Chapter 22 – O
Day 1 after splitting up with Viola’s group…
After the meeting last night, we walked all the way from that campfire place last night down to the nearest traveler’s check point. It was a trek, but maybe I am just not used to long trek yet. The inn at the check point is small and each room has nothing but a bed inside. I’m used to super economic life style so the small rooms don’t bother me much. Miss Myria got a room for each of us, but the twins, Lin and Len, insisted on staying together in the same room.
“We feel safer when the two of us are together!”
“If anything happens, the two of us can handle it right away!”
They sure are adorable the way they help each other complete their sentences.
After we all got our rooms, we went separate ways to rest since the sun has already set. However, my eyes just won’t let me go to sleep. In the darkness, all I can only see is his face floating in front of me. My mind just won’t stop thinking about him. And every time I thought about seeing him, a heartbreaking voice would echo in my ears like a reminder.
“Open your eyes and get a grip, Auria! Your boyfriend betrayed us!!!”
“Accept that fact!!! That bastard doesn’t care about you!!!!”
Everything was there in front of my eyes; it was so clear. But I just don’t want to accept the truth. I couldn’t bring myself to believe that Lynus betrayed us.
Why would he do that?
How could he?
“I can’t sleep…”
I sit up on the bed and sigh. I don’t want to cry any more. But my mind just won’t forget about what happened. Every time I don’t have something to think about, my mind drifts away and thinks about him.
Maybe I should go get some fresh air. That might make my mind a little more at ease.
So I left my room and head for the guest lobby. Sitting on the couch, I look at the night sky outside. Unlike last night, there are stars glittering in the sky tonight. Somehow, it reminds me of that night after my parents’ funeral where I got into a fight with Aunt Kelly and ended up leaving the house. The stars in the sky were sparkling like this too. When my parents died, I felt like I was abandoned – left in a world with no place to return to.
Did Viola feel like this too when her mother died?
Was she scared?
I was really scared even though I had my sister and Lynus with me. But she was all alone…
That was another reason I admired Viola. She went through so much on her own in such a short amount of time. She is one of the toughest girls I’ve ever known in my entire life.
I was slightly surprised to hear someone call my name at this place and time, so I quickly turn around towards the owner of the voice.
I saw the emerald eyed brunette standing at the lobby’s entrance.
Why… is she here?
She couldn’t sleep too?
… Well, she did have a lot in her mind too, didn’t she? About those Ophiucus servants’ mysterious words… And about her Connection Pendant…
She seems like she wants to say something but she just wouldn’t speak it out.
What is she so nervous about?
Should I talk to her first?
“You couldn’t sleep either?” I asked after she remained quiet for a while.
“Uh… Yeah. Sort of. I just thought I’d come to get some fresh air,” she replied nervously, “…… Say… Would it be okay if I sit with you?”
……Why would she ask for my permission to do that?
It’s not like I own this lobby?
“Uh… Well, if you still have something to think about, then it’s okay. I understand…”
Is she thinking that I still want to be alone?
Well, I can’t blame her. Last night, when Orica and the others tried to talk to me, I chased them away and told them that I want to be alone.
Maybe she still has that impression?
“Oh…? No no no! It’s fine. Please, have a seat,” I said, inviting her to sit with me.
She smiles and sits next to me.
After that, the emerald eyed brunette just sits there next to me without saying a word. It was so awkward. I’ve played this game with Miki several times before, and I can just never get good at it. As a result, I decide to break the silence and start talking first.
“What are you going to do after this battle is over?” I asked the first random question that came to my mind.
“Over as in the Nebula Corp stops hunting for us and Ophiucus stops wanting to destroy Athenia?” she asked while tilting her head curiously.
She’s so cute.
“Yeah. When you get back your old life in the university back, what’s the first thing you’ll do?” I asked again.
“Eh… I dunno. Well, first, I’ll probably go pick up my little kitten that I left with my neighbor. I left the house with mom in such a hurry, so I didn’t even have a chance to say goodbye to him,” she replied.
“I see. That’s so sad.”
Poor kitty. To be separated from his master in such a sudden notice…
“Well, what about after that?” I asked some more to prevent us from going back to the awkward silence.
“Hmmm… Maybe I’ll join the Dummy Company project,” she replied.
