Phantomvein was forged to defeat enemies who are invulnerable or able to avoid to physical attacks.
When used against normal monsters it was nothing more than a sturdy sword. It was extremely effective for the exorcism of supernatural enemies, however, thanks to the power of the blood fused into it.
First you stun ghost with the spirit chaser, then you cut it with phantomvein. Zin had eradicated enough ghosts this way to lose count.
Just one cut from phantomvein would be enough to vanquish a small-scale ectoplasm entity like this one. It would disappear in a cloud of smoke, a la a snail shriveling at the touch of salt.
At least it should…
While the ectoplasm did shrink a bit, it didn’t die. Zin produced a bitter laugh and looked at the black sword in his hands.
“Looks like you’re a bit long in the tooth - just like me.”
Phantomvein had aged along with the hunter. There once was a time when it could turn even the most powerful spirits into a pile of ashes. Seeing that phantomvein was no longer able to dispatch even a low-level vagabond ectoplasm with one blow made Zin feel like the core of his existence was fading.
The sword - which had once slaked its thirst with the blood of evil spirits - could no longer remember the taste of demon blood. Consequently, it may have also forgotten its power to rip apart spirits.
The ectoplasm made a move towards Zin for a second time. Zin raised phantomvein above his head. Zin was old - so was his charm. Zin was a tattered hunter whose fragile life hung on chips. Phantomvein was just an old charm - a mere shadow of its powerful, old-magic filled self of years gone by.
Right now, Zin was the equivalent of a defanged tiger. But…
Just like a toothless beast can still turn to its claws, this fangless beast of a hunter would rather unleash its claws than mourn over lost fangs.
-SWISH SWISH SWOOSH!
If you don’t have the fangs to kill an enemy in one blow, you rip them apart with your claws.
-CLASH CLASH CLASH!
You pound and pummel until the enemy’s last breath expires.
Zin met the ectoplasm head on. He hit, stabbed, and sliced. When it retreated in pain, he pursued and attacked harder.
In the end, hunters have to kill their prey by any means necessary.
“Huh huh huh” panted Zin.
Plumes of white smoke poured out of the ectoplasm from its wounds and soon disappeared, turning to ash.
Just like a diamond on a pile shit is still a diamond, an old beast is still a beast, and old swords still have a bit of sharpness in them.
These kinds of low-level spirits will ultimately fall to beasts that never falter in their duty to hunt, regardless of how old they get.
Zin put phantomvein back in his bag, its duty having been complete. Then he began retrieving chips from the pile of ashes.
“Is...is it over?” stammered Leona.
Leona’s face trembled as she watched the ectoplasm disappear, leaving nothing but blue smoke. Charl reacted the same way. The vision of Zin wielding the sword like a demon was still fresh in their minds.
“What the...what’s going…”
Charl couldn’t believe his eyes. Killing a ghost with a sword? Impossible.
“Ghosts aren’t hard to deal with, as long as you have the means” explained Zin.
Of course, if you didn’t have the means to deal with them, ghosts presented huge problems. But if you have the ability to take them on, they’re among the easiest enemies to dispose of. Fear is a ghost’s biggest weapon. That fear grows from the belief that the ghost can’t be stopped. There’s no need to fear the ghost if you know how to stop it.
Of course, that explanation applies to Zin. Most people panic the minute they realize that conventional weapons like guns don’t work.
Appearances of ghost types are infrequent enough, and strategies to fight them complicated enough, to sound a fortress-wide alert the minute one appeared. Ghost types render the majority of a fortress’ weaponry useless. Expertly trained special forces, armed with photon splitting swords are summoned to eradicate these ghost types.
In addition to physical attacks having no effect, physical defenses are also ineffective against ghost types. Charl couldn’t fathom dispatching an enemy with merely a pipe and sword. What he found most astounding was Zin’s absolute composure during the whole situation.
“Why are you so flustered? Even without a charm you can at least chase away ghosts if you know a few spells” explained Zin.
“Spells? I would never have guessed that you could take out a ghost with something so crude” said Charl.
