Chapter 7:


The Leigh Theory

I wished someone would just slap me and wake me up from this dream.

Unfortunately, I was already wide awake and faced with a gruesome reality. The cries of the people and the explosions echoed in the once silent district. The hooded individuals now roamed the streets with spears that could fire lasers, destroying and killing everything and everyone on their paths.

Everyone panicked and ran in the direction of the front part of the city. Up ahead, the homeless people carried their little children, sick, and elders as they made a run for it. I wished that I could help each one of them, but…

I wanted to be selfish at that very moment and protect my new family.

Marvin and Mabel ran close to me while I didn’t let them out of my sight. I wanted to ensure their safety, even if it meant abandoning the others who were in need or even myself.

As we ran away, Marvin and I grabbed metal plates from a destroyed roof that fell to the ground to protect ourselves from the falling debris. Fires started from a few houses, most establishments crumbled, and bodies scattered on the streets. The scenery felt like it came from a fever nightmare. It was like hell.

We got far away from the black market and approached the front district. As we kept on running, five armed men intercepted us; three of them wore black uniforms with red stripes on the shoulders.

"That’s one of them!" one of the LX guards yelled as he pointed at me.

I was right all along; LX was still after us. I was unsure of the exact reason, but I'd say it was political.

I then looked at the other two on their left, who were carrying the same spear as the attackers in the city. As soon as I realized who they were, I felt a stabbing pain in my chest.

Paradise Protectors. They were a group of trained individuals that served the government for whatever purposes or goals.

I could never forget the red, five-petal flower crest on the left side of their chest and the traumatizing white, armored uniforms, once stained by my parents’ blood.

My heart pounded heavily and resonated through my entire body. I didn’t know what to do as I drowned in fear and rage. I stood still, clenched my fists, and recalled the night of the murder.

I was ready to risk my life and take them head-on.

Every ounce of anger that was present in my body had built up. As I was about to take a step and let rage control me, I heard someone call out my name from the alleyway on my left.

“Oliver, over here!”

I averted my gaze to the alleyway, shaking and hyperventilating. As soon as I saw Leo running towards us, holding a laser gun on his right and carrying the bracer on his left, I returned to my senses.

My friend saved me as I was about to descend into madness and give up my remaining hope.

I quickly reacted as the LX guards aimed at us, covering Marvin and Mabel; they must be able to escape before the metal plate breaks. We then hastily went to the alleyway and intercepted Leo.

“Keep going until you reach home!” I yelled as I covered them with the metal plate while backing up.

The two LX guards followed from behind and aimed their guns at us. I gave Leo my metal plate and borrowed Marvin's. As I covered the two, Leo fired at the guards to counterattack.

One of the LX guards fell as Leo hit him on the armor on his chest. We reached a corner of another alleyway to our right and quickly turned. Leo covered the route while I grabbed the bracer from him.

“Quick! Use this shortcut!” Leo exclaimed as he pointed at the path while I equipped the bracer to my right arm.

“No! You two should come along!” Mabel answered as Marvin tried to drag her.

Her eyes reflected the sunlight as her tears welled up. That was the first time I saw Mabel cry, and it was painful. A heart-crushing realization hit me as soon as I saw tears run down her cheeks.

Our days of peace and tranquility were over.

I activated the bracer handle, pressed the thumb button, then the button for the pinky finger. After sequentially pressing the buttons, the bracer transformed into a thick, crude gauntlet; it had a wide surface area on the top and bottom part, capable of being a small shield, which extended to the hand, with slopes covering the front part of the knuckles.

With one deep breath, I smiled and looked at Mabel.

“Everything’s going to be fine.”

Marvin quickly dragged her away as she tried to reach out. I then turned around and gradually ran towards Leo. As I dashed past him and showed myself to the pursuing armed men, I felt a sudden clarity in my mind.

At that moment, I didn’t expect that my body could move and react quickly enough. Fight-or-flight reaction, adrenaline rush, flow state; I didn’t know the exact term of that feeling, but it certainly felt like I was in a trance, and my focus was at its peak.

I darted towards the armed men with my right arm crossed in front. The two Paradise Protectors intercepted me and thrust their spears in my direction. I swung my gauntlet upwards in retaliation, deflecting their attacks.

They raised their arms as their spears flew upward. At that exact moment, Leo fired at both of them, making them fall to the ground. I sprinted to the three LX guards at the back while they pointed their laser guns at me.

One thing I was grateful for during my time in the mines was that I was able to develop my strength.

My bracer was made with multiple metal pieces, making it quite heavy. Running with the bracer would be hard for most people, but thanks to the mines, I had no trouble maneuvering it.

I quickly jumped to my left to dodge the incoming lasers. I ran up to the wall, dodging two more in the process, and somersaulted off it.

The guards fired at me while I was mid-air, forcing me to deflect them with my gauntlet. I kicked one of the guards as I landed, then knocked off the laser gun of the guard to my right, crouched, and kicked the guard to my left, knocking him away.

In the corner of my eye, I saw a sole slowly approaching me from the right. My mind told me to dodge it, but my body couldn't keep up. I raised my gauntlet to cover, but I knew I couldn't make it in time.

A sudden flash of light shone in front of me, forcing me to look away from it, then I heard a loud thud on the ground. As I recovered, I saw the guard, unconscious and lying on the ground.

