The lieutenant was staring at Zin, mouth agape, sure he was pulling his leg.
Zin described in detail the stolen weapons and the look of the junkwagons. The lieutenant knew Zin was correct - he had done his homework and knew all particulars of the enemy he was to pursue.
“Just because you know about them, doesn’t prove that you killed them. You could have easily just seen them as you passed by” argued the lieutenant. He had no intention of giving Zin the reward, even if what he was saying was correct.
“Furthermore, if you took care of those bastards before I gave you the job, and I pay you retroactively - well that just seems wrong.”
Everything had already been taken care of. There was no job to give. Zin had killed the slaughters, unaware that such a job may be out there. The lieutenant bore no responsibility to pay for something Wargrave hadn’t even intended for - after the fact, at that.
It was in the lieutenant’s best interests to pretend he never offered the job. Zin’s story was hard to believe. Even if he could believe it, he still didn’t have to pay him for it.
“You’re not exactly wrong. But I think your opinion might change after seeing this” said Zin, extracting from his void container a few heat-seeking missiles. Lieutenant Charl eyes were, not surprisingly, dripping with astonishment.
“Shouldn’t you recover the lost weapons?” asked Zin. While it was indeed ballsy to show the stolen Wargrave weapons to a lieutenant, Zin judged Charl to be a flexible man.
“Ha….” said Charl. With the evidence right in front of him, the lieutenant no longer had any reason to doubt Zin. He didn’t even have to compare lot numbers, Wargrave being the only place that makes those kinds of weapons.
“As you can see I only brought along a few. There were too many for me to carry. If you compensate me fairly, I’d be willing to give you the coordinates of the rest” said Zin.
Zin loved weapons, but he loved chips even more. Weapons could only be used to kill enemies. Chips were an absolute necessity in extending his life. It was advantageous for him for a number of reasons to cash in on the weapons. For one thing, he wasn’t even sure when he’d be back on the Peninsula to find them again.
“Hmmmmm” murmured Charl, contemplating his current conundrum.
It made sense to hesitate over giving payment for the dead slaughters. The buried weapons on the other hand - they held real, tangible value.
Shit, he may have to provide even more payment.
“We’re going back??” asked Leona.
“I busted my ass all the way here following you...now we’re gonna turn around and go back? Did I hear that correctly? I didn’t mishear, did I?”
“Yes, we are heading back to Ard Point.”
Leona lost her cool the minute Zin returned and said they were going back. She soon recovered herself and looked at Charl bitterly, who was sitting next to Zin.
“I didn’t know you were travelling in a group, hunter” said the lieutenant.
“She’s a fast little kid. No need to worry.”
“I’m all about saving time if it makes sense - one kid shouldn’t be a problem” answered Charl. He couldn’t be completely sure that the weapons were actually buried at the coordinates given by Zin. He requested that Zin escort him back to Ard Point. If the weapons were where he promised they’d be, the lieutenant promised Zin an additional 100 chips to the original 1400, for a total of 1500.
That was an exceptional sum for Zin. That sum amounted to at least ten average monster hunting jobs.
Having heard this explanation, Leona was still locked in amazement.
“So I bust my ass coming here, now we have to go back...then aren’t we gonna have to come back here again?!?”
It had taken them a week to get here. It was tough on Leona, though she managed not to complain too much. Seeing the dejection on Leona’s face, Zin blurted out,
“You can stay here if you want. I’ll pick you up again when I return.”
“That works for me. I’ll wait here…” said Leona. She could just wait in Shira until he returns. She wouldn’t be tired or annoyed, and she could spend two weeks alone in the free city.
“Umm...waiting here or following you, Mister - they’re both pretty shitty options.
Two weeks alone would be tough, seeing as she had no money, and Zin was unlikely to give her even one chip. She’ll probably have to steal.
Leona took a moment to collect her scattered thoughts.
She furrowed her eyebrows at a thought that came to her like a bolt of lightning.
“Mister, isn’t this a bit strange?” asked Leona.
“I’m the one who killed most of those assholes. Why are you getting all the money?”
“I came up with the idea to explode the chip box and kill those bastards. All you did was kill six of them” continued Leona, clapping her hands.
“It’s only fair to split the payment 8:2. I get 8.”
“What, am I wrong?” asked Leona.
Zin was at a loss of words for a moment. Her argument had taken him completely by surprise. She wasn’t wrong. It just left a sour taste in his mouth.
“If I’m wrong use those words you know so well to explain it to me. I killed most of them. Why are you getting all the payment? Isn’t that strange?”
Charl Lieutenant was the first to respond.
“Hold on...is this kid saying that she killed all those slaughters?”
“Well not all of them, but most” said Leona, nodding her head in assent.
“Hunter, is what she’s saying correct?”
Zin nodded his head slowly and bitterly, his expression betraying his reluctance. Leona had given Zin his payment fairly. And she was right that she had killed most of the slaughters herself. It was true that he was taking the payment for himself, when in fact most of it was rightfully hers.
