Chapter 14:

We Could've Been Family

The Leigh Theory

I haven't slept in a real bed for such a long time.

A few days have passed since joining Omen and living in their hideout. It was one of the best living situations we’ve had so far, but probably just second to the shack.

Leo and I shared one of the vacant rooms in the Communal Building. He cried on the first night as his body sank into the mattress. He said he didn’t experience what it was like to sleep on a soft surface.

Since joining, we spent our days in Eli's workshop doing a few errands, assisting in maintenance, and helping create our new weapons. I never thought weapon-making would be easy and efficient if given the right tools. After a few days, Leo's prototype gun and my remade off-hand bracer got completed.

We understood what it was like to be part of Omen's family.

Having meals with the rest of Omen was an entirely different experience opposed to eating together with the miners. Compared to the gloomy atmosphere back then, meals with Omen were happier. I could hear everyone's laughs and conversations and couldn't help but smile.

Plus, the food was waaay better. It was like my tongue was in euphoria. I didn't want to compare the experience with our time with Marvin and Mabel since that was in a different league; that was heaven.

One day, while Leo and I were having lunch with a few Omen members, Eli went to someone across the table. It was only then that I realized that the man looked somewhat similar to someone we knew.

"Leonard Xavier, my man," Eli said as he held the man's shoulders.

As soon as the man looked at Eli, I noticed the striking resemblance. Beside me, Leo also stopped eating and kept taking glances at the man.

"Your guns are all good now. Just get them from my workshop anytime, okay? Okay."

Eli left right before Leonard could even thank him. He smirked and shook his head, then continued with his meal.

Leo and I went silent as we tried to continue with our lunch. With all my courage, I asked if he knew Larry Xavier.

Leonard paused with the spoon almost reaching his mouth as soon as he heard the name. He stared at us as he put down the spoon.

"He's my imbecile younger brother. How'd you know him?" Leonard asked with a scornful smile.

I told him we were once miners for his company. He nodded as he continued.

"He killed our parents and ran off with our family's money, only to become one of Paradise's mining pawns."

I didn't particularly hate Larry because, in a way, I was a little grateful to the mines. Just a little. It was just that the way they treated their miners was unacceptable and inhumane.

As soon as I heard what happened with their family, I couldn't help but empathize with Leonard.

"Once I earn enough, I will hire Omen to take him down," he declared as he firmly grasped his spoon.

I told Leonard about our time in the mines and the injustice that we experienced. He showed a face of disgust and concern as soon as he heard our story.

"All the more reason to take him down, then," Leonard said as he stood up, took his empty plate, and left us.

I didn't bother asking further as it was a family matter. Whatever Leonard wanted to do, it was his own choice and conscience.

A few more days passed, and we gathered in the Leaders' Hall. Up on the balcony, Megan announced that we would deliver and sell goods to Lusca City, northeast of Helmin.

Megan emphasized being extra vigilant. According to scouts, vans went back and forth from different cities and wandered the wasteland. We needed to be careful in our operation.

Leo and I packed our bags and got in one of the vans. Omen headed towards Lusca one by one to avoid suspicion, and our van was the second to mobilize.

As we traveled and got far away from the hideout, our van suddenly went to an abrupt halt. We opened the windows to check what caused the sudden stop.

We immediately got out of the van and brought our weapons as soon as we saw the first van having an encounter. Paradise caught us off guard that time.

Or so I thought.

The rest of Omen went near the battlefield, and Leo and I immediately recognized the uniforms. LX had finally caught up to us.

"Miss Megan! They're the mining company that's after us!" I shouted at Megan, who fought against them up ahead.

With the shield to my left and the wrist blade to my right, I rushed toward the enemies.

I tackled one with the shield and spun with the blade extending from my arm, hitting two more. Another tried to fire at me from behind but got intercepted by Leonard.

Leonard wore a white glove on his right hand and a long mercenary coat. His primary weapons were the dual laser pistols, and I could tell he was probably on par with Leo's marksmanship.

"Leonard! They're Larry's guards back in the mines!" I told him while we protected each other's backs.

I slashed an incoming guard behind Leonard. He told me to duck as he fired in multiple directions. I aided him by attacking from under, wounding the guards' legs.

"Larry Xavier! Come out and show yourself!" Leonard shouted as he made his way towards the enemy's van.

I called out for Leo and told him we needed to support Leonard. As we approached the van, someone got out of the car door.

"What a great day this is!" a man appeared in front with a minigun aimed at us.

We could never forget Larry's condescending face as he looked down at us from his building before.

I jumped in front of Leonard as he fired a barrage of lasers at us. Thanks to Eli, the shield was lighter and more durable.

"It's not just one, not two, but three birds in one stone! I get to catch Omen and the escapees, and I also get to kill my ignorant brother!" Larry exclaimed as he kept firing at us.

"Look at you, brother! Doing all of these just for a mere position in the government!" Leonard said as he took out five small, spherical objects from his belt bag.

Leonard threw the objects at Larry and exploded as soon as they came in contact with the ground. Lasers appeared out of the smoke, forcing the three of us to split and rush towards him.

Before we could approach him, LX guards intercepted us and protected Larry. I gathered their attention to me as Leo assisted from behind.

Leonard hid his pistols and took out a familiar dagger from the back of his waist. With the same hand gesture, it extended into a spear.

