Chapter 23 – O
“You can tell that we are Zodiac Angels just by looking at us?” mom asked the elderly man with eyes full of doubt.
He said his name is Shikoba – the chief of this village.
“You overestimated my abilities, my lady. Actually, it was because I saw that pendant,” the elderly man said, pointing towards the pendant hanging on my neck.
“Oh?” I lift up the Connection Pendant and observe it. Well, mom got the pendant from this village after all.
“Plus, what other reasons could there be for female visitors such as all of you to come to this remote village hidden in the valley?” the elderly man asked.
… Well, he does have a point.
“Now, pardon my impudence, but may I take the liberty to guess that all of you came here to ask about Lady Reisa?” he asked some more.
All of us look at each other with puzzled faces.
Lin and Len repeated what elderly man said.
“That’s right. Lady Reisa, her highness the Angel of Ophiucus.”
The true name of Ophiucus Angel…
I have seen some folklore versions of the Tales of Star Ocean that mentioned the names of the original Zodiac Angels before. If my memory serves me right, their names are – in their zodiac order starting with Aries – as follows:
Hallie, Alcyone, Hena, Borealis, Rio, Ceres, Velvet, Anastasia, Ascella, Denela, Lucida, and Vernali.
Yes, I love that story so much, that’s why memorizing their names are much easier than studying for tests and exams…
Now that I think about it, Priori and Hans mentioned something about Auria being the reincarnation of someone named Anastasia. So they were talking about the original Scorpio Angel…
Anyway, the name of the original Ophiucus Angel was never recorded anywhere. But maybe that’s because she was believed to be the goddess of disaster, so her name itself might be a taboo for some people.
So that’s her real name?
“Please come inside my shack. I will explain everything that you wish to know,” the elderly man said and led us into his shack.
It is not really that big, but it is enough to fit eight people without any hassle. Once inside, all of us sit down in circle next to the campfire.
“So, how shall we start?” Mr. Shikoba asked us.
“First of all, I want to know about this pendant.” I remove the Connection Pendant from my neck and show it to him.
“… We gave it to a young lady who passed by this village in the past,” Mr. Shikoba said.
“That would be me.” Mom raised her hand up. “It was 20 years ago. I was under a pursuit and happened to come across this village for shelter…”
“I see… Everything happens just as Lady Reisa told us,” Mr. Shikoba muttered.
Lin and Len tilted their head.
“That is right. We were assigned by Lady Reisa to protect this pendant, and when the time comes, we shall give it to any Zodiac Angel who came to this village,” Mr. Shikoba replied.
“… Wait. I don’t understand… How did you meet Reisa anyway? You’re telling me that she descended down to Athenia in the past?” I asked.
“As a matter of fact, yes, she did,” Mr. Shikoba replied.
All of us look at each other in surprise. We probably have the same thought in mind.
“H… How is that possible!? Wasn’t she grounded in the celly… eh… wasn’t she sealed inside the Celestial Halls!?” I asked.
Wow, I actually remembered that place’s name this time!
“That is right. It was after the Great War with the 12 angels… Lady Reisa’s immortal body and soul were locked inside the Celestial Halls – a celestial prison created by the immortal bodies of the other 12 Zodiac Angels.”
All of us attentively listen to Mr. Shikoba. Since none of us is asking anything, he continues.
“Millennia had passed since the war. One day after drifting aimlessly inside the halls, for the first time Lady Reisa started questioning ‘what is so amazing about the humans that my sisters wanted to protect?’ So she decides to descend to the human world to find out,” Mr. Shikoba explained.
“Um… Again… Wasn’t she sealed inside the hall? How did she get out of it?” Lauress repeated our question.
“The seal was only designed to stop her powers from wreaking havoc. Hence, she was still able to manifest some of her divine powers from within the halls. In any case, Lady Reisa removed her consciousness from her immortal body and inserted it into a human form with flesh and blood that she created from inside the halls. Because it was a process of soul ‘transfer’ rather than ‘reincarnation’, she retains her full memory as an angel and travels down to Athenia via the legendary [Star Bridge], created with her Power of Connection,” Mr. Shikoba explained.
“Star Bridge…?” Auria asked.
