ZA – Chapter Ophiucus 21 S

Chapter 21 – O

Sophia

The night sky was dark and cloudy. Not a single star can be seen in the sky tonight. For us Zodiac Angels whose powers are invoked from the stars, it felt as if we were abandoned by our most trusted companion. Because of that, the 13 of us stay close to each other by the campfire just like that night when we first assembled.
The one tending everyone’s wounds this time, however, is Lin and Len. We just realized that the two of them also know healing spells. Originally, Auria’s power alone was enough to heal all of us in a short time, so Lin and Len didn’t get a chance to show their powers. Their healing spells are not as effective as Auria’s, but they are better than nothing.
… After all, I don’t think Auria is in the shape to do anything right now. And I can hardly blame her for it. She is sitting a little bit outside of our circle. She told us that she wants to be alone right now. Even Orica was not allowed sit next to her…

“They took the Ophiucus Fragment too?” mom asked.
“Yup. I still couldn’t believe we got out of there with no casualties,” Miss Frey replied.
“Ugh… This is a nightmare,” mom said, shaking her head, “It was a miracle the 13 of us are still here…”
“We really were too careless,” Viola added, “Fiore has the Power of Connection. Obviously, she should be able to tell where we are… But I really did not expect them to go full scale on us like this…”
“So…”
“What are we going to do?”
Lin and Len asked everyone with worried faces after they’ve finished tending everyone’s wounds.
“Well… That I honestly don’t know too.” Mom hopelessly turns her face up to the night sky.
Everyone has not spoken much to each other after the rumble. We were set up and ambushed and we barely made it out alive. We were too exhausted and demoralized to speak.

“… I…”
That moment, the one who broke the silence was Auria, who just walked back to the circle.
“I’m… gonna go back to Eternia… To Lynus’s house…,” she said with a weak voice.
“……You haven’t learned your lessons yet, have you?” Miki hissed.
“… This must be some kind of a mistake. I want to go talk to him personally,” she replied.
“He hasn’t picked up your calls yet, hasn’t he?” Viola asked as well.
“…No… That’s why I’m going to meet him again in person…”
“Open your eyes, will you!? What else do you need to confirm!?” Miki screamed, giving everyone a jump. “He betrayed us! The Star Unit was surrounding that warehouse! He set us up!”
“Lynus won’t do that!!! He won’t betray me! He won’t!!! This… This must be a mistake!!!” Auria argued with teary eyes.
“If it’s still not clear to you, then let me wake you up again, your highness! Your boyfriend betrayed you!!!” Miki screamed some more, this time with even more agitated tone.
“No!!!! He wouldn’t do that!!!! Stop saying that!!!!” the caramel haired girl cried and fell to her knees, tightly hugging onto her plush doll servant while weeping. Anty simply makes a sad face and softly pats his master, trying to console her.
“Accept that fact!!! That bastard doesn’t care about you!!!”

I can’t blame Miki for being a realist. But she really went too far this time. She doesn’t have to rub it on Auria’s face like that. I just felt like I had to say something. But before I could do that, someone else stood up for Auria.

“Hey!!! Stop it!!!” Orica screamed back at Miki, “If you badmouth bro Lynus one more time, I’m gonna—-!!!!”
“You’re gonna what!?” Miki interrupted the girl and reached for her dagger’s hilt.
“Oh!? We’re going, huh!? Want me to beat you up again!?” Orica pulls out her whip and creates the watery lash.
“Well, let’s see what a pampered girl like you can do without those geeks’ controllers!!!”
“Okay okay okay, stop it stop it!! Enough is enough!!” Mom stands in between the two and breaks them from each other.
“I trust bro Lynus no less than sis! There’s no way he’ll pull something like that on us!” Orica cried with teary eyes just like her sister.
“Even after setting an army up on us?! Are you sisters stupid or retarded!?” Miki asked.
“I said stop it! That’s enough!!!” mom yelled again, “This is no time to be blaming each other! We were on the verge of being annihilated just now but we survived because we were still together!! If our only strength crumbles right now, then it’s all over for us! The Nebula Corp will win!!”
Orica and Miki did not say anything else. But the two of them still give each other dissatisfied looks. The atmosphere is extremely tense and no one dares speak a word. After all, with the tension going on, a single snap would probably make all of us end up fighting each other.

