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Changing Worlds
Description and Information
Fan Fiction Name: Changing Worlds
Author/s: HummelHunter
First Debut: January 3rd, 2011
Number of Chapters: 4
Current Status: Ongoing
Chapters
  1. Changing Times
  2. Changing Lifes
  3. Changing Worlds



Also visit my side project: Through their eyes

Note: English is not the author's first language, so don't expect perfect grammar and spelling. Feel free to correct minor mistakes you find, though don't change major content.

Credits

The stories of the one that made me writing, absolute must-reads :The Darkstar Knight, The Darkstar Knight 2

Here another Fanfic related to this: Hypnohunter's "Spem Habe"

Look at this for Vaans history: Cerberus24's Fan faction: The little things

The Character of Azion was taken with permission off Lee119.

Harper, Riker, Kyro and Soran's story have been inspired by PurpleIsGood and his awesome Fanfiction: Tears for the Fallen

Black Shimmering Blizzard

Lucie finished weaving the last few streaks of her hair. She wasn't wearing the full Kirin S armor, only helmet and vembraces. Every part else was made from her first Tigrex and her Switch Axe was made from a red Khezu she had fought. The Bloodshocker was granting 780 atp and 230 thunder element at green sharpness. The armor was gemmed to keep Element attack up, Earplug and Quick Eating+2. It was impressive how well she understood to choose her gear, although she always told to have a few good teachers.

"You look great.", said Hummel while playing around with an arrow. Putting it back and standing up, he took a closer look at her. Even with the bulky, spiked Tigrex plate covering her body, she was an indescribable beauty. The darkbrown hair with the snowwhite streaks of Kirin mane flowed down on her shoulders as she looked up to him. He was still a head taller than her.

"You too. We are going to kick some dragon ass up there, huh?"

"Of course we are. That Daora won't stand a chance against us. Especially if FlaP and I use our Joker."

They could stay staring at each other the whole day, but the other hunters where already waiting outside the house. The team consisted of two Gunners on the one hand, Bacon wearing his Uragaan set with a Thundacrus Bowgun, Hummel in Monodevil V and his Glorious Victory I. He didn't upgrade it yet as he couldn't afford the three Big Elder Dragon Jewels, but it was fitting as the fight would be at least a slight challenge.

FlaP wasn't equipped with a G-rank weapon too. Even though he was wearing Fatalis Z, his blade being a Siegmund Greatsword. Both he and Hummel where planning to use Adrenaline, the G-rank defense would allow them to live through a few more hits. This should still stay a challenge and a good training, so they didn't want to overpower the Dragon within a few minutes.

The four looked out in the snow at the villages border, preparing for a more than a challenge.

The way up into the mountains wasn't filled with special events. FlaP came up to his long-standing friend, asking Lucie to go some steps ahead and leave them alone. After falling back a bit, he pulled out a light blue orb, similar to a Farcaster.

"Take this one. The E.D.O made some new toys for their agents and people involved in the whole Fatalite thing. Reverted Farcaster technology. Brings anything from a special guild storage to any place this throwing orb is activated."

"And that means what in special?"

"If this Daora is Infected, we can bring our Aurex Weapons here within a blink."

'Infected'... The word pierced Hummel's mind. Other elder dragons could also have come in contact with unstable Fatalite ore. Lucie still didn't know about those events, and he hoped he never had to tell her about it. But now, as FlaP mentioned it, the certainty of a possibly infected Elder Dragon made him troubles. World wasn't the same anymore with this ever lurking danger.

"Then let us hope we don't need them.", he smiled bitterly while putting it in his pouch.

Some snowflakes where falling as they reached a high area, only some thin traces of small clawed feet in the snow. The dragon was here not long ago. The wind got stronger, and from the slight snow shower a storm raised within a few seconds. It was close, and it was knowing about the visitors. Out of the clouds, it glided down on the ground. While the movements of the creature where smoth like silk, ground shaked violently as it landed. The two G-ranked hunters reached into their pockets and gulped down a handfull of bluish bugs. The bitterbugs left them panting for a few seconds, but suddenly they stood there with serious looks again. FlaP's black armor was glowing in a faint red while the blue Monoblos shell of the gunner covered itself in a thick layer of frost. Meanwhile the Dragon observed them, not moving away from its position.

"This is where things get serious. Get ready." FlaP took a step forward, placing his hand on the hilt of the Greatsword without drawing it. Everybody else unsheathed and lined up. This was one step to close for Daora. It gave a scream as last warning and unleashed the wind aura, still only observing the reaction of the hunters. They wouldn't retreat, so would the beast. Air froze, only to break down again as it started. Daora charged, the others jumped aside. Lucie's axe got reflected by the violent wind while a red glowing hunter drew his blade and held it behind his head, ready to strike with full power. As the metallic monster turned its body, the gunners fired and accompanied the massive impact of the sharp, heavy weapon. Kushala recoiled and lost balance, stumbling over onto its side. It lost concentration and the barrier dissolved, leaving it open to a barrage of further shots and thundering hits of the axe. The fight continued and the hunters had everything under control, as long as the last heavy bash of FlaP's blade broke down the horns.

Something seemed to attract anger towards them. The Elder Dragon was infected indeed. It jumped up, screaming and reaching a height where it only appeared as pale grey point in the violent snowstorm. But instead of flying further away it entered a nosedive and began to spin. Directly under it a smal circle formed in the fresh powder, until a vortex of air reached up into the sky. Kushala landed, and the tornado widened, blowing everyone away and forcing them to stay low on the ground to prevent getting blown into oblivion. The wind softened up again, showing the beast in a new light. The vortex like aura was far stronger, covering every part of it, even the head. Through the dense wall of white flakes, a greenish black shimmer had spread across the shining grey skin.

"Damn, not another one of that sort. I thought the Teostra was enough.", Bacon spit into the snow, opening the cartridge of his gun and loading a massive purple shell.

"What? You where the one kiling the Infected Teostra?" FlaP's voice sounded surprised. Daora needed a while to get a clear look again. The sudden increase in power seemed to confuse it.

"I didn't kill it, but I was in the fray too. A little nightmare for me and my village."

"At least you have experience with it. Might help."

Lucie was torn apart between fear and fierceness. "Uhm guys... Is this normal? What is going on here?"

Hummel had no time for thinking. The blue smoke got already blown away and he picked up the Roaring Demon Bow. While hasting to attach the power coatings, he called through the wind: "Everybody, this is no normal hunt anymore. FlaP and me will stay and fend this thing away. Lucie, get away. We handle it."

"What? No. Not this time." Daora began to move. It needed more time to get aware of the massive energy flowing around it, but this wouldn't mean anything good.

"Damn this thing Surpasses G*4 and at all, this is no normal dragon. We have experience with it."

"I am not running this time. The last time you told you can handle this you where injured for over a month. We stand this together."

"Lucie really, listen to him. I will have my stuggle against it too. This is nothing somebody at your level would survive. Bacon has at least some years of experience, he has fought G-rank monsters." FlaP, gulped down his mega potion, the glow of his armor stopped. Even he hadn't the nerve to fight this on adrenaline.

She didn't listen. All she did was renewing the element phial of her weapon and charging. The other three cursed, Bacon began to fire his poison bullet and Hummel didn't even care his adrenaline status. All he wanted was to dispatch the wild Dragon before it could hurt anyone he loved. With a loud roar he joined the fray, firing without end. But everything he tried didn't help. Both his arrows and Bacon's bullets got blown away. Daora began to move. It had only eyes for the charging girl. FlaP wanted to stop her, but a sudden gust swept him off his feet.

"Let her go!!" The archer's field of vision narrowed, only showing the dragon and her. Disregarding how desperate he tried to get its attention, Daora didn't mind. The first claw swipe flung the axe away, she fell backward and the icy grip of the second was aimed to crush her head.

Blood pumped, adrenaline rushed through every fiber of Hummel's body as he released the string. The arrow wouldn't reach its aim at time. The arrow wouldn't, but something else would. Ground rumbled, Daora disappeared in a cloud of snow, only to get flung out blinks later. The snow laid down, and the huge muscular body of a wywern stood there, bowing its neck protective over the huntress.

