Chapter 09 – O
“Wooaaah!!!!” The blonde archer got down from Miki’s car and cried in awe as she gazed upon the gigantic mansion settled in the middle of the mountains. The structure is wholly painted white and has about three floors, judging from rough observation. The exterior has many balconies with exotic decorations on it.
“Damn, Sarin! You’re telling me that this mansion belongs to you!?” Nat cried.
“Yeah. Why?” the silver pony tailed girl asked with a straight face.
“Rich girl…” The red haired angel muttered with an apparent aura of envy radiating from her.
“As you can see, it’s settled right in the middle of the mountains, so I don’t get up here very often. Also, I usually have butlers and maids cleaning up the place when I come here. But since it’s only us here this time, I hope you guys don’t mind if the place is a little dusty,” Sarin said.
“…Dusty, huh?” Myria muttered and glared at the mansion.
“…You thinking what I’m thinking, mom?” Sophia asked her mother.
“Yeah,” the mother replied to her daughter.
“Must…resist the urge…to clean…” The two of them spoke in synchronization then followed everyone else into the mansion.
These two are neat freaks?
I never knew that…
Once we got inside the mansion, Sarin leads us to the main living room. From a rough estimation, I could almost tell that this room is four or five times bigger than my bed room, so fitting 13 people into the room is no problem at all. There is a huge sofa set, settled in the middle of the room, and a couple of other sofas standing on the different corners of the room. Sliding the curtains opened, the afternoon sunlight pierced inside, lighting up the whole room. Although we were expecting dusts from what Sarin said earlier, the interior appears to be extremely well wrapped with plastic films, protecting most of the furnishings from dusts. Sophia and Myria told everyone to stay put and helped each other cautiously remove the plastic wrap to avoid the dust from falling onto the carpet and the couch.
Like mother, like daughter…
Once the films are gone, Sarin turns on the air condition and cools the entire room.
“Okay, make yourself at home, everyone,” the silver haired angel announced.
After that, everyone looks for a comfortable spot to sit. Most of us remain cluttered at the couch in the middle of the room, while the hyper active ones like Nat and Lauress move around the room, inspecting all the decorations. Only the unsocialized Miki went to sit at the couch in the corner of the room.
“Okay, I’m gonna go connect my computer terminal to the projector in this room. Just relax and take it easy, okay?” Sarin said. Thinking about it, it’s kind of funny that the little mistress of the mansion is now doing the job of a maid for all of us.
“Let me help you,” Van volunteered and got up from the couch.
“Oh. Sarin. I hope you don’t mind if I turn on the television?” Myria asked the silver haired girl before she leaves the room.
“…Oh sure. Miss Myria. Please, go ahead.”
Once the silver haired girl left the room, Myria reaches for the remote control placed on the glass table in front of the center couch set and turns on the TV.
“You sure have a good mood to watch afternoon soaps,” Frey teased the emerald eyed lady.
“I wasn’t going to watch the soaps, smartass. With Ophiucus’s army hitting Orion Obs, I’m a little curious to see how the media is handling this,” Myria replied.
To be honest, I’m actually pretty curious about what kind of lies the Nebula Corp is going to spread this time too. First, they accused me of killing my mother. Then they said we are an accomplice of the assault on Grand Central, even though we were the one who destroyed that big monster.
Now let’s see what they have to say about the monsters at Orion Obs.
Myria sits down on the couch and keeps changing the channel until she hits one that is reporting news. The television screen shows the footage of a middle aged man in a uniform, giving an interview to various microphones.
“Hey. Viola! We saw this guy before,” Nat spoke up all of the sudden, “Remember? He was on that special urgent news after Grand Central was attacked!”
“Yeah. I remember him,” I replied.
To be accurate, I didn’t remember his face. It was mostly because this guy has several badges attached on his uniform, that’s why I could remember him.
“The mysterious attacks from the monsters created a big concern for the national security. As a result, we, the NEF, have received an approval for the deployment of the [Star Units],” said the middle aged man in the television.
“[Star Unit]? What’s that?” Orica muttered.
“I’ve heard about it before,” Auria said, “It’s a subsidiary military unit under the commands of NEF – the most skilled war units on Athenia.”
“…So… Essentially, they are soldiers?” Orica asked some more.
“Not just ordinary officers in uniforms. They are highly trained veteran soldiers,” Myria explained, “Unlike the normal NEF units that were deployed to control any forms of violence within a city’s perimeter, the Star Units are war armies, comprised of veteran soldiers that has been through real battlefields.”
