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Hunter of the Ruined World 28

by WriterS


Translated by Paul M.

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Prototype (1)


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Before entering the Busan fortress, Zin surveyed the surrounding area and found a still in tact city. Motgol (the town they had just left) had fallen, but luckily there was another city nearby. The free Hyuljin was located just outside Busan, on the southern part of the Peniunsula.

After acquiring some necessities, the pair found a free room. The fortress was located within a day’s journey, so Zin felt no need to stay the night. There was really only one reason why Zin decided to stop in the free city.

“You stay here” he said to Leona.

“Why?”

“Even if everyone says all activity has stopped at the MCP, it’s best to assume that you’re run into some CP when entering a place like this. Unless you want to die, or become a monster yourself, staying here is best for you.”
“Ah, yeah, you’re probably right…”

High exposure to Chaos Poison (CP) is crippling. Just because activity has stopped at a MCP doesn’t mean CP or the massive amounts of radiation that exist in these hot spots has disappeared. The only thing that awaits a normal person who enters a MCP is death, or a gruesome transformation into a monster.

“How long will you be?” asked Leona.

“One week, at the longest. I’ll be back before that most likely.”

“Ah, ok. Got it.” Leona had received a fair share of chips from Zin. She would be OK on her own for a week. She has plenty of experience fending for herself in the wild - she wasn’t at all fazed by the prospect of being left alone.

“Godspeed,” said Leona. She was too tired to say anything more. She was getting ready to plop down on a pile of hay and sleep.

Zin stepped out onto the streets of the Hyuljin. There was a sizeable trashwall, and monsters would be rare here. There shouldn’t be much of a problem for Leona. Zin was thankful for that much at least. There were many occasions where Zin went looking for a city he knew from the past, only to find it had disappeared, or a completely new one had sprung up in its place.

‘Seems like the population is around 700….that’s quite a lot…’ The location was good - close to the sea, but not too close to be exposed to sea monsters. This area doesn’t have a lot of monsters to begin with. Add to that the proximity to the sea, and it leads to a nearly optimal place to live.

‘I wonder why the last town was completely destroyed, and this one is safe…’ thought Zin. The towns were only two days apart. If slaughters were responsible for the desctruction of Motgol, why didn’t the come here too? The same goes for monsters. If they destroyed Motgol, they would have no reason to skip this town. Motgol fell. Hyuljin didn’t. Zin couldn’t wrap his head around the situation.

Zin stopped into an herb gatherer’s store before leaving Hyuljin.

“I’m looking for some anti-poison herbs. Got anything good?”

“Yep. 1 chip per bundle.”

This anti-poison herb doesn’t refer to any specific plant, but rather a bundle of roots or leaves with anti-poison effects. The effectiveness or presence of an anti-poison effect depends entirely on the plant.

“Look here,” started Zin.

“Wormwood and daisies are not effective anti-poisons. Why are they in the bundle?

“They’re there for the taste. Anti-poisons are bitter. You’ve gotta create a balance, otherwise the quality suffers” answered the herbalist.

Zin let out a sigh in frustration as he watched the store owner lie through his teeth so naturally and cooly.

‘Maybe he’s not lying. Maybe he actually believes that…’ It’s hard to come by genuine knowledge and expertise in this world. Accordingly, everywhere you go, ‘knowledge’ is different. Zin ended up buying five bundles of grasses that he deemed fairly potent. The owner stared at Zin for a while after he was done paying.

“What are you, a scavenger? I’m saying this for your sake - there’s nothing left at BMCP.” The owner had looked at Zin and concluded he was a scrub, headed out to loot Busan fortress. Scavengers must occasionally come to this herbalist to get supplies before heading off to the fortress.

Zin stared back at the owner.

“I’m not a scavenger, for your information. But if I was, shouldn’t you be telling me that before I buy my bundles?” It seemed pretty messed up to Zin that an man could sell a bunch of stuff to someone headed somewhere, only to tell them after they’ve paid that there’s no use in going.

“You can use those anti-poisons anywhere you go. All you’ve got to do is chem ‘em. Nothin’ wrong with selling those, right? I’m just trying to save you some trouble. If I didn’t tell you, you’d be little misstep away from falling into a whole bunch of radiation. You should be thankful.”

He was right in a way, even if he was a bit unkind. He had enough humanity in him to try and prevent someone from walking into disaster.

“Lots of scavengers been heading to BMCP?” asked Zin.

“What do you think? Once those Wargrave bastards up and left, people started coming like locusts. But you know what? Wargrave is thorough. I heard they left nothing behind - not even scraps of rubber. Some people don’t believe that though. They think maybe someone hit the jackpot and is keeping their mouth shut. So they go anyway. People aren’t coming now as much as they used to, but we’ll get one every two months or so. I’ve never heard of anyone coming back with anything, though.”

“Ha, is that right.” If that was the case, Zin wasn’t too optimistic about finding any meaningful clues. Since he’d come this far, however, he planned to go to Busan anyway. Hearing something and seeing it with your own two eyes are completely different things.

“Let me ask you something else then.”

“Not sure how talkative I’ll be, without seeing another chip or two.”

“You go ahead and sell me five bundles of crap, and then turn around and say something like that?”

“Ah haha look at this guy. Ain’t nothin’ you won’t say. Alright then, go ahead and ask.”

“What happened to Motgol?”

“Ah, Motgol??” repeated the store owner, his expression becoming somewhat confused.

“That was a strange one.”

“Strange? What do you mean?” asked Zin.

“When was that, about two years ago? A group of monsters came in out of nowhere.”

“.....really?” asked Zin, his expression hardening immediately.

