Chapter 33 – O
“[The damage that they’ve caused to our city is incalculable. Our space exploration project, which amounts to roughly 30 billion Roals in cost, vanished in just a blink of an eye. As you can see now, this group of young ladies is dangerous and aggressive. They have demonstrated mysterious destructive power and there is no doubt that they were the one behind the assault on Great Constella. In other words, they are the terrorists that command the legion of monsters that have been wreaking havoc on Athenia. We can no longer stand to see our people suffer. Because of this, we would like to ask all security offices and agencies to join force with the Star Units and NEF to perform a full scale pursuit on these terrorists so that we can bring them to justice. Not an ounce of mercy shall be given to them.]”
“WHAT THE HELL!?!?!?!?!?”
As the live broadcast from the president of Nebula Corporation continues, the red haired girl yelled to the top of her voice in anger and frustration, echoing the entire meeting room.
After Sophia woke up, all of us, including Lynus, gathered inside a meeting room on the first floor of the hospital to discuss our next move. But before we could begin our discussion, Sarin received a call from her father, telling her to turn on the television and watch the urgent news.
“Hey, calm down, Nat. We might be in a meeting room right now, but we’re still in a hospital,” Van scolded her little sister.
“How the hell can I be calm about this!?” Nat screamed, “That Orson… We fought those damnable monsters and protected so many innocent civilians! Not only we didn’t get a single ‘thanks’, but now they used this chance to label us terrorists too!!”
The red haired girl continues with her complaints, which doesn’t seem to end.
“As if we weren’t already ‘terrorists’ in their eyes,” a cold voice spoke up calmly from the corner of the room, “We thrashed their power plants and even stole their precious Ophiucus Fragment once. Ever since we have decided on attacking them, we are already terrorists.”
“Well, yeah. You’re right. But I don’t like the way you said it!” Nat grumbled.
“Just shut up and sit down, Nat. Or do you want me to make you do it?” the green haired lady spoke with a calm voice. But somehow, that instantly made Nat stops complaining and quietly sits down, shuddering.
“…… But seriously though, can’t your father do something about this, Sarin?” Lauress turns to the silver haired girl.
“Yeah. At this rate, even though we haven’t destroyed the Nebula Corp’s power plants, the people of Athenia are still going to hate us,” Orica added.
“Ramel Media isn’t the only live broadcasting company that Nebula Corp owns. We might be able to stop them from broadcasting on our channel, but we can’t stop them from doing it on other channels,” Sarin replied, “I talked to daddy earlier and he said he was also surprised the Nebula Corp didn’t even give Ramel Media a second look. He also told me he’d do something about it, but in the mean time, he wants us to keep our profile low. Who knows what the public thinks about us right now?”
“So now we are the bad guys…”
“… even though we’ve saved so many people from the monsters?”
The twins are sitting on the small couch at the corner of the room, hugging their knees with extremely depressing look.
After the news finished reporting, I hit the remote control and turn the TV off.
“…Everyone. We haven’t completely lost yet.” I stand up from my seat, drawing everyone’s attention. “Although they have labeled us terrorists, we still have to stop the Nebula Corp from going to the Celestial Halls. We are the only ones who can do that right now…”
“… But sis,” Orica interrupted me, “… What about… What about Fiore’s power? She could destroy our angel powers, right? How could we fight against an opponent like that?”
“Actually, I’ve been thinking about this,” Viola said and stood up next to me, “Defeating Fiore will have to be on our lowest list of priority. Right now, we have to start undoing Athenia’s dependency on the Nebula Corp’s energy as soon as possible.”
As expected from Viola…
A while ago, it seems like she was horrified to find out that Fiore can destroy our Zodiac Powers, but even so she could still recover her composure in just a short amount of time. With her siding with me, I continue.
“We’ve all discussed this before. The only way to destroy the Nebula Corp and stop Reisa’s plan altogether is to give Athenia an alternate energy source. So for this…”
I took a deep breath.
“… I am going to get Lynus’s warehouse back.”
After my declaration, I pause to see everyone’s reactions. Since no one said anything, I continue.
“I was the one who proposed that we ally with Lynus’s company to establish an alternate energy source in the first place, so I intend to continue leading this operation until the end. Is there any objection?”
Everyone in the room still remains quiet, saying nothing. I can’t blame them though. All of us here are exhausted from the fight at Great Constella. On top of having to risk our lives saving others, we are now labeled as the villains. That was a major hit to everyone’s morale.
But I can’t give up yet.
Not after we’ve come so far…
Not after what Sophia had done for me…
I still have to keep pushing forward. Viola probably thinks the same.
“Lynus. If we get that warehouse back for you, can you continue with the generator development right away?” Viola asked.
“I can, and I plan to continue the production anyway. But you might have to wait a day or two before I can bail all of my men. They are the essential crews of my team, and without them, I can’t do squat,” Lynus said.
“When is the earliest you can bail them out?” I asked him some more.
“…Well, I should have everyone back with me by tomorrow evening if all goes well,” he replied.
“I see. In that case, I am going to hit the warehouse tonight!” I declared.
“What?! Sis, are you serious!?” Orica cried.
“Y… Yeah! You barely got any rest! Going there alone now is a suicide!” Lauress insisted.
“No. As the one who proposed this idea, I cannot rest yet,” I said.
“Just rest up, everyone. I’ll go with Auria,” Viola said, “We should keep our profile low for now, so moving in big group will only be drawing attention anyway. If we attack the warehouse right now, when they think that we are exhausted, they would not be able to prepare themselves ahead of time.”
“In that case, why don’t you take the Connection Pendant with you?” Miss Myria suggested, “That way the two of you can collaborate easier.”
