Zin appeared to be suppressing the urge to brain the two with his shovel as they descended from the junkwagon.
“Huh? Hu- hunter...?” asked Charl, eyes widening, completely oblivious to why Zin was acting in such a way.
“You ruined it…”
Leona scrunched her body into a ball, her lost all color in her face. Zin motioned to the outside of the junkwagon with his chin.
‘Get down’ said Zin, wordlessly.
Both Leona and Charl knew full well what the gesture meant. Charl released the steering wheel and descended from the junkwagon together with Leona.
“Are you forgetting something? Don’t you have to turn it off?” hinted Zin.
“Of course!” said Charl, quickly moving to shut off the engine before jumping down.
“Do I really have to explain to you how insane it is to start a junkwagon in an uninhabited area like this?” shouted Zin.
“It’s not smart to make a ton of noise in this situation - who knows who or what’s out there. This isn’t a fortress - nobody’s covering us right now. You don’t have the luxury of a team of backups here” explained Zin, pointing at the ground he was pacing.
“This is the wild out here. The reason why it’s crazy to ride a junkwagon is not only because it’s dangerous as fuck - it’s also because it’s so loud it’ll make your head split.”
Any loud noise may attract a group of monsters wandering the area. Charl nodded his head silently, seemingly aware of how crazy his actions were, having heard Zin’s thorough explanation.
“I’m sorry...I wasn’t thinking” pleaded Charl.
“Calm down,” said Leona. “Mister Charl only did that cause he didn’t know…”
“I guess you didn’t realize that we were trying to get out of here quietly” persisted Zin.
“It was a mistake!” shouted Leona with a said look on her face, staring at Zin and moving slowly away from the junkwagon.
“Don’t do anything stupid. Stay put here and wait” ordered Zin.
“You got it!
“Okay!” shouted Leona and Charl in turn.
At some point during this exchange, Zin began speaking to Charl informally and with a slightly disrespectful tone. Nevertheless, Charl nodded his head timidly. Zin began again digging with the shovel. What Charl had just done with the junkwagon was reckless and stupid - enough to make Zin lose his composure and temper.
Charl stood silently, despondent. Leona noticed and nudged him, whispering,
‘That man hates junkwagons almost as much as his enemies.’
‘Seems that way.’
‘Don’t hold it against him.’
The two stopped their whispering and acted like they were doing nothing when Zin shot them a look, as if he’d been listening to everything.
‘Let’s just say I made a mistake. But if there is a monster, we can just kill it. What the heck is the problem?’
Charl was confident in his abilities. He had taken part in hunts in the MCP, and killed some pretty powerful monsters along the way. He was beginning to get bored with his interactions with Zin.
‘He’s too careful, too quiet, too secretive…’ thought Charl.
Charl had always overwhelmed monsters with firepower. His experience with Zin up to this point must’ve felt very PG.
‘Psh. All my superiors told me that hunters were cowards. I guess they were right.’
He couldn’t help but think that Zin was acting like a coward. If monsters do come, kill them, collect the chips - done and done. Charl stood staring at Zin digging with the shovel, mumbling to himself.
In his opinion, Zin may be a veteran, but he was self-righteous and stubborn. He chose physically demanding but safe routes over easy-to-walk, dangerous ones. He always believed he was right.
‘I could take care of at least 100 of these peninsula-monsters by myself.’
He didn’t need the hunter’s backup - he just needed the coordinates. With the weapons he possessed, he could deal with any danger that came his way.
‘And what’s up with that coat? Isn’t he hot? I hope it’s just not for show.’
More and more things about Zin started to bug Charl the minute he found one fault. If it weren’t for Leona, he wouldn’t have chosen to travel together with Zin in the first place.
Suddenly, as if he had been reading Charl’s mind, Zin pulled something out of his coat. Charl didn’t even have time to react.
The hunter was pointing his AKM at the lieutenant.
“What the - you crazy…”
Charl quickly pulled Leona towards him and activated his reactive armor.
Soon sparks and bullets started flying out of the rifle. None of the bullets reached Charl’s reactive armor, however.
The bullets from Zin’s gun had struck something behind Charl. He swung his head around and contorted his face in shock.
“What the fu--”
A man was writhing his body in what looked like bubbling blood. His body was covered in beehives. Zin switched out magazines in his rifle and said,
“It’s a vagabond. Come here.”
Charl retreated in shock, never losing his hold on Leona. The man’s body never stopped moving, despite being overrun by beehives.
“Did you know what that was there??” asked Charl.
“I tend to think that there’s always something lurking” answered Zin.
He hadn’t been paying particular attention to his surroundings at the time - he always paid close attention. That allowed Zin to discover his enemies before they could attack.
If Zin hadn’t fired first, both Leona and Charl may have lost their heads to the vagabond.
“I did notice it earlier. Those bastards attack from behind if you ignore them. Sorry I didn’t say anything.”
Zin put away his rifle, and took out his Saiga shotgun from the void.
“Just think of that guy as a bee who ignored his parents” said Zin.
The sound from the junkwagon had aroused the vagabond, who was hiding in Ard Point. Charl was staring at the vagabond, worried that something was forming in the frothing, bubbling blood.
“That fight occurred thanks to your carelessness. I’ll be including the cost of the ammo in my payment. Agreed?” asked Zin, loading a powershell into his shotgun.
“Ah, yeah…” said Charl, nodding his head enthusiastically. He was trying to reconcile the fact that he had almost died just now. Zin aimed his rifle at the monsters emerging from the body.
-BOOM! Bluish sparks flew from the shotgun.
-BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! Even bigger blue sparks flew from the body where the shells struck.
