of the monsters. She then turns around facing me with a smile.
With things settled down, I begin observing other details of her appearance. She is wearing an orange short sleeve dress, covered with a gray vest on top. Her skin is fair and her body looks pretty slim. This contradicts the amount of destructive power she demonstrated earlier. Then again, a small girl like me was also able to defeat a 5-meters tall monstrous turtle, so that’s not really a big surprise.
“Thanks for the help,” I said while keeping my lance back in place.
“…I’m Sarin Ramel, the only daughter of the Ramel Media Group’s President,” the silver haired girl introduced herself with a big title.
I don’t know the exact details, but as far as I know, the Ramel Media Group is one of the most popular broadcasting stations. They are well known for their timely political news and current event updates. If there is any groundbreaking news, expect to hear a report from this station before anywhere else.
“You’re Viola Hikari. I knew about you from the news,” Sarin interrupted me before I could introduce myself. Considering how she is the daughter of the broadcasting station’s president, I’m not really surprised about it.
“……Well, I guess being on the news save you the trouble of introducing yourself.”
The problem with it is that the news was not true.
“I don’t know what your group has been telling you, but —-.”
“Don’t worry. I know you didn’t murder your mother.”
She interrupted me again. She sure likes to interrupt people.
“Over half of the Ramel Media Group’s share is owned by the Nebula Corp. As a major shareholder, they have a big influence on our CEOs. They distort many of our news report or even fake up some for their own benefit,” Sarin explained, “Your mom’s death distorted fact was one of the bribed news. They were very desperate to capture you.”
“I knew it. The corporation was really trying to make me surrender myself,” I gritted my teeth in anger. These people are truly corrupted. They lied to the public and did so many dirty acts just to capture a girl.
“…But there’s something I don’t understand. Why are you, the only daughter of the Ramel Media Group’s president, standing here, telling me all of this?” I asked, “And on top of that…You’re a Zodiac Angel too, aren’t you? Talk about coincidence.”
“You caught on fast. That’s right. I’m a Zodiac Angel just like you. Here’s my mark.” Sarin turns around and shows me the area on the back of her right shin. There is indeed a Zodiac Mark engraved there.
“All right then. So what’s the deal?” I began interrogating her, “I supposed the Nebula Corp already approached you, huh? That should explain how you know that you are an angel too.”
“That’s right. Here’s the thing. My father’s company is gradually being absorbed by Nebula Corp. Even though they have not fully acquired our group yet, that corporation still has the major controlling interest to our operations,” Sarin replied, “Originally, their primary objective was not to absorb father’s organization for power over the media.”
“But rather so they can get their hands on you?”
“That’s right. I manifested my powers the first time about a year or two ago. Somehow, they managed to know about that and approached my father. Those men wanted my powers but my dad refuses to hand me over,” she explained, “Ever since then, the Nebula Corp became a lot more aggressive in taking over our company. Now, they are probably trying to drive my father out of his chair. If they could destroy his assets, he would have no more power to protect me from Nebula Corp’s influence.”
“Dirty as always,” I muttered, “So why are you here then?”
“I can’t bear to see those men indirectly killing my father, so I decide to do something about it. I hacked into some of Nebula Corp’s database to know more about my powers. But those rats are not stupid. They kept their data in pieces separated from one another so it was impossible to get a clear picture. All I know was that there are 11 other girls with similar powers as I do,” the girl explained.
“I can relate there. I haven’t really get all my information straight too,” I added.
“I know they have to be after the other angels. So I thought that if I could meet up with some of them, then I might be able to help my father from Nebula Corp’s grasp, one way or the other,” Sarin explained, “That’s why I ran away from home.”
“But is it okay to leave your home like this? Won’t your father be worried about you?”
I set on this journey with no one to worry about. However, her case is different. Her father is still alive. But then again, if she does not take any action, her father’s life would also gradually be poisoned.
“Well, I left a note for my father. I’m 20 years old and I have the power of a Zodiac Angel – that’s more than enough to take care of myself,” she explained, slightly giggling, “Besides, since I’m on the run, not even my father knows where I am. Since he can’t hand me over, my father has nothing for them to threaten him.”
I’m not really sure that was a good idea, but I guess she has a point.
“So how did you know that I’m here?” I asked.
“Meeting you here was purely a coincidence. I was strolling in the city and accidentally saw you running around in the middle of the city fighting those monsters. It’s not too hard to spot you from your hair color after all,” she said, but it rather seems like she’s teasing me as well.
“I knew this color is gonna get me caught one day,” I sighed.
“Hey, don’t say that. They look very cool though,” Sarin teased.
“Anyway, you are looking for other Zodiac Angels huh? I should be able to help you with that,” I said, “I came to this city with two other Zodiac Angels to analyze some data about Nebula Corp’s research. But we got separated when those monsters attacked the city.”
“Oh. I see. So you were trying to meet up with them again?” Sarin asked.
“Yeah. I also promise to meet up with a couple of other angels I met here, but it’s a long story. I’ll explain after we are in a safer spot. As for now, let’s find some way to contract my—.”
Speaking of the devil, all of the sudden, my cell phone started ringing.
“Took her long enough!” I grumbled before picking up the call, “Hello.”
“Oh my goodness! Sorry I didn’t pick up the call earlier! We were a little busy with something!” said Nat.
“Don’t mention it. I’m glad you’re safe,” I giggled softly at her worried tone, “So where do we meet up?”
“Vanny and I are almost at the south gate where we enter the city. We’ll wait for you under the Circular Highway.”
“Where the hell is the Circular Highway?”
Seriously, did she already forget that I’m not from around here?
“It’s the highway that curved into numerous circles, built on top of one another into layers. Many branching paths can be taken to different parts of the city from that highway,” Sarin explained, “It’s not too far from where we are now. We should be able to get there in under an hour; even faster if we run.”
“Huh…? Who are you with, Viola?”
It seems like she heard Sarin talking.
“…Oh…Um…It’s a long story. Let’s just say I found another angel,” I replied.
“WOAH!? YOU SERIOUS!? THAT’S AWESOME!”
“Ugh, we’re not getting any where, Nat! Give me the phone!” Another voice emerged from the phone behind Nat’s voice.
“H…Hey~!” Nat’s voice faded away into distance, as a new voice began speaking.
“Hey Viola. How are you?”
“I’m fine. You’re doing great too, I guess?”
“What do you think?” She seems to be cocky as usual.
“It’s quite hectic after we got separated. I’ll tell you about it when we meet up,” said Van.
“Yup, we got a lot to catch up. So, we’ll meet up at the Circular Highway then?”
“Yeah. Need some help in getting here?”
“Nah. Sarin, I mean, the other Zodiac Angel I met said she knows the way.”
“Huh? A new member to our ranks, huh? Quite a coincidence!” said Van, “How did you meet her?”
“Let’s talk about that when we meet up again,” I suggested.
“Hm…You’re right. Well then, take care. Don’t keep me waiting,” Van said then hung up right after.
“So…Are we going or not?” Sarin asked.
“Yeah. We’ll meet up with both of them at the Circular Highway. I trust you know the way there?”
“Yup. We should get moving and leave this city before nightfall in case they close the city’s gates to quarantine the area,” Sarin suggested.
“Got it. Let’s move then!”