Chapter 5:

Here Comes the Sun

The Leigh Theory

The first ray of sunlight from the horizon signified the coming of a new day and a new hope for tomorrow.

The solar-powered lamppost turned off as soon as it was hit by the sun’s rays. Leo sat on the nearby bench, still drowsy, with our sacks and bags of food while I drank water from the faucet. We then wandered around the city and thankfully, we found a public lavatory with a bucket of water and a dipper inside.

After taking a quick bath, we continued to roam around and saw various vendors setting up their stalls. We passed by the bakeshop that gave us food yesterday but they were closed. As we continued to walk, the door opened and the same bearded man called for us.

He told us to go inside and invited us for breakfast. I thought he was going to ask for our payment for the bread he gave yesterday but I was wrong again.

“My name is Marvin Harris and I’m the bakeshop owner. I would like to thank both of you for catching the thief and helping my daughter yesterday,” he said as he munched on his food.

“You’re that pretty lady’s father?!” Leo exclaimed with his eyes wide open. He then turned to me and whispered, loudly.

“There’s no way that the sweet lady was the daughter of this giant!”

I turned my head subtly to signal to him that the man could hear him. Fortunately, the giant just let out a laugh as soon as he heard Leo.

“Don’t worry, I get that a lot. My daughter only got my blue hair but the rest is from her mother. Unfortunately, we lost her during the Great Decline,” he said in a sad tone.

Neither of us wanted to ask further as the mood shifted. We awkwardly stared at our food and the only thing that filled the room was Leo’s loud chewing. Marvin cleared his throat and then asked the two of us where we came from.

“Oh, we both es–”

“We are wanderers and we just came from Anned. We’ve been homeless for a while now and we’re looking for a place to stay here in Chora,” I interrupted.

I knew that he was going to say that we were from the mines. I had to interrupt him since I thought that Marvin might report us to the officials if he knew that we were escapees.

“Anned? That’s very far from here! No wonder both of you looked so ragged when I first saw you yesterday!” Marvin exclaimed as he stood up and slammed the table, surprising both of us.

“If you want a place to stay, then you should earn money,” he then sat down and leaned back on his chair. “I want to help you by hiring you but I can’t since I already have enough workers here.”

I started to grow anxious as the man showered us with generosity. I kept on overthinking and thought that maybe he had other motives. Thankfully, Leo diverted my attention as he burped loudly. Marvin laughed and then gave him an extra piece of bread.

“It’s okay sir, we appreciate the kindness. We will just figure it out ourselves,” I said to him as I finished my last piece.

Leo leaned back on his chair while rubbing his stomach after finishing five pieces of bread. He then commented that their food was very tasty, as evident by the number of portions he had.

“I’d be very happy if the other people here think the same as you,” Marvin said as he collected the plates and took them to the sink.

I then looked around the shop and remembered that they were closed. I grew uneasy again as I thought that maybe we were the reason he closed today because we might’ve scared the customers or maybe we ate the bread he should’ve sold. I had to ask him to calm my mind.

“Oh about that. You see, each major store here, or stores that generally use equipment and appliances, was given two days to use the city’s only Arq Shard. Once your time is up, you must pass it to the next one,” he explained to us as he washed the dishes.

“...and yesterday was the end of our shop’s turn,” he added.

That's when I realized why the number of outdoor stalls far exceeded the number of indoor shops, and also why they were still active while most establishments were closed.

After having breakfast with Marvin, we gave him our gratitude and went our way. We returned to the plaza and thought of things that we could do to survive in the city. While we were brainstorming, Leo saw the fruit lady setting up her stall. He told me that we should go and help her. Of course, I hesitated at first but I decided to just go along with his shenanigans.

His shenanigans turned into something that could potentially answer our financial problem.

“Good morning, fruit lady!” Leo yelled happily as he skipped towards her. He immediately grabbed the fruit boxes and helped arrange them.

“Oh, it’s you two! Thank you again for your help yesterday!” she told Leo as she smiled brightly at him.

As he flirted with the lady and while we helped her with the stall, an idea came to my head. I immediately grabbed Leo and whispered to him.

“Let’s help with her store and implant the idea of making us her assistants.”

“No questions asked. It’s a win-win for me,” Leo immediately answered and went back to the lady.

We carried a few more crates and continued to arrange the fruits. After a few more minutes, her stall was ready for the day’s business. While waiting for customers to arrive, Leo asked her if she was the daughter of Marvin, the baker.

“Yes, I’m her one and only daughter, Mabel. My dad said he met you yesterday and gave you a few pieces of bread. Oh, I hope those haven’t gone bad yet.” she replied to Leo while worried that her father might’ve given us expired food.

Leo laughed nervously while scratching his head. We thought of things that we could do to give actual help. We decided that I would take a few crates with me and sell to a different part of the city while Leo would stay with her and help bring more customers.