Charl could do nothing but believe that now, having seen with his own two eyes a ghost ripped to shreds with a sword. Zin took a long look at his sword and said,
“I guess you don’t value reserving judgment for things you don’t understand” chastised Zin.
“.....my mistake” answered Charl.
“There are indeed only a few people who can use those kinds of spells effectively. Probably because most people doing the spells nowadays use them for meaningless religious sacrifices and the like” explained Zin.
“What are you trying to say?” asked Charl, furrowing his eyebrows in response to Zin’s barb.
“I’m just saying that just because most of the people in the world are fakes doesn’t mean there aren’t some legitimate people out there.”
“Pshhh” sounded Charl.
Zin once again picked the shovel up after he had extracted the chips from the ectoplasm.
“Looks like this place has turned, seeing how there are vagabonds already” muttered Zin as he began again with his shovel work. Leona just stood there shaking her head, still in shock from seeing a ghost for the first time.
“Ah, I’ve got goosebumps” said Leona, shuddering. She rushed to Zin, like she had been burned by a lick of fire, plopping down next to him. There may have been nothing in the world for her to cling to, but she at least knew that the safest place was next to the hunter.
“Leona, you know what gives me goosebumps? You having nothing to say besides ‘I’ve got goosebumps’ after seeing your first ghost” said Charl, moving towards Zin as well. He believed his laser pistol to be a far superior weapon to anything the hunter possessed.
“Why?” asked Leona.
“Even some soldiers at Wargrave have seizures when they see their first ghost” explained Charl.
“Soldiers??” repeated Leona, incredulously.
“Well, it’s a little hard to say, but…”
Charl laughed, realizing he may have made a mistake in speaking. Leona stared at him with a strange expression, surprised that he was laughing. She added a laugh of her own.
“Soldiers, quaking in their boots at the sight of ghosts? It’s not like they’re kids” spat Leona.
Leona tutted at Charl in aversion. Charl started in rebuttal, but stopped before he could say a word. Inside, he was wishing that the soldiers at Wargrave were at least half as calm and collected as Leona. Arguing with her would be pointless.
“Actually, you’re the strange one” said charl.
“Me? Strange?” asked Leona.
“Ghosts engender fear. They rattle the soul. I’m not sure about strange people, but normal people panic when they see one” continued Charl.
“Panic?” repeated Leona.
“Yeah. They they turn their gun on fellow soldiers, run away, attack, completely lose their shit. That’s what most people do.”
“What? They shoot their fellow soldiers? Just cause they’re scared? That’s crazy.”
The fear of ghosts doesn’t come from fundamental power, but rather chaos and horror. A ghost can crush an entire unit of soldiers without doing anything. All they have to do is create shock and horror.
“The power of ghosts lies in their ability to make people crazy” said Charl in response to Leona.
“Bunch of fucking morons if you ask me…” muttered Leona.
Zin was plenty used to ghosts - he didn’t get scared. Charl had lost his composure when he saw that his weapons weren’t working on the ghost. And yet Leona, who should be most prone to fear in this situation, didn’t panic at all. All she did was shout ‘it’s a ghost!’ one time. Charl nodded his head a few times, fully aware of the power and horror of ghosts.
“You clearly have ice water running through your veins, kid” said Charl.
“That’s a compliment, right?”
“Depends on how you take it, I guess.”
Leona let out a laugh. All the while, Zin continued digging. Charl was slowly beginning to realize that life in the wild wouldn’t be a cakewalk. Previously he had believed that the Peninsula would be nothing. Now, all he could do knowing that there were enemies here that were immune to his weapons was swallow hard and deal with it.
Leona, on the other hand, who had next to nothing to offer, just watched Zin dig. She had a look on her face that said she wasn’t afraid of anything. And that wasn’t just because she believed Zin would protect her. This child would never be afraid - even if she were alone. Charl knew that most people who lived in the wild couldn’t claim that.
Most people in the wild would hide in fear or lower their eyes and go the other way if they saw a soldier’s uniform, or even heard the word soldier. Even slaughters choose to avoid soldiers if they can, unless they are especially crazy.
Leona, on the other hand, hasn’t shown even an ounce of fear since the first time she met Charl. The only emotions she betrayed were curiosity and caution, stemming from meeting someone for the first time.
