Chapter 09 – A
The ominous cluster of dark clouds swirls on the gloomy sky right above the center of the city. The passengers on the sky train all turn their attention worriedly towards the dark cloud, resembling a huge dimensional hole.
“What in the world is that…?” One of the passengers muttered loudly among the restless chattering.
“Hey, look at the TV!” a woman yelled, drawing the attention of everyone around her.
The TV screen suddenly shows the footage of a huge street intersection in Grand Central right under the dark cloud. A huge shallow hole, apparently formed from the explosion earlier, was settled in the middle of the intersection, where smokes and dusts are flying all over. The screen automatically zooms closer to the center of the huge hole. As the smoke disperses, a mysterious figure is revealed to be kneeling inside the dent. The restless crowds begin gathering around the hole, curious as to what just happened. The humanoid figure behind the curtain of smoke slowly rises to his feet and casts his crimson eyes around. Unlike an average human being, this figure has light blue skin and a pair of long sharp ears. He wears a golden chest plate over long black robe, stretching all the way to the ground. In his right hand is a long black metallic staff with a huge transparent diamond equipped on the top.
“Heed my words, humans!”
The figure’s loud threatening voice spoke through the speakers of the train.
“My name is Rasalhague. I am the humbled servant of the great Zodiac Angel of Ophiucus. I bare an important message from my lady!”
Angel … of Ophiucus? Wait…what…?
“My lady has long observed your kind ever since the beginning of time. She, along with the other 12 angels, created the very fabrication all of you perceived. But your kinds are nothing but a bunch of fools! You waged war against each other, fighting for the very blessing my lady and her colleague had given to all of you!”
His cynical and insulting speech made the crowd upset and they started throwing random objects at him.
“She had long waited and gave all of the time for you worthless fools to prove your worth. But time has passed and my lady has finally lost her patience. Your kinds are fools, blinded by insatiable greed. Your bottomless desires are disgusting and repulsive!! It has been decided once again: your kind shall be put to an extinction!”
“What the hell are you yapping about!?”
“Shut the hell up!!!!”
“WHAT THE HECK IS THIS!?”
Despite the cursing from the crowd, Rasalhague stands quiet, shaking his head in disgust.
“An expected reaction of an uncivilized kind.”
Even though it was whisper under his breath, the voice was still amplified and broadcasted through the speakers. Without flinching, Rasalhague carefully raises his rod and aims at a random man from the crowd. A beam of light suddenly shoots from the tip of the rod and splattered the man’s body into red sticky liquid in a blink of an eye! The cursing from the crowd instantly turns into scream of fear and despair as the crowd disperses.
“The extinction of your kind is not a warning. It has been decided; this is a sentence. The will of my lady Ophiucus is absolute. Her other servants shall soon descend to Athenia and put your pitiful race to an end soon. Live in fear and terror, while you repent for all the sins you have done!”
Rasalhague gradually levitates from the ground and rises up towards the sky. The last thing everyone on the train saw before the pictures are cut is a scene of weird unidentifiable objects raining down onto the streets.
Right when the pictures are cut, I quickly turn back to the window. There are several weird objects flying out of the dark cloud, but from where I am, I can hardly see what those things are exactly.
“Attention to all passengers! Attention to all passengers! Please proceed out of the train from the emergency exit at the front and the rear of the train and proceed to the closest station as soon as possible. I repeat—-.”
Before the announcement repeats, the train is already filled with chaos as all passengers hurry towards the nearest exit.
“Don’t let go of my hand!” Miki grabs my hand and leads me towards one of the exits. People are selfishly pushing each other around, trying to get out of this metal box. This makes it extremely hard for me to catch up with Miki. Thankfully, Anty was tightly hugging my shoulders, so I don’t have to worry about losing him.
The two of us move two cars forth and get down from the train onto the rails.
“Please proceed immediately to the station on that side! Watch your steps and let women and children go first!” The train operator is standing at the train’s exit, giving instructions to the passengers who got down from the train.
“Follow me!” Miki said and leads me down the rails, whilst holding my left hand tightly. She is an extremely fast runner and I am having a hard time following her steps. I have never been a fast runner and never won in a game of tag for once in my whole life. But here I am running as fast as my legs could take me.
Suddenly, a weird object swoops down and grabs a man running ahead of us away.
“What the heck is that!?”
The passengers in front of us cried as they noticed something soaring by.
“Aaaaaaaahhhhhh!!!! Help me!!!! Help meee!!!!!!”
All of us turn towards the direction of the scream outside of the rails and witness a nightmare comes true. A hideous creature with the body of a gigantic snake and flapping bat wings is soaring in the middle of the air with its tail tied around an innocent man. The monster roars and contracts its tail. Right in front of our eyes, the man’s body was wrung dry like a piece of rug and blood splattered down onto the street below like rain.