I went to a busy alleyway and set up my makeshift stall. One customer came by and bought three pears. Another one bought a bag of lemons. Time quickly passed by and as noon came, I had already sold out. I went back to Mabel and Leo and saw that they were already closing the stall.

“Dude, you wouldn’t believe it! We quickly sold all of the fruits in just a few ho–” Leo glanced at my crates and saw that they were empty, “--You sold out as well?! This must be our lucky day!” he exclaimed.

Mabel counted the money she earned at the back of the stall, stood up and went to us, then gave Leo a small bag of money. Leo looked at the bag, then at her, then at me while genuinely confused.

“It’s for helping me sell the fruits today. I earned quite a bit more than usual so I thought I should give some to you as thanks,” she explained to us.

“Goddess,” Leo muttered and kneeled to the ground.

I closed my eyes and shook my head while Mabel panicked when she saw Leo kneeling. I grabbed Leo up and told him that we were going to help her bring the crates and a few of her things to their house. I just realized that the bakeshop was also their house.

As we arrived, Marvin opened the door then Mabel told him that she found assistants. Marvin looked behind her and smiled upon seeing both of us. He told us to bring the crates inside and thanked us for helping his daughter. As we were about to leave their house, Mabel called for us.

“There will be a few extra crates tomorrow. I hope I can rely on you again,” she asked us while smiling.

My plan succeeded. We didn’t have to worry about financial problems starting that day.

We waved goodbye as we left their house. Leo kept on hugging the bag of coins as he skipped on the road. I couldn’t blame him because deep down, I also wanted to shout for joy.

Sundown came and we went back to the plaza to wash our faces and rehydrate. The entire day was a little bit exhausting but not like the exhaustion and fatigue that we felt with our old jobs but rather, a reasonable kind of exhaustion. We then sat near the solar-powered lamppost and enjoyed our remaining bread.

“I…I have never known the feeling of receiving this much money from other people. That’s why this small bag of coins means a lot to me…” Leo said to me as we ate under the lamppost.

“I didn’t know the exact date of my birth but I’m now seventeen years old and I’m an only kid. We were poor, to begin with, but we were happy with our life. We lived in the slums of a small town near Anned and we had a small, makeshift house. Unfortunately, we were caught in the middle of the battle during the Great Decline. I lost my parents, our house, and our measly possessions. I then lived in the streets of Anned until I got recruited by LX.”

I didn’t know what to say. I learned to realize that everyone had their own stories and sufferings. I didn’t have to worry about our lives during the Great Decline, as we were under the protection of Paradise. He asked me about my history and I was quite hesitant to share it with him after hearing about his tragic background. I had to choose my words carefully.

“I was born on June 14, 2025. I had one brother and my parents were scientists working for…Paradise. Due to an issue with their research, people from Paradise killed both of them and abducted my brother. After escaping that night, I had to run to Anned and spent my days there in the streets before being recruited by LX,” I narrated to him as I looked up in the dark sky, without a single star to be seen.

Leo looked down after hearing my story, while he ate. It was the first time that I was able to connect with another person. At that moment, we instantly knew that we needed to support each other if we wanted to survive in our new life. Whatever we decided to do, we must learn to trust each other.

“Oh well. Now that I’m a free man, I will live my life to the fullest. I will do things that I wasn’t able to do before. How about you? Now that we have left the mines, what do you plan to do?” he asked me that one, important question.

I must learn to trust him, I said in my head. I gathered up my courage, inhaled deeply, then let out a long sigh.

“I will look for my older brother and avenge our parents.”

Leo stopped eating and looked astonished. He frowned and stared at the ground.

I knew that he would be surprised and mad. I knew that he might oppose me. I knew that he probably wouldn’t help me. I understood that it was a selfish goal. I realized for quite a long time now that what I planned to do was almost impossible. If Leo wouldn’t want to be part of my goal, then so be it. I wouldn’t blame him because he already achieved freedom in his life. Despite all these things, I decided that I will find a way, no matter how hard or dangerous it would get.

Those were the things that kept running in my head but every single thought vanished as soon as he began to speak.

"I'm not quite good at using laser guns yet, but I hope that I could do something to help you," he said as turned to me and smiled.

"Why…are you willing to help me?" I asked.

He closed the paper bag, stood up, and carried his things. He walked in the direction of the alleyway that we stayed in but stopped midway, then turned to me.

"I'll go wherever you plan to go, no matter how dangerous it will be–" he said then he turned back, "--because you are my ray of hope and freedom."

This selfish goal of mine was my only connection to life and the one that ignited the very little embers in my heart, giving me a thread of hope that I could cling to.

At first, I was alone, but now I have someone that can help me carry my burdens.