Chapter 04 – A
My jaw drops to the ground in disbelief when I saw my apartment complex. The security guard in the guardhouse is sitting on his seat lifelessly with blood splattered all over the place. Looking up to the balcony, I found that my apartment door has been left wide open.
I quickly run upstairs into my room, which was left in a mess. There are traces of struggles everywhere. One of the dining table legs was broken and the couch was misplaced. The lights are on and the faucet on the sink was left flowing. I search every corner of our small room but Orica is nowhere to be seen.
“…No…Orica…where are you?” I cried helplessly and fell to my knees. My only remaining family member is nowhere to be seen.
“Damn! I was too late…,” the twin pony tailed girl entered the room and swore in extreme frustration.
“I’m the one who’s supposed to be frustrated! What’s going on!? Who are those people!?” I turned to her and cried, “And where is Orica!? Where did they take her!?”
I wasn’t until I finished talking that I felt as if I displaced my anger and confusion on her. She just rescued me, but here I am screaming at her.
“They’re in there! Go get them!!!!!”
I heard a commotion from outside as well as several footsteps from downstairs.
“More of them,” the girl grumbled and quickly pulled me up from the ground, “We gotta get out of here!”
“But my sister—-!!!”
“SHE’S NOT HERE!” the girl screamed back into my face, instantly hushing me, “Listen! If you still want to live long enough to see your sister again, listen to every word I say and don’t misbehave!!!!!”
Her scream pushed whatever I had to say down my throat. She beat down seven men without breaking a sweat and even flipped a car upside down single handedly. I should have known better not to yell at her.
The footsteps grow louder, signaling that those men are getting closer. The girl placed her left hand on a tattoo, engraved on her left thigh. To my surprise, all of the sudden, the tattoo began shining pale blue light and the air around becomes cooler.
A pale flare was shot out of her tattoo and bursts off into a bright light. After the light fades, two mythical creatures emerge right in front of us from thin air. Both of them have humanoid appearances, except the portion below their waists. ‘Mermaids’ seem to be the best general description for these creatures, although one of them appears a bit on the muscular side. Despite their appearance being an aquatic creature, those two creatures are able to slightly levitate themselves above the ground.
The feminine one has long straight azure hair and wears a blue metallic breast piece, covering her breasts. The ‘fish portion’ of her body is covered with beautiful glittering blue gills. In her left hand is a cerulean harp, decorated with several intricate seashell ornaments.
The muscular one has short azure hair and wears silver bangle on both of his wrists. His ‘fish portion’ has glittering gills as well, albeit a slightly darker tone. His right hand wields a shimmering azure trident.
“Take out those men. Leave none alive!” the pony tailed girl ordered.
The two creatures hovered out of the room and a few moments later, the sound of the earlier commotion turned into a scream.
“We’re moving! Follow me!” the girl ordered and led me out of the room. Out of confusion and fear, I mindlessly follow her orders and leave the room. The hallway outside the room and the stairways are filled with the men in black suit, lying down lifeless. They are brutally beaten down by that girl’s minions, who already moved on ahead clearing the way for us.
The two mermaid creatures are waiting for us at the first floor. Their bodies gradually turn transparent and disappear into thin air as we run out of the apartment complex.
“N…Now what!?” I asked the twin pony tailed girl.
“Just follow me!” she said and runs up ahead.
I follow her closely from behind, moving further away from my apartment. The girl leads me down the road and takes the turn at the corner of the block. Around the time I reach the middle of the alley, a bright light flashes from behind me. I turn around and I notice a couple of familiar silver saloon cars driving towards my apartment.
There are more of those men?
Just who exactly are they?
And why are they after me and my sister?
I kept running forward, following the pony tailed girl, until we reached a small convenient store down the block, different from Aunt Melda’s store.
“We should be safe for now,” the girl said and sat down on the bench outside of the store. That really worn me off and I really could something to refresh myself.
“…Want some water?” I asked.
“Sure,” she nodded.
After buying the two bottles of cold water from the store, I sit down next to her and hand her a bottle. She took the bottle from me and swallowed about half of the bottle in just a second, while I gradually drink from it to prevent myself from choking. She might not be breathing heavily like I am, but I could almost tell from her face that she is as tired as I am.
An awkward silence quickly builds up between us as we remained quiet, trying to catch our breath. After I’ve rested enough, I decide to break the awkward silence and talk to her.
“I’m Auria. What’s your name?”
“…Miki,” she replied shortly without even looking at me.
“…So, who are you? And…um…,” I paused, thinking about the right question to ask her. How do I exactly call those ice spear and ice ramp trick she did earlier? And then there are those mermaids appearing out of nowhere.
“Those men called me the Zodiac Angel of Pisces,” she explained and leaned back against the bench leisurely, as if she could read my mind.
“…Zodiac…Angel?” I felt my mouth opened up wide in awe.
There is no one on Athenia who does not know about their legend – The 13 goddesses that created our world; Athenia. Due to their conflict, the 13th and the most powerful Zodiac Angel, Ophiucus, was sealed deep within the star ocean while the 12 other angels are said to reincarnate into humans. She means to say that she is a reincarnation of one of those goddesses?
“I won’t blame you if you don’t believe me,” she said all of the sudden, “I, myself, still find it hard to believe.”
“…Well… You did those ice spear tricks and stuffs. I can’t say I don’t believe you…,” I said, “So…why are those men after me? …And my sister too…?”
“…Because you sisters are Zodiac Angels too, that’s why.”
“M…Me…? And Orica? N…No way!” I argued, “I mean…I’m just an ordinary girl…! I can’t create ice ramps like you did!”
