The old man shouted with his raspy voice, “I know who you are! I’ve seen your bounty! Take your mask off Coal Jenie!”
My mind was filled with anxiety. I raised my hands in the air and slowly took off my mask.
A bounty hunter near the entrance shouted in confusion, “Coal Jenie?”
Another man spurted out, “That man is here? Does he have a death wish? This is free money!”
Damn it. I was really screwed.
Every person with a weapon edged towards me. I didn’t know what to do. I looked at the door and then at the windows thinking of a way to get out, and that’s when the old man said something.
The old man shouted once more in his raspy voice, “Wait! Everyone, put your weapons down!”
No one dropped their weapons. They all just stopped moving towards me and stood still.
“You willingly walked into a room full of bounty hunters and police. Why would someone do something so stupid? What are you here for?”
The man looked at me in both curiosity and resentment. I lowered my arms slowly and turned to the man’s face seriously.
“It’s like I said when I walked in. I want to kill a number. I heard one of them came to this place a while ago and a bounty was placed on him.”
The old man stared at me and quickly countered, “But your not a bounty hunter, and even if you were one I’d never pa-”
I cut him off quickly by saying, “I don’t care about the damn money! I only want to kill him!”
The old man continued to stare at me seriously for almost a full minute until he smiled like before. He stood up and once more signaled the bounty hunters to drop their weapons.
“Alright everyone, seriously, put your damn weapons down. I have an offer to make to the kid that I think everyone will like.”
A hunter with a Japanese green tengu-designed mask to the left of me howled in curiosity, “An offer better than thousands of dollars?”
One odd-looking hunter with green cone-shaped hair and a tiny hammer shouted, “Yea, I wanna hear this!”
The old man asked while smiling at me with his hand on his chin like he was thinking, “So… you want to kill Number Twenty-Nine huh?”
The old man squinted and eyed me as if he was gazing into my soul. He also continued to rub his chin, this time a little more quickly. He truly seemed to be pondering the possibility of allowing a bounty target to hunt other targets for him. The old man was finished thinking as he finally made his decision.
“I’ll tell you what kid. No one has ever had the balls to accept a number’s bounty ever since I became a bounty hunter. There are rumors that some woman accepted Twenty-Nine’s bounty… but that wasn’t through me so I’m just going to assume that isn’t true…”
I raised my eyes, and my anxiety seemed to dissipate immediately. I truly got lucky here. I think this man may actually assign me the bounty which is exactly what I want. He smiled at me menacingly and even began chuckling as he spoke.
“I don’t care if you really did what the bounty on your head suggests. I placed that bounty on that scum of a number myself, and you look capable of delivering. They say the first bounty hunter became one in a scenario similar to the one we find ourselves in right now. I’ll tell you what… if you can bring me the head of Number Twenty-nine, not only will I pay you in full, but I’ll even take the bounty off of your head myself!”
The hunters’ weapons in the room still didn’t drop. They seemed not to care about what the old man was saying.
After looking around and seeing the restless bounty hunters’ faces, I quickly stated, “Yes, okay. I accept. That’s what I’m here for anyway.”
“Well, there you go! Everything is settled! You know, you're supposed to be a certified bounty hunter to be able to accept any sort of bounty from me, but I think I’ll allow this one to slide since it’s a deal between the two of us… and it’s a number we're talking about here.”
The old man noticed that the hunters were still restless with their weapons up, so he reassured them promptly.
Seriously, everyone, everything’s fine! Put your weapons away. Don’t we all want that number dead anyway? He disrespected us… HE DISRESPECTED THE WAY OF THE BOUNTY HUNTERS! HE TOOK ARSENAL’S WEAPON!”
My eyes widened when he said Arsenal’s name. I wondered if this old man knew Arsenal personally before he died. The bounty hunters glared amongst each other as if they were trying to observe the opinion of the masses. After a few minutes, they finally put their weapons away in mutual agreement. The old man stamped and handed me the bounty. He subsequently lifted back the switch that sent everyone panicking. There was only one problem here and it involved the fact that one specific police officer refused to drop his weapon. He refused to drop his pistol.
The random police officer shouted while throwing a pair of handcuffs at the floor beside me, “Coal Jenie! I don’t care what you’re here for or what your goals are! You’re a murderer! Put your hands back up now and handcuff yourself!”
The old man defended me as if he’s had to do this before for other murderers.
“Come on officer, let’s just relax. Don’t you understand what’s happening here? This man is offering to bring us all a number! Let me ask you something.”
