Chapter 27:

(Vol 2 START) Air Strike

Red-Black Course

Zain got off his bike in a back alley, where the target location was around a hundred meters away from him. As convenient as his late friend’s last gift was, Ride Mode was a major weakness as it required the entirety of the nanobots at his disposal. And though Zain’s face was technically never seen – even the wanted posters only showed him in his full Bitleo armor – he was not risking walking into the scene unarmed.

“Bitleo, Armed Mode,” the young man mumbled. As soon as the words left his mouth, the nanobots from the bike disassembled and gathered around him, once again donning him in the metallic jumpsuit of the wanted hero.

“Move Mode,” Zain spoke from beneath the armor. From below his feet, roller blades rose up, giving the young man another means of fast travel while still keeping the necessary speed for a scouting mission. Leaning his body forward, Zain started zipping on the ground faster than the eye could see.

Let’s see now… the young man thought as certain numbers and screens popped up inside his mask. The ripple in space-time should be at around… 53 degrees North, and 3 degrees West. Another 78 meters to the right.

Soon, Zain found himself in a port as soon as the sun had completely descended. Thanks to the natural darkness, his suit had made him almost invisible, keeping the occasional passersby’s attention away from him.

However, contrary to his expectations, despite the large signal he had received, what awaited Zain at the coordinates was… nothing.

The port at night was quiet and dull, without any other living creatures around save for the occasional stray seagulls roosting on the anchored ships’ top deck. But there was nothing else – no rifts, no nothing.

That’s odd… the young man thought, raising his hand forward to try to confirm his readings once more.

“Scan Mode.”

The armor on his hands separated itself from the rest of the body, combining the nanobots into a singular sphere. Unlike the usual Sphere Mode, however, this one was only around the size of a baseball, and in the center was a hollowed-out lens.

From the lens, a holographic screen popped up, showing a well-drawn map of the area. However, the one detail that Zain was expecting – a circular motion to signify a ripple in space-time, was nowhere to be seen.

“How strange…” the young man mumbled. Throughout the year since he escaped the Infinite Prison, Zain had encountered his fair share of ripples in space-time. Most of the cases were small, yet noticeable changes, in the environment, such as a single red leaf on a spring afternoon, or a melting snowflake under the summer sun. For a ripple enough for his nanobots to react as they did, yet disappearing as fast as it was at the moment… it was truly something inexplicable.

Just as when the young man doubted himself the most, an alarm sounded on his hand.

This time, the ripple was even bigger than before. The circle on the map covered the entire port, and yet, the armor itself did not react to any of it one bit. And there was still no phenomenon that Zain could observe with his naked eyes either.

Before he could even think about the situation, however, the ripple stopped again.

In a couple of minutes, multiple ripples akin to it occurred. Started without any notice, and stopped just as fast as it appeared. All were extremely large in scale, yet never showed anything else that was observable.

… Almost as if it was being artificially generated.

Zain retracted his scanner back to the armor and took a step forward, but still left his arm in the same position.

A couple of steps later and he could already see the result.

The nanobots on his hands, without any prior command, dissolved by themselves into a pile of black dust – their original form.

Some kind of jamming signal. That’s why I can’t get a good reading. But if that’s the case then who’s behind it? And why?

However, Zain didn’t get the chance to find out the answer, for this time, the armor on his left hand had already started to disintegrate as well.

As soon as he saw the sign of the armor falling apart, Zain quickly dashed back into the alley once more, hiding behind the narrow walls. As he couldn’t rely on the nanobots anymore, his eyes quickly scanned the area, trying to find out the source of the attack.

This kind of jamming signal can’t possibly be in the hands of regular civilians… could it be… they’re back to hunt me again? The Infinite Prison?

… No, even in the face of danger, the young man was still collected enough to realize the fault in his deduction. There are no people here. If it was really the prison, then they’d have to have someone actually capture me after disarming Bitleo. The fact that I still can’t see must mean that…

This time, it was his left leg’s armor that broke down. Without much of a chance to counter, Zain had to hurriedly leave the alley, running back to where he once came.


