Ori walked the streets alone. A sixth-grader in his last year of elementary school was out on the town instead of sitting at his desk in homeroom.
Every day was the same.
Every day followed the same routine.
Wake up, bathe and get dressed, eat breakfast, brush teeth, put on shoes, and off to school. Ori was too obedient to ever break the cycle, that is to say, he never dared to break the rules. But curiosity settled in. Ori wanted a change of pace. He eventually wanted to try something different and decided to skip school.
After completing his morning ritual, Ori walked out of his house while waving goodbye to his guardian. But he had no intention of going to school that morning. The thought of punishment hung over him like a dark cloud, and yet Ori's mind was already set. He told himself he would just suck it up and suffer the consequences. The idea of cutting class for a day sounded dangerous, but in practice, it wasn't as exciting as Ori had hoped. Rather than catching an afternoon flick or hitting up the arcade, Ori found himself actively avoiding any public place where he might be spotted by an adult, or any authority figure for that matter. Frankly, he just didn't want to worry about getting caught. Alternatively, Ori opted to wander about in a quiet neighborhood while taking it slow. Even though it was almost midday, there was hardly a soul to be found, which was good for Ori. By walking in the middle of the street instead of using the sidewalk, Ori chose to break another rule. But who was going to stop him? Ori stopped and looked above him. He noticed that the clouds were a light tan color. In his mind, Ori associated the color with rust, like something manufactured in an old factory. As Ori continued to look up, he heard the sounds of blades whirring off in the distance.
"A machine…?" Ori mumbled to himself.
Ori tilted his head back down, putting his eyes back on the path in front of him. Almost instantly, he spotted a sky blue convertible parked to the left of the road. It appeared to be a classic or a vintage vehicle. Ori thought it was probably an old Chevrolet or a Ferrari, but what did Ori know about cars? Ori hesitated. He saw the back of a man sitting in the driver's seat and didn't want to go any further. Ori wanted to steer clear of having any run-ins with an adult but wasn't in the mood to turn around. Ori clenched the straps on his backpack, picked up his feet, and pressed onward. Ori kept his head down so he wouldn't have to see the man in his car. Hopefully, the man would pay no mind to the child passing through, and they could both go about their day minding their own business. Ori was doing great until he reached the side of the car's hood. That's when he was stopped in his tracks by the man in the driver's seat.
"Hey, you! Kid!"
Ori gacked as he jumped in surprise. He turned around like a guilty person who had just been caught red-handed.
"You just had to open your mouth, didn't you?" Ori thought.
"Y-yeah? What do you want from me?" Ori asked nervously.
Ori became tense. If Ori really didn't want any trouble, he should have just kept walking. But Ori couldn't ignore someone whenever they called for his attention.
"Chill out, little man. I don't want anything from you. But it's too early for a kid like you to be out of school. You wouldn't happen to be playing hooky, are you?"
"Geh? Who is this weirdo?"
Ori didn't see many people in town driving fancy cars every day, or at least anyone near his neighborhood. Did this guy live around here or something? The man in the convertible had shaggy hair, but he styled it in such a way that it just looked like a puffed-out mess. He wore a black coat with a pair of matching shades, which stood out to Ori the most. On top of his appearance, the way he lazily slouched in his car gave Ori a bad vibe.
"Maybe I should just run away now."
Ori turned again and went on his merry way.
"No! I'm just late." Ori replied.
"It's almost lunchtime, kid. Who are you fooling?"
Ori covered his ears.
"I'm leaving now, can't hear you!"
Whatever this man wanted to say, Ori wasn't going to give him any more time. Best not to talk to strangers, after all.
"Well, just don't make this a habit. Reading is fundamental, you know."
"Gee thanks, mister."
Ori groaned at the man's unhelpful advice. He still managed to hear him even after walking a few yards away with his ears blocked. As Ori kept walking, the man looked down at a device sitting in the passenger's seat. The screen indicated a flashing pinpoint. Ori looked behind him to take one last glimpse at the man. He saw that he was pulling his convertible out of the spot where it had been parked. Then, the man drove off in the opposite direction.
"Well, he's gone now…"
At least Ori didn't have to worry about that guy anymore. Ori put his hands down and kept walking straight. At this point, Ori just wanted to take a long stroll throughout the town. If he wasn't going to go hang out somewhere fun, at least he could still have a calm moment of leisure. Ori kept going further down the path but stopped before he could reach the crossroads in front of him. Suddenly, Ori heard a loud rumble. At first, he thought it could be a thunderstorm approaching. Five seconds later, he heard it again. This time it was louder and the ground shook underneath Ori's feet. The sound was growing louder. The ground was trembling more intensely as if footsteps were closing in. Ori's surroundings grew dark as a shadow crept up from behind. Ori slowly turned his neck and looked up. His eyes met with a monster towering over him. Ori didn't know what it was. All Ori could see was that it was tall, gigantic, dark, and hideously deformed. Ori quivered. He had many questions, but his mind was so blank that he couldn't even think. Besides, who could give him a straight answer that could explain whatever this was? The giant raised its arm into the air. Ori took a step backward, fearing what might happen next. The monster quickly plunged his fist down. The sound of a motor engine echoed in the streets. It was getting closer and closer with each passing second. The man from earlier was speeding in his convertible following the monster.