“Oh my god!” I cried and covered my mouth, trying my best not to puke. The crowd on the rail starts screaming and hurries toward the station, only to be stunned upon seeing flocks of these creatures swarming over the station in front of us.
“Come on, Auria!!! Get mov—–!!!!!”
Suddenly, a man fell down onto our arms, forcing our hands to disjoin before another monster snatched him into the air. The panicking crowd in front makes a sharp turn and run back, crashing onto the people that were following them. With the people rushing against one another, I found myself gradually pushed away from Miki.
In the midst of chaos, loud crashing noise was heard and unseen force pushed me from behind, dropping my body down to the rails. Other passengers fell down as well, but all of them quickly got back up and keep on running.
“Aooow…,” I cried as I try to get back up on my feet, “Miki…? Are you…okay?”
My eyes widen in shock and my jaws drop to the ground when I witness the rails behind me torn opened apart. I am now standing on a broken rail, overlooking a death pit. Miki is on the other side of the rail.
Why is Miki on the other side…?
What was that huge object that fell down onto the rail?
I cautiously look down the death pit and notice a huge tortoise-like creature right below the rail. Was that the thing that fell down and tore the rail opened earlier…?
Whatever it is, I can feel my whole body trembling in fear as I gradually take a few steps backwards. The edge of the rails between us is roughly 10 meters apart so forget the idea of jumping.
“Auria! AURIA! Listen to me!!!!” Miki yelled from the other side, “Follow the crowds back to the station and wait for me there! I’ll get to you as soon as possible! Don’t do anything stupid!!!!”
“H…Hey wait, Miki!”
“You know how to use your powers now! At least take care of yourself before I get to you! Stay on the station and wait for me!!!!!”
And with that, Miki immediately turns to the other side of the rail and runs off. I want to stop her, but the twin pony tailed girl turned away before I could. I don’t want her to leave. I don’t want to run back to the station alone. Not with those creatures flying around me.
The strength in my body is completely drained and I fall down to my knees. All the other passengers have already run away while I was talking to Miki.
I am on my own now.
I’m so scared.
I’m too scared to run.
I don’t want to be alone.
What do I do now?
While I was asking myself the same question again and again, I felt a gentle nudge on my arms. Anty was pouncing on my lap, as if telling me to move.
“Worry not, my lady.”
His voice suddenly echoes inside my ears again.
“You are not alone, my lady. I, your humbled servant, shall fight alongside you.”
“But…I can’t…How do I even start fighting?”
“Do not be afraid. These scums are no match for you. Please, proceed to the destination as Lady Miki told you. I shall be your shield as you shoot down those monsters with your thunder.”
“That’s right, my lady. Please. Believe in yourself.”
His words reminded me of an important promise I made to myself.
Yes. I’ve told myself several times, even after I left the apartment, that I would not completely depend on anyone unless I’ve tried everything I could. I was very scared. But maybe this is the time to prove how strong my convictions are.
The plush doll nudges me again before giving me an assuring nod. I still have Anty with me, so I am not alone as I thought. I get up and evaluate my current situation. These monsters still look very threatening, but staying here would not do me any good either. Many people have already proceeded towards the station behind me, so the rail is rather empty right now. The winged monsters are still soaring above the rails, but they don’t seem to take notice of me yet. If I’m going to run, now is probably the time. I run along the rail back towards the station I left as fast as my legs can take me. The rail is about two meters wide so I didn’t have to worry about tripping and falling down to the side.
I dash forth as fast as I can, ignoring the monsters soaring above. It did slightly help manage the fear when you don’t see the thing you are so afraid of. However, as I ran closer to the station, one of the monsters took notice and swoops down in front, blocking my path. I stop running on spot and gaze into the monster’s crimson eyes. The serpent-like head opens its mouth and screeches, threatening me – its prey.
“Let us fight together, my lady”
I nod in reply to Anty as he got down from my shoulders onto my arms.
The first thing that came to my mind is the attack where I shoot Anty at Piscium, Miki’s Zodiac Beast. I only vaguely remember raising my palm at the merman, and Anty automatically shoots himself forward. I really hope it is that simple.
With that in mind, I immediately raise my palm up at the monster. And fortunately as I thought, Anty’s body radiates pale light once again as he flies straight at the monster. The plush doll hits directly onto the monster, making it cry out in pain, while Anty flies back to my arm. However, the attack does not seem to be fatal at all. The winged serpent flaps its wings and rushes straight towards me. Its mouth opens up wide, revealing long ominous fangs. Luckily, the lunge is not too fast, so I was able to bend to the side and effectively dodge it. At close quarters like this, I don’t think I’ll be able to shoot Anty off my arm. Out of my martial arts instinct, I clench my right fist and throw it forward for an uppercut onto the serpent’s body. As my fist clashes onto the monster, electrical sparks burst off from the tip of my fist and blow the winged serpent up into the air. Consequently, a bolt of lightning pierces the cloud and fries the serpent into a burnt lump of meat. As it falls down and hits the ground, its body breaks down into a pile of black sand-like material.