“…And if they deployed the Star Units, then this means that ‘they’ must be deployed too,” Frey spoke up. She was not sitting on the couch, but rather leaning behind the couch where Myria is sitting.
“Yeah…” The emerald eyed lady nodded in agreement.
“Who are ‘they’, mom?” Sophia asked the same question I have in mind.
“The [Star Generals],” Myria replied, “They are super soldiers – war veteran soldiers given chemical enhancements – trained to fight against an opponent of any size and number. They are ruthless and powerful, and they are known for getting any jobs done. In fact, the guy speaking on the screen right now is one of the five [Star Generals], codename ‘Rotanev’.”
“Pffft. But they’re still humans, right?” Nat spoke up loudly, “We’re Zodiac Angels! There’s nothing we—-.”
“I wouldn’t be too sure, Nat,” Myria interrupted, “Frey and I fought these guys before. The Star Generals aren’t exactly ‘normal’ people, so to speak. When they are not in battle, these guys are confined in a biological military camp, where numerous enhancements and trainings are constantly given to them. They are trained to kill and I’d say their physical capabilities and skills aren’t that different from us. The only thing that differentiates them from us is our weaponry.”
“…Wow. But if they are that strong…”
“Why didn’t they unleash these guys out to get us?”
Lin and Len – the twins – took turns asking.
“You see, Lin and Len, Star Units are somewhat viewed as the ‘last resort’ to the public. People expect to see them make a move only when war is about to occur,” Myria replied, “Even though Nebula Corp has complete control over the units, mobilizing them without real incentive can create a big panic to the public.”
“We’ve learned of the troubles Athenia is currently facing. Our world is in a dire situation, threatened by an alien force we’ve never seen before. And for this, I, Star General Rotanev, am more than happy that our Star Units was authorized to deploy. I promise that with our hands, we will keep Athenia safe of any menace and bring whoever is responsible for this to submit before us!”
The middle aged man with many badges continued his speech with a firm voice, earning him the applause from the crowds around the area.
“…What a farce,” the dark twin pony tailed girl sitting at the corner of the room spoke up all of the sudden, drawing everyone’s attention, “They are the very people that shed blood on Athenia, yet they are talking so big about peace.”
“Well Miki, look on the brighter side. With the Star Units mobilized, for now they’ll be taking care of the Ophiucus’s army in our stead. We won’t have to worry about those guys in a while,” Frey said and leans back leisurely on the couch.
“That’s true. Those monsters aren’t exactly fun to fight with,” Myria agreed.
“But I thought they’re pretty fun. They put up more of a fight than those wimpy NEF officers!” Nat said, laughing.
Both Lauress and her are now sitting on the couch surrounding the glass table in the middle of the room.
Huh…? They are done inspecting the room already?
“All right guys. The projector is ready!” Sarin returns to the living room and lowers the projector screen down. Myria turns off the TV and everyone shifts their attention towards the screen. Van closes the curtains, dimming the room so the projector can be seen clearly. I hand Sarin my MP3 player so she can install the footage onto the terminal. The silver haired girl then sits at the control panel behind the room and operates the terminal from there.
“Say, Sarin. Before we start, I have a question. Does your mansion have emergency energy supply in case of power outage?” Nat asked.
“Uh. Yeah. What about it?” The silver haired girl tilts her head questioningly.
“Nah. Just asking in case the light goes out like last time.” Nat shrugged.
Well, I understand what you are getting at, Nat. But emergency power supplies aren’t gonna help if the Ophiucus servants override the system like they did last time…
Anyway, after the expository banter, the video finally starts playing. It starts up exactly like when Nat, Van, and I first watched it at Grand Central’s library. The screen shows mom when she was much younger than how I remember her.
“…Myria,” Frey called the emerald eyed lady.
“Yeah. I know. That’s definitely her,” Myria replied. From their stories, I can hardly blame them of being so skeptic about mom. But whatever the case, the truth is about to be unveiled to us.
“If you’ve found this video, Viola, then chances are very well that I’m already dead. I have to record this video in case I am not there to convey this message. Before anything else, I would like to use this chance to apologize to you. I am sorry I betrayed you. I don’t deserve to be your friend after all I’ve done to you. It was only because of me that you are suffering in this state.”
…No good. Tears are welling up in my eyes again.
I move a few steps behind the crowd and wipe the tears off my eyes with my sleeve, trying my best not to let out any sob.
“If I have to repent for what I’ve done with death, then so be it. But first, at least let me set things right. Since you are watching this clip, you must have already read the Theory Concept of the Reunion Project because this clip is programmed to not be shown on screen unless all the other files are already opened.”
