Chapter 22 – O
Day 2 after splitting up with Sophia’s group…
It was already the second day after we split up with Sophia’s group, but we haven’t really done much. This past two days, we simply moved down the hill from the campfire to this remote town where the six of us discussed our next heading. Although I said ‘discussed’, we didn’t really talk that much. After all, I was still tired from the fight at the Athenium Mine and the ambush two days ago. Frey and the others haven’t completely got back to their top shape yet due to the attack at Sarin’s mansion. So we were really just relaxing to get our bodies back to full health.
Somehow, I was relaxing during the day. But after the night has fallen, my mind just won’t stop worrying about our upcoming battles. Before I know it, I’m already standing in the middle of an open field a short distance away from the town. Tonight, the stars in the sky glitter as if blessing me during my late night training.
“Go!!!!!” I swing my spear forward with all my might but all it did was create a single blast of energy, no different from the attacks I’ve used before several times.
“… Dammit. I still couldn’t use it consistently!” I muttered while puffing in exhaustion.
“But you were able to do it for the 10th time tonight, my lady…”
“10 out of what… Zubenes? 50 times? 20% chance is not good enough. It’s not reliable,” I replied to the iron giant’s voice, echoing in my ears.
“Still, it was an improvement. Please do not be so hard on yourself. I am glad you are training so hard to get used to your powers…”
The iron giant continues to cheer me up.
The Ophiucus servants and Fiore herself have a weird ability called [Connected Harm] which allows them to inflict direct injury upon our bodies through attacking our Zodiac Beasts. I’ve personally learned that the tough way…
The only person who is an exception to their Connect Harm ability is Auria, who doesn’t seem to have a link with her Zodiac Beast for some reason.
In any case, ever since my lost, I’ve been thinking really hard about battles in the future. Sophia’s team defeated one Ophiucus servants during their power plant raid, and Auria took down two of them at the Athenium Mine. However, Sophia’s team’s victory was not absolute and I doubt Auria would be able to fight in the front lines for a while.
With that in mind, my mind can’t help but question, ‘What else could have happened in fights against Ophiucus servants?’
One of the servants named ‘Priori’ told us that Ophiucus has six Zodiac Beasts. We only took down half of them. After this, we still have Rasalhague – the guy who appeared in the middle of Grand Central – and another two Zodiac Beasts. And not to mention that we still have to worry about that girl…
Fiore – the host of Ophiucus Angel.
It was only after I lost to Fiore that I’ve begin to realize something; I hate losing. I’ve lost a humiliating defeat to Rokishi and a super painful defeat to Fiore…
I don’t want to lose ever again…
That is why I thought about every possible ways to fight against Ophiucus’s Connected Harm ability; I tried to come up with my own technique to use against them and I’ve been practicing on it since I recovered from the power plant raid at Andoria.
“Late night training, huh?”
A voice spoke up while I am resting. Turning towards the owner, I saw the blonde lady in a black leather leotard standing nearby.
What is she doing here?
“Yeah. Got a problem with that?”
“Haha. Why the hostility? I haven’t even badmouthed Lyra yet,” she said, chuckling.
…She’s right. What the heck is wrong with me?
“… Sorry. I really should quit that attitude.” I sigh and thrust my spear into the ground.
“Nah. I like it better when you are yourself,” Frey said, shrugging.
“Oh really…? So, do I talk like that 20 years ago too?” I asked curiously.
“Let’s just say you haven’t changed one bit,” she said, “Although I don’t feel like slapping you as much as before any more.”
“… Do we not like each other?” I asked some more, chuckling amusingly, “Now that I think about it, we’ve only talked about the serious stuffs 20 years ago. Why don’t we talk about random stuffs?”
“Nah. I always get into a fight with you when we discussed something in the past too.” Frey shrugs and gives me an I-can’t-help-it face.
Why did I even bother trying to get friendly with her?
“Although, enough about me… I see you were using some weird techniques there,” Frey continued, looking at the crater I created from my training.
“… Oh… You saw that?” I asked.
“Not so clearly, but I’ve never seen an attack like that before,” she replied.