"Look out, kid!"
Ori blinked as he regained his senses and scrambled to get away. Ori ran while flipping his head back and forth between the road in front of him and the falling fist that signaled impending doom. He already knew that he wouldn't be able to escape in time. Like all people in the face of death, a single, presumably final thought crossed Ori's mind.
"No way! This can't be how it ends!"
Ori flinched, He put his arms up and shielded himself, not that it would help him now. Before Ori could be crushed by the giant's hand, a spark had been triggered from within. The moment the monster's fist touched Ori, he transformed. A flash of light from Ori's body repelled the giant and created a fog of smoke. When the smoke cleared, the clouds revealed the monster whose left arm was now missing.
And standing beneath it in the center of the crossroads… was a robot.
At first, it stood there, ready to take on the giant beast, but suddenly realized that something was odd. The robot broke out of its fighting pose and looked down at itself.
"Huh? What happened to me? My hands… My legs… Why do I feel... taller?"
The robot's train of thought was interrupted by a beeping sound coming from the right arm. There was a message displayed on the arm, like a news flash on an electronic bulletin board.
The arm read: 'You're always evolving.'
"What is that supposed m— WOAH!"
The robot's attention was brought back to the matter at hand. The monster was still standing. Using its right arm, the monster tried to smash the robot into the ground. The robot jumped right away so it could dodge the attack.
"H-hey! What are you doing!?"
The robot landed on the beast's arm and began running to the top. It moved as it knew exactly where it wanted to strike next, but the person inside the robot was powerless. He had no control over this strange, mechanical body. The monster tried to violently shake off the robot moving up its arm. The robot stumbled a few times but was lucky enough to avoid falling. It used this to its advantage to hop on the monster's shoulder. The robot fired a laser from its hand, targeting the monster's arm so they wouldn't have to worry about being swatted. Then, the robot switched over to another weapon. Not only did the robot have a laser built into its arm, but a blade as well. The robot stared at its weapons in bewilderment. A part of them felt that this was... normal, while the other was surprised by the fact that they even had these weapons in their possession. The robot didn't spend too long pondering the issue. He knew he had to hurry up and stop the creature trying to destroy them. The robot used the blade to slash the giant's neck, swiftly putting an end to the confrontation. A white light spread across the monster's body as it began to dissipate. The robot lost its footing and fell off the monster when the shoulder vanished. As the robot plunged towards the surface, it watched what was left of the disappearing creature. The head and limbs were long gone, leaving the chest behind. The light closed in on the center of the monster's body, circling towards the heart. When all remnants of the monster had vanished, the light revealed a man in overalls falling from above. The monster was just a human all along.
"Oh no! That guy… He's gonna crash! If I don't do something, he'll…"
Reality settled in that both the robot and the stranger were on a collision course for solid ground. When the robot tried to reach for the man, his feet began releasing exhaust. It had unlocked the ability of jet-powered flight, another power that the robot seemed shocked to learn it could use. The robot grabbed the human and gently hovered down. Finally, the robot was back on land. It lowered the human down, placing him on his back. Suddenly, when the robot rose up, there was another spark. It was like a signal inside that told it time was up. There was a flash and the robot reverted into the form of a young boy.
In the end, the robot was none other than Ori.
Ori was at a loss for words. He stood there trembling, genuinely unable to comprehend any of the events that just transpired. One minute, he was just a kid committing an act of truancy. Next, by some inexplicable miracle, he turned into a mechanized machine in the face of danger. If things had played out differently, Ori wasn't sure he would even be alive right now.
"Oh, you're okay. Seems like you handled that pretty well."
Ori's eyes veered towards the man in the blue convertible. After all the commotion that went down moments earlier, Ori completely missed the fact that the man had returned. His car door was open, but the man never stepped out of it. Ori noticed he appeared to be armed with a gun and a tracking device. Unless it was a customized gun made specifically for shooting down monsters, Ori failed to see what good it would have done. More importantly, if the man was pursuing the monster with a gun in hand, certainly that implied he was going to do something about it, right? Perhaps he would be the one to take care of the situation? But, no. For the most part, he stayed on the sidelines and let the robot do all the fighting.
"Maybe that should teach you a lesson. Stay in school, kid or you'll die. If that doesn't teach you, I don't know what will."
The man said these words to Ori like words of wisdom, as if they were to resonate with him and he would see the error of his ways. What was Ori supposed to say: "That was so scary! I never would have been caught up in this mess if only I had gone to school this morning. I'll never cut class again!"
While that was all true, Ori couldn't bring it in himself to take this man seriously. And with that, the strange man in black shut the door to his car and drove off.
"You're not helping."