Chapter 09 – S
“Is this a joke!?”
“What the hell are you yapping about!?”
“Shut the hell up!!!!”
The crowds around Rasalhague begin booing, and some even throw random objects at him. But despite the cursing from the crowd, Rasalhague stands quiet, shaking his head in boredom.
“An expected reaction of an uncivilized kind.”
Even though it was a whisper under his breath, the voice was still amplified and heard by everyone. Without flinching, the blue skinned man profoundly raises his rod at a man in the crowd and a beam of light shoots from the tip of the rod. Once the beam touches the man, his whole body instantly explodes, splattering his blood and flesh all over the area. The cursing instantly turns into scream of fear and despair as the crowd runs away from the huge hole.
“The extinction of your kind is not a warning. It has been decided; this is a sentence. The will of my lady is absolute. Her other servants shall soon descend to Athenia and put your pitiful race to an end! Live in fear and terror while you repent for all the sins you have done!”
After that Rasalhague gradually levitates from the ground and rises up into dark hole in the sky. At the same time, several weird objects start raining down on to the street. The footage zooms into these weird objects when it reaches the ground. At first, they appear to be harmless blobs of flesh meat, but later on, the blobs slowly shift their shape and transform into hideous abominated creatures. The creature stands on two legs like people, but the upper half of its body is a huge lump of meat, beating exactly like a human’s heart. Two arm-like organs stretched out from the lump, each with a razor-sharp blade attached to it. A small hole in front of the blob whistles a disturbing high pitch scream. These monsters approach the people running in the intersection area and begin slaughtering everyone without discrimination.
Not long after that, the footage is cut and the television screen becomes static.
Back at the fountain square, the people around me begin chattering nervously. Some are even crying and running out of the square, trying to go somewhere safe. My body is struck in fright, unable to move from where I am standing.
It was like a nightmare comes true. People are being killed mercilessly on the road.
But more importantly, the fact that this man has announced the intention of Ophiucus Angel only means that what my mom and I feared are coming true; Ophiucus is really descending down to Athenia. The ending of the Tales of Star Ocean is about to be realized.
“Aaaahhh!!! Look!!! They’re here!!!!”
I was snapped out of my thoughts when I heard a young man screaming from nearby. The weird blobs of meat rain down on the fountain square and immediately transform into the hideous monster we saw in the television screen earlier. The monsters then begin its bloody massacre on this fountain square as well.
Everyone cries out in fear and run amok. The monsters show no sign of mercy as they raise their blades, striking everyone down without discrimination. A couple of seconds later, the fountain square is covered with red sticky puddles and the stench of blood quickly reeks the whole area.
What should I do?
Where should I run?
These monsters are every where.
…Will running really get me to a safe place?
Suddenly, a high pitch screech was heard from behind me. As I turn around, I spot one monster running straight for me, raising one of its razor arms up high.
Although I am startled by its sudden ambush, my body still hops to the side, dodging its slash out of instinct. My right hand then reaches for the staff strapped on my belt and swings it at the monster, sending it flying away from me.
‘The flow’ took care of everything and beat that monster down!
The training session I had with mom works better than I expected. Seeing how I was able to take care of that monster, a glint of confidence immediately breaks the screen of despair, giving me some esteem.
I have the power of a Zodiac Angel. I said I want to protect Athenia from Ophiucus. This is exactly my chance to prove the resolutions I made yesterday.
Seeing its friend being attacked, the other monsters immediately turn their attention towards me instead of going after other helpless citizens. My current situation is extremely unfavorable. There are so many of these monsters standing in the fountain square and they are all surrounding me on all directions.
But it’s okay.
I have some grasp of my powers now. Plus, judging from that previous monster, these things don’t look very tough. I should be able to handle this fight alone without help.
The monsters all turn their faces towards me, releasing the threatening noise. Since none of them are moving, I decide to take the first strike.
Pointing my staff forth, I fire a bolt of flame at one of the monsters. Surprisingly, the bolt strikes home at the target, completely burning the monster down to ash in a blink of an eye.
Provoked, the rest of the monsters start heading their ways towards me. I prioritize my aim at the ones that are closer to me, shooting down them down once they get too close.
In the end, some of them manage to get up close and try to cut me with their arms. Fortunately, my body is able to react accordingly and hops to the side safely. After that, my right arm swings the staff against the attacking monster, blowing it away from me. Their relentless assaults continue but none of them was able to make a single scratch to me.
…Well, there is one that manages to get a slice on the sleeve of my denim jacket, but luckily it did not create any scratch on my skin.
It took a while, but I was able to take down every single monster on the fountain square. After making sure that there is no more of them nearby, I sigh and kneel down on the floor, amazed at my work.
“Man. That was easier than I thought, but I’m beat.”
My heart is pounding like crazy, both because I’ve been shooting a lot of fireballs and because I’m still frightened by these monsters.
While enjoying my brief rest, my cell phone suddenly rings, almost giving me a heart attack.
“Hello, mom? Are you—-.”
“Sophia! Are you safe!?” Mom’s voice screamed through the speaker into my ear.
