Chapter 107: Chips and More Chips (Part 2)
Some believed in the Hive and some didn’t. But the Hive might be real. There could be an ecosystem of monsters that killed each other in a huge colony. Zin had not seen it, but he believed in its possibility.
Ironically, the monster who had been attracted there by humans had ended up creating an ecosystem of monsters.
But the really dangerous monsters never came outside.
Therefore, the Hive existed, but the people were only getting a glimpse of it. The big cities were maintained within such perilous tightrope walk, with a greater number of humans and monsters than any other place.
When Zin arrived at the client’s house, he handed the flyer to the client. However, rather than welcoming the hunter, he looked at Leona standing next to him.
“Don’t mind her. She’s a shadowing student.”
“A shadowing student?” he responded in lukewarm manner, but nodded as if he understood. His place was an old apartment, but the fact that he had a house with a certain amount of privacy showed that he was fairly secure financially.
Having a house meant one of two things: either he bought it from the original owner or he got rid of the owner without anyone knowing about it. Since rights were not protected in this era, protecting one’s assets was just as important as acquiring them.
Zin asked point-blank, “What are the details of the job?”
There was no detailed information on the flyer, so it had been necessary to meet the client. The man got ready to go out and headed out to a locked single-story building.
He grumbled, opening a few layers of padlocks.
“I just bought this building because it was cheap and I had no idea that there was a problem.”
There was no use complaining to Zin and Leona about the details, but he mumbled as he shook the key in a tight lock.
“I was completely swindled. I had no idea that the rats had built their nests underground.”
He had planned to open a restaurant after buying the cheap building that had just come on the market, but the story was that there was a monster living underground.
“I should have suspected when I noticed that they kept the building locked.”
However, the seller disappeared after selling it in a hurry, so there was no way to get in contact with him. In the end, the seller was in the wrong, but it was also his fault for not checking the building thoroughly before purchasing it. In a world where no one could be trusted, it was foolish to buy something just because it was cheap.
To make matters worse, the key broke off in the last lock. With his face red, he sighed deeply and looked at Zin.
“Nothing’s going right. Wait. Let me get the cutter…”
Zin held the lock in his hand and forced it open. Then, he said to his dumbfounded client curtly, “I won’t charge you extra for that.”
“… I think you’ve got the proper skills. Come in.”
The owner, who saw Zin crumple the lock with his bare hands, nodded with a puzzled look.
Leona also shook her head in disbelief of Zin’s powerful grip. The client touched the switch, and the light soon came on in the dim interior.
The reactor-based, self-generating energy system was widespread in the big city. It was up to the individuals to use the energy. The room was large enough to be used as a shop.
“This is a good place. The location is good, and the store will do well once the monster is gone. Are you interested? Since you’re a hunter, you can handle monsters no problem.”
Zin smiled at his client.
“I prefer the hills.”
Once Zin expressed that he was not interested in real estate, the client laughed as if he wasn’t being serious. Zin stood before the cleverly hidden underground stairs.
“There’s another iron gate down there. The last time I went down, I almost died, so I don’t go down anymore. If you clean it up, I’ll give you a hundred chips, no questions asked.”
“I’d like half the money now as an advance.”
“Here it is.” The client handed over the chips as if already aware of the terms.
Zin checked that there were fifty chips in the bag the client gave him and then put it away. Leona had seen Zin take jobs and solve cases before, but this business-like scene was quite strange to her.
It seemed like dry and mundane work for the hunter. It was a usual day, with no excitement or tension, but the reality was that he was about to kill something.
To Leona, seeing Zin like that was strange, but it was also amazing.
“Are you going to wait here?”
“Sure, I have nothing to do.”
He had to also want to make sure the hunter did his job properly.
The heavy iron door was chained, and as Zin started unchaining it, the client turned pale. Come to think of it, being there meant that the hunter would begin his hunt, and if he were to miss one, it would come up to surface.
“Hey, K-kid. Are you going to be OK?” the client stammered, stunned that Leona could just calmly stand there and observe what Zin was doing. Leona shrugged as she couldn’t relate to the client.
“What’s there to be so scared of?”
The client was shocked by her fearless attitude, and shocked again when he saw her take out a rifle from her bag. She had just been amazed by Zin’s tranquility, but she went ahead and checked the bullets in the case, put the rifle together, then pulled the safety lock.
She looked calm, like someone who had used that gun many times.
‘Even the students are on a different level,’ he thought and then he said with a puzzled look, “Well… Actually, I-I’ll just wait for you at my place.”
The client hurried back home even before Zin had finished removing the chain.
“It’s good to be ready, but we won’t shoot.”
“If we waste bullets on small things, our productivity will drop. We’re doing this to save money. Just use it for self-defense for now.”
“OK.” Leona nodded. They needed to collect two hundred thousand chips, an amount that had never been attempted, and to gather that amount quickly, they had to keep all hunting expenses at a minimum. The iron gate led underground, and the basement was blocked by another chained iron gate.
They heard a small noise as they approached.
“He’s right about the rats.”
Judging from the sharpness and loudness of the sound, he could tell that it was a monster-like rodent. Oftentimes, clients would describe monsters as smaller or weaker than they were, so what they said couldn’t always be trusted at face value. If the request was too dangerous, many hunters would not take the job, so this became a problem.
Once the chain was removed, the squeaky sound from inside became louder.
“Step away from it a bit.”
