The White Star Chronicles
Sixteen-year-old Gale Kaze, a citizen of the Wind Village of Hyoku, becomes entangled in a genocidal plot against mankind. With the help of her friends, Gale must fight her way to the City of Light to discover the truth and save humanity...
Note: This is the complete version of the original story, all eighteen chpaters combined into one massive post. Enjoy!
I: Legend of the Wind Wyrm
Wings of the Maelstrom
Descendeth upon the living
Encompass the earth in darkness
Let fertile ground turneth unto dust
When mortal souls turneth to rotting flesh
It's unbeating heart taketh thy soul
And it awakens
Dragon of the Roaring Winds
"Will it really happen? Will Gurētosutōmu really come down and destroy the world?" an eager student asked. The class sat cross-legged on the wooden floor, their bright and excited eyes gazing attentively at their teacher from the hoods of their green robes.
"That's what the poem says. But it has been reiterated and interpreted in many ways. Some believe Gurētosutōmu to be an omen of destruction, whereas others believe it to be a benevolent deity that rewards the strong of heart." Sensei Arashi mused. "Here in Hyoku, we believe the latter. One day, the beast will descend from the skies in a time of great peril, and lend its power to the strong. That's why a lot of the villagers will be called Arashi, like me, or Kaze, and other wind related names."
"Like me, Sensei?" one student asked, excitement in her voice.
"Yes, Gale, exactly like you," Arashi answered, beaming at her as he did.
Sensei Arashi was a short, frail, and elderly man, with pale blue eyes and long wisps of grey hair, which had settled at the back of his otherwise bald head as his hairline receded with age. He enjoyed teaching his students about Hyoku's history, and always rewarded a keen mind.
Every child in the village wanted to be in his class. He was always hunched over, holding a knobbly old walking stick to support his weak legs (many locals believed the stick to be made of a special type of Dragonwood). He always dressed in the same blue robe, every day of every year. The robe was a traditional Sensei robe (student robes were green, to represent the wind), and lined with the prized golden silk of a Golden Rajang. The blue robe showed mastery of the scrolls and the history they contained, but the golden silk was awarded once the Scrollmaster retired and became a teacher, passing on his knowledge to young children.
"Ok, children, that's enough stories for today. You may go." he told the class, an almost musical tone in his voice.
Most children pouted as they left, because no one ever wanted the lesson to end. Sensei Arashi could weave a story together like silk, keeping everyone entertained at every moment, whether it was just an old poem or an ancient legend full of monstrous beasts. Gale, Arashi's favorite student, gazed back from under her hood at Arashi. He caught her gaze, and smiled at her. She returned his smile, turned on her heel and left.
The schoolhouse in the village of Hyoku was fairly basic. A rectangular building made of Dragonwood with low foundations and carbalite enforced support beams holding up the roof. Inside was the most pleasant aromatic scent of sunset herbs and old wood, and the smell of Sensei's favourite green tea. There were no chairs or tables, and behind the schoolhouse was the gap in the hedge that lead to a lovely grove, where the children could be surrounded on all sides by lush, green plant life and hedges, with the blue sky above their heads. In the very dead centre of the grove was a small, circular pool of fresh water, which beautiful hornflies circled regularly for the medicinal moss that grew around the edges. There was a myth that the miniscule pond had been blessed, so each lunchtime the children took Dragonwood drinking cups (Dragonwood was used for most things in the village), and filled them with water from the pond. It tasted pure and sweet, and had a strange, almost rosy aftertaste. Sensei Arashi never drank from the pond, but used the water for making his green tea. It was a blessing in the ever-warm days of the village.