The old man walked slowly around his desk and began to approach the officer with both of his hands held at his hunched back. His right hand was holding his left hand’s wrist behind his back similar to what (for some reason) lots of old men do when they walk.
“Have the police ever caught a number?”
The officer kept pointing his gun desperately at me as his hand shook, but he seemed to be listening to the old man as well. The old man paused for a second allowing the officer to think before continuing.
“Wouldn’t you rather want a number behind bars instead of another same-old murderer? How about this? I’ll tell you what. I'll have the kid bring that man in alive and turn him in to you. Whether dead or behind bars… it’s all the same for me as long as it’s that specific number. How does that sound? Sounds like a win-win situation to me.”
The bounty hunters all stared at the cop who began to slowly drop his weapon. The cop remained silent and looked like he was thinking as he stared at the floor.
After at least five minutes of the police officer thinking and corresponding silence being provided by the hunters, the officer agreed and holstered his gun while affirmatively stating, “Fine, but I better receive Twenty-Nine from you old man or else I’m arresting you for untruthful deception to an authority.”
The old man simply chuckled as I kicked the officer’s handcuffs back at him, and he slowly and angrily picked them back up. As the officer picked them up, he had some angry words to say to me.
“Coal Jenie… killing your whole family… killing a young boy with a bright future… don’t think that bringing in Twenty-Nine will alleviate you of these crimes! After you bring him in, I’ll be hunting you once more, you hear me?”
I ignored the police officer as I eyed him the same way he was eyeing me. He’s just another idiot who thinks I killed those people. They think I did it just because I was around when they died. How ridiculous.
The old man asserted to the crowd, “Everyone, carry on! I’ll handle things with the kid from now on.”
The police officer and bounty hunters slowly but surely began to go back to doing whatever they were there for originally. The old man waved his hands signaling me to walk back to his giant and long desk with him. I followed him, but I couldn’t help asking what I was wondering.
“Hey, old man. How the hell did you know who I was through my scarf? It was completely covering my face.”
The old man responded in his raspy voice.
“You think I haven’t gained just because I’m old?”
His eyes were dark and baleful. I admit. I was truly surprised.
“I used to be a bounty hunter twenty years ago. I’ve been around kid, and I’ve gained more than you can imagine.”
I waited for a better explanation. The man smiled as he seemed to notice my need for more details. He simply spoke one word.
I continued to look at him, but this time I was a little confused.
“Sight? I don’t understand. You gain sight? How is that possible? You can already see, can’t you?”
The old man finally clarified and provided details.
“My name is Sint. Sint Kantor. In my glory days, I was known as ‘The Witness’. During those days, I gained a countless amount of sight. You see, the more I gained, the more I was able to see. No mask can hide a person’s appearance or personality from me. This isn’t something that someone without my ability can ever comprehend. Why do you think I work behind this silly desk?”
I see. Something that I can’t comprehend, huh? I should’ve expected this man to be a killer for the sole fact that he runs this association. Sint continued to speak.
“So, that number you want to kill. He didn’t walk in the way you did, so I didn’t have the time to look at him until he had already announced himself.”
I perplexedly expressed, “Announced himself? I’m sorry, but it's just too hard for me to believe that a number would do all of this in front of so many people.”
He replied, “Yes kid. The man kicked our door open and told us who he was completely fearlessly. He had explosives strapped onto himself and had his giant slave plant more around the interior. That number. He’s a smart son of a bitch, but he’s got a mouth on him too. That’s the first time I’ve ever seen a number openly walk into a place like this. He seemed to possess great wealth and had his number placed on his tie-”
I cut him off.
“Why would he want Arsenal’s sickle? What exactly does Twenty-Nine gain when killing? Were you able to learn this with your ability?”
Sint looked surprised as his eyes widened. He was clearly using his ability on me.
“You know Arsenal?”
Damn. I shouldn’t have said his name. There was no point holding back from a veteran with an ability like this one.
I explained, “Arsenal saved my life when I was younger. That’s all. I didn’t exactly know him personally.”
I wondered if Sint was able to tell what my ability was just from looking at me. Sint looked down at his desk for a few seconds and then back at me as if he was trying to put the pieces together.
“Arsenal… saved you? Now that… that doesn’t sound like him.”
I didn’t respond.
“Anyways, I don’t know what the number wanted with the sickle, but he did make his greed obvious to everyone. He gains memory. All he did was touch my shoulder, and he learned the code for this safe.”
Sint pointed his wrinkled thumb behind him towards the safe.
I thought out loud, “Memory?”