… But since no one has anything to say, maybe this is a perfect chance for me to speak out my thoughts…

“… Everyone… Can I say something?” I broke the intense atmosphere, attracting everyone’s attention.
No one orally gave me the permission to speak, but since no one said otherwise, I continue. “I’ve been thinking really hard, and there’s something I have to ask everyone… Do you think we are missing something?”
Everyone gives me a puzzled look in response. Even Auria who seems to be really depressed is making a confused face as well.
“What do you mean, Sophia?” Viola asked.
“I’m sure most of us here have heard the Ophiucus servants telling us at least once. They said ‘You really do not understand my master’,” I explained, “Doesn’t it bother everyone at all? I mean, why do they keep saying that?”
“Ophiucus wants to destroy Athenia. What else is there for us to understand?” Viola asked me some more.
“Yeah. Sounds like a cliché villain line to me.” Miss Frey shrugs.
“Then why did she want to destroy Athenia?” I asked them some more.
Everyone remains quiet, probably not because they don’t know the answer to that question, but because the question was incredibly dumb.
And I know that…
“…… Sophia. I thought that you, of all people, know about [Tales of Star Ocean] the best. Ophiucus wants to destroy the world because she deems the humans foolish and greedy,” mom replied.
That was the reply I was expecting from everyone. So I ask some more.
“So if that is really the case, then why did Cebal and the other Ophiucus servants say that we do not understand her?”
Everyone simply keeps quiet, making a puzzled look.
“What if what we have always known wasn’t true? What if there is ‘another reason’ behind Ophiucus’s hatred towards Athenia?”
“What are you trying to say, Sophia?” mom asked.
“I want to know more about the Ophiucus Angel,” I replied, “Think about it everyone. When we get down to it, we know next to nothing about her. We were told that she is an evil angel that hates humans and wishes to destroy Athenia. We were told that a fragment of her immortal body was given to the Nebula Corp. We were told that her power is something similar to my Connection Pendant. We were told that Ophiucus is such and such. But what if all of those stuffs that were told to us were actually all lies? What if there is something much more behind Ophiucus’s vengeance?”
“You are going in circles, Sophia,” Miki spoke up.
“Y… Yeah. I don’t understand what you are trying to say at all,” Lauress added.

“Do you think… do you think we might be able to find a way… to get the Ophiucus Angel to join our side instead?”

All eyes widen at my question. Obviously, who with their right mind would not be surprised at my question? What I asked earlier could easily be translated to ‘do you think we can get the goddess who hates this world so much to help us save this world?’
Even I myself thought it was an absurd idea at first…
“… Are you out of your damn mind, Sophia?” Miki asked.
“No. I’m completely thinking straight,” I replied calmly.
Yes, I’m still completely sane. I wouldn’t suggest something so preposterous and absurd without having a reason to back me up.
“Think about it. Even our biggest enemy, the Nebula Corp, has something related to Ophiucus. Everything orbits around her; she has the key to everything! If we can somehow find a way to understand the truth behind her vengeance – heck or even get to know a little more about her – then perhaps, we might be able to persuade her and come to a temporary truce. At least if we have her on our side, then no matter how strong the Nebula Corp is, we should be able to—.”
“And may I ask what is your plan? How do you expect to do all that you just suggested?” Van interrupted me, “I don’t mean to be rude, but with respect, Sophia, I’m really not in the mood to chase after clouds with no promise of beneficial rewards.”
Van doesn’t seem to be really fond of my idea. She is normally calm but she is a realist like Miki. It’s kind of to be expected that my idea won’t appeal to someone like her.
“Let’s go out and look for the truth – the true reason why Ophiucus loathe this world so much,” I continued, “Priori told me to go to where I got this pendant to learn about the truth. That’s where I’ll start.”
“… The Marfik Village,” mom spoke up, “20 years ago, I passed by that village while running from the Nebula Corp, and an old lady gave it to me. Perhaps it’s really about time we go dig some truth out of this.”

So mom agreed with me?
I’m so glad she understands…

“Look, Sophia. I’m gonna say this one more time,” Miki said, gritting her teeth, “I don’t care what happens to this world after the Nebula Corp falls. All I want is to destroy the corporation. If you are going to stop here to look for a needle in the hay stack, then that is fine with me. I’ll go on ahead and destroy the Nebula Corp, even if I have to do it alone!”
The twin pony tailed girl turns around and starts walking away from the campfire. However, before she went too far, someone else stands up and stops her.
“Wait. I’ll go with you, Miki.”
To my surprise, the one who said that was Viola.
…But I thought the two of them didn’t like each other?
“You? Why would you wanna come with me?” Miki turns around and looks at Viola with the corner of her eye.
“Because I am ready to continue fighting again,” Viola replied, “…There is someone who is willing to believe in me till the end. So even if I am marked as a terrorist, I know that at least there’ll be one person who will understand the truth. That alone is more than enough for me to continue destroying the Nebula Corp…”

…Viola…?