"You?" It was the strangest miracle, the most mixed feelings a human could have broke out in the archer's chest. "Why you?", was all he could think off while staring at the massive armored beast that just saved the most important thing in his life.

"Why I help you?' Beacause this is not only your fight."

"What. Why? Why can I hear you?"

"Hummel? Everything ok?" Bacon looked confused.

Lucie turned her head back. It was clearly visible in her pale face how shocked and insecure she was. "Who are you talking to? We have another trouble more and you see ghosts. That ain't the right time for it!"

"This Dragon. It shouldn't posses such powers. This is not natural. I might be wrong in the end, but at least this time we have to join forces."

"Get out of my head!" Those words. Suddenly he was back in the snow that morning. His bleeding body was being driven by rage, all he wanted was to pay back the pain he felt. Those words came back: "You have too much to learn my young friend. The journey is long and this is the wrong way of going it. "

An explosion brought Hummel back to reality. A forceful burst of air left a crater in the frozen rock, Daora was back.

"Then let's walk this damned journey." The horn- and tailless Wywern took a step forward, still shielding Lucie. Hummel ran up there. Both of the Saphire Monoblos growled one last time, then they charged. Daora jumped out of the way, entered flight and unleashed another stream of wind from its mouth. But this was a fatal mistake. Even if the massive stream grinded rock to dust, the Storm Emperor had to let down its guard to attack. During the few seconds of it without aura, five arrows pierced through a wing. Black lightning started to spread over the beast, letting it scream in agony. Then the sound got muffled in a wall. Monoblos caught it out of the air and slammed its whole body against the Infected's hind legs and pressed it agains the stone. Some moments later Kushala got back initiative and slashed itself free. Stumbling back with a bleeding neck and face, Blos lost grip on the ground. But instead of falling down, it dug into the snow with a controlled movement.

The other hunters overcame their surprise. This time, they decided to keep the upper hand. FlaP's flashbomb forced the Steel to crush down without orientation although the wind kept blowing. Then again, ground rumbled as another breakout of Monoblos flung it into the air. The aura might be powerful enough to send a human flying, but not the countless tons of Wywern. Bullets and arrows nailed it, and as it came back to bottom, the wind was gone. Purple smoke raised from the Bowgun's muzzle and purplish blood dripped from the dragon's mouth as it wanted to fire another wind bullet. The poison was a huge problem for it, and even if any other power was enhanced, it was took away as soon as the highly toxic nail stung its leg.

Poison... Increased strength, increased weakness... This was the drawback. "Everybody move. We have about two minutes to harm it. Use the time!" FlaP called through the blue dust. He dropped greatsword and sheath, only his fanged Katana at hand.

Daora staggered around, the toxin dazing its senses. Suddenly, FlaP's Aurex Infection pierced the leg, the dragon turned and rose a claw, missing the swing. Lucie's sword slashed from behind, the thunder spreading through the flesh and blackening the metal. A strike later, Kushala ran forward, sliding and loosing balance. The tail got lost and further attack rained down on it. From behind, the wywern ran forward, speeding up for the last impact. Just then the frozen beast got back to clear vision. The wind bullet exploded, sending the near blademasters flying and hitting Blos directly on the head. The suddenly lifeless body fell down, neck broken and twisted. An arrow spiked the open maw, a bullet finally pierced the head's shell, and before it could reuse its advantage, an infected monster more was blown out of existence.

The storm settled down, the hunters sat down, resting from their struggle. Looking in the white eyes of the unusual ally, Hummel was struck by sadness. "Thank you...", he muttered while closing them.

Unwelcome Memories

Taking a deep look into the mirror, Soran touched the thin beard on his chin. He had to shave it again and his eyes were surrounded by dark circles. He was tired and the last few days were strange. Even though it was just a routine Grey Garuga, the hunt exhausted him more than usual. And then was there this thing with Lucie. A little while after he came home, she began crying for some reason, then running away. And he didn't see Hummel or someone else around. A bit confusing after all.

As he went downstairs, he took a short look at the sun outside the window. Clouded sky, about noon. The kitchen was empty, only the silent noise of dripping water somewhere.

"Anyone at home? I'm feeling lonely here.", he shouted.

Another voice cut through the sound of water: "Yeah, I'm taking a shower. Gimme a few minutes" That was Ciepha.

"Alright, I'll get me some food, nearly starving here." the man answered while grabbing some bread and one of the few brownies left on the table. While he was putting some honey on the bread, Ciepha came outside, a towel on the shoulder, the short hair still slightly wet.

"How was your night?"

"Bah, don't ask. I was sleeping like a stone and yet I am tired like running a marathon. How about your?"

"Yesterday was a bit troublesome, but I feel great. Might take a day off and go to the hot springs. I'm going to relax a bit as long as we are still here."

"I see. What was going on with Lucie yesterday. She didn't look very happy."

"Not as long as she stayed here, no. But she's fine again. I didn't expect it, but she is in love with Hummel."

"What? No, ain't she? Let me guess, he doesn't love her."

"In fact he does, thats the fun part about it. But I don't know, he had something bothering him when she told him about her feelings. Something important it seems."

"So what now, are they a pair, aren't they?"

"They are, and FlaP returned too. They're already in the mountains, Daora Urgent or something like this. Anyway, are you going to the spring too, so it won't get boring?"

"I think so, maybe a bit later. I need to get a walk around, my head aches like if I would hammer myself."

"So we'll see then. Bye."

A few last words and he was outside, the cold air refreshing his mind immediately. The sky was clouded, but not too bad. Grey snowstorms moved around in the distant peaks, most likely that Daora. But they should be able to take care of it. Soran met such hunters the first time. One was young and not very experienced, but still resolved and untiring. The other was even younger still talented. Those thoughts brought him back to his own way, a way he would like to avoid if there wasn't that face crossing his path that moment.

Kyro... No damn! That couldn't be Kyro. That bastard was sitting in jail for at least another year, together with Riker and Harper. He couldn't be here, that was just damn impossible. He wasn't it, must have been someone else.

Soran continued the walk, reaching the springs. They where empty, so he payed the entry fee and dropped most of his clothes. The he jumped into the hot water. The slight smell of sulfur and the warm liquid where like balm, relaxing his clamped back.

Though the thoughts didn't let go. What if Kyro was really here, what if he wanted revenge? What if he came together with Riker, did they plunder the lands again? Bah, it was an idiotic idea, but while waching the near street down the small hill it became quite possible. That face passed again a few times, and it stopped, meeting another known face. That was definitely Riker. The skin was more thin and his cheeks were hollow, but he was it for sure. And Kyro was back too then... What did they do in Pokke? They usually hang around Kokoto, maybe Loc Lac or Minegarde city, but the snowy mountains? There was another reason they came here. They where searching for something. Or someone...

The man would have sunken even deeper into those thoughts if he didn't get interrupted. A large, hot wave overwhelmed him from behind, and as he turned around, Ciepha stood in the pool, also only wearing the absolutely needed clothes.

"You're a bit early here. Couldn't await it?"

"Bah, when did you come here? I didn't hear anything a all."

"Hey, I'm the master sneaker of us two. You bigfoot won't notice it anyway."

"OH, shut up!", he answered with his own barrage of water.

"Shut up yourself". The woman began to hop away, splashing around even more. It where moments like those where you hadn't any time to be gloomy. They had their fun for a while, sitting down eventually silently.

"What was it about?"

"What?"

"Your thoughts right now. Don't tell me there was nothing."

She was right, Kyro and Riker showing up wasn't good, and Harper wouldn't be far away too.

"Nothing important, just my past tracking me down again."

"Can I help you?"

"No. I have to settle this by myself." He stood up and grabbed his clothes, preparing to leave.

"Oh, please. Dont to the lonely wolf thing. We're friends after all, aren't we?"

"We are, but thats no reason to get you involved there. I'll handle it." Before she could respond, he vanished behind the door of the springs.

