Chapter 17 – V
“Hey~~!!! Over here!!!!”
A cheery voice yells at me from my left. Towards the same direction, the red haired girl can be seen eagerly waving at me from behind the highway stand. Her green haired sister is standing right next to her.
“Hey there. Looks like you girls are doing well,” I said as I approach both of them.
“Sure am! Those monsters were a piece of cake!” Nat laughed boastfully.
“You must be the angel Viola was talking about.” the green haired angel ignored her sister’s laugh and approached the silver twin ponytail girl standing next to me.
“Sarin Ramel. Nice to meet you,” Sarin greeted Van with a smile.
“Vanessa Sabres. It’s a pleasure.” Van smiled back.
“And I’m Natalie! Glad to see another Zodiac Angel here!” the red haired girl announced eagerly upon seeing a new comrade.
“This is quite a surprise. I never expect to see this number of other Zodiac Angels all at once, especially after I’ve been searching for one in months now,” Sarin giggled amusingly.
“In any case, with the introduction out of the way, let’s get out of here.” I stopped the conversation before it drags on. “More officers are entering the city. If this keeps up then they might really close off the city’s walls.”
“Hmph. I wouldn’t worry about that. You got two Grand Central Civilians here with you, honey. Follow me!” Van smiled and took the lead. Sarin, Nat, and I follow her closely from behind. The green haired girl runs up ahead through the unconstructed path under the highway. There is no pavement on the ground, so a couple of mud puddles can be seen here and there. We keep on moving forward further away from the residential area until we reached the iron wall, fencing the whole city. After that, we strolled along the wall until we reach a small waterway that diverts water from a nearby river into the city’s water treatment plant. One of the bars that is used to block solid waste from entering the waterway was rusted and broken, creating a gap wide enough for an adult to walk through it.
“Nat and I used to play around here when we were young. We’d sneak out of the city through this path for the heck of it,” Van explained as she walked through the bars.
“…So even if they close off the main entrance, they probably wouldn’t know about this exit, huh?” Sarin mumbled.
“Makes you wonder why they never bothered to fix this place, doesn’t it?” Nat laughed. “You see, this canal used to lead the water into an old treatment plant. That plant has moved away since then, but they still rely on this canal to bring in the waters.”
“I see. I guess they just can’t be bothered with this,” Sarin shrugged.
The four of us are now standing on the wide-open grassy plain outside of the Grand Central.
“Andddddd we’re finally out!” Nat stretched and took a deep breath, “That was really hectic…You saw that broadcast, right? Sarin?”
“Yeah. That humbled servant of Ophiucus. Makes you wonder what’s going on, isn’t it?” Sarin asked.
“We’re not through this yet. There’s a small inn a little further down the path. We’ll rest and talk when we get there.” Van stopped the chatter and leads us down the path once again.
The paved path is a relatively flat slope, cutting through the grassy plains. It extends all the way down from the hill where Grand Central was constructed. As we moved further away from the city, I took a peek over my shoulder. The black smoke resulting from the chaos earlier rises from the middle, darkening the skies around the megalopolis. That assault was truly horrible. I never want to see anything like that again.
We got to the inn just before the sun sets. The inn is a white single-story building, spanning relatively wide space than tall. The whole place looks rather old at first glance. But to me, it looks more like it lacked a good maintenance. A proper re-coloring is all the polishing it needs to look new again.
Before we entered the inn, Sarin stopped in front of the building and looked at it.
“Hm……Are we really going to stay here?” she pondered.
“Why? You don’t like staying at an inn?” Nat asked. From the looks of her dress, posture, and personal profile, she seems like the little mistress of a palace. Natalie seems to understand the social status discrepancy between them so she was not offended by the question.
“Not really. It’s just that I’m a little excited since I’ve never stayed in one before. In fact, I could count the number of times I slept over at other people’s place,” Sarin explained, “My father just wouldn’t let me stay over a friend’s house if her bed doesn’t look comfy. I guess there’s something good about running away from home after all. I’ve always wanted try staying in these economic hotels. However, I am not familiar with its custom, so I was afraid to check in alone.”
“Well, it’s nothing special, really. We’re just staying in these inns because it’s cheap,” Nat explained.
“…So…where have you been staying all this time?” I asked her curiously.
“5-stars hotels in the city of course. I pick ones with all-round facilities and polite looking staffs, so the check in would not be so difficult,” she replied.
“So you’ve been staying over at 5-stars hotels these past few months!? Wow. How much money were you carrying with you?” Nat asked with excitement.
“Only a couple of bucks for places that don’t accept my dad’s card,” the silver haired girl replied.
She seems to spend her budget heavier than I thought. What surprises me even more, however, is her dad’s carefree generosity.
