Free cities are prone to robbery, so they typically harbor a large scale vault within the city. Only fools keep their chips at home. Merchants form associations and deposit all of their chips into the secure vault.
Of course, there may be cases where security guards steal the chips, but vaults are still the most secure place to store them. If you get robbed of your chips at home, there is a high possibility that you may also get robbed of your life. If you deposit your chips in a vault, you will only get your chips robbed. As a result, people usually follow this peculiar logic.
Vaults are generally supposed to be located in a safe place, which would suggest an obvious location. Most people think similarly, so the vault was indeed located in an obvious place. Zin entered a comparatively well-intact, well managed abandoned 4-story building.
The vault was in the basement of this building. Zin never saw people stray from the idea that the safest place to hide something is inside the ground. Sometimes, Zin was extremely grateful for this kind of predictable action.
As Zin was walking downstairs, a sound coming from right in front of him made him stop.
A ghoul was crouching down and devouring something. It was most definitely a corpse. There were in fact a total of three corpses.
‘They must have died on their way to rob the vault.’
The way to the basement was a single path, and the ghoul that was blocking the landing of the stairwell continued to eat the corpse without giving Zin any notice. Even while witnessing this tragic scene, the people must have continued to pursue their intentions of robbing the vault, and died as a consequence.
It was definitely not a good idea to go extremely close to the ghoul, for it would most likely react. Thankfully, there was only one ghoul in the stairwell and it wasn’t that difficult for Zin to take care of just one ghoul.
Zin took out a chainmail glove and put it on his right hand. This ‘Blade Gauntlet’ was a very useful weapon for killing small monsters.
Zin silently stepped down towards the ghoul that had its back facing him.
The ghoul was too immersed in eating the corpse that it had no idea Zin was behind him. Zin moved extremely slowly, as if he was walking for the first time in his life, until he was close enough to clearly see the ghoul’s pores.
Hunting is simple.
You approach slowly, and then -
Move faster than sound when you attack.
-Crack! Crack! Smash!
Zin grabbed the ghoul by its neck and cracked its spine. Using his blade tipped chainmail glove, Zin roughly smashed into the ghoul’s neck. Zin crushed the ghoul’s struggling body and continued to press it down until it died.
Hunting is different than combat.
Hunting includes combat as well as the process of approaching the target, or of the target approaching you.
Overpowering the enemy in one shot is the most ideal way to hunt. Combat is also important, but it doesn’t have as much significance in hunting.
Zin shoved the blue chip ejector into the ghoul’s corpse, which returned a total of three blue chips. Zin withdrew his chip ejector and continued to walk down towards the vault.
The old iron gate was firmly shut but all the locks were open.
The iron gate was a very heavy door that required at least three people to open it. The three corpses at the stairwell probably had attempted to come down as a group for this reason. There were also dozens of claw marks on the iron gate.
For Zin, however, it wasn’t difficult to open the gate on his own.
The heavy iron gate scraped the ground as it opened.
Zin froze in the lantern light. He saw something before him and tilted his head. It seemed like it opened its eyes at the sound of the iron gate, and it looked at Zin with much effort and smiled faintly.
“It’s a human…”
A young girl was lying on the ground.
It was amazing that she was still alive, for she was just skin and bones. With a dying gaze, the girl slowly spoke.
“Excuse me, can you get me some water…”
After she said this, the girl lost consciousness. Zin carefully looked down at the girl and slowly started to flip her around in her tied up state to search for any signs of danger.
Zin treated her like she was an object, but the girl was too weak to wake up.
The hunter thought carefully.
‘Based on the color of her pupils, she’s not a vagrant, and she’s young, so she can’t be a Slaughter.’
‘She must be a civilian.’
‘She’s severely malnourished. I can’t believe she’s still alive.’
‘This vault’s gate is too heavy for a baby giant wolf to push through. Maybe that’s why she’s still alive. The wolves must have smelled her but couldn’t open the gate. That must be why there were claw marks on the gate.’
‘Obviously, it must have been even harder for the girl to open the gate from this side. The vault saved her life but it had also been killing her, too. In that case, I wonder how she got in here in the first place.’
‘Did the thieves who died earlier trap her in here?’
The hunter pondered this.
‘I should use her as evidence.’
This girl is Jado’s last survivor. She can become a witness for the Ard job. If it’s too much work, she could just be interrogated and released. It was too burdensome to think about bringing her all the way to Ard Point.
Zin left the girl on the ground and searched the vault.
Soon, Zin found another reason to save the girl.
‘There are no chips.’
In the vault, there wasn’t even one single blue chip left.
When the girl awoke, the first thing she saw was a man cooking something in a pot. She was still inside the sealed vault, and the man, who was using the heat from an ignited core to cook, was staring at her.
“You came back to your senses.”
Zin gave the girl a glass of water, which she gulped down wearily. With a refreshing feeling that seemed to get rid of her soul’s thirst and hunger, the girl regained a bit of energy.
“Who are you?”
“I’m a hunter.”
“I see...I thought I was going to die. Thanks.”
