This was the fourth time Zin found himself travelling towards Ard Point - the first when he arrived on his own, the second when he came back with Leona, and the third he returned to kill the slaughters. This last return with Charl to retrieve the weapons marked the fourth time.
Four times was enough for Zin to start to believe that Ard Point was under the influence of some kind of demon. With all those chips glimmering in front of him, however, he couldn’t help but return one last time.
Leona wasn’t exactly grumbling, but she was mumbling words eerily similar to a curse, her head pointed straight at the ground.
Neither Lieutenant Charl nor Zin had any problems physically. Charl had no problems walking, despite wearing his military uniform.
Sadly, the moment Leona had been waiting for never came.
“.....what’s that?” asked Leona as her complexion whitened, noticing Zin groping for something in his bag before pulling it out.
“You don’t think I dug it up right now, do you? I bought it in Shira” answered Zin.
“Yeah, I mean, how did you…”
After learning that Charl would pay for all the meals, Zin bought enough to cover the 14-day out and back journey.
“I also don’t enjoy eating monster meat.”
Just cause he was a tough hunter didn’t mean that Zin liked eating monster meat. The lieutenant was willing to buy, and Zin had taken the opportunity and brought all the food he could carry.
The moment she so desperately desired - to see Charl’s face as he chewed monster meat - ultimately never came. She had no recourse but to stare belligerently at the thorough hunter.
“I can go catch you a monster if you want to eat one that bad” teased Zin, curling his upper lip as he laughed at Leona. It was like he knew what she was thinking. Leona let her head fall in desperation.
“Thanks, but no thanks” replied Leona.
Charl wasn’t crazy enough to eat monster meat when there was other perfectly edible food. Charl had no idea what the conversation between Leona and Zin could mean. He sat silently, ready to start the meal’s preparation.
“Can I ask you something?” said Charl, directed at Zin.
“How did that kid kill all those slaughters? I did hear something about a chipbox…”
Charl couldn’t understand how an otherwise ordinary looking kid could crush the better part of a group of slaughters.
Leona stepped in to explain, saying how there wasn’t really a big secret to it - all she did was strap a chipbox to an arrow, put it in detonation sequence, and shoot it. Everyone had finished the meal before she explained that most of the slaughters had been killed in the giant explosion, and the few that remained had their heads blown off by Zin’s shotgun.
“Hmmm, pretty quick-witted little kid we got here” admired Charl.
“You keep saying kid, little kid - I’ve got a name, you know. It’s Leona.”
“Ah, I’m sorry Leona. You’re pretty quick-witted.”
“Witted??” asked Leona, confused.
“You got brains, kid” explained Zin, fully aware that Leona wasn’t understanding the lieutenant.
“Ah, well, it was enough to smash a few of them to bits. It only cost me some chips” said Leona.
Lieutenant Charl couldn’t contain his laughter, obviously tickled by what Leona had said.
“Most people either run away or don’t have anything to say when they see me. But you don’t seem afraid of me, Leona” said Charl.
“I’d rather say what I have to say and die early than keep my mouth shut and live a dirty, crappy life.”
“Hahaha! I like you!” laughed Charl, louder than before. He was beginning to like Leona more and more. When he first met Zin, Charl had tried to maintain a serious persona. Now, however, he had a lot to say and seemed quite magnanimous. Most people are afraid of him in the cities, and his serious personality most likely persisted due to that fact, albeit against his will.
“But Mister soldier” started Leona.
“Mister?” replied Charl, surprised to be called ‘Mister.’ He was staring at Leona, sweating. Unaware of his disposition, Leona continued,
“What is Wargrave? What do the people do there?”
Charl hesitated a bit, becoming more serious. Then he looked at Zin.
“Do you know what the people at Wargrave do?”
“More or less” replied Zin.
“I’d like to know what that ‘more or less’ is. Can you tell me?”
Charl was curious how people think of Wargrave. The lieutenant passed the question meant for him onto Zin. Zin gave a short answer, staring at Leona.
“Wargrave has monopoly control over MCP.”
“Hmmm...seems like that’s how people see us” said Charl.
What is MCP?” asked Leona.
“Think of it as a black hole where really fucked-up monsters shoot out of. Wargrave kills all the high-level monsters that appear and take all the chips” explained Zin.
“How fucked up?” asked Leona.
“Think of a maneater’s toes.”
Leona shook her head, amazed.
“But if the Wargrave assholes kills all those crazy monsters for us, aren’t they the good guys?”
It may have been stupid to use the word ‘asshole’ to describe Wargrave soldiers in front of Charl, but he didn’t seem too annoyed.
Unidentified monsters, many of which are considered highly dangerous, often appeared at Mass Confusion Point - MCP for short. Wargrave builds huge castles in MCP regions all over Asia and hunt the monsters that appear there.
All intentions aside, Wargrave eliminating these highly dangerous monsters for regular citizens can only be a good thing. Since it’s been quite a while since Wargrave appeared, they are basically politely ignored by the public.
The answer to Leona’s query was simple.
“It seems like you’ve forgotten, but I’m a hunter” explained Zin.
“Yeah..what about it?”
“Monsters messing with people is my business. Monsters that spout tons of chips becoming rare is not good for me. Nothing is good from my standpoint about Wargrave monopolizing big monsters.”
Depending on your perspective, it could have been a pretty shitty explanation. Nevertheless, it was true. Wargrave eliminating all these upper-level monsters meant less monsters for Zin to hunt. Hunters are anything but thankful for the existence of Wargrave.
“The hunter is actually right. We don’t surround the MCPs to protect citizens. We don’t take in citizens or refugees who approach our castles” explained Charl.
