Chapter 07 – S
“Aow aow aow!!!! Aww, mom, that hurts!!!!”
“I know I know. Now hold still, so I can apply the medicine on you,” mom said as softly rub the medicine paste on the bruise behind my shoulder.
“…I still can’t believe you beat the crap out of me with just a wooden sword. I never knew that you are so good with swords,” I sighed.
“Like I said, I hardly did anything. It’s ‘the flow’ that did the job. Remember? And it’s nothing to be ashamed of. I’ve been doing this for a long time now, but you just finished your first training today.”
“Yeah. These things need time to grow on you, huh?” I muttered. Mom is surprisingly skilled in battle. I was barely able to land one or two strikes on her, and even then they were merely a shallow strike, not full hit. The remainder of the fight involves me hitting thin air or getting smacked on various spot by mom’s wooden sword. If she was using her real sword back there, then I can’t imagine how many times I had been killed.
“That’s right. Here. It’s done.” Mom finished applying the medicine and put the bottle back inside the first aid kit she borrowed from hotel. While she is keeping things into its place, I get up from the bed and walk to the mirror, looking at my reflection.
Right on the middle of my chest, slightly above my breast area, a weird emblem was imprinted on my skin.
“…So this is the mark of a Zodiac Angel, huh?” I mumbled.
I saw the mark when I came out of the bath. At first I was freaked out because I had no idea how it got there. But when I showed it to mom, she doesn’t seem all that worried or surprised.
“Hm? Oh? Still not comfortable seeing it on you?” mom teased.
“Well, I suddenly have a tattoo I never asked for, of course I’m not comfortable with it,” I muttered.
“Don’t worry though. That mark isn’t always there. It will appear only another Zodiac Angel is nearby, or when you are using your powers. Remember any weird pain emerging from that spot?” mom asked.
Now that she mentioned it, when I first manifested my powers, I do feel some sharp pain emerging from that area.
“Yeah, I think I do,” I replied and put on my denim jacket, covering the mark, then went back to sit on the bed. “…Say, mom. Where exactly were you when you got the emergency signal from my pendant?”
“I was around…I think I wasn’t too far away from Grand Central when I felt the pulse,” mom replied, “I only knew that something happened to you though. It wasn’t until I went to that railway myself that I found your bag and started tracking you down. Sorry it took so long, sweetie.”
“Oh. Oh, no, mom. That’s really okay. You really came for me, that’s really all that matters.”
I quickly stop her before she starts blaming herself.
“But still. If the angel really want you to be her successor, then I really wish I was with you so none of this would have happened at all,” mom sighed and looked out of the window.
She stood there for a long time without saying a word. Judging from her face on the reflection, I could tell right away that she has something troubling in her mind.
“…Is…something the matter, mom?”
“…No. It’s just…seeing you in that lab…It kinds of remind me of some of friends in the past.”
“Are they also Zodiac Angels?”
“Well, obviously, yes.” Mom chuckled.
I felt kind of stupid asking her that…
“Anyway, we couldn’t save her because by the time we got to the laboratory that she was held captive, it was already too late…” Mom sighed again. “And here I really thought I’ll finally get to live peacefully without having to think about the past again…”
Now that she mentioned it, I just realized that I know next to nothing about her past. She told me about some of her school and university life, but those are some of the really general stuffs. I’ve never known how or where she grew up.
“…Hey, mom. Can you tell me more about your past?” I asked.
“Anything is fine. Maybe…about some of your other Zodiac Angel friends. Or maybe your battles with Ophiucus’s servants.”
“Hm…Let’s see…” Mom sits down next to me on the bed. “I can’t really think of anything in particular from the fights with Ophiucus’s forces. We simply fight against the servants that invaded Athenia. And after they were all defeated, the whole deal just quiet down.”
“I see. What about your other Zodiac Angel friends? Anyone you are really closed to?”
“Hm…Well, I am close to many of the 11 angels, but there is one of them that I extremely close to. In fact, I think I could say that she and I are rivals.”