I look at my right fist in surprise.
How … did I even do that?
“The other monsters have noticed you, my lady. Please, hurry towards to our destination.”
Anty’s voice echoes once again in my ears while I was still excited about that uppercut.
“Oh…Okay,” I replied and turned back towards my destination.
Similar screeches echo the sky as more of those winged-serpents head for me. Out of curiosity, I turn my head to look over my shoulders and spot three of those monsters flying behind me.
“Please, keep moving forward.”
That is not exactly a simple task for me, but it probably wouldn’t help if I complain to him now. As I turned my face back to the station, something suddenly crashed on to me from my right. The tackle was so hard that for a moment, I thought I was run over by a truck. My eyes slightly caught a glimpse of the object that rammed into me. It was one of those winged monster, but this one has a scar near its eye. I was caught off-guard because I was watching for the ones following me.
My body tripped to the side and before I know it, I am falling off the ledge of the rail!
Out of instinct, I screamed with the top of my voice as my body’s falling speed accelerates.
Is this really the end?
Am I really going to die this easily?
I hug Anty’s body tightly, praying for a miracle. Just when my body approaches the ground, Anty’s body starts glowing once again and my falling speed begins to decelerate. Both of us move closer and closer to the surface, and in a few seconds, I am back to standing on the paved ground below the rails, safe and sound.
Was that also Anty’s power? Or was it mine?
I’m not even sure what my power is right now.
Before I get to decide my next move, a familiar screech was heard and a winged monster swoops down at me. I hop to the side to dodge its bite, but then it swings its tail and smacks me off the floor. My body rammed against the building nearby before I fell down to the ground.
That hurts so bad.
Upon some inspection, I happen to notice a scar under his eyes – this is the same monster that pushed me off the rail. It lunges at me one more time for a mouthful bite.
I quickly roll to the side, letting it rammed into the building behind me. I secretly wished that the crash would knock some of its fangs off. But instead, it was the brick wall that was torn into a huge hole upon contact with those fangs.
What are those fangs made of anyway!?
The monster soars back into the air then swoops down at me one more time, swinging its tail in a circular motion. I want to counter its relentless assault, but it moves way too fast and I cannot aim properly. Because of that, there is no other choice but to run. I hop to the side, dodging its swoop again then quickly dash into a narrow alley nearby. The monster does not give up and proceeds to follow me into the alley, only to realize that its wings are too wide to fit into this alley. The winged-serpent constantly tries to force its way into the alley but failed. It screeches at me with a high pitch out of frustration.
Maybe this is my chance to—
This is it!
I could not aim because it was flying around too fast. But since it is constantly trying to rush into the alley like this, it unintentionally traps itself in a narrow linear path. If it insists on following me like this, then I might be able to fight back while holding my ground here.
Thinking so, I quickly aim my palm forth at the head.
Out of instinct, I yell as Anty shoots himself straight at the monster. However, the glowing plush doll misses his target and hits the monster’s body, instead of the head. Because it was not a fatal spot, all that shot did was simply flinching the monster … and making it even more agitated.
The winged serpent screeches louder and rams at the alley’s aperture even harder. It doesn’t seem to realize that doing this makes it easier for me to aim yet. In that case, I guess I’ll try another shot.
I took a deep breath and raise my palm up again. This time, my line of sight was placed between my index and middle finger, aiming at the monster’s mouth.
…Okay…I hope this works!
Anty shoots himself forth at my command. The shot rams straight at the serpent’s mouth and knocks it away from the alley full strength. Apparently, it appears that the mouth is its weak spot. Anty quickly flies back to my shoulder, while the monsters writhes on the floor. After that, the monster quickly rolls to the side and soars into the air, releasing a … weird screech.
The screeches it made so far were high-pitched, almost showing obvious threatening. However, the screech this time has a fairly low-pitch, and does not sound very threatening. But more importantly, where is it heading…?
…In any case, I guess that’s not really my problem for now.
“Oh dear. I thought I’m done for,” I sighed and leaned against the brick wall behind, puffing in exhaustion. But before I could get my rest, Anty nudges my arm and points deeper into the alley.
“What’s the matter?” I asked him. However, the plush doll just keeps pouncing around, pointing at the same direction, “Hey. Speak to me. What’s in there? Shouldn’t we move the other way back to the station?”
He didn’t reply with the voice in my ear like earlier, but instead keep pouncing harder, insisting that I go inside.
“Okay okay, fine.”
