Chapter 8:

Regret or Die Trying

The Leigh Theory

If I were to succumb to the pain and fatigue, I would’ve fainted at any moment.

My consciousness was fading, and my vision blurred; I must’ve lost a lot of blood as I limped within the alleyway, holding onto the pipes and walls. I wanted to scream in agony, but I couldn’t muster the strength.

The only thoughts in my head were to see Leo with Marvin and Mabel and that they should be safe and sound.

The path I took led straight into the southeastern side of the plaza. As I got closer, I heard a lot of cries and screams; the people must’ve been running towards the city gates, and the three of them must’ve gone along and escaped. I didn’t care if they left me as long as they fled danger.

It must’ve been some kind of wishful thinking, but I genuinely hoped that was the case.

As I exited the alleyway, my body instantly froze. I almost wanted to pull out my eyeballs and then reattach them back, just to make sure if what I saw was real or not.

The townspeople got trapped in the plaza, along with people from the black market and slums. The Paradise Protectors threatened them with spears as they surrounded the area, blocking every possible exit.

Hiding behind the walls, I looked around to search for the three. There I saw Marvin and Mabel, on the eastern side, yelling at the Protector guarding them. I couldn’t hear clearly due to the noise, but phrases like ‘let him go’ and ‘get away from him’ could be discerned. I averted my eyes to them and was taken aback by what I saw.

Leo was caught and pinned to the ground by two guards, with his hands behind his back.

Judging by the situation, Paradise Protectors must’ve been in the city for quite some time. They must’ve intended to drive the people from the deeper parts to the plaza, then as soon as they gathered everyone, including the people in the central district, they planned to trap them in one place.

I only thought of one reason why Protectors were in the city; that might’ve been because of the black market. That was a valid reason, in my opinion, but their actions were quite excessive.

The crowd kept pleading to spare their lives and let them go, while the others expressed their outrage. Ever since that night of the murder, I couldn’t help but get mad at the stark contrast between the title ‘Paradise Protectors’ and their actual jobs.

One of the Protectors, from the northside, pulled out a small device from his back pocket, which then transformed into a megaphone. He tried to tell the people to be quiet, but no one listened. He then fired a laser from his spear, hitting the steel pillar in the middle of the plaza, which then emitted a high-frequency reverberating sound.

Everyone, including me, covered our ears as we fell to our knees. It produced a high-pitched sound that made me remember the siren back in the mines, but worse.

“Now that I have your attention, I want everyone to listen closely,” the Protector spoke through the megaphone.

The crowd went silent, but a few frustrated and sobbing faces were still evident. They paid attention to the Protector while holding back their emotions.

“As per order of the Supreme Leader, Lord Adam, all unauthorized transactions and selling of goods and services are deemed illegal and punishable by law,” he announced.

Mabel bought her fruit supply from the black market. Marvin also got his baking ingredients and equipment from the black market. I also purchased the arm sleeves from the black market. Everyone’s supplies and resources came from the black market.

“Upon daily observation of the city, every single store and establishment here was involved in such unauthorized actions, therefore, making every person here involved with the aforementioned illegal activities,” he added.

All the pain I felt in my body suddenly switched to intense fear and anticipation as I sensed something was about to happen.

“By the authority given to us, the Paradise Protectors, we will exact punishment on the citizens of Chora.”

The Protectors who caught Leo suddenly threw him into the crowd as they confiscated his gun. The others immediately formed a tight circle around the people and held their spears to their right side. The people then ducked to the ground in fear.

I instantly knew what was going to happen. With fear guiding me, I only thought of one thing, and that was to fight all of the Protectors. Despite my current condition, I knew that I needed to do something.

When I built the bracer, I thought of things I could use for my escape. I installed a shield to protect me from guns; a cutting machine to cut down the fences; a gauntlet to complement my ability to do parkour and use it for hand-to-hand combat.

The thing that I thought was missing in my arsenal was a long-ranged weapon.

I initially thought of installing a nail gun, but that meant it would require a lot of nails. That would be the same for the ammo of a regular firearm. I also thought of a laser gun, but I had no idea how those kinds of weapons works.

A bolt of lightning struck one of the fences of the mining facility during a stormy night, which gave me an idea. Since I had a decent amount of knowledge on how the Arq Shards work, I thought I could utilize its electrical property.

With a few wirings and further planning, I installed a lightning gun that directly utilized the shard’s energy. However, I never was able to test it, and I could only do one shot since I wasn’t quite sure if the bracer could handle that much power. All I knew was it could release a powerful electrical charge, almost as strong as a lightning bolt.

