Protect What Matters

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Not Another

"So when are you gonna tell me how you actually get all these cuts and bruises?"

"Myra... I told you already, I just push myself too hard and end up falling a lot. Some of them are left over from training with some classmates too."

"Yeah, because any of them could totally even make a scratch on you."

"You could."

"That's because for the last three years I've been trying to catch up to you."

I was taken aback by her comment. I overthink a lot about most things but this kinda threw me off guard.

"Maybe I'm gonna be the next Protector instead of you. How do ya feel about that?" She said with the biggest smirk.

"I think it's awesome you want to become Protector as well!"

She stopped tending to the cut on my arm for a second to give me her pouty face. She tried to make it seem like she was mad but she was definitely unsuccessful.

"That's too cute of a face to be mad ya know." I said without realizing what I just blurted out. She blushed in response but I pretended not to see. She went quiet and I didn't know what to say. We both just sat on the creaking wood porch of the cabin staring off into an abyss of green.

"You know Joren won't let them pick anyone else but you."

"That's not true, it's ultimately up to him but no one has ever disagreed with the elders' decision."

"What do they know anyway? They're just a bunch of old fucks who think they know what's best for us."

"Take a look around you, we wouldn't have most of this stuff if it wasn't for them, I think we should be more appreciative."

I really liked our town. The cabins had been built for so long that the forest has started to grow over them making it feel like we were truly coexisting with the plants.

"I know you're going to be the best Protector you can be. Just remember to make some decisions for yourself sometimes. Just because someone has lived for a long time doesn't mean they know what's right."

At the time I disagreed with her. I didn't say anything but I believed that the longer you're alive, the more experiences you have, therefore the more you've learned. I still somewhat feel the same but I think it comes down to the kinds of experiences you've had to be able to make proper decisions.

As I walked home from Myra's, I couldn't help but think about Myra becoming the Protector. I can't think of a time I didn't want to be the Protector. I always assumed I would just follow in Joren's footsteps. I thought to myself that maybe she would be better at it. For the past three years all I could think about was meeting up with Tairoh and talking or fighting. I didn't want anyone to know that I was meeting up with an outsider so I always had Myra clean me up. It was only about a year ago that I realized how strong she became. It was the first time we had trained together in a long time and I thought I would have to go easy on her. As soon as the fight started she lunged at me faster than anyone had before. I was caught off guard and took a hit straight to the gut. The entire class stopped and stared. I dodged and parried most of her punches after that but, I had to start off the fight on the defensive which was something I wasn't used to. Tairoh always waited for me to go first to try to counter any move I made. After a long hard fought battle I pinned her to the ground holding her wrists before our teacher called it. For a moment I felt like I peered into her soul through her brilliant green eyes. I thought she would be upset but she seemed more excited than I was. From that day on we trained for a little on days I wouldn't see Tairoh. It was tough to sneak out to the Edge all the time so it was nice to have someone else to train with.

I remember thinking about her all night. Sometimes I would remember something she said or did and it would make me smile or giggle to myself. I always felt a little alone around the other people and thinking of her made me feel just a little less alone, it was nice... it was warm. It still is.

Our conversations during our training sessions were always quite interesting. Almost as if our words flowed with our bodies as we exchanged open palms. It made that hour feel as if only ten minutes had passed.

"I heard your dad got one of those old machines working again."

"He did! Well... sorta. He scavenged some solar panels that were getting eaten by vines and booted up one of them. Apparently this one is a game."

I lunged with my left for a gut shot but was quickly denied by a shot to my arm from her left. I sped back a couple steps.

"A game?"

"Yeah! It shows lights on a flat screen like the clock in the town center, but more colorful and sporadic."

We cooled off inside for a minute before venturing out to the shed where her dad was tinkering with some metal tools. Above the front door sat a sign that wrote CHOP SHOP. I brushed aside a drooping vine and stared in awe at all the strange mechanisms and contraptions that laid out on shelves along the wall.

"Ah come on! That was bullshit!"

"Dad, please don't yell at the inanimate objects while we have guests."

"But I swear I wasn't supposed to lose there. Hi Aerith, how've ya been?"

"I've been great! Your daughter is definitely helping me stay in great shape. Not in a weird way or anything, just like from training... and fighting... you know."

He gave me a cocky smirk as he extended his arms to present to me a large, painted wooden box with a screen facing out at the top.

"Here's Gaga! The old worlds most intense form of entertainment!"

I looked at the screen and saw a colored triangle-esque figure at the bottom of the screen. The background was all black except for some blinking white dots. There were some other figures that appeared to fall down the screen.

"What is this?"

"It's a game where you get to be this triangle figure at the bottom and shoot red bars up at these bug lookin things. The more you destroy, the more points you get. Here, come try it out, grab this knob and move it back and forth to make your little dude go left or right. To shoot his little bars press this crusty red button."

I was very confused at first. I glided back and forth and pressed the button a few times but didn't hit anything. After a little while of getting used to using its controls, one of my red bars hit a bug, it blew up, and the zeros at the bottom of the screen went from up to fifty. Immediately I wanted that number to be higher, I didn't know why, but it felt satisfying to see that number automatically increase. I shot a couple more bars until I hit another bug as it slid down the screen. The numbers went up to one hundred. I needed more.

"How does this thing work?"

"To be honest, I have no clue, I'm afraid that if I open it up, I'll break it and won't know how to repair it. I'm gonna have to dissect a few more of these contraptions before I'm ready to open this one up."

"And this just works on it's own?"

"So I figured out how to guide the electrical currents coming from those solar panels. They were the shiny metal squares on the roof of the shed. They take in energy from the sun and turn it into electricity. That electricity goes from the metal sheet straight into this cord coming out of the back of Gaga."

"Why the name Gaga?"

He pointed to the side of the machine where there were a bunch of designs in more of the same colors from the screen. In the middle were large faded letters. It looked like there was more in the middle of the word but all you could make out was Ga...ga.

"Can I come back to play more?"

Myra sighed, "Not another..."




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