<There’s a Reason Why the Crazy Survive (4)>
Leona didn’t feel relieved. She was not out of the woods just yet. The Slaughter with the RPG-7, and the other Slaughter were still outside. Leona picked up her arrows and bow and moved.
“Yo!! Jae-Goo!! Are you dead?”
The Slaughter shouted, and Leona shouted back without looking out the window.
“He told me to let you know that he’s dead now, bastards!”
Instead of an answer, there came the loud explosion of a rocket instead.
The rocket hit the area where Leona had yelled from, but she had already run away from that spot after shouting.
The Slaughter was firing out rockets without hesitation, knowing that his friend was dead.
This building might collapse.
The rocket launcher was powerful enough to blow up the building walls. Leona was frightened by the unimaginable power of the rocket launcher.
If I run out the building, that weapon will kill me… If I stay inside the building, they’ll keep on shooting that thing, and I might die under the rubble.
Old buildings would have already collapsed after a couple of rocket blasts. The buildings in Ard Point were strongly built because they had been prisons at some point. Therefore, they were able to withstand some rocket blasts.
She had to make a decision.
“Hey, kiddo! Come on out and shoot me with your arrow! I’m right here?”
Leona didn’t react to the taunts this time. The one-eyed Slaughter seemed to realize this.
“Shut up now, I’m going to blast the whole building.”
“Why? Shouldn’t we at least see the girl who started all this?”
“Whatever. I don’t think she’ll show up anymore.”
The bald Slaughter kept on yapping in front of the one-eyed Slaughter who was loading another rocket.
“Yo! Dare to shoot me? You looked cute drawing that bow! Are you listening?”
Leona came down to the third floor.
I might be able to shoot down because I’m down one floor.
She had to kill them off. She didn’t want to react to the taunt, but she had to look out the window to shoot the arrow. If Leona were to peek her head out, the enemy would fire rockets wherever she appeared. It was like a game of whack-a-mole. Leona drew the bow with all her strength and readied herself to stand up. She had at most one second to aim and shoot. She had three arrows left, and if she couldn’t finish them off with three shots, it was all over. Leona readied herself under the window, stood up, aimed, and fired.
The arrow left the bow with a piercing sound. Leona ducked down again without checking where the arrow went.
However, the powerless sound of the arrow meant that Leona missed the target. Leona gnashed her teeth.
I can’t shoot them!
Killing an enemy with a weapon that she had never used before was an impossible mission.
“What was that? You won’t be able to shoot me at point-blank range. Shoot me! Shoot…”
There was a loud bang, and the head of the one-eyed Slaughter who was aiming the rocket launcher at Leona exploded into pieces. The bald Slaughter was astonished at seeing the death of his ally. And he grew petrified as he looked at someone pointing a gun at him.
The man who was aiming a Saiga-12 at the Slaughter’s head murmured:
“If getting shot is your wish, it shall be granted.”
“No dude… what I meant was…”
That was the bald Slaughter’s epitaph.
In one brief moment, two Slaughters were taken down, and Leona stood up to look outside the window, realizing what the sound meant. She wasn’t sure, but it sounded similar to the sound of Zin’s weapons. The two enemies who had been Leona’s biggest threats were overpowered within five seconds. Two 12 Gauge Buckshot shells were more than enough to clear the situation. Leona shouted at the man who was standing in between the two headless Slaughters.
Zin was standing there. Leona couldn’t stop her emotions from swelling up.
Leona wanted to go down, but she couldn’t.
“Ah… what’s wrong with me…”
Leona couldn’t stand up because her legs gave out. As soon as she felt safe, her muscles relaxed from the stress and she wasn’t able to move. Zin went up to where Leona was. Shouldering the Saiga, Zin sat in front of Leona. He didn’t speak. Leona didn’t ask why and how Zin came back. There was a long moment of silence. Leona spoke first, talking with her head down.
“It’s a lie that I wasn’t scared.”
“I was so scared to death that I felt like my heart would explode.”
Leona confessed her deepest feelings. There was no way that she wouldn’t feel terrified and scared. It was impossible for one to stay calm when man-eating Slaughters were surrounding and threatening you.
“I don’t cry, or shit my pants, or run away. At times like this, I’m just scared to the point where I want to die.”
It was natural even for an adult or a kid to feel terror during such times. One would rather kill oneself than be killed. Remembering the terror and fear that she felt, Leona despised herself. She wouldn’t be able to survive for long if she was weak.
“I hate myself for being afraid and scared…”
Leona was shivering—she hated lseeing her helpless self. Zin watched Leona and spoke, causing Leona to look back at him.
“It is hard not giving up.”
“But once again, you didn’t give up, so that’s more than enough.”
It was more than enough.
“You’re doing well.”
Leona hadn’t given up, and she was doing perfectly well.
Leona and Zin sat without a word, and they waited through the dawn of the now-extinct Ard Point.
The next morning, recovered from the fight, Leona asked:
“Why did you come back, mister?”
And she nudged Zin’s waist with a smile.
“Did you come back because you were worried about me? Hmm?”
“I came to recover the unpaid chips.”
Zin stuck his hand out, as if he didn’t want to listen to her nonsense.
“500 chips for completing the mission. Give it to me.”
“Ha… haha… of course…”
Expecting such words from Zin, Leona sighed.
“It was my mistake for not bringing up the topic of reward, but don’t you think you were also at fault for not paying me?”
Unhappy, Leona stuck out her lips as Zin spoke.