Moving along the streets, he just wanted to get back home as fast as possible. But something told him he wouldn't be able to do so. And it was right as the low voice of a huge man caught his ear:

"Now if that ain't old Soran. What are you doing here?"

He turned around, looking towards two men watching at him with a hypocritical smile.

"Better question. What are YOU doing here?"

"Doing our business. And to come down to the point, we know that you can help us. Could be like in the old times, you remember? I might even forget our little differences."

While Riker was talking, Kyro's face darkened and the faked smile turned into a serious, savage expression.

"You know that i won't. What are you talking about anyway? Where's Harper? Had some differences or what you call it with him too?"

"Harper, no. He had, hmmm. Let's just say he had tough luck so he can't be here right now. And to make it clear to you: Where is the lil' princess. We know you're beeing around with her."

They knew about it? Was there a bounty out on her or what was going on. Why should they search for her otherwise? Now that was some shit. Somebody he wanted to let out caused all the damn problems.

"I still don't know what you talk about."

"Nanana. You've got a bad liar again. Not enough practice the last few years?"

"I told you, just let me in peace. I am finished with all of you."

"But we aren't with you. Count on it, we won't let you go so easy." With that word he turned away and went the road day.

Kyro grunted a last time too, clenching the fist before going too.

That was close. He had luck having so many people around outside. If they could act free, he would be in serious troubles. Now he finally reached the house. It was hard to decide what to do next. Those guys might not know how she looked like, so as long as he could avoid them, he had time to think about the next step.

While he was sitting on the bench besides the kitchen's table. The door opened, Ciepha came in, the well known mad look on her face again.

"What do you think you are? Do you think you can make what you want. I was just worrying for you and you leave me like a sitting duck."

"Wait calm down", he had to tell her now. Now things got complicated and there was a reason to involve her...

"Yeah, calm down. You did nothing. Everything's fine, huh? You know what? It isn't."

"No wait. Really, I just found a reason for you to know about it."

"So that reason would be?"

"Most likely Merat."

"WHAT? Wait, repeat that."

"Seems like Merat sent some people after you. And they are here in Pokke."

"And what makes you so sure about it? What brings you to this conclusion?"

"Now listen, long story. But that might be a reason to tell you about my past. You see, I wasn't always a hunter the way I am now. I've been hunting, indeed. But I've been hunting for the weak and helpless, taking them everything they had left. It was easy and didn't tke too much effort. Stranded and injured hunters, merchants, every sort of person. And of course I wasn't alone there. There were three people drawing me into this. Harper, Riker and Kyro. I was like 16 and they picked me up somewhere I don't remember anymore. I've learned the tricks of bounty hunting and robbery. That's the way I lived."

"I see. You don't seem to be such a trustworthy guy anymore now."

"And I can understand why. I don't like talking about it, but I won't try to be like them again. As long as they have need for you, they feign their 'friendship' to you and as soon as you get a burden they drop you. Happened to me once a year ago, got wounded in a brawl. They ran away, I got left. And then I got the traitor to them, like they betrayed me. I got found by a few guild knights that day, and they sugessted me a thing. I help them catching the others and I won't be punished. So I was pissed and the way to a white vest was easy. They landed in jail, I became free again. Not knowing what to do, I just tried hunting for real and got pretty good at it. That's how I came here. The actual problem is they know me, and they are aware that I know something about you. Seems like they are planing to get some cash out of bringing you back to your supposed husband."

"Ok... I don't know what to say now. Hard to believe who you really are. And the fact I'm still searched after isn't a reason to celebrate too."

"Just one thing I want to say. I don't want to have anything to do with them or the things I did. I had my reason to leave them and I won't have a reason to go back there. I am happy here."

"Sure, I belive you, but..."

"Hard pill to take, I know. But I think we go away from here as soon as FlaP and the others are back. I just can't believe those bastards are already free again..."

"Just listen. I will trust you for now. I don't know that other side of yours. But don't think I wont be aware if you're going to trick me."

"Do I have any reason to do it? If you don't believe me, ok. Go, do what you like. I understand. But one more thing: If you don't practise for a while, you'll get a horrible liar, just like me."

"You are?", her face was showing some sort of smile again, though it was clearly visible what she actually meant. Finaly she sat down, the head resting on her arms. The breath was slow and heavy, just like Soran's.

"I am going to get something eatable on the table, this shit makes me hungry."

Lifting the face a bit, Ciepha looked confused. With a questioning voice she said: "How can you think about eating now? I really don't see your point."

"I don't see it too. I'm just hungry." It sounded as if he didn't care, but somewhere within this tone was a trace of self-doubt. Someone knocked the door. Grabbing a pan, Soran came near it while holding it high, like preparing to strike something with it.

"Just in case they are not welcome", he answered to Ciepha's even more dazed look. Opening it, FlaP stood there, breathing heavy.

"Sorry people, can't talk, just have to grab another weapon." So he ran straight to his room, the noise of ransacking through arms and items cutting the silence. In a hurry, he wanted to ran outside, Soran's hand stopping him.

"What's going on? Not enough hunting for one day?"

"More than enough, but I don't have a choice."

"Why, aren't they enough other people to take care of this? And what is it after all?"

"Chameleos, attacking some village. Sorry, Nekoth is waiting already."

That caught Ciepha's attention, seemingly lifting up her mind: "A Chameleos attacking a village? Chameleos? They might be a hindrance for travelers and merchants, but attacking a Village? That's everything but Chameleos."

Facing Soran, FlaP began to explain: "You remember that Teo, the one with that ridiculous aura?"

"Sure I do. I don't forget things like that."

"Same with that Chameleos. Come with me if you want to risk it, but after that you won't get out of the affair anymore. I could need a few more blades."

"It's better than sticking here. Can Nekoth bring our stuff away from here? I think we can't stay at Pokke any longer."

"Yeah he can, I mean he's the Chief here. But why?"

"I'll explain it later. Ciepha, ready?"

This shook her finally out of the half-stun she was sitting there. "Uhhh. Ohh. Yeah. Give me a moment." Now she stood up.

"Don't set up completely, only grab the stuff you need and move to the airship port. We don't have much time, I'll lock the house.", FlaP made clear. The others went upstairs, and now they made the noise of grabbing armor and weapons.

They finished and left, the door locked. Without interruption they reached the airship port, the old cat waiting already.

"Get our stuff moved back to Loc Lac please, I don't think we'll return here.", explained FlaP while handing Nektoth the key over.

Nodding, the Felyne elder replied: "Meaow. A pitty, meow, but I will ensure you a safe transport. Good luck on the next one, the staff onboard will give the quest details out. Farewell."

Without further words, they boarded one of the largest ship there, huge enough to contain a whole house. Most likely one of the newest vessels I guild fleet, using most recent achievements in technology to be propelled.

On the opposite side of the main deck, Hummel and Lucie stood, from the look of it shouting at each other. Then suddenly, he went over and kissed her, the tone of their talk calming down. They noticed the rest of the group coming near so they forgot about their personal troubles and said hello.

"What are you two doing here, I thought FlaP went to get some stuff, not reinforcements.", asked the archer.

Soran raised voice before someone else could respond: "I'll explain that once we are in the air. We can't sit around in Pokke because of some nasty coincidents. Our stuff will also get moved back to Loc Lac."

The surprisement was big, but after hearing the story, both a bit of understanding but also distrust came up in Hummel's voice. "Anyway, I don't know what to think about you Soran. I believe you about stoping it, but it is..."

"I know, you don't need to say anything else. I wouldn't trust myself if I wouldn't be me.", shaking head, he moved down to the cabins. That was really noring at him. They were flying now since about an hour, slowly reaching the end of the mountains. In a free second, FlaP sat down next to Hummel, who was alone at the front.

"Reminds me of White Narga and Aurex, don't you think?"

"Yeah, the same clear sky and the same place on an airship. Strange how many circles your lifes makes."

"Hmm, kinda. You, what was up with you and Lucie when we arrived?"

"Bah, a whole load of shit. She insisted on coming too, I just wanted her to stay out of it. She isn't ready for this."

