Leona was curious about many things. While Zin wasn’t exactly kind, he did answer the questions asked of him. By the fourth day of their journey north, Leona had learned quite a lot about weapons.
She’d learned about guns, bows, and rocket launchers. She still didn’t know about ammo and caliber, but she at least knew what a gun was. Of course, her understanding of guns was by no means professional.
‘If you pull the thing called a trigger, the bullet gets shot. If you get hit with that, you die.’
Really all she knew was gun, bullet, and trigger - and how these three were related. That was all she had to know, though. Guns are machines. Even if you don’t fully understand the mechanism of a machine, if you know how to use it, you’re good.
“Will the people I shoot die? Even though I’m just a kid?”
“Doesn’t a knife cut, no matter who’s wielding it, man or child?”
“Yeah, I guess. But I’m weak.”
“Just cause someone’s strong doesn’t mean the bullet goes any faster.”
“Wait, doesn’t the bullet go faster if you pull the trigger faster?”
“That’s a completely unexpected viewpoint. Revolutionary.”
Pull the trigger quickly and the bullet travels faster - it was a concept that made Zin despondent. That’s how rare guns had become. While every region was different, the Peninsula was a complete wasteland when it came to guns.
On the other hand, everyone knows about guns in Central Asia or Europe, even if they are quite rare. For a place to be a ‘wasteland’ when it comes to a weapon, it must not see much use of that weapon. If a group of people is ignorant of a certain weapon, it also means that they have lived peacefully in comparison to other groups.
“I want a gun too” said Leona.
It wasn’t a surprise for Leona to say such a thing so naturally. No matter who uses it, one round is enough. Such a weapon is of course the object of envy - especially for someone unable to overcome their enemies with force.
“Can I buy one if I have enough chips” asked Leona, rescuing herself from her deep thought.
“It may be possible to buy one in Northern or Central Asia.”
“Someplace where you wouldn’t last more than two days.”
“You know something, Mister? You act all nice and polite, but really you’re just mean. Just say something like ‘in your dreams.’”
“In your dreams” quipped Zin.
“Ugh you really suck” grumbled Leona like she was about to spit, but Zin wasn’t listening.
“Whatever. It’s not like I’d even be able to carry one. They look heavy” added Leona.
Assault rifles, sniper rifles, shotguns - Leona wouldn’t even be able to aim these, let alone carry them. Zin looked at Leona like he didn’t know what she was talking about, however. He pulled a revolver out of his coat.
“There are lots of different kinds of guns. I’m not a huge fan of this one, however.”
Zin was holding a silver S&W revolver. It was a 6-round revolver - a small-caliber, short-range weapon used for self-defense. Zin rarely used it for hunting.
“Woah, it’s cute!” said Leona. Her eyes were sparkling - she was clearly smitten. Calling a gun cute may be a reflex of Leona, but Zin realized that she was misunderstanding something.
“Are you giving that to me?” asked Leona.
“No way. I’m just showing you.”
“Pssshh. I knew it.”
Zin calmly, cheekily put the gun back into his coat. Zin merely wanted to explain that he had another small gun - a revolver - in addition to his rifle.
Depending on your perspective, it would be fairly easy to be offended in that situation, especially since Zin didn’t let Leona shoot the revolver, even once. Leona continued to snap in frustration at Zin, but since she was curious about so many things, she had no choice but to ask him. He continued to answer her.
Zin chose to avoid the monsters they met along the way, to which Leona asked why.
“We could easily kill them if we use some ammo. But killing those monsters doesn’t result in any chips. It’s better just to avoid them.”
“You’re not scared, are you?”
“I don’t rely on hunting for my self-respect.”
Zin was the definition of a utilitarian. If the cost-benefit of a fight came out negative, he avoided the fight. When it came to food, however, Zin was known to use his blade gauntlet and blade wire to kill a few rabid wild dogs.
“What the heck is that?” asked Leona, unable to keep her mouth closed when she saw the blade wire. She looked more perplexed than when she saw the gun.
“It’s not a gun” replied Zin, organizing bits of the rabid dog meat.
“Yeah, even I know that.”
“Even if you know that, you can’t use it. Mind your own business.”
