Chapter 14:

What is My Purpose?

[NO LONGER UPDATING] Ceres's Chaos: A Tragic Space Opera

Almost about to burst into tears, Ardan admitted defeat and ended the combat test. The room reverted into the flat, open combat configuration, with Braton reappearing as a spectator at the side.

"Brother Ceres, how could you bully Ardan like that! Fight him like a man, like what a real bodybuilder does!" Braton wagged his finger at Ceres.

Ceres rolled his eyes. “He was playing a pure bunker method, how else did you want me to fight him?”

Ardan gave Braton a piercing glare while sniffling: "I don't need you to coddle me, whoever the fuck you are!" Braton couldn’t believe a cuss word came out of the short kid, reeling back in shock.

Ceres got out of his skeleton suit and changed the private practice room to a virtual lounge, where he then sat on a couch and pulled up the workshop VOD review, wondering how Ardan came up with the arm design on his own.

"Ardan, you got to cover the exposed connectors and bolts on your arm with a proper frame, or at least you should've tightened it down with a chemical bonder to prevent hostile suit pilots from severely damaging your joints. Honestly just basic epoxy would’ve stopped me."

Ardan did not expect Ceres to be able to get that close in the first place, hence the lack of effort on securing the external screws and bolts of the exosuit.

Ardan hardly responded, trying to get over the humiliating failure that Ceres just inflicted on him. Remembering how cocky he was about being able to get a win, he felt even more frustrated with himself.

He slumped on another couch opposite Ceres, still brooding while his short legs dangled, barely able to touch the floor. Even in the VR world the objects were biased against him.

"Damn it, I should've parked myself on the top of the trash pile, then I wouldn't have to dodge falling trash!"

"Come on Ardan, Ceres would have just blown your trash pile up from the base and you would have just slipped off and the same shit will happen again," Braton said as he walked around the virtual lounge, shrugging.

Ceres and Ardan stared as Braton as though they just witness a rodent gain sentience. How did this dumb bodybuilder know so much about their combat styles just from one match?

"What? You know I'm right!"

"Yeah but at least, I would have seen Ceres coming. Maybe I should dig a cave into one of the trash piles and camp the whole match next time!" Ardan shot back angrily.

"Good luck getting that done before Ceres whips your ass in record time.”

Ceres clapped loudly, attracting both their attention. "Focus Ardan, we're here to learn, don't let the nerval enhancer boost your emotions and overwhelm you. Whether it’s a lie or half-lie, I don’t care, I’m your probationary mentor now."

Putting his frustration aside, Ardan and Ceres both did a VOD review of everything so far, while Braton summoned a strength training equipment equivalent of a boxing machine and started throwing deft punches.

The virtual lounge echoed with the dull thuds and creaking metallic sounds while Ardan and Ceres exchanged pointers.

"Why are you even still here Braton? You know this is the wrong server right?" Ceres said.

"But your combat tests look super interesting, let me fight you guys! I won't wear a suit though. I got to redeem myself from that loss against that Athen Defender exosuit!" Braton was an out and out bodybuilder, believing only in the human body and its potential.

He also took enhancers and steroids, though not to the point of changing his inherent genetic code to go beyond human. Yet.

“You okay with that Ardan?” Ceres asked.

“Yeap! More friends more fun!” Ardan smiled happily, though he was more happy at the prospect of beating Braton up for what he said earlier.

“Okay, let's do it. Braton, we’ll rotate our combat tests against you.”

They repeated the entire training routine, this time including Braton in their combat tests. The routine trained their repair and rapid modification skills, as well as their suit nerval synchronization and combat senses. Ardan never felt more excited in his time during practice, having a group of friends for the first time, albeit older ones to hang out with.


Ceres stopped and left the Gladius, an hour before his curfew, hoping to have a good bath and some well-deserved sleep. The aftereffects of the nerval enhancers often left the user in a lethargic state.

Braton was still going strong, returning to the bodybuilding section in real life, hoping to sneak a few reps in despite being very close to the curfew timing.

