This chapter contains violence, bullying, and questionable treatment of a lady. Please be advised while reading this chapter.
Chapter 03 – S
I carefully open up my heavy eyelids and gaze upon the white ceiling. The image is very blurry and my head aches badly.
Where am I?
…Oh yeah…That’s right…
I was walking along the desolated railways to get home in the evening. Someone was following me. But then a weird orange staff suddenly appeared on my hand and I burned one of those men. After that, more of them came in, pinned me down, gave me a shot, and then…
What…happened after that?
My body forces itself to sit up and my eyes try to focus. I am sitting on a cot with white sheets inside a small cubic room, wholly painted white. The room is well lighted with a round bulb hanging down from the middle of the ceiling. There is no window or aperture on the walls. The only way out of the room is apparently the metallic door with barred window to the opposite side of the bed.
From the layouts of this room and appearance of the door, doesn’t this fit the qualifications of a ‘prison cell’!?
Oh god. Where am I?
Why am I here!?
Dropping my feet down from the cot, I found that I am not wearing any shoes. In fact, I am no longer in my university’s uniform. Upon careful inspection, it appears that I am wearing a loose white short sleeve dress that looks like a hospital patient’s outfit. To make matters even more worrisome, my undergarments are all gone as well.
What…happened to me while I was asleep?
Please tell me this is just some kind of a horrible nightmare!
I tightly hug my arms and press myself against the wall next to the cot, trying to stop myself from shivering. However, it is not helping. Unspeakable ideas keep popping out of my brain like a popcorn machine. It is driving me crazy.
Suddenly, the metallic door flips opened and a man in white gown steps inside the cell. Two men in black outfit, exactly like what those men who came for me wear, follow inside closely. My body trembles harder than before and tears trace itself down my cheeks.
“I see you are awake,” the man in white gown said, nudging his eyeglasses upwards. He appears to be somewhat into middle age, about 40 but not more than 50 years old, with thin hair.
My voice just won’t stop trembling.
“I am Professor Frederick Augustine, head of the Nebula Corporation’s Zodiac Biology Division and the lead researcher of this Altair Laboratory,” the man introduced himself with a calm and collected voice, but that does not ease my anxiety at all, “I lead a scientific team specialized in researching Zodiac Specimens that materializes from sidereal energies.”
I absolutely have no idea about what he just said, so I just made a puzzling face at him.
“Well, perhaps the term ‘Zodiac Beasts’ might be more familiar for you?” the man continued.
Now that’s better.
Zodiac Beasts are mentioned in some versions of [Tales of Star Ocean]. Like several other fables that are orally told from regions to regions, the details of the story differed slightly in each region. Some versions even go as far as saying that Ophiucus Angel actually defeated all the 12 Zodiac Angels. But due to the love she has for her sisters, Ophiucus lets her 12 sisters reincarnate as humans and watches over them as they try to make Athenia a better place to live.
Anyway, the Zodiac Beasts, as told in some versions of the tale, are the legendary creatures that loyally serve the Zodiac Angels. It was said that Zodiac Beasts are incredibly powerful and theoretically indestructible.
But enough about that.
What does he mean by ‘researching Zodiac Beasts’?
Those creatures exist only in the bedtime story. Is he telling me that these beasts really do exist in our world?
“So…what…do you want from me?” I asked him with a shaky voice.
“We intend to extract the Zodiac Beast sleeping within your body out and tame it, sweetie,” he replied with a straight face.
Zodiac Beast? Inside me?
This guy needs help!
How the heck could there be something like that inside me!?
“Oh ho…Seems like your mother never told you, did she?” The man spoke up after he notices a surprised look on my face.
What does she have anything to do with this?
“In that case, allow me to take the honor of explaining the situation to you in her stead.”
The man in white gown reaches his hands out to me. My body trembles even harder as he caresses my soft bouncy cheeks. Unspeakable ideas pop up in my head once again. I don’t like the way this man gets so close and personal to me.
“You, my dear, are the reincarnated host of a Zodiac Angel.”
What…in the world…?
He has to be!
How is it even possible!?
For some reason, I felt offended by this. Zodiac Angels are supposed to be omnipotent beings that transcend all forces of nature and existence! If I really am one, then why have I never known about this!?
How could he mock my favorite bedtime story!?
“N…No…It can’t be…I…”
“Why are you so surprised, my dear?”
“C…Cuz…That’s…impossible! Z…Zod…Zodiac Angels…don’t exist!”
I might have said that with a straight face, but deep down it hurts me so much to say it. [Tales of Star Ocean] has always been the most fascinating story to me and I love it. To say something like that, even if it was to get myself out of trouble, was like swallowing a whole jar of needles.
“And yet here you are.” He smirked.
“You have no prove!” I push him away when his face got too close and quickly crawl to the corner of the room.
“Well then, how about this?”
The man in white gown takes three photos out of his gown and places them onto the cot, right next to my feet. My stomach suddenly feels sick and I vomit onto the cot upon looking at the photos; they depict three corpses fully blackened into a pile of soot.
“In case you don’t remember, those are my men that you burned down to a crisp with your weapon.”
Frederick snaps his finger and three more men enter into the room, dragging the orange cat paw staff along the ground. As those three men get their hands off, the staff drops to the ground, creating a thundering thud.