“Oh. That famous student project… If I remember correctly, you’re from Galaxia, right?”
The Dummy Company is a famous student project, but the only university that adopts that activity is Galaxia. It’s really a shame because I want to be a part of it. I thought it sounds very interesting.
“Yeah. You’ve probably watched that drama series before, right? I really want to join that project someday,” she replied.
“That really sounds interesting. But from what I saw in the drama, the work seems pretty tough?”
“Well, yeah. You have to work with a bunch of people with different background after all. But I like meeting with lots of new people,” she replied.
That really just sounds like her. I’m glad I met her at Grand Central. When you think about it, the reason 12 Zodiac Angels were able to assemble in the first place was because of her; she was the bridge that connected everyone together, although she did not play a big part after that. We all voluntarily let Miss Myria take the role of the spear head of our group.
“Oh. Oh. Oh!! And this time, I’ll probably stop being picky and pick a cute boyfrien—-!?””
Before she could finish her sentence, the girl quickly stops and cups her mouth with both of her hands.
She really is worried about upsetting me.
She is so considerate…
“So, you don’t have a boyfriend yet?” I asked her casually, “That’s a surprise. You’re pretty cute.”
“Uh… Well, I haven’t really met a great guy yet,” she replied, nervously.
Sophia seems to be extremely flustered. Maybe I should just go with the flow so she wouldn’t be so depressed.
“So, what’s your type?” I asked some more. She gives me a surprised look briefly before replying.
“Huh? Uh… Well… He has to be kind and gentle and he has to love me. Hm… Perhaps a little imaginative would be good? You know? Those romantic dreamy types?” she said.
“Hm… Sounds like a writer or a poet to me?” I asked.
“Hmmm…? A writer, huh? Well, if he creates a story with me as the heroine, that’ll be pretty romantic, don’t you think?”
“Yeah. I thought so too.” I nod and giggle.
Such a surprise…
Sophia’s type of guy is very similar to mine.
Talk about coincidence…
I like dreamy romantic guys too – ones that can tell an interesting story and makes my mind delve deeply into it. Then again, I just love reading lots of books in the first place…
“……What about your type, Auria?” she asked me back.
“Well… Dreamy writers really sound nice,” I replied, “But with my current life going on, I really prefer someone who can understand me and accept me for who I am… Also he has to be someone who will be there for me when I need him… I don’t really want to be dependent on a guy. But I just want to know that there’ll always be someone behind my back to help me when I’m in trouble…”
“… So Lynus… is that kind of guy?” Sophia asked some more.
…I’ll be honest. Lynus’s personality is nowhere near the dreamy type that I like. He is more or less a realist. But he’s a good man. When I decided to date him, it was just because I thought he was reliable. After all, his money came from his pocket, not his parents’. He also did not seem like the type to fool around. Granted, he has his bad habits, like the speed fetish, but nothing unacceptably bad.
My views about him completely changed after my parents’ funeral. He became my whole world. I know that he’ll do anything in his power for me. That’s why I do not want to abuse him like how Aunt Kelly wanted me to do.
He is sweet and kind – way too kind.
I love him…
I love Lynus…
“He was always there for me ever since my parents died in a car accident.”
…No good. Tears start welling up on me again…
“He arranged for the funerals. He sent Orica and me off to the university every morning and pick us up every evening. He even offered to pay my rent for me…”
One of the things I regretted so much was leaving the apartment without telling Lynus what was going on. To add that up, we just had a fight that evening and I didn’t even have a chance to reconcile with him yet.
“… I still can’t believe that he betrayed us,” I continued, “But everything was so clear… There’s no denying that fact… I just don’t want to accept the truth… Miki was right…”
I wish everything was a lie…
“… Well then, trust in him!”
I made a jump when Sophia spoke up all of the sudden.
“If you really love him, then believe in him! Believe that he didn’t betray you!” she said with eyes burning of passion.
“It’s okay, Sophia… There’s no point lying to myself anymore.”
Yeah… Maybe I should just start to accept the truth…
What excuse is there for setting us up?
“No no no!!! You can’t do that!” she cried and pinched me, “There’s no way a good person like that would lie to the girl he’s been supporting this whole time! After all, you didn’t see him come out and said ‘hahaha I don’t love you anymore!! Imma sell you to Nebula Corp!! L-O-L’ right?”