“Um… Question!!! Can we pause the video first?” The blonde archer suddenly interrupts loudly and shoots her hands up in the air. Sarin instantly stops the footage.
“Oh come on!!! Not again! Can’t we wait after this is finished!?” Nat yelled frustratingly.
“What exactly are these files your mother was talking about, Viola?” Lauress turned to me, ignoring Nat.
“It’s sort of an experiment log, regarding the [Reunion Theory]. It is mainly an abstract, briefly explaining the methodology and objective of the experiment my mom took part in,” I explained, “It’s a science journal, and people who are not involved in the research would hardly be able to understand anything in it.”
“I’m pretty sure Lyra will tell us everything in this video. So let’s just keep the questions with ourselves until we’re finished with this,” Van added. She said that calmly, but I could almost tell that she is slightly annoyed just like Nat. After all, this is the second time we’re watching this.
“…Okay then.” The blonde archer shrugs and goes back to watch the screen.
Sarin unpauses the video and mom resumes.
“Listen to me carefully, Viola. Your powers were extracted and implanted onto another test subject. However, the results of the extraction process yielded a surprising result. You were turned back into a baby.”
Okay. This is where we left off last time.
Here we go.
“Yes, that’s right. From a 20-years old girl, your body experienced a reverse growth, shrinking back into a new born baby. Because everything in your body was reversed, all of your memories and nervous system organs were also reversed. I was partly liable for your current state, because, as one of the researchers in that project, I was the person who organized the pursuit team that captured you.”
That moment, everyone in the room, except from Myria, Frey, and Van, who have already known my story, immediately turns their attention towards me with faces pale as snow.
“…Holy crap. She can’t be serious!!!!!” Nat cried with her jaws dropped to the ground.
“Is…this true…Viola…?” the elder caramel haired girl asked me.
“Yeah. Apparently.” I crossed my arms with my sight still focused on the projector. “Focus on the screen please, everyone.”
They turn back to the screen, but their faces still leave obvious signs of disbelief.
“The side effect of the experiment was not expected. The structures and mechanisms of a Zodiac Angel’s heart are much more complicated than we thought it to be. Even Cliff’s research notes did not mention any of these effects in it. From our observations, it seems that the Zodiac Angel hosts’ powers are directly correlated to the host’s physical development. As a result, direct extraction causes your body to experience reverse development and turns you back into an infant.”
“Linked to physical development…? That makes sense,” Myria spoke up all of the sudden.
“Care to share?” I asked her.
Hearing so, Sarin quickly pauses the footage while Myria starts explaining her thoughts. I can hear Nat mumbled something out of annoyance again.
“A girl might be a Zodiac Angel from the time she was born, but she would never be able to tell until she actually manifested her powers. There are various factors that seem to indicate when a girl will manifest her powers, but the one with biggest influence is physical development of the host. If the power within a host has a direct positive relationship with the host’s physical growth, it only makes sense that decline or direct reduction in powers would cause a reverse effect,” Myria explained.
“…Can you give me an English version of that later?” Sophia asked her mother with a puzzled look.
“Sure sweetie.” Myria pats her daughter’s head.
As soon as we all turn our head back to the screen, Sarin unpauses the video.
“Albert Gregory was extremely fascinated with the new possibilities that opened up. He found that it is too soon to dispose you – an extremely costly and rare subject. As a result, he forestalls your disposal and continues his research. He made a lot of tests. But to save time and get to the point, in one of his experiments, he injects your power into a foreign DNA and put that DNA right next to yours to see their reactions. It turns out that the two DNAs reacted and attempted to merge with one another. Several variations were made, and it seems that it is possible that your DNA, even though it is the original copy, can be absorbed into the foreign DNA, in circumstances where that DNA is given more powers – all else equal. Using this finding, Albert Gregory set up the last hypothesis – [Regardless of the conditions, the hosts of an angel’s powers shall reunite into one after separation]. In formal English, the hypothesis proposed that one day, when the original rightful host of the Zodiac Angel’s heart is able to remanifest her powers, all sub-hosts who received a portion of her powers would do anything – from crossing the ocean to transcending the stars – in order to reunite with the angel.”
I remember it clearly.
Rokishi also recited this hypothesis to me.
“The DNA was already the big proof that this hypothesis is true. But to actually make it work – to actually put the Reunion Theory to practical use – Albert must get more solid case study. That is why it is necessary for him to let you live until you can manifest your powers again, and see how the ‘Reunion’ would play. One of our scientists named Rokishi Vossler volunteered to become the subject imbued with your powers. Other people do not know of this, but there is a reason Rokishi volunteered to do this. It’s because he is obsessed in you, Viola.”