“Yeah. I’ve known her since high school, and we have friendly competition between each other all the time, from important stuffs like academic prowess to trivial stuffs like beauty contests.”
“Wow. Your high school close friend is a Zodiac Angel? That’s quite a coincidence.”
“I know. I was quite surprised to find out that she is just like me too. But the funnier thing is, her younger sister is also a Zodiac Angel.”
“Woah!? Seriously!? Our world isn’t so big after all!” I muttered.
“Yeah. The three of us hanged out together a lot, both before and after we’ve known about our powers. Her sister would always be the referee whenever my friend and I decide to crash against one another on spot.”
“Haha. That really sounds like a pretty cool gang!” I laughed.
“Yeah. I know. It’s…quite sad that I probably would never be able to meet both of them again…”
That moment, mom’s face immediately turns from a happy laughing face to one with a sad reminiscing smile.
“…My friend’s sister was killed right in front of our eyes.”
My eyes widened in shock. The shift in the mood was extremely sudden.
“While being chased down by a group of pursuits, that girl, Fo, was shot and died on the spot. My friend, Frey, was enraged and filled with grief. She turns around and rushes against the pursuit force that came after us.”
“W…What happened to her? Did she die there?! Or was she captured too?”
“……I don’t know…”
“Because… I ran away before I could see what happened to her.”
“You… left your friend there? But I… I thought…”
“It’s because I was pregnant…”
“That’s right. You were the baby, Sophia. When Frey grabbed her weapon and charged against those troops, a part of me told myself to pick up my sword and fight alongside her. However, another part of me got the better influence and forced me to run – to protect the child inside me.”
“I…Is that so…?” was all I could came up with as a respond.
“My mind kept telling me to turn back, but my body wouldn’t listen. In the end, I’ve never heard from her again. Since it’s her alone, pitted against an army of over 200 men, I just cannot make any wishful thinking, no matter how optimistic I want to be.”
A feeling of guilt suddenly built up from within me. Mom probably doesn’t mean to blame me for her best friend’s demise. But still, I could not shake away the thought that if mom was not pregnant with me inside her, then she would have been able to stay with her best friend until the end.
“Well…Enough about my friends. Why don’t we change our topic?” Mom forced a smile. “Anything else you wanna know?”
“Hm…Nothing that I can think of right now.”
After hearing that story, I’m not sure I want to hear about her past any more. I am her daughter, but I’ve never known how heavy the burden on her back was.
“Well…Don’t you wanna know more about your father?”
“Huh? About dad?”
“Yeah. Talking about all this, I just realized that I’ve never told you about your father, Cliff Estella,” she said.
That’s true. She has indeed never talked about dad. I remember asking her ‘Where is daddy?’ when I was younger once, and well…let’s just say it didn’t really end well.
“So, do you want to know about him?”
“…No,” I replied after a short pause.
“…Oh…” Mom remained speechless for a while. “Why not?”
“Because I know you don’t want to talk about him,” I said.
“Huh? Why would you think that, sweetie?”
“Because I saw you crying at night when I asked you about him before.”
Mom’s face was filled with surprise.
“…I…I thought you already went to bed.”
“I had to go to the toilet,” I explained, slightly chuckling.
“Oh, I see,” mom muttered.
That’s not all the reason, though. Mom is beautiful and pretty popular among her colleagues. I know because I’ve seen some of her colleagues trying to ask her out. Some even came to our house during her day offs. Since she was a very young mother, there were many men who wished to take care of her and offered to be my new father. But so far, she turned down every single one of them without discrimination.
That’s enough for me to know how much she still loves dad.
“I know you love him so much and it probably hurts you just to think about him. So it’s really fine if you don’t want to talk about him, mom. I mean…we’ve been together for as long as I remember and it’s not like I haven’t adapt to not having a father.”
While I really want to know about my father, I don’t ever want to see mom cry like that night ever again. So I try my best to hide my curiosity as much as I can.
