Chapter 45:


Red-Black Course

“And what does the amiable host Bryan have against me, to have all these lovable machine officers pointing their guns at me?” Zain let out a sarcastic remark, but it seemed that the man before him failed to even read the obvious mocking attempt:

“You fool!” Bryan replied with a maniacal laugh. “You might see me as the handsome, wealthy and influential Bryan, but it was actually me all along!”

As the words left his mouth, the man pressed on a remote control hidden in his pocket beforehand. Immediately, “Bryan” started to glitch out, slowly breaking down the holographic disguise into a stream of pixels.

“Bryan” disappeared, leaving only Bruce behind.

“It is I, Superintendent Bruce! Cower before my greatness!”

“… Tell me, does the prison lack in human resources that much?” Zain was this close to facepalming in disappointment, with the only thing keeping him from doing so was that he didn’t want to be dragged into the pointless skit.

“Laugh all you want, convict,” the warden, on the other hand, seemed to have trained his skin to grow thick enough to disregard all shame. “But the fact still remains that you’re surrounded, punk. Surrender now and your capture will be less painful.”

“Did you really think that a bunch of metal junk is enough to keep me down?” Zain let out a grin of confidence. “Bitleo, Armed Mode!”

What was supposed to be a scene of Zain’s nanobots disassembling from his pendant to make his black suit of armor never happened. Instead, on his neck were small sparks from the necklace, but no response from his voice activation.

“H-Hey, what gives?” On his side, Mike started to panic. Before Zain could react, however, a familiar voice sounded from within the robots:

“I told you before, didn’t I?” As the metal soldiers lined up to make a straight path, Leo walked in with a flashy red cape, like a king appearing in front of the people. “In a contest, the combination of strength and strategy is your ultimate weapon.”

“I believe you’ve met the best hitman money can buy?” Bruce patted Leo’s shoulder with confidence, only to be brushed off by an annoyed man in the helmet.

“I’m a contractor, not a hitman,” Leo clicked his tongue, dissatisfied with his employer’s actions. “We help our clients, not kill people, so don’t get those mixed up.”

“Leo…” Zain gritted his teeth. “I knew I couldn’t trust you.”

What replied to him, however, was only silence from the contractor.

“Whatever, now get him!” With a dramatic gesture towards Zain and Mike, Bruce ordered the masked contractor. However, the man only nonchalantly stood there, as if the task was for someone else entirely.

“What are you doing, you backwater contractor?” Bruce angrily shouted. “I said go get him!”

“What was your initial request again?” Leo played around with his nails while looking away entirely.

“To get that punk, what else!?”

“No, I’m pretty sure your initial request was…” With a grin, Leo took out a recording device hidden in his pocket. And inside, Bruce’s voice sounded:

“You sure you can beat that guy?”

“Yeah, I’m sure.”

Leo stopped the recording and continued. “And there you have it, my good officer. Your initial request was to ‘beat him’. Now, unfortunately, I was unable to beat him in the finals, so I’ve already transferred back the amount you deposited. If you would just check your account…”

Bruce was furious, but the warden took out his phone to examine nonetheless. And true to Leo’s words, all the money Bruce had spent to hire the helmet man had returned to his possession, without a single cent missing.


“Hey, I did do the job to the best of my abilities. What can you say? This guy was better than I thought, and it was my blunder.” A shrug from Leo ended all arguments that the warden could think of. Though he was fuming through the nose, Bruce had no way to counter Leo’s reasoning.

“Grrr… Fine! I’ll hire you again, now to capture those two alive!” Pointing towards Zain and Mike, Bruce shouted. “I’ve deposited the amount needed! Now go, hitman!”

“… Duly noted,” Leo’s helmet, which everyone thought was just a replica of the VR helmet for NLS, suddenly shone a bright red light in the form of a creepy grin.

As the final words left his mouth, the contractor attacked. Speeding like a cheetah, Leo took no time to point his jab right at Zain’s neck. However, the young man had been able to read the movement beforehand and countered with a chop of his own, swiping away the arm before it could hit him.

But Leo didn’t stop there. Seeing that his hand strike was neutered, the helmet man switched to a low sweep, aiming to knock Zain off his balance. The unarmed hero, however, was still able to counter the attempt. Utilizing the momentum from jumping up, Zain delivered a scissor kick straight towards Leo, spinning his body to make both kicks land on the same target. The move, however, was once again countered, this time by Leo keeping up his arms as a guard, but the force of the kicks was still enough to knock the man back a few steps.

Seeing the opportunity, Zain didn’t let up the attacks. This time, he was the one to charge head-on with a simple, but packed with power, straight punch.

It was at this moment that Leo did something unthinkable.

The contractor leaned his body to the side, while his legs shifted and stepped at a pace unbelievable to the witnessing eyes. Zain, seeing the change in his opponent’s center, attempted to punch with his other arm. However, Leo had already seen through it, and quickly leaned his body to the other side. Using the momentum from his feet, the helmet man then took a single step out of Zain’s range, then twirled his body around, passing through the hero at a breakneck pace.

Still with that momentum, Leo’s other leg raised, and the man delivered an upper kick aimed at Zain’s face. The hero blocked the attempt once again, but similar to his earlier kick at Leo, even when he was guarding with his arms, the kick was strong enough to knock him back a few steps.

For the first time fighting, Zain was sweating. However, it was less because of fear of losing, but more that those moves Leo had just done were somehow… familiar to him.

“That was…” Mike uttered, as if not believing his own eyes, “a scissor feint… into a roulette spin? And he did it without a ball…”

“What was that thing you always do with that weird ball of yours, Hero?” Taunted Leo. “Soccer Style? Then let’s call this one… Renewed Soccer Style – a Soccer Style that breaks free of the limitations of a ball… Well, now let’s get back to where we left off!”

