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Chapter 1 - The Supernova on Her Eyes

Visitant from another world, what is it that defines the worth of a life on your world? Or is that a question that is hard for you to understand? If it is, I am jealous of the life you might live. The reason is none other than that, in my world, one’s possessions define their rank, their standing on society and their power. But it is not ‘any possession,’ it’s not how many houses or carriages or castles one owns… but simply, the origin of your ‘Brave.’

A Brave isn’t a being that can be summed up quite succinctly, as they are diverse in shapes, forms and nature. There are those which are mere equipment, machinery designed for the sake of convenience. They might possess an AI to make their decisions or act on their own, but they’re still very limited currently. Those who possess an artificial Brave are only above those who have no braves, they’re the working class, they’re the stepping stone and base of the pyramid. Most of those who own one are not even their real owners, just have rented them for the sake of their livelihood.

Above the construct Braves, there are the natural Braves, which are like beasts. Their bodies give off a different aura than a normal beast, but their intellect is the same, their behavior is the same. They’re much like pets, but simply by owning one, you’re already more respected as person than someone like me or my family. There are people who put their lives on their line, putting all their money and pride on the line for the sake of owning one, just to get away from being at the bottom of society. Can I call those who go that far stupid? I cannot. I feel ashamed to admit it, but I cannot blame anyone for putting everything on the line to go up in society.

Above the pets are the Exalted Braves, sometimes called Treasure Braves. Armor, swords, guns, gloves, they’re smaller than most constructs and much less mobile than natural Braves, but they have an intellect, they have sapience and can communicate with their owners, some through telepathy, while more developed ones can speak out loud. Their dignified aura can be felt by anyone, simply exhibiting the blade on your waist makes crowds of less honored people open the way. And, above all, these are actual weapons, they’re capable of killing with ease, which also helps people fear those who own them. Pet braves you find on a city like mine are mostly domesticated animals, dogs, rabbits, cats, birds, nothing out of the ordinary, nothing lethal, but once, when a traveling circus was in town, I saw a woman who had tamed a tiger Brave, which could probably have the same use as a treasure Brave, in terms of killing.

Did I sound a little weird when repeating killing over and over? I apologize, it’s just… as someone so distant from that reality, I can’t help but think about it. On the previous wars, even tank Braves existed, and took hundreds of lives each. At the same time they’re what defines the castes of our society, they’re also weapons which can be used for destruction, for genocide. One who disrespects a higher caste could be punished with death instantly….

And that might have sounded as an exaggeration, but you’ll think differently once I introduce you to the highest caste of Braves, the constellation Braves. They truly rule our world, pulling every string and deciding the fate of every sentient being. Among the 88 constellations, the 12 Zodiac Braves are the kings. Nobody owns them, they are self-aware and borderline omniscient, blood flows through their veins as it does for any human being. One who meets them must address them with utmost respect, or their lives end on the first slip of the tongue. This is the reality of the world ruled by Braves, this is the life of one who is chained down by ‘what Brave they possess.’

“H-hey, did you see that…?”

“She… I don’t know her, I don’t know anything!” the two responsible avert their eyes and escape the scene nearly immediately. The girl can’t blame them, she’d feel worse if they had their lives destroyed along with her. But she still feels a sharp pain on her chest from how quickly they abandon her.

She, being unused to the controls of the construct Brave she tried riding, caused an accidental momentary rampage. She didn’t cause any damage to the building being constructed or to anyone, but her Brave trampled on a treasure blade. Its owner left it by his side to show off in front of the girl he was hitting on, and because of that, it ended up beneath the construct’s feet. It wouldn’t bend or break that easily, but it doesn’t change the fact a low class civilian trampled on the Brave of a higher class civilian. It was an insult, an act of extreme disrespect.

“Hey, hey, hey, hey,” the man walks towards her, multiple veins bursting on his head, his eyes bloodshot. In part, he is truly angered, the rest of it is merely a follow-up on trying to look good in front of a woman. A logic which equates taking no insult lightly with manliness, which high amounts of would result in attractiveness.