Having narrowed down the option, Zain glanced around the area once more. However, instead of noticing any human activity, the young man’s target had changed to machinery of any sort. Though, to his dismay, another look at his surroundings once again revealed nothing.

Damn it! Where is it? I know it’s here somewhere!

[And here’s Leonardo di Messeo!]

A sudden voice sounded from behind Zain, causing the young man to immediately jump back in response. However, as he turned around, a sudden embarrassment ran through his head as Zain realized that he had crossed a civilian’s quarter, and the noise was just someone inside turning on the TV.

Meanwhile, the contraption continued its scheduled program. [He has taken to the sky! Look at his moves!]

It was a stroke of luck that hit the suited hero. After spending what was essentially his entire life surrounded by the four concrete walls of the Infinite Prison, Zain had forgotten the feeling of being able to truly roam free in the outside world, and thus, had forgotten that the space around him was so much wider than he thought it to be.

The sky!

The natural darkness made it harder to see, but through the dimly-lit moonlight and the shoddy, blinking street lamps, Zain could somewhat make out the identity of his assailant.

Four drones, all painted black for camouflage, were silently stationed in the air, creating four zones of jamming signals to block anyone from ever approaching them. On each drone, their transmitter was like a sniper gun installed on the bottom, meaning that the jamming waves could be easily redirected.

“So that explains why this thing could follow me around…” Zain exclaimed. Now that he knew his immediate target, the only thing left to do was to destroy it.

For now, I’ll get out of its range first. It’s risky, but going without Bitleo might give me a better chance.

“Standby Mode,” Zain commanded his armor. The nanobots, following the order, gathered around his chest area before returning to their usual form – a black pendant on Zain’s neck.

“Tch, the ones back there are still not responding,” Zain clicked his tongue in annoyance. True to his words, the parts that were disabled by the jamming wave still did not move, even after he had given his command. Now, he had all the more reason to get rid of this tail following him.

Though, what can I even do to destroy them? Bitleo can’t be used anymore…

[GOALLLL!} Once again, the TV inside the house sounded, and once again, it had given Zain the hint he needed.

I can’t believe I forgot that simple matter, the young man let out a smirk. Soccer Style isn’t just for kicking a ball, after all.

Zain once again glanced around, and his eyes shone as he found a garbage bin on the front porch of the civilian house he had crossed. Quickly making his way to the bin, Zain took out an empty metal can.

“A bit light and wobbly,” he exclaimed. “But not for long.”

Using his hand to crush the can and crumbled it into a ball, Zain now had exactly the kind of thing he wanted – a round projectile dense enough to withstand the power of his kick.

“Soccer Style: Snipe Shot!”

Following his whisper, Zain kicked the can as hard as he could. The metal ball soared through the air, directly making contact with one of the drones. A ball-shaped hole appeared on the machine’s exterior, and soon enough, flashes of electricity ensued, signaling the device’s end.

A small explosion flared, and the drone was no more. But Zain was nowhere near done with his snipes. Using the same tactic, with each can he found, a drone was shot down. Three more times, and finally the sky was his once more.

“Armed Mode,” Zain commanded once more. This time, without anything else to get in the way, all of his nanobots engulfed his body, constructing the usual black suit and lion’s mask in a blink of an eye.

“Good. Everything seems to be here,” raising his hands to make sure, Zain could finally breathe a sigh of relief. “Now, let’s see what this is all about.”

The young man made his way to the discarded remnants of the drones on the ground. Thanks to his kicks, all of them were nothing more than piles of junk, but he still hoped to find some kind of clue regarding the mastermind behind this ambush, as well as their reasoning for it. And a clue he did find out, but not in the way that the young man had expected.

A shard on one of the drones’ wings had a piece of decorative cloth stuck to it. And on the cloth was a simple line:

“Come to the Lion’s Den! Address at…”

Steward McOy
Kya Hon
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