Chapter 9:

This For That

The Leigh Theory

All good things must come to an end.

One gloomy morning, Leo and I went to the plaza to wash our faces and get something to drink. People from Omen were still there, trying to help the city for the past two days.

"We apologize for arriving late and not being able to protect you. We promise it won't happen again," the lady from before said to a bald man, probably the 'mayor' of the city.

"It won't happen again because the people have decided that we will stop all black market operations, starting today," the man said.

They chose the demanding and legal way instead of Omen's help. I wasn't sure if that was a good idea, but I couldn't do anything about it.

"We have grown tired of always anticipating when Paradise will suddenly appear. Now that they've shown up, we grew even more fearful and decided to go by the rules, even if it meant sacrificing our current livelihoods," the man added.

The lady just listened to the man as he explained. It was true that Omen and the black market were all illegal and unauthorized, but it helped the people in Chora.

"...but this city is now on the government's watchlist, and I don't know if you could still negotiate with them," the lady explained.

The man bowed down and went silent for a few seconds. I saw the sadness on his face as he clenched his fists.

"W-We'll figure it out ourselves…" he responded while still looking at the ground.

"We appreciate the help you've given us for quite a long time now, but this is where we part ways. We would like to request Omen to leave the city."

As we left the plaza, the lady bowed to the man and went her way while the man didn't move. I was pretty sure he didn't want that to happen as well.

Leo and I went back to the shack and organized the place. We returned the things we used to their original positions and cleaned the area. We made sure that we didn't leave anything behind.

During our time in Chora City, each of us was able to buy backpacks. We planned on using the bags if we would go somewhere, but unfortunately, the time had arrived.

The things we brought in our bags were water bottles, a few clothes, and food containers that we bought as soon as we earned money.

And, of course, I brought along the Swiss bracer.

We got out of the shack and locked the door. We then went to the entrance of the Harris Bakeshop and, hesitantly, knocked.

Mabel opened the door for us, and Marvin appeared behind her.

The four of us didn't say a word as we stared at each other. We stared at Mabel and Marvin for a few seconds, as that might be the last time that we would be able to see them.

"Good morning Mabel. Sir. Here are the pillows and blankets we borrowed from you,” I said as I handed over the beddings to Mabel.

I couldn’t look into her eyes, knowing it would hurt. Both Leo and her sobbing filled the silence in the air.

“Do you have to leave?” she asked as she held my hand while we both held the beddings.

We had no choice but to leave. If we stayed, we would just be putting the Harris family’s lives in danger, as LX was still after us. I was pretty sure they won’t go after them since new pursuers didn’t know their faces.

I opened my backpack and reached inside. I pulled the small bag of money and handed it over to Marvin.

“No, you keep it. You earned it yourselves,” Marvin said as he pushed back my hand.

After telling them the truth, I wasn’t expecting their initial reaction. The two instantly thought of ways how to hide us. They were willing to accept us even if we lied to them. They were willing to risk their safety just to help us.

Even if they wanted to accept us, I didn’t want that. We didn’t want that.

We decided that we would just leave, as it was beneficial for both sides; they would be unharmed while we could seek someone more capable to protect us and help us. They didn’t have the means to guard us two, and we also didn’t have the capabilities to protect them from LX.

I believed it was a win-win situation. Or a lose-lose situation.

“This might be the only thing we can give back to you as we don’t have much,” I said as I tapped Leo’s shoulder.

On Leo’s right side, we picked up the broken dough mixer that we stored in the shack before. I once fiddled with the equipment and was able to find time to check its connections. To my surprise, I was able to fix it.

“How did you–” Marvin was too stunned to finish his sentence.

Without a word, we bowed our heads and smiled as we left. I glanced back at them and saw that Marvin was still baffled, and he seemed to have told Mabel to get something from their kitchen.

After bidding the Harris family farewell, we went to sit on a bench in the plaza to calm ourselves down and collect our thoughts. Leo finally stopped sobbing and took a deep breath while I tried to empty my mind as we faced, yet again, another problem.

We had no idea where to head next.

“Where shall we go now?” I tried asking Leo.

“I don’t know–” he sniffed as he replied, “I’ll just follow you wherever you plan to go.”

Just right in front of us, Omen was loading up their vehicles. They were three large offroad vans equipped with metal plates for armor.

It wasn’t just us who were about to leave, as Omen was also getting ready to part ways with the city.

From what I remember, Marvin mentioned that the group spearheaded and protected the black markets. If that were the case, they most likely would be heading to another city.

As the idea sparked in my head, I immediately pulled Leo from the bench and dragged him to the Omen vehicle. We might’ve found the answer to our problem.

A man, probably in his mid-twenties, was busy loading up the vehicles. I hesitated to ask him as he looked occupied. We were about to walk away when he called us.

“What do you want?” he asked in a monotonous voice.