Viola and I look at each other briefly then look at Sophia who is sitting next to Miss Myria with her face looking down on her lap.
“I don’t really mind, but it belongs to Sophia, right? I’m gonna need her permission,” I said nervously. However, even though I mentioned her name, the emerald eyed brunette just sits there quietly, saying nothing. She has not said a word after she got out of the emergency room. That really made me worried. I can’t tell what is on her mind at all…
“Sophia, honey. Give them the Connection Pendant,” Miss Myria said after seeing her daughter remains quiet for a while.
A short but stern voice escaped Sophia’s lips.
It was so cold and emotionless.
“… Why? You don’t have any use for it right now anyway. Can’t you just lend it to them?” Miss Myria asked.
Sophia did not immediately reply. She sits there quietly for a few seconds before finally lifting her head up, showing an upset look. “… Fine. Then take me with you.”
“… Huh?” was all that escaped Viola’s and my lips.
“I’m the one who has the most experience in orchestrating the Zodiac Link. If you want to use it, you have to take me with you,” she said, tightly gripping the pendant with her left hand.
“But Sophia… You are no longer a Zodiac Angel. You won’t be able to activate its power. You would just be a burden to them,” Miss Myria argued.
“You still have to take me with you… Otherwise, forget the pendant,” the emerald eyed brunette said coldly.
A soft chattering covers the room. Everyone appears to be surprised at Sophia’s attitude. After all, she has always been easy going. She pretty much agrees with what everyone else says and never really objects with what the majority decides.
“…… Stop fooling around already.”
Miss Myria stands up with her teeth grinding each other. A loud smack echoes the entire room as Sophia’s face shifts to the right, followed by several gasps from everyone present in the room.
“Are you out of your mind, Sophia?! Do you want to die!? You’re no longer a Zodiac Angel! You can’t fight anymore! You would just weigh Viola and Auria down!” Miss Myria yelled.
This is the first time I see Miss Myria being so upset. Sure, she does make a serious face occasionally, but this is the first time I saw her snapped entirely. However, what surprised me even more is Sophia’s sharp response to her mother as she glares back with hostile eyes.
“Oh? So now I’m just a good-for-nothing bone bag?!”
My heart skips a beat and I stop breathing for a few seconds.
It’s hard to believe that the cheerful Sophia just said those words.
The usually kind and calm Miss Myria slaps Sophia one more time and bangs her daughter’s body against her seat, clawing her fingers on Sophia’s shoulders. The seat has a leather cushion, but it was the impact and violence that made the rest of us remain speechless. No one dares to interfere the fight between a mother and her daughter.
“Mind your tone, young lady!!” Miss Myria roared, “It’s time you grow up and stop acting so selfish! You think you can just throw away your life whenever you want!? Think about the people around you! Think about your father’s sacrifice! Think about how I feel for once!!!”
“Well then have you thought about how I’m feeling right now!? What do you expect me to do!?” Sophia cried and pushed her mother away, standing up from her seat, “You expect me to just stay here and watch everyone go off and fight?! You want me to curl up in a hole while everyone risks their life!? How am I supposed to close my eyes at night!?”
Sophia’s desperate scream made everyone stuttered. Even Miss Myria took a step back upon seeing her daughter retaliates like that.
“…Why? Why me?” the emerald eyed brunette continued, “None of you wished for this! None of you wanted to be a Zodiac Angel! You called it a curse! Every one of you hated this power, didn’t you!?”
Sophia’s desperate eyes cast around, looking at every other Zodiac Angels in the room.
“… But not me… I don’t want to be powerless. I want to fight for the people of Athenia. I want to fight to free Ophiucus from her hatred… That was… No. That is still my wish. I’ve always wanted to be a Zodiac Angel.”
Lin and Len called out to Sophia with eyes welling in tear. The two of them herald Sophia as their elder sister. To see their respected sister broken down like this must be too much for them.
“So why me? So why was I the one stripped away of that power!?” the emerald eyed brunette cried, tightly hugging her arms and powerlessly falling to her knees, “I feel hollow… Empty on the inside… I don’t want to be useless…”
She kept repeating those words a few times like a broken mannequin.
“Don’t leave me behind… I don’t want to be left behind…”
I cup my hands on my mouth, trying my best not to let out my sob.
The cheerful and bubbly Sophia…
Where is ‘that’ Sophia right now?
You’ve always been smiling.
You made everyone laugh.
You were the center of our group even though you did not lead our operations; the 12 angels were here because you brought all of us together.
In the end, no matter what I say or try to do, I cannot hide myself from this guilt.
I killed the Sophia that we’ve all loved and known…
I was the one who made you like this. It was all because of me.
…And yet, you haven’t put a single blame on me.
You haven’t cursed me even once.
You’ve never said “It’s all because of you, Auria!”
Please, Sophia. Don’t do this to me…
Yell at me.
Scream at me.
Tell me it’s my fault…
I can’t continue to bare this guilt…
Just what does it take to make you smile like before again?
“…What if I tell you that there is still a way?”
The intense atmosphere within the room suddenly shatters when we heard those words. Everyone’s attention quickly shifts towards the blond lady in black leather leotard – the person who broke the intense atmosphere earlier. Even the broken down brunette stops her cry and looks at Miss Frey.
“What?” Sophia whispered.
“No, Frey! Stop!” Miss Myria yelled, glaring angrily at Miss Frey, who is standing on the other side of the room.
“What do you mean, Frey?” Viola asked calmly.
“What if I tell you that there is still… no… there ‘might’ be a way to restore Sophia’s Zodiac Angel’s power?” Miss Frey repeated, this time completing her statement.