"If it was after you, she would never be ready. That's her new life now. And I remember another eager Hunter that wanted to fight G-rank monsters right after slaying his first Rathalos."

"That was something else with me. I was to sure of myself, an error I made far to often. You see, she is what I cherish most here, I just can't leave her somewhere in danger. If that Monoblos didn't come, if Daora would have killed her... I will never be able to forgive myself then. First she was like every other Hunter I've met. I've seen so enough die or become crippled forever. But when you actually know that person longer than a day, It's something else. Especially when it is someone like her."

"Don't worry. She's not alone, and she is more than capable of doing it. If you don't let her live her life, she'll never find happyness."

"I know you are right... But I just can't forget what I've seen so often."

"What do you mean?"

"The nights after I have been impaled. I have been dreaming about burning cities, dead people. The pictures became clearer each night. After a while it were you, my family, everybody who means something to me to become slaughtered.", the hands began to tremble, then a cry broke out, "BY MY OWN FUCKING HANDS!"

"Wha..what?"

"You heard right. First I didn't see what happened, I just saw people dying. And then it was me. All I saw was me killing those who are important to me. And even Lucie..."

"So that's it, huh?", a third voice interrupted them. Lucie stood there some steps away, looking at them in awe: "So that is the reason you didn't want to live with me."

"It is. It damn is."

"Well, I am leaving you alone then. Getting some sleep before we arrive.", FlaP told and retreated. Sky became dark, night was coming.

"What happened to you that day. You hear voices, you have nightmares. Something's up with it."

"I don't understand it too. All I know is that it's real. The voice of the Monoblos was like someone would talk to me, directly into my ear. I am afraid of myself. The moment I was alone, fighting it driven by rage and bloodlust, something changed in me. The Fatalis armor felt like being alive, guiding my steps. Only that voice awakened my mind again. And since then all this is going on. I've heard about people cursed by dragons. And I fear those stories are not just tales and legends."

The girl came closer, hugging him: "Don't believe it. You are the man I love, no monster. Just forget it all, ok?"

"It was to real to forget it. If this were only dreams... but losing control of your body, hearing the voice of a Wywern while being awake. I want answers, and even more I don't want to endanger you. You know what I told you, I can't let you go so easily."

"I don't want to leave.", a gentle smile covered her lips, "Regardless what happens. I won't leave you alone as long as my feet carry me."

"It's strange..."

"What's now again?"

"It's strange how you can hold my heart so tight. You see, I didn't have luck with women. Some were hoping to get some money, but left as they noticed I wan't a very rich hunter. Some couldn't stand my family. Most people think low of Felyne. And yeah, you didn't mind all this, you don't even mind your boyfriend being a psycho. And I didn't even see what I meant to you until you came with the hammer and smashed it into my head so I eventually understood. Damn I love you."

"I love you too. You're not a psycho, and I like Felyne. I've met alot of them, doing the work they did mostly. Just to have some food, you know. Of course I have been stealing one day or the other, but I had to..."

"Don't mind it. I promise you, I might not have a few millions, but it is enough to live without to much worry."

"Yeah, sure... You know there's something else about you. I don't know, but it is easy to share problems with you. You always say that you don't know anything about life, and still you find the words to cheer people up."

"I just don't like seeing others in bad mood. I don't want me neither someone else to wake up old and with one foot in the grave without having enjoyed the time here."

"And again, you say more than you think you are capable of."

"Believe me, I don't. Most of it is dad's wisdom, he is the one who taught me about life."

"I think I should thank your dad the next time I meet him. His son had grown big."

"Hmmm, your my girlfriend. Makes you kinda a member of the family, get ready for alot of 'meow' and hairballs."

"I see. Come on, we should get some sleep too. And stop thinking about this garbage, OK?"

"I'll try.."

"No try, do!"

"Yeaah, come on." Somehow she always made him laugh. Hummel was grateful having her here right now, even if she was the reason he felt all of this insecurity.

The night was short and calm, even though the steam engine was hard to overhear. Lucie wasn't in the cabin when he awoke so Hummel dressed up and went up to the main deck. FlaP, Soran, Ciepha, Bacon and Skull sat on some crates, talking. Wait? Skull? When did he board?

"Good morning, how was the night.", asked Bacon.

"Good. Short but ok. Anyway, where's Lucie? And what are you doing here? I can't remember you being here yesterday."

The boy yawned:" By accident. I came back on this ship and was asleep when it arrived. And before I could get down it started again. They have been waiting in the port for just an hour and nobody lost a thought about waking me up. But hey, I just use the chance and go with you. Might give some nice new equipment."

"You're not going anywhere you little High ranky. How many times do I have to tell it to you? Who can't even awake a weapon or control his other skills right shouldn't even think about G-rank.", mocked the older brother.

But those words didn't show the exact truth anymore. Skull reached towards the Great Gaiarch behind the crate, lifting it up and sending up sparks up the massive Hammer.

"What the...?"

"Now who can't awake? You missed alot about me."

"Yeah, but you don't wear armor. How the..."

"You should know better than me how. Or what was that Mr.Expert? Besided, we have two other high ranked hunters that come with you, and only one of them has at least some G experience. And I worked my way up here alone. So don't tell me I don't deserve a chance."

FlaP couldn't decide between staring awe or being pissed. Something of his world just broke.

"Ok, guys, good that is settled, but can anyone tell me where I can find my girl?"

"She's down in the workshop, looking at her new Daora armor.", Bacon said finally.

"Workshop?", Ciepha made an unbelieving face, "Don't tell me they have a full forge on board here."

"Ever noticed how huge this thing is? It took up two landing places in Pokke's port, they could have three of them when they removed everything else except the engine room. I wonder why it can fly at all."

"Well thanks dudes. I am there then." A smile covered the face of the archer who left the others with their affairs for now. The way through the belly of the airship was hardly lit by some thunderbug lamps until he reached the forge. A red, fiery light filled the whole huge room, coming from the large oven in the back of it and making other sources of light obsolete. In the center of it, the remaining shells and claws of the dragon as well as multiple sorts of ore, bugs and tools where spread over the whole table. Around it, three small men with pointed ears and giant hammers as well as a whole army of Felyne were busy with taking and forming those materials. Hummel could recognize a lance and something else being formed out of ash, hammerstrikes and dragonflesh. And infront of the table, a dark, skinny shade stood and explained a few Lynians which parts of the set needed to be resized to fit her body. As soon as he came closer, Lucie's face became visible, covered in the red tint covering everything else too.

"Hey", she came up and hugged him, looking up. The fire got reflected in her eyes. "Is something up?"

"No, I just wanted to see you."

"Did I tell you that I love the cute guy standing infront of me?"

"Who is that? He is going to have some problems when I find him. Nobody touches my girl!"

He couldn't stay serious, both ended up in laughter. Then she turned around and grabbed a pair of shining boots. The metallic shell had still some resemblance to classic Daora armor, but fine black patches tinted the shell. It changed from shining grey to pitch black incredibly smoothly and seemlessly, some nearly invisible green points spreaded all over the black parts. Alone the boots looked fascinating, Hummel couldn't await to see the whole armor.

"They didn't test everything yet, but I am sure it will defend well enough."

"What about the skills?" That was something he got a bit from FlaP. Such things always belonged together, an armor could be as beautiful as possible, as long as it was impossible to use you could forget about it.

"I don't know, wait a second." Lucie turned around and talked to a Felyne passing by. With a short 'Nya' it went over to the blackmith busy with changing the size of the shoulderpads. The Wywerian pointed towards a sheet of paper, the cat grabbed it and handed it over to the pair of hunters. Hummel took a quick look, and was astonished by the words on the paper. This thing united most likely every sort of skill Daora armor could possibly grant. Evade+2, Focus, Metallic Protection and Sharpsword... and just Poison Durationx2 in change. On the other hand there was merely room for three small jewels, so no real further gemming with this one.

"Ok, I didn't expect that."

"What, is it good?"

"That is overpowered like... Heck I don't find the words to describe how godlike that set is. Quite an improvement from Tigrex or Kirin S. How long does it take until they are done?"

"They said about an hour."

