Chapter 22:

Omen vs. the Exalted

The Leigh Theory

If we couldn't defeat those two, we wouldn't stand a chance against Adam.

"Nice meeting you again!" the winged Exalted exclaimed as she hovered in the air.

I couldn't help but notice that she was staring intently at Georgia; she had been like that since our first meeting at the Archives, perhaps, hinting at a connection between the two.

“I don’t know why, but you seem pretty familiar,” Georgia said.

The Protectors surrounded us, pointing their spears, as the people backed up in fear while the others fled. The winged Exalted raised her arm, signaling the guards to lower their weapons as she continued.

“Although you don’t fully recognize me, I’m still quite honored that you somehow remembered me. I was the last Protector you fought when you escaped the old Archives.”

It seemed like my guess was on point.

“Why did you become an Exalted?” Georgia asked with her eyes widened as she recalled the day of her rebellion.

“I wanted to get my revenge on you for humiliating me! That’s why I, Eva, became the new Aquila to replace and defeat you! To prove to Lord Adam that I’m more worthy to bring glory to him and Paradise!” Eva declared.

Smiles usually existed to signify that you were happy about something. Some smiles indicated arrogance, and additionally, there were also ones that expressed apathy. Georgia let out a smile that felt cold and showed that she was way beyond the things Eva fought for.

“I don’t care about getting replaced or bringing glory to the likes of Adam. All I cared about was to protect and help the people oppressed by the Paradise you adore.”

“You’re just wasting the powers and abilities given to you by our Lord!” Eva responded angrily.

While Georgia and Eva had an exchange, Janus beside me got impatient and clicked his tongue. He went beside Reese and held the blade of his greatsword as he whispered something that made him walk away.

I had no idea what Janus whispered, but Reese started spinning while extending his blade. As he gathered enough momentum, Janus ran with him, and with proper timing, he landed on the wide part of the greatsword. Like a baseball bat, he swung his sword as Janus used it as a spring to fly and head straight to Eva.

Janus dragged Eva with him as he flew away from us, forcing Georgia to follow. The other Exalted attempted to pursue them, but Van and I held on to his round shoulder pads, tugging us as he jumped.

“Head straight to HQ!” Van yelled as we left the other Omen members with the Protectors.

While in midair, we heard a machine-like noise from the shoulder pads. I thought it was just some random clattering with the exoskeleton’s system, but I was dead wrong. It suddenly stopped and released a pressurized air strong enough to knock Van and me away.

I couldn’t move my body for a few seconds as I landed on the concrete floor. However, Van rushed to me and helped me stand up, saying we had no time to spare. We continued heading in the general direction in the east, where everybody probably landed, and as we ran, only silence and emptiness filled the streets.

Upon arriving, there was nothing to hear and see except the other Exalted hitting Janus rapidly with his fists, who only used his spears to defend. He got pushed back as the Exalted broke the spear in half and landed a clean punch, sending him flying to a wall. Meanwhile, Georgia and Eva were soaring in the skies with metal colliding with each other, echoing in the street.

Van activated his suit and daggers and charged at the Exalted while I went after him with the spear in my hand. He swung his arm, causing Van to duck and stab his dagger in his chest. However, the armor was too thick to pierce. I lunged with my spear, only to be stopped by his armored gauntlet. Van followed through with the spear in his left hand, but the Exalted effortlessly blocked it.

“Why did you choose to be an Exalted?! Adam is just going to ruin your life in the end!” Van asked as we pushed our weapons against him.

“I owe my life to Lord Adam. He gave me these metal arms after I lost mine in an accident. With a new shot at life, he gave me the name Gorus to start anew, so whatever happens, I will offer my life to him,” Gorus responded.

I thought that was just part of his exoskeleton, like armor for the arms. No wonder it seemed too natural to be considered a separate armor.

While we tried to overpower Gorus, he snapped my spear in half and activated the pressurized air again, which knocked us away from him. As we stood up, Eva suddenly fell from the sky and landed where he was standing.

