Zin had been alive for a very long time. Long enough that it could be viewed a strange. It wasn’t out of the question, therefore, that he feared he might be getting dementia. He didn’t necessarily look that old on the outside; on the inside, however, he was as old as anyone out there. There was no way to know if his brain was working properly, without removing it for an examination, of course.
“I’m a hunter who’s old enough to worry about dementia...what a blessing.”
Zin was consciously talking to himself - something he rarely did. He tried to force himself to laugh, but ultimately couldn’t.
Although obvious when you say it, you can’t remember something until you remember it. Zin walked in despair.
Then, at that moment,
An engine started up in the distance.
Zin wasted no time hiding himself in the high grass of a field.
The sound was loud enough to be heard from three kilometers away, and it was getting closer. Zin moved slowly in the grass away from the plain. He held his breath and eyed the horizon.
Zin caught sight of a beat-up antique car moving towards him.
The sound was coming from a crude engine reactor.
The car had metal plates haphazardly attached to it.
The tires were bits of rubber held together with wiring.
Some of these types of cars had two wheels; some three; some four.
Some had driver’s seats, others didn’t.
--Clunk clunk clunk!
All these cars were unique in their own way, but they were all the same in that they looked like a ticking time bomb ready to explode at any moment, driver in tow.
‘There’s nobody on the Peninsula crazy enough to make that suicide machine. They could have come from the Continent.’
While cosmetically they only look like imitations of old cars, these junkwagons, even with shitty reactors, were blazing fast thanks to that ultimate energy source, blue chips. Just like Zin knew how to handle guns while almost nobody else could, no matter how rare a skill was in the present world, someone was bound to have it.
Hunters employ both capital and technology when dealing with weapons. Similarly, some people devote all their knowledge and energy to transportation.
Speed was most important to one group in this god-forsaken world - that group of madmen self-professed as the enemies of all men.
They have the makings of highwaymen, murderers, thieves, invaders, and pillagers. They aren’t monsters, but they enjoy killing more than monsters. Nothing remains alive in the areas they pass through - no monsters, no humans.
Setting aside their nature and brutality, thanks to their junkwagons, it wasn’t surprising that they moved faster than the average human.
Because of that, there are instances of wanderers using the junkwagons they’ve managed to steal off some slaughters.
Zin preferred not to use junkwagons, however.
A two-wheeled junkwagon leapt into the air like a man who’d stepped on a sharp stone, exploding midair.
Just like the name implies, junkwagons are put together from antique junk; they are neither safe nor long for the road. Zin didn’t particularly enjoy riding around in a ticking time bomb. What’s more, hunters prefer to spot their enemies first, not give themselves away thanks to the deafening groans of engines. There were ample reasons for Zin to take a disliking to junkwagons.
The misfortunate slaughter from the recently exploded junkwagon crashed ungracefully to the ground, his whole body convulsing strangely.
The slaughters stopped in unison once the order fell from the slaughter riding in front. It isn’t hard to find the leader of a group of slaughters. They either ride in the front of the pack, stick a skull or severed head on their car, or choose the least-shitty looking junkwagon.
The leader of this group of 30 or so slaughters fell into all three groups. There were dozens of skulls stuck through a rod on the trunk of his decent-looking car. Zin watched from the tall grass as the group of slaugters stopped.
‘They don’t have any guns...but they do have some pretty heavy firepower. They’re not from the peninsula,’ concluded Zin as he observed the leader and the arms of the group. A quick peek at the cargo wagon revealed a bunch of dangerous looking rocket launchers.
“Is he dead?”
“I thinks so.”
“Go get the engine and whatnot. We’ll make another one if there’s some decent steel in the next town.”
A small group of slaughters ran towards the demolished junkwagon, seemingly before the leader even finished giving the order. Nobody seemed to care at all about their fallen comrade. The leader shouted suddenly as he fondled his thick beard, noticing the eyes of his men upon him.
“Who doesn’t have a ride?!?”
At least ten slaughters instantly raised their hands. Frowning, the leader pointed to one of the men.
“Hey asshole! You already have a ride!”
“Yes, sir. But this piece of shit can’t even be called a car. Please! I’d be better off without it!”
“No way, asshole. You there...Bungshik, you’re next.”
“Thank you sir! I’m honored, sir!
The slaughter they called Bungshik was shouting in ecstasy, obviously in a sudden good mood. The slaughters revved up their engines, having divided up the engine and other useful parts from the now defunct junkwagon.
Right before leaving, the leader abruptly became serious, and shouted,
“You fucking pricks! Stop if you think your ride is going to explode. Don’t just die like a moron! If one of our missiles exploded just now we all would’ve died! Don’t you know that? Be fucking careful! Got it?!?”
“Sir, don’t you hate it when we stop on our own?”
“What did you say?” asked the leader.
“Nothing! Let’s get going!”
“I’m saying it’s okay, you prick! Let’s go! With any luck we’ll find some liquor soon, too.”