“I reaalllllly wanna hit you” said Leona.
Zin made sure to tell Leona that unlike guns, this weapon requires a bit of workmanship.
By the time a week had passed since they started their journey north, Leona had become a near-expert (self-described) on guns.
Leona let out a sigh of relief when she saw a towering trash-wall in the distance. The free city of Shira was standing before them, considerably bigger than Jado.
“Finally. Does this mean I don’t have to eat rabid dog meat anymore?” asked Leona.
“It must’ve been better than ghoul meat though, right?”
“What do you mean better? That’s the first time I’ve had meat that tasted like dogshit...well of course it would taste like dogshit, being dog meat. But seriously! Total dogshit! I mean really, it was so horrible. How can I describe it - nasty, sour, stale?”
Leona’s face turned pale as she was visibly disgusted recalling the sour, nasty taste of the dog meat in her mind.
“Of all things though, dog meat? That’s what crazy assholes eat cause they want to die. I seriously got goosebumps when you told me to eat that” said Leona.
You can eat rabid dog meat - as long as you remove the endocrine glands. We didn’t have an issue, did we?”
Zin knew monsters inside and out. He knew which parts you could eat, and which you had to avoid. Most people don’t know how to properly butcher and eat meat - it’s no wonder Leona was frightened. She had to eat the dog meat in the end either way, however.
The problem for Leona was that even though it was okay to eat, it just didn’t taste like it was okay to eat.
“If you go to southeast Asia, they dry the endocrine glands then use ‘em for seasoning. Of course they do produce a bit of an anesthetic and hallucinogenic effect.
“It’s a big world out there...plenty of crazy people” replied Leona, shaking her head. However they eat rabid dogs in southeast Asia had nothing to do with their present situation. They had arrived at the trash-wall of a free city, after a week’s worth of travelling. Like all the other free cities, this wall didn’t have a gatekeeper.
“I don’t really care if it’s a free city, but is this the next ‘safe place?’” asked Leona.
“No,” answered Zin.
Zin had promised to take Leona to another safe location. This free city - without a gatekeeper - looked far from being safe.
“But if you like it, feel free to leave me at any time” added Zin.
“I don’t think this is the place” replied Leona.
First and foremost for the two was getting some rest in the free city Shira. While a group of people can offer protection, if the group gets too big, safety is no guarantee. Leona was floored by the amount of people coming and going.
“There are so many people!”
“There are lots of little towns in this area. Shira is kind of a weigh station for all those towns” replied Zin.
“Weigh station?” asked Leona.
“If the people from the neighboring towns have something to buy or sell, they come here” explained Zin.
Countless abandoned buildings spread out around Shira offered an excellent base for the trash wall. These old buildings were left alone and transformed into tall, strong walls, while the spaces in between them were filled with scraps and trash. This offered an excellent space for a free city to grow.
The surrounding area was closer to ruins than the wilderness. While there was a bit of grass here and there, wherever you looked, you could see the remains of old buildings and civilizations gone by. Relatively intact shopping malls and other low-rise buildings offered homes to the citizens of Shira. There were many people bartering for goods in the streets.
Leona was looking around, as if observing a whole new world.
“Looks like this area used to be a real big city. Look at all these tall buildings” said Leona.
“This place was called Seoul before the fall” explained Zin.
Zin said the name of the city that almost everyone had forgotten, and Leona had no idea what it could mean. If you go a little farther north, you’d find Seoul Mass Confusion Point (SMCP). Of course, there was no reason to go there. They couldn’t go there.
“I guess hunters know everything” admired Leona.
“I’ve been to a lot of places. I can’t help but know.”
That wasn’t the only reason, of course, but Zin choose not to explain further. The stores in the streets each had signs with ‘weapons’ or ‘food’ crudely scrawled across them, revealing the wares they traded in. Most also had pictures next to the words, as most people couldn’t read.
The first place Zin headed towards was a motel. The owner raised two fingers, as soon as he saw Zin.
“Last time it was only one chip. I guess prices have gone up” quipped Zin.
“Last time you didn’t have a little kid in tow. Second floor - rooms 2 and 3” returned the owner, pointing to Leona.