Aw, Sophia. She’s just so funny…
“Y… Yeah… But…”
“…You know, when I was a little girl, I prayed to the stars every night to become a Zodiac Angel.” From a funny semi-joking face, Sophia seems a little more serious as she turns her face up to the stars in the sky. “Before I went to sleep, I would look outside of my bedroom’s window to the starry sky and told the stars, ‘I wish to be a Zodiac Angel’ every night.”
“Oh? Really? Why did you want to be a Zodiac Angel?” I asked curiously.
“That’s a secret!”
…Awww… Now I really wanna know…
“But my point is if you keep on believing and praying, then the stars will definitely answer your call! …Well, although in my case, it wasn’t a very beautiful scenario when I discovered that I’m an angel, but all that matters are the end results, right? I still get to be a Zodiac Angel!”
“… Well, I guess you have a point,” I muttered.
“Come on! Give it a try!”
“Pray to the stars! Pray with all your heart that you will get to be with him again, and it’ll surely happen! Trust me!” she said, pounding her chest a few times just like Anty, “But you’ll have to pray REALLY hard though! Or it won’t come true!”
… Well, I guess it wouldn’t hurt to try…
“…Okay, I’ll try.”
So I put my hands together and close my eyes as I make my wish upon the stars. However, I was dumbstruck about what to wish for.
‘I wish to see Lynus again’?
‘I wish Lynus did not betray us?’
Wouldn’t those be too selfish?
“I wish … that Lynus would become our ally again…”
In the end, that was my wish. What I wanted more than anything now is for this fight to be over so I can go back to my normal life. After that, maybe the two of us can start over again…
“You think it’ll work?” I asked Sophia for reassurance.
“No no no! If you doubt the stars, then it won’t come true!” she reprimanded me with a serious face, “Believe in it. Believe in the stars… Believe in Lynus…”
… Sophia believed in the stars.
That’s why her wish was granted. She never doubted the stars for a moment.
“Yeah… I trust him… and the stars…,” I told her.
Hearing that, she makes a happy face.
“Good! Then you’ll definitely get to see… him… again…?”
Before she could finish, I lean onto her shoulder and tightly hug her arms before she could finish speaking.
“Hey… Can you sit with me for a little while longer?” I asked.
“H… Huh? Why?”
“Just… let me lean on to you for a while…”
She is so kind…
I’m really glad I get to meet her and everyone else.
Viola… Lauress… and even Miki too, even though she’s been saying so many mean things to me.
Perhaps what I really need more than a lover right now is a good friend who is willing to listen to what I had to say…
Day 2 after splitting up with Viola’s group…
“Not so fast!!!!”
The blonde archer shoots an arrow that homes in straight for the knight on a horse with glowing hooves. The arrow hits its target, but all it did was made the knight flinch slightly.
Agitated, he swipes his halberd forward, releasing a storm that blows us away from him.
“Dammit! We can’t get near him at all!!!” Sophia grumbled.
“I told you! Riders won’t let you get close to them without a fight!” Miss Myria said while recovering her stance.
This monster – a Rider – is a weird Ophiucus Spawn that consists of two creatures: A knight in thick iron armor and a pale stallion with glowing eyes and hooves burning with white flames. The stallion has extremely fast legs and can even freely run in the air as if it was flying. The knight wields a long halberd that is roughly twice his height. Its length made it difficult for our close range fighters like Miss Myria and Orica to close in. Lauress and Sophia tried shooting him with their long range attacks, but he was able to dodge Sophia’s Explosion and Lauress’s attacks are way too weak to put a dent on his armor. Lin and Len’s attacks are even weaker than Lauress, so the two of them stayed at the rear to support everyone else instead.
Against fast targets like this, the only way to get a clean hit on them is to stop them from dodging.
I swing my hand and cast the sparkling globe of electric current around the Rider. Somehow, he was able to resist the electric current due to his armor, but the stallion was electrocuted by the shock and can no longer move so fast.