As Gale walked the dusty peach-coloured path through the middle of the village, she passed the market, the tavern and the houses of her friends, leading directly to the farm, which was owned by Gale's parents, who grew crops, collected eggs, honey and other food, to provide for themselves and the whole of Hyoku. She loved it there. She enjoyed helping her parents with the Popos, which they bred until adolescence, then killed and sold their meat to the market. She liked helping her mother collect honey, although she once forgot to wear the old leather hunter suit she had sewed for her to protect her from the bees, and got stung multiple times. But what she loved most of all was when she got to use her bugnet. She loved to catch Yambugs, which they sent to the blacksmith to have their bodily fluids sqeezed out (an ingredient for an essential adhesive). Although she sometimes let one or two go. But only when she wasn't being observed; her mother would shout if she caught her.
Gale Kaze loved her life. And she wanted it to stay the way it was. Forever.
But everything was about to change.
II: The Great Storm
As Gale was nearing the halfway point of her path home, she heard a distant voice, slowly getting louder.
"Gale! Gale! Wait up!"
Gale turned to see a familiar face hidden beneath the hood of a green student robe. He pulled his hood back as he approached her, revealing warm, sapphire eyes as deep as oceans and soft brown hair in short, teased spikes.
"Mizu!" Gale yelped happily. She threw back her hood and squeezed him in her embrace.
Gale was a beautiful girl. Her silky brown hair was tied up in a bun by a deep red bow at the back of her head, with a short length of hair hanging down at the front of her head, on her left temple.
Her hug was, perhaps, a little too hard, as Mizu was fidgeting for room to breathe. But he was far to shy and polite to say so. Thankfully for him, her hug only lasted a few seconds. Then she let go, and smiled sweetly at him - the face she always used when expecting news.
"Well?" Gale asked, still smiling, "What is it?"
"Well, Sensei Ryu called me to the schoolhouse today, to give me his decision on whether I was fit to start Hunting School. And..." Mizu said, leaving the sentence unfinished to make room for a guess.
"What? What did he say?" Gale probed intently, her eyes dilating with excitement.
"Well, he gave me this," Mizu finished. With that, he pulled a black, cylindrical object out of a pocket in his robe. Gale looked at it, speechless. Mizu saw her expression sensing what she felt like saying; "Is that it? A sword hilt? Really?" But it was much more than that. He chuckled and held the hilt directly upward, his arm stretched out in front of him. Suddenly, a silver blade as tall as they were shot up from the top of the hilt. Long and thin, and a slight curve in the blade at the tip.
"A Masamune," Mizu declared proudly. "A Long Sword. My first. I'm a novice Hunter!"
"Ah! I'm so proud of you!" Gale squealed, launching forth to hug him again. Then there was a moment of silence. They gazed at each other and the world stood still. They were utterly transfixed on each other. Then, in a moment of impulse she took a step closer and reached for Mizu's face.
But as they leaned in, an ear-splitting roar ripped them apart. It was a roar of such strength, such force, that it reverberated from the skies above and shook the very earth beneath their feet. The sunset that was quickly approaching was covered in an instant by clouds of pitch-black nightshade, as if the roar had scared off the sun itself. Thunder bellowed and lightning flashed in the sky, as a huge beast descended from the sky.
It was a deadly, icy white with a wintery hint of blue, it's neck covered in a mane of snow white hair. It's wings, forearms, spine and tail also had a lining of white hair, and upon its breast was a blood red ovular ruby, surrounded by a thin white hue. The entire beast itself was encompassed in an icy blue aura. It was so large, it's shadow covered the whole of Hyoku. Gale and Mizu started to hear the panicked screams of the villagers. She was so frightened. But she knew they had to go and help, go and do something.
They would find Sensei Arashi.
"Let's go, quickly!" Mizu yelled, deafened from the beast's roar. Gale merely nodded, and followed him back up the path, away from the farm and toward Hyoku.
As they approached the village, they saw Arashi standing away from the calamity, staring numbly at the snowy beast while it ravaged houses and attacked marauding Hunters with steely rage, killing or severely wounding several at a time."Sensei Arashi! Sensei Arashi!" Gale yelled. He was old. There was no chance he might hear her cry on a normal day, never mind with a roaring dragon overhead.
