Chapter 14 – A
The light outside the window on the second floor of a clinic is gradually turning orange, indicating that the sun is about to set. Luckily, the lights and air condition inside are still working. We lay the unconscious blonde archer on the patient’s bed and let her take a rest. After that, the two of us leave the patient’s room and sit in the waiting room. In the meanwhile, I offer to tender the bruises and scrape Miki got while fighting earlier. The twin pony tailed girl removes her outer coat and let me heal her wounds.
Putting the plush doll over the scrapes on her body, the doll gradually radiates a warm soothing light. It took a couple of seconds before the scrapes on her skin starts to evidently recover. After a while, it was completely healed up, leaving not a single trace of scar. I change my spot and shine the light from Anty at various spot on Miki’s body.
“All right. Done.”
I remove Anty away from Miki after her body is fully healed.
“…You’ve handled your powers pretty well in just a short amount of time,” Miki commended with a smile.
“Thanks. Everyone told me that I’m a pretty fast learner,” I replied.
“But, you still should learn to forget about mercy and sympathy though.”
There she goes with her ‘Miki’ remarks again. Can’t she just say something nice once in a while…?
I really want to take some rest right now, so I just sigh and ignore her. So much has happened a couple of hours ago, and for now, I just want to sit down and relax a bit. I know that Orica is still in danger, but rushing out right now wouldn’t do me any good.
Miki puts her outer coat back on top of her white shirt and quietly sits down next to me on the couch. I really wonder what she has been doing while we were separated. But knowing how she normally replies to me, I am a little reluctant to ask her. She would probably just hiss at me and say something like ‘Mind your own business!’ or something along that line.
Ten minutes had passed by, yet the two of us are still playing the ‘Silent Game’, as if to see who will lose it and start talking first. The worst part is Miki seems to be pretty good at this game as well and I am not very good at handling awkward silence.
“So…what do we do after this…?” I gave up and broke the silence in the end.
“We wait till that girl gets up and we interrogate her. We’ll decide on our next approach after that,” Miki explained, “…Is her bow still with you?”
“Yup, right here.” I waved at Anty who is waltzing around the clinic’s ground. The plush doll quickly hovers back to me with the silver bow that has been folded along the joints on its handle. I stretch bow back to its full length and noticed something out of ordinary. “It’s weird though. I’m pretty sure I saw her pulling the bowstring on this bow when we fought her earlier. But there’s nothing here now.”
“It’s probably her weapon’s defense mechanic,” Miki said, “Zodiac Angels’ weapons have mechanisms that prevent themselves from being used by other people. Maybe the bowstring is rendered invisible and untouchable to everyone other than that girl.”
“Oh. Is that so? Well, that seems pretty convenient,” I muttered while observing the bow, “…Say, what about your daggers, Miki? What happens if someone tries to use it?”
“Anyone who touches my daggers will be instantly frozen to death,” she explained with a straight face.
“Nah. Just kidding. Their hands will just be frozen,” Miki said, laughing.
She’s…laughing…? That’s…a very weird sense of humor…
“Wanna try?” she asked and took one of her daggers out.
The girl simply smirks and sheathes the dagger back in place. Even though that was an extremely messed up sense of humor, I felt like I get to know a little more about her. Maybe some day, I’ll be able to appreciate her humor and enjoy her company as a traveling companion…
…Oh. Talk about traveling companion, I almost forgot about the rendezvous plan with Sophia. I was the one who told her I’ll meet up with her after I save Orica. But would Miki agree to come along?
…What am I even thinking…? Wasn’t Miki looking for other Zodiac Angels as well? Wouldn’t it be better off for the both of us if we go to Orion Observatory after we save Orica? She’ll get to see other angels, and I’ll be able to fulfill the promise I made with Sophia and Viola.
That being said, I probably should discuss this with her now since we are not doing anything at the moment. But more than anything, I don’t want to feel awkward, sitting quietly and saying nothing again.
“Say…Miki.” I started.
“Have you thought about what we are going to do after we save Orica…?”
The twin pony tailed girl did not give me a reply instantly. Instead, I felt as if I caught a glimpse of surprise in her eyes upon hearing my question.
