Chapter 14 – S
“Ah! Fresh air at last!!!”
I spread my arms and stretch them as far as my limbs allow.
By the time we got out of the tunnel, the night has already fallen. The sky turns from bright blue to completely black, decorated with the glimmering stars. Traveling through that tunnel was a horrible experience. There were various obstacles that got in our way.
First, the mine was dark and damp. Fortunately, while we were moving in the tunnel, I heard Regulus’s voice telling me to knock the tip of my staff against a solid surface twice. Upon doing so, a globe of flame engulf the mace of my staff, forming a torch. This helped us a lot when we were navigating through the dark portion of the mine.
Next, while the paths are well paved enough for a person to walk, it is still rather rough and hard to get through. There are many difficult paths like broken wagon rails and roads blocked from land slide. The elevators also would not work due to electricity shortage. We had to look for the power generator and forced it to run.
Finally, there were a few Strikers and Spiders lurking around the corners of the mine. Taking care of them was slightly harder due to limited space and air.
In the end, mom and I were able to make it out in one piece, albeit completely wearing us out.
“Don’t relax just yet.” Mom interrupted my relaxing moment. “There is a small village called ‘Aresian’ just down the hill. We can relax once we get to an inn there.”
“Okay.” I nodded and obediently follow her down the hill. But then, while we are walking, mom suddenly sighs.
“The car is still parked in Grand Central.”
“Oh. Yeah. Our stuffs are in there too, huh?” I muttered.
Mom did most of the packing for me. I brought down minimal stuffs into a single backpack and left it in the car. Most of my important items like wallet and cell phone are still in my pocket, so there is not much for me to worry about.
“I’m actually not very concerned about our belongings. I’m more concerned about how we are going to get to the Orion Observatory from here,” mom said.
“…Oh? But I thought you said that the observatory is only a small distance down from here?”
“Well, yes, but it was a short distance only if we have a car. Without a vehicle, it could take us weeks to get there by foot.”
“Woah?! Weeks?!” I cried.
“…Wow. I wonder if Auria and Viola are going to get there before us,” I muttered.
“Well, that depends. If they have a car, then they’ll probably get there before us. But if they don’t, then we’ll probably get there just about the same time as they do,” mom said, “Say, shouldn’t you give them a call now?”
“Hm. I don’t know. Maybe tomorrow. I’m a little tired right now. I’m sure they’ll be all right. Viola is strong. And Auria has Miki with her. They’ll make it. I’m sure,” I said.
“You sure are optimistic,” mom giggled, “I guess it’s not wrong to look at the bright side every now and then.”
“Well, I’ve seen them fight before. I just know that the three of them can take care of themselves.”
For some reason, something just tells me that they are going to be all right, and we will meet each other again someday.
Mom and I stroll down the hill, embracing the cool night breeze.
I remember that when I was a little girl, mom used to take me out for a walk in the evening. We would walk along the river that runs near the neighborhood until we reach the public park where we sit down on a bench to watch the sun sets. Sometimes when it gets dark, I would pretend to fall asleep while watching the sun sets, so mom would carry me home. I’m sure she could tell, but she still let me piggyback ride her home.
The night breeze back then is no different from now. It was so long I already forgot the last time I walked with mom like this. Out of nostalgia, my left hand reaches out to grab and hold mom’s right hand, which unconditionally held mine back in return.
With mom’s hand holding mine like this, all the fears and worries I had just simply vanished away.
A few moments later, mom and I finally reach the Aresian Village.
When viewed from on the hill, the village seems so small and peaceful. There are only a few houses in the village, all lined up in grid blocks. Since the night has already fallen, I could clearly see the lights coming from the houses. For some reason, I could picture seeing a small family having dinner together inside those houses – a father who reads newspaper, a mother who brings food to the table one by one, and a couple of kids playing around making loud noises while waiting for food.
The neighborhood appears to be pretty peaceful. This place really seems like a nice place to stay during long holidays.
However, the pendant hanging on my neck suddenly emanates a familiar pale light while I was admiring the environment of this village,.
“What!? What’s the matter?!” Mom was startled by my cry and immediately turned around to me. Her eyes then widened up, showing that she is just as surprise as I am to see the pendant glowing. “It’s glowing?”
“Yeah. And vibrating too,” I said, lifting the pendant up with my left hand, “It was like this twice when I was in Grand Central too…Say, mom. Can this pendant lead us to other Zodiac Angels?”
“Lead us to other Zodiac Angels?” mom repeated my question.
“Yeah. Back when I was in Grand Central, the pendant glowed like this too, and it led me to find Auria, Viola, and Miki,” I explained.
“…So you’re saying this pendant is pointing towards a Zodiac Angels that we’ve never met before?” mom muttered, “That’s weird. I didn’t know that it could do that too.”
“…You don’t know? Wait. You didn’t create this pendant?”
“Of course not! I don’t even know what it was made of.” Mom’s answer slightly struck me with a surprise. For all this time, I always thought that she created this pendant in order to keep me safe.
“Then…where did you get this pendant in the first place?” I asked.
“I got it from an elderly woman in a rural village. When she discovered that I am a Zodiac Angel, she gave it to me and told me to keep it. At first, I thought it was just a lucky charm, so I just took it for granted. It wasn’t until much later that I realize what kind of power it had, and by that time, I was already running on the road. I was too focused on trying to stay alive that I just completely forgot to ponder about its origin,” mom explained.