“… I see. Well, it’s not yet completed. I still need to do some tuning with it,” I said.
The technique that I came up with Zubenes seems to be possible, but somehow, I still cannot perform it consistently. Most of the time, it ended up turning into a single Sonic Boom.
“I see. What exactly is it that you were trying to pull?” she asked some more.
“Not telling.” I smile daringly. Not only because I don’t want to show it to anyone yet, but also showing a work-in-progress technique would only embarrass me in front of others.
“I see. So how about I force you to use it?” Frey raises her right hand into the air, and suddenly a black scythe with eerily glowing crimson blade appears on her hand. “How about it? For old time’s sake?”
“Hah. You up for it?” I pull my spear up from the ground and get in stance.
“Sure, why not? I’m awake now anyways,” the blonde lady said, daringly.
“Then you’re on!”
Day 4 after splitting up with Sophia’s group… Night time…
At my command, I released the power I’ve been charging forward. The blast hits the ground and explodes, covering the area with thick curtain of dusts floating about.
I did it…
I think I’ve finally mastered this technique!
After my cheer, I sigh in relief and wipe the sweat on my forehead. I was able to release this same attack 20 times in a row; it seems reliably consistent enough now. I should be able to use it in real battle next time. With this new technique, I just might have more chance against Fiore and the other Ophiucus servants.
This will be my ‘trump card’ so I better keep it a secret for now.
With tonight’s training finally over, I return to the inn and hit the hot spring. It’s late in the middle of the night, so there is no one else using the spring. Taking advantage of that, I leisurely dip myself into the warm water alone to wash the weariness and fatigue away.
“It sure is relaxing to take a warm bath after training, don’t you think, Zubenes?” I spoke up.
However, I did not hear any response from the iron giant at all.
I just don’t understand my servant’s thoughts sometimes. One time he would reply every questions I asked him, while on the other times like now, he would just keep quiet, saying nothing. It kind of feels like I’m talking to myself, which is pretty awkward.
Anyway, after the bath, I dress up and head back to my room.
Today, we located a Nebula Corporation power plant around this area. We planned on raiding it tomorrow, so I better get a good sleep. However, while on the way back to my room, my eyes caught a glimpse of a shadowy figure sitting next to the window of the hallway, looking out to the night sky. Upon a closer look, the figure appears to be a familiar looking dark twin pony tailed girl.
“Sup…!” I called out to the girl, who alertly moves her hands to the hilt of her daggers’ sheathe before turning to me. “Still awake?”
“Do I look like I’m sleeping to you?”
And yet another ‘Miki Reply’ from her…
“Thinking about stuffs?” I asked, ignoring her sarcastic remark.
“Maybe,” she replied shortly and looks outside of the window again.
“I have lots of stuffs on my mind too,” I said, leaning on the wall next to the window, “Wanna tell me what’s on your mind?”
To be honest, I wasn’t expecting to get much response from her. In fact, I’ll be laughing if she said ‘none of your business’.
However, it seems like I made a wrong guess this time…
Good thing I didn’t place a bet.
“… It’s funny,” Miki said while looking outside, “That crybaby used to annoy the heck out of me when we first met each other. But now I’m really worried about her.”
“Oh. You mean Auria?” I asked.
“Who else could I be talking about?”
…Heh. I guess she’s right.
But anyway, now that it was brought to my attention, I wonder how Auria is doing. I hope she is coping well. Then again, Sophia is with her, so I doubt there is anything to worry about.
“Trusting and believing, huh? What a nice little world she’s living in.” The twin pony tailed girl crosses her arms while looking out of the window. “Hopefully this will teach her a lesson not to trust in others too much.”
“But she’s a good girl, isn’t she…?” I muttered, “She’s kind and innocent. Even though she possesses the spirit of the most powerful Zodiac Angel, she still needs our support. She might actually be the weakest among us…”
“She’s way too soft and naïve,” Miki argued, “She trusts others too much. It’s because she’s like this that she’s facing so much pain. I’ve warned her so many times about trusting others. Look at what’s happening to her now…”
I really can’t say anything for Auria right now. I admit that I myself trusted Lynus for a bit, namely because Auria was in the same position as I was when I tried to convince everyone to listen to my mother. Perhaps that was why I stood up for her trust many times when she proposed that plan.
