Chapter 32 – O
I have no idea what is happening to me. To best describe it, I felt like I was dreaming in the middle of a very deep sleep. I remember falling down into a dark bottomless pit. The light from the mouth of the pit gradually shrinks as I fall deeper and deeper down until everything around me is covered in darkness.
How did I even end up here?
The last thing I could recall before ending up here was protecting Auria from Fiore’s attack. Her light ray shoots through my chest, flinging me back several meters. After that, an unimaginable pain quickly spreads across my body like how blood flows through our vein. All the muscles in my body tensed up and everything feels so hot from the inside that I thought I was going to burst.
Somehow, it almost felt like when Regulus was being extracted out of me…
After that excruciating pain has passed, everything else subsided, including my senses of perception.
I don’t see a thing.
I don’t hear anything.
I can’t smell.
I was left in the middle of darkness all alone with no one next to me.
It wasn’t until I thought that I reached the bottom of the dark pit that I start to ‘feel’ again. My hands touch the softness of the cushion under my body. My nose smells the odor of various chemicals along the lines of alcohol and depressants – ones you smell inside hospital rooms. My ears vaguely hear echoes of someone calling out my name. I gradually lift up my heavy eye lids to be greeted by many familiar faces.
First, on my left, there is mom who has tears flowing all the way down her cheeks. On my right is Auria who also appears to be crying.
What’s the matter?
What happened and why are they crying?
“Mom? Auria?” I uttered with an extremely weak voice.
“Thank goodness you’re okay!” mom cried and tightly hugs me.
“H… Huh…? What? I…?” I muttered confusingly.
I protected Auria and got hurt. That would explain why I am hospitalized right now. It seems like that wasn’t a dream. That pain on my chest was severely painful, maybe to the point that it messes with my mind until I passed out and hallucinated, dreaming of falling into the bottomless pit of darkness.
Yeah. That must be the case.
“I’m… I’m so sorry, Sophia,” Auria said, sobbing, “I actually thought… you’re gone forever… Because of me… you…”
“H… Hey. Don’t cry. I’m fine now. See?” I give her a smile.
She must have blamed herself.
She really shouldn’t have. After all, it’s not her fault. I decided to help her of my own will. There’s no reason for her to feel guilty at all.
“Glad you are doing fine.”
Another voice spoke up from nearby. Tilting my head, I notice the purple haired girl standing right next to Auria.
“You really are tougher than you look,” said the blond lady standing next to mom.
“Haha… Hey everyone… Sorry I worried you guys.” I smile nervously.
I don’t really know how long it has been since I passed out. But I am relief just to see everyone’s faces. It means that being alone in that dark pit was just a dream.
“Are you still hurt any where?” mom asked.
I sit up on the cot and carefully observe my own body, moving my muscles here and there. However, the excruciating pain that I felt when I was shot is no longer there, as if it was never even there in the first place.
I feel perfectly fine.
“Not really. I’m still a little sleepy, but it’s not painful anymore,” I replied.
“Still sleepy? Much expected from you.” Mom laughs.
Thank god she is no longer crying…
…Now that I think about it, damn. I made her cry again…
“…… But that’s really weird,” Miss Frey spoke up with a thoughtful look.
“What’s weird?” mom asked the blond lady.
“That girl said that Sophia might not ever wake up again, right?” Miss Frey asked, “… So why is it that she woke up with no sign of pain or wound at all? What exactly was that technique? A Sleeping Spell that was meant to make her sleep eternally?”
“Now that you mentioned it, that was weird indeed,” mom muttered with a thoughtful face while looking at me, “Are you sure you are fine? You are not hurt anywhere?”
“Of course, mom. I said I’m fine.”
“Actually, to be honest, I was wondering about that too,” Auria muttered thoughtfully, “When Sophia was shot, I tried to heal her with my spell, but it didn’t work; it was like she had no wound to heal.”
“… You guys are so mean. Now it’s almost like you guys want something bad to happen to me.” I pout.
“N… No! Of course not.” Auria smiles nervously. “I’m just worried about the after effects of that skill.”
“… Speaking of which, I’ve never seen anyone among us using a technique like that before,” Viola spoke up after remaining quiet for a while, “A white light ray that shoots at high speed… It’s not an arrow like Lauress’s skills…”
“It’s a white ray… Ray… Light…?” Miss Frey then turns to mom. “Could it be one of your powers?”