“Well, I have a plan in mind…But we can talk about that after we actually save her,” Miki finally replied after a short pause.
“…Why not now? We got plenty of time now, don’t we?”
Now that I think about it, I vaguely remember her saying something like ‘I can’t wait to see your face when we get to Great Constella’.
What is at Great Constella? Isn’t that where the Nebula Corporation’s headquarter is located?
Are we going there? What does she intend for Orica and me to do when we get there?
Miki just kept quiet, saying nothing. I know that I probably won’t get anywhere if I try to force it out of her; she’ll probably just tell me to ‘mind your own business’ again.
“Well…If you don’t want to discuss about your plans now, can you at least listen to mine?” I asked some more.
“…Let’s hear it,” the twin pony tailed girl sighed and closed her eyes. While she said ‘Let’s hear it’, her gesture did not really suggest that she wants to hear it. But anyway, I have to tell her about Sophia’s plan so she can’t say ‘Why didn’t you tell me before!?’ later on.
“…While we were separated, I met another Zodiac Angel.” I began with something that I thought would catch her attention. After that, I paused for a while to see her reaction. However, she is still sitting there with her eyes closed and her arms crossed.
“…And?” she asked when she noticed that I haven’t continued.
“…You don’t sound too surprised,” I said.
“What about that angel?” she ignored my remark.
That’s weird. She’s not surprised to hear that another Zodiac Angel is just around the corner at all? Hasn’t she been looking for girls with the same powers as her?
“She told me that she is currently looking for other Zodiac Angels too. After that, she asked me to rendezvous with her and the other angels at the Orion Observatory.”
Wow. To be honest, I was actually expecting a sarcastic remark from her, not a whatever-ish one.
“Well, I just thought that it might be a good idea if…you know…we join up with her after we save Orica.” When I started explaining, I tried to make my voice a little enthusiastic so that it would at least make her feel excited to see other angels. But now, I’m not really sure why I even bothered telling her anymore.
“I mean why didn’t you ask her to help you save your sister?”
Huh. I surely was not expecting that question.
“Oh, it’s…um…she got separated from her mother…oh…who also happens to be another Zodiac Angel by the way, and she needed to regroup with her mother,” I explained.
“Then why don’t you go with her to see her mother, THEN ask them to help you save your sister?” she asked, “Why risk your life coming back to the station to wait for me?”
“Uh…What? We made an appointment to see each other at the station, didn’t we? You can’t expect me to just leave you behind!”
I won’t deny that I really would have preferred to go with Sophia or Viola to save my sister because both of them seem very friendly and they have never given me any sarcastic remark. Even Viola, who looks pretty uptight and serious, seems to be much friendlier than her.
But still, I trust Miki.
…No. I want to trust her. I want her to open her heart and accept me as her traveling companion.
Not only that, she was also the one who saved me from being captured by the Nebula Corporation. If it weren’t for her, I would probably have been taken away with Orica.
“…Hmph. How nice of you,” Miki chuckled with a mocking tone.
“That’s not a very nice thing to say.”
Despite my big speech earlier, I really must say that I’m approaching my limits.
“Well then, in return for not ‘leaving me behind’, how about I tell you why I saved you the night before?”
What’s…going on? Is this really Miki and not someone disguised as her?
“Well, wanna listen or no? This offer expires soon, you know?”
“Oh. Um…sure. Why not?”
For some reason, something tells me that I’m not going to enjoy listening to her story. But I did not have much time to consider her offer carefully. Plus, I sincerely want to know more about her, so I thought ‘whatever’.
“I don’t know who my parents are and I’ve never seen their faces. For as long as I remember, the one who raised me up since I was little was my big bro, who is almost 16 years older than me – Marcus Asaka,” she started, “My big bro works for the ‘New Energy Research and Development’ in a laboratory at the headquarters of the Nebula Corporation in Great Constella. Many times after school, he would pick me up from school and took me to the lab, where I wait for him to work until he clocks out. Because of that, the scientific experimentation process of that company was not a foreign thing to me.”
I see. No wonder she knew so much about how Nebula Corporation conducts an experiment.