“Now! Everyone!!!” I signaled everyone to start countering. Although Thunder Flare is convenient in pinning an opponent down, the spell stays active only for five seconds top before it fades away. So with the Rider pinned down, Sophia hops into the air and lands down with six meteors raining from behind her. The knight and the stallion seem to suffer a huge damage from the meteor barrage, but it was not enough to take them out yet. Before, the Thunder Flare times out, Lauress shoots another arrow at the Rider. However, unlike any other shots I’ve seen, this one doesn’t hit the target only once. Instead, it ricocheted off an invisible surface around the Rider, hitting him several times before exploding into a bright light.
After the light fades, the knight and the horse have already vanished, leaving only traces of soot on where they used to be.
“Ugh!!! Finally!!!” Lauress sighs and drops down to the grassy ground.
“Good work, everyone. Let’s go rest at the shade there,” Miss Myria suggested and led us towards a huge maple tree nearby.
Ophiucus Spawns have already plagued the surface of Athenia. No matter where we go, it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll run into at least one on the road. We ran into the Rider by chance while traveling, and it just won’t let us go without a fight. So we had no choice but to fight it.
The surface of Athenia is no longer safe. Some cities, like Grand Central, were already destroyed by an onslaught of these creatures. But luckily, some of them were able to prepare themselves on time and the Star Units were deployed to take care of the situation. Even though they are our enemies, it’s a relief to know that they are successfully protecting the civilians.
“Okay, you’re good now,” I said after I finished patching up Sophia.
“Thanks! Your healing spell is amazing as usual!” the brunette complimented.
“Yeah! We’d be in big trouble if you and Lin and Len aren’t with us!” Lauress added, “… Well, if it wasn’t because of you, I wouldn’t even be here in the first place…”
“Haha… Well, we’re comrades. So we’re supposed to look after each other, right?” I replied.
“Sis Auria! Can you teach us how to be better at healing?” Len pleaded me.
“O… Oh. Um… Let’s see…”
I don’t know why, but my healing spells are a lot more effective than the twins’ despite the fact that the two of them has been playing with their powers way before me. Perhaps it’s because they are younger? Or perhaps it’s because the magical prowesses of our angels are just that different?
Anyway, I didn’t really do much. Most of the time, I just ask Anty to radiate that healing light and the job is done. The most part I did was when I used Healing Toss, where I have to toss the healing aura and make it split to all the targets.
“… How about putting more of your mind into the spell?” I suggested randomly.
“… of our mind?”
The twins tilt their head at the same time.
“Yeah. Believe in the spell and your own power. Believe that it will heal the person you are healing and pour all your heart into it,” I said.
“Then that must be the case!!”
Lin and Len nod.
“From now on…”
“… We’ll try out best!!!”
And with that, the two of them run off.
I definitely put my heart into the spell whenever I want to heal someone. The ‘believing’ part… I admittedly got that from Sophia.
She told me that anything could happen as long as I believe. That’s why I want to have more faith. I want to firmly believe that one day this battle will be over, and we can go back to our normal lives…
Day 4 after splitting up with Viola’s group…
We continue our trek towards the Marfik Village after we rest up at Wu Residence’s last night. Lin and Len bid their parents farewell, and we left the Arian Village early in the morning. Continuing our way towards the north, we entered the forest area. There is a path paved through the forest, probably made by the locals in this area. The weather was fairly hot in the forest. Times like this, I wish Miki is around to cool our waters for us.
But thinking again, she might not be happy to do that for us…
“…Ugh… We’re not gonna make it to Marfik tonight at this rate.” Lauress sighs out loud when she saw that the sun is about to set.
“I guess it can’t be helped. Let’s secure a safe location to rest for tonight. We still got some more distance to cover before we get to Marfik Village,” Miss Myria suggested.
At her suggestion, all of us split up and scout the area, looking for a good place to rest. Our minds were connected with Sophia’s Zodiac Link, so we could see where the rest of us were heading, and we can instantly join up with one another should anything happened to anyone.
About half an hour later, Lin and Len contacts everyone via the link, saying that they’ve found a small shallow ravine under a cliff. Hearing so, we all immediately move to where Lin and Len are. After putting up the campfire, our party rests up after the long trek.
Sophia, Orica, Lin, and Len fell asleep as soon as the sky gets dark. They slept so fast like little girls, but I guess that’s what made them so adorable. Then again, I can hardly blame them. Today’s trek has been fairly rough, since we had to move through a forest as opposed to how we normally travel through a wide open plain on the road. Miss Myria stayed up to keep guard for a while, but she just went to sleep a little while ago.