“I’m very sorry!” In roughly five seconds from the incident, just the time it took for her to see her two employers running off, she was already on her knees, her forehead against the dirty ground, begging for forgiveness.

“You should know… On a situation like this, I must even be legally allowed to take your life...” The girl’s showing of fear and fragility give his ego a boost, he can only think of how much he can exploit her and get away with.

“Please refrain from doing so, it was merely a problem on the controls, I didn’t mean t-” Talking as concisely as possible without raising her voice, as to not sound even more insolent, she attempts to save herself. Before she can even end her sentence, she’s kicked on the head. Owners of treasure braves have enhanced physical capabilities, she’s flunged two meters backwards and slides on her back. A cut has opened on her forehead as well, blood drips towards her eyes. He knew his kick would have this power, and didn’t hold back regardless.

“How does it feel?! This is what you did to my baby! With that dirty machine of yours!” It isn’t rare for people to address their braves this way, be they Pet or Treasure types. Incidentally, the woman with him didn’t mind his violence, but calling his sword ‘baby’ put her off a little.

“I’m… very sorry,” she gets herself up again, feeling lightheaded and dizzy, but kneels once more, disregarding her condition. “Please… forgive me...”

“You don’t sound like you really regret it!” He prepares to kick her again, this time using the distance as momentum, but a man stands between the two.

Piercing green eyes, dark clothes, pale skin, one would easily assume he’s just come out of a funeral, his entire atmosphere holds certain gloom to it. But none of that matters compared to the aura he emits, its nobility, its pressure, everything about it screams of high class. People don’t need to ask each other if they own a Brave or what type it is, it can be acknowledged from their aura alone. And at this moment, the punk knows he’s facing someone some ranks above him.

“She’s injured already and asking to be forgiven. Don’t you think that’s enough?” He steps in to protect her, which puts the young man’s plan in a bind. He can’t talk back to someone more powerful than him, that is only obvious. His adrenaline instantly goes down and he recomposes himself, turning back to the woman he flirted with and returning to his own activities once more.

“...I’m sorry...” the girl apologizes to him now, her head still against the ground. He gets down to one knee and raises her head, analyzing the wound on her forehead. However, that triggers a fight-or-flight response on her, as not only it isn’t common to be touched by strangers of higher classes, it can be dangerous to do so, especially since she’s bleeding.

“W-what are you doing?”

“You’re bleeding pretty bad. Do you live nearby?”

“Sort of, but-” She can’t understand what is going on.

“I’ll walk you there, it’d be terrible if you passed out on the way.”

“Huh?” She can’t understand what is going on.

“And if you can fix me up on a meal as thanks, that’d be really nice too.”

“Huh?!”

Skipping to after bandaging her head and fulfilling the promise of a meal, the current scenario consists of her and the noble stranger eating, while her mother talks to the mysterious handsome man on her kitchen all of a sudden.

“So you barely arrived in town and don’t know anything, I see! But still, we’d never expect a man such as you to stoop down to help my daughter, and then even eat something handmade by me...”

“Mom…!”

“Hm? I don’t follow?” Mother was impressed by his appetite, he chomped down bite after bite at a high speed. His teeth were sharp, almost to the point one would want to call them fangs.

“Maybe for a foreigner it is difficult to tell the auras on a new city, but our family is humble, we only control a single worker Brave, which my husband uses to work. We’re definitely not of your class.”

“Hm. I see. More importantly, have you got some more? The trip was so long and I didn’t have anything this delicious to eat, so I might go a little overboard here.”

The mother noticed. The daughter noticed as well. His demeanor was absurd, ‘more importantly,’ he said. Their town didn’t have anyone like that, but they’ve heard of people that don’t care about the caste system. They won’t let their guards down just yet, inversely, they’re even more wary now. Even if it ought to be positive, for those down below, this sort of person is the most dangerous type. ‘He might casually act like it doesn’t matter, but we can’t tell when he’ll flip and turn on us.’

“I also would like to wash myself. Do you know any public baths?”

“Yes, it’s...”

“Could you take me there?” Before she can even begin to tell him the directions, he cuts her sentence with a smile. They can’t challenge or talk back, so the mother just gives the daughter a short nod.