“People started flocking here from Motgol. We’ve grown as a result. Ask someone from Motgol if you’d really like to know. There’s a lot of ‘em...maybe 50 or so.”

“Yea, I’ll do that,” answered Zin.

“They say some witch done it.”

“........”

“Ridiculous, right? When people get scared they up and say all kinds of things. Witches - haha. What century are we living in, anyway? And that witch is gonna live in your shitty little town? Absurd.” The owner was clearly looking down on the Motgol people. Zin, with all he knew now, couldn’t join in with the owner and laugh.

When the owner was done speaking Zin turned and walked away from the owner’s stand. What he was thinking was written all over his face. It wasn’t good.

Zin went back the way he came, not bothering to find someone who had lived in Motgol. Instead, he headed towards Leona’s motel. She woke immediately when she heard his footsteps. Her instincts and reflects were eerily similar to an animal in the wild.

“Hey, what’s going on, Mister. I thought you left.”

“......”

“What’s up with your face?”

“Let me just ask you one thing,” said Zin quickly, staring at Leona.

“Well this is random. Go ahead.”

“When exactly did you leave Motgol?”

“Why are you asking that all of a sudden?”

“Just answer the question,” returned Zin quickly, almost interrogating Leona. The look in her eyes shifted as she noticed how uneasy Zin was. Exactly how her expression changed is hard to describe in words. She answered Zin curtly.

“About two years.”

“.....” Zin stood up straight, motionless for a minute or two. He didn’t say a word. Leona was staring at Zin, unsure what he was thinking.

Zin didn’t ask Leona anything. Leona didn’t ask Zin anything.

After a long silence, Zin reached into his coat and pulled something out. Leona’s eyes widened as she saw what he was holding. She retreated away from Zin in fear. He was holding the same revolver he had shown her before. He approached Leona, holding the muzzle. He offered the handle to Leona.

“What’s going on?”

“Take it.” Leona took the gun from Zin, a confused look on her face. She was visibly flustered holding the revolver.

“Rumor has it there are a bunch of Motgol survivors living here.”

“.....Uh-huh.”

“And they think that you’re the reason Motgol was destroyed. It’ll be dangerous for you if you’re spotted.”

Leona had been exiled from Motgol, on grounds of being a witch.

Zin had to head to Busan, and he couldn’t take Leona with him. Rather than expose her to monsters, it’d be safer to leave her here. It’d be easier for her to find food, too. Or maybe he simply didn’t want to take her with him.

“If you’re in a dangerous situation, shoot. Aim the muzzle at the enemy. Pull the trigger. Anyone can do that - even a kid.”

“I know how to do it...I think.”

Someone from Motgol may recognize Leona, and even try to attack her. Zin gave her the revolver in case something like that happened, and taught her briefly how to use it.

“There are six bullets. Try not to use them all. If you’ve used all your bullets and the enemy is still coming at you, run away.”

“Run away? To where? Where will we meet?”

“.....I don’t think I’ll have a problem finding you,” said Zin. In other words, go wherever you want, I’ll come to you. He didn’t say it like that, however. Zin looked down at Leona, and she looked back up at him, biting her lips before speaking.

“.....Mister…”

“........”

“Do you think I’m a witch?” asked Leona. There was an emotion in her tone of voice - an emotion extremely difficult to define. Zin looked at Leona sternly, offering an unexpected reply.

“Promise me.”

“Promise you what?”

“If I come back, you’ll tell me everything.”

“.....”

Zin was now recalling all the times Leona hadn’t spoken, successfully avoiding answering one of his questions. He didn’t really care about that. Leona looked up at Zin with eyes that contained neither hate, fear, or resentment.

“I asked first. You answer,” said Leona. Zin remained silent for a moment before opening mouth to speak.

“All the witches have died.” Zin’s answer contained multiple meanings. Leona nodded her head, even though she couldn’t understand the nuance of his answer.

“OK.” She nodded her head, as if to say ‘I’ll tell you everything when you get back.’ Zin listened to Leona’s answer, and spoke again quickly.

“Leona.”

“Go ahead. I’m listening.”

Zin had no idea why he was acting this way. He couldn’t get a handle on his emotions. They seemed to be rising and falling inside him, like waves on a rocky sea. Leona stared calmly at Zin, merely nodding her head.

“I’m a devil hunter, Leona,” said Zin, turning his back, unable to look her in the eyes. That was all he could manage to say.

 

One day later. Busan Mass Confusion Point (BMCP)

Zin was staring at a 20 meter high concrete wall. He would have no trouble scaling it. The Wargrave Fortress, built near a huge black hole in the ground, was surrounded by these massive concrete walls.

Built to keep any monster inside the walls. Built to keep any person outside those same walls.

There was a time when there would have been artillery set up on top of those walls to intercept incoming threats. There wasn’t anything on top of those walls now.

All that remained now were the towering walls - bleakly holding reign over the area. The abandoned fortress was useless to anyone other than Wargrave. Once they left, it was never inhabited again. There were of course a few morons here and there that were enchanted by the promise of those safe, high walls. They all ended up dying however, exposed to intense amounts of radiation or CP. Without the proper levels of protection, living in this castle is tantamount to suicide.

If anything of value was left outside the walls, where radiation and CP levels were relatively low, it surely would have already been taken by now. There was nothing for Zin to do here.

The walls were perfectly in tact, but the gate was already destroyed. Zin entered through the crumbling gate. The herbalist said the fortress had already been cleaned out of everything valuable. He was wrong.

Wargrave fortress had two sets of walls - exterior and interior. Inside the exterior walls was a military base, where the barracks were located. Inside the interior walls, Wargrave soldiers hunted the monsters that emerged from the MCP.

People don’t understand Wargrave. They couldn’t possibly clean it out.

 

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