That leaves Lauress and me completely wide awake.
“You’re not gonna sleep? I thought you were tired?” I asked her.
“I just wanna lie down and relax. Somehow, I just don’t feel like sleeping,” she replied, lying supine on the mat with her hands supporting her head.
Hm… Since she’s not sleeping now, maybe this is a good chance to talk to her. After all, even though I’ve been traveling with her before we met up with the rest of the Zodiac Angels, I didn’t have much chance to really get to know her. After we took out the brain control crown, we chat only for a bit before moving on to save Orica.
“Say, Lauress. If I remember correctly, you’re a Grand Central University Student, right?” I asked.
“Hm? Yeah. A Sophomore,” she replied, turning her face at me.
“Hm… So Orica is younger than you, huh?” I muttered, “What faculty are you attending?”
“Fashion Design!” Lauress announced proudly.
“Oh? Oh yeah… GCU is pretty famous for the fashion design faculty, isn’t it,” I muttered.
“Yup. I studied so hard to get admitted in that faculty. At high school, I barely had any sleep as I stayed all night studying every standardized test needed for admission. I just barely managed to get admitted.” Lauress sighs. “… It’s really a shame I had no one to celebrate that success with me…”
“You see, I want to be a fashion designer, but my parents were against it,” Lauress explained with a frown, “They told me that it’s just a fleeting dream of a youngster and that I’m just gonna starve myself if I take this major.”
“… That’s… kind of harsh…”
… Oh yeah. At the campfire a few days ago, she said:
“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…”
I guess she’s not really in good terms with her parents.
“So that’s why I sorta ran away from home and lived at the dorm,” she continued.
“How did you manage to pay for your tuition fees then?” I asked curiously, “Did you get scholarship?”
“I guess you can call it that. It’s sort of a Financial Aid for students. You get to study for free, but after graduation, you have to work for the university in return for a couple of years,” Lauress explained.
“Is that so?”
“Well, it’s a cheap price if I could get to study the faculty that I love,” Lauress said, “Just mark my words! Someday, the name ‘Lauress Coel’ will be published in the front page of all fashion magazines! And my parents will regret when they told me that I’m gonna starve if I study fashion!”
The blonde archer declares with eyes burning in passion. I know that she’s energetic, but I’ve never seen her speaking with such a passion before.
“Haha. I hope you made it to your goal,” I said.
“I will,” Lauress smiled confidently, “Will you wear clothes and dresses that I designed?”
“Oh? Sure. Why not?”
I mean, what could be more awesome than walking around the mall and telling others that I’m friend with the person who designed this outfit?
“In that case, why I don’t I get you something new to wear when we get to the next town’s clothing store?” Lauress asked with a smile. Now she gets up to a sitting position.
“H… Huh? Why?”
“Because your sense of fashion sucks.”
W… Wow, that was harsh…
“I mean, seriously, a clean white one-piece dress? Come on, Auria… Which rock have you been sleeping under?”
To be honest, I’m somewhat used to that kind of comment. Orica even said that to me once too. She told me that my fashion taste is extremely horrible and that I wore only boring clothes. Well, I do want to wear cute outfits some times too, but we couldn’t really afford a lot of dresses. After all, we’re already struggling to pay for the rent, so most of the time, I just go for something much more casual and practical.
“W… Well, I was wearing this when I left the apartment. I was on my way back from part-time work at night, so I wore a casual dress,” I explained.
“In that case, let me get you a new dress when we get to the next town!” Lauress gives me a cheeky smile. “I’m gonna dress you up real nice that all boys will instantly fall for you!”
… Somehow, I think I’ve officially turned into her personal dressing doll now…
“W… Well, if you insist.” I smile at her bitterly. “In any case, I sure hope you become a fashion designer in the future though.”
“Haha, thanks.” Lauress smiles. But a short while later, her face turns into a more serious one. “… But I guess before that, we have Ophiucus and the Nebula Corp to worry about.”
“I guess so.” I sigh.
That’s right. This battle is still not yet over…
“Let’s make it through this together,” Lauress said, “We’ll end this battle. Then once I become a fashion designer, I’ll dress you up and turn you into my super model!!!”
“Ah… Haha… Well, let’s do our best then…”