“I’ll go with you, I owe you after all...” She swallows her pride once more, and the two head out. He’s a few heads taller than her, but doesn’t look that much older. ‘If I’m halfway through my teens, I think he’s… close to the end of his? Most likely a young adult.’

“What do you like on this city?” He asks. He’d been looking around for quite a while, checking the buildings and people with great interest, almost as if he’d never been on a city before.

“Uh? Uh… I’m sorry, I never stopped to think about that,” she apologetically smiles, hoping he doesn’t feel offended by that. Whenever he opens his mouth, she feels as if walking on eggshells. She never had time to think about liking or disliking the city in itself, or finding something she liked in it.

“...I see.” His silent stare made her panic momentarily, she thought ‘it’ was coming. And his piercing eyes didn’t do anything to help not installing fear on her.

“This is the place, as I was going to say, it wasn’t very distant. Now I’ll-”

“You got kicked around a little and worked on the sun for a while, didn’t you? Won’t you join me?”

‘Ah,’ it clicks inside her. ‘I get it now, this was his objective.’ She didn’t see it coming, and probably neither did her mother. But she can’t refuse now, if she voices her somewhat paranoid thought, it’ll be taken as an insult. She swallows her pride one more time, and quietly nods her head, giving in to what might happen.

She enters the woman’s dressing room… and the man enters together with her. It isn’t the bath hour for the worker class, who are the only ones who really use the public baths, so there aren’t any other women on the dressing room. ‘Maybe there’s someone within the bath, maybe I...’ she thinks, desperate to escape, but unable to do so.

Before she can gather the courage to even unbutton the first button of her shirt, the stranger has already started removed his clothing. She can hear them being removed and being put on the clothes bin, every sound she hears makes her heart become heavier.

“Aren’t you taking yours off?”

“I-I don’t think… My… I...” She turns around her, eyes quaking, unable to look the stranger on his eyes. She tries to raise her gaze, but inevitably goes down. And after a few seconds trying to look up but ending up looking down, she realizes something. “You’re not a man?”

“Huh?” It slipped from her tongue, she was surprised and ended up saying it without thinking. Only after voicing it, she realizes how that could come out as a huge insult. “Wait, did you think I was male?”

“S-so… I’m so sorry, it’s just that...” Her knees are shaking, she can’t even get herself to grovel again.

“Why did you come in with me? Wouldn’t you freak out if some weird dude entered the dressing room with you?!”

“Huh?!” She didn’t expect the foreigner to get mad at that part of the situation, so she feels even more startled, rather than relaxed.

“Wait, was that why you didn’t get undressed? You were freaking out, right?” The stranger gets down to the same height as her, and meets her eye to eye. She didn’t get new eyes nor did they change physically in anyway, but the way they pierced her felt different this time. “Why would you subject yourself to such danger?”

“Because… you’re of a much higher class… We can’t talk back or disobey...”

“…….”

“What is it?”

“I had something on my mind, but I can’t say it. The chains of this society are buried deep within your heart and soul, aren’t they? You poor girl, you must have been so scared,” the stranger hugs her. Despite being so pale, she is very warm, or at least so thinks the girl, as she has never experienced human warmth other than that of her parents. “If you’re feeling any better now, would you mind joining me? I want you to relax a little more.”

“S-sure… I’m sorry...” the girl lowers her head, embarrassed by a multitude of things.

“...” The stranger takes her hand and looks at her for a few moments. The girl can’t imagine what goes on in her head, but, for now, more than before, she’s finding herself more willing to believe that she might be a good person for real.

They leisurely take their bath, without talking much. The stranger has something on her mind, and the girl, even if feeling safer being with a woman, still can’t break through the barrier of their class gap. When they return home, they find a very worried mother, who almost breaks in panic when she notices the two have bathed, but the girl whispers that the stranger is a female, making her calm down.

The stranger promises to find a place to take lodge on the next night, and wants to know if it is fine to sleep on their house for the night. The mother finds it a bother, but taking in consideration everything, she can’t get herself to say no. The daughter heads to bed early, she had a stressful day and needs very much to rest. The mother, in contrast to her daughter, has countless questions on her mind and can’t get herself to sleep, despite needing and wanting to very much.