…Yeah. I know that…
I could tell.
“Um… Viola?” This time, Nat was the one who interrupted the footage herself. “Who’s this Rokishi guy? Don’t tell me he’s that guy in black cloak?”
“Yeah. He’s history now though,” I said, still focusing on the footage.
“He had this weird idea that if he could perform reunion with you, he would be able to become one with you both in physical and spiritual sense.”
“Ewww.” Orica and the twins irked upon hearing so.
“That’s… just sick.” Nat cringed.
“…I guess I wasn’t the only one with creepy guys stalking me.” Sophia cringed as well.
“Chances are by the time you see this video, you should already know about that man. Whatever you do, do not waver. Should your heart or mind become weak, he will definitely claim your soul. Fight against him, Viola, and take back all that belongs to you.”
“This is ridiculous. When are we going to get to the point?” The dark twin pony tailed girl suddenly spoke up rudely.
“Let her finish,” Frey reprimanded the girl, “We all agreed to give Lyra a chance. So let her have her chance.”
Huh. Way to go, Frey.
“After that, we can rightfully tell Viola that we gave her the chance when we kill her,” the blondie continued.
“…Fine.” Miki chuckled.
…I take whatever I said earlier back…
“Gregory’s theory of Reunion stirred the science departments within the Nebula Corp. It was brought to the CEO’s attention, and they immediately took interest in the results. Because of that, the members of the board pooled nearly all of their investments into zodiacal research and development projects, and the Nebula Corp begin their full scale hunt of anything that is related to Zodiac Angels like you. At this point, you might be questioning how would the Reunion Project actually benefit the Nebula Corp? What would they gain from claiming the Zodiac Angels’ power even though they are already so powerful?”
Van and I were discussing this before. The Nebula Corp has next to no reason to gain any more powers than they already do. They have their Elite Forces and the Star Generals.
Why else would they need our powers?
“The truth is, Viola… Their goal is never about claiming you or the other reincarnated Zodiac Angels.”
“To help you fully understand their goal, let me ask you this question. What do you think is the Nebula Corp’s energy source?”
“Energy source?” Sophia spoke up.
“…That’s an interesting question,” Auria spoke up, “All this time, Nebula Corp was known for having abundan supply of energy, distributed all around the world. The energy is so efficient that virtually no one in the market was able to compete, making Nebula Corp the only monopoly of the market. But it was never revealed to the public as to ‘what’ kind of energy was distributed and ‘how’ the corporation got their hands on their energy.”
“…Oh yeah. You’re right. Now that you said it, I’ve never really thought about that,” Lauress said.
“Was it coal? Steam? Solar energy? Hydro power? It can’t be that simple. Nebula Corp’s resource is so efficient that no other company in the entire world can compete with it. It’s because of this: the [Ophiucus Fragment].”
The footage was then cut off to a still image, depicting a glowing reddish purple crystal hovering inside some sort of machine. Everyone in the room starts chattering softly upon hearing the name of that crystal.
“Ophiucus… Fragment…?” I whispered.
I… have a bad feeling about this.
What’s with that name?
Why would they want to name an ore after the taboo goddess?
“I don’t know how they got their hands on this stone, but according to the database of the corporation, it was said that this stone has always been with the Nebula family before the corporation was even established.”
“The Nebula Family?” Orica spoke up.
“Despite being a Public Company with shares offered to public, Nebula Corp was established and ran by the ‘Nebula’ family for generations. I heard that originally it was just a small electronics company. But in just a short amount of time, the corporation rises to be the giant energy provider,” Auria explained to her sister.
“You sure know a lot about this company, Auria,” Myria spoke up.
“Well, I’m majoring in Corporate Finance, and Nebula Corp’s financial structures were used as case studies in almost all of our major classes,” Auria explained, “To be honest, I was a little fed up of analyzing the corporation. But right now, I guess I was lucky that I get to study about it.”
“As for why it was named that way, the database said that the Nebula Family believed that this stone is assumed to be a piece of Ophiucus’s immortal body that was sealed deep within the legendary Celestial Halls at the deepest part of the Star Ocean.”
“What a load of crap,” Miki spoke out loud again.
“I have to admit that this sounds a little too stretched.” Even Van agreed with Miki this time. “What’s the proof that this ore belongs to Ophiucus’s immortal body?”
I can’t help but agree with Van this time. Everything sounds too stretched.