Georgia went to Janus and helped him as he seemed a little dazed after knocking his head on solid concrete. The four of us surrounded Gorus and Eva, and with my spear broken, I decided to activate my new bracers.

With a similar mechanism as my wrist blade, I flicked my wrist inwards, breaking the bracers apart. Metal pieces then crept around my hands and half of my arms, forming a gauntlet. No matter how many times I saw the transformation process while we came up with it, I still got butterflies in my stomach each time I saw it.

Janus fired at Eva with his dual pistols, forcing her to cover herself with her wings. Van and I used it as a cue to charge straight to Gorus, and although we started together, he left me in the dust and went ahead.

Van certainly was quick enough to pull off a series of moves in a few seconds.

He activated the spear and attempted to pierce Gorus’s armor from the right, but then quickly let it go when Gorus tried to block it, shifting to the dagger. With his left hand, Van activated the spear to stab the Exalted’s abdomen and let it go again, causing the blade to spring back. He then grabbed the other dagger in the air and shifted to the spear to stab his face but missed, lightly scratching his cheek. However, Gorus recovered and swung his arm, flinging Van away.

Meanwhile, Georgia attempted to strike Eva with her battleax, but she evaded and sprang to Gorus's side. As they got to the center, I dashed on the battlefield with my palms facing each other.

Electric sparks appeared between my hands, forming a lightning ball. I grabbed it, transferring the sparks to my bracers, and winded up for a punch.

Eva quickly went in front of me and used her left wing to block the attack intended for Gorus. She took the hit and got shocked, causing her to fall.

With Eva on the ground, Gorus found an opening and swung at me. I flipped backward and countered by planting my left arm on the ground and swinging my left leg forward. I followed through with a right leg swipe, spun in the air, and landed a lightning-charged punch on his head. He got shocked like Eva and fell to his knees.

If only Leo were right behind me, he would’ve already matched my moves with perfect timing.

The lightning on my gauntlets got weaker, but it still had little sparks. I might’ve forgotten what Eli said, but maybe there was a limit to the number of uses before I had to charge again.

I shouldn’t have taken my eyes from the battle as Eva suddenly appeared in front of me with her swords crossed, ready to slash while I dropped my guard. However, Georgia arrived and planted her battleax on the ground, stopping Eva’s swords with the handle. It was effective, but metal chunks fell off the handle. A few more hits and it could snap in half.

Van suddenly jumped to Eva's right side for an attack, but she spun and slashed him with her swords. He blocked it with his spears while Janus followed and fired behind her.

Gorus got back to his senses and charged at Janus with his arms crossed in front to block the lasers. In that few seconds, I forced my body to move.

I dived towards Janus as Gorus swung his right fist. I then redirected it upwards and hit him on his abdomen while Janus fired at his chest, knocking him down.

Trapped by Georgia and Van, Eva flapped her wings, releasing a powerful gust that pushed them back, and flew to the sky with incredible speed. Janus and I quickly regrouped with them as Georgia commented on Eva's wings.

"My wings couldn't even flap that strong. We might have a hard ti–"

Eva suddenly appeared in front of us and was a few seconds away from stabbing Georgia. She quickly reacted but still got wounded on her left shoulder. Eva flapped her wings again and went back to the sky.

"You and Van are now obsolete! You can't even do things that Gorus and I can do!"

Gorus suddenly jumped in the sky and slammed his fists on the ground as he landed, forcing us to jump away. He then released pressurized air, knocking us further away.

While we were midair and unable to move, Eva suddenly got in front of Georgia again with her swords, ready to stab. She flapped her wings to reposition her body, making Eva miss her heart but still wounded her right shoulder.

As Eva returned above, Georgia told us she would handle Eva alone. Janus insisted on helping, but she refused.

"I'm the one she's after. For now, I can conclude that she's indeed fast but inaccurate and predictable. I'll figure out a way to defeat her using that."

The three of us stared at her, and she nodded back. I trusted her, but she needed to be extra careful, as she was Eva's prey.

Since I learned the ways of combat, I understood that rest didn't exist on a battlefield.