The stranger enters the living room and sits in front of the mother. The mother is tired and her head hurts from lack of sleep, she’d rather not have to bother with pleasantries, but she can’t send that person away that easily, not without putting much more in risk.

“Ma’am, do you like this world as it is?”

“...”

“You can answer honestly, and in exchange I’ll tell you something good too.”

“Of course I’m sick of it, I can’t stand bowing and kneeling all day long, and having to teach my daughter to be a coward like me. I wished for nothing to but give her a world of happiness, but I have to watch her come with her head bleeding profusely and I’m unable to even try to right the wrong done to her. I’m powerless, I hate this world. But I love my daughter endlessly, so for her I must… endure,” even if she was prompted, she shouldn’t have talked that much, that’s how she feels. But once she started to vent, everything else just rolled out as well, without her consent or will.

“I don’t have a Brave. Your words were beautiful,” the stranger stands and heads to the exit.

“...Where are you going?”

“You don’t want a Braveless on your home, do you?”

“...If it’s just for tonight… But before my husband is back, you have to go.”

“You make this sounds more like an affair than anything.”

“...” The woman smiles. She has issues both with those with a lower and a higher class, but finding out the stranger is of a lower class puts her at ease.

She told the stranger to leave before her husband returned, which ought to be the next day’s evening, but on the first ray of sunlight of the next morning, she’s already gone. Her daughter asks where she went, and the mother says she hadn’t even realized she left. That is good in its own way, thinks the mother, as there will no longer be anything bothering them even more, their ‘peace’ would return now.

“Mom, I’m leaving for work,” she says, turning her head around as she opens the door. Her mother doesn’t answer, but it doesn’t stop her from leaving. Tardiness is a sin, to her at least.

“Excuse me?” She doesn’t manage to take one step out, as there are four unknown figures standing in front of the door. Before she can say anything, one of them grabs her wrist. After experiencing the affectionate warmth of the previous day, the touch of this hand feels cold and aggressive in a way she’d never experienced before. The man puts his other hand within his jacket and shows her a picture of a familiar face. “You were seen accompanying this person, according to our information. We’ll have you come with us.”

“Mo-” She tries to turn around, but before she can even think of what she wants to say to her mother, her world is already darkness.

I hate this world. I resent those around me. I’m evil, I’m an awful person. I’m only better than those who have nothing, which makes me just barely more than nothing. I dropped out of school and started working to not have to mingle with other classes, to not have to tread on eggshells. The worker class is mostly people like me, so it’s fine to work. That is what the shadow within my heart speaks to me, in my mind, every silent moment of my life.

Yesterday I had the chance to meet someone who didn’t think those below were obligated to obey those above, and for a moment, my heart opened up to her, I wanted to trust someone. But in the end, it was the same as the incident yesterday, I was abandoned the second something went wrong.

I’ve been kept under arrest on a dark interrogation room, a strong light shining on my eyes, making me unable to see my captors and to relax even for a moment. Not that I could on this situation, but I’d like to try at least, try to close my eyes, take a deep breath and travel somewhere very distant. Yet, I’m brought back almost instantly by the awful noises and the blinding light. They keep asking what I was doing with her, what she told me, what was our relationship, what were our plans. The more I denied knowing anything or having any involvement, more they pressed me for further details on the ‘rebellion.’

“I just want to cry.”

“Huh?”

“...” My head got so bottled up, it came out of my mouth on accident. “I want to cry. And go home. I want to be saved...”

“...Did you check for communication devices?! Who’s she talking to?!” They really don’t understand. They really refuse to understand I’m just a girl. I didn’t even ask for that woman’s name, that’s how nervous I was to interact with someone on a higher class than mine. I didn’t do anything wrong...

“Does not a shred of humanity remain on what you’ve become? Did the blessing of the Braves really feel so good you had to sell your souls to them? I can’t stand for this.” A familiar voice. I listened to it just a few times yesterday, but it talked to me while I was embraced by its owner, so it wouldn’t escape from my memory.