“However, one day, I noticed something ‘off’ in big bro’s actions. He forbade me to follow him into the company ever again. After school, he told me to just quickly go home and chain the doors, opening it to no one but him. For 17 years that I’ve known him, I was sure as hell that he was keeping a secret from me. But I trusted him and chose not to bother him about it…until that day…”
Miki sighed and made a slight pause, as if catching her breath. After that she turns to me to see if I am listening or not. I show her my respect by giving her a nod to confirm that I am still listening intently to her.
“Those men in black from the Nebula Corp came to my house and forcefully take me to my brother’s lab. They unauthorized him from joining the tests performed on me.”
“…Tests…?” I muttered.
Miki lifts the sleeve on her left arm and shows me her wrist. I gasped in shock as I witness several dotted scars, like the skin of a chameleon, engraved there.
“I lost count of the number of needles they poked on me,” she said chuckling, as if it was funny, “But luckily, they were just examining my body. They probably want to fully understand how a Zodiac Angel’s body works.”
“So…They’re going to do the same thing to Orica…?”
“They already have my sample, so they might not have to stick a needle into her as much as they did to me,” said Miki, “However, they still need some time to thoroughly examine her body to gain a full understanding before doing anything to her. Besides, it’s not often they could get a living and breathing Zodiac Angel on their hands. They won’t do anything rash with her.”
She lowers her sleeve down and crosses her arms again.
“About a week after they examined my body, I happened to overhear the higher-ups’s discussion during their conference.” She turns her face to me again. “…They issued the green light to perform a dissection on me.”
“What!? Dissection!? That’s inhumane and illegal! I mean…The human right laws clearly forbid dissection of human bodies! The only few cases dissection is allowed are autopsy or academic research as willed by the owner of the donated body!”
“Do you think those assholes give a damn about laws?” Miki laughed pretty loudly. “Those bastards bribed the whole army and police departments with their energy. Who on Athenia is going to arrest them? Plus, speaking theoretically, we’re not even normal humans, so human right laws don’t really apply to us.”
“Inhumane…? Please, you don’t know what ‘inhumane’ is.” Miki laughs again. However, her sarcastic laughter sounded a lot sadder than earlier. “…Big bro came to release me out of my cell the night before the dissection. He asked a couple of his friends to help him…But they are spineless cowards.”
“They…betrayed your brother…?”
“They called the security forces, hoping to get promotion,” Miki explained. Her hands are clenched into a fist until it almost turns white. “Big bro hid me and lured the security forces away. His last words before they unload their clips on him were ‘I’d rather die like a filthy dog on the street than lay the bloody knife on my sister’.”
Tears flow down my cheek as I cover my mouth to prevent myself from sobbing.
“It wasn’t until they found me later that I manifested my power and turned everything within two kilometers around me into snow town. And that was when I realized that because I was cursed with this stupid power, my big brother was taken from me,” Miki continued with a cold emotionless voice, “I tracked down all of the researchers in that lab and took them out one by one. I’ve sworn to my brother’s corpse that I will destroy Nebula Corp, and I will not stop until the whole corporation crumbled down to a pile of dust on the ground…”
“…So…Why did you save me then…?” I asked after she remains silent for a while.
“You still can’t tell? Well, I can’t say that I’m surprised,” she chuckled, “…To me, you and your sister are nothing more than tools I intend to use for my revenge.”
“After infiltrating many laboratories, I’ve discovered from their database that there are 11 other girls with powers similar to mine. I thought that if I am able to find some of these girls who suffered the same fate that I did, they’d be willing to join my cause – my army – and destroy Nebula Corp. It just so happens that the latest center I infiltrated happened to recently locate you and your sister,” she explained and looked at me with a mocking face, “Still happy you decided to wait for me…?”
I know she hates the Nebula Corp because they have been chasing her down. But I have no idea how immense her hatred and disdain for the corporation were. The life she had known was stripped away from her and she was hunted down like a dog. She had such a hard life – much more cruel than anything I could have imagined.
How long would I be able to survive if I were to be put inside her shoes?
I don’t even want to imagine it.
And because of that, more tears started falling down my cheek even though I did not mean for them to.
“Save your tears. I don’t need your sympathy.” Miki turns her face away.