The four of us check in for two rooms, but unfortunately, there is only one room left. The innkeeper shows us to our room in the back, where there are only two beds and a big long comfy red couch in it. Nat volunteers to sleep on the same bed with Van since they are siblings and don’t mind sleeping together. So that’s one bed down. Sarin and I look at each other briefly then at the bed. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with sleeping on the same bed with another girl. Alis used to stay over at my house and slept on my bed a lot. But it feels kind of awkward to sleep with someone you just met for only a couple of hours.
From the looks on Sarin’s face, I guess I’m not the only one who thought so.
“Paper, Rock, Scissors?” I proposed.
“Challenge gladly accepted.” she smiled.
I threw a scissor and she threw a rock.
“I’m afraid the bed is mine.” Sarin chuckled victoriously.
“Haha, well, I’m fine either way.” I shrugged then asks the innkeeper for an extra blanket and pillow. While it is not exactly a bed, the long couch looks comfy enough to sleep in.
We took turns taking shower, cleansing all the sweat and dirt from today’s battles off our fair skins. Ever since this journey started, this was the first time I am able to leisurely spend my time in the shower. A few days ago when I have no company, there was never a time to feel at ease. The shower was only meant to refresh me up for the next day. There was no mood to leisurely shampoo my violet hairs or to scrub the dust off my oily face. With the company of these three girls, everything felt a lot more secure.
I wonder if Sarin felt the same, considering how she was also traveling alone until now.
“So then. Where should we start?” Nat asked when everyone is finally present in the room. At the same time, her fingers are rapidly tapping the remote to lower the volumes from the television program as we talk. An after-news drama called ‘The Dummy Company’ is currently being aired. I used to watch this program every evening at home. The story is about a group of university students who joined a university-scale project called ‘The Dummy Company’, or a virtually simulated company. Basically, the project aimed to simulate a real-life business environment for the students to practice the business skills they learn in class. The students will form their own company and operate for profit during their summer break. They are allowed to do any business, but since the time span for the project is small, they ended up doing consignments. It sounds like an interesting project, and I heard that this project is being exercised at the Galaxia University.
Anyway, it appears that I digressed. That always happens when I am explaining something I am passionate about.
“How about we talk about ourselves?” Sarin suggested, “We still don’t know much about each other.”
“Sure. What do you want to know about us?” Van replied.
“Well, how about how you manifest your powers?” Sarin proposed.
“That’s a good idea. Let me start then.”
And so, Van began narrating her background, how her sister and her came to manifest their powers, and how they ended up meeting me. Every detail she explained was exactly like what she told me when we first met. After that, Sarin proceeds to tell them about her story and background as well. Again, her story was exactly the same version she told me when we met at Grand Central.
“So we really were right to assume that Nebula Corp altered news for their benefits,” Van mumbled thoughtfully.
“Yeah. I went to my dad’s workplace frequently, so I often overheard their meeting about distorting the news. I don’t quite remember the case of arson on your coffee shop, but I heard about the truth behind Viola’s mother’s death. That was also how I acknowledged the existence of other Zodiac Angels.”
“…So do you happen to know who the murderer is?” I asked in curiosity.
“I’m sorry. All I heard from them was that they sent their ‘Cleaner’ to get rid of your mother as well as to capture you. Frankly speaking, they didn’t even outright say it out. These rats are bloody cautious,” Sarin admitted reluctantly.
“I see. That’s too bad,” I sighed.
“Cheer up, Viola! No matter who that bastard is, he’s gonna show himself up sooner or later! And this time we’ll beat the crap out of him together!” Nat cheered, “He might be able to pull out a good fight, but he stands absolutely no chance against the four of us!”
“Nat…!” Van nudgeds her sister with her elbow.
“Oh…Um…Yeah…that is if you need our help.” Nat scratches her cheek, embarrassed from her eagerness.
“Thanks for the offer, Nat. But I have to clear this ledger by myself.” I politely turn her down. While her offer for assistance is truly appreciated, this is where the line is drawn. That man will have to pay and I won’t be able to sleep well unless he goes down by my hands.
“Whatever you do, just remember to chew reality in a size that you can bite, Viola. Otherwise, you would not end up so lucky like last time,” Van warned me with concern.
“Well. I won’t butt in to your fight. But just know that we got your backs, okay?” Sarin added.
“Thanks girls,” I replied with a smile.
“Uh…girls…Look at the news,” Nat called us then increased the television’s volume. The reporter on Ramel Media Group’s channel is reporting an urgent breaking news.
“[—hordes of monsters entered Grand Central through the huge dimensional hole forming above the city after a mysterious man, claiming to be the servant of the Legendary Ophiucus Angel, announced the sentence to extinction of mankind. It is still unknown as to who he is or where he comes from. The evacuation of the civilians occurred immediately after monsters are spotted in the city],” the reporter announced.