“You’re-” I hear the figures turning around, startled. Next, I hear the sound of bodies hitting the walls and the floor. And in less than a minute, the light has been turned off and my vision begins to return.

“I’m sorry about this. You’re… clearly not fine, but can you stand? Can you see how many fingers I have here?”

“Four,” I answer, rubbing my eyes.

“You’re not even looking, but you got it right. Your sixth sense might be good like mine.”

“...Why did you come here?”

“To rescue you.”

“...How did you know? You weren’t home this morning...”

“Hmm, you’ll want to hear that from your mother probably. We have to leave this place, we’re on the enemy’s HQ, it’s not safe.”

“Wait, there’s a lot more I want to know. What are you? Why did this happen to me?”

“I insist it’s not a good time for that, but, for short, I’m a wanted criminal. Of sorts,” reflexively, I try to distance myself upon hearing those words. Even if they’re on a higher tier than a treasure type, if they’re a wanted criminal…

“What did you do?”

“I’m sorry for this, but you’re choosing the worst timing to be like that,” without getting my answer, the stranger lifted me and carried me like a princess out of that room, running at a very high speed.

The alarms echo as soon as they get spotted, which was inevitable, considering the ruckus they made. More and more of those weird figures kept appearing from every corner, attempting to apprehend them, but, while still carrying the girl, using only her legs, the stranger either takes them down or at least manages to get them out of the way. Ultimately, she jumps out of a window to escape, as her desperate running around caused her to lose her way. Sneaking in to save the girl was easy, but leaving after being found out wasn’t as easy, her plan was flawed.

The girl’s vision settled back to normal around the moment the stranger decided to jump through a window, which caused great panic within her, as she noticed what was going to happen, but what followed that fear was wonder. She wasn’t within the city anymore, they had distanced themselves from it. They also weren’t on a floor very close to the ground, the strong wind blowing on her face, the sight of the sun shining on the horizon from a different point of view, she felt as if she was flying and the world was beautiful for a moment. But then gravity started accelerating them towards the soil and she wasn’t sure how landing was gonna go, which made her return to her profound terror.

However, the stranger lands on her feet and, after feeling the shock wave spread through her body and recover from it, she resumes running. ‘Oh, of course. A brave increases one’s physical capabilities, so it’s no wonder she can survive that...’ once all of her brain starts working again, she can accept it easily.

“So, will you answer my questions now?” They couldn’t return to the city, that would be the first place those chasing them would search, so they hid within the woods close to the building they escaped from. The girl avoided speaking to not bite her tongue, and also because she didn’t expect the stranger to answer at all.

“I don’t think I can avoid that anymore. Go ahead,” she seems a little embarrassed, much to the girl’s surprise.

“What did you do? You said you’re a wanted criminal, and those… beings kept asking about you, saying something about a rebellion even? I’m scared and confused, and also a little pissed off.”

“...Your attitude towards me changed, didn’t it?”

“...Because I know you’re a criminal now.”

“Hm...” The stranger scratches her chin, perplexed. The girl continues staring at her, pressing her for the answer with her eyes alone. “I’ve come here to destroy the system of Brave castes. That’s why I’m wanted.”

“You… what?! You can’t do that!”

“What? I didn’t expect someone from the bottom of the pyramid to think like that.”

“Don’t call me that. And I didn’t mean you can’t that way, I mean… isn’t it impossible to do that?”

“Don’t jynx a mission I’ve just started, that’s so mean.”

“Stop messing around! I’m being serious here. How would you even do that?”

“I’ll kill the Zodiac Braves.”

“Ok, you’re clinically insane, right? And wait a second, why would you want to do that? You’re even above a treasure class, right? Why didn’t someone so close to the top of the pyramid want to...”

“Shh! I think something’s nearby...” She presses her fingers against the girl’s lips, startling her a little. She’s never been touched so much by someone before, it’s throwing her out of her rhythm.

Exactly as she said, there were figures approaching them. It is hard to call them humans, they are almost nothing but silhouettes, the harder one tries to see what they’re like, more featureless they become, as if one starts noticing their lack of everything instead. But while the stranger seeing through their disguise is expected, she was surprised to know the girl also could tell they weren’t people, seeing how she paused and called them ‘beings.’ As the stranger thought previously, this girl is something else, not just an average girl.