“That’s right. The Star Bridge is a distorted dimensional path that connects the surface of Athenia to the Celestial Hall. It shortens the actual distance of several million light years to mere kilometers.”
So you’re saying Reisa literally walked from Celestial Halls down to Athenia by foot!?
“Unlike Zodiac Angels’ hosts, Lady Reisa in her human form did not possess any of her divine powers, and as a result, she was a normal woman when she came down here. Aside from the fact that she cannot use her powers outside of the Celestial Halls anyway, she thought that this might be better for her to learn and understand the humans and their world. So Lady Reisa traveled the world, visited various place, and saw several magnificent sceneries. After all, it was said that Athenia was originally created to be a paradise – a land filled with beauty.”
She once walked on this world as a human like us. It seems like she really wanted to understand the humans and her sisters.
“After a couple of years on Athenia, Lady Reisa was attacked by a group of bandits roaming the area she was traveling.”
“Oh no…!” I was so absorbed into the story that I let out a cry without realizing it.
“While she could not use any of her divine powers, Lady Reisa herself is more than capable of saving herself from mere thugs in a bare hand combat.”
… Uh… Well, she might be a girl, but she’s still a Zodiac Angel. It’ll be stupid to come down here without some means of defense.
“However, in that crisis, a young traveler who happened to pass by came in to rescue her from the bandits. His name is Faram. It was like destiny guided them to meet each other. The two of them fell in love and they settled down in a village – this village – about three hundred years ago.”
“Human Reisa used to live here!?” Lauress cried.
When you think about it, it’s really not that long ago…
“That is correct. Lady Reisa traveled around Athenia for so many years. So she decided that it’s a good time to settle down, especially when she finally found a good man that she wishes to be with…”
“So… Did Mr. Faram know of Reisa’s true identity?” Auria asked curiously.
“Yes, he did. Lady Reisa told Lord Faram about her true identity and even took him to the Celestial Halls once to prove herself. She told him everything about why she was sealed by her sisters and how she wants to try living amongst the humans. Lord Faram immediately believed her and the two lived together for a few years…”
“It was unfortunate, however, because Lady Reisa descends down to Athenia at an inappropriate time. During that time, Athenia was in an era of cultural change. Industrialization and urbanization were rapidly spreading throughout the lands and the demands for various resources skyrocketed. Among those resources, there was one where the people were constantly fighting against each other to claim – coal.”
“…Coal? Seriously? It was THAT scarce back then?!” Orica cried, “Now people don’t even want to buy them because of the pollution it created!”
“Coal mines were extremely rare in the past and not to mention that there was no technology to aid in the mining process,” Mr. Shikoba explained, “A coal mine was discovered in an area near this village in the past. And that incentivized several invasions from neighboring regions that raided the mines to steal our resources.”
“So there used to be wars in this area?” mom asked.
“That is correct. To prevent wars from breaking out any more than it already did, Lady Reisa talked to the governor of this region and asked to solve this peacefully. She suggested us to put our coal on a trade business, using it as currency to trade in for various products from other lands, such as spice, silk, and harvest yields,” Mr. Shikoba continued, “It was extremely successful at first because coal was the only thing our village had as a surplus. Hence, it was a win-win situation for everyone.”
“I see. She even got herself involved with the humans’ politics too,” mom muttered.
“After living on this world for many years, Lady Reisa’s views on the humans began to change. She discovered that humans are not as stupid and foolish as she thought. They simply need some guidance to prevent them from making irrevocable mistakes,” Mr. Shikoba explained.
“She is so amazing,” Auria whispered in respect.
Yeah. After listening to all of that, I thought that she is amazing too. She traveled the world alone and even introduced a bartering system to solve the struggle for coal. She did so much for our world even though she originally despised it.
“At the same time, along with trading coals, Lady Reisa also starts spreading a folklore through the travelers and peddlers that came to barter for our coal.”
“W… Wait a sec!!! Don’t tell me—!?”
“That is right. The original author of the Tales of Star Ocean is none other than Lady Reisa herself.”
Are you kidding!?
The villain of the story was the author of the story!?
All of us simply look at Mr. Shikoba in disbelief.
“She… started that story? But why? Why would she do that?” Auria asked.
“Yeah! Why would she want to brand herself an evil villain!?” Lauress asked with a puzzled look.
