Chapter 01 – S
The sun has risen and morning finally revisits the Galaxia City, a city of diverse landscape settled on the midwest of the continent. Even though it is not as grand as the giants like Grand Central or Great Constella, the scenery of this city is in no way less magnificent. The city’s layout was cleverly designed by the finest team of architects, sponsored by the Nebula Corporation, the famous monopoly that penetrates the market with its new type of energy – efficient and completely harmless. The layout also clearly distinguishes the borderline of each district in the city according to its purposes. Each district is connected to one another through the Nebula Skylink, the trademark public sky train of the city contributed by the same Nebula Corporation.
First, we have the Business District located in the middle of the city – a concrete jungle of skyscrapers and commercial towers. Business people dressed in suits and office uniforms travel into this area early in the morning, hoping to clock in on time.
Next is the Industrial District, where all the manufacturing factories are situated. It is located to the west of the Business District, separated by a huge river running from the north. Numerous factory works travel across the bridge to clock into the factory before the sun even rises.
The Recreational District is situated right next to the Business District on the eastern side. The commercial towers in the area are not as tall as the ones in the Business Area and most of them are shopping complexes and department stores rather than office towers.
Finally, we have the Residential District, located slightly to the south of the Recreational and Business District. The area is filled with many two-stories houses properly lined up in grid-like formation. Since there is no factory machine running in the area, the neighborhood is quiet and peaceful, free of air pollution and contaminated sewage. This is all thanks to the clear district division, which improves the quality of life within this city. The citizens fully enjoy the clean and fresh air around their residents in the early morning.
I scream as I rush full speed down the wooden stairs to the first floor of my house. Venturing through the living room, I unintentionally startle the little purplish gray fur ball, curling on his warm private cushion.
“Meow?” The kitty got up and purred, as if trying to say good morning to me.
“Sorry, Roro. But I’m almost late now!!!” I talked to him while slicing the lid of the canned tuna. “Be a good boy and wait until I get home, okay?”
After pouring the tuna onto his purple food bowl and giving him a couple of scratches on the head, I quickly put on my sandals at the porch and head straight for the sky train station, settled a couple of blocks away from my house.
Morning rush hours in this city is a mid-day nightmare. Cars fill the streets, completely jamming the traffic. People run amok all over the place, racing to make sure they clock in on time. Every imaginable paths and streets are so filled that there is almost no place for you to leave the crowd should you be stuck in one. Even Residential Areas suffer some jamming in the early morning. Because of this, shortcuts and alleys are invaluable means of getting through the city in such time. Luckily, I am well versed with this city’s layout; I can move around the place without the fear of ever getting lost. This is thanks to my experience of living in this city for about 20 years and partially …… okay, I lied … majorly because waking up is a big task for me. As a result, I have to know all the leverages available for me.
Is it my fault? No way.
How can it be my fault when the gravity around my bed is 20 times stronger than any place on Athenia? Oh oh! And my alarm clock does not ring loudly enough as well!
…Anyway, I was running to the train station. Climbing the station’s stairs in a hurry is a pretty tiring task, especially when your outfit won’t really cooperate. The university’s uniform comprises of white short sleeve body-sized blouse and black tube skirt about two inches above my knees. While the uniform is comfortable and light, it’s a little hard to move around rapidly in it.
Using my slender body to its advantage, I manage to slip onto the sky train just in time before the door closes. It seems like I made it because this train is still the ‘less-packed’ one. Judging from the time, the next train would probably be packed like a can of humans. Judging from the current situation, perhaps I was not all that late.
I sit down on one of the vacant seats and take a deep breath in relief. While relaxing and basking in the coolness of the air condition, my eyes gaze upon the television, broadcasting the follow-up news of yesterday evening’s murder case in Andoria City, a city located far southeast of Galaxia City. It was such a tragic case because, not only the mother was murdered, the daughter also went missing after the incident as well. I normally don’t remember the details of these kinds of news, but the reason I remembered was because the daughter who went missing has an extremely outstanding hair color – bright bluish purple.
However, I did not wait for the news to finish broadcasting since the train got to my stop first. I immediately dash out of the train the instant the doors slide opened and ride my hips down the handrails of the platform.
(This stunt is strictly reserved only for people who are on the verge of being late, so please don’t try this at home. It’s very not lady-like.)
