< Vegabond (Part 1) >
Zin did not talk any more, because he knew that the tired and whiny kid would keep on bickering anyways.
Leona became so exhausted that she stopped yapping and just continued to walk. Her head was getting burned by the sun, and as she climbed the mountain, she could feel muggy humidity.
One of the things to watch out for while wandering the wilderness was the climate.
“Mister, are you not feeling any heat because you are a machine?”
“What? But you are not sweating at all.”
“I can control my sweating.”
Leona stood still and wondered what he meant. She seemed to really believe that Zin could control his sweating.
“… Just kidding. Don’t think about it too long. I can control unnecessary biological functions.”
“… I feel hotter now.”
Because of the hot weather, Leona was struggling to think straight. Anyway, Zin felt the need to change his clothes. During the last battle, his chest was pierced and his coat had a hole in it. He had the option of sewing it up, but the cloth was getting very old.
Getting frustrated of the heat, Leona took out a knife and cut off her sleeves and pant legs, turning them into a short sleeve shirt and shorts.
“Phew, now that’s better.”
“You’ll regret it.”
As Zin spoke, Leona shrugged. “As long as I am happy now, I am good. I am more than happy the way it is.”
“Well, if you say so.”
Leona toss away the pieces of cloth that she had cut off, and started walking with more energy.
“But, don’t tell me that it’s going to get hotter?” Leona looked gloomy as she asked the question.
Zin looked up in the sky, and shook his head after checking the air condition and wind direction. “It will get hotter in the next two days.”
“Two days? Hotter?”
“Yeah. Well… It looks like it’s going to rain after two days.” Zin spoke with conviction, and Leona shook her head after looking at him.
“Are you a sorcerer, mister? I mean, not that it’s surprising.”
“Hmm… I am able to utilize sorcery, but this has nothing to do with it. It’s based on my experience.”
“Are you sure it’s going to rain?”
“Well, as a matter of fact…” Zin shrugged. “I think a storm is approaching.”
Zin was hoping to reach a good shelter within two days. Although the climate wouldn’t affect him too much, it was terrible to walk through a storm and heavy rain. Leona was scared after hearing him mention a storm was coming.
“Last time, I almost died because of a storm.” Leona could get blown away by a storm because she was small and light. She had almost been killed several times because she was swept by a storm.
In such ways, the climate of the Earth had deteriorated greatly. Unfortunately, they were passing through an area where there were no buildings or underground facilities that they could shelter in.
“Let’s… hurry, mister.”
Leona started walking faster in front of Zin.
They picked up the pace after Leona learned about the storm coming.
Two days later, the weather cooled off considerably with overcast clouds, and Leona started to panic, as it looked like it was going to rain as Zin had predicted.
“Crap! Why is there not a single building!”
There was no building to seen anywhere around. There were only ruins or mounds of concrete rubble.
“Well, we are in such a place.”
Zin was considering explaining to Leona how there used to be a South Korea and North Korea, and how the two countries differed in terms of development, but he didn’t because she wouldn’t understand even if she was told about it.
They had passed Seoul, and were entering the northern area of the Korean peninsula, past the DMZ. Unlike South Korea where there were marks of buildings and roads, the lands of North Korea were barren, with nothing much around.
“I hate facing a storm in the streets…”
Leona was able to survive the storms by entering buildings and taking shelter. Leona panicked as she thought that she might get swept up by the storm out in the middle of the wilderness.
Zin had noticed that there were no cities or villages as he headed south before. Humans would be living in places where there was at least rubble. The surrounding area had no recyclable things to build a trash wall.
Zin reviewed the maps of the pre-apocalypse days from the Darkborn data. There were a couple of areas that might still be intact.
“A military base might still be fine.” He located a military base that used to exist about two days away. At the good news, Leona jumped for joy.
“Follow me. I do not like walking and holding a kid through the storm.”
As Zin started walking away, Leona poked him in the side with an evil smile.
“Mister, you know, you are not that honest.”
“That’s what makes me charming.”
“... well you are honest about being conceited.”
Zin headed towards the military base.
Two days later, as the strong gusts started blowing, Zin arrived at the location. As soon as Zin told that they arrived, Leona shouted,
“… I don’t see anything?”
“Yeah, looks like it.”
In front of them were the ruins of a military base. There were signs of buildings, but all were destroyed. The tall grasses around the base suggested that the place had been raided a long time ago.
“… well, if it had anything left, somebody would have looted long time ago, ”Leona murmured hopelessly. It was not that surprising for someone to loot concrete or metal, as resources were scarce.
The wind was blowing harder, and it was only a matter of time before rain started pouring down with the wind.
“I shouldn’t have ripped my clothes…”
Leona was getting frustrated for ripping her clothes because of the heat before. Zin clicked his tongue, as if he knew this would happen, and Leona hated Zin for that, but she had nothing to say.
“Well, you were briefly happy back then, so isn’t that good enough?”
As Zin taunted Leona, Leona started to look devastated. “It’s good to be happy at the moment, but it’s no use if I am not happy right now…”
Zin laughed at Leona, who was very simplistic. In any case, Zin and Leona started walking towards the ruins of the military base.
Although everything was taken apart, there was a basement facility where they could take shelter from the storm. They were not sure if it was a basement of a barracks or a different building, but there was stairway leading down to the basement.
Zin spoke up in a serious tone, “You decide.”
“We can look for other places to shelter from the storm. We will get wet from the rain, but the storm doesn’t look too bad, and it’ll be better than this place.”
“And what’s the other option?”
“We can go into the basement to take shelter. But if the basement gets flooded, then we will need to leave. We will have to look for a new shelter in the middle of the storm.”
Both options seemed to be bad options. It was unclear how strong the storm would be, but it was clear that the basement would get flooded by the rain. Leona was thinking what to do, but she hated that she had to make a decision.