“…Lady Reisa wants the humans to fear her true identity. She spreads the lore in hopes that the humans would fear her and avoid starting wars. It is undeniable that she hated the humans once in the past. But now that she lives among them, she wishes for them to live peacefully.”
That’s really all I can say. If what Mr. Shikoba said is true, then we really misunderstood Reisa. She is so kind and selfless.
To intentionally make herself look evil so that humans would fear her…
I don’t think I can ever do something so selfless like that…
“Then what about Angelo Dehl Falka? Wasn’t he the one who spreads it as a literature?” Auria asked.
“That is right. Angelo Dehl Falka was the person who spreads the lore since Lady Reisa’s lore never made it across this region. But Angelo will come much later into the picture. For now, let us go back to Lady Reisa and Lord Faram,” said Mr. Shikoba. After that, he continued, “Although everything worked out at first, the peace Lady Reisa brought did not last for too long. The governor and other officials of the region became corrupted with their bargaining power. Things like bribery and corruption made its way into the system. They inflated the values of coal in such a way that a season-worth of harvest yield could not purchase one kilogram of coal…”
“W… What?! That’s just ridiculous!” Lauress cried.
“Corruptions happened here and there…”
“… But they really went too far!!”
Lin and Len agreed.
“In the end, many neighboring countries became tired of the government and instead of a peaceful trade, they went back to invading the coal mines.”
“That’s… ridiculous… Reisa fought so hard for peace, but it was so easily broken just because of a few people!?” I cried.
That’s so unfair…
Way too unfair!
“The war breaks out with our region on the losing side. When in need of more men who can wield swords, Lord Faram volunteered to fight in the war against the intruders raiding our coal mines.”
“So what did Reisa say about this? What did she do?” I asked worriedly.
“If she could use her power, these invaders would never pose a threat to her at the slightest. However, Lady Reisa was an ordinary human with no access to any of her divine powers. As a result, she pleaded Lord Faram to escape this land with her. Escape from the chaos… Escape from the greed and corruption… And move to a new land where the two of them can start over… where they can grow old together without being involved with politics… But Lord Faram insisted on staying. He was a courageous and righteous man, loyal to his home country. He gave a promise to Lady Reisa to come back and properly propose to her as his wife after the war is over… But alas he never made it back…”
“Mr. Faram… died?” Orica whispered.
“He died in the second year of the war, fighting against the invasion,” Shikoba replied, “By the time this news reached Lady Reisa, it was a year after the 5-year long war. Lady Reisa waited without knowing that her lover is never coming back…”
“… That must be really painful… I know what it’s like to lose someone so important…”
“Lady Reisa wished to understand why her sisters love Athenia. She came down to live with the humans and even provided them with guidance. But at what cost? All she got back was pain and sadness. Humans have never changed even after she gave them a chance. They still fight and kill each other for resources and personal luxury. Humans are creatures that will do everything – anything – in their power to attain personal pleasure, regardless of the pain and suffering it caused for others. Struck with grief from the lost of her lover, Lady Reisa ultimately lost her last faith in the humanity and regained her determination to destroy Athenia once again.”
In my heart somehow, I feel like I am beginning to understand Reisa’s hatred for this world.
Humans… really are loathsome creatures…
“… But her powers are still in the Celestial Halls, right?”
“So how is she going to destroy Athenia?”
Lin and Len spoke their questions out loud.
“Yes. Without the intervention of the other 12 angels, she could have easily erased Athenia with a flick of her wrist. However, with her powers sealed in the Celestial Hall, she cannot instantly wipe everything out in an instant. As a result, she changes her approach and gives the humans a horrible painful slow annihilation instead.”
“Slow… annihilation?” Auria repeated.
That… really sounds disturbing…
“To realize her plans, Lady Reisa returns to the Celestial Halls and breaks a piece of her immortal body.”
“… The Ophiucus Fragment,” Mom whispered.
“After that, she returns to Athenia one more time and gives it to an ambitious aristocrat, along with telling him about the existence of the Zodiac Angels,” Mr. Shikoba explained, “… And that person is none other than the philosopher Angelo Dehl Falka – the ancestor of a family known today as the ‘Nebula Family’…”