Instead of accepting them, Wargrave is more inclined to chase them away or kill them. Wargrave does not proclaim themselves to be just. The reasons they control MCP areas are for themselves.
Zin had ultimately summed up Wargrave’s fundamental nature quite nicely.
“So why do you guys do that? There must be a reason” pried Leona.
“I’m not really sure...I’m just part of the rank and file” explained the lieutenant.
Charl shrugged his shoulders. An answer of ‘I don’t know’ made things even more ambiguous for Leona. Zin was no help either - he offered no further explanation either.
Wargrave was the most important military group in the post-collapse world in providing a delicate balance. Nevertheless, they didn’t exist for humanity.
Leona wanted to say something, but she didn’t know how to say it. All she could think to herself was that the pretty boy lieutenant sat in front of her wasn’t as annoying as she’d originally thought.
On the other hand, lieutenant Charl couldn’t chase from his mind what Zin had said earlier.
‘Nothing is good from my standpoint about Wargrave monopolizing big monsters.’
That meant that Zin was capable of hunting monsters of that size - and it didn’t seem that Zin was just putting on airs. In that statement was some level of truth - tinged with annoyance.
There certainly were hunters annoyed by the monopoly enjoyed by Wargrave at the MCPs. They get chips for jobs involving monsters that make life hard for people. Hunters get rich as the world gets more unstable. There indeed was nothing good for hunters about this supplemental peace brought on by Wargrave. That’s why most hunters hated Wargrave.
Some hunters, on the other hand, take no issue with not being able to hunt the monsters that appear at MCPs.
Charl stared gravely at the fire.
Ard Point was positioned advantageously. It had tall walls and many of its buildings were intact. Assuming that the city were to grow and the land outside the walls were used for farming, it could support upwards of 1000 people.
These city walls, bereft of their owners, will soon be discovered and used by another group of people. A period of seven days, however, was not enough time for someone to show up. Ard Point remained empty.
“The city collapsed even though it had these walls. They were strong enough to be a castle…” said Charl, hesitant to believe that a city with walls this big could fall.
“I guess walls can’t stand up to all manner of weapons” continued Charl.
Zin was staring at Charl, as if you say ‘you’re one to talk, having let some assholes steal those weapons off of you.’
“Looks like weapons on this Peninsula are pretty terrible” said Charl entering Ard Point with a confused look on his face, having seen a broken arrow sticking out of the ground. Ard Point was eerily quiet - so much so that its bleak and gloomy tone seemed to suggest that ghosts would appear at any time.
“Why does everything look so old? How many days have passed?”
Leona let out a chill shutter. Even though it was the middle of the day, the dreary feel of the place sent a chill down her spine. Zin headed towards the coordinates of the buried weapons. He thrust the shovel into the ground to dig up the metal box from the ground.
“Let me help” said Charl.
“Please don’t. If you hit the wrong place everything could explode. Let me do it.”
Leona and Charl were checking out the junkwagons while Zin took care of the digging.
“These are interesting...people use these?” asked the lieutenant. He was nodding his head slowly, astonished that people actually drive around these savage vehicles. Of course, people at Wargrave led a completely different life than normal people, and came into contact with completely different types of equipment. Junkwagons were new and exciting to the lieutenant.
They had been together for seven days now, and Leona thought her first impression of Charl had been pretty spot on.
Compared to the multi-use special streetcars they had at Wargrave, these junkwagons were complete trash. Nevertheless, Charl was observing them with his undivided attention.
“Ahh...so this is a reactor. It’s low quality, but quite effective. Here is the motor, and here...ah, this is the fuel injector.”
The junkwagon was commanding his full attention. It was crude and had a simple design, but Charl seemed enchanted.
“Do you know what Mister?”
“Hmm? What’s that?”
Leona seemed quite used to calling the lieutenant ‘Mister’ by now.
“Mister...you’re really just like a child.”
Charl burst into laughter.
“Really? Honestly, I only left the fortress a little while ago for the first time. There aren’t many assignments that send us outside our walls…”
As time went by Charl seemed to become more friendly with Leona, unable to conceal his curiosity as he asked her about this and that.
Even yesterday, he asked Zin if he could catch a ghoul so he could try some of its meat. Zin, willing to do anything for a buck, agreed for the price of 10 chips. He vomited everything in his stomach the minute the ghoul touched his lips, however.
Leona was staring at the lieutenant touching the junkwagons. Satisfaction was strewn across his face, as if he were a child at play.
Charl didn’t stop there, however. He put a few chips into the fuel injector and sat in the driver’s seat.
“No surprise! It’s a vehicle, and all vehicles follow the same basic mechanisms” exclaimed Charl.
The engine seemed to be turning over. Leona’s eyes widened in surprise.
KERPLUNK! KERRR PLUNK!!
“I guess it’s not working...it seemed like it was working. Ah!”
The lieutenant keep turning the engine, trying to get the wagon to work. A pleasing tone soon rose from the engine.
The junkwagon began making huge noises as the engine finally started. Leona jumped in excitement the minute the junkwagon started. With a wave of invitation from Charl, Leona skipped up behind him in the seat.
“Let’s go for a ride!” shouted Charl.
“OKAY!” returned Leona.
As the engine noise grew, the two had to shout louder and louder to hear each other. Charl grabbed the handles, laughed, and shouted,
“Grab this tight and the car will….”
The junkwagon wouldn’t move.
“It’s one thing for the kid to act like this, but don’t you think it’s a little much for a lieutenant like you to be doing this?” asked Zin. He was blocking their way, with a look on his face that suggested he was about to chew them out.