ZA – Chapter Ophiucus 34 S

Chapter 34 – O

Sophia

“What if I tell you that there just might be a way to restore your Zodiac Angel power?”
At the bottom of the dark pit of despair, Miss Frey’s words were almost like a beacon of light that pierced through that darkness. Without any hesitation, I desperately reach out for that light.
“R… Really!? It’s possible!?” I cried. This sounds too good to be true.
“Let me tell you beforehand that I’m not even sure if this is going to work,” Miss Frey continued.
“P… Please… Please, just tell me!” I cried some more, “No matter the odds, I’m going to try it!”
“No, Frey. Stop it! I’m not letting her go to the Halls of Reverie!” mom yelled at Miss Frey and caught me by my wrist.

… Halls of Reverie?
What’s that?
What’s in that place?
But more importantly…

“You knew?” I whispered while looking at her. “You knew that there’s a way to restore my powers?”
Hearing my question, mom stutters and makes a bitter face without replying me.
“… Tell me. You knew it, didn’t you?” I asked again.
Mom took a deep breath and the expression on her face changes from a bitter face to a serious one.
“…… That’s right.”
I can’t believe her.
She knew it.
She knew it all along.
She knew how much I want to be a Zodiac Angel, and yet…
“Why mom?! WHY!?” I cried, shaking my wrist free from her grasp, “… Why!? Why were you hiding it from me!? Why did you keep it a secret!?”
“It’s because you’re my daughter!” mom screamed back, “Don’t you understand!? I’ve never wanted you to become a Zodiac Angel! Do you have any idea how much I freaked out when you told me you want to be one!?”
I do. I vaguely remember mom telling me once when this journey started. She told me she knew how ruthless the Nebula Corp is and she has always wished that I don’t end up becoming like her. But I never knew how much she ‘freaked out’. Even after saving me from the laboratory, she still had the mood to joke around with me.
… So all of that was just an act to conceal how worried she was?

“…When I realized that you’ve become one, I spent nights trying to accept that truth – accept that my daughter has been cursed with the same powers that I possess,” she continued, “…Now you are free! You are no longer bound by this abominated fate! I don’t want you to get back into this curse!”
“So that’s how it is?”
That moment, another voice spoke up, drawing our attention.
It was Auria. Her face is pale and her lips are trembling.
“… So that’s why… Ever since Sophia woke up, Miss Myria, you’ve never blamed me for once that Sophia took the hit for me,” Auria whispered, “You were glad that Sophia was shot!?”
“I was glad she was released from this curse!” mom argued. Her voice grows louder in each word that she said.
“How cruel… Sophia was shot because she protected me! That’s why she is in this state right now… And yet you… you still have the heart to see her like this?! How could you be so selfish!?” the caramel haired girl cried.
“Selfish!? How dare you say that, Auria!?” mom screamed, startling her, “Sophia is my daughter! I raised her up by myself with these two hands! Everything I did was for the best of her interest! No one on Athenia cares about her more than I do! And you’re saying that’s selfish!?”
“Oh really now?” Miss Frey spoke up, “I didn’t want to butt my opinion in, but Myria, do you remember what you told me when I fought Sophia? You told me that she is my sister, right?”
Mom turns around and looks at Miss Frey from the other side of the room.
“I’ve never for once thought of Sophia as a substitute of Fo, but even so, I adore her like my little sister. Naturally, I don’t enjoy seeing my little sister cry like this,” Miss Frey continued.
“Miss Frey.” I turn around to the blond lady. My heart races upon hearing her words. She might seem cold and sarcastic on the outside, but deep down she is a very kind lady.
“Sophia wished with her whole heart to become a Zodiac Angel. You have the means to return what she wanted for her entire life back, but you kept it to yourself!” Miss Frey yelled.
“That’s because I’m trying to protect her!!!”
“YOU ARE KILLING HER!”
Mom’s words were strong and full of determination, but upon hearing Miss Frey’s argument, mom stutters and her face turns pale.
“Don’t you see the state she is in, Myria!? Sophia was right! No one in this room wanted to be a Zodiac Angel as much as she does! I lost my sister. You lost Cliff, and essentially, Sophia lost her father. Everyone in this room lost something dear to them because of this power,” Miss Frey yelled, “But even with that pain, the only one brave enough to hold her head high and proud of this power is Sophia. Her heart is stronger than anyone in this room.”
The whole room remains quiet, speechless at her words.
“I dare say that I love Fo more than anyone in this world. And even though she is not Fo, I still adore Sophia and I love her like my little sister,” Miss Frey continued, “So this time I’ll protect her. I don’t want to watch my little sister die for the second time!”
“… I…”
Mom remains speechless and staggers a step back saying nothing. I am sad to see mom in this state. But I also know that I will forever regret it if I were to throw away any chances of restoring my powers.