Gorus jumped at us again, but Van blocked it, causing the ground to break. With the remaining charged lightning on my gauntlets, I used Van's shoulder to leap towards Gorus to hit his face and shock him again.

Janus dashed to Van's left side and fired with his laser pistols. Although Gorus was stunned, he still activated the pressurized air. However, it wasn't as strong as before.

The three of us regrouped, and I informed them of my discovery. Van agreed and confirmed that I wasn't just imagining things.

"It's either something might've weakened him, or there's a charging time for the amount of pressure he can release," Janus added.

"Alright, Oliver and I will be the decoy while you should attack right after he releases pressure," Van explained the plan.

Meanwhile, Georgia flew toward Eva, and they fought in the sky. With the same attack pattern, Eva flew back and forth to her while she blocked with the blade of her battleax. Georgia was able to create an opening for herself and flung Eva away. However, she still recovered and darted to her again, and although Georgia maneuvered herself, she still got stabbed in the abdomen.

While mesmerized and concerned with Georgia and Eva's battle, Van and Janus tapped my shoulders and got my focus back.

"Trust her," Van mouthed as he placed his hand on my head.

"Find me an opening so I can fire this bad boy," Janus said as he whipped Gustav out from the container he had been carrying under his coat.

Van and I nodded at him and prepared as I charged up my lightning gauntlets. We sprinted towards Gorus as he also rushed to us. Van being the faster one, got to him first and exchanged hits after hits. The only thing I could do to keep up was to dodge and try to connect my punches.

In my field of vision, I saw Georgia countering before Eva could flap her wings as she slammed her battleax on her back. Before falling to the ground, Eva reached out her right arm and destroyed the ax handle. However, the separated blade part spun and cut her extended arm.

As soon as Eva landed near Gorus, I was able to connect my lightning gauntlet. As we expected, he released pressure, pushing us backward.

Both of Janus's theories might've been correct. Maybe, it wasn't just the charging time, but something must've affected the embedded shard's effects as the pressure he released wasn't as strong as before.

Janus fired Gustav as soon as Van and I got out of the way. Though not a direct hit since Gorus moved, Gustav destroyed the right side of his body, disintegrating everything, including the metal arm. We regrouped with Janus as Gorus fell to the ground.

Not far away, Georgia grabbed Eva's other sword from the ground and retreated. Eva flapped her wings and cleared the smoke and dust, revealing her and Gorus struggling to stand up.

"You can never defeat us!" Eva exclaimed as she panted.

She and Gorus placed their hands on their chests and removed their Limiters, making electric sparks appear on their bodies. The same horrifying scene with Calu replayed in my head as I remembered how dangerous he was.

What was scarier was those two were much more powerful than him, and with their Limiters gone, they probably were even deadlier.

"Janus, be extra careful! They're much stronger now!" Van yelled.

Eva flapped her wings, and without a sound, she suddenly appeared in front of Georgia and slashed her left arm. A sudden sonic boom exploded and knocked us away.

"An arm for an arm," Eva said.

While we were astonished, Gorus winded up a punch with his remaining left arm, confusing us. We couldn't see anything as a sudden strong force that sent us flying, similar to his pressurized air.

We have been flying many times, and it made me a little nauseous.

Gorus got above us and slammed the air, pressing us to the ground. He landed and attempted to bang his fists on me, but I rolled away to evade. I then stood up and tried to reach out for a punch, but he grabbed my neck and threw me to the ground.

Gorus was about to step on me when Van and Janus pounced at him, making him stumble. Janus fired one of his pistols at Gorus's face, but he blocked it with his metal arm, caught the gun, and crushed it with his fists.

Janus cried in pain, and Gorus shook them off him. I ran to them with my palms into the charging position, transferred the remaining electric sparks from the gauntlet to the middle of my hands, and created another lightning ball. With condensed electricity on my palms, I slammed it into Gorus's body like I dunked a basketball.

I had this thing in my mind that involved electricity and the Arq Shards, and I hoped I was correct.