“Well, you should have taken care of your own paycheck. Why would I go out of my way to pay someone? You’re the one who ran away in a hurry. What? Should I run out to follow you to give you the chips?”
Zin remained silent at Leona’s rebuttal, but not for long.
“Hmm... so I came back to get my chips.”
Zin didn’t have to give a logical excuse since he’d come to simply claim his reward. Leona looked uncomfortable as she scratched her cheek.
“Well... you know… I had the chips up until yesterday.”
“Don’t tell me that you tied the chipbox to an arrow, activated the self-destruct sequence, shot it like a bomb, and it exploded with a boom?!”
As Zin finished speaking, Leona nodded her head vigorously.
“How accurate! You saw it all?”
After confirming what had happened, Zin stayed speechless for a while, his hands on his temples. It was clear that Leona blew up about 1,500 chips which included his 1,000 chips and the reward owed from the mission. The number of chips had made it possible to blow up the whole of Ard Point’s central square. Zin was trying to confirm what he observed, but he was shocked to learn that all the chips were gone.
“Well, I didn’t think you would come back… and I had to do something to survive. That chipbox was the only thing I could use.”
Zin was fuming at Leona’s words. Looking at his rising heart rate, Zin took deep breaths.
“Okay… Do you know if there are any hidden chips in Ard Point… or any place where there might be chips?”
“Mister... I’ve only been here for two days.”
Leona was complaining that she wouldn’t have found out anything new, and Zin stayed silent again.
“And the Slaughters gathered everything useful here… as you can see.”
The place that Leona pointed at was the point of explosion. There was nothing to be salvaged in Ard Point. And just like that, Leona had become poor. Leona started to speak again after looking at Zin.
“…you look pretty disappointed, mister.”
“Disappointed, you say? Hunting a maneater that can wipe out three to four villages can net about a hundred chips, and I would need to hunt at least five maneaters to earn five hundred chips. And do you know how much special ammo I can make with five hundred chips? Spending that much could…”
Zin kept on talking, and then sighed after realizing that he was getting too tense.
“Phew… never mind. What am I babbling—”
“What the hell?”
However, Leona interrupted, visibly pissed off.
“So you were trying to get all those chips by offering to escort me for just two days?”
“You call yourself a hunter, but in fact, you’re just a con artist!”
“Kiddo. That is a reasonable fee for the request.”
“Yeah, right, you had to do it anyway, so you milked more chips out of me. Reasonable, my ass. You probably can’t even charge a hundred chips for an escort service. Am I wrong?”
Zin kept silent as Leona made her deductions. It wasn’t as if Zin wasn’t an unreasonable person. However, after complaining nonstop to Zin, she sighed after looking at his facial expression.
Leona pointed her finger at Zin, and shouted again:
“Do understand that I’m not going to give you the chips because I’m a nice person, but because I’m obligated to give it to you.”
Leona looked through her bag, pulled out a small leather sack and gave it to Zin. Zin took the sack and opened it, finding it full of chips.
“Didn’t you say that there weren’t any more? That you blew them all up…?”
“Of course I lied. What, you’ve never met a liar before?”
Leona shrugged. She’d acted as if she’d blown up all the chips just to see how Zin would react. She hadn’t lied with bad intentions since she was willing to give him the chips.
“I took them out before.”
“You took them out?”
Leona had taken exactly five hundred chips out of the chipbox. And she did so in order to give them to Zin. Holding the chips and feeling perplexed, Zin looked at Leona. He couldn’t understand why Leona hadn’t kept the chips for herself, but instead had taken them out for Zin.
Zin had come back after a couple of days, but he might not have returned at all.
“Did you think that I was going to come back?”
“I didn’t think that you’d be stupid enough to forget to take your chips.”
And in fact, Zin was sometimes stupid enough to make such a mistake.
“You didn’t have to come back, you know?”
Leona murmured with some attitude.
“I was planning to give the chips back to you after it was time to wander again, and if I ever came across you.
Leona was planning to carry the sack of chips like a lucky charm.
“Weren’t you planning to settle here?”
“You saw what just happened. It doesn’t matter even if I want to settle somewhere.”
As soon as Leona settled down, Ard Point was under attack. The act of leaving and wandering can happen due to external events. Leona knew that she’d have to be ready to pack up and go out into the wilderness at any point. Therefore, the first thing that Leona did after settling down was prepare herself to leave again. And she made the five hundred chips into a lucky charm.
In case Zin didn’t come back, Leona was ready to go out to search for him. She did so with the hope that she would meet him one day. Zin couldn’t understand why a kid would behave in such a way. Leona stood and watched Zin, who looked back at Leona with a grin.
Zin put the sack of chips inside his pocket without counting them. He didn’t eat the chips either. He just put them into his pocket. Just as Zin couldn’t figure out Leona, he was unable to understand his own feelings. Slowly, Zin opened his mouth.
“Before the world became like this…”
“There used to be a time when…”
Leona shook her head, trying to listen to him.
“When kids were naive and obedient.”
“What nonsense are you mumbling?”
“Shut up and listen me.”
Much had changed since that time when kids used to be naive. Such times have ended, and wrongdoings were prioritized over good deeds. Kids were weak, troublesome, and incompetent beings. And in this vicious cycle, kids who were mistreated grew up to become adults who mistreated kids.
“I will take you to the next safe settlement.”
“…is this a mission? I have no more money…”
What Leona gave to Zin was everything she had. And Leona was penniless.
Zin looked at Leona who had on a bitter expression, and said:
“I’m not charging you a penny.”
Naive and good kids needed to be rewarded.