Forcing myself to ignore mom, I turn around towards Miss Frey one more time.
“Miss Frey, please tell me… What do I have to do to restore my power?” I pleaded.
“… There’s a place called the Hall of Reverie located in the forest about 60 kilometers to the south of this town,” Miss Frey explained, “20 years ago, Myria, I, and a couple of other Zodiac Angels discovered that place by accident. It’s normally hidden by a curtain of illusion, but when a Zodiac Angel touches its outer walls, the hall will reveal itself. If you have a car, you should be able to get there in a couple of hours.”
“What’s in that place?” Viola asked in my stead.
“I’m not sure about the exact details myself. But based on what we found in there, it’s a chamber where Zodiac Angels’ souls rest until they reincarnated into a new host. Think of it as a ‘circulator’ and an ‘incubator’ of a Zodiac Angel’s soul,” Miss Frey explained, “My theory is that if Sophia’s power was lost, perhaps the soul of the angel inside her left her body and went to rest there. If we can take Sophia to that place, then somehow we ‘might’ be able to manually ‘relink’ the angel’s soul back to her body again.”
“… ‘Might’?” Viola asked.
“Yeah. Like I said, I’m not even sure if it’s going to work that way. Not to mention we don’t even know how to actually perform the ‘relink’. It’s just a possibility,” Miss Frey said.
“That… still sounds like it’s worth a shot,” Lauress spoke up.
“Indeed. If it’s exactly like what Frey said, then at least we should try it out to see if it really works,” Van agreed, “Even though none of us wants this power, we still need it to fight against the Nebula Corp. If any of us happens to lose our powers again after this, at the very least we would still be able to keep fighting after that.”

“So… Still wanna try it out, Sophia?” Miss Frey asked.
“Yes. I’ll take that chance!” I replied without any hesitation, “Even if it’s one in a millionth… I’d take that chance rather than curl up and rot in a hole.”
I’ve already decided a long time ago. As a Zodiac Angel, I want to protect Athenia. Even if I lost my power, I haven’t lost my sense of duty yet. And because of that, it’s also my responsibility to reclaim my powers.
“B… But how are you going to get there, sis Sophia?” Lin asked.
“Yeah, you can’t just go alone! The Nebula Corp is looking for all of us!” Len said.
“Don’t worry. Everyone. Please rest up here. I’ll go there with Sophia,” Auria volunteered, “The reason Sophia lost her power was because of me. Therefore, it is my responsibility to see to it that Sophia gets her power back.”
“Then I’m going too,” said Viola, “There’s one thing I agree with Frey – Sophia has the strongest heart among all of us. We all lost so much, but the only one crazy enough to want to jump back into this battle field is her. Not to mention that the reason all of us are here was because of her effort in the first place. Because of that, I can’t bear to see us lose such a powerful ally.”

Auria…
Viola…

“Thanks, you two… Thank you so much.”
I just couldn’t help but sob. I really don’t know what to say to express my gratitude to both of them. The purple haired girl steps close to me and pats me on my head.
“So after you get back your powers, you better take full responsibility. I’d hate it if my corny speech was for nothing,” Viola said, smiling.
“Yeah. We’ll definitely restore your powers. So please, do not cry any more,” Auria said, holding my hand tightly.
“Guys…”

“I won’t allow it!”
The cheers in the room suddenly stop upon hearing a scream. Turning towards the source, everyone is surprised to see mom unsheathes her sword, pointing towards Viola and me. Her glittering emerald eyes are now narrowed and burning with rage.
She looks so scary… Just like that night when she came to save me at the Altair Laboratory…
“M… Mom…?”
“I’ll say it only once. Give Sophia back to me. Don’t make me do what I don’t want to!” mom threatened us with a fierce voice.
“Are you out of your mind, Myria!? What good would it do for us to fight each other now!?” Viola puts me behind her and covers me with her left arm while her right hand reaches for the 3-parts spear strapped on her back.
“If you want to leave this place with my daughter, you go through me!” mom said, grinding her teeth.
“Woah, hey hey hey, cut it out! No fighting in the hospi—!”
Lynus tries to come in to stop the rumble, but before he could make another step, the twin dark pony-tailed girl quickly yanks his shirt’s sleeve and drags him off to the back.
“I hate to say this, but seriously, a normal guy like you should not butt into an angel’s fight. You’ll only get killed,” Miki told him with a cold voice.
“M… Miki?” Auria whispered, looking at the dark pony-tailed girl with a surprised look.