Once I got down from the station, I quickly board the van and continue my way into the university. The Galaxia University that I am attending is located slightly to the east, outside the main boundaries of Galaxia City. The campus is literally settled in the middle of nowhere and, to get there, you need to take the university’s van services near the stairs of the train’s station. But even then, do not think of my university as a no-name countryside university! The Galaxia University has the biggest and most beautiful campus on all of Athenia. I’m not sure about the exact numbers, but let’s just say that I can clearly see the university’s study hall from my bedroom in the residential area of Galaxia City, even though it’s so far away. The main portion of the campus consists of the four-stories class building that looks like a fortress, squaring the big administration tower in the middle. The rest of the campus comprises of several other faculty buildings and dormitories settled near the big fortress-like building. I can get into details of what are in those buildings and towers, but not now since I am really late for class.
I hop down from the van and continue my way up to the fourth floor of the fortress building. The empty dimly lit halls echo my footsteps as I hurry towards my classroom.
“Right here, sire!”
I barge through the door and throw my right arm up into the air just in time for the attendance check. The whole class bursts out laughing at my precise timing.
“…Well, I guess I’m going to excuse you this time as a reward for your exact precision. Really nice timing, Miss Estella.”
The professor shakes his head and keeps the attendance sheet, while the whole class continues laughing at me. That felt really pathetic, but who cares? I got my attendance check.
“Oh, thank you so much sire!” I quickly give him a polite bow and head straight to my usual seat. This amphitheatre class is usually packed with students. So unless you have friends to reserve your seat for you, forget about getting your ‘favorite’ spot if you are a latecomer like me.
“Alarm clock is not loud enough again?” the curly brunette teased, whilst removing her bag from my usual chair, freeing up the seat for me.
“No, Ellen. This time, it’s the gravity.” I sit down and take a deep breath to stop my heart from pounding too fast.
“…Right. No points for originality cuz you used that one last week.” Ellen rolled her eyes and brushed her curly brown hair. I really want to continue arguing like how I normally would, but my lungs already have its hands full trying to breath. So I simply ignore her and put my textbook onto the table.
“I’m glad you could come on time, Sophia.” A creepy voice whispered from the row behind me. Startled, I quickly turn around to see the owner of the voice, who smiles back at me with a sinister grin.
“Whatever.” I sighed and quickly turned back to the professor who is about to start the class.
“How do you like this spot, hm? You can thank me later.” Ellen giggled and whispered to me while taking down notes in front of the class.
“Thank you my ass … Geez, Ellen. Which part of ‘I’m not interested in dating Derick Tyrell’ can you not comprehend?” I grumbled with my eyes on the white board and my hands jotting down the notes.
“Oh come on, Sophia! Stop playing hard-to-get! He’s not just a Derick Tyrell for crying out loud. He’s the Derick Tyrell, son of the Tyrell Enterprise!” Ellen spoke up as if trying to let the flirtatious cad behind me hear it, “Just look at him! Sweet mother of angels, he’s so hot I’d totally make babies with him!”
Which part about him is hot or charming? Let’s have a head count.
First of all, messily highlighted hair that smells like it was dipped into a bucket of deodorant is neither charming nor enticing.
Next, he has … one … two … three pierces on both of his ears, and another two on each of his lips. Even I don’t have any ear pierces.
Moving on, I could almost swear his face looks like it’s covered in cosmetic. Maybe it is some kind of fashion for men to be putting powders on their face right now, but it is really gross and silly. Whoever thought it’s a great idea for this fad needs to be arrested and given intensive therapy.
Finally, this guy’s waist is misplaced; it is located somewhere that should have been the middle of his thigh. And as a result, I cannot unsee how this pervert always has a boner every time he tries to talk to me.
Now this is only his appearance. Don’t even get me started on how foul his vocabularies and pick-up etiquettes are.
“Well, if he’s really that hot, then why don’t you let him make babies with you?” I sighed in disgust.
How did I even befriend this twit? …Oh right. We’ve known each other since high school, that’s why.
“Cuz he won’t, dummy! You know that he’s not interested in other girls because he only has his eyes on you!” Luckily the lecture is going on, otherwise she probably would have screamed. “Come on, Sophia! You’re the star of the university yet you turned down every single guy that tried to ask you out! Use your charm for once!”
At this point, I stopped talking to her because I’m tired of explaining.
Despite how I demonstrated myself as the clumsy sleepyhead, Ellen is actually right about me being a star. I got all-time highest popularity vote of the University’s Star Poll (I did not nominate myself by the way. Ellen did it). According to the official survey, the results said that my most attractive feature is the glittering emerald colored eyes that I got from mom. Following closely are traits I don’t even know why they are considered attractive, such as cute squeaky voice or silly behavior.