“Hey, um, will you be going to another city?” I asked politely.

The man seemed indifferent as he talked to me, but he wasn't mad. He furrowed his brows and nodded at me to answer my question.

"I was wondering if the two of us could go with you, just until you reach the next city," I tried to ask the favor.

"I can't answer that. It's better if you ask that lady over there," the man replied as he pointed at the lady from earlier.

She was a few steps away from behind the van and was talking to someone. Beside her was a young man, probably in his early twenties, who was checking something in the front-left tire of the vehicle. I then remembered that we should thank her for saving us and treating our wounds.

As we approached her, she noticed us and walked toward us. She grabbed Leo's hands and nodded. She then lifted my shirt and nodded as well.

She was kind of weird but in a good way.

"Looks like your wounds have completely healed! So, what brings you here today?" she asked in an upbeat tone.

"Oh, we'd like to thank you for helping us!" I awkwardly said as I bowed.

She laughed and tousled both of our hair. She was about to walk away when I interrupted her with our request.

"Is that so? Then just hop into that van! We'll be leaving shortly," she responded as she pointed at the van with the grumpy man.

I wasn't expecting that she'd immediately accept our request. Well, given her personality, I'd say she was an optimistic type of person.

We were about to get into the van, but someone called for us. I turned around and saw the angel one last time.

Mabel panted as she arrived, then gave me a brown paper bag. After I received it, I couldn't help but choke up a little.

"These are a few remaining fruits and bread. It's not that much, but we hope it can help a bit in your journey," Mabel explained as tears welled up in her eyes.

I couldn't believe that they would still help us for the last time. Leo, who was already inside, came to grab the bag from me and hugged it.

"Thank you so much! We will forever treasure these!" he said in a shaky voice.

Mabel laughed and wiped the tears off her face. I smiled at the thought that we shared a happy moment before we parted ways.

"Please be safe, okay? We are still hoping we can share another meal with the two of you in the future," she said as she hugged both of us.

Leo and I were both too stunned to react. She let go of us and smiled, then bowed as she walked away while wiping our tears.

"When things have settled, I'll come back and marry you!" Leo blurted out and immediately went inside the van.

Mabel stopped and instantly turned around, shocked. I scratched my head in embarrassment as a few other people from Omen, including the weird lady, laughed at Leo. She then smiled and waved us goodbye.

At least our last memory of her wasn't a sad one.

I followed Leo inside, sitting on the left side near the door, and saw his beet-red face. It was understandable as he just said something ridiculous. Or was it?

A few moments later, other members of Omen rode the van, and the last one to enter was the lady. She then sat down in front of us and closed the door.

The engine started, and some of the members looked outside the window.

"They used to say goodbye to us right before we left," a member said.

"Don't worry about it. The city made its decision, and we did our best to help. We just parted ways, that's all," the lady said as she looked outside.

"Either way, we're off to Cnida City, so buckle yourselves for a ride."

The vans exited the city and turned right. I wasn't very good with maps and geography, but I concluded that Cnida was in the east of Chora.

The lady turned to us and smiled. She looked at Leo, who hugged the paper bag, and nodded proudly.

"It's going to be a long ride. Why don't you two introduce yourselves to your fellow passengers?" she asked.

I swore to myself that I wouldn’t be lying anymore. It didn't matter if Omen would accept us or not, as long as I wouldn't make the same mistake as before.

Though, I didn't want to tell them about LX chasing after us, as I was afraid they might've tossed us on the road.

"I'm Oliver Leigh, and he's Leo Price. We used to work in the mines, but after escaping, we lived in Chora City up until now," I explained.

Everyone was astonished upon hearing my introduction. Even if Omen was a resistance group, I knew they had standards.

To my surprise, everyone clapped and shook their heads in disbelief.

"You two managed to escape a mining facility?! That takes a lot of skill and courage to pull that off!" one of the members beside me blurted out.

In my defense, security in LX wasn't that impressive compared to Paradise, from what I remember. We were just lucky when we escaped.

"You know, Omen could use a few people like you two. You escaped from a mining facility, and I heard that you even fought a few of those Protectors," the lady said.

"That's pretty impressive for teenagers like you."

Leo stared at me in confusion and didn't utter a word. I didn't even know what to say as well. We were both astonished by their reactions.

“Think about it. If you escaped the mines, that means the company is after you. If they are chasing you, why don’t you just join us? It would be like a trade; you two help us fight off against Paradise while we protect you from your pursuers,” she offered.

Honestly, it sounded like a great deal. We both saw what Omen could do, and I believed that they were the ones who could help us.

I stared at Leo, and we both nodded to each other. We both thought that the offer was beneficial for us. We then turned to the lady and accepted her proposition.

Omen will protect us from LX while we offer our lives for battles against Paradise. Fair trade, I’d say.