Chapter 18:

The Archives

The Leigh Theory

I felt the need to strengthen my arsenal.

Eli’s workshop was as busy as ever. Weapons and devices lined up on the tables as everyone in their division had their hands full. I hesitated after seeing them very occupied, but Eli noticed me and Van standing at the door and immediately called us to another room.

“Yo, Oliver! Van! Can you guys call for Leo? I’ve got something to show him,” Eli asked as he removed the fabric cover of a crate.

Unfortunately, Leo was with Reese in Helmin city to help restock and prepare for the upcoming mission. I recalled that he left the hideout with only one eye open, making me chuckle a little.

“Oh, I see. I was supposed to show this to him, but I guess I’ll just give it on the day of the mission,” Eli said as he crumpled the fabric.

Van and I peeked at the crate and saw a firearm. It seemed too big to be one of those Omen laser pistols, yet, more undersized than Larry’s minigun, from what I remembered. Eli touched the barrel of the gun as he explained.

“This is the cannon Megan mentioned before, Gustav. I just finished it recently, and I’m looking for someone capable of using this.”

Eli thought that Leo was the most suited to use Gustav. He firmly believed that the marksman could unlock the weapon’s full power, and at the same time, the weapon could make the most of the marksman’s abilities.

I knew Leo would be overjoyed with Eli’s gift.

“Well, I’ll just store it for now. Anyway, are you ready to develop your new bracer?” Eli asked as he covered the crate.

The bracer endured multiple strikes and even survived after using the new Lightning Gun. I thought it was still good to use, along with the wrist blade, but if we were going to face enemies like the Exalted, I needed drastic improvements.

“Oh yeah, how does your weapon work?” Van asked as I placed the bracer on the table.

Eli opened the shard compartment and showed it to Van. As soon as he saw the shard, he immediately grabbed something from his pocket.

It was an Arq Shard encased in glass that had dried blood streaks.

“I don’t know what to do with this, but I removed this from Calu’s back,” Van said as he tried to remove the blood streaks.

I thought of giving it to Reese or Megan to add to the supplies or use it in the hideout. Eli went silent for a few seconds and blurted out that he thought otherwise.

“Let’s use it to make another bracer instead.”

The offer was very tempting as I thought it was beneficial for me as well. However, it felt like I was being selfish and said to use it to make a weapon for someone else.

“No one in Omen can even stand toe to toe with a single Exalted except Georgia. Megan and Reese have to team up to put up a fight, and Leonard might be another one, but he’s not here right now,” Eli said as he sat on a chair and leaned towards the bracer.

“Leo is only good with guns, but thankfully, we have another Exalted in Van.”

I didn’t think Eli could be that blunt. As much as I wanted to acknowledge the others, I thought he was mostly correct.

“No offense to you, Van, but I think Oliver has the potential to be on par or even surpass you and Georgia once he gets a compatible weapon,” Eli said as he glanced at Van and flipped the bracer.

I refused to believe what Eli said about me. Maybe he was just joking, and as a brother, Van was obliged to agree. I barely even caught up to him and Georgia during that fight with Calu, and Eli said I could surpass them with a mere change in a weapon. Ridiculous.

Abruptly changing the topic seemed forced, but I had to do it. I quickly shifted the conversation to things I could upgrade with the bracer. Eli said he had something in his mind since he observed me during battles. Surprisingly, we thought of the same thing.

A lightweight weapon that could allow me to move freely while still having the weapon change property.

Van and I spent the rest of the day inside Eli’s workshop, planning and tinkering with the new bracer. In the meantime, I had to make do with my current weapon.

While we were working, I couldn’t help but notice the smile on Van’s face. It bothered me because it felt like a smile of an inevitable farewell. I asked him why he was smiling, and he answered me with something that made me furious.

“I’m just happy that I get to share this moment with you in such a long time because who knows how long until my body gives up.”

He had to say those things. Nothing like a good bonking could fix.

The day of the mission had finally arrived, and everyone was busy preparing the supplies. We brought extra fuel, food, water, first aid kits, and additional weapons. As we were about to hop on the two vans, another vehicle suddenly arrived. We intercepted them and aimed their guns.

However, Megan noticed that the van looked familiar. She told everyone to lower their weapons as she went near it. Somebody got out of the driver’s seat and turned out to be Leonard. He then opened the back of the van, revealing the passengers.

My heart skipped a beat, and Leo went beside me as we stared at the passengers. The once LX guards also went near and were dumbfounded by what they saw.