“In the hands of the rightful Zodiac Angel, this weapon probably does not weight any different from a tennis racket. But as you can see, it takes three men with combined strength to even move this thing here,” Frederick explained, “Yet if you carefully recall, you were swinging this weapon like a baseball bat, homerunning a couple of my men against each other.”
Both of my hands quickly clutch my head in anxiety.
“N…No…I…I don’t know! I don’t know anything!!! Just let me go!!! I wanna go home!!!!!” I cried out loud, “Please…?”
So many emotions are circulating in my head right now.
I don’t even want to begin counting right now.
“Don’t worry, honey. As soon as I’m done with you, you are free to do whatever you want,” Frederick chuckled and turns away to leave the room, “Take her.”
Following his orders, the five men immediately approach me.
“Noooo!!!!! Let me go!!!!!”
I smack and kick any hands that reach out for me, but in the end, they just grab all of my limbs and drag me out of the corners.
“Let go of me! Don’t touch me!!!!” I yelled and struggled as hard as I can, despite all the looming hopelessness. I keep struggling even though they have already forced me down from the cot and out of the room into the hallway.
“Hey, don’t make my job so hard!!!!”
“Act more lady-like, will you!?”
Those men scowl at me, but I don’t care. I just keep on shaking my arms and legs, trying my best to make them free me. Suddenly, one of them comes up in front of me, and before I know it, my left cheek becomes horribly numb as my line of sight shifts to my right. The loud smack echoes the hallway while I remain still in shock.
Did he…Did he just…slap me…?
“Good, she finally stops bitchin’,” the man who slapped me laughed amusingly and grabbed me by the collar of my shirt, before helping the four other men drag me towards the direction Frederick is walking.
My mind was completely blank for a while. I’ve never been slapped like that before in my entire life. Mom never even spanked me that hard.
What have I ever done to deserve this kind of treatment?!
I wanted to be a Zodiac Angel. But does it really mean that I have to be harmed like this?
When my senses returned, I found myself lying down on a cold tile floor of a tall cylindrical room, roughly five meters in radius. My arms and legs are pinned down by the shackles attached to the floor.
“Okay then. Let’s begin.”
Frederick’s voice echoed from nearby. I turn my head to the right and notice the one-way glass window settled on the walls of this room. He is probably observing me from that room.
What is he going to do with me?
Suddenly, the sound of machine running fills the room and my body becomes numb. My heart pounds so fast, just like when I was running from those men. The area in the middle of my chest burns so hot like someone dropped the sun there. After that, all I hear is the sound of my scream, echoing the cylindrical room. My body writhes so hard, trying to shake free of this pain. But these shackles do not agree and insist on holding me down for some more pain.
Only a few seconds have passed by, but it feels like this has already lasted for an hour. Just as my vision starts to blur, I found that the light from the ceiling is starting to darken, not because the lights are going out, but because something transparent hovering above me is slowly turning opaque, blocking the lights from the ceiling.
The pain suddenly subsides and my senses return. I could hear the sound of an intense breathing as well as the heartbeat of the creature standing over my body. My eyes see a chunk of hairy mane, dangling right in front of my face.
“He’s out! Turn the machine to full power and catch him before he goes on a rampage!!!!!”
Frederick’s voice was so loud that it leaks into this room again.
Suddenly, the creature standing over me roars, shaking the whole room as if an earthquake has struck. Even though it is just a roar, I could almost sense hostile threatening intent and anger from it. While I am anxious about this whole situation, for some reason I am not afraid of this creature at all.
In fact, I feel even calmer than before.
The creature violently roars again before lunging away from me. My face quickly turns towards his direction and found that he has fully charged himself against the walls of this room. Right now, I cannot accurately describe his appearance because my visions are blurry again, but at the very least, I could tell that he appears to be a lion. He stands on four legs and his body is covered in thick golden fur. His hairy mane covers a golden shackle on his neck. The lion keeps charging himself against the walls, forcefully trying to break out.
“Sorry, but you can’t break out of that cell, buddy,” Frederick’s voice spoke up from the speaker on the ceiling, “It’s been a while since we last saw each other, Regulus. This time, I’m claiming you!!!”
Regulus…? Is that his name?
Where…have I heard of this name before?
For some reason, the lion seems to fully understand what that mad man was talking about, so he roars at the speaker. Surprisingly, the roar instantly bursts the speakers to pieces, raining its remains down to the ground.
Suddenly, my body feels numb again and as I screamed in pain, I also heard that creature roaring as well. However, this time it is neither a threat nor frustration. He seems to suffer the pain as I do. His prideful roar slowly turns into a soft whimper, evidently showing that he is growing weaker.
“S…Stop it! You’re hurting him!”
I don’t know why, but instead of worrying about myself, I am concerned about that lion. It is a weird feeling of attachment; I’ve never seen him before, yet I feel like I have not seen him in a long time.
After a while, the lion falls to the floor and my consciousness fades again.
I think it is safe to say that so far, this was one of the most painful chapter to write for me in this fiction. Torturing Sophia…*sigh*
(Nothing tops CYOW: Birth of the Rebellion‘s Ending though >_>)
In any case, I believe I should credit username [Marcelo] here for his comment on the notorious Chapter Viola 08. His comment really gave me something to think about when writing Sophia’s perspectives and reactions in this chapter.