Ard Point was already shrouded in darkness when Zin’s shovel finally reached the well-buried metal box. Charl nodded his head when he saw the missiles.
“Looks right - even if there are a few missing. They must have used a few before you found them” said Charl, nodding his head a second time after checking the amount.
“Well done, hunter. Looks like you’re the one who took the missiles, but I can look the other way on that.”
Wargrave wouldn’t like paying for their own weapons, seeing as the slaughters took them and then had them taken right back. In the end, however, a job is a job. While Wargrave can be ruthless, they aren’t cheap.
“I’ll let you keep the missing missiles. Think of them as a bonus for a job well done. That’s my discretion” said Charl. While he couldn’t be exactly sure how many missiles Zin had, he was content with the amount he recovered thanks to Zin. He didn’t feel like he had to demand the rest from the hunter.
“Thanks. Although I never had any intention of giving them back” answered Zin.
“I’m only asking out of mere curiosity, but are you being an asshole on purpose?” asked Charl.
“Just an old hunter’s joke” said Zin. Charl let out a sigh at the hunter’s cheekiness.
“Ha, well, okay. I’m not gonna ask for the heat-seeking missiles you’ve got. Just know that I’m making an exception. I’m not doing this by the book. If you find yourself in a tight spot, don’t drop my name. It’ll be no help” explained Charl.
“All good with me” answered Zin.
Charl took out the agreed upon 1500 chips, plus an extra hundred for the fight caused by his carelessness. Zin took the chips and split them evenly with Leona, as promised. Leona shook her head.
“Hold onto them for me, mister. I’d feel nervous walking around with them now that I’ve destroyed the chip box.”
“You’re okay with that?”
“Just make sure to give them back.”
It would also be physically hard for Leona to carry around the amount of chips she was due. There was no trace of suspicion against Zin in her expression. Zin was more than slightly taken aback. Nevertheless, he moved to place the chips in his chipbox.
Leona didn’t watch as Zin deposited her chips, instead turning to Charl, saying,
“Anyway, you’re a private?”
“A private?!? I’m a lieutenant! Well, I guess it’s really no different than being a private…” said Charl scratching his head in shame.
“Wargrave must be rich, if a private has that many chips.”
“Wargrave has the most chips in the world. That’s nothing new. Haha” laughed Charl awkwardly. Zin was stared at Charl, saying,
“Whatever the case, I’m just happy I got my chips. Seems like you’re allowed to use chips at your discretion.” Zin seemed ok since he had received the agreed upon payment. The job was over, and each party could go its own way.
“What’s your plan? If you’re going to head back to Shira, I wouldn’t mind going together” said Zin. There was no harm in travelling with a Wargrave lieutenant. Charl also had food.
“We’re going the same way. I’ve got to go to SMCP fortress (Seoul Mass Confusion Point). No harm in travelling with a hunter. There will be no payment, though” answered Charl.
“Damn, that’s too bad” said Zin in jest, his face revealing no disappointment. Charl recorded their coordinates and reburied the metal box. Charl would send a unit to the coordinates to retrieve the missiles as soon as he reached SMCP.
“We’re going back again?!?” asked Leona bitterly. She was visibly upset at the prospect of starting out on the same tireless journey one more time.
“This is only your second time. It’ll be my sixth.” chastised Zin.
“So don’t complain” added Zin.
Six trips. The first time when he went to Ard Point. The second when he left after completing the job. The third when he came back. The fourth when he left with Leona. The fifth when he returned from Shira. And now, the sixth time.
Zin was also fed up with leaving and returning to Ard Point. Leona grumbled and sulked at Zin’s comment.
“All I said was I was annoyed. Is there something wrong with that?” asked Leona.
“You’d be better off keeping your mouth shut. You’ve got a talent for upsetting people when you talk.”
“Same goes for you, mister. Just like me.”
Zin laughed as he heard Leona’s answer, saying,
“You’re the one who said that you don’t like people who are similar to you.”
“.....ah seriously, so annoying.”
While Leona didn’t provoke people with an overly calm attitude like Zin, she was very effective at making people angry.
Zin was of course a bit more advanced than Leona.