"Good, just in time. We'll arive at our destination in around two, so that is fine then. You'll have to stay to try it on, right? I think I'll just stay and give you some company while you're waiting."

"Good idea, so what do you have to tell me else?", the young huntress changed topic. So they sat down and waited for the blacksmith's work.



Meanwhile, the others separated too for the moment. Everybody prepared for what came in their own way. Ciepha swung around her blade on an open space, feeling the wind blowing in her face. Skull sat still on the same crate, sparking up the Hammer again and again. Soran reorganized the items in his pouch over and over and Bacon peppered a slightly annoyed FlaP with questions about Chameleos. And after a while, the ship stopped, the first mission was about to begin.

Sandstorm Collision

(Author's remark: This chapter is the request of Hypno)

"Good luck down there. You'll manage it easy, won't you?"

"Of course, and you will manage your job to I assume, won't you?"

"Yeah, of course"

FlaP laughed, but something wasn't the same. It wasn't the laugh he laughed usually. There was something on his soul. But there wa no time to think about it. The rope ladder was down already and the time plan of the airship was tight. A last goodbye and Hummel and Lucie descended into the Sandy Plains beneath. After hitting ground, the ship immediately began to move again.

"Where's the basecamp?", asked Lucie as she stared into the endless dunes.

"Forget about the basecamp, as well as about suplies. We have been around the montains anyway, so we could make our way up by ourself. That is not the usual situation on a High- or G-rank quest. They don't have the time to set you down careful and the suplies usually arrive never or very late. This is the hard side. Come on, we have to find that missing group."

That was their quest. While the others got sent after a Chameleos, Hummel and Lucie had to search for a lost team of High ranked hunters. Someone made a mistake and sent them for a G*4 elder dragon. Two days had passed without any trace of them and as they had to pass the plains anyway, the two decided to drop in and search for them. They made their way up north, until they reached a cliffside with some caverns beside.

"Stop, get down." They ducked and watched the sand. A four legged creature with white to brown skin slowly prowled around the sand. "Damn, no Nargacuga. That's not what we need now."

"I can't remember you told about them having tusks."

"What tusks?... Waaait, you are right." The shape was similar to a Nargacuga, but instead of bladed and small, the wings where large and spiked, head and tail burned red by the sun and two purple tusks adorned the head. "Oh great, Barioth migrated to the deserts too. Nothing stays in its habitat nowdays, everybody searches new challenges."

"Life would be boring without, wouldn't it?"

"I think you're right. See the cavern there? I think we have to make our way around it. There is no need to confront such an enemy when its not your target."

So they enterd they cave, a bit of sun came in through a hole in the ceiling. A few Rhenoplos grunted at them and formed a protecting ring around their eggs, showing them that they shall not come a step closer.

"Move careful, keep your hands down." They circled the aggressive herbivores and left through a crack in the wall. Now they where sitting on a ledge, a pack of Jaggi with two adult males already barking at them at the bottom.

"Any way to avoid this confrontation?"

"Not really, let's show them who's boss in this cave."

Even before jumping down, a rain of arrows drove the lizards away from each other, leaving an open space to land without trouble. Hummel hopped a few steps back and nailed a shot into the frill of the first Great Jaggi. The attack caused it to recoil and stumble over, the other pack members watching their leader irritated. Meanwhile Lucie threw a brown pack into the face of the second alpha male. While the injured monster tried to get up again, the others didn't stay back after the stinking taunt. The first row responded to the leaders bark and jumped forward, raising the small claws and licking the fine theeth. Even before the hunters came in reach of the minions, a swipe with the flat side of Lucie's axe flung the beast away. This was definitely enough for the larger, injured male. It got eventually up again and ran, more than half of the pack following. The more inexperienced Jaggi didn't know where its limits laid and it attacked with a hipcheck. Another volley pierced the leg, followed by a swipe at the tail. It fell down, screeching in pain. Just as Lucie wanted to set up the final hit, a hand stopped her strike.

"It's enough. He won't die from the injuries, let this be a lesson for him."

A strange look filled the Jaggi's eyes as it came up again. Its mind was torn apart by fury and confusion while it began to limp away. Hummel stopped it and blocked the path out of the cave. Suddenly the beast growled again and prepared to strike. The human stepped forward and threw his body against the lizard, knocking it back to ground. While it tried to struggle free and Lucie fended of the small ones trying to protect their chief, he grabbed the two wodden shafts and pulled out the arrows, then he let go. The pack didn't waste any more seconds. Being able to walk easier now, the Great Jaggi left and catched up to his older brother waiting in the plains outside.

"The life here is cruel enough, there is no reason to make it harder for them. The act of killing might seem easy, but seeing what comes after it, bearing how drastically you changed this world is something else. If there is one thing you need to learn, then it's this: Only unsheathe when you have no other choice. Kill to live, don't live to kill."

"That... I didn't think..."

"Don't mind it. Bloodthirst is something every newbie has to overcome, I was no exception. And now stop those thoughts, ok? We have a hunting party to save."

They kept on searchin the caverns, finding more and more packs of Jaggi and Herbivores, but they could luckily avoid more bloodshed by moving fast and not coming to close. Eventually they reached another barely lit cavity, something like a burned down campfire further down the room, only some coals still glowing.

"Looks like we found someone. Hope this is the right team.", nodded Lucie while her companion took a stepped through the passage. A shriek and the sound of something blunt colliding with his head came from there and Hummel fell down unconsciuos. Another two shrieks, one from Lucie and another from within the cave were followed by three other, lower voices. Suddenly there stood three people in full armor looking down on the knocked out archer, one noticing the scared girl infront of him, then turning around and yelling:

"Hell, Kira! I told you to look out for threats and not to strike down everything you see. Dang it girl..."

"I..I.I.. I didn't wan..wan't to.", some female voice stuttered there..

"Hi, it's enough. Calm down Kira, it's ok. Gil, get that guy somewhere else so we can use the entrance again.", the central man exited the cave and strecthed out his hand, "Sorry for this, she can be a bit clumsy once in a while. I am Orlando, pleased to meet you. May I know who you are?" An awkward grin appeared on his face while he further excused his group.

After a while, Hummel awoke again. Gil informed the others sitting a bit remote:"Hey dudes, he's up and running again." His head ached and he still couldn't see clearly. The only face he knew was Lucie's, but since she didn't seem to worried about the people he didn't mind. After a few seconds he was sitting again while the others gathered around him.

"Uuh, what's going on here? Where am I?"

"You got knocked down by my little dear here. She was thinking you were some sort of monster entering our hidingplace." answered one of them, a slim and straight Longsword strapped to his back.

"Hidingplace? Hu, hiding from what?"

"Almost everthing. Everything that could endanger us. We are in a pretty dumb situation."

"Bah explain me that later, I need to get a clear head again."

"Sorry I didn't want to hit ya, I just overreacted a bit.", the girl said again and again.

"It's ok, totaly ok. Everybody can freak out. Anyway, I'm Hummel", he rubbed his forehead and continued, "Hummel Greenpaw, Hunter Rank 10. I'm around here to search for a few stranded hunters. And I see you already introduced yourself to Lucie, HR 4 but worth an 11."

"Stop it ok?", the girl blushed.

"Why should I, You are worth an 11 for sure."

Another one with a Switch Axe in hand, most likely the leader, answered for his team: "Well, you've found them. I am glad the guild didn't forget about us. This are Hi," he pointed to the lancer, "Gil," the man with the Longsword, "and Kira.", the girl also wielding a Katana, "I'm Orlando. We've been after an elder dragon but that thing owned us into the dust like vespoids. We had no chance but silly as we are, nobody had a Farcaster handy. So we ended up running into those caves in order to hide from anything big that could get dangerous. We've fired all three emergency flares and still nobody came. If it wasn't my motto, I would have lost all hope."

"Your motto?" That was Lucie asking.

"Yeah, 'Spem Habe'. It means 'Have hope' in some ancient language. My mother told it to me the day my father got killed by a Rathalos. And since then I've been always thinking about those words when I was in misery."