7.62 mm buckshot shells are made from ordinary shotgun shells.
Powershells are made the same way - by filling a shotgun shell completely with high-explosive chip powder. The kick from Zin’s shotgun was powerful enough to ruffle Zin’s coat strongly, just like it was ripping.
The vagabond’s upper body - which had transformed into a swarm of monsters - blew away in an instance. Zin gestured to the other two to move back, fully confident that the situation was taken care of.
“It’s a gel type. Let’s move out.”
The body had been blown to bits thanks to the powershell, but the scattered bits of flesh were beginning to come together and reform. It was a pretty gruesome scene, watching the blood-colored liquid with bits of flesh floating in it flow back together. Leona made sure to stick close to Zin and was ready to move at any time. Charl was looking seriously at the vagabond.
“What the fuck kind of monster is this?” asked Charl.
“First time seeing a vagabond, huh? They never change into monsters that we know” explained Zin.
All vagabonds change into monsters in their own unique way. They never change into known monsters. Having only dealt with monsters in the MCP, Charl would have had no outside knowledge.
Charl began to feel a sense of shame.
“Be careful. We don’t know how the vagabond will attack once it becomes a monster.”
It could attack from any distance - short-range, long-range, and in any way - a conventional attack, or in some extraordinary way.
The best way to fight a vagabond, therefore, was to nip the problem in the bud, killing it before it could become a monster. The worst kind of fight for all hunters are those with uncertainty.
There were about 20 meters between the puddle of liquid and the three of them. Charl reactivated his reactive armor, pulled out a weapon, and looked at Zin.
“What do you do in this situation, hunter?”
“It’s obvious, isn’t it??”
Zin loaded a different kind of round into his Saiga shotgun, aiming at the vagabond.
“Attacking is the best defense.”
A cloud of smoke flew from the Saiga. The round hit the puddle of liquid right in the center. This newest round was a dragonblast. Instead of creating an explosion, it literally unleashes a ball of fire - just like a dragon.
Most monsters are vulnerable to fire. There are many cases where starting an attack with fire for unknown monsters is the best strategy.
When the liquid monster was hit with the fire, however, the flame suddenly exploded.
“Is it dead?” asked Charl.
“Nope. It evaporated. Run!”
The monster hadn’t died. Instead, it had turned into gas, and the area was surrounded by a red, bubbling fog. Immediately after hearing Zin’s command, Leona and Charl darted away from the suspicious looking fog. They didn’t know what it was, but they were fully aware that nothing good would come from breathing in that air.
Charl turned while running to fire his laser pistol a few times. It brought no harm to the gasified enemy, however. This laser pistol looked like an ordinary gun, but in reality it was a highly advanced weapon that could turn a lower-level monster into a pile of ashes. While there weren’t many of these weapons, their power was on another level than ordinary guns. Charl could hardly believe that the laser pistol had no effect. He gritted his teeth.
“It’s not working!” shouted Charl.
“Just run!” replied Zin.
The red fog was following the three of them, just like it was alive. It was moving faster than the group, who were running at full speed - Zin included.
Even while running, hunters think.
‘Invulnerable to explosions.’
‘Invulnerable to lasers.’
‘Fire may be its weakness, seeing how the fog avoided it. Best to assume that fire won’t work either, though.’
‘It’s completely different than gel and slime monsters, who are weak to fire, explosions and lasers.”
‘These weapons don’t work, and it gasified itself. Gel types can divide themselves up and regenerate...does this one have special powers cause it’s a vagabond? Probably not…’
‘That bastard’s not a vagabond.’
‘Seems safe to say that that thing’s invulnerable to anything physical.’
‘If it’s a gel type monster that’s invulnerable to physical attack…’
‘It’s an astral body. No wonder normal attacks aren’t working.’
‘It’s only vulnerable to old magic.’
Every hunt, and everything that’s hunted, starts from a specific point.
“It’s a ghost type! Don’t even think about engaging!”
“Ghost type??” asked Charl.
“It- it’s a ghost!!!” shouted Leona, reacting in a much different manner than Charl.
The ghost had already approached to a very close distance. Zin pulled out his charm from his coat and brought it to his mouth. He blew into it heavily.
The charm was none other than the spirit chaser than Zin had shown Charl before.
The monster immediately started to retreat when it heard the awful sound. Leona also fell to the ground at the pipe’s resounding. Goosebumps quickly formed on Charl’s back. Zin halted his retreat, holding the pipe in one hand. In his other hand he help a weapon.
In his right hand he held a blackish sword. He looked like he belonged in the wrong century. He was holding the sword with one hand, though it was large enough to demand two hands from most people. He looked like a giant.
This kind of fight - hand to hand combat - wasn’t his style. He prefered safer fights. Just because it wasn’t his style didn’t mean he wouldn’t do it.
“Hey hunter! We already know that weapons don’t work!” shouted Charl. He believed Zin was crazy to fight a monster invulnerable to laser pistols with a sword.
“Just watch” responded Zin.
Zin took a step back. He didn’t wait for the fog to come to him this time. He attacked first.
Zin whirled his sword and brought it down on the monster, who was still disoriented from the spirit chaser.
While it seemed like a simple attack to the chest, Zin had cut the fog in half, just like he was ripping something. The blood red light coming out of the fog made it clear that it had taken some damage.
The color of Zin’s sword was not that of metal. It was the color of blood that was folded into the sword when it was made. This sword was also a charm.
A sword for spirit exorcisms. Phantomvein.
Charms are made from spirit blood. That doesn’t mean you can only use one kind of blood when making a charm, however.
Phantomvein was made with the blood of demons, vampires, and aliens.