Leona couldn’t rest easy just yet.
There was still work to be done. The two slaughters, including the one with the RPG-7, were waiting outside. Leona picked up the bow and arrow and started moving.
“Ay! Mate? You dead?” shouted one of the slaughters. Leona didn’t show herself in the window this time. She returned a shout instead:
“He says to tell you he’s dead, you motherfuckers!”
Leona heard the roar of the rocket in place of their answer.
Another missile came whistling in from the direction of the slaughters, but Leona had already run away from where she had shouted.
Now that their friend was dead, there was no need for games. They could light up the building with rockets and end it quick.
‘The whole building might collapse.’
The rocket launcher had enough firepower to level the entire side of a building. It was enough to make Leona quake.
‘If I run downstairs and make a break for it that thing’s gonna kill me...if I stay here they’re gonna keep firing that thing until the building collapses and crushes me.’
The old building very well may collapse after taking a few missiles. Nevertheless, all the buildings of Ard Point were at one point in time prisons - they were sturdy, and had lasted this long as a testament.
She had to make a decision.
“Hey kid! Why don’t you come and try and shoot me again! I’m right here! Huh?”
She wouldn’t fall into his trap this time. Seemingly aware of Leona’s state of mind, One-Eye said,
“Shut up. Just blow the building to shit.”
“Why? We should at least get a look at the bitch who did this to us.”
“Do whatever you want asshole. I’m gonna kick the crap out of her face.”
Baldie continued his taunting, as One-Eye loaded the rocket launcher next to him.
“Hey! I said shoot! You were so cute before with your shaking arms. Eh?!?”
Leona was already down onto the third floor.
‘Now that I’m one floor lower I may actually be able to hit him.’
Somehow I’ve got to kill them so I can get away. I don’t want to play his games, but the only way I can shoot is to show myself in the window. Leona pokes her head out to shoot, the enemy sends a rocket to where she shot from. It was just like playing Marco Polo.
Leona expended all her energy pulling back the string and got ready to stand up.
One second - that’s all the time she had to aim and fire the arrow. She had three arrows left. If she didn’t end it in three arrows, it was over for her. Hidden under the window, Leona took aim.
The arrow shot from the bow with a woosh. Leona quickly darted below the window, not taking the time to see if the arrow found its target.
The listless arrow sound let Leona know she had missed her mark. She gritted her teeth.
‘There’s no way I can hit them!’
It was illogical to think she could kill an enemy with a weapon she’d never used before.
“What was that? You couldn’t even hit me if you were right in front of me! Try again! Shoot me! Shoo…”
One-Eye’s head exploded with a blast from behind him. He had been facing Leona, aiming the rocket.
Baldie turned around to see One-Eye’s head blown to bits like a watermelon. He almost shit his pants.
Then he froze as he saw the gun pointed right at him.
Baldie began to stutter, with a Saiga-12 pointed right at his face.
“If your wish is to get shot, I see no reason to deny it” said a voice.
“No, sir, that’s not what I…”
Those were Baldie’s last words.
The two men both collapsed as their heads went flying. Leona stood up, knowing what that sound was.
Whatever it was - it was similar to the sound that Zin’s weapon made. Leona unconsciously bolted to look out the window.
The two enemies - who had posed such a big threat to Leona moments ago - had been utterly neutralized in the span of five seconds. Two rounds of 12-gauge buckshot. That was enough to clean up this situation.
Leona shouted when she saw the man standing between the now dead pair of slaughters.
Zin was standing there.
Leona could not contain her joy as it rushed over her.
She wanted to go downstairs, but she couldn’t.
“Ah, Why am I...like this…”
Leona couldn’t stand up. All strength had drained from her legs. It was as if all the muscles in her body had disengaged once they knew it was safe. Her body wouldn’t move when she told it to, no matter how hard she tried.
Zin came up to Leona instead. He plumped down next to Leona, the Saiga strewn over his shoulder.