“None of you know what it’s like to live through 20 years trying to forget the pain of having your love ones taken away from you. My parents… Fo… Saki… And Cliff…”
Her voice used to be stern and fierce, but the moment she mentions dad’s name, her voice softens to a whimper and tears flow down her cheek.
“Now my daughter… My only remaining family member in this world has just been released from this cycle of torment. And all of you are trying to get her back into it!?” mom cried desperately with trembling lips, “I won’t allow it! This time I will definitely protect her from this curse!”
As soon as mom finishes her declaration, a watery whip lashes onto mom’s sword and tilts the blade away from us.
“Sis!!! Go!!! I’ll hold her down!!” the younger caramel haired girl yelled while binding mom down with her whip.
“Don’t mess with me!!! Out of my way!!!!”
With a flick of her wrist, mom cuts the water whip away. Even though the whip can reform, getting cut temporarily negates the part that was tied onto her. She swings her sword and creates an energy wave that heads straight for the girl. Orica tosses her water balloon forward, and while it negates the wave, the impact from the negation still resonates across the room, causing everyone to stagger a step back.
“Orica!!!!” Auria cried upon seeing her little sister being attacked.
“Don’t mind me!!! I said go!!!” Orica cried while blocking all of mom’s attacks.
“M… Miss Myria, calm down!!!” The red haired girl sneaks up at mom from behind and tries to bind her up using her strength. However, using pure strength against mom was futile. She easily breaks out of Natalie’s bind and grabs her wrist before hurling the girl across the room, crashing straight into Orica.
“Geez! You’re gonna destroy this place if you go on a rampage like this! Calm the heck down!!!” Lynus yelled, but then Miki quickly yanks the young man by the collar of his shirt. “Hey, let go of me!”
“Auria, do whatever you have to. I’ll make sure this guy doesn’t do anything stupid while you are gone,” Miki said to Auria as she drags Lynus away from the danger zone.
“I got it. Thanks.” The caramel haired girl gives Miki a nod before turning to me. “Let’s go, Sophia!”

“You’re not going anywhere!!!!”
That moment, mom kicks herself off the floor and leaps straight at me, only to be intercepted by Viola’s shields that pop up in mid-air. Mom tries to break through the shield, but before she could, the blond lady in black leather leotard quickly charges in and locks mom’s blade with her scythe.
“You’re gonna stop me too!? You’ve never learned your lessons, do you!? It’s about time you realize that I’m way out of your league, you pathetic excuse of a rival!” mom screamed at the blond lady’s face and launched a flurry of attacks, forcing Miss Frey to remain on defense.
“Yeah! You’re right! I’ve never won in a fair fight against you even once – you are always a cut above me!”
The split moment before mom lands a downward slash from above, Miss Frey swings her scythe outward, knocking mom’s stance off balance.
“But the Myria that has always won against me never insults her opponent’s face in the face like this!”
The blond lady takes a step to the side, dodging mom’s haphazard counter, then smacks the shaft of her scythe into mom’s abdomen.
“No… way,” mom uttered in disbelief.
“You are full of opening!”
Miss Frey swings the shaft full force and throws mom against the wall, knocking her down to the ground in a single stroke. Mom grits her teeth and tries to get up, but before that, Frey quickly pins her down against the ground.
“Viola! Auria! Take Sophia out of here now!!!!” Miss Frey urged.
“Okay! Leave the rest to us!” Viola said and grabs my hand, “Sophia. Let’s go!”
“R… Right…!”
“S… Sophia! Stop!!! Get back here!”
Before I could take another step, mom, who is pinned down against the ground, calls out to me while stretching her right hand out.
“Don’t go… Please…”
Somehow, that moment, my heart suddenly falters.
Natalie.
Orica.
Miss Frey.
Everyone seems to want to help me regain my powers.
But I also love mom. She raises me up alone, and I could only guess just how difficult it was for her this past 20 years to do everything without the help of a father figure.
“What are you doing!? I said get back here now!! Listen to your mother!!!”

… But it’s exactly because I love her, that’s why I cannot obey her orders this time.

“……I’m sorry.”
After one last apology, I quickly turn away and follow Viola and Auria out of the room.
“Sophiaaaaa!!!!! Aaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh haaaaaaahhhhhh!!”
Mom’s cry – the cry of a mother who has lost her daughter – echoes the halls as I keep plunging forward.
My heart hurts.
Her cries were so sharp like a knife that drove straight through my heart.
… I did it again.
I made mom cry again.
She’s crying even harder than all those times…
I kept breaking the promise I made to myself.
Did I really do the right thing?
Was it okay for me to betray mom’s concern?
I hate myself for doing this to her, but I also know that I am going to regret it for the rest of my life if I don’t listen to my heart.

I’m sorry I made you cry, mom…
But I want to be a Zodiac Angel…

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