Chapter 38 – O
“Um… Sorry, guys… Excuse me for a minute,” I excused myself from Auria and Lynus then quickly run towards mom who just hopped down from Algethi’s back. The blonde lady in black leather leotard is also standing right next to mom. She pushes mom forward, as if forcing her to talk to me. But all mom did was staggered forward a few steps without letting her eyes off me.
“H… Hey, mom,” I called her while standing about a meter away from her.
“…… We need to talk.”
After remaining quiet for a few seconds, she spoke up with a bitter face before leading me away without waiting for my reply. Without raising any questions, I quietly follow her. I am not in the position to say anything to her first… not after what I’ve done to her at the Genobia Hospital. Mom keeps leading me away from the warehouse area but finally stops walking after a couple of blocks from the warehouse. I also stop walking, leaving about half a meter of distance between her and me. She still did not turn around to look at me, so all I did was simply look at her back. I have prepared myself to get reprimanded or even get hit, but instead, I was struck by an intense awkward silence for nearly ten minutes.
“You got your powers back?”
She finally asked after remaining quiet for a while.
“……. Yeah,” I replied.
Upon hearing my answer, both of mom’s hands clench into fists and her shoulders start trembling.
“Why…?” I could almost tell that she is grinding her teeth. “Why do you so insist on becoming a Zodiac Angel again?!”
Her voice is mixed with several emotions.
The tone of anger that I disobeyed her order.
The feeling of frustration that she could not stop me.
And the sadness that I’ve once again been ‘cursed’ with the power to fight.
“It’s because I love this world and I want to protect everyone,” I replied briefly and simply.
“Enough with that, Sophia! You’re almost 21 years old. Stop acting like a little girl!” Mom turns around at me and cries. “To save the world? To protect everyone? To free Ophiucus? Do you even comprehend the weight of this burden?! Are you really sure you can take responsibility for those words!?”
“To be honest… I did not understand the weight of that burden until I lost my powers,” I replied, “You know, mom, when I realized that I am no longer a Zodiac Angel, I felt a huge burden lifted off my chest. I was no longer the target of Nebula Corp. I was no longer obligated to fight in the front lines. I had returned to becoming a university girl who struggles to fight against the gravity on my bed every morning…”
“So why? If that burden was already lifted, why do you pick it up again?” mom asked with a shaking voice.
“Because I felt empty and powerless,” I replied, “That moment when I lost my powers, for the first time, I felt so insignificant. Everyone is fighting. Reisa is fighting to destroy Athenia. Nebula Corp is fighting to prolong its existence and wealth. Every other Zodiac Angels are fighting so we can continue to live.”
I clench my hands into fists, trying to stop myself from shaking.
“Mom. You told me that running didn’t work, right?” I asked, “If I were to turn my back at this fight – forfeit the chance to regain my powers – wouldn’t that be equivalent to running away? Would that really stop me from being hunted down by the Nebula Corp?”
At one point, I really did wonder whether or not the Nebula Corp’s scientist would stop hunting me if I lost my powers. Eventually, they would find some lame excuses like ‘you are the only Zodiac Angel host who lost her powers. Let’s see how your body is working right now’, or something along that line.
“I’m afraid of dying. I’m afraid of strong enemies… But what I was more afraid… was to lose people who are dear to me,” I continued, “You said none of us knew how painful it was to live through 20 years knowing that everyone around me died, right?”
Mom did not reply. She simply gives me a bitter face without uttering a word.
“For a brief moment, I could almost see it happening to me. I’m not saying that Viola, Auria, and everyone else are going to lose, but I cannot ignore the fact that Zodiac Angel hosts like us were almost wiped out 20 years ago.”
I pause and take a deep breath.
“So because of that, mom, I won’t run. I want to keep on fighting… fighting for the day where we can really be free.”
Mom’s expression starts to change from a bitter face to the face of someone who let go of a burden that weighs her down.
“Sophia,” she whispered, “20 years ago… I also said the same thing. I told Frey and the others that protecting the world from Ophiucus Servants is our duty as Zodiac Angels. Little did I know, that our enemies are none other than the very thing we tried to protect, and that’s the people of Athenia.”
Mom looks up to the sky.
“Like Frey said… Because of that… I turned my back at this fight. And even after I’ve reentered this ring, all I did until now… It was so I could live peacefully with my daughter without that fear of losing something I love again,” she said, “But you are right. I am still running away… even though I’ve told myself several times that running away won’t solve a problem… I am still running away…”
Tears started flowing down her cheeks once again as she gazes upon the starry sky.
“I was afraid… I was afraid of losing my daughter. I was afraid of losing everything again.”
I quickly move in and tightly hug her with both of my arms.
“… Sophia,” she sobbed and tightly hugs me back.
Darn… I’m crying too…
I’m really just not good with this kind of thing.
“Don’t worry. I’ll be fine. We can end this fight… this struggle… If we work together, we will definitely make it happen,” I said, “You were the one who taught me that our wish can come true only if we pray with all our heart, right?”
My face was buried on her shoulder, but I could tell that she is nodding.
“So let’s make a wish. This time for both of us… Let’s wish that this fight will end and everyone will return home with a smile on their face…”
That moment, all of the sudden, I heard the sound of a twig breaking from behind. Mom and I quickly turn around to see the purple haired girl standing nearby.
“Oh… Ah… Sorry to interrupt. I came at a really bad time,” she said, scratching her cheek nervously.
“That’s okay. What is it?” I asked, wiping my tears away.
“Ah… Just wanna say everyone is waiting in the meeting room now. Come in when the two of you are done. But take your time though… I’m not rushing you two or anything.”
“No. Don’t worry. We’ll be there in a minute,” mom said, wiping her tears just like me.
“Uh… Yeah. So, um… take your time!”
After getting the reply, Viola turns around and heads back to the warehouse.
Mom and I watch as she walks away quietly before looking at each other again.
“Well then, we should probably go too, mom. Let’s fight this battle to the end… together,” I said.
“Yes… We’ll finish this, and go back to our normal lives again…”
Mom finally smiles.
I swear… This time for real…
This will be the last time I make mom cry in pain.
From now, the next time she cries will be when I make her proud to be my mother.