He didn’t speak. Leona didn’t ask how he came here or what he knew.
A long silence passed.
Leona broke the silence.
“When I said I wasn’t afraid...that was a lie,” admitted Leona, head bowed.
“I get so fucking scared, I think my heart’s going to explode.”
Leona admitted this horrible feeling. There’s no way you can’t be afraid. There’s no way you can’t feel fear. NOT feeling anything would be strange when a group of murderers is aiming for your life.
“I just don’t cry, pee my pants, or run away. But every time something like this happens I want to die I’m so afraid.”
That’s not just because you’re a kid. Even adults get scared. It’s natural. Preferring to die rather than get killed is something many many people think. Leona was disillusioned with these kinds of thoughts, as she relived the fear and horror she had been through.
She forced herself to think that she would have no chance at survival moving forward if she let something like this get to her.
“I’m an idiot, being afraid like this…”
Leona was shaking, hating herself for having lost all strength from her body. Zin looked at Leona and spoke.
Leona looked at Zin, but he spoke anyway:
“Not surrendering is difficult.”
“Since you didn’t surrender this time, that’s enough.”
That’s not enough.
“You are getting along just fine” added Zin.
She hadn’t surrendered. She had overcome everything that came for her so far.
Zin and Leona sat in silence, waiting for the sunrise in the now ruined Ard Point.
The next morning.
“Why did you come back, Mister?” asked Leona, just now coming to her senses and regaining her strength. She poked Zin’s hip, a smile drawing slowly across her face.
“Did you come back because you were worried about me??”
“I came back for the payment I never received.”
Zin extended his hand to Leona, as if to stem any further small talk.
“500 chips for completion of the job. Hand it over.”
“Ha, haha. Well then, of course.”
“Leona let out a sigh like she’d been expecting him to say that.”
“I should have remembered the payment, but don’t you think it’s a problem that you didn’t do anything about it?”
Leona responded by pouting her lips.
“You’ve gotta take care of your own business. Why should I take care of your business for you? You were rushing off in such a hurry, what did you want me to do, shout ‘hey! You forgot your money!’ Then hand it all over to you?”
Zin had no response for Leona’s flawless logic. That didn’t last long, though.
“Hmmmm, but didn’t I come back to get it?”
Zin didn’t need to resort to logic in this situation. He came to get his payment. Leona was scratching her cheek, obviously torn up about something.
“Th- the thing is, I had it until yesterday.”
“You’re not telling me, that you strapped the chipbox to the arrow, put it in the detonation sequence, them BOOM, blew it up, are you?? That’s not what you’re saying, right?”
She nodded her head violently.
“That’s exactly right. You must’ve been watching.”
“Ugh.” Zin let out a long sigh.
Zin sat silently for a while massaging his temples, having confirmed that what he’d hoped was an illusion actually happened. Leona just admitted that she had blown up a total of 1,500 blue chips - the 1,000 that belonged to her, and the 500 promised to Zin.
That explosion was enough to destroy Ard Point’s very spacious central plaza.
Even though he had only confirmed what he already knew, Zin seemed unable to escape from the shock. He remained silent for a while.
“Well, I didn’t know that you would come back...and didn’t I have to do something to stay alive? That was all I could do.”
Zin felt his blood pressure rising as he looked at Leona, who seemed to be saying only the right things today. Zin took a deep breath, realizing that his pulse was racing.
“Okay...do you know where any chips would be hidden in Ard Point? Or where anything valuable would be?”
“Mister, I was only here for two days” replied Leona, as if to say, ‘how would I know that?’ Zin was left speechless once again.
“And the slaughters took everything worth anything and had it piled up over there, as you know.”
The place where Leona was pointing was nothing more, nothing less than a crater. There was nothing to be gained from Ard Point. And Leona’s pockets were now empty as well. Leona spoke, noticing Zin eyeing her.
“.......you look really disappointed, Mister.”
Zin frowned at Leona’s words.