For some reason, I was not offended at all. After what she has been through, who am I to blame her for what she has become?
“…Miki,” I spoke up after my sobbing subsided, “You told me, didn’t you? ‘If you still want to live long enough to see your sister again, listen and obey everything I said.’ And you told me to see you again on the other side of the station.”
She remained silent.
“I still want to live long enough to see my sister again. I mean…I know that there is no way I will be able to save Orica by myself. I don’t even know what would have happened to me if you came to the station a second later,” I continued, “…So in a way, I also saw you as a tool for saving my sister.”
Miki’s eyes slightly widened in surprise.
“We are even now.” I wipe my tears and give her a smile – A sincere and genuine one. I am not angry at her even for the slightest.
The twin pony tailed girl chuckles for a while before bursting into laughter.
“You’re such an idiot,” she said and stood up from the couch, “……But maybe…I’m even more of an idiot than you are…”
“A year of running on the road alone was not easy, you know?” she chuckled, “…Maybe the Nebula Corp took more than just my brother from me.”
The twin pony tailed girl looks out of the clinic’s window, lost in her own thought.
“Look, Miki. If you want to meet other angels, wouldn’t it be best to go to the Orion Observatory with me?”
Miki turned around after hearing my proposition.
“Sophia…I mean…that angel I met is assembling other Zodiac Angels as well. This way you wouldn’t have to go out of your way to look for them alone. Plus, I’m sure those girls are also against the Nebula Corp just like we do.”
“Do you even understand what I wanted to make you do after we save your sister?” Miki crosses her arms and shakes her head.
“Don’t get me wrong. I never agreed on helping your revenge plan,” I interrupted, making her look at me in surprise, “I’m sure that other angels are also fighting against the Nebula Corp, but it was to ensure their own safety. My only intention in joining them is so my sister and I could be safe from their grasp. You saved me many times, Miki. I also want you to be safe from that corporation’s grasp.”
“Hmph. Fine by me. I give up.” Miki shrugged. “I’m too lazy to disagree with you now.”
Sorry, Miki. But that’s supposed to be my line…
“…So it’s off to the Orion Observatory after this, huh?” She turns around to me.
“Then count me in too!”
Startled, the two of us quickly turn to the owner of the voice, standing at the door of the waiting room.
“If you’re going against Nebula Corp, then count me in. I’m all for it as long as I get to kick that organization’s ass,” said the blonde girl.
“Oh, you’re awake? How are you feeling now?” I stood up from the couch with Miki.
“Yup. Thanks, but I’m completely fine now. I’m Lauress,” the girl introduced herself.
“I’m Auria. And this is Miki,” I introduced myself and Miki to her.
“Sorry about earlier. Those jerks put that thing on my head, and then my body started moving on its own. I can’t believe they made me do all those stuff,” Lauress grumbled.
“That’s okay. We understand,” I told her.
“Oh, and…um…sorry I’ve been eavesdropping your conversations earlier, but does your lil’ sister happened to look very much like you but has shorter hair?” Lauress asked all of the sudden.
Everyone around us always said the same thing about our looks. They said Orica and I looked as if we could be twins if both of us were to have the same length of hair.
“Well, in that case, you better get to the Aurigan Research Center now! I vaguely remember seeing them installing the slave crown unit on your sister just before they dispatched me to take care of the mess in the city!”
“What!? They’re putting that crown on Orica too!?” I cried.
“Wait a sec. I thought Aurigan Research Center was a subsidiary of the New Energy Division. Why are they developing a mind-controlling crown?” Miki asked the blonde girl.
“Well, yeah, in your head maybe. How old was that info of yours?” Lauress rolled her eyes. “The Aurigan Research Center focuses their research on Applied Psychology. They were messing with our head for the whole time they had us in their cell.”
Orica is being mind controlled like Lauress?
Does that mean we’ll…have to fight her…?
“Lauress. Can you take us into that research center?” I asked her, tossing the bow back to her
“Of course. I need to teach them a lesson not to mess with my head!” The blonde girl snatched the bow in mid-air and hanged it onto her back.
“Let’s go then!”
And with that, I immediately race out of the clinic’s door.
Please Orica. Please still be yourself.