“There’s no need to hide, I can see your exact position,” among all those figures, there’s one discernible being. It looks humanoid, but it is composed of metals and glass, almost as if someone anthropomorphized a telescope. It has large glass eyes, its armor shines blue. “Once I set eyes on something, it won’t ever escape me. Finding you was easy since I saw the girl once, and now that I’ve seen you, you can’t run away either.”

“Oh… Oh my god...” The girl’s legs give in. She can’t grovel or run away, she’s never felt fear of this level, to the point she can’t even think straight. Before she apologized to escape from danger, she felt a chance to escape and wanted to use it. This time, she knows there’s no escaping.

“Oh, that girl seems to know what I am. And she also knows she can’t be forgiven. Don’t you feel bad for involving her in this? Look how scared she is,” the stranger wasn’t amused by that creature’s fake display of mercy and pity. It didn’t have any feelings, it only wanted to mock both of them. It was a display of sadistic pleasure, if anything.

“A constellation Brave… I heard it was traveling to this area, it’s Reticulum… Could it be that… Are you really that dangerous? A constellation came after you...” She’s quaking with fear, she can feel the shadow of the grim reaper lurking behind her.

“I didn’t tell you why I came here? I’m the one that was after this one, not the other way around. It has really good vision, but is the weakest among them, so I came after it. Killing it is my declaration of war.”

“What… you’re really… you really think you can kill a constellation Brave? What is your rank, just… show me your Brave,” the stranger couldn’t understand what was the true meaning of those words. If the stranger really could destroy the system, if it really had a Brave strong enough to be on par with the 12 Zodiacs… She’d believe in her. She’d give her support. She’d entrust all her wishes, hopes and dreams to the stranger, because a world without the caste system… is what she has thought about every breathing moment of her life.

“I don’t have one,” and just like that, the girl crumbled to her despair. There was nothing to stand on. “I don’t need one,” meaningless sentences, the words of insanity of someone who’s out of their minds. “Because I am one.”

The stranger’s body releases a dark smoke which envelops her body and transforms it. Her pale skin turns pitch-black, her fang-like teeth grow even more grotesque, she can’t even close her mouth properly anymore. And more than anything else, calling her normal eyes ‘piercing’ after seeing the murderous intent behind them on this form becomes impossible. Even her fingertips become claws, which promptly rip apart the figures surrounding Reticulum.

The carnage which follows will forever be burned to the girl’s eyelids. Figures which approached the dark smoke she releases while on this form melt, the ones that avoid the smoke and yet try getting close to her are ripped apart, bitten to death or mauled. They aren’t living creatures, no blood comes out from cutting through them, once they are ‘killed,’ they simply vanish. Like an spectale of madness, countless approach her, but none remain standing.

The danse macabre doesn’t end until there are only two Braves there. The stranger, looking more and more dangerous by the second, by this point she’s even salivating intensely, as she can no longer close her mouth due to the growth of her fangs. Before her, Reticulum, which can show no emotion, but doesn’t feel fear, despite the killing that took place in front of it. ‘I am a constellation Brave, this is a nobody,’ this confidence backs it up and makes it absolutely sure it won’t be defeated.

“Hey,” despite all the drooling and mad behavior, she hasn’t lost her self-awareness. “What are your offensive powers?”

“As if I’d reveal them to-”

“I don’t want to know them, I have information on all of you. I just want you to think, what can you do to be stronger than me?”

“I am a constellation Brave, I am already mo-”

“Correct. You have no offensive power, you’re a support soldier, and a quite worthless one at all. ‘Stalking’ and ‘Long Sight’? You’re just a huge telescope.”

The stranger releases her breath. Much like the smoke which she released from her body, her breath has a dark and purplish aspect, but its destructive power is much higher than that of the smoke. Reticulum rusts completely, none of its metals could endure the corruption of the stranger’s poison.

The stranger hits a single punch on Reticulum’s chest area. Not a shadow of the brutality she showed against the other creatures, just a single composed punch, as the smoke starts to vanish and she slowly returns to her previous form. That single punch turns the entire rusted metal armor into dust, and the glass shatters into countless shards. Once the wind blows, Reticulum will be taken by it, that is the state it has been reduced to.