“…That’s…really weird,” I muttered, “…In that case, how did that lady have this pendant? …And who created this pendant?”
While we are pondering, the pendant simply ceases to glow just like that.
“…Huh? It’s not glowing anymore?” I lift it up, waving it over my head.
“I don’t think it works like cell phone signal, hon.” Mom crossed her arms.
“That’s weird. Does this mean that they are around here?” I look around.
“It’s getting late, Sophia. Why don’t we rest up at the inn and look around the village tomorrow?” mom suggested, “There’s still so much that we don’t understand right now. Let’s just rest up for now.”
I nodded and obediently follow mom deeper into the village.
I am pretty sure that I am not imagining it. The pendant was really trying to lead me to other Zodiac Angels.
In that case, then it means that there has to be another angel somewhere in this village…
Once we got to a travelers’ inn, mom got us a twin room with a small bathroom inside.
I told her that we can just use a single room and share the bed, since the room rate is cheaper. However, mom assured me that she can afford for the rooms. When I asked why she was so sure, she showed me her researcher’s card. Apparently, the Orion University doesn’t mind that she charges this onto her research budget tab.
Once we got into our rooms, I quickly get into the shower to wash the sweat and dusts off my body. Today was a long and tiring day, but it was well worth it. I get to meet with three other Zodiac Angels, and most likely, there is at least one other angel somewhere in this village.
Hopefully, I will get to see her (or them) tomorrow.
While enjoying my personal time in the shower, mom suddenly yelled my name, snapping me out of my thoughts.
“Yeah!?” I replied back.
“Get out of the shower now! You have to see this!”
Why does it have to be now?
I quickly wrap myself with a towel and my hair with another before leaving the bathroom hurriedly. Mom is sitting at the foot of her bed with her eyes locked at the television, reporting an urgent news.
“[While the NEF were trying to get the incident under control, the surveillance copter was able to capture an interesting footage of a struggle at the center of Grand Central],” the reporter said before the screen was cut to show a footage of the city’s square where a huge monster can be seen.
“…Wait a sec! That was—!”
Before I could say anything else, the footage zooms straight for the corner of the city’s square, revealing three familiar looking girls. One of them is holding a weird looking stick with the mace shaped like the paw of a cat. Another girl is wearing a plain white dress, standing behind the first girl. The last girl has purple hair and wields a spear, while she valorously charges at the monster.
The news reporter then continued, “[Surprisingly, one of the young ladies that were fighting against the monster appeared to be Viola Hikari, the suspect to the murder case in Andoria last week. The Director of the NEF gave an opinion on the matter this evening as follows].”
The footage was cut off and instead shows a live interview with a middle aged man dressed in a navy uniform, decorated with various fancy badges and pins.
“[There are quite a number of speculations, but we have drawn a conclusion that these girls might be related to the Zodiac Angel of the bedtime stories. After all, if that mysterious man is truly the Zodiac Beast of Lady Ophiucus, it would not be surprising if the other Zodiac Angels exist],” the director announced from behind the podium with microphones from various news reporter pointing at him, “[It is still unknown as to what is causing this struggle, but we will try our best to investigate the matter. If we ever spot these young ladies, they will be arrested on spot and interrogated about the matter.]”
Mom turns off the television right after the report is over.
“…Oh my god. I was on TV…”
My jaws drop to the floor as I sit down at the foot of the other bed. It would have been a lot merrier if it was a commercial advertisement with me as the star.
For some reason, I actually felt like a criminal right now.
“You’re lucky the camera didn’t focus on you. People wouldn’t recognize your face from that single shot,” mom said.
“The situation is a lot worse than I thought. We shouldn’t stay here for too long. Tomorrow, after we get our supplies and plan our route, we’ll leave the village right away,” mom said.
“But wait, mom! What about the angel in this village!?”
“We have no time to look for her! We don’t even know if the pendant is really leading you to other angels or not! We’ll have to head south towards Orion Observatory as soon as possible. The Nebula Corp must have already seen this tape. Who knows? They might have already sent out their search forces tonight,” mom said.
“Then what if they found the angel living here!? Wouldn’t they take her away by force!?”
“The force will probably focus on looking for you and the other two angels within the perimeters of Grand Central for now. They wouldn’t do anything rash until they are 100% confident that there is an angel in this village. To avoid them coming here and finding that angel, we’ll have to leave as soon as possible!”
…That doesn’t make any sense.
If the Nebula Corp desires so, what stops it from raiding this entire village to look for the angel living here?
And what are they going to do to her when they find her?
That moment, the picture of the horrible treatment I had back at Frederick’s lab immediately pops up into my head.
I don’t want anyone else to experience that.
But…I can’t disobey mom.
She cares for me more than anyone.
She knows what is best for me.
And most importantly, I don’t want to disappoint her.
“…Okay mom. I understand.” I nodded obediently.
“Good. Now, I’m going to go take a bath. After that, we’ll go to bed and get rested. Tomorrow, we’ll pick our routes, stock up our supplies, and leave this place as soon as possible.”
“I’m glad you understand, sweetie.”
Mom pats my head and gets into the shower room.
It’s already dark outside and I’m completely worn out, so it’s already too late for today. However, we still have some time tomorrow before we leave the village. Whatever the circumstance, I’ll just think of a way.
No…I have to come up with a way…
I have to find that angel and bring her out of this village with me before the Nebula Corp can come here.