“…Silly girl. That is a power unique only to me,” Miki sighs and twists the cap of her water bottle opened. She puts her hand forward and pours the water down on it. However, the instant before it touches her hand, the water froze all the way back into the bottle like a frozen waterfall. After that, the frozen water slowly shifts its shape and turns into the shape of a rose.
“My power is the power to manipulate the temperature and shape of all sorts of liquid within a certain radius of my body at will,” she explained.
“…But still, I don’t have any supernatural powers like that!” I argued.
“Well then. Have you ever suddenly felt a weird sunburn pain some where on your body before?” Miki asked.
Out of instinct, my right hand reaches for the spot above my left breast, where I have indeed experienced a mysterious sunburn pain before.
“Try taking a look at that spot again,” she said.
As I took a glance into my white dress, my eyes widened in surprise as I saw a weird symbol engraved just above my left breast.
“W…Wha…? When did that—-!?”
“That’s the mark of a Zodiac Angel,” Miki explained, slightly sliding her left stocking down to reveal a similar symbol on her thigh, “That mark will appear only when another Zodiac Angel is nearby or when manifesting our powers. Also, it does not appear at birth. The mark will start appearing only after that angel’s body has matured enough to manifest her powers again. Age is the main factor, but they said there are a couple of other factors that affect the manifestation.”
“They? You mean those men in black suits? Who are ‘they’?” I asked.
“…The Nebula Corporation,” Miki replied.
“What!? That big energy corporation!?”
Nebula Corporation is the biggest energy company on Athenia, second to none. Its famous new secret power source provides an extremely cheap and efficient energy to our world. Because no one else was able to offer the same amount of energy production Nebula Corp did, it quickly grew into the sole provider of new form of energy and monopolize the energy market. Every single household on Athenia uses energy from Nebula Corp, including my apartment. What does the Nebula Corp – the biggest and wealthiest corporation on Athenia – want from a girl like me?
“That’s right. Those scumbags are gathering ‘Zodiac Angels’ for some kind of a big plan,” said Miki, “I have no idea what that plan is, but I do know that they are flipping the whole continent upside down, looking for girls with special powers like us.”
“What…What are they gonna do with us?”
For some reason, that is question I know I will forever regret asking, but I still could not resist the curiosity to ask.
“Oh you don’t want to know.”
Her short answer almost made me felt relieved.
“…Let’s just hope we save your sister before ‘something’ happens to her.”
“No…,” I whispered in disbelief.
What is going to happen to Orica?
Will I ever get to see my little sister again…?
She is my only remaining family member. If I were to lose her, I’d have no one else left in this world for me…No one else…but…
As if answering my call, all of the sudden a familiar ring tone rang from the purse on my dress.
…That’s it! He must be able to help me. He has always been there for me. If I tell him my current situation, he would immediately come to pick me up!
While I was about to pick up the call, all of the sudden, the cell phone was snatched away from my hand in a flash.
“…Lynus? Who’s that?” Miki read the name on the phone’s screen out loud.
“Give it back to me! That’s my boyfriend calling me!” I told her, trying to snatch it back.
“Forget it! You want him to be a part of this!?” Miki scowled and cut the line.
“Wha!? What are you doing!? Give me back my phone! I promised him that if I ever get into a trouble beyond my abilities, I will call him and ask him for help!”
“Are you kidding? What can he do for you!?” Miki shook her head.
“He’s the only son of the president of Richter Electrics and the manager of its Innovation Division. He will be able to give us a shelter if we tell him our current situation!”
“Are you out of your damn mind? This is Nebula Corporation we are talking about, for crying out loud! It’s the dirtiest and filthiest organization in this whole wide world! Do you really think your boyfriend would be able to hide you from them!?”
“He can and he will! He promised to help me and—-!!!”
“DO YOU WANT HIM TO DIE!?” she screamed into my face and made me swallowed my words down my throat…again, “The Nebula Corp won’t just stop at you and him. His family. His friends. They will all be taken out if Nebula Corp ever knew that they are offering help for you – their ‘fugitive’. If you are so inclined to give him an early death then go ahead!”
Miki tosses my phone right back at my face. My hands fumbled and dropped the phone on to the floor, showing me the picture of Lynus and me that I set as a wallpaper.
Giving him an early death…?
How could I ever do something like that…?
He loves me so much. And I felt the same way for him.
…But what can I do…?
What should I do at this very moment…?
Tears start flowing down my cheeks as I began to cry out loud in the middle of the street like a little girl. I don’t care about being shameless any more. I just…I just need someone to be right beside me – Someone to hold onto my shoulder and tell me that ‘Everything will be all right’.
“What a crybaby,” Miki sighed, “If I were you, I’d save that strength for something more productive… Like saving your sister.”
I want to talk back so bad, but I can’t do it while I am sobbing like this.
How the heck do I do that?
I’m just an ordinary girl, struggling to pay for her apartment’s rent. How am I going to save my dear little sister from an opponent that big?
“…Look,” Miki kneels down in front of me and lifts up my face, “I’m going to say this again. If you still want to live long enough to see your sister again, listen and obey everything I said. Got it?”
Can I really trust this girl?
I don’t know her and she has absolutely no obligation to save me. Yet she is here, offering to help me survive to see my little sister again. But then again, do I really have any other choices right now?
“…Yeah,” I replied with a voice, so weak that it felt like a whisper.
“Good. Now follow me,” Miki said and started walking the other way into the darkness. I force myself to stand up and unwillingly follow her steps.
If she is truly my only chance of saving my little sister, then I will have to place my bet on her. I will not lose anyone important to me ever again.