Leona murdered twice in Jado. One of the victims was a robber, the other a rapist. Leona merely shrugged her shoulders, like it was nothing.
“Whatever, that’s not why I got locked up.”
“Why were you locked up then?”
“The head guard took all my chips to pay a fine. A fine? In a free city? How ridiculous.”
A trace of anger still remained in Leona as she muttered. A mischievous grin flashed across her face as she added,
“So I robbed this vault. Unfortunately I was caught."
Zin nodded in understanding. Leona was caught trying to rob the vault. There were still a few visible bruises on her that must’ve been the product of a beating.
“He hung me upside down and asked me where I hid the chips. What am I, crazy? Why would I tell him? I tell him, I’m dead. So I kept my mouth shut. You see that out there? He hung me from there. I thought I was going to die.”
Leona was pointing to an old metal pole. She said that the guard tied her by the feet and hung her up there.
“Then the monsters came and the head guard stuck me in the vault. That’s everything.”
The guard must have thought that if Leona died, he’d never find the chips. That’s why he put her in the safest place he could think of - the vault. He couldn’t have guessed that the city would be utterly demolished.
Those corpses out in front of the vault must’ve been running towards the vault, not coming from robbing it.’
He couldn’t eliminate the possibility that the corpses were people trying to get to the safest place in the city after it fell, the vault. That wasn’t that important, though. A dead bastard is just a dead bastard. Zin brought up a point of contention.
“If you robbed the vault, then you must’ve been get into the vault. Then surely you could have found your way out of the vault as well. Couldn’t you just have left?”
“What are you, some kind of amateur?”
Leona shook her head to Zin’s question, dismissing it as absurd with a tilt of her head.
“Does a technician share all his techniques just cause you ask?”
Leona’s expression was so serious that Zin couldn’t stop himself from laughing.
“A technician, Haha. Okay, yea. My mistake.”
“That’s right, your mistake. Be careful.”
“Hehe. It’s nothing that big, really” Leona whispered to Zin, as if it were an important secret.
“The head guard dug a dog hole from his house to the vault. I stole his house keys then took the chips. After I robbed the vault that bastard of a guard blocked the hole. A little late on his part.”
“I told the guard that if he tried to kill me I would shout at the top of my lungs and tell everyone that he dug a dog hole to the vault. He didn’t end up killing me. I almost starved to death, though.”
Leona was a pretty feisty little thief. Getting killed is the biggest possible loss for Leona, so she held onto the guard’s weakness as if it were her lifeline, never exposing it.
‘That wasn’t just being fierce. It was more - it was survival instincts.’ What you have to do to stay alive, the best thing to say or do in a certain situation - these aren’t things you can just think up. You know these things from pure instincts. Nothing is more important than instincts if you want to survive in the wild. Zin knew from looking at Leona that she wasn’t born in Jado. She must’ve landed in Jado after bouncing around here and there.
It’s nearly impossible for a little girl like Leona to survive in the wild on just her guts and wits. Even if the mystery of the giant wolves remained unresolved, Zin was satisfied with Leona’s testimony.
Zin then moved on to the most important matter.
“Shall we talk about the chips you stole?”
Leona’s expression hardened in an instant.
“Those are my chips.”
“Those are thieved goods. Also conveniently referred to as stolen.”
“Thieved, stolen, or whatever - as long as I have them, they’re mine.”
“Then I’ll just have to steal them from you. Wouldn’t they become mine then?”
“Taking by force is not the same as stealing.”
“Taking something from someone without them seeing is called stealing. Taking something from someone in front of them is called extortion. There really is no difference.”
Leona stood no chance in beating Zin in a war of semantics. He had lived far longer than her. Ultimately, if something is yours even though you stole it, then if I take it from you, that’s all there is to it.
“Are you a Slaughter?”
“I’m not above becoming one, given the need.”
Zin laughed as he watched Leona slowly and carefully start to back up.
“Be thankful that I don’t prefer to use that method, though.”
If he was going to steal for a living he wouldn’t have to hunt. Every hunter had their own rules to live by. For a long time now Zin had done his best to live by those rules, albeit not perfectly.
Don’t kill people for chips unless for an agreed upon job.
Even if hunters kill people in the wild to stay alive, they are indeed not the same as slaughters. Hunters don’t live for the sake of stealing.
“How many chips did you manage to steal?”
“.......Probably around 2,000.”
“That’s a big chunk of change.”
That amount of chips could extend his life for another 2,000 hours, a significant amount of time.
“We are surrounded by corpse hunters. You might not be aware, but they don’t normally dare to attack humans. That might not be true in your case, however.”
While hunters almost exclusively take jobs, they also sometimes hire someone for a job. “Just like animals go after the pups when they’re hunting, monsters also target the weak. You look like you’d be susceptible to attack.”
It was clear to Leona that if she tried to leave now, she would be attacked by the monsters.
