Chapter 18 – A
In the midst of darkness, I could sense the coldness of the tiles on the floor feeling against the skin on my back. My teary eyes are still closed, too afraid to accept reality. However, at the same time, I also felt someone breathing heavily in front of my face. Who could that be, hovering over my body?
Carefully opening my eyes, I am shock to see dark haired girl with a swollen left cheek covering my body.
“…You…idiot,” the girl whispered and looked at me with an extremely disappointed face, “How many times…do I have to tell you…that you can’t expect to…always get everything that you want? You greedy girl.”
“Mi…ki…?” I mumbled the girl’s name. One of her ponytails has been struck down, freeing her long dark smooth hair.
“For goddesses’ sake…If I know that you’re gonna be this useless…I probably wouldn’t have come for you in the first place!” Miki scowled before falling down onto my body.
I quickly got up to see her condition. It was awful. She was already worn out from that previous attack and now she took a full lash in my stead.
“…Just…get the hell…out of here,” Miki whispered with an extremely soft breath.
Is this really it?
After the journey we’ve been through?
After all the training?
After all the battles?
It…can’t end like this…
“Oh dear…What a lovely sight? Friends making sacrifices for each other…OH PLEASE!!!! You looked like you pulled lines from a corny cartoon or something!!!” Oscar yelled, “AQ5402!!!! Take all of them out now!”
I quickly turn to Orica upon hearing Oscar’s yell. However, the shoulder length caramel haired girl was still standing there, looking at us without saying a word.
“Hey. AQ5402!!! Sandalsuud! Finish them!” Oscar yelled again but Orica is still not moving. “What the heck is wrong with you!?”
That moment, tears suddenly start flowing out of Orica’s lifeless eyes down her white cheek. While her face is completely emotionless, her sob was almost apparent to hear.
Did…Did my voice really reach her after all?
“S…Sis…” Her lips start moving and a faint voice escaped her throat.
“What the hell are you doing, you cranky girl!? Get rid of them now!!!!!” Oscar yelled and smashed a button on his controller. Her whole body begins trembling and her right hand, which is holding her water whip, is shaking so hard; she is resisting Oscar’s commands!
“Get…away…sis,” she whispered, “I…can’t…hold this…any longer…!”
As I saw Orica fighting against that crown, something hit me hard on the inside.
Miki was right; she has always been. This road is not sugar and rainbow. I was naïve, greedy, and selfish. Look at me, crying over every single thing. Meanwhile, Miki and Lauress were fighting, giving everything they got. And now, even Orica is fighting. They did not care about the end results; they simply fight against all the odds.
I lied to myself and said that I will not give up unless I already tried my best.
Ironic isn’t it?
I haven’t done a single thing for this whole battle; I gave up even before this battle even started.
If I had cast Thunder Flare to hold Orica down from the start, this wouldn’t have happened.
It was all my fault. But still, I want Orica to be safe.
I want Miki to be safe.
I want Lauress to be safe.
I want the four of us to get out of here alive in one piece.
Can such intent really be called as greed?
Is that really too much to ask?
Is it all too late to do anything?
“No. You are not greedy.”
I immediately turn to the plush doll who was knocked away by Orica’s whip earlier. While lying on the cold tiles of the floor, his body glows a soothing pale light again.
“It was your genuine kindness. Your intentions were pure.”
“And because of your kindness to save others, I have requested the removal of your second limiter.”
Limiter? When the heck was there a power limiter placed on me!?
“Because your powers are so powerful, you placed a seal on your reincarnated hosts to prevent the abuse of such powers. Those limiters can be removed only when the situation is deemed appropriate; situations such as now. I removed your first limiter the first time you manifested your powers in this incarnation. Do you wish to use the powers within you to save the people you care about?”
Was that question even necessary? Of course I do!
I know I was reluctant to act because the opponent is my sister. But now, not only her, my friends are also in danger. I want the power that will allow me to fight against my opponent on an even…no…on an upper footing!