"Your mother knows alot about life. Those were the right words to teach you."

"I know..."

Now Hi opened his large mouth: "Heyheyhey. Hummel Greenpaw, eh? Gil, ain't that the guy Isabel told us about? The Aurex hunter dude?"

The young man named Gil looked up confused, but then he seemed to remember: "Yeaaah. That guy.", he turned to face the archer, "If you're the one I think you are, Orlando here is a huge fan of you. He even went out to meet you in person, but meanwhile something else caught up his business."

"Gil shut up. I'm no fan of nobody. Sorry, they are talking alot trash sometimes, but hey, they're my "bestest" buddies. You can count on them"

"It's ok. You can't imagine the bustle around me the morning I became G*4. It's no fun if everybody wants to touch your hand in order to never wash it again, just to tell around he touched the greatest hunter ever. Who, I must admit, isn't so great at all."

Kira began to talk in an unimaginable speed: "Now you're the one talking trash. You killed an Aurex, a wild White Narga, heck even Fatalite infused Teos. You're wearing an armor made from monsters I don't even know they exist and you nail a vespoids eye from a mile away. You are plain awesome. I can't believe I will ever see you live." Just a second after that explosion of words she giggled shy and retreated a few steps back. Now she seemed to press her lips together to prevent any further sound or attention on her, the eyes wandering left and right before finally resting on Orlando's shoulder.

"Now that does sound like a real fan. But no, I wasn't alone. FlaP's the one doing the most work. He's the true hunting ace in my party."

"And who's that?", intervened Hi.

"Don't tell me you know me but didn't ever hear his name. HE is what I call greatest hunter ever."

"Says nothing to me. Isabel didn't mention a FlaP at all. Strange name too."

"Hi ain't that usual too, or since when is it?"

"Uhhhh, blaaa. Whatever. Glad we have someone who brings us out of here."

"By the way. Why do you know about the Fatalite incidents? You don't look like E.D.O agents. They wouldn't be stuck somewhere in mid desert."

Gil continued the story: "We made some painful contact with it. First of all, we have a good friend working for the E.D.O. Isabel, she's in the research facility. She told us about the whole Fatalite thing and about you. You are some sort of hero in their ranks."

"Now that's something new for me. But where's the painful part?"

Orlando raised voice: "Lao Shan. Ashen Lao Shan and Fatalite. No good mixture. Not good at all."

"And you killed one of that sort then? Must have been a hard job, huh?", asked Lucie. A single thought crossed Hummels mind: 'She isn't as shy as she was. Times change indeed.'

"Bah. We had luck. That thing would have totaly owned us if this cloaked guy didn't give me this bullet."

"Cloaked guy? One question, was there a gunlance on his back?"

"Might be, I don't remeber that. Why?"

"That guy is the real hero in the ranks of the Observatory. Their absolute top agent. He was the one saving me from a mad Aurex, and he was the one killing the Teostra. I just repelled it. But hey, I think that's enough storytelling for now, we should think up a plan to get out of here."

The others agreed, so the group gathered a bit closer and began to discuss their situation.

"That thing is still out there, and we don't have a farcaster working for 6 people. That means we have to make our way to basecamp by foot. And that dragon, what was it called?"

"Rangachitora", some silent voice said. Everybody turned around and looked at Kira, her face making that 'I am not here' expression again.

"What, I didn't hear you.", pecked Lucie further.

Kira's chest pulsated, she seemed to be ready to collapse. "Rangachi...", she took a deep breath. "Rangachitora. It is called Rangachitora." The pressure on her lifted a bit, a silent sigh of relief was hearable.

"Right. Ranga is still around here somewhere and Elder Dragons are pretty unforgiving. We should avoid being spotted as we have only three people with proper defense and a fight is the last thing we want."

Gil looked curios: "Three? I only see you and Lucie with the awesome stuff. Where's the third G-rank armor?"

"Orlando. See the black patches and green spinkles all over the shell?", Hummel pointed on a few spots on the Auroros armor. "That's Fatalite influence. Believe me, that thing is worth being called a G*4 armor. Just let me guess, Art of Unsheathing, Damage Recovery+2, Recovery Up and Block+1, KO doubled in trade."

"Uhh, yes, I was told this is no normal Lao Shan armor, the old smithy in Moga called it Auroros Tamashi. I didn't expect it being so powerful. Where do you know the skills from?"

"Intuition. I learned a bit about Fatalite in the time."

Hi laughed: "Ya see dumbo. That's someone with knowledge."

Both Hummel and the impressed Orlando answered in chorus: "Hi, shut up. You know even less." The archer grinned while the man with the lance made a pissed face. Hummel continued to a scrawled plan of the area.

"If I don't error, we should need about two hours in south-west direction to reach the camp. If nothing disturbs us of course. The dumbhead at the quest counter sent you to fight a G*4 species by accident, so no wonder you are not prepared that much. If we can't avoid contact stay back and only attack when it's save, like toppled over or stunned. We will take care of it, won't we sweetheart?"

Lucie first didn't unserstand he meant her, but then she answered: "Of course we will, that thing has no chance against a team like us. But hey, I'm hungry. Who thinks something to eat is the best now?"

The others agreed, so for a moment they calmed down again and sat back, Lucie joining Kira on the campfire, igniting it again. Just as Hummel stood up to help them, Gil looked a bit strange.

"What, cooking is girl's job with you, huh? Yeah but I have the food in my bag so at least that should be done, right?"

"Uhh, Sure... Whatever."

He walked up and took a bunch of different meats and herbs out of his bag. Lucie just ingnited the flames again and earned a kiss.

"Girls, get a bit rest. I am going to make us the right meal for the upcoming day."

Kira was a bit undecided on what to answer or if to answer at all. Before she twisted her head around even more, Lucie talked to her: "Come on, you need the rest. You must been tired sitting around in the dark with those three all the time, come on. And don't mind the food, he's a pretty good cook." Then she grabbed her at the arm and brought her to the other side of the cave. While Something like a meaw sounded from the cookingplace and the girls watched the gunner cutting and scrambling the various ingredients, Kira let loose a deep sigh.

"What's up?"

"Nothing... How long are you two a pair now?"

"Pff, that, I don't know. Three days if I recall. Really mad story. Altough I loved him maybe since I first saw him, naa, not right when I saw him but it didn't take much time."

"Well, yeah. You're lucky, aren't you?"

"I think one could call me that. But you aren't. I see that a mile away. Now serious, what's up?"

"He's up. Since a while. I just don't know how to tell it, or if he is the right one."

"Hmm, that. Yeah I know that. Don't worry, there will be a sort of perfect moment to tell him."

"And when?"

"You'll know when it is there. If I could handle it, then you can for sure."

"I don't think so. Not me.... Sorry, I didn't want to bother you with my troubles." Kira was about to stand up.

"Listen. I am no different than you. I only seem so tough, and only because he is here. No gloomy thoughts, ok? You need some girl-to-girl talk here, nothing you can get when you only hang out with those three."

"Yeah, I don't... know"

"Come on, you can do that. Not today and maybe not tomorow, but there will be a day when everything works out. That's what I've learned."

Kira was sighing over and over, but eventually she could smile. "Maybe.. Maybe you're right."

Hummel interrupted them. "Hey people, food is ready. Nothing compared to the work of five Felyne Chefs but I hope it's enough to make that walk a bit better."

"Come on, let's grab a bite."

Back in the circle, the guys swallowed their food in hurry. Kira got loud: "MAN, can't you eat other than a Mosswine? That's disgusting."

Again, Hummel and Orlando shared voices: "But I'm hungry."

Lucie shook head: "That's not what I've been expecting from you. I should be saving my kisses until you learn manners."

"He, we're huntin, not sittin in a restautrant or what."

"That's no reason to go all Bullfango."

Patting their stomachs, Gil laughed: "Dude, where did you learn cooking that good. I feel like having a fresh Felyne meal."

"I've learned it from a Felyne. Might be not that great but it should show some effect."

"You want to tell me you can cook like a Felyne chef?"

"My mum's one."

"Wha...What?"

"Not my real mum. The mum that raised me."