Maybe he was telling me to find a safer place to rest. After all, that monster can fly back here at any moment, and I don’t really want to run off to the streets right now. Thinking so, I run deeper into the alley, until I hit an intersection – a tight square block settled in between the buildings, roughly eight meters in perimeter, with three branching path.
“…Where to now?” I muttered to myself.
Anty nudges me again and points to the branching path on my right.
“What’s the matter? Is something there?” I asked him.
The plush doll gives me a nod and repeatedly taps his chest, as if implying me to trust him. Well, I’ll hold on to your word for now.
I run towards the direction Anty pointed and ended up at an empty town square, paved with gray limestone tiles. Unlike out in the streets, I don’t see the winged serpent flocking over this area at all. Maybe they’ve chased other people down to the main street, so the center of the city was left empty. Perhaps Anty could somehow sense that there are less people and monsters here and suggest that I have my rest here?
While I was thinking about Anty’s intention of leading me here, my attention quickly shifts to the middle of the square, where a brunette was seen standing quietly, facing her back at me. She wears a short pink outfit, covered with a long sleeve indigo jacket. Her long slim legs are emphasized with long black stocking stretching up to just below her skirt. She turns her head left and right, as if looking for someone or something. Since she was facing the other way, she did not notice me entering the square.
Who is she?
Why isn’t she running from the monsters like other people?
My eyes then quickly notice a weird item in her hand: a racket with face carved into the shape of a cat’s paw.
…Wait…Could it be that she…?
As I wishfully run towards her in slight excitement, Anty nudges me once again and points to the other side of the square where another girl was also running towards the brunette in the center of the square. She is wearing a white detached sleeve dress with a gray jacket tied around her waist. Upon observing her face, she seems to be just about the same age as me, but my attention is quickly diverted to her hair color – Bright purple.
I’ve … seen her face before…and just recently too.
Before I could fully recognize her, the brunette in the middle of the square turns around and looks at both of us in surprise with her sparkling emerald eyes. She seems to be just about the same age as me as well.
“Um…Hi there?” the brunette greeted us with a nervous smile. If two strangers suddenly run up and stop in front of me, I’d probably have the same reaction as her. In any case, the three of us remain quiet and awkwardly look at one another after that girl gave us a greeting. Since no one is asking, I guess it would be okay if I launch a question to clear my doubts first.
“…D…Do you girls happen to be…Zodiac Angels?”
The two of them seem surprised to hear me ask them like that. These girls were not running from the monsters and they didn’t seem to show any sign of fear. It is only natural to assume that both of them are not exactly an ordinary girl.
“Uh…Yeah. Well…since we are here in the middle of the city instead of running, I guess it’s obvious that we are not average girls,” the emerald-eyed girl laughed nervously, as if trying to shake away the awkwardness.
Before we could say anything else, a loud roar echoes from the other side of the square. The three of us turn toward the source of the roar and notice three monsters standing there. One of them is the winged serpent that I was fighting earlier. I recognize it because of the scar under its eyes. However, I’ve never seen the other two before. The first of the two looks like a lump of meat with a faceless humanoid figure sticking out on top of it. Four blade-like organs extend from the huge lump of meat and acts as the legs for this abomination. Another monster is a gigantic tortoise, standing over five meters tall with two horn-like structures sticking out forward from its thick shell.
The three of them glare at us bloodthirstily, threatening us with their high-pitch screeches.
“Were you girls after one of those guys?” the brunette with cat paw staff asked us, while keeping her line of sight on the three monsters.
“Sort of,” the purple haired girl reaches for an object hanging on the strap behind her waist. It appears to be metallic pipes, joined together with iron chains from the inside. However, shaking it free, three white pipes quickly stretch out and form a spear.
“I was chasing the one with wings before arriving here. I wasn’t expecting to see other Zodiac Angels or more monsters here though,” I told them.
“The one with wings is called [Flyer],” said the brunette with staff, “As far as I know, they are known for being the megaphone of their team. Maybe it was the one who assembled the [Tanker] and the [Spider] here.”
“…Uh…wait? You named these things?” The purple haired girl looks at the brunette with a surprised look.
…Well, I wanted to ask the same question.
Before she could make any reply, the three monsters jump onto one another. The human spider climbs onto the shell of the turtle and merges the lower part of its body into the turtle’s shell. The winged-serpent then presses its body against the back of the human spider’s back. Four arm-like organs with one-meter long razor blades stretched out from the turtle’s shell. The three monsters have merged into one, forming an abomination twisted beyond description. It releases a high-pitch screech once again, as if declaring war.
“…Well, I could use some help in taking this thing down,” said the purple haired girl.
“Let’s save our introductions for later. Time to take care of these monsters!”
The brunette with cat paw staff swings her weapon and gets ready for battle.
A/N: Well, that was a fairly long chapter @_@
I normally have one chapter around 5 A4-pages long, but this one spans over 9 pages (it’s 10, if you include the excerpt too).