Ardan stayed in the Gladius in his own room, so everything was fine for him to continue, but he decided to take the night off and go over everything that had happened.

Ceres too was engrossed in the experience of wearing the exosuit vividly. He wondered how much better it would be once he got his nerval jack.

Ceres shivered slightly as he walked through the night-time back to the orphanage. The temperatures at night were much colder, but Ceres could deal with it too despite his thin clothes. “Can’t wait for tomorrow, that VR pod is amazing!”

However, as Ceres neared the gate to the orphanage, he saw a short girl about 1.45 meters high waiting for someone. She had an air of ruthlessness around her, accentuated by her short hair plus dark blood red sportswear attire.

If one looked closely enough, they would be shocked to see that her knuckles were pink raw as though she had just been punching a wall.

The moment she spotted Ceres, she strode forward vigorously as her eyes narrowed onto him, causing Ceres to stiffen and try to dodge her approach. “Why is this short girl approaching me?!” Ceres thought to himself.

A swift kick to the back of Ceres' calf caused him to land on his knee, making Ceres shout in pain.

"You just thought I was short right? I'm fucking average height in this city you fuckwit!"

"I didn't say anything Lisa!" Ceres wanted to rebut that she was definitely not average height in this doped up society, seeing as enhancers were everywhere.

Even the publicly available population census would prove her wrong, but he wasn’t about to anger her any further.

"Also, final warning, don’t you ever try to scam my mom out of our fucking dumplings again or I swear I'm going to rain hellfire down on your short ass!" Lisa stared angrily up at Ceres.

"Bitch I'm taller than..." Ceres received a precise tactical strike to his groin, causing his eyes to bulge and was unable to complete the sentence. The nerval enhancers might have worn off, but only slightly. He felt the pain peak while he fell back on the ground, grabbing his groin.

"Who taught you to swear in front of your juniors? Be a better role model, dear 'seniooor'." Lisa mocked as she started to walk off.

Ceres struggled to even look up, emotions running high. "This is fucking attempted assault, I'll report you you short-fu..."

"I got a license to beat you up, don’t fuck with my mom next time you go for your ill-gotten dumplings again. You better pay properly for them from now on. And don't you shove her out of the workshop again. Fucker." Lisa sneered as she turned away again.

Ceres gathered that Mrs Qiu didn't appreciate him preventing her from touching the mysterious box and swore to force her to give more dumplings over the next time he had his weekly routine at the stall.

"Who the fuck gave you the license? Your mom??" Ceres yelled back as he clasped his groin.



Lisa stormed off, no doubt to find another tall target. Ceres was left alone struggling in front of the gate. “Fuck, if Ardan was here maybe she wouldn’t be so violent…”

Getting up in pain, he gingerly walked in an awkward fashion towards his bunk room. The way he walked earned a few weird stares and some laughter, though many others just shook their heads, already knowing who had done it to him.

Erik burst out into laughter upon seeing him, rolling about his bed on the bunk. "Lisa really has it out for you, doesn’t she? She hasn't been back to school for close to two weeks and the first person she visits is you. Please teach me your ways on how you attract such amazing girls, oh great master."

"Fuck off, getting kicked in the groin right after a nerval enhancer feels fucking terrible." Ceres groaned as he sat on the floor, still wincing at the pain.

Erik looked incredulous. "Wait you had the money to buy a nerval enhancer? I thought you were barely scrapping by while paying for the workshop."

"I got an inroad with a good kid, remember Ardan? That short albino kid we mistook for an inner during that military test. How much did you earn today anyway? I missed all the riots today."

"I didn't earn much, the opponent wasn't as good as me and botched a few repairs, riot ended too fast. Got some extra customers now though for winning that fast."

“Nice, but maybe you should come with me to the Gladius. I can convince Ardan to let you in, we got loads of extra resources in the practice room. The competition is coming up soon and we’re going to try our best right?”

“Yea, but is it really okay to just ride off him?” Erik pondered, while Ceres finally recovered enough strength to stand up properly.