“Thank goodness you’re okay.” Her sigh of relief is loud and clear.
“Mom, did you see the broadcast?”
“Yeah. That footage was broadcasted all over the city,” she said.
“What about the monsters? Did they attack the university too?”
“Yeah, they did. There are some of them running in the lower halls, but I just took care of the ones near the archive. I decide to call you the moment I had the chance. Thank goodness you’re safe.” She sighed in relief again.
“Anyway, mom. About that broadcast…”
“Yeah. It really has begun just like we thought,” mom said.
“So what should we do now, mom?”
“The road is completely blocked so I can’t drive the car out of the lot. We’ll have to evacuate out of this place by foot.”
“Well then, where should we meet up with each other?”
“Let’s meet up with each other at the south gate. That way we can continue our way to the Orion Observatory easier,” mom suggested.
“Okay. I’ll look for a way to get there. You take care of yourself, mom,” I said.
“Wait, Sophia. Before that, there is something I have to tell you about these monsters,” mom said.
“What is it?”
“Sophia. You saw those monsters at the intersection in the footage, right?”
“Yeah. I just fought a few of them earlier.”
“Oh, really?! Are you harmed?!”
“No. I was a little scared, but overall, they are not that strong.”
“…I see. Listen. Those monsters are called the [Strikers]. They are the ‘foot soldiers’ of their army.”
“…Wait. Mom. [Strikers]? What’s with that name?”
Did she come up with it?
“That’s what Ophiucus’s servants called those monsters. Anyway, forget about that. Listen to me, Sophia. Strikers are neither powerful nor smart, but they normally appear in big numbers. The key to defeating them is stay out of their circle and don’t let them gang up on you,” she explained.
“Oh. Okay. I get it.”
That kind of makes sense. Those monsters earlier are not really that strong since they go down with just a single fireball, and they don’t have any tricky maneuvers too.
“There’s more. I’m not sure if you’ve seen them, but there are three other kinds of monsters roaming the area too.”
“Huh? There are more kinds of these monsters!?” I cried.
“That’s right. I’ll be brief so listen to me carefully, okay?”
…She’s gonna give me a lecture now?
Oh please, brain, cooperate and memorize everything she’s about to say please.
“Another common foot soldiers are the [Spiders]. You’ll know what they look like when you see them. These things are slightly more powerful and trickier to handle compared to Strikers. Fortunately, they love working alone, so you won’t have to worry about being ganged up,” she explained.
“Next is the [Flyers]. Like their name suggests, they soar the sky with their wings. They are not very durable, but they are fast and like to come in flocks. They also love to make SOS calls to their companions should they get into trouble. Look out for their feathers. Those things are sharp!”
“Look out for the feathers on the ones with wings? Got it.”
“Finally, there’s the [Tankers]. These things look like a giant turtle and they are extremely durable and powerful. However, they are really slow. If possible, avoid fighting those things and just run. You should be able to out run it, but look out for the acid slimes that it spits from its mouth.”
“Okay. Look out for turtle salivas…”
Oh wow. I think I actually memorized all of that.
“That should be all. I’ll see you later, sweetie. Take care of yourself.”
“Okay. You too, mom.”
Compared to how she normally lectures me about stuffs, that was really brief. I never knew she could summarize stuffs. She loves to drag things on and on, claiming that everything is important.
…Anyway, I probably should get moving.
After hanging up, I quickly run back into the station and look at the map to check my current position. Mom told me to meet up at the south gate, so that’s the direction to my right.
However, before I leave the station, the pendant on my neck begins vibrating once again – this time, even harder than before. Lifting it up, I found that it is glowing brighter than before. Surprisingly, the light has formed into the shape of a needle like a compass, pointing towards the direction in front of me.
…What’s in that direction?
“What are you trying to show me?” I whispered, asking the pendant as if it could talk back to me.
“FOLLOW THE PENDANT!!!”
Suddenly, I heard a familiar voice yelling in my ears, just like that day when I was walking home at the desolated railways.
“Why? What is the pendant trying to show me?” I asked Regulus back.
“FOLLOW THE PENDANT!!!!”
“But it’s in a different direction from where I have to meet mom!” I argued.
“FOLLOW THE PENDANT!!”
“…You’re not a very good talker now, aren’t you?”
I sighed. If other people saw me right now, they’ll probably think that I’m crazy since I am talking and arguing to myself in the middle of a sky train station.
Thank goodness no one else is standing here.
Anyway, I kind of have a weird hunch that this pendant is trying to show me something very important. It probably won’t hurt if I make a slight detour. If it’s not that important, I’ll just head back to see mom right away.
The street below the station is in a complete chaos. People are running around, trying to get to a safe place. The Strikers are mingled in the crowd, slaughtering anyone within its arm length.
Deep down, I want to jump down and beat the crap out of these monsters. But with the crowd this packed, I risk burning completely innocent people along with the monsters. Moreover, I don’t think creating a scene in front of the public eyes would really be a good thing for me. That would only make my whereabouts easier for the Nebula Corp to locate.