“Really disappointed?!? Even if you kill a maneater capable of destroying several towns, you only get 100 chips. To get 500 chips, you would have to kill five of them. Do you know how many high-powered weapons you could make with 500 chips? Yeah, you’re alive, but with....”
Zin rambled a bit, then took a deep breath once he realized he was too excited.
“Ahhh, okay that’s enough. I’m not saying that you…”
“Well this is a hilarious shitshow,” said Zin.
Leona’s eyes lit up with anger.
“So you were going to take away that huge amount of chips from me, just for guarding me for two days?”
“You say you’re a hunter or whatever, but I think you’re just a scammer.”
“Kid. That was a rightful payment owed to me after a fair job….”
“Big Whoop. It was something you had to do anyway and you just took it from me. Fair my ass. If I wasn’t in Jado you could have just fucked me for 100 chips. Am I wrong? Or would it be cheaper?”
Zin could feel his tongue tighten as Leona continued her sound arguments. Zin wasn’t accustomed to losing his ability to talk. Leona let out a sigh, having unloaded on Zin and cornering him.
“Ahhh, so I mean…”
Leona continued however, shaking her finger at Zin with a dirty look on her face.
“I wasn’t going to give you the payment because it was the right thing to do. I was going to give it to you because I’m nice. Remember that!”
Leona took out a leather pouch after rummaging through her bag. She threw it to Zin. He opened the pouch and saw it full of chips.
“But you just said that you didn’t have it. That it all blew up.”
“I was lying of course. What? Is this the first time you’ve seen a liar?”
Leona shrugged her shoulders. Saying that it all blew up was just an act to rile him up. Ultimately she’d given him the chips - no harm, no foul.
“I took them out before.”
“You took them out?”
Leona had taken out exactly 500 chips from the box. For whatever reason, she had done so to pay Zin. Zin clutched the pouch and stared incredulously at Leona. He had already gone, so fuck him. Why would she protect Zin’s share and take them out of the box? He couldn’t understand.
While he did ultimately return, he just as easily could have not.
“Did you think I was going to return?”
“I didn’t think that you were a moron who would forget his payment.”
“That was true. Zin had been a moron.
“So what if you didn’t return?” mumbled Leona in a cold tone.
“I was gonna give it to you if I left Ard Point and ran into you.”
Like a charm, Leona had planned to hold onto the chips wherever she went.
“Didn’t you plan to stay here?”
“Even if I wanted to stay here, with Ard Point the way it is now, what’s the point?”
Just as she was about to settle down, Ard Point was attacked.
There’s always an ulterior motive.
Leona knew that she would have to venture out into the wild again at some point. Therefore, just as she arrived in Ard Point, she resigned herself to leave again in the future. The first thing she did was make a charm of Zin’s 500 chips.
Maybe so that even if Zin didn’t return, he would try to find her one day.
Believing that maybe she would meet him again.
Zin had no idea why this kid had acted that way. Leona was staring at Zin, while Zin was looking back with a stern expression.
Zin placed the chips in his pocket, not bothering to count them. He didn’t put these chips in his mouth.
He just put them in his coat pocket.
He couldn’t understand himself just as much as he couldn’t understand Leona. He opened his mouth slowly to speak.
“Before the world became like this…”
“There was a time like that.”
Leona shook her head, incredulous.
“There was a time when, it was enough for kids to just be nice.”
“What kind of bullshit is that?”
Shut up and listen.”
It was different now from the past, when children only had to be nice.
The curtain had fallen on that time; in this time, when evil rules over good, what Zin was saying was just gibberish.
In this time, Children are weak, annoying, troublesome, and powerless - they are on the same level as beasts. Children who live through that and become adults treat the next round of children the same way.
“I’ll take you to another safe place.”
“Is this a job? I don’t have anymore money…”
She’d given Zin all she had. Now she was penniless.
Zin looked at Leona bitterly, adding:
“I don’t need any payment.”
Kind children should be rewarded.