“I’m going with you too, Miki.” Sarin stands up, then turns her face at me. “Please don’t be offended, Sophia. I understand your intention. But my father’s life is not going to wait. If I can’t take out the Nebula Corp soon, my father will have nothing left in his hand.”
“I’m with Viola.” Van stands up as well. “Now that we have a clear objective of what we should do to take down the Nebula Corp, I don’t want to go back to the starting point again. Yes, I don’t want to be a terrorist. But I can’t stand letting the Nebula Corp keep on pushing us around either. If I’m going down, at least I’ll take them down with me.”
“W… Woah… Vanny? You for real?” Nat asked her sister with a surprised look.
“You coming with me or not, Nat? We’re thrashing them down with no holding back this time,” Van said to her sister.
“Y… Yeah. I’m sticking with you no matter what anyway,” Nat replied, scratching her head.
Even Nat who has been an extremely cheerful power maniac seems to be afraid of Van’s seriousness. Perhaps the Nebula Corp really messed with the wrong person this time…

“… You guys really sure about this?” mom asked Viola’s group.
“I’ll be fine… We’ll be fine,” Viola replied while walking towards Miki along with Sarin, Nat, and Van.
Even if she said that, I’m still concerned about them.
Are they really going to be okay?
What if they run into that girl named ‘Fiore’ again?
“Don’t worry, Myria. I’ll go with them.” Miss Frey stands up and taps mom’s shoulder.
“… You too, Frey?” mom asked out of concern.
“Yeah. With everything going on, I need to vent out some frustration on those bastards. Don’t worry about me. I won’t let hatred consume me again. I’ve learned my lessons,” Miss Frey said, chuckling, “You and Sophia take it easy for a while and go find ‘the truth’. For now, I’ll just go ahead and kill some Star Generals for personal pleasure.”
That sounds so twisted and sadistic in so many ways…
But still, if Miss Frey is with them, then I feel a little more relief.

“So, what about everyone else?” mom looked back at the members remaining at the campfire.
“Lin. Len. What do you want to do?” I asked the twins.
If possible, I don’t want them to go with Miki and Viola. It’s not only because I adore them as my juniors, but also because their parents placed them under my mom and my care.
“We are under Aunt Myria and your care, sis Sophia,” Lin said.
“We’ll be staying with you no matter what,” Len added.
The two of them are smiling.
Well, that’s a relief. I’m really glad they decide to stick with me.

“… Can I go with you, Sophia?” the elder caramel haired girl who is kneeling nearby asked me with a gloomy face.
“…Auria?”
So she doesn’t want to go back to Eternia anymore?
Not that it’s a bad thing. Actually, going back to see Lynus again is definitely a bad idea, even if this was a misunderstanding.
“I…I’m not…really ready to fight actively again,” she said.

… Poor girl. She has been through so much.
To have the person she trusted most in this world betrayed her…

“Auria,” Viola called to her.
“… I’m sorry, Viola. I… I just… I don’t…”
“It’s okay.” The purple haired girl pats Auria’s head. “Take it easy for now. Leave the wrecking job to me and Miki.”
“…Okay.” Auria softly nods to Viola in reply then looks at me. “So… can I go with you? Am I going to be a burden?”
“N… No! Of course not! You can come with me. I’ll be more relief to have you with me,” I replied. And I was not talking about depending on her title as the strongest Zodiac Angel this time. I just want to make sure that she’s not getting any more realist comments from Miki. It wouldn’t be good for her current mental condition.
“W… Well! I’m gonna stay with sis until the end…!” Orica announced, “I… I still don’t believe that bro Lynus betrayed us. But that probably doesn’t matter right now. I will stay by sis’s side until the end of the world.”
“Thanks, Orica.” Auria smiles with teary eyes while patting her sister’s head.
I’m glad she at least smiles again.
“… So, that leaves you, Lauress,” mom spoke up and looks at the blonde archer.
“Yeah, Lauress. What do you want to do?” Orica asked her as well.
“I… I uh… I’m not… really sure too,” Lauress replied reluctantly, “I just want to give Nebula Corp a good pay back in the ass for messing with my head. But I’m just not ready to be marked a terrorist yet… Pa and ma would definitely not be happy to see me on the news like that… Not that I care about them anyway… But anyway, I don’t think I can go with Viola and the others…”
“That’s okay. You stay with Sophia and the others,” Viola told the blonde archer.
“I’m sorry.” Lauress bows apologetically to everyone. “… Hey, Miki.”
The twin pony tailed girl didn’t reply. She simply looks at the blonde archer with her usual cold eyes.
“You still owe me 500 Roals…”
“… If you can really find a better way to stop the Nebula Corp, then I’ll cough you a thousand,” Miki replied with a confident smirk.
“It’s a deal. You better live to pay me for it.” Lauress stands up.
“Hmph… You better find a good way to destroy the Nebula Corp before I do it with my own ways.” Miki chuckles.
…They seem to be good friend, despite the way they are talking to each other right now.

“Then I guess that settles it. Let’s split up for now,” Viola said, “We got our phone numbers. We’ll exchange information when something comes up, okay?”
“Got it,” I replied.
And with that, Viola and the others walked away from the campfire into the dark night.

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