“You don’t need to thank me.”
Zin handed her the soup that he was cooking. She ate it hungrily. Despite the boiling heat of the soup, the girl didn’t even drop one bit of it.
“I will provide you with water and food, and you are to answer my questions.”
The girl seemed to have enough tact to understand what he was talking about. Zin wasn’t really a polite person, so he spoke mechanically.
“I have three questions.”
“First, what attacked and destroyed Jado city? Second, how did you come into this vault? Third, where did you hide all of the chips from the vault?”
As soon as Zin asked her all of these questions, the girl looked at him with a cautious face. It was rare to find safety in this wilderness. It was impossible to know how the hunter would react if he didn’t get what he wanted.
“What happens if I don’t answer?”
“Then I will make you answer.”
“I don’t know, are you curious?”
At Zin’s question, the girl’s face grew stiff as she spoke slowly with hostility.
“If I tell you, you’re going to kill me, right?”
It was a common occurrence to kill after getting what you wanted, so the girl’s suspicions were valid.
“It seems like you haven’t thought about the fact that if I was a person who would kill you for telling me, I could also kill you for not telling me.”
“Then I want to ask you a question too.”
The girl was certainly acting precocious, saying she would also like to ask a question when her life could be on the line.
However, Zin knew that this world was full of abnormal people, so it didn’t surprise him.
“What is it?”
The girl showed him the bowl she was holding.
“There was something that tasted like meat in here.”
She had eaten it very fast, but she did feel the texture of the meat. It was extremely tough to chew and had a repulsive smell. She ate it because she was hungry, but felt anxious afterwards. Meat wasn’t something abundant enough to give to strangers.
“It’s meat so of course it tastes like meat.”
“......What kind of meat was it?”
The hunter acted as if it was the most ridiculous question ever, and pointed towards the iron gate as he ate some out of a bowl himself.
“I killed a ghoul earlier.”
“Wha- what? What did you say?”
“You must have comprehension problems.”
“S-so, you’re trying to say that this meat is…”
“It’s ghoul meat.”
As soon as she heard that it was ghoul meat, the girl threw up everything she just ate. Zin merely sighed at the sight of her retching.
“Kids these days…”
Zin tutted and continued eating his soup.
After throwing up the soup, the girl felt hungry again, so she ate more of the ghoul meat soup, trying to endure the disgustingness. From the way she continued to eat even while she was retching every few seconds, it seemed like she knew that she was going to die if she didn’t eat.
The girl stared at Zin with a slightly relieved expression after satiating her hunger.
“My name is Leona. What’s yours?”
“I’m not curious about your name. Give me the answers to my questions.”
At this, Leona pouted her lips.
“If you’ve forgotten, I’ll say them again. First…”
“I remember them all. You don’t have to ask me again.”
Leona’s gaze suddenly shifted.
“But how am I supposed to trust that you’re not going to kill me after I give you the answers?
“Well, I’m planning to take you to Ard Point, which is three days west of us, to use you as a witness for a job. Without you, it’s the same as not having 100 blue chips, so technically, taking your life would prevent me getting paid.
“.....That’s difficult to understand. Say it in an easier way.”
Leona frowned, for she didn’t understand Zin’s vocabulary, and Zin sighed at the way kids these days were getting educated.
“You’re a survivor here, so you probably know the precise details of the collapse…”
“What does ‘precise’ mean?”
Zin felt hopeless, wondering how he should speak in a way that she would understand. After thinking for a while, he spoke to Leona, who still looked puzzled.
“I need you cause you probably know best why this place is in ruins. Without you, I won’t be able to complete my job. Do you understand?”
“Oh...I see. You should have said that in the first place. I was confused.”
Leona understood immediately when he used simple language, which made him sigh again. Anyhow, Zin felt like he didn’t have to worry about things like that.
“So you’re saying that you need to tell someone about why Jado city got fucked, I’m the person who knows best, and you need to take me to your boss, so that’s why you can’t kill me?”
“There’s not that much in that head of yours, but you’re quick in understanding.”
“.....I felt a little offended there.”
“I didn’t mean it so don’t take it to heart.”
“Take it to heart?”
Leona cocked her head to one side, but she didn’t ask further. Instead, she answered the first question.
“I don’t know the exact date, but I heard wolves crying from all over and big wolves and small wolves started to kill people.”
“Weren’t you trapped in this vault?”
“When the monsters were coming, those bastards shut me into this vault so that I couldn’t run away.”
“Hmm...big wolves are usually individuals - I mean monsters - that don’t form packs...Do you know why they formed a pack?”
“How am I supposed to know? They just did.”
Even if she was a survivor, it was clear that she didn’t know. As she answered the first question, Leona had also answered the second. There was a sudden attack, and she was shut in the vault. This meant that she didn’t voluntarily come into the vault.
“Did you cause any trouble in this city?”
“I killed two people.”
“Why did you kill them?”
“One of them tried to rob my chips, and the other tried to rape me.”
Zin was surprised that this small girl wasn’t fazed by killing two people, let alone the fact that she was actually able to kill them.