(Seriously, what’s with that?)
Other features like nice fair skin and long hairs are actually minor qualities for some weird reasons.
Anyway, whatever the reasons that draw Derick’s attention are, I have no interest in going out with someone like him. But sweet angels, he is sickeningly persistent. He has been trying to ask me out since the first year. Back then, he was even more aggressive, sending flowers, cards, and all kinds of corny gifts to me almost every single day. Of course, I turned him down since the first time he asked me out, but ‘persistence is the key to conquering the world’, or so they say. It’s already the middle of third year and he shows no sign of giving up at all. Well, I’m graduating in two more semesters, so it’s not too long before I won’t have to see this guy any more. Who knows how many more semesters he has to take before he’s done? I heard he dropped half of the subjects he enrolled every semester.
Oh, don’t get me wrong though. I have nothing against having a boyfriend, and my mom doesn’t even mind. I’m just not interested in having a boyfriend that only wants me on his bed.
“And that is all for today’s lecture. I’ll dismiss the class early so you guys have time to practice on the problems.” The lecture was dismissed earlier than I thought, but maybe it was because I was lost in thought. “Just be sure to do your homework and submit the next time we come to class, otherwise I will give you an extra report to do.”
After dropping the bomb, the professor quickly leaves the room, ignoring the cries of the students.
“Sophia~,” the creep called to me.
“What?” I replied without even turning to his direction.
“When’s your next class?”
“But this period ended an hour early! You’re free for the next hour!”
“Wanna grab a bite?”
“Then what are you going to do for the next hour?”
“None of your business.”
I stick out my tongue at the cad and quickly dash out of the room, ignoring both him and Ellen. With the reflex I’ve been honing due to late comings, there is no way someone with baggy pants would be able to catch up.
I move down to the first floor in a flash via the grand spiral staircase and head towards the library in the administration tower. The tower in the middle serves many functions. The lower floors are plazas where students normally hangout while waiting for the next class to start. Student stores, restaurants, and the cafeteria are located here. A little higher up from the plaza is the library, which also includes the Internet and sound labs. Not many students regularly go to the library since they are not allowed to talk together loudly, so I normally hide up here reviewing, my stuffs while waiting for my next class. The higher floors are the professors’, deans’, and disciplinary committee office. Students normally have no business up here, so it is off limits most of the time. There were a few times I had to get up there a couple of times before to clear up my attendance issues, and trust me, it’s one place students never want to be.
While on my way to the library, my cell phone suddenly rings from inside my handbag.
It’s my mom.
She is currently working as a researcher and professor teaching Astrological Subjects at the Orion University in a town called ‘Orion Observatory’, located to the south of Galaxia City. When I was younger, she would always make sure to return home on time to watch me go to bed, and occasionally, tell me bedtime stories. But during this past few years, she has been caught up in some research and rarely gets home, so we see each other only once or twice a month.
Fortunately, the two of us are still in good terms since we communicate regularly on phones in the evening. During long holidays, we would often go on a trip to the beach down south or the lake up north on the mountains together – just the two of us. I’ve never seen my dad’s face for once in my whole life. For as long as I remember, it’s just my mom and me. All I know is that dad died before mom gave birth to me. I asked her to tell me about dad a couple of times, but I’ve never got anything out of her. On top of that, it caused her so much pain and made her cry at night. I know because I personally saw her crying once. As a result, I decide to never ask about dad again, because whatever the reasons are, I don’t want to see her cry like that any more.
“Hey mom.” I picked up the phone.
“Hello sweetie. Aren’t you supposed to be having class right now?”
There we go. I haven’t seen her in like a month or so, and the first thing she did was check up on me.
“The professor dismissed class before time, mom,” I replied, sighing.
“Aw. I see,” she giggled.
“Say, what’s the matter, mom? Why did you call in the middle of the day like this?”
She normally doesn’t call me during the day because she knows that I have class, and I don’t call her during the day because I know that she has work. It’s been a mutual agreement between the two of us – not that it’s a rule or anything.
“Ah…Well…,” she paused slightly, “I…kind of missed you, so I’m just checking up on you.”
“Oh…I see. I miss you too, mom,” I replied, smiling. She’s so sweet.
“Say, did you see the eclipse yesterday morning?”