The stranger turns around and returns to the girl, offering her a hand to stand back up. She doesn’t know what to say, certainly it was a lot for her to take at once. The girl holds her hand with both hands, and looks her in the eyes, a flame burning within them. The stranger thought the girl would be scared, but inversely, she’s the one getting surprised.

“Your name. What are you, what sort of Brave are you?” The girl asks, her voice filled with excitement previously unseen.

“I’m the Star Slayer, Nova. A Brave killer Brave.”

Her mother had been crying since morning. When she thought all her tears dried up, she’d remember the entire situation and cry even more. Her daughter was captured by a bunch of suspicious looking men, but she couldn’t stop them due to fearing what rank they could be. Feeling disgusted at herself, she ran off. Not after them, but after the Braveless stranger. She was ranked higher than her, so she could order her to take responsibility and she wouldn’t be allowed to talk back. And as soon as she told her that, the stranger dashed off without a word.

‘She met my daughter yesterday and could act like that, while me, the mother...’ she had spent all the morning eating herself up with regrets and guilt. She didn’t do anything, but the stranger did. Now the two disappeared, her husband still hasn’t arrived, she doesn’t even know how to explain all that happened within those 24h, she doesn’t know what might happen on the next 24h.

Crying, crying and crying, a long time passes, and her daughter arrives home. At first she feared it was her husband on the door, but the moment she hears that soft voice calling for her, she loses all strength on her body. Her tense muscles relax and she falls down.

“Mom, are you okay?!” The girl yells, surprised, running to embrace her mother.

“Yes, I just… felt so happy for a moment… I lost control of my body...”

“I see… You were that worried,” the girl opens a smile. It hides a pain that she will only be able to address later, but for now, she’s happy to reunite with her mother.

“Of course I was! I might be an awful, cowardly mother but… I love you, Astra.”

“I love you too, Mother,” the two give each other a hug, and remain like that, embraced into each other for a minute, without saying a word until they’re mutually released. “But...”

“But?” Her mother feels something stab her heart. A premonition, she feels what is to come before it even arrives.

“I’ll have to be on the run for a while, I’m a wanted criminal now.”

“What?”

“Nova… the woman that visited yesterday, she was a criminal. And she helped me and I helped her, now we’re both on the run.”

“But… you just walked with her for a while, you didn’t know, you can’t become a criminal just like that...”

“No, Mom, you don’t get it. I want to help her more. I want to do this.”

“Huh?”

“Nova wants to destroy the caste system. And I want to follow her on this path. We’ll never be happy living under this rule, being oppressed like this. I’ll set us free, together with Nova.”

“That’s...”

“Also, I saw her kill a constellation Brave yesterday and I think I fell in love.”

“...What?”

“I’m being serious. It just hit me after a while. My heart was beating fast, when she touched me afterwards I felt my entire body go hot. I don’t want to distance myself from her. I think I’m in love.”

“...That sure is a lot to take in, all of a sudden,” her mother leans her face on her hand, trying to absorb all she just heard.

“She’s waiting for me right now, and there’s probably gonna be some people looking for us soon enough, so I’ll have to head off. I’ll write! When we turn the tables around, I’ll see you again!”

She knows she is a cowardly woman. And she raised her daughter to be one as well, teaching her nothing but how to apologize and escape. And that side of her wants to stop her daughter, wants to keep her close and safe. But she’s never seen her daughter look so lively, so determined, there was a flame and a light within her eyes, clashing and exploding into a supernova. She wouldn’t be able to put out that fire, no matter how hard she tried.

Instead of choosing to keep Astra on the cage of cowardice, she released her. ‘If you want to come back, no matter when, I’ll accept you with open arms. But if you see that much light on horizon you face, I’ll push your back. Do it. Set us free, I believe in you,’ she says, and watches the girl run off.

“It has become even harder to explain what happened in 24h now… Oh my, I’m already regretting it,” she jokes to herself, still by the door, looking at her daughter slowly disappear on the distant.