“Then go forth now, and save everyone you care. My lady, the most powerful of the 12 Zodiac Angels. Call out to my name, your most humbled servant!”
As if a prayer answered, I could instantly feel more powers overflowing out of my body, much like when those poems were echoing inside my ears. But this time, it was several times more overwhelming. My hands are even shaking from the unknown force, struggling to break free out of my body.
I lay Miki down on the floor and rise up to my feet. My left hand places itself on my zodiac mark, which is now inflicting a burning pain on my skin from all the powers flowing out of it.
But I know too well that this pain is nothing compared to what Miki and Lauress just experienced…
“Au…ria…?” Miki whispered my name.
“Don’t worry,” I told her, “I’m sorry I disappointed you again, Miki.”
“…Cut that out,” Miki sighed.
“…This will be over soon. Just lie down there.”
I took a couple of steps forward, but Orica suddenly jumps away from me.
“No…Sis! Get…away!” she cried while clutching her head, “I…I won’t…I can’t…hold this…any more!!”
“Don’t worry, Orica…I will save you!”
Suddenly, a huge glyph emerges on the floor underneath me. Electrical sparks are seen circulating around the glyph, and at the same time, the plush doll who has been lying on the ground magically vanishes into thin air.
“Strike! I summon you!! Antares!!!!!!!”
Two huge mechanical pinchers suddenly pierced up from the glyph before a giant robotic scorpion rises to the surface, carrying me onto its saddle-shaped back. Spreading from the main body are six mechanical legs with iron wheels attached at the tip. The two huge metallic pinchers extend forward and one long metallic stinger extends from behind the scorpion. Right in front of the saddle, hidden behind the head of the mechanical scorpion, is some sort of a control panel with two round glowing orbs settled on it.
“Press your hands onto the orbs, my lady. With it, you shall be able to control my body as yours!”
I press both of my palms onto the orb as told and suddenly, a sharp pain shoots straight up to my head. It aches a lot at first, but after it subsides, a weird sensation wholly engulfs my body. I could feel the coldness from the tiles on the floor from this mechanical scorpion’s legs as if they are my own. The pinchers in front are snapping as if I was moving my own hands. The stinger on the back is moving exactly according to my mind; I am indeed connected with this robotic scorpion!
“What the heck is that thing!?” Oscar yelled.
“S…Sis…?” Orica whispered. Although her eyes remained glitterless, there was an obvious hint of surprise on her face.
“Don’t try to threaten me!!!! AQ5402!!!! Take that thing out!!!!!” Oscar pressed a button on the remote control again.
“Aaahhh!!!” Orica lets out a sharp cry and clutches her head with both hands.
“Hey! Stop doing that to her!!!!” I turn to Oscar and yell at him. Upon simply directing my aggression at him, the scorpion’s tail suddenly releases an electrical beam onto the balcony just next to that scientist. It did not hit him, but the man in white gown fell down onto the floor of the balcony with his legs shaking.
Hm. So I guess all I have to do is focus on something for that tail to fire that beam.
“H…H…How dare you!? Stop being useless and get rid of her now! AQ5402!!!!”
The caramel haired girl tries to resist but it was no use. Orica and her servant rush at me at the same time, side by side.
“Don’t worry, my lady. Their attacks will never reach you, for I am a shield that protects my master.”
Orica lashes her whip forward and Sandalsuud shoots a balloon of water out of her jar. But all of it was stopped short by an invisible shell, covering the saddle on the scorpion’s back.
“All the damage in battle are mine and mine alone. I am the only Zodiac Beast, whose body do not share the pain with his angel!”
The caramel haired girl continues to lash her whip at me, but none of them cause any damage. Her attacks are all either blocked by Antares’s pincher or the energy shield around me.
“It’s time we counterattack, my lady.”
“‘You can’t expect to get everything you want, huh?’” I mumbled to myself, “Sorry, Orica, but this might hurt a little!!”