"Whatever, I'm ready. Go, I need to get outa here." Both he and Hi jumped up and grabbed their weapons, a Gaelic Flame and a Hidden Stinger on closer look. "Time to get moving", agreed Hi. After a few minutes, everybody was ready. Holding their belongings tight, the group marched out into the afternoon sun.

It was hot and the wind kept constantly blowing sand through the air. After some moaning in the beginning though, they became quiet again. It was only a two and a half hour walk, nothing big by itself. Only the heat...

"Damn, why do we have to walk right through the sun. Couldn't we wait until it gets a bit cooler?", Hi muttered while wiping away the sweat on his forehead.

"You would think the same if you'd be a Tigrex or Diablos. The large predators as well as the prey keeps resting until the temperature settels to a lower degree. Moving in this heat is exhausting of course, and that's why it is the safest time of day out here. Come on, see that rock formation up there?"

"Uhhh, that's the one where the plateus start, right?"

"Means what?"

"I don't know?"

Kira, being silent most of the walk as opposed to the rest of the team, finally said something: "Dude, you aren't hunting around here the first time, are you? That are the newbie grounds near the basecamp Hi! That's the place everyone should know. We almost did it!"

"GET DOWN" Someone screamed, instinctive the hunters got down on the ground, body as flat as possible. A huge boulder missed them and crashed into the sand behind them.

"What was that? Where did that come from?", asked Hummel while scanning the area.

"That's the problem, it came from the newbie grounds. Something huge is going on there." It was Orlando who noticed the prokectile coming, and it was now Orlando leading them a bit closer there, to see what actually was going on.

The sand vanished and they came across some first signs of vegetation on the rocky ground, a huge field of mud further in the north and entries to various caverns to their left. Now it was clear what caused the boulder to go flying, and it was indeed a spectacle of nature. A Barioth, not the same Lucie had seen earlier, for that it was way to large, and some interesting other creature circled each other, the frsh carcass of an Aptonoth near. Hunger was a good reason to go into the burning sun, maybe the only one. And it was the best reason to risk your life in case you were a predatory wyvern. The second beast moved in a hardly describable motion, smakig the club-like tail against a near rock, flinging it around with impressive force, though missing and sending it over the near walls of sandy stone. Using the opening, Barioth took a deep breath and out of nothing a vast vortex of sand erupted near the other creature, missing only by inches. The Pseudowyvern didn't loose time, it glided up in the wind, only to suddenly crash down again...

The twister of wind dissipated in an instant while the monster was gathering height. It would have been hard to explain, but the eye of an experienced hunter had learned to catch every detail. The second contender for the food just flapped the two slim, brown wings on its back. Just a little bit and though it was enough to interrupt the attack. Now it unfolded them once again, rising them higher until they reached their peak.

Roaring in anger, the sunburned Barioth stood up again, preparing the next strike. Just as it turned, the wings of the other creature sailed down violently. In an instant, a cloud of sand completely cloaked the fourlegged being. Not being able to judge the situation, Barioth had to take a hard hit. Without a sign, without any way to forecast the move, the fangs pierced the right wing of the confused opponent. Just as it struggled free, it gave in to the other and moved away as fast as possible with the injured limb, blood dripping from the ripped membrane.

Hummel watched his comrades sitting there in awe. Just to confirm his own though, he asked: "That's it, right? Rangachitora?"

No words, just a nod from Gil's white face.

Orlando tried to catch his breath again, wispering while the triumphant Elder Dragon moved over to the meal: "That's one of the same sort, though the one cornering us wasn't that massive. I mean ours was somewhere like a normal Tigrex, that one nearly rivals a small Blos. There's no way we get past this."

"Just don't move. Wait for it to finish the meal, it will most likely retreat to its nest then. No more sound, nobody."

The group kept on sitting there. Nobody moved, nobody even tried to move. The dragon took its time though, only slowly chewing the flesh of the bones, then beginning to crack those to gather the marrow. And the hunters still could avoid attention, at least attention from the big fish.

"Ugh guys... we have a problem." Kira didn't even dear to point at the brown nostrils coming out of the mudpit. Some moments later, a Barroth emerged and moved further towards the rock pillar they were hiding at. Rangachitora and the brute took a look at each other for a few seconds, but they had no interest in each other as the Barroth had no interest in a dead Aptonoth. Shaking a bit mud down from the body in order to move more free, it took a few steps backwards lowering the head and puffing out a few times.

"GO, MOVE!" They could barely evade the pillar crashing down on them as the Barroth charged it down and looked on the Altaroth beneath, licking its short tongue in anticipation of the meal. Tough it wouldn't be able to eat this time. Distressed by the sound of falling stone, Rangachitora turned around and noticed the group of humans who now were scattered around the muddy monster and without any cover. It stopped eating and growled at the unknown threat. This was also the reason why the other creature looked up. Though Barroth didn't hesitate, it knew the look of a hunter, and it knew how to intimidate.

The loud bellow was drowned in an even deeper and louder sound by the Elder Dragon. It seemed to notice how the brute became aggressive and now was sure how to judge those little, strange shapes in the desert sun: Major Threat...

The party scattered even more as they evaded the Barroth's bodycheck, Hummel and Gil separating from the girls while Hi and Orlando were already far away, having had to sprint in the other direction in order not to be crushed by a pillar. The lancer turned around and managed to stop a tailswipe, not unlike the one used by Nargacuga and Barioth, with his shield. Even though his Agnaktor+ armor was perfectly designed to reduce blocking recoil, the heavy mace like spike at the end of the tail still drove him a meter or two away. Seeing an opening, Orlando unsheathed the Axe on his back in a well studied swing, black energy spreading out from the Soulbreaker. The swing went into nothing, the Elder Dragon flicked the wings again and catapulted itself backwards into the air before landing again in a violent crush. Annoyed it raised the white bones up and the seemingly small wings unfolded into two giant limbs. Orlando began to run, he already knew what would come. Vanishing in a cloud of sand the dragon prepared to strike. Nobody could tell when and in which direction it would charge. Its eyes were used to see through the dense sand it whirled up, so it turned and focused on catching the one running.

Orlando was just thinking he got out of reach, but Ranga jumped out of the sandy curtain infront of him, cutting his escape path. It was already ready to strike as Hi's lance striked his legs, forcing him to ground violently while his friend took a full blow on the chest. Blood spilled through the air, but the lancer got up again.

"Wanna play the hard game, hugh? Come here and get it."

Meanwhile the others got rid of the Barroth with a barrage of dungbombs directly into the steampuffing nostrils. That and the few cuts and arrows was enough for it to run for good. Kira's attention moved to the other two, seeing her companion in a very bad shape. The dragon unfolded its wings again, rising into the air this time. The giant wingspan created another wall of sand, blocking sight of what happened to Hi and Orlando. From above the cloud, it sailed down. A shriek sounded through the air and as soon as they rest of the team crossed the distance towards Orlando, who just got up from the ground, they saw a bizarre situation.

One claw on the dragon was propped against the shield while Hi's lance was drive into the opposing flank, the typical red of an Elder Dragon's blood flowing down. The man was panting in exhaustion, his own wound oozed with blood. Slowly, the beast pushed itself back away from the lance, Hi fell down breathing heavy. The others used the opening, almost everybody hitting legs or tail, tough Kira's blade bounced on the heavy spike and the arrows didn't pierce very deep. This time the dragon turned around, the thin horns and brown skin around the face turned red. Another roar stunned the hunters while the true Sandstorm was about to begin.

(Author's Note: The following end of this chapter has been again written by Hypno himself, and check out his own version of this, you'll might miss the full story otherwise)

Quickly raising yet another cloud of sand, the Dragon hid itself. Orlando rested Hi in a rocky area, secluded from the Dragon’s sight.