“They’re pretty fast,” Van commented.
“It’s the Ramel Media Group’s broadcast. There’s a reason we are well known for being the fastest reporter,” Sarin said with a slight hint of boast.
“[While the NEF were trying to get the incident under control, the surveillance copter was able to capture an interesting footage of a struggle at the center of Grand Central],” the reporter said before the screen was cut to the footage of the city’s square where a huge monster can be seen, roaring threateningly. The monster looks like a turtle with horn-like organs, sticking out of its shell in front. A humanoid creature with feathery wings is attached on top of the monster’s shell. My eyes widened as the television closes up at the three girls in the town square, fighting against that abomination. One of the girls has shoulder length purple hair and uses a white lance as her weapon of choice. She valorously charges at the huge monster while another two girls were providing support from afar. The footage ends with a huge thunderbolt the piercing the clouds and disintegrating the monster in a blink of an eye.
“[Surprisingly, one of the young ladies that were fighting against the monster appeared to be Viola Hikari, the suspect to the murder case in Andoria last week. The Director of the NEF gave an opinion on the matter this evening as follows].”
The voice of the news reporter announces before the footage was cut off and moves to a live interview with the NEF Director. He appears to be a middle aged man with slight traces of gray hair, dressed in the NEF uniform with several badges unlike generic officers.
“[There are quite a number of speculations, but we have drawn a conclusion that these girls might be related to the Zodiac Angel of the bedtime stories. After all, if that mysterious man is truly the Zodiac Beast of Lady Ophiucus, it would not be surprising if the other Zodiac Angels exist],” the director announced from behind his podium with several microphones pointing at him, “[It is still unknown as to what is causing this struggle, but we will try our best to investigate the matter. If we ever spot these young ladies, they will be arrested on spot and interrogated about the matter.]”
The screen returned to the reporter once the interview is over.
“[We now move on to weather forecast. Tomorrow’s weather is—-].”
Nat switched off the television after the breaking news was over.
“…You… look pretty fat on the camera,” Van said.
“Thanks being super constructive,” I replied sarcastically.
“So, who are those two girls?” Nat wondered, “Don’t tell me they are Zodiac Angels too?”
“Now that you mentioned it, I think you told me about the other angels aside from Nat and Van back when we met at Grand Central too, didn’t you?” Sarin asked.
“Yeah, that’s what I was planning to tell you girls this evening,” I explained. These three girls have been talking for quite a while, so now it’s my turn to speak up. I told them about how I met Sophia and Auria, along with Sophia’s story about us being the reincarnation of the bedtime story’s Zodiac Angels as well as her goal of assembling the other angels. Sarin, Nat, and Van were listening attentively to me word by word.
“…Wow…Reincarnation…? That’s…kinda hard to believe,” Nat scratched her head.
“Definitely. It’s not something we can prove after all,” Sarin added.
“I admit that I don’t completely buy into that, but there is no denying that those girls are Zodiac Angels like us, and that Sophia and her mother is trying to assemble everyone of us together,” I explained, “Whatever we are looking for now should be put on hold and focused on meeting up with the other angels. If we could unite with the other angels, then perhaps we would have more chance to fight against the Nebula Corp, and whatever is trying to threaten our world.”
“That’s actually all you need to convince me,” Sarin smiled, “If your plan is to fight against the Nebula Corp, then I’m in.”
“Yeah! That’ll be like having more friends, don’t you think?” Nat laughed eagerly.
“What about your mom’s video, Viola? Don’t you want to watch it any more?” Van questioned, “And then there’s that murderer too.”
I paused, thinking for an appropriate answer to give her.
“…I know there are stuffs we have to settle on our end. But judging from our current circumstances, we have to pick the best alternative for everyone,” I replied, “I can’t go off chasing that man and put all of your lives in danger.”
“In that case, I guess we all have an agreement,” Van proposed.
“Yeah. To the Orion Observatory then?” Sarin confirmed.
“Right. The observatory is to the west of Grand Central. There should be a bus that takes us right to the observatory not too far from here,” Van explained.
“Okay then!! Let’s get some rest! We’re all really tired from today, are we all?” Nat suggested.
“Yeah. ‘Night girls,” Sarin muttered and flipped the light switch before lying down on her pillow.
Once the lights are off, I lie down on the couch, starring at the ceiling. It is overwhelming to accept that all of this is happening to me. Six days ago, I was still an average university student in the Accounting Faculty. Today, I am the reincarnation of a Zodiac Angel from the legend. If possible, I wish all of this would just be a dream, or perhaps, a nightmare that is supposed to be over once I wake up.