“……… But it’s because she trusted me, that’s why I am the person I am right now,” Miki continued, sighing, “…She kept on saying that I was the one who saved her… when in reality it’s the other way around. Without her, I’d still probably be wandering around aimlessly, picking fights with all of Nebula Corp’s men…”
…So everything she said to Auria was out of concern? After all that, Miki seems to really care about her. Somehow, I could almost feel anger in her voice, although it was not directed at Auria; it was directed at herself. She was upset that she couldn’t do anything to convince Auria – to protect her from disappointment.
…But seriously though, she really could learn a thing or two on how to console other people.
Suddenly, her eyes widen as if she just recalled something, then she look at me with narrowed eyes.
“… Screw it. Why the hell am I telling you all of this?” Miki grumbled.
“Feh? Maybe you ‘trust’ me a bit more now?” I teased her.
“You wish. I still hate your guts,” she replied and got up from the couch, “I’m going back to sleep.”
And with that, she simply walks pass me back to her room. I sigh and watch as she left me alone in the inn’s hallway.
Somehow, I felt like I understand her a bit better, despite her attitude earlier. Perhaps Auria was able to successfully touch Miki’s cold heart, and that was why she was able to travel with this girl.
Day 5 after splitting up with Sophia’s group… Morning…
Everyone gathers inside my room one last time to go over our plan of attack. The meeting took only about half an hour before it turned into a general chat to relieve the tension before the operation.
“Don’t you get home sick after being away from home for so long at all?” Nat asked the silver haired girl curiously while we are getting ready to get out of the inn.
“Hm? What’s with that all of the sudden?” Sarin asked.
“Nah. Just curious is all. I really wanna sleep on my bed at our coffee shop, but I can’t do that cuz the whole place was burned down to the ground,” Nat said.
“Hm… Not really, I don’t miss home much. I’m actually a little fed up of staying at home,” she replied, “To be honest, I enjoy traveling to various places with everyone like this.”
“Well, you guys ready? We’re thrashing the power plant today, so don’t get sloppy,” Miki interrupted the relaxing mood. Well, it’s good that someone decides to end our break time before we all get sloppy.
Before I could finish, all of the sudden I heard someone’s cell phone ringing. It appears to be Sarin’s.
“Oh sorry. I have to pick this up,” she said, flipping up her phone with a serious face, “Hello? …… WHAT!?”
All of us jumped upon hearing her scream. The silver haired girl’s face was completely pale like snow. “Wait. Rupert! Calm down! Speak slowly! Why? How!? What were his bodyguards doing!? How did they took the manor into custody!?”
The girl keeps screaming into the phone. We couldn’t really understand what was going on, but it’s definitely not something good.
“A Star General!?!?!?”
This is definitely bad.
“O… Okay. I’ll be there as soon as I can!”
After that, the girl hangs up the call and makes a bitter face.
“What’s going on?” Van asked worriedly.
“… Everyone, can I ask a favor?” she asked, “Please, go to Minoa… My house at Minoa with me.”
“Why? What’s wrong?” I asked.
“…… They took my father into custody,” she replied, “He was held a hostage along with some of my close servants. My chief butler told me that they threatened to slowly kill one person for each day I don’t show up there.”
“That’s a dirty trick!” Frey grits her teeth.
“Dammit! They’ve stooped this low!?” Nat grumbled.
“Please! You all have to help me save my father!” Sarin cried. She has always seemed so strong, but right now she is helplessly pleading for our help.
“That goes without saying. Forget today’s operation. Let’s go to Minoa, everyone,” I said. Everyone, even Miki, nods in agreement.
“If we’re going to Minoa, then we better hurry. We won’t make it there in just a day or two even with a car,” Van said.
“Screw going by land. We’re never gonna make it in time!!” Frey said, “Come with me. We’re flying there!”