I use the pincher of the scorpion to forcefully push the caramel haired girl to the side while stinging the scorpion’s tail down onto the white haired lady at full strength. Orica was able to make a flip in mid-air and landed nicely, while Sandalsuud’s body was instantly splashed into water. In spite of that, the caramel haired girl does not seem to flinch at all even though her beast has been struck down to a mere pool of water. Instead, the water jar pours out some more water and reforms that lady again.
Fortunately, I was expecting this. That strike earlier was not meant to inflict any damage; it was to test something I’ve noticed since this battle has started.
Sandalsuud was able to take Miki’s ice spike into herself with a straight face, accept Lauress’s shots without flinching, and even reforms herself after her body was completely destroyed. Yet Orica does not feel a single pain nor flinched at all. On the other hand, Miki suffered obvious damage every time Eta and Piscium are attacked, and the same happened to Lauress and Kaus. If Antares was indeed the only Zodiac Beast who does not share the damage he received in battle with his angel as he claimed, then this could mean only one thing; we have not yet hit Sandalsuud at all!
The lady with white hair might be just an illusion. She is not the true form of Sandalsuud. If my guess is right, then perhaps the true form of Sandalsuud is actually some where around here closer than we thought. Perhaps it was something Orica summoned before that lady emerged.
The lady with white hair approaches me again, but this time, I smack her down with Antares’s right pincher. At the same time, I concentrate and release an electrical beam from the scorpion tail. Suddenly, Orica lets out a sharp cry and falls down to the floor just as the beam hits the jar and knocks it off against the wall.
“What in the!?” Oscar yelled.
“The…jar…?” Miki whispered.
“Wait…no way…!!!! Why haven’t I even thought of that!?” Lauress, who just regain enough strength to get up, cried.
That’s right. Sandalsuud is not the lady with white hair; her true body is that water jar!
“This is not over yet!!!!” Oscar scowled and pressed some more buttons on his remote control. More water gushes out from the jar and forms the shape of a huge sea serpent; the same one that flushed Miki and the others. It quickly slithers its way towards me, opening its mouth up wide.
The mechanical scorpion immediately makes a turnabout, smacking its tail at the serpent and breaking its body to water. Before it could reform and continue moving, the scorpion’s tail shoots some more thunder beam at the jar. This time it was knocked down against the ground where it lies down still, no longer moving.
“Holy sweet angels…She beat the crap out of that jar without even breaking a sweat!” Lauress’s jaws dropped down to the floor.
“It’s over, Oscar!” I turn to the scientist on the balcony.
“I don’t think so, little lady!!!! I won’t let you mock my ultimate invention!!!!” Oscar yelled back at me and press some more buttons on his controller. That moment, Orica lets out a sharp cry again before getting up from the ground.
Antares raises one of his pincher up and blocks the girl’s whiplash.
“No way! How could she still move like that even though her beast was already out!?” Lauress cried.
“That’s not her moving! It’s that crown!” Miki got back up. “That bastard overrides her mind!”
“Amazing, isn’t it!? I can make the wearer of this crown move however I want, no matter how damaged the body is!!! HAHA!!!!” Oscar laughs and mashes some more buttons on the controller.
“Stop it, Orica! Get a hold of yourself!!!” I cried as I constantly move the scorpion away from her, occasionally blocking her attacks.
“Dammit Oscar! Damn you!!!” Miki yelled, trying to lift her daggers up only to fall back down to the ground.
“Ahahaha!!!! Let’s see how long you can hold on!!!!” Oscar laughed loudly.
Despite her body constantly lashing me, her facial expression is showing the complete opposite. The exhausted face was apparent and I could even see tears falling out of her eyes. If this continues, I don’t know what could possibly happen to her.
In that case, there is only one thing to do; I have to remove that crown while she is attacking me like this.
Congratulations to everyone who correctly guessed that there is more than what meets the eye about Anty ^^