If that’s true then that’s definitely bothersome, but at the same time, that doesn’t sound like a combat ability. How did someone with an ability like that get chosen as a number? His ability is probably far more powerful than I think it is.
Sint exclaimed angrily, “You’ll be able to see how he looked in the picture we took of him when he walked into this place. It’s on his bounty paper. I have no idea where he is now, but that rich ass-hole is definitely living it up somewhere. I can tell you that. He used our bathroom, and we found a stack of hundred-dollar bills in the toilet.”
Just the thought of a number enjoying life frustrated me.
“Sounds like a number.”
I finalized the bounty and thanked Sint. I then walked back to the front door of the association. A few bounty hunters and police officers gave me ugly looks as I made my way out. I ignored them while subsequently giving them the same scary looks.
Once I exited the building, I threw my scarf in the trash and thought about where I should look first. A rich man who’s a number at the same time? Where could someone like that be? There was also the possibility of every one of the numbers being rich. I considered these possibilities seriously.
While I was thinking, I turned leftward from the front door of the Association just to immediately bump into a raggedly brown-cloaked man with blond hair that had black streaks running through it. It seemed like the man worked hard on getting this design to work. As soon as I bumped into him, he immediately turned around to face me and aggressively shouted at me while lifting his cloak to reveal what was underneath.
"Hey, watch where you're going, freak! You're going to mess up one of my precious tools!"
I looked at the man in confusion as I began to notice what was under his cloak. It was... kitchen instruments? What the hell? Who is this guy?
"Yeah, okay buddy. My bad if I'm responsible for messing up your lasagna plans for tonight."
The man eyed me with fury.
"Hmph. Bump into me again, and I'll show you lasagna you ugly degenerate!"
The man then continued eyeing me until his eyes began to widen. He clearly knew who I was.
"Hey! You're Coal Jenie! I was hunting you some months ago! I accepted the bounty that was on your head!"
I responded, "Yeah? Okay, good to know buddy. I don't care."
He glared at me with even more anger now displayed on his face as his nose began to wrinkle.
"You're lucky you know! They took me off of my mission once I got beat up by this one kid in the Voiceless Forest. They think you're the one who beat me but just know-"
The Chef lifted his right arm towards me and pointed at me with his right index finger as he finished his assertive statement.
"if I never met the kid in the forest, then I would've kicked your ass buddy, you got that?"
I looked at the man and laughed as I began walking away.
"Yeah, alright buddy. Don't get beat up by a kid next time, and maybe you'll be able to fight me."
As I walked away, I looked back to see him clenching his fists and grinding his teeth in absolute anger and frustration. He was actually really fun to mess with for some reason.
As I walked for hours through the darkness and, once more, through the city’s center, I decided that the number had to be somewhere in Dividend City. I was guessing, of course, but if this was the last place he was sighted, then I would have to assume he was here first.
Immediately after exiting the city’s center, I sat down on a curb on the side of the street when I noticed something happening at the corner of my eye. Emerging from the darkness, a horde of people were running out of a bank that had a couple of ATM machines in front of it. There were three noticeably white-skinned men who all wore suits and ties standing outside of the bank. Two of the men wore simple black suits with white ties, but one man stood out from the three. He wore a snow-white suit with a scarlet tie and even a snow-white top hat that matched his suit. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Could it really be?
I began running towards the building and past civilians who were sprinting in my direction. The man in the white suit noticed me coming but casually made his way inside the bank with his two companions as people frantically screamed. Could it really be him? Is it the number? A bunch of people bumped into me as I ran in the opposite direction of them. One particularly dark-skinned and overweight man bumped into me hard, sending me flying on my butt. I yelled out while holding my shoulder where he bumped me with clenched teeth.
“Hey! Watch it fatty! I’m trying to make my way through!”
The fat man stopped running as soon as I yelled at him. He glared at me with an ugly face as he responded in a nasty fashion.
“Watch who you’re calling 'fatty' kid, or else I might be eating dinner three times tonight instead of two!”
The man turned back around and continued sprinting like a penguin. What the hell kind of threat was that? I wanted to chase the fat guy now and teach him a lesson, but I needed to investigate this bank. What if, by some insanely random chance, this was Twenty-Nine? I couldn’t let this opportunity slip from my eyes. I got back up and continued running towards the entrance of the bank. I arrived at the door which was lit up by lamps and flung it open viciously. No one was inside except the three men in the suits. They all stood still staring at me curiously. My anger had no bounds.
If one of these people turned out to be Twenty-Nine, then I was definitely ready for a fight, and this time...
I’m not running away.