As a result, I grit my teeth as I run inside the mall towards the direction the pendant is pointing. The pendant leads me down the escalator to the first floor and points to the exit to my left. Leaving the sliding glass door, I am now standing at the back of the Universal Mall, on the footpath right next to the jammed street. After that, I follow the pendant deeper into a narrow alley two blocks away from the Universal Mall. Once I got out of the alley, I found myself standing in the middle of a wide-open square. The sign sitting on one of the corner tells me that this is the town’s central square. The area looks similar to Universal Mall’s fountain square, except it does not have the fancy fountain that Universal Mall does.
I look down at the pendant again, but unfortunately, it is no longer pointing to any direction. In fact, the glow slowly fades away until it stops radiating altogether.
“Hey. You can’t just stop glowing like this!” I yelled at the pendant. But it is no longer vibrating or glowing. “…Just perfect. Now what?”
I sighed and scratched my head in frustration.
Why did I even bother to follow this thing in the first place?
That moment before I decide to backtrack the way I came, I heard the sound of footsteps echoing from behind me. Turning around, I saw two girls running towards me.
The girl to my right has long caramel hair and wears a white sleeveless dress covering half of her thighs. In her arms is a weird black doll-like object with a big round soccer-sized head and sharp white eyes. The girl’s arms cover the doll’s body so I don’t know what it looks like, but I could see the part that appears to be its tail hanging down from her arms. To my surprise, that thing is actually moving! It nudges that girl with its tiny arms and points toward the girl to my left, as if telling her that she’s not the only one running towards me.
The girl to my left looks even more interesting. First of all, my eyes are attracted to her shoulder-length bright purple hairs. It’s definitely not every day you see someone with that hair color. The funny thing is I felt as if I’ve seen someone who looks like her just recently, but I could not remember where…
This girl wears a light cream dress with detached sleeves that covers her hands, and ties her gray sweater around her waist.
Both girls appear to be approximately of the same age and height with me.
The two of them stand quietly still about three steps from me, saying nothing. Since they are not attacking me, I guess it is safe to assume that they are not hostile.
Maybe I should start talking to them with a smile?
Both of them still remain quiet. An awkward silence quickly fills the space again.
Who are they?
And what could they possibly want with me?
…Wait a sec. Could it be that they are…?
“…D…Do you girls happen to be…Zodiac Angels?” the caramel haired girl in white dress asked the purple haired girl and me.
My eyes slightly widened at the girl’s question.
Now everything makes sense.
The Connection Pendant strengthens the ‘links’ between Zodiac Angels. So perhaps, it was trying to lead me to find these two girls.
“Uh…Yeah. Well…since we are here in the middle of the city instead of running, I guess it’s obvious that we are not average girls.”
I tried to cover the awkward silence, but maybe I just made everything worse.
Suddenly, a loud roar echoes from the other side of the square. The three of us quickly turn toward the source of the roar and notice three monsters standing there. I’ve never seen any of them before but their appearances completely match the other three kinds of monsters mom was talking about.
One of them looks like snake with fluttering feathery wings and a fan-shaped tail. Those must be the Flyers with sharp feathers.
Another one is a faceless humanoid figure with half its body stuck over a huge blob of meat. Several sharp blades stick out of the meat blob acting as its legs. This makes the monster looks extremely like a spider.
The last one literally looks like a turtle, except it stands over five meters tall and has huge pillar-like legs similar to an elephant. Two horn-like structures points out from the top of its thick shell.
The three of them shoot their crimson eyes at us bloodthirstily before threatening us with high-pitch screeches.
“…Were you girls after one of those guys?” I asked the two girls.
“Sort of.” The purple haired girl reaches for an object hanging on the strap behind her waist and pulls it out, stretching it into a white spear.
“I was chasing the one with wings before arriving here. I wasn’t expecting to see other Zodiac Angels or more monsters here though,” said the caramel haired girl.
“The one with wings is called [Flyer]. As far as I know, they are known for being the megaphone of their team. Maybe it was the one who assembled the [Tanker] and the [Spider] here,” I briefed to them the exact same way mom did to me earlier.
…Wow. I actually memorized everything she told me earlier…
“…Uh…wait? You named these things?” the purple haired girl asked me with a surprised voice. I can hardly blame her for asking that because that’s what I thought when mom briefed me earlier as well.
Anyway, before I could say anything, the three monsters start acting strangely. The Spider climbs onto the shell of the Tanker and merges the lower part of its body into the shell. The Flyer then attaches its body against the Spider’s back. Four arm-like organs with one-meter long razor blades stretch out from the Tanker’s shell. Standing tall in front of us now is a hideous creature, too twisted to verbally describe its appearance accurately.
The abomination releases a high-pitch screech once again. This time, it was the noise of three monsters combined, making the screech even more disturbing.
“…Well, I could use some help in taking this thing down,” the purple haired girl spoke up.
“Let’s save our introductions for later. Time to take care of these monsters!”
I swing my staff to the side and focus my sight at the monster.