Ceres took a quick bath, returning to his bunk bed half-naked with his towel wrapped around his groin. Seeing all the nozzle wounds and scars on his body, Erik instinctively shuddered.

He had a bad case of trypanophobia and hated anything regarding small needles. Nerval plugs were still okay because of their hefty diameter, but seeing the aftermath of the nerval enhancers slightly scared him.

Not being settled on whether to accept Ceres’ offer, he decided to sleep on it, resting in his bunk bed.

Laying down on his top bunk bed, Ceres mulled over the week that flashed past by him. So many exciting events had happened already, and the coming competition was bound to even more hectic.

Now that he had access to the Gladius and better facilities, he actually felt that he had a good shot at winning the entire thing!

The upcoming competition was his current main goal, but honestly, he never had any ambition beyond getting off the planet. He felt like he was just going through the motions on what people are trying to impose on him.

There seems to be no rhyme nor reason to his life that pushes him. Even he couldn’t properly answer when the orphanage director asked him what his life goals were.

And to think that he had delusions of being a main character, when he had no passion nor was he the best.

The closest thing to a role model he had was Uncle Dawn Rigor, who had died a few years back. Most of the teachers at school treated him nicely, but that was about it, as though they were teaching a pet dog new tricks.

Outsiders like Aunt Fye who were slightly richer looked down on him, and even short fucks like Lisa were able to kick him around. A thought that he has long been suppressing suddenly surfaced from the depths of his mind.

"I don't have anything to live for, nor do I really have any close friends that I share my deep thoughts with. My goals are set by others, my daily activities a rip-off of those who came before me. Even the mysterious box has others reacting to it more than it does to me. If I fail even at the goal right in front of me, will I be stuck in mediocrity for the rest of my life?" Ceres knew the competition was the biggest event to have happened to him so far.

Even if he did not really care about winning, what would happen if he failed miserably? He couldn’t bear to imagine the amount of self-loathing and shame he would gain for himself, for not even trying at the only thing placed right in front of him.

Ceres didn't dare to think further about what happens if he failed to even get a good position at the graduation competition, it was too depressing of a scenario.

He may get relegated to being a riot group repair boy potentially forever stuck on Athen and probably die at the young age of 102 with no achievements to speak for himself.

He wasn't the absolute best mechanic in the city right now, much less the zone and nor was he the best combat fighter.

Ardan served as a punching bag for him that he could easily beat, but he wasn't confident of fighting other students his age from other zones, especially inner zones.

He recalled the stories of explorers and human fleets who sailed the stars into the frontier beyond, of the glorious war stories between the empire and the neighbouring star nations, of the immense alien technology that abounded, of humans who seemed to have achieved godhood at the age of 400.

The history and stories of humanity rising from their ancient homes close to a thousand years ago and surviving despite the various eras and wars enthralled him when he was young.

A new question popped in his mind.

Do his other friends actually have a dream? He had always assumed all the orphans in the orphanage were just trudging along their life as he was, running aimlessly and grabbing onto anything they could hold.

Apart from the training maniac that was Braton, he realized he knew nothing about himself nor his friends in terms of life goals.

“Hey Erik, what do you...” Ceres popped his head over the railing, looking below only to find Erik fast asleep. “Oh well, I’ll ask him tomorrow.”

The one-track mind of Braton made him envious in a way, on how driven he was when it came to training his body. Could he achieve the same thing? There was only one major event now in his life, that being the competition. Why couldn’t he just solely focus on it?

Uncle Dawn's words a few months before he died appeared in his mind: "Live life a few steps at a time! Expectations always leads to some form of disappointment in one way or another. Opportunities come and go, life ebbs and flows. No one can predict the interaction of countless humans in space, not to mention the uncountable amounts of aliens. Some call it ‘chaos’, but I embrace the chaos and waddle through slowly, eventually we’ll get there."

Ceres held on to those precious words, which comforted him, finally allowing him to throw away his inaction and inability to decide. Focus on the competition, win it, and decide later!

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