“…No. I don’t have a technique remotely similar to your description,” mom replied after making a thoughtful look.
“Then could it be Fiore’s… Ophiucus’s unique power?” Auria suggested.
“What? On top of being able to connect to other angels’ power, you’re saying she has her own original techniques up in her sleeves?” I asked.
“… Power of Connection?” Viola muttered. But a second after that, her face instantly turns pale. “Wait a minute… Sophia… Where is your Zodiac Mark?”
“Huh? Um… In the middle of my chest. Why?”
“Can I see your mark?” Viola asked with a troubled face.
“H… Huh? What? Why!?”
I raise my eye brow at her as well as putting up my arms to protect myself.
I mean seriously, Viola…?
I know we’re girls, but to ask me to show my chest to you all of the sudden like that…
“Come on! Just show me!” And with that, the purple haired girl proceeds to forcefully unbutton my gown. Lowering it down, my bare chest comes to surface and everyone’s eyes focus on it.
“…… There’s nothing there,” Viola whispered.
“That’s… strange,” Auria muttered and peeks into her dress, “My mark is showing itself clearly.”
“And mine too,” Viola said, peeking into her dress.
“… So do mine,” Miss Frey said, looking at the mark on her right hip, “… Not counting Sophia, there are four angels in this room standing close to her…”
“Wait… So why isn’t my mark showing up?” I asked puzzlingly.
“… The mark will reveal itself only when there are other Zodiac Angels nearby,” mom whispered.
“…!? Could it be!?” Auria whispered, “Miss Myria, you said that Zodiac Angels’ hearts are linked to the celestial powers from the stars, which allow them to invoke supernatural powers, right?”
“Yes. What about it?” mom asked.
“Fiore’s power is the Power of Connection – the power that tampers with those links. If she can force herself to connect to other angels’ stars… do you think she can also ‘disconnect’ those links?”
Upon hearing Auria’s hypothetical question, everyone’s eyes widen up in shock.
“That… That makes sense,” Viola muttered, “Think about it, her staff disintegrated too, right?”
“Her weapon is broken… Her mark disappeared,” Miss Frey repeated, “… That must be the case…”
“Hey…? What’s the matter!? I don’t understand! What are you guys talking about!?”
I’m not dumb.
I completely understood what they were talking about.
But I fooled myself…
I fooled myself because I do not want to accept the truth that was right before me.
“Sophia… You…” Mom looks at me with a bitter face. “You are no longer a Zodiac Angel.”
“… Huh…?” was the only thing that slipped out of my lips.
My mind becomes blank upon hearing the inconvenient truth that was shoved into my face.
“What? No way… What do you mean?” I asked after being lost in thought for a few seconds.
“S… Sophia,” Auria called to me, “Can you… Can you still talk to your Zodiac Beast?”
He has always been with me whenever I need him.
He will hear my call…
He must hear my call!
However, instead of crying his name out loud, my voice feels so weak and soft.
Why didn’t I just call out to him loud and proud like how I normally did?
Was it because my body is still weak from the sleep?
… Or was it because I was afraid that I won’t get any replies back?
“Regulus? Why… Why won’t you answer me?”
The words that slip out of my lips become even softer than before. I feel dizzy and devastated. All the energy in my body was completely drained.
“You have got to be kidding,” Viola spoke up with a terrified face, staggering a step back.
“Is this… Is this the true potential of the Power of Connection?” Auria whispered fearfully, “So that was why Fiore said she wants to take me out first? The one entitled as the most powerful Zodiac Angel…”
The power to inflict direct harm upon the angels through attacking their beasts.
The power to connect to other angels’ powers and use them at free will.
And now, the power to completely sever the bonds between the Zodiac Angels and the stars…
Is this really the kind of opponent we are up against?
Is this why the 12 original Zodiac Angels were not able to defeat Ophiucus?
What am I saying?
I’m no longer a Zodiac Angel.
Isn’t this no longer my concern?
Now I’m just an average university girl who almost always gets to morning classes late.
I don’t have to be hunt down by the world’s most powerful organization any more.
I don’t have to bear the burden of watching over the world any more.
I don’t have to risk my life fighting in the front lines again.
… So why?
Why am I crying?
Why is my heart throbbing in pain like this…?
Why do I feel so empty on the inside…?
Viola and Auria already had their [Break the Cutie] moments in Chapter Ophiucus. Now it’s Sophia’s turn 😛