The gun was my only option if I were to fight all of the Protectors, though I didn’t know how the attack would work. I wasn’t sure if it would release a ball of lightning, a single lightning bolt, or bounce from person to person. Whatever the case, I was confident that it would be able to defeat all of them.

…that is if they were the ones gathered in a single spot and there were no other people in the area, as the lightning attack could give severe injuries.

Fear turned into frustration as I realized I had the means to overpower the enemy but was held back by the situation. While leaning on the wall, I panicked as I kept staring at the bracer, thinking of what I could do. If I wanted to defeat them, I must find a way to drive them away from the people and clump them together, which was nearly impossible.

Given two options, I would either escape but live with regrets or risk my life and die trying.

Transforming the bracer into the gauntlet, I strengthened my resolve. I stepped out of the alleyway, exposing myself to the dozens of Protectors in the plaza. I sprinted towards the nearest ones with the gauntlet in front of me.

"Oliver, no!"

An angel's voice stood out among the crowd as I was running. I saw the three's faces, and I could tell they weren’t happy with what I did.

I would forever remember Leo's annoying antics, Marvin's funny beard, and Mabel's calming smile. I would always keep in my heart our happy times together.

Winding up a gauntlet punch, I prepared myself for death.

I was able to hit one of them but was knocked back by a kick. Sitting on the ground with all my energy drained, I struggled to stand up.

In the corner of my eye, something flew from the eastern wall.

It was a disc, and it went down to the Protectors. It flew in a circular path, hitting each one and pushing them back. Sparks flew as the disk scraped their white armor, then flew back to a person standing on the wall.

A group of armed people came rushing from the eastern side. They all carried various weapons and seemed to wear identical belts with multiple mini bags attached to them.

They fired at the Protectors with their laser guns, and little by little, a few fell to the ground while the others tried to fire back at the group. A few people dashed to the remaining ones and fought them using various melee weapons.

Leo and Mabel ran to me as soon as the Protectors guarding them fought the group. Realizing that we got rescued, I slowly lost consciousness as I let myself rest. The two of them caught me as soon as I fainted.

The last thing I remembered was that I dreamt of my old family. I couldn't identify the place, but my mom and dad were there. Another man was also present, but he stood far away from us.

I tried to reach out to my parents, who were in front as if I wanted to come with them. They grabbed my arms, and instead of bringing me closer to them, they pushed me toward the man.

The man turned to me, but I couldn’t recognize him. As soon as I was about to see his face, I awoke from the dream.

"You're finally awake!" someone said in a nervous but soft voice to my right.

As soon as the person hugged me, I realized it was Mabel. As she held me in her arms, I instantly felt a sense of warmth and calmness. I must be in heaven.

Leo was crying to my left while, in the distance, Marvin was talking with a lady. She wore the same belt bag as the group that arrived in the city.

There were no signs of the Protectors, and the people from the group tended to the injured. I looked at Leo and saw his hands wrapped with gauze.

"W-What happened?" I muttered as I tried to sit straight.

As soon as I moved, Marvin saw me and walked towards us with the lady. She seemed athletic and wore a proud smile.

She had light brown skin and tied black hair. She wore dark fingerless gloves and a black, long-sleeved shirt with a gold v-shaped line across her chest.

Down below, she wore black leggings with single white stripes that ran diagonally across her thighs and black shoes.

On a closer look at the middle of the belt, there was a golden symbol of the Greek capital letter for Omega. The disc from earlier was attached to the left side of the waist.

"How are you feeling?" she asked as she kneeled towards me, then smiled.

As opposed to Marvin's hopeful smile and Mabel's warm smile, hers was something that gave off a sense of security; it was a smile that protects.

"My wounds are still painful but not as intense as before," I responded as I looked at the gauze wrapped around my chest, abdomen, and left shoulder.

"Alright, good. I put those Cell Repair thingies under the gauze to help your wounds. You'll still feel pain, but those should close in about two to three days, so you better rest up," she explained as she patted my right shoulder.

"You two both did great," she added as she tousled Leo's hair.

She stood up, nodded at Marvin, then left. We were situated right at Mabel's stall while the rest of the injured gathered in the plaza. Mabel then turned to her father and asked who those people were.

"They're a resistance group called Omen. I think I heard before that they were the ones who spearheaded and protected the black markets in each city. She apologized to me as they didn’t arrive in time to prevent the chaos," Marvin explained as he looked around.

He then turned to me, looking very serious. I knew what he was going to say. I felt horrible for lying to both of them.

"Rest for a while to recover and heal your wounds. I'll wait for your explanation until then," Marvin said.

Leo was dead silent beside me as he nodded, while Mabel, on the other hand, had no clue what we were talking about as she tried to ask for an explanation.

I knew that it was time to accept the consequences of my lies.