As the words left his mouth, Leo once again charged in without a moment’s spare. Zain quickly put up a guard to his front once more, but before he knew it, the masked man had already disappeared from his sight and appeared behind him.

It was a lightning-fast outward step, utilizing the exact moment when Zain raised his arms to get into his blind spot. Then, with his dominant foot as the pillar, Leo turned his whole body around in one smooth motion.

“Renewed Soccer Style: Off-the-ball!” As if mocking Zain’s attempt to block, Leo shouted out the made-up name of the move he had just made. But he didn’t stop there.

“And now… Reversed Axe Kick!”

Leo jumped into the air, making a backflip. As the helmet man descended, his heel turned to Zain, and the momentum from falling down increased his kick power by three folds at least. However, it was luckily read and avoided in the nick of time by Zain’s step backward, though the young man was tensed to no end as he saw the rubble flying from the impact point.

But the onslaught still went on. Leo, after missing his kick, once again aggressively rushed towards Zain’s left side.

“I won’t let you!” The young man shouted, raising his corresponding arm to block any kick. However, Leo had already shifted his body towards the right side.

At that moment, Zain’s face formed a grin as he raised his other hand to further increase his size. “I knew you’d do that!”

Leo, seeing Zain’s counter, smiled beneath the helmet as well. The masked man once again shifted his body to the left side, and with a blitz of speed, successfully moved behind Zain for a second time.

“Elastico…” Leo mumbled. “Into…”

The contractor’s leg raised once more, aiming straight at Zain’s face.


His kick was blocked for another time by Zain’s sturdy arm.

“You’re really annoying, you know that, Hero?”

“Speak for yourself, shitty contractor!” Zain retaliated with another punch, but Leo managed to slip by with his nimble moves yet again.

The trade of blows kept going. Time after time, both Zain and Leo showed off all of their skills and moves, repeatedly dodging and guarding against each other, resulting in an epic, yet also artful battle that could grab the attention of any spectator if anyone was fortunate to be around.

However, there was still one person that didn’t enjoy what he was seeing.

“What are you doing, you third-rate assassin?” Bruce stomped on the ground as if wanting to crush the frustration within him. “Just knock them out and capture them already! Go for the smaller one if you must!”

True to the warden’s words, not once had Leo touched an unarmed and unskilled Mike just a couple of steps behind Zain. The latter had done his best to divert Leo’s attention, of course, but the contractor had also chosen not to attack the weak link in the party.

“Tch. Fun’s over, I guess,” Leo clicked his tongue in annoyance. “Sorry, Hero, but a job is a job.”

Leo, for the first time, took out a small, pen-shape remote. A shape that somehow struck a sense of familiarity within Zain. And as the red button on top was pressed, the young man knew exactly what he was getting into.

“Shit!” Zain exclaimed, but even he wasn’t fast enough to ward off the snake-like mechanical whip that the warden Rose once used, especially after Leo had used his technique to slip behind him for a sneak attack.

It only took a second. Both Zain and Mike were quickly tied up.

“Hrghhh… What the hell is this thing?” The former gritted in frustration, shocked that his strength wasn’t enough to just tear the whip open.

“I’d not do that if I were you,” Leo shook his head. “That whip might look similar to an older model that you once fought, but this is a new upgrade, made from the same kind of nanobots that is your pendant. Escaping is impossible.”

“You won’t know… unless you try!”

Despite Zain’s best efforts, the whip remained intact.

“I told you right? Escaping is impossible…”

Leo mysteriously paused for a second. Like when they started, a red smile glitched on his helmet, and the man continued with an eerily sinister tone:

“Well, unnecessary, more like it.”

As the words left his mouth, a sudden spark and explosion occurred from the edge of the stage. Before anyone could question it, one by one, the machine soldiers fell to the ground, short-circuiting themselves in an inexplicable manner.

“W-What’s happening?” Bruce held his head in disbelief. “Everything was fine just a second ago! Why is...”

A sudden idea struck the warden’s mind, causing him to grit his teeth in anger as he turned to the contractor.

“You… good-for-nothing! You’re betraying me?”

“Betray? What are you talking about?” The glitchy smile didn’t escape Leo’s face. “You asked me to capture them, and I did capture them as you requested. I expect my money to come soon.”

“Capture them? Then what is all of this?”

“Well, you said to capture them… but did I ever tell you what I’d do after capturing them?”

“You…!” Bruce’s anger was at its highest point. Tearing off his uniform to reveal a communication device, he continued:

“You’ll regret ever making a fool out of me, outlaw! Just you wait! I’ll send in an army after you! I’ll…”

A timely phone call splashed a cold bucket of water over the sizzling atmosphere. Reluctantly, Bruce picked up the phone, but his face soon turned from red to pale purple, from anger to panic and anxiety:

“What? … Sir! I am terribly sorry, it won’t happen… Sir, I beg your pardon? Letting the outlaw go? But Sir, I… No, Sir! I’m not disrespecting your orders! I just… Yes, Sir, I understand…”

The phone call ended. Immediately, Bruce furiously smashed his phone onto the ground, causing all sorts of machinery to fly around. With a disgruntled tone, he turned to a still-smiling Leo and declared:

“I don’t know what you did, but you’re off the hook for now! But mark my words, I will go back and take you to the Infinite Prison one day! You, and that damn villainous boy!”

As the officer and his robot subordinates finally left the scene, Leo pushed the button on his whip remote to let Zain and Mike go as well.

“What gives?” The young man asked as soon as he was free. “How… no, who exactly are you, Leo?”

The masked man was expecting a question like that.

“Meet me at the same warehouse where you met the Architect tonight. We’ll finish our talk there.”

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