“I’ll take you to Ard Point. In return I’ll be taking half of your chips.”
“But you said that you needed me. So you are going to take me anyway. AND you’re going to take my chips?”
“You really are an amateur” laughed Zin as he shrugged his shoulders.
“Technicians don’t work for free.”
Leona’s expression turned blank, as Zin referenced what she had said previously.
Payment for a job is ultimately variable - it changes according to how desperate the person hiring is. Just because you already have to do something doesn’t mean you’ll do it for free.
Hunters were actually closer to misers than slaughters.
“Aren’t you just ripping me off?”
Leona was staring at Zin, surprised that this kind of asshole actually existed.
“From your perspective, isn’t getting ripped off better than getting robbed?”
One of Zin’s less admirable personality traits was always being right.
Leona started at the blunt hunter, lost in thought.
‘If this asshole wants to, he could take all of my chips and kill me. He could always go back on his promise of only taking half my chips. There was always the possibility that he would attack her, even if she took him to the hiding place immediately.’
Leona was racked with anguish, clearly stuck between a rock and a hard place.
“I think I know what you’re struggling with” said Zin, as he tossed Leona a small metal box, about the size of her hand.
“Just remember that hunters are considerate of the worries of their clients.”
“It’s called a chipbox.”
“Hunters use them to store their chips. It doesn’t open unless you input a designated password. It’ll exploded if you try to force it open.”
“You decide how the box is opened. If someone tries to steal it, all the chips inside blow up when the box isn’t opened in that precise way.”
Zin patiently walked Leona through how to set a password, open the box, and store it. It’s not a very common possession in Old Korea, but if you go to the mainland, you’d see any hunter worth his salt carrying one.
A chipbox is simultaneously a wallet and a means of protection against slaughters. As the box becomes packed with more and more chips, the stronger the explosion it can provide. Fully aware of that fact, slaughters don’t touch hunters because ‘they’re dirty.” Messing with a hunter could not only result in the chips getting blown to smithereens, but the perpetrator as well.
Chip boxes are also useful in quelling the worries of suspicious clients during guard jobs.
“Put your money in here. Once we arrive, you can pay me my fee. Then there’s nothing to worry about.”
“What if it doesn’t blow up? You could know a secret way to force it open without it exploding.”
“Being overly suspicious is an admirable trait. I’ve used that box up until now. If there was a way to force it open without it blowing up, I woulda been on the losing end, no? I’ll be honest - there is a way to open the box by force, but you have to go to the factory that makes them.”
“Where’s the factory?”
“About half a year’s walk from here.”
Leona wasn’t exactly surprised. Rather, she was astonished at the idea of a half year’s walk. She was floored that there was another part of the world that far away. Leona stared at the box, fidgeting with this and that. It was empty and devoid of chips, but the creaking box was ready to explode at any moment.
“I still feel like I’m getting ripped off, but there’s nothing I can do. At least now you can’t run off with all my chips. Ok, let’s do it. You better not let me die.”
“You decided pretty fast for such a big concern. You’re not nervous?”
“Sometimes you have to gamble to stay alive. Remember that.”
Zin laughed in astonishment as Leona put her hands on her hips as she added that last bit of wisdom. This little girl was giving him tips on how to stay alive.
Leona was nevertheless correct. Sometimes you have to choose between two apparent traps. You can’t help but trust your life to luck in those moments. Leona at least had the guts to choose one of those two traps.
Zin had lived a long time, and this kind of thing was to be expected.
You live long enough and you see stuff like this.
Leona laughed as she added,
“And I have pretty good luck when it comes to gambling.”
It was more of a cunning laugh than a happy one. Leona sprung up pretty easily, despite having starved for quite a long time.
“Hey, do you want to know something fun?” Leona asked.
Leona was rummaging through one corner of the dark vault.
“People who get robbed will turn the whole world upside down, but you know where they never look?? Hahahaha.”
Groaning, Leona managed to move the cabinet that was being used as a safe. Behind the cabinet there was a bit of dirt showing through the collapsed wall. Leona wedged her way into the small crack like a mole. Zin could hear a sweeping sound. Leona soon popped out of the little tunnel, covered in dirt.
“They never look in the place they were robbed!”
The chips stolen from the people of Jado had been in their vault the whole time. The location had only changed slightly. Zin had to admit, this was far from an ordinary little girl. She didn’t just move the chips a little bit every time she came to the vault. She went so far as to dig a hole and hide them. She must’ve planned to run off one night with all the chips in tow.
It was so clever that Zin couldn’t control the huge smirk on his face.
This little girl was a little too fierce, however. Enough to annoy Zin.
“Let’s get going,” said Leona. “You have to protect me, remember?”
“Hold on, I forgot one thing.”
“My advance. Half the chips up front.”
Leona took the chips out of the box, looking like she’d just eaten fresh ghoul.
This little girl may be fierce, but Zin is seasoned.