One by one, guards from the mining facility got out of the van. Amidst the crowd, Leo and I spotted an angel. It felt like the world was in slow motion as she ran towards us with her dark blue short hair bouncing with every step.

“Oliver! Leo! I’ve missed you so much!” Mabel exclaimed as she hugged us tightly.

Marvin followed behind her and smiled at us as he approached. I noticed he had lost weight since the last time I saw him. He then placed his hands on our heads and hugged us.

“So that’s why these two were so eager to come with me,” Leonard said as he approached us.

“Leonard Xavier!” I blurted out.

He raised his arm and told me to stop while shaking his head. I had no idea what I said wrong or if he was just having a bad day.

“I am now a free man, bound to no blood relations or responsibilities. Once we have overthrown Paradise, I plan to move on with life and have new beginnings,” he said as he placed his hand on my shoulder and continued.

“From now on, don’t you ever call me Leonard Xavier. Instead, call me by the name Janus.”

Janus. It initially didn’t roll off the tongue properly, but I thought I would get used to it soon.

As he explained things, Megan approached Le– Janus and said he must report to Georgia first. Before they left, I asked him what had happened to Larry and the company.

"Both dead. Larry's body couldn't handle the stress from his injury, losing his life right before we arrived at LX, which I dissolved right after taking over," Janus nonchalantly explained and walked away with Megan.

I didn't know what to feel exactly. I wanted to think Larry deserved it, but I also felt bad for having that thought.

Whatever. We finally reunited with Marvin and Mabel. What more could I ask?

The four of us caught up to each other, and I could tell we missed our carefree days back in Chora. Leo said he would give them a tour of the hideout after the mission while I introduced Van to them.

A few minutes later, Georgia arrived with Megan and Janus at the parked vans. She ordered those who chose to handle the new members for a while.

"Well, I'm sorry we had to leave right now for an important mission," I said as I apologized to the two.

"Why are you apologizing? We'll return right after we finish, so instead, tell them we'll see them later. Isn't that right, Miss Mabel?" Leo asked as he turned to Mabel, who chuckled a little and nodded.

Everyone involved with the mission got into the vans and left the hideout. Georgia, Van, Leo, and I were in the vehicle driven by Reese. We had to make a schedule for rest since we needed to be ready in case something would come up during the two-day trip.

Heading northeast, Van instructed Reese since he was the only one who knew where the Archives was, though only vaguely. It didn't quite matter as it was our only choice.

Night time came, and the drivers made shifts while the rest slept to conserve energy. However, I couldn't close my eyes as I was restless.

On my left, Van was looking at Georgia across our seat. She seemed happy as she looked into the distance.

"You look more relaxed compared to our first meeting," Van said.

Georgia turned to him and smiled. She then looked back through the window as she answered.

"I don't know. Maybe it's because I feel relieved knowing more people joined me in this battle."

When we first joined Omen, there were only about forty members. With those numbers, we would get wiped out if we were to attack Paradise all at once.

Months passed, and the group suddenly grew. It wasn't that much, but I believed we could pull it off with proper planning.

Georgia said good night as she leaned on the car window and closed her eyes. To my right, Leo drooled as he slept soundly.

"Oliver, you should rest too. We still got a long way ahead," Van said as he nudged me.

We then traveled through the wasteland for one more day. In the distance, Ropod City was quite visible. Georgia decided not to stop at the city as there might be Protectors lurking, given that it was relatively close to the Archives.

Another day had arrived, and Van told Georgia that we were close. She signaled to the other vehicle to stop behind a small rocky hill. Everyone got out, and she told us to proceed by foot.

Upon Georgia's orders, everybody went to their positions. The drivers waited behind the hill while the medics and the other members advanced to some rock formations. Van and I went with her and snuck to the side.

The Archives was a three-story building with walls that reached the second floor. I got carried by Van as we jumped over the walls while Georgia flew using her wings. We then scanned the area while ducking at the top.

There were two guards stationed at the entrance, but other than that, we saw no one patrolling the area. We quietly went down, and Van immediately dashed towards the guards and killed them before they could even react.

We entered the building, and there was nothing but rooms with letters written on the doors. Van led us to the second floor, and we entered the L room.

There was nothing but bookshelves and a table and chair near the door. Van then looked at the directory to find which shelf contained the Leigh Theory.

Each of us scoured the shelf that contained the book, but it wasn’t there. It was supposed to be an in-and-out mission, but finding the book took too much time.

While we were searching, I noticed something strange. I immediately told the two to stop moving and listen to the surroundings.

Some footsteps seemed to approach us and echoed in the silent room.