With his right hand holding the rifle sword and his left hand wearing a bladed glove, Zin arranged the door to be opened at any moment. Leona backed away about three steps and observed him.
Then, he opened the door to only a slight gap to looked at the interior. Inside were brown rats the size of children, bearing their fangs and growling at Zin.
It was hard to believe that rats were making those eerie and sharp sounds. They were monster rats who could devour a human in ten minutes, leaving only bone fragments behind. Rather than attacking, the rats stayed alert. Their red eyes seemed to say ‘get lost’ to Zin, warning him that nothing good would come out of him entering.
“To be accurate, I think they’re some type of mole.”
Monsters had their own way of thinking, and although the intelligence level varied from one to another, those were similar to beasts.
Those moles had formed a group of nests underground. Attacking an animal’s nest was a do-or-die situation. The nest had babies, so they would try desperately to kill Zin in order to protect them and never run away.
Zin pondered for a moment. It would be convenient and easy to use his equipment, but now was the time to be bold.
“What do you…”
Zin flung the iron gates open, nudged himself in, then slammed the gates. Leona was shocked because she thought Zin, who had always insisted on winning unconditionally, would’ve never resorted to this kind of method.
The sound of rats swarming the enemy who had broken into their nest reverberated.
‘Wham! Smack! Smack!’
And then, the sound of something being struck and the sound of something being smashed was heard.
‘Whack! Bam! Whack!
Leona didn’t look confused, but she felt like she could see the mess going on inside.
About ten minutes later, the noise died down, and the iron gate opened slowly.
“Mister, are you all right?”
“This is nothing. I’ve been taking the easy route so far.”
Hunting by shooting was lazy hunting. Zin would have to slowly get used to this way of hunting again. Leona was dumbfounded when she saw the lot of dead meat inside.
Even though they had been just rats, he had cleaned out their nest at once and without using a single bullet.
“Well, if you can do this, why bother with the other method?”
The hunting they had been doing up until now, which had required them to wait patiently for that one shot at the crucial moment, somehow seemed less exciting. Zin pointed at himself. “… Take a look at me.”
Zin was covered in monster flesh, saliva, bodily fluids, and blood, and looked like a ghost.
Surely, regardless of what was possible or not, the way he looked was awful. Surely, the end result of a hand-to-hand combat wasn’t very attractive.
“I don’t want to see a client like this. Get the client and ask for a change of clothes. I need to clean up the rest.”
“The rest? What else is left…”
‘Whack! Whack! Squeak!’
He looked like he would get shot by the guard if he tried to get on the train. Leona tilted her head wondering what he had meant by the rest, but she soon found out what it was.
Zin was stomping the baby rats in the nest. Every time one was trampled to death, there would be a pitiful squeal that spooked Leona, so she quickly went upstairs.
It had to be done because it was a part of the job, but it wasn’t a pretty sight.
The client was shocked when he saw Zin, and shocked again when he saw the many giant rats that he had killed.
‘Ah-Are you done already?’
“Not quite. The ones that went outside through this tunnel haven’t returned yet. They are more than the ones you have here.”
“W-Well, then what should I do?”
Since the nest was there, there were many tunnels dug by the rats. The rats that went out looking for food had not returned yet. However, what was important was that the nest had been destroyed and the basement reclaimed.
Although the hunt was over, Zin instructed the client on additional measures that needed to be taken. Many people went away once the job was over, but Zin was the type who finished the work properly. Zin scooped up the rat carcasses all over the basement and pointed out the tunnels dug by the rats.
“Don’t burn the rat carcasses. Shove them all down here because this is the deepest tunnel. After that, block the hole with cement, and that’ll finish the job.
“Don’t get rid of the bodies, but instead throw them in here? That’ll attract scavengers. Even if I cover it with cement, they might get through. ”
It was a reasonable thing to ask if the smell of dead monsters would bring more monsters.
“What do you think will happen when the group of rats see scavengers biting their babies?”
When they return, they’ll see that all the babies are dead, and that the rats that had been protecting the nest were torn to death, and that the scavengers are eating their friends’ bodies.
“Whoa… Would they fight?”
“Yes, if two monsters fight in this cramped hole, one of them will win, but the scavengers are a pack, and the rats will return one by one, so the scavengers will catch all the rats. They’ll go somewhere else once they get their food, so you don’t have to worry about them. They don’t nest, so they’ll move on to the next corpse after they clean out the nest.”
He was going to use another monster to catch the monsters he couldn’t catch. Because he had never thought about it, the client nodded his head in amazement
“Yes, I see!”
He smiled widely as the hunter not only did his job but also told him what he could do to solve the problem that might arise later.
“You should get to it right now. The first thing to do is cover up the holes.”
“Oh, yes! I better do that now.”
The client tried to leave the room in a hurry because he needed to block the holes before the rats returned.
“You should pay me before you go.”
“Oh, my! I almost forgot. Thank you, hunter!”
The client rushed out after paying Zin. He had to move quickly to get the cement and begin plastering. Zin and Leona were back on the street. After changing into the clothes the client had brought for him, he put the bloody clothes in a backpack.
“Let’s move on to the next assignment.”
“More?” asked Leona, and Zin looked at her as if to question why she was even asking that.
“We have to do at least ten jobs like this in a day. We don’t have time to rest.”
Only then, did Leona realize that it had been a mistake to follow him. But Zin was already searching for the next job, flipping through the handful of flyers he had brought with him.