Although shocked, Gorus still released pressurized air and knocked us away. Meanwhile, Georgia couldn't keep up with Eva's speed as she received multiple stabs all over the body, except for her heart. After severely injuring her, Eva retreated and went beside Gorus.

I assisted Janus while Van went to Georgia and helped her. We regrouped with them as she noticed something about Eva.

"She… She might've hit me multiple times but still missed my heart. I punctured her chest armor with her sword whenever she got near me, chipping away a few layers. I'm sure I can easily pierce through her heart, though I needed to stay still."

"All of you can't keep up with us! We will make sure you will never leave this street alive!" Eva yelled.

Georgia regained her footing but was panting heavily and grimacing, showing that she was in immense pain. I seriously thought the Exalted couldn't feel anything because they could heal their bodies, but it wasn't the case.

"I'll get her this time," Georgia said as he pushed Van away.

He nodded and went to us and explained his new plan that involved carrying Janus while I created an opening with the electric shock. Janus then sighed after hearing his plan.

"If that's what we need to do, then I'll allow it," Janus said while shaking his head.

"But I'm not talking to you after this," he added, making Van smile a little.

Gorus charged at us, signaling the start of the plan. I intercepted him and flipped to the side as he punched straight at me. The two got away to wait for the perfect timing while Janus readied Gustav.

It seemed like I was correct. Gorus's punches and movements were getting slower, even without the Limiter. I landed a sucker punch with my lightning gauntlet and shocked him again.

And yes, his next move got dramatically slower. I first noticed it against Calu, and with Gorus, I confirmed that the lightning from my bracers affected the Exalted's bodies, probably interrupting or destroying the electric currents from the embedded Arq Shards.

Gorus swung his arm again, but I ducked and went on all fours, springing back up for a charged uppercut. In those few seconds, Van jumped behind me with Janus aiming at him. Meanwhile, I moved out of their way and saw Eva flapping her wings and darting towards Georgia.

At the same time, Janus fired Gustav on Gorus's heart and created a hole, while Georgia sacrificed her body as she got stabbed on her upper-left shoulder to pierce Eva's heart.

The two Exalted didn't move, but their faces showed they were in pain. Gorus fell to the ground while Georgia kicked Eva away as blood gushed from their chests.

Janus got away from Van, dropping himself to the ground, and grabbed medicine from his pocket. Van went to Georgia as she placed Cell Repair devices on her wounds. She then said that we needed to immediately meet up with the others and have our injuries treated.

Van guided us as we limped towards the direction of the HQ. Coincidentally, the rest of Omen arrived at the same time as us and also sustained grave injuries. Nobody was lining up as people had already escaped from the chaos.

Megan and Reese immediately reported to Georgia while Hannah and her medics rushed to us and treated our injuries. I could only lean on the wall as I struggled with my breathing. My lungs probably couldn't expand due to the fractured ribs.

Eli ran to me, checked my injuries, then asked about the bracer. If we were in a different situation, I would've been excited to tell him how the battle went.

"I certainly was able to move properly, but I think there's more than just transferring the lightning ball to the gauntlets," I reported.

"Your creativity is the limit, Oliver. Just imagine making things using clay," Eli replied.

I then told him about my discovery of the effects of the lightning from my gauntlets. It turned out that he also thought about it when we encountered Calu.

"...that's why I insisted on making another bracer. It was just a hunch, and you were simply the test subject, but now that it's somehow proven, I guess you are the key to defeating our final enemy," Eli added.

While we were discussing, and the rest of Omen caught their breaths, more Paradise Protectors arrived and trapped us in the entrance of the HQ. Van and Georgia activated their suits and prepared their weapons, but Megan insisted that they would handle them and the four of us should immediately enter the HQ and find Adam.

"We will cover the entrance and prevent anyone from entering! You four go on ahead!" Megan exclaimed while pushing the two away.

Georgia nodded at her and told us to enter as the rest of Omen covered our backs. There was no turning back at that point or even a chance to rest.

As soon as we entered the HQ, our final battle began.