Leo and I attacked from the right but were stopped by three guards as Leonard approached from the left. He was about to land a slash, but the spear got caught up in the gaps of the minigun.

"Why are you so obsessed with joining Paradise?! You know how cruel they are!" Leonard asked as he tried to pull out the spear.

"Cruel this, cruel that. I don't care about any of those! All I want is to gain what's best for me; power and authority!" Larry replied as he tried to break the spear with the minigun's weight.

Leonard let go of the spear, reverting it to a dagger, but it didn't leave the gaps. Two guards attacked him from both sides, leaving him no chance to grab his pistols.

"I could've been an official if it weren't for those two," Larry said as he aimed at us as we fought the last guard.

Leonard knocked the two guards with his hand-to-hand combat and pounced at Larry, making him drop his minigun, freeing the dagger. He tried to reach for his weapon, but the guards caught and restrained him.

"How did you catch up to us?!" Leonard asked as he tried to get away from the guards' grasp.

"You see, I tried to report the commotion made by the two but got ignored. I then heard a few Paradise Protectors talking about this resistance group called Omen," Larry said as he struggled to get up.

I wanted to help Leonard, but Leo and I got occupied with the last guard, and we were so close to beating him. Compared to Paradise, guards from LX weren't much of a challenge. It was just that our attention was on the Xavier brothers.

"I told them that LX would gather information on the group and take them down. Once Omen is gone, they will most likely acknowledge me and give me a seat as one of the officials," Larry explained as he picked up the minigun and inspected it for damages.

"Of course, you know me. I wouldn't give my service without something in return."

The last guard got stabbed in the stomach as we ended the fight. Leo and I caught our breaths and began sprinting towards Larry.

"In exchange for pursuing Omen, Paradise gave me the citizens of Chora as additional miners. I couldn't be happier as more miners mean more shards!" Larry exclaimed as he aimed the minigun at Leonard.

I would like to take back what I said. I hated Larry with all my heart.

That was probably the punishment given to Chora City for involving themselves in illegal operations. I couldn't imagine Marvin and Mabel experiencing the same shit life we had before.

I averted my focus towards Larry and dashed faster while switching to the new Lightning Gun. He noticed me and tried to aim the minigun. Behind me, Leo fired in coordination with my movements and speed.

The world seemed slow at that moment as I ducked and charged up the gun. The laser passed above me and shot Larry in a gap in his body armor. He flinched as the laser penetrated his skin.

At point blank range, I aimed the fully-charged Lightning Gun at him. At that moment, I was full of rage and resentment.

"I can never forgive you."

The emotions I felt flowed into that single lightning ball. As I was about the fire, Leonard redirected the gun to the side and muttered a few words.

"Don't lose yourself."

The charged lightning ball dissipated. I couldn't do anything but stare at Leonard as he stabbed Larry through the gaps of his armor.

Omen surrounded LX and ordered them to leave their weapons, valuables, and vans. The guards hesitated but eventually obeyed as soon as they saw their boss’s condition.

"We could've had a happy life if it weren't for your ambition and obsession," Leonard said as he sat beside Larry, who struggled to breathe.

Omen tied the remaining LX guards and brought them to the vans. Leonard told Megan he would leave for a while and take over his brother's company.

"I'll go and clean up his mess and return if that's okay with you."

"You joined Omen to hire us to take down your brother. Now that you've succeeded in doing that, you are no longer bound to any deal," Megan said.

Leonard looked a bit confused as he tried to understand Megan's words. He tried to persuade her no letting him out of the group, but Megan just smiled.

"What I meant to say was, you're free to do whatever you want," Megan cleared the misunderstanding, patted Leonard's shoulders, then went to help the injured.

Leonard went to carry the barely alive Larry to the front seat of the LX van and went to the driver's seat. Hearing that he planned to head straight to LX, I rushed to him and asked for something.

"Can you please make sure that Mar–" I paused and hesitated as I realized it was a selfish request.

Marvin and Mabel weren't just the ones suffering. The rest of Chora and the other miners suffered as well. I thought up another request and came up with a better one.

"Please help the miners."

Leonard smiled at me as he started the engine. He then inserted the Cell Repair Device into Larry's wounds and put on their seat belts.

"I'll see what I can do," he replied, then drove off the battlefield.

Leo rushed to me and asked where Leonard was going. I told him he planned to go to the LX mines and settle things there.

"I hope he can help everyone there. He seemed like a good man," Leo said as he wiped his sweat.

After the encounter, Omen buried the dead in the area and brought the remaining ones back to the hideout, blindfolded. I heard Megan wanted to use them as helpers.

It might've been a bit unethical, but I wasn’t someone to judge. I hoped the captured LX guards would join us in our cause. Plus, we got more vans, weapons, and supplies.

Megan sat beside me in one of the vans and told us something similar to Leonard. I had already forgotten about it, but I realized Megan was the type of person who stuck to her words.

"Our deal has ended as well. We defeated your pursuers, so I think you don't have any reason to stay and fight with us," Megan explained.

She was correct; for Leo, at least. He had no other reasons to stay, but I wasn’t done with my business yet. However, Leo and I shared a common interest.

"We have more than one reason to stay and fight with you, Miss Megan," Leo answered as he peeked beside me.

Leo and I would never turn a blind eye to the cruelty and injustice of Paradise.