“Even if we find some, you’re just going to drink it all, sir. It’s the same as not finding any, sir.”
“You must be asking for it!” shouted the leader again.
“I’ll get going then!”
“Stop! Stop you impertinent asshole!”
The gang of slaters took off with their engines roaring. The only thing they leave behind are tire tracks, used-up bits of metal, and bodies. Zin finally stood up after the group had disappeared.
‘Fucking slaughters, loud no matter where you go.’
Viewed from afar, slaughters seem like a comedy show put on by a bunch crazies. For those souls unfortunate enough to meet them, however, slaughters are anything but funny.
Watching the slaughters laugh and joke over whether they should begin slicing from the arms or legs is no laughing matter for victims. Slaughters are ruthless to any non-slaughter.
Zin hated fighting with slaughters and avoided it like the plague. There were countless reasons supporting this predilection, which can be summed up nicely with these four:
Slaughters travel in groups. To fight them requires lots of ammo.
Slaughters are human. They don’t provide chips.
Monsters are highly attracted to the noise of their engines.
Slaughters blow themselves up with their junkwagons if they think they are going to lose. That is, they don’t give up their chips nicely when they die.
Zin hated fighting with slaughters with a passion. There was just no profit in it.
‘But the direction they’re going…’
The group of slaughters had just disappeared over the bumpy road. Zin could still hear their engines. While Zin had screwed up his direction a bit, he had come due north. Those bastards were now travelling due south.
They were headed straight for Ard Point. While there was a chance they wouldn’t discover Ard Point, junkwagons were limited in the terrain they could travel over.
Zin had come due north over flat terrain. They would head south over that very same flat terrain.
They would inevitably hit Ard Point. Zin walked north, a grim expression now on his face.
Hunters are by no means apostles of justice. They get chips and work in exchange. That’s it. Just like they don’t hesitate to shoot first when they meet vagrants and refugees, hunters remove all emotion from hunting. Hunters are not good men; when their work is finished there’s nothing left. If something were to happen in Ard Point, it would have nothing to do with Zin.
Zin didn’t change his course. He headed north, fully aware of what might befall Ard Point. He didn’t think; he didn’t speak. He just moved forward, like a machine.
He must’ve been walking for a while.
‘I remember now.’
Zin suddenly turned around. Zin started heading south. The reason he changed direction was simple.
It had just occurred to him what he was trying to remember before.
His cluttered mind had instantly cleared, and he could think of only one thing - head in only one direction.
‘I didn’t get my fee.’
He hadn’t been paid the 500 chips he was supposed to receive from Leona.
Zin began his descent south to recover the payment he was owed.
And that was the only reason he was going back, he kept repeating to himself.
There was a clear difference in speed between the junkwagons and Zin on foot. Zin was resigned to the fact that he would arrive after the slaughters, no matter how fast he walked. The junkwagons were already far enough away that Zin had no chance to catch them. Even an almighty hunter like Zin had no chance against the speed of a junkwagon.
Even though that was a given,
Zin was running. Zin was fast, but not as fast as an animal. That fact was even more acutely true since he couldn’t use darkborn energy.
After a raid, if a group of slaughters doesn’t construct a homebase, a slaughterhouse, they will probably leave immediately. Even though at 30 men they were a relatively small group, they could easily destroy a town, given their weapons. If he were to arrive too late, the slaughters would have already left and Zin’s payment would have gone up in smoke. Zin had to run.
Forgetting to collect a payment was tantamount to working for free. Zin had never before made such an error.
Zin left Ard Point in such a hurry that he’d even forgotten his payment.
Zin had travelled approximately 120 kilometers north in the two days since leaving Ard Point. He had walked such a long distance in such a short amount of time, thanks to not sleeping. It look him about 10 hours to return - about 10 km / hour. That’s a pretty quick pace, considering there weren’t any proper roads. That’s around the same speed as a monster.
Darkness had descended upon the sky. Every direction was pitch black.
Zin only stopped to recover his breath when he saw the moonlight reflecting off the walls of Ard Point.
That’s the only words he could muster, having run for 10 hours. Rather than collapse in exhaustion, however, Zin stared at the walls of the prison.
It was too quiet.
‘It’s all over.’
He would know soon enough if he was too late, or if nothing had happened. Zin stalked Ard Point’s walls, looking closely before stopping.
There was no need to think to make a conclusion.
‘The door’s been busted in.’
The heavy iron door had been crushed. The slaughters’ rocket launchers would have been sufficient for such a task. That’s all they would have needed.
There was a fight, and Ard Point fell.
It had fallen, and that was that. That wasn’t a very good sign.
Ard Point was armed with bows and arrows; those slaughters from the Continent were armed with very heavy weapons. Ard Point didn’t stand a chance.
The dead are dead and that never changes. Zin came to collect his chips, however. What was owed to him didn’t just go away because some people died.
If his fee was stolen, then he’d have to steal it back.