A lightning bolt flashed in the sky covered with green dust, and the thunder shook the ground.
—flash! flash! —
As three consecutive lightning bolts flashed, Leona grabbed Zin by his arm. The storm was approaching and it was too late to run away for a new shelter.
“I, I think we should take cover right now.”
Leona rushed down the stairs, and Zin was dragged down after her. As they went down into the dark basement, Leona realized that her decision was the right one.
The rain was falling so hard that Leona could hear trees snapping. The howling sound of the storm could be heard from the basement, and Leona shook her head in fear.
And just as Zin had predicted, there was water falling from the ceiling.
“Oh no! Argg… can’t I get a break… Ah!”
A water drop fell on Leona’s head, and she stared at the ceiling, only to be hit by more drops. At this rate, it was clear that the place would get flooded. However, even with the water leak, it seemed like they could stay in the basement for a while.
“By the way, what is this smell?”
Leona frowned and sniffed. The basement was filled with a wet and unpleasant odor. Zin was looking around the boiler room.
“Are there any monsters?”
“Why do you even worry? We won’t get attacked.”
“Doesn’t mean that the monsters are all good, you know?”
Leona kept on complaining and Zin continued to look around. The basement was filled with an unpleasant and ominous smell. Such basements were good locations for monsters to nest. Therefore, monsters lived in the cities rather than the wilderness. It was very likely that nests in the middle of the wilderness were inhabited by powerful monsters who could withstand the weather.
But Zin was not too worried after smelling the odor.
This is not the smell of just one kind of monster… there’s a mix of different types.
The foul smell was all around the basement, but Zin was able to distinguish the smell of different monsters.
Corpse hunter, garbage slime, poisonous dogs…
And he also spotted fur, dried up mucus, bodily fluids, and bloodstains. It was possible that a monster could have been eating here, but he was not able to smell any trace of a powerful monster.
“What is it? Did you find something?”
Zin slowly nodded at Leona’s question. “I think it’s camouflage.”
In this basement full of the ominous smells of monsters, Zin was able to find a hole at the edge of the boiler room. It was located in the far corner of the room, dark and alone.
“Somebody lived here, or is living here.”
Spraying the scent of monsters in the entrance could scare away other monsters, as well as robbers. The basement had become a place where the different kinds of foul odor were unbearable.
“Secluded groups of people use this type of camouflage. It is usually better to camouflage the area in such a way, as monsters can find the entrance rather easily.”
“Oh… that’s smart.”
The residents in this place made the basement look like the nest of an extremely dangerous monster. Most of the people would not realize this, and low level monsters would be scared away by the scent of the other types of monsters. However, Zin dealt with many types of monsters, and easily noticed the disguise.
“So what are you going to do?”
Leona was asking if Zin was going to go inside the hole or not. It was very likely that the residents formed a very small community and that there would not be many resources. There were many times where people requested help, but could not pay up properly. Zin had seen people ask the hunter for free work. It was something that he did not want to deal with.
“Alright, we’ll be better off staying here.”
At his words, Leona sat down on the floor, and Zin also sat down nearby. They didn’t know how long it would take for the storm to go away.
And they could only hope that the basement would not get flooded before then.
The rain was pouring down hard with lightning.
Leona thought that this would the only chance, and she went out to wash herself in the rain. She came back to the basement all wet, and dried her hair.
“Phew, I feel better now after taking a shower. I felt so dirty.”
Leona washed her spare clothes and threw them on the ground. Because she was not able to shower on a regular basis, Leona washed herself using rain water. Feeling refreshed and clean, Leona wore the wet clothes and laid down on the floor of the boiler room. Zin thought how weird Leona acted as she showered in the storm.
“… muddy water is falling down.”
As she was hit by the muddy water from the ceiling, she murmured hopelessly. Zin thought that Leona would have survived even though she didn’t have the power of the Witch. Then Leona stood up as if she had thought of something. She took out her knife, cut her hair, and kept herself busy.
And then she started to sharpen the knife against the concrete floor. The small knife that was probably used in the kitchen looked very dull. The knife was her only weapon, and helped Leona survive in the wilderness.
Even though she never learned how to sharpen a knife, she was diligently sharpening hers while pouring water over it.
Zin approached Leona. “You won’t be able to cut through a vegetable using that knife. This is a knife!” Zin handed over a knife with a leather sheath to Leona. He only used it to trim meat, it was a spare.
Leona pulled out the knife from the sheath and marveled. The knife was in an excellent condition, the grip was covered with good quality leather, and the knife was light enough for Leona to use.
More than anything, the knife was small enough for Leona to conceal it in her clothes. Leona wrapped the old knife with cloth, and put it away in her bag. And she put the knife around her waist. Leona smiled brightly, very happy with the new knife.
“Thank you, mister.”
“Don’t be too happy about a piece of metal.”
“Ah, I am starting to understand that this is what makes you charming, mister.” Leona giggled as Zin spoke indifferently, and Zin, dumbfounded, went back to his place. Leona kept on looking at the new knife that was glinting with a metallic light.
“Let me teach you how to sharpen a knife, as well. If you sharpen it how you did before, the blade will be ruined in no time.”
Zin had asked to make Leona a hunter, and had already received the chips for the request. He didn’t want to give a firearm to a small kid, so he decided to teach her how to handle a knife.
Zin pulled out a whetstone, and started to sharpen the knife slowly.
“Hold this area, and be careful not to get a cut…”
Zin showed Leona how to sharpen the knife slowly, and Leona paid close attention.
After learning how to sharpen the knife completely, she nodded with a pleasant smile.
“I got this now. But, you know, I don’t have a whetstone.”
Zin realized that he had forgotten something very important.