“Oh, that? Yeah. Well, it’s like the fourth one this month, so it wasn’t all that exciting any more,” I told her.
“I see…,” she mumbled and kept quiet for a while.
That’s so strange of her. Is there something on her mind?
“What’s the matter, mom?” I asked.
“Sophia. Is there…Do you feel anything … ‘strange’ … recently? Anything at all.”
“Strange? Like what, mom?”
“Anything out of ordinary. Anything at all.”
“Hm…I…don’t know what you’re talking about, mom. But you’re starting to freak me out. Is something wrong?”
As far as I know, she has never been the type to go around in circle like this.
“Hm…Nevermind then,” she replied and kept quiet again for a while, “One last thing. Are you still wearing that pendant I gave you?”
“Oh? That?” I pick the pendant hanging on my neck and lift it up to where I can see it. Mom gave me this pendant since I was young, telling me that it is a good luck charm. She told me to always have that pendant on and, no matter what happens, I should never ever leave home without it. When you think about it, it’s pretty funny how mom, a scientist, is so fixated about this good luck charm. Believe it or not, I actually got into a big fight with her once in the past just because I did not have that pendant on when I went out with my friends. She grounded me and we did not look at each other for the whole week just because of one stupid pendant. It was such a silly and petty reason to get into a fight, so I did not disobey her again after that. And well, to be honest, the pendant has grown on me, and it has become a habit to put it on before I leave the house.
“Yeah. I still have it on like always.”
“Ah. That’s great. Don’t take it off, okay, sweetie?” She gave a sigh, as if feeling relieved or something.
“What’s wrong, mom? Did something happen there? You’re acting really weird.”
The curiosity and anxiety are torturing me.
“…Oh. It’s…nothing really. Sorry if I scared you,” she replied, “I’m probably tired. Maybe I should go home soon. I miss you too much right now.”
“Yeah. It’s been almost a month.” I smiled.
“Okay. I’ll try to see if I can get home in a couple of days. Wanna go shopping?”
“Oh. Yeah, sure! There’s this new shoe I really want at the Galaxia Mall!”
“Right. Let’s go shopping once I got home. Don’t go on ahead before me,” she finally laughed like usual.
“Okay. See you, mom.”
“See you, sweetie.”
I hang up the call and insert the phone back into my bag.
“Something strange…? What’s the deal with that?”
I muttered to myself while heading to the library, thinking about the strangest thing that happened to me this past few days. Nothing really comes to mind to be honest. Ellen was still trying to pair me up with the flirting cad. I still suck at math subjects. Roro is still clingy as usual.
Well, the only strange thing recently is the frequency of the eclipse.
…Oh wait. Speaking of which, maybe this could apply to the criterion of ‘strange’. Yesterday, during the eclipse, all of the sudden, an intense pain emerged right in the middle of my chest, as if someone stamped the sun against my skin. On top of that, my heart was pounding like crazy. The whole sensation was simply ridiculous. For a second there, I thought I had a heart attack or something, which is definitely impossible because my last month’s medical check up reported that I’m perfectly healthy – well, unless that check up was a lie.
I guess I’ll tell mom about this when I get home tonight.
Anyway, why was mom suddenly asking about strange stuffs that happened to me recently? From the way she asked me, it sounded like she was worried about something. I mean, I know that in the past she can be overly protective, but she hasn’t been like that for many years now. After all, I’m 20 years old now; I’m no longer the little girl who wishes to be the goddess of creation … all right … I lied again. I haven’t really forgot about my childhood dream, but the point is I can take care of myself just fine.
Still, it bugs me the way mom was interrogating me like that in the middle of the day. As a result, my mind spent the rest of the day pondering about all the possible reasons that could make her so paranoid. Sadly in the end, I could not think of a single sound reason and before I know it, the day is almost over. I am standing on the platform at the train station near my house once again. Stepping down the station’s staircase, I am faced with the usual evening traffic. The city is packed not only in the morning, but also around 5 PM when most people clocked out.
Taking the turn at the corner, I took the same shortcut that I took in the morning and entered the old abandoned railways. Before the Nebula Skylink was established, there used to be trains running on tracks surrounding the city. But now that coal and steam became obsolete, the train was out of commission and the rails were left to rust. Not many people pass around this place because it is desolated. But I’ve been playing here since I was young so I am accustomed to this area.
However, just when I got around halfway into the area, I stagger slightly upon hearing a crack coming from behind; I don’t know when but someone has been following me.