“…No. It’s okay, Sophia,” mom spoke up after remaining quiet for a while, “It’s been 20 years. It’s about time for me to finally let go of the past. Plus, it wouldn’t be fair for you to not know about your father, and it wouldn’t be fair for your father that his daughter never knew about him.”
“Oh…Well…if you say so…”
How am I supposed to turn her down after all that?
“…It was around summer 20 years ago…,” she began, “He was a professor at the Cancerian University and I was his student in the Zodiac Astrology class. By the way, I am actually a resident of Galaxia City, but I was admitted into the university there.”
“I see. Carry on.”
“Your father, Cliff, was genius, kind, and sweet. I was so fascinated by his works and charm. I studied with him for two and a half semester before we went out with each other.”
“A professor and a student? Isn’t that something that’s like…frowned upon?” I asked curiously.
“Well, many of his senior colleagues were against this, but it’s not like there’s anything wrong with two people loving each other, right? Plus, we never did anything inappropriate to each other in public.”
“…What about in private?” I teased her.
“We are couples in a relationship, sweetie. What do you expect?” Mom laughed. “Anyway, Cliff was extremely fascinated by the [Tales of Star Ocean], just like you, Sophia. He pursues this field of studies so that he can confirm the existences of Zodiac Angels.”
“…Wait…So did he…did he know that you are a Zodiac Angel?” I interrupted her.
“I manifested my powers after we already went out together. He was very excited and happy to know that Zodiac Angels really existed. But well, of course, his girlfriend is the reincarnation of the goddess who created the world. What kind of guy wouldn’t be excited?”
“Wait. Wait! …Did he — !?”
“Fortunately, no, honey. He did not torture me or did anything remotely close to hurting me.”
“Oh…That’s a relief.” I sighed. For a moment there, I thought the image of a kind father in my head was about to be torn.
“But I did let him study my body for a while when he asked me. It was just some x-rays and physical tests. Nothing really that major.”
“…Are you sure that’s not his excuse to see you naked?” I teased her some more.
“Oh Sophia, you’re such a mood ruiner!” Mom pinched me.
“Cliff was very kind and gentle. He never asked me to strip for even once, even though he needed to x-ray my body. I even had to force him to get on the operation because he kept on being so reluctant.”
“Aww. He seems like a really nice guy.”
Dad seems like those shy and polite kind of guy, and mom seems to be the pushy type. I could already imagine how cute of a couple they are.
Where are all these kinds of guys hiding and why haven’t I seen a single one of them in my life?
“Yeah. I know. And he’s a genius too. After studying my body for only a short time, he was able to discover that a Zodiac Angel host’s power source is her heart.”
“That’s right. Have you ever felt your heart beating so fast when you are manifesting your powers? It was because the heart was the one releasing the powers from within us.”
“Oh…yeah. Now that you mentioned it…”
“In science’s point of view, ‘reincarnation of souls’ is merely a metaphorical concept. Zodiac Angels’ hosts are able to invoke supernatural powers because our beating heart is linked to the sidereal energies from the stars in the sky. Should anything happen to our beating heart, we lose that power immediately… Or so your dad said…”
“W…Well, if our heart stops beating, we’d die anyway,” I muttered.
“That’s right. Cliff assumed that it was some kind of a defense mechanism, designed to prevent other people from utilizing Zodiac Angels’ powers,” mom explained, “…But then…an unfortunate twist of events occurred when Cliff’s work was stolen by a researcher from the Cancerian Laboratory – a subsidiary of the Nebula Corp’s research division.”
“The Nebula Corp stole dad’s work!?”
“That’s right. Apparently, the head researcher from that laboratory also happened to know about the existence of another Zodiac Angel host. He had been trying to track her down and claim her powers. In the end, I don’t know what happened to that angel. But what I know is that the whole organization started hunting for the rest of the Zodiac Angels after Cliff’s work was stolen. It was because he figured out the secret of an angel’s power source, that was why the thought of claiming a goddess’s power suddenly becomes feasible.”