“Yeah, she’s right” admitted Zin with an expression that revealed his utter reluctance to admit he was wrong. Leona had her hands on her hips as she spoke to Zin in a chiding tone,
“Mister, I’m gonna have to demand my ‘fair’ share of this payment.”
Charl realized that the little girl wasn’t simply impertinent. He had originally thought she was the hunter’s kid. Judging from her attitude, he could tell that she was far from ordinary. He could also tell that Zin was no ordinary robber or slaughter.
While he doesn’t exactly act according to a strict set of ethics and morals, he does move according to his own rules - rules that he respects in almost all situations.
He doesn’t want the spoils of another’s hunt. He doesn’t take credit for a hunt that wasn’t his.
“What are you going to do, Mister?” asked Leona. Zin nearly spit out his answer, as if there was nothing else he could do,
“Let’s do that...I mean, we have to do that.”
“Are you angry, Mister?” asked Leona. Zin answered immediately, scowling,
“No, not at all!”
Zin violently made his way down to the first floor, suddenly full of emotion. Charl and Leona looked at each other as they observed Zin going downstairs.
“Looks like he’s angry?” asked the lieutenant. Leona answered, tsk-tsking with her tongue,
“Yeah, but isn’t it kinda cute?”
Leona shrugged her shoulders.
The three descended to the first floor to fill their empty stomachs. Zin moved to order Leona’s meal, but hesitated.
If Leona was going to be a stickler about the slaughter payment, then Zin was also justified in taking the cost of Leona’s meal out of her share. That would put her in a difficult situation.
Zin thought for a moment, before catching himself.
‘What the hell am I thinking about…’ he chided himself. Why was he being so ungenerous? He was letting Leona get to him, and he was holding a grudge. If Leona caught him acting like this, she would give him shit again. Zin considered himself a rational consumer and producer. He had never once before thought of himself as stingy.
The meal consisted of steamed sweet potatoes and corn. For the price of 1 chip, it wasn’t great, but it wasn’t terrible, either. Zin looked at lieutenant Charl, and in an attempt to not seem stingy, he spoke.
“Considering now the start of the job wouldn’t be a problem, right?”
“Hmmmm, yea that’s okay.”
“When hunters are on a job together like this with their client, it’s a rule among hunters to have the client to pay for meals.”
Leona was staring at Zin like she was sick of him. The lieutenant nodded his head cooly.
“Oh really? I didn’t know. Let me pay then. Hey! I’d like to pay for three meals” said Charl.
The lieutenant didn’t seem to have any reservations about pre-paying for three meals. Zin was completely unaware that he seemed like the stingiest person in the world at the moment.
Charl, on the other hand, looked generous in comparison, for paying for the meals so willingly.
Leona felt her face redden for some reason as she lowered her head out of view. Zin was content that nobody picked up on him being stingy for refusing to pay for Leona’s meal. On top of that, he had his meal paid for. He nodded his head in satisfaction. Zin wasn’t in the habit of adopting other people’s principles.
You don’t necessarily get wiser just because you live long.
The meal was ready soon. It wasn’t a fancy meal and didn’t require much preparation. The motel owner seemed to shrivel in front of the big, bad Wargrave soldier. He was even reluctant to bring up to the soldier the topic of the finder’s fee he was owed.
At last, unable to bear it any longer, Zin reminded the soldier of this small debt. The lieutenant paid the owner without hesitation.
“Wherever I go, people treat me like I’ve just razed an entire town” said Charl.
“People are scared just knowing that you could if you wanted to” responded Zin.
Charl nodded his head. Leona was staring at the clean-cut lieutenant in amazement. It was no surprise that Leona was reacting this way - most normal people only hear about, and never actually get to meet a Wargrave soldier in their lifetime.
Charl removed the skin from his sweet potato before he ate it. Leona’s mouth fell in astonishment.
“What are you doing?” asked Leona.
“I’m eating my sweet potato” answered Charl.
“I know - but why are you peeling it?”
“....it doesn’t taste as good with the skin…”
Charl, in exchange, shook his head at Leona and Zin, who were eating the sweet potato, skin and all. Leona’s had a disgusted look on his face, as if she had seen an alien. Zin had nothing to say.
Leona ate her sweet potato in silence, not bothering to peel it. She had never even considered the idea of caring about how something tasted. If there’s something to eat, you just eat it. She had never thought about what tasted good, and what tasted bad.
Of course, she had shied away from eating ghoul and dog meat, as it was legitimately dangerous. That was a different story.
There was no problem eating a sweet potato with the skin, and it was a waste to throw it away.
‘Those assholes must always be full’ thought Leona.
Leona suddenly seemed upset, and a few tears formed in her eyes. She gulped down a cup of water.
Nevertheless, Leona enjoyed observing this man who seemed to be from another world. The two of them had a long road south in front of them. Charl may be able to leisurely peel his potatoes now, but things would be different in the wild.
‘Ghoul meat doesn’t get any better just cause you peel it’ thought Leona.
Leona was so happy she thought she could fly when she imagined the look on this blond bastard’s face as he was eating ghoul.
Leona was inferior to nobody in terms of her character - however bad her character may be.