Leo, from afar, was able to hit the guard, who was just a few inches away from me. The image of him smiling while firing from before appeared again in my head.

Just as I thought, Leo had the potential to be a master marksman.

While I admired his sharpshooting skills, I heard the guard, whom I kicked as I landed earlier, slowly creeping towards me. Without hesitation, I flung my right arm backward, hit him on his chest with my gauntlet, and knocked him unconscious beside the guard to my left.

After beating up the three LX guards, I turned toward Leo. I realized he might've been a marksman, but he was never a hand-to-hand fighter.

I quickly ran towards his position as the two Protectors charged at him. He tried to fire at them, but they deflected the lasers with immense precision, using the tip of their spears. I shouted at him to run away, and luckily, he was swift on his feet. I then grabbed a piece of metal on the ground and threw it in their direction to distract them.

The Protector farthest from me got hit on his headgear, diverting their attention. They stopped going after Leo and aimed their spears at me. I quickly shifted my bracer into shield mode to protect myself.

I felt the difference in the quality of the laser guns between LX and Paradise; the lasers from Paradise were much faster and more powerful.

I covered myself with the crude shield as they fired at me. At that moment, I learned the difference the hard way as I was too slow to dodge and was forced to position the shield awkwardly in front of me. The force of the impact made my shield positioning unstable, pushing back my arm after every hit.

Faced with a sticky situation, I had no choice but to keep going and push through.

I quickly jumped to my right and shifted back to gauntlet mode. Unsure of whether I could dodge or not, I sprinted toward the guards with my right arm in front of me.

A Protector attacked from my left while the other lunged with his spear in the front. I slid under as the spears crossed each other, then recovered my balance to hit the one ahead of me in his diaphragm. He instantly fell and dropped his spear, which surprisingly shrank into a dagger.

The mechanism was very similar to mine, and their weapons were more compact and lightweight. I swear I wasn’t salty at all.

The other Protector behind me continued to attack with a slash to the left. I jumped backward but miscalculated the spear length, tearing a little bit of my shirt and wounding my chest. It wasn’t that deep, but it felt irritating and painful.

I lunged at him, deflected another thrust with my gauntlet, then punched his face with my left fist. It wasn’t strong enough since I’m right-handed, but I was able to make him disoriented. Unfortunately, the Protector from earlier was able to stand up again.

He tried stabbing me with the dagger in his right hand, but I evaded it by jumping backward again. He then gestured with his thrusting hand, raising his index and middle finger.

The dagger extended back to its spear form, reaching and wounding my left shoulder, leaving me both mesmerized and terrified. He added salt to the injury as he was about to fire a laser at point-blank range.

They were too skilled, and I thought that was the end of the line for me.

Leo must’ve climbed up the two-story building to my right as soon as I diverted their attention to me. He fired at the Protector’s hand from above, making him let go of the spear, which shrank back to its dagger form.

I immediately grabbed the dagger from mid-air and went straight for the heart. The armor was a little hard to pierce through, but thanks to their high-quality weapons, I stabbed him in his thoracic region, close to his heart.

That was the first time I killed someone. For some reason, I felt relieved and calm, which was kind of horrifying.

The remaining Protector came back to his senses when I hurried towards him. I also tried to go for his chest, but he knocked me back with a kick, making me drop the dagger. He jabbed his spear rapidly while I protected myself with the gauntlet. His quick movements didn’t allow me to find an opening or shift to shield mode.

A reckless attack would be my only chance, coordinating with the speed of the laser from Leo’s gun.

With all my heart, I waited and trusted my master marksman. In a split second, I saw the laser traveling in the air towards the Protector. I lunged at him, winding a punch with my gauntlet while his spear wounded the right side of my abdomen.

It hurt like hell, but I powered my way through. The laser hit his headgear and destroyed it, exposing his bare head. I then poured all of my remaining strength into a powerful punch.

The gauntlet punch connected and destroyed his face in the process. I wasn’t sure if I was able to kill him, but he collapsed to the ground and didn’t move at all.

I suddenly fell to my knees as soon as the fatigue kicked in. My body probably realized it moved in ways it never did before. I reverted the gauntlet to its bracer mode, then Leo immediately climbed down and went to assist me.

"Don't force yourself! Just stay there for a while!" Leo said as he tried to stop me from standing up.

"N-no…We still have to deal with them…" I muttered while raising my left arm and pointing at the three LX guards as they tried to get up.

Leo kept telling me to lay down for a while when the building beside the guards collapsed. There was no way that the three of them would have survived that one.

I remembered that the city was still in the middle of an attack. I told Leo to go ahead and find Marvin and Mabel and that I would just follow.

“What are you saying?! You’re gravely injured! I can’t just leave you!” he insisted.

“Just listen to me! I’ll handle this on my own. Their safety must be our top priority!” I replied as I held my wound.

Leo hesitated, but I pushed him away. As soon as he left, I took off my shirt, crumpled it, then pressed it to my abdominal wound to apply pressure. It helped a bit as it slowed down the blood flow, but it hurt like hell.

Limping and bleeding, I forced myself to walk. The pain and fatigue finally overwhelmed me, but I had no choice; I needed to ensure that Marvin and Mabel were safe.

The realization that our peaceful days would end suddenly came back to me. I knew that after this, we wouldn’t be able to return to our carefree days. I knew we wouldn’t be able to see them again, but…

I was willing to sacrifice our new life as long as I could secure my family’s safety.