My jaws dropped down in disbelief. While she did not outright explain it, the underlying fact behind her words is almost obvious.
The 12 reincarnated hosts of Zodiac Angels were hunted because of my mom and dad…
“So…So what happened to dad…?” I asked.
“When he found out that we were being hunted down, he left everything behind and helped me escaped. At first I ran away quietly without telling him because I don’t want him to be involved in this mess. But he was still able to find me. He told me that he does not care if he will be hunted down as well because he wants to take responsibility as my husband… and as a father…”
“You were already pregnant?!”
“That’s right. He followed me down the road heading nowhere. We moved to various places together for almost half a year. It was a hard life since we were constantly running from danger. But those times were some of the most memorable times in my entire life. It was just him and me together…” Mom looked up to the ceiling as if to reminisce. But to me, it seems more like an attempt to chase her tears back into her eyes. “However, it wasn’t too long before the pursuit force were able to catch up with us. I was pregnant, so I couldn’t fight, and neither could we run away. In the end, he hid me in a safe place and lured the pursuit forces away…”
“No… So… he…”
Tears start falling down my cheeks.
“He is a brave man. Because of everything he did for me, I couldn’t bring myself to forget about him. After all, that wouldn’t be fair for him, don’t you think?” Mom chuckled. In the end, she lost it and tears ran down her cheek.
“Was this… was this one of the tragedies beyond my imagination that you mentioned about?” I asked.
“That was only one example, my dear. Fo and Frey’s case was another one. And don’t forget that other angels suffered no less than us,” mom said, “I want to stop living in fear. I just want a simple peaceful life with my daughter. That’s why I didn’t want you to become an angel… But I guess that’s not going to happen…”
After she finishes talking, she pulls out a handkerchief and wipes the trace of tears on her cheeks.
“…I want to live a simple and peaceful life with you too, mom.” I told her. “…A life weere we simply chat, shop, gossip, and occasionally get into a fight with each other.”
“I know. Some times, something so simple is just so amazing, don’t you think?” Mom forced a laugh.
“So mom…tell me… What exactly do we have to do to get that life back?”
Sitting here and reminiscing about the past isn’t going to help. I think it’s clear. If we want that life, then we are going to fight for it.
“Oh Sophia. I’ve tried that before. Like I told you, there’s no—-.”
“There has to be a way out, mom!” I argued. “Everything has to have a way out… So far, you’ve tried running, but you told me that it didn’t work, didn’t you?”
“So what do you think is the solution to this? What do you think is the key that will help us get our life back…?”
“That’s impossible, Sophia…”
“It’s not about whether or not something is possible, mom. I just… I just think that some times in life, we just have to keep looking forward. At least, that’s better than looking down to the ground, right?”
…That was the lamest motivational speech I’ve ever heard.
How did I even come up with that?
But even so, mom still gave me a smile.
“…Well, I guess some times we just need to be a little optimistic, huh?” Mom chuckled. “I’ve been thinking about all the potential troubles we could face in the future, and there is indeed one solution… no… more like a ‘series of actions’ that I thought might work everything out.”
“Assembling all the 12 Zodiac Angels. Fight against the impending invasion from Ophiucus’s forces. And finally, destroying Nebula Corporation for good.”
- Assembling all the 12 Zodiac Angels.
- Fighting against Ophiucus’s invasion.
- And finally, destroying the Nebula Corp.
Each task seems so big and beyond our reach. However, now that we’ve listed down our objectives, it does not seem ‘completely impossible’ any more – just ‘really really really hard to accomplished’.
But at least, that’s a start, right?
The life we longed for is now dangling in front of us. All we have to do is strive forward and reach out to it.
“Well then. Let’s do it, mom.”
“…Let’s gather all the Zodiac Angels and save Athenia.”
“…Right. That’s the spirit.” Mom finally gives me a genuine smile.
I will protect this world from Nebula Corp and the Angel of Ophiucus.