“Don’t worry, I’ll be right back.” he assured a delirious Hi. His Axe in hand, he prepared to slash at the beast’s wings, hoping to prevent it from using the sand to its advantage. However, the Dragon had other plans; it targeted Gil and prepared to swing its tail. The hunter thrusted his blade in front of him, trying to hit the tail to prevent yet another fatality. Black sparks went flying from the tip of the blade. Fortunately, the plan worked…sort of. The hit damaged the tail, loosening some of its spines. The Dragon hissed at Orlando and pushed him away with its claws. Its limbs were very powerful, as he was sent rolling with tremendous force. As the man got up, it loomed over him, preparing to crush the head with its claws. However, it was stopped in its tracks. Electricity coursed through its body.

“Paralysis coating, works wonders”, Hummel said while exchanging the bottle hanging from the bow again.

They took the time to attack its wings directly. Orlando slashed with all his might and cut through the delicate webbing, spilling blood unto the sand. The Dragon let out a loud roar, its wings now heavily damaged. It whisked the hunters off with another claw swipe, although this time it was a bit less energetic. Ranga was losing his strength. Hummel picked the man with the Switch Axe up, and motioned him to get Hi safe.

“We’ll take it from here, Ranga’s getting tired, I know it. Get your friend somewhere safer.”

Wasting no time; he threw the weapon into the sand and tried to carry Hi away from the field of battle while the others stood on their guard. Hi was pretty bruised: His chest was bleeding a lot, most of his ribs might have been broken. He was still conscious, but a bit woozy.

“Oh man, don’t tell me I’m out…” he said faintly.

“I’m afraid so, buddy. Come on, don’t give me that look, you’re in a pretty bad shape. Let’s get you to base camp…”

Orlando looked back, and saw the battle progressing. Kira, Gil and Lucie continued attacking the beast head on, while Hummel fired arrows from different angles. From a distance, the one carrying his friend could notice Kira’s eyes; they were focused, glowing bright… and beautiful. The guys were landing more and more hits, but the Dragon was apparently getting more enraged. Although it was tuckered out, it could still exhibit powerful attacks. The runinng man feared for her….for Kira; she was after all the other half in his life. If anything happened to her, he'd be decimated. He quickly carried Hi towards the direction of the camp, relieved from the stress of battle. Not for long, anyway….

“Orlando!! Look out!”

The running stopped and he froze in place. A large shadow passed over them. Obviously that was the Dragon. Its wings were practically destroyed, but it could still leap a great distance. Seeing Hi in a bad state and eager to sink teeth into flesh, it sprinted towards them, its head lowered showing its small but stout horn. Standing there helpless, the Dragon approaching quickly. The group tried to get as close to us a possible, but they wouldn’t get here in time. One of them had to take the blow, and Orlando did not want Hi to get even more beat up. He threw Hi away from the Dragon’s path, in which he then stood to take the blow almost instantly. Knowing he couldn’t dodge it, and without weapon. Someone screaming his name, but he payed no heed. Taking the blow head-on, looked into its eyes. It was staring into him, filled with anger. Then the body was thrown a long way back. The body lay there, eyes shimmering with a last glimpse of consciousness. Kira and Gil attacked the Dragon, now even more tired. Kira sunk her sword into the beast’s tail, slicing it off. The Dragon roared in pain. Its back fins were drooping. Out of nowhere, a long arrow pierced the Dragon’s skull. Hummel’s work, of course. With a few more hits, the dragon slowly and steadily fell to the ground. It gave out one last muffled roar, and stood still. Like being connected in the last few moments, Orlando lost awareness and every bit of tension left the body.

“Orlando! Please! Hang on! Hang on…… Han… on…...”

Lucie had already Hi on her shoulders, the others lifted the second injured man. One last chance was left. It were a mere few minutes to reach the safe cliffs of the basecamp, a mere few minutes until they could tell anyone they were still alive. That short way felt like eternity, and finally there, all they could do was hoping for fast help.

“Orlando!! Please, wake up!!” cried another voice.

He finally gasped for air. Kira was holding me in her arms. A balloon was behind her, and everyone, including Hi, was mounted in it.

“Don’t worry, you’re gonna’ be OK. You hear me? I'm here.” He numbly stared at her eyes. Those blue, glowing eyes stared back. Tears started to appear. The sand around them became wet with tears. They embraced like didn’t want to let go ever again, as if it was the last time they would do so. As if it was her last chance, she kissed him, then took him up. She carried him towards the balloon, taking off as ther last two set foot on it. Slowly he reclined at the balloon’s edge, watching as a group of people mounting Aptonoths carried the defeated Dragon’s body. More tired than maybe ever in his whole life, Orlando fell asleep.



Only desert's wind broke the silence. Regardless how often you'd been out there, it was a new fight for survival. Every very second counted out there...

Through the mist

"Bah crud! Can't see a damn thing around here!"

"Calm down lil' bro, if I know that area as well as I think I do, the fog should lift once we get to higher terrain."

"And can you tell me where that is?"

"Well, if I would see something..."

"Then stop smartassing around!"

"Whos the G-rank one here? Stop smartassing yourself!"

FlaP and Skull kept yelling and yelling at each other all the time. Only an hour after they arrived, a thick mist raised and began to prevent any sight further than five meters. And ever since they arrived, the brothers found something to dispute, which ended up in "Who's the G-ranked one?" most of the time.

"You're not always right because you're older!"

"WOULD YOU ARLEADY SHUT UP?", that sentence came at least once from Ciepha, then Soran or Bacon and so on. Nobody could stand hearing it that long. "Really, but the next time you begin to fight again, I'll shove my sword up your oh-so-smart asses." Well, most of the time Ciepha freaked out anyway.

"With that noise, Chameleos will find us before we find him. And in this fog, it won't even have to cloak to stay invisible.", muttered Bacon, "Im' gonna take a look at the map, maybe I can find some landmark or something."

He searched his pouch a few seconds. "Guys, anyone took my map? I can't find it."

"Why would we take the map from you without asking. And how should we even get it?", replied FlaP.

"Dunno, I always had the feeling someone grabbed in my pouch, so maybe it was one of you. Besides, is it just me or why does my stuff feel so light?" Bacon searched his pocket again, finding something sticky laying in there. He pulled it out and looked at it. Something like a glibbery red worm hang there in his hand, but something looked strange about it. There was no proper end, and it didn't look like cut too. It was more like if... it faded away. Curiously he swang it around a bit through the air, not thinking anything evil. Tough then Skull interrupted him:

"Ugh, I wouldn't do that any longer if I were you."

"Why, what's wrong with it?"

"Turn around."

He did as he'd been told, but before he fully excuted the turn, he froze again. What he was holding in hand wasn't a worm, but the very tip of a long, sticky tongue, hanging out of the spiked maw of something that looked like nothing else in the universe. Two strange eyes moved around, one fixing the tip of the tongue, the other one constantly searching the area. A purple hood with a huge spike, seeming like the nose of the creature, hang from the neck of the dragon. Chameleos pulled the tongue back, leaving a perplex Bacon still staring at his slimy palm.

Chameleos uncloaked completely and didn't seem very amused about harassing its tongue like a toy. With a squishy, hard to describe squeaking noise, it charged towards them. Soran grabbed the stunned man with him and barely evaded the huge claw messing up the jungle ground. That was maybe the largest Chameleos ever in history, holding its head almost as high as the tips of the surrounding trees. Seconds after recovering from the dodging, FlaP drew his Punishment Blades and charged, the other doing the same. Getting in a few cuts, a gust of wind, made up by the leaf like tail, blew them away again. The two brothers stabbed their blades into near trees and could stand on both feet, the rest found themselves lying somewhere between the roots. The tongue snapped down on Soran's hammer, but as soon as it pulled back, the red flower mace crashed right onto the lower jaw, dazing the dragon for a moment. Back in the fray, Bacon thrusted his Nighsteel Spear through the left hindlegs skin, bringing the beast even more off balance. Wriggling around, the nose spike, already cracked by the hammer, collided with a near rock and broke completely. As soon as Chameleos came back up again, it jumped back into the wall of mist, green foam coming out of the jaws. Then it cloaked and... roared as loud as no one of its kind would ever do. Louder than a firewywern, the leaves fell off the trees.

Bacon chuckled. "Okay... I think we have a problem."

TO BE CONTINUED...

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