“I don’t know all the truth behind this stone. But whatever it is, it is clear that the energy radiating from this stone is tremendous. A small speck of this crystal, when properly manufactured and processed, can be used to generate virtually unlimited energy. Therefore, the whole crystal is enough to power the whole world for several generations. All of Nebula Corp’s power plants have a small piece of this crystal installed in them, and it is what has been generating energy for mankind. On top of that, it has already been proven that it creates absolutely zero pollution and no dangerous side effects at all.”
“So this is their only raw material? No wonder they were able to rule the energy market in such a small amount of time,” Myria muttered.
True. With no material cost, they’ve already won other forms of energy by a mile. And when taking the environmental concern into the equation, there is simply no better alternative out there.
Anyway, the footage finally switches back to mom.
“But alas, the fragment has its limitation. At first, the energy reaped from this stone seems endless. But as time goes by, the fragment shows sign of depletion, and the energy reaped from the stone is not as rich as before any more. This is a problem that is stirring a huge concern for the higher ups. They are in a desperate need to replenish their power source… Do you see what I am trying to get here?”
“…No.” Nat and Lauress spoke up at the same time with a straight face.
“Imagine this, Viola. What if the angel that is to be extracted in the Reunion Project is Ophiucus?”
Mom’s question gave everyone a jump. Their eyes open up wide in shock.
“If a human is able to completely reunion with Ophiucus, wouldn’t that be equal to taming the angel of Ophiucus herself?”
Reunion… with Ophiucus?
As in absorbing Ophiucus into a human’s body like how Rokishi tried to absorb me into him!?
“But more importantly, recall the last hypothesis of the Reunion Project. The injected host and the rightful angel will call out to one another. If that happens, what would stop the Nebula Corporation from eventually stepping into the Celestial Hall where Ophiucus’s immortal body resides to claim more of her fragments?”
“That’s absurd!!!” Sophia screamed, “That’s like speeding up the end of the world! I thought everyone on Athenia knew about this!”
“That’s not entirely infeasible, Sophia,” Van spoke up, “Think about it. Once the Nebula Corp finds a way to go to the Celestial Hall, whatever their method to do that might be, then they can suppress Ophiucus’s soul into a human through Reunion. After that, they can reap as much Ophiucus Fragment as they want from Ophiucus’s immortal body. Moreover, with Ophiucus’s soul in their hands, no one – not even us – would be able to stand a chance against them!”
“…No way…,” Sophia whispered, “Suppressing Ophiucus? I thought she’s far stronger than the 12 Zodiac Angels combined! There’s no way—-.”
“I wouldn’t be so sure, Sophia,” I interrupted her, “…Rokishi… The man who was given my powers. There was one point where he… he was almost able to absorb me into him. I don’t think it has anything to do with the strengths of the hosts. After all, the two bodies are carrying the same power.”
And here I thought I never thought had to think about what that man did to me again…
“That was the very reason why Albert Gregory’s research became so popular to the board. Originally, it was Albert’s personal ambition to claim an angel. But after the plan to Reunion with Ophiucus was proposed, the corporation gave him full support. If they could tame Ophiucus and claim her on their side, then not only they would be able to gain full control over the most powerful goddess in existence, but they will also gain access to an energy supply that can fuel the whole world for millennia – the immortal body of Ophiucus…”
This is it.
This is what Gregory meant by Nebula Corp’s ‘eternal prosperity’.
Celestial Hall… The land abundant of Ophiucus Fragment…
That is Nebula Corp’s true goal!!
“Hold on a sec,” Frey spoke up all of the sudden, “That is unreal. They were able to extract Viola’s power because she is here. She has a human flesh. How are they going to extract Ophiucus’s powers? She doesn’t have a human body and flesh. Heck, she has always been stuck in the Celestial Hall since forever.”
“…The Ophiucus Fragment,” Auria spoke up, drawing everyone’s attention, “…That fragment was said to be a part of Ophiucus’s body, right? If that’s the case, all they need to do is extract the power out of that stone and implant it into a person…”
“You mean they are going to create more of that Rokishi guy but with Ophiucus’s power as opposed to Viola’s?” Nat asked, wiping sweat off her forehead.
“Oh goodness… This is a nightmare,” Myria muttered and turned her face back to the screen.
While what mom said sounds extremely stretched, it just makes too much sense that we can’t deny it. Everything we’ve known so far falls perfectly in place.
The Nebula Corp’s main concern was never about capturing us – the 12 Zodiac Angels. It was to get their hands Ophiucus. We were nothing more than guinea pigs to their grand scheme…
So, how is the big reveal, everyone?
This is just getting started ^^
Hold your questions though. The explanations continue next chapter.