“We’ll only be needing one room. How about 1 chip. Deal?” asked Zin.
“We got rules here. One person to a room. You can use one room together if you’d like. You’ll have to reserve two though” replied the owner.
“Quite a unique gangster motel owner we have here” said Zin.
“A gangster with a lot of chips” corrected the owner.
Zin paid the man two chips. Zin entered the hotel immediately. Zin had been here before - he stopped in when he was traveling south. The owner knew him, as he knew the owner.
“Your personality kinda sucks, but your memory is pretty good” remarked Zin as he handed the owner the chips.
The owner laughed as he accepted the payment.
“I remember my guests’ faces. That way I can answer quickly when bounty hunters come asking” replied the owner.
“Confessing that you sell out your own customers - aren’t you speaking too lightly?” asked Zin.
“Well, as long as my customers are clean enough not to get chased by bounty hunters, we’ll all be ok,” answered the owner.
Zin couldn’t help but laugh at the owner’s reply. He didn’t have an ounce of service mentality in him. Something about him put you in a bad mood, but was also refreshing.
“Last time I remembered you as a skilled hunter - albeit a bit suspicious. This time I’ll remember you as a suspicious hunter with a kid in-tow. Whatdya say?” asked the owner.
“Do whatever you want.”
“I told you last time, but meals are separate. It won’t help if you complain” shouted the owner up to Zin, as he ascended to the second floor.
“Don’t worry - it’s so dirty here I’d never think of eating your food.”
“Ahhh isn’t that too bad?” sniped the owner.
The owner chuckled and Zin returned with a laugh of his own. There was no ill-will between the two. The reason he chose to come back here was that he liked the owner, and his blunt and easy-going attitude.
Of course, that didn’t change the fact that the owner would sell him down the river for a reward in a heartbeat if bounty hunters came asking after him.
Zin plopped down on the old, creaking mattress as soon as he entered his room. This building used to be a karaoke bar with separate rooms for each group of guests. The rooms were sealed and didn’t have windows. They offered nothing except a place to sleep. On the plus side, there was no way into the sealed rooms except the door. There was no place better if you were looking for a place to sleep for a night.
Leona set her bag down in the room and did a bit of stretching in the darkness.
“Wasn’t that old man a bit disrespectful? It seemed like you didn’t seem to mind though. Why are you letting yourself get ripped off? There are other motels.”
“I prefer blunt mean people to scheming kind ones” answered Zin.
“In other words, you prefer honest bad guys to sparkling trash?”
“You’re getting better and better at understanding. Scheming kind people are really more dangerous. The owner here is at least up front about the shitty things he does. I like that about him more than other owners” explained Zin.
Zin and Leona shared a laugh. Even when he got ripped off, Zin had a reason.
“We’re just gonna rest for a day, then head out, right?” asked Leona.
“Depends on if there’s a job in this town to be had” answered Zin.
If there was work worth taking, he’d do it for the chips. Taking Leona along with him was an incidental matter. Zin planned to move slowly, taking work to make some money along the way. There would be no reason for Zin to turn away from sparkling chips, sitting right before him.
“It seems to me like you’re putting me on the back burner, Mister” said Leona with a sullen look on her face.
“Technicians don’t work hard on jobs they’re doing for a bonus” returned Zin.
“HA HA” laughed Leona ironically.
“I’m gonna get some rest” said Zin as he threw himself on the mattress.
“What about me?”
“The room next door is yours. You can rest there.”
“Are there locks on the doors here?” asked Leona, jiggling the door handle and shaking her head in doubt.
“That kind of room costs at least 4 chips.”
Four times more expensive than this room. Still, some rooms without doors still charged one chip per night. This place was a bit shoddy, but at least the rooms had doors. For 0ne chip per night, it really wasn’t that expensive.
Leona stood for a bit, trying to make a decision. Should she sleep alone next door, where she would have her own bed? Or should she sleep here, on the floor, with the human weapon Zin?
Her decision wasn’t that hard in the end.
“I’m gonna sleep here” said Leona as she put her bag on the floor, using it as a pillow.
It was cold on the floor, but at least it was safe, thought Leona to herself.
Buy us some coffee!