"SENSEI!" Mizu bellowed.
Sensei Arashi turned and saw the pair, and sprang to life.
"Mizu, Gale! Thank goodness, I thought the beast had killed you!" He yelled with concern.
"What is this thing, Sensei!?" Gale shouted.
Sensei Arashi lost his vigor, and turned back to face the carnage. His words were quiet, Mizu and Gale still heard the dread in his tone.
"This beast, this dragon... The White Star.... Yaketsukuyōna."
III: Maelstrom of Terror
"Yaketsukuyōna... you never taught us about this one, Sensei... and it's so big and mighty... how are we supposed to stop it!?" Gale asked with dread.
"By not standing idly by and doing something," A low, matter-of-fact voice answered.
Gale, Mizu and Arashi turned to see a tall young man of about Gale and Mizu's age, sixteen or seventeen, dressed in hunter armor made of Remobra materials, but had been treated with a sleek chrome coating. Gale knew it was reinforced, but no changes other than the chrome were visible, although he wasn't wearing his helmet. He had a crimson Espinas Great Sword sheathed on his back, the handle of which he had his left hand firmly clamped around, ready to use at any given moment.
He had tanned skin and deep grey hair that was short, other than the two long strips of hair that hung over his forehead at either side, being thrown about in the wind. His eyes were a cold, otherworldly golden colour, transfixing Mizu and Gale in their icy gaze.
"Rakurai... what are you doing!? You are only a boy! You stand no chance of defeating an Elder Dragon!" Arashi yelled with worry.
"Watch me, old man," Rakurai scowled coldly.
He strode confidently toward the raging beast, ignoring the screams of terror and raw destruction around him, as if nothing but the dragon and he existed. He stopped at the foot of the beast. It sensed the young man's steely gaze upon it, and turned defiantly to meet it. He closed his eyes, and tightened his grip on his sword, which Gale, Mizu and Arashi, watching from afar, didn't think was possible.
"Begone. You have no place here," Rakurai muttered.
And with that he took one huge swing of his sword, which came crashing down upon the monster's foot. It left a huge gash, poisoning in the process. Yaketsukuyōna screeched with pain and rage, flapping its wings wildly and clutching blindly at its surroundings. It turned at an angle, rose into the sky and fled, leaving pools of blood in its wake.
However, while it did take to the sky, the White Star had no intention of fleeing the scene. It feigned a retreat, then banked sharply left and fired a huge ball of icy blue fire near to Rakurai. He had just enough time to swing his Great Sword in front of his body as a makeshift defense before the freezing ball of tundra made contact with a house to his right, shattering the house to pieces and forcing Rakurai to his knees. Sharp, ice-covered splinters of Dragonwood flew in all directions. The site on which the house once stood was a pile of icy flotsam, small white-blue flames dancing in the winds, while some of Yaketsukuyōna's flames had condensed into glittering snowdrops.
Yaketsukuyōna saw that Rakurai had defended himself from the attack, and swooped down to the ground, staggering as it did, partly because of it's cut and poisoned foot, and partly to break speed. It came to a halt in front of him.
Rakurai stood up, not fazed by the dragons mighty blow. A short silence descended upon the village. The frantic murmuring of the villagers died out, until only the howling winds and dancing flames could be heard. Then the dragon roared, a roar of lost pride and angry pain. Rakurai made no attempt to cover his ears, just stood before it - impassive, apathetic, insensible and expressionless. The strips of hair at the front of his head were flowing from the strength of its gale force breath. When it was finished, it let loose a feral, guttural growl, then became impassive like Rakurai, awaiting a challenge.
"... Like I said, beast... GO AWAY!" Rakurai shouted.
His icy, golden eyes sprang to life, and he stretched his left arm out, and held his right up toward the sky, hands outstretched. Gale, Mizu and the rest of the villagers watched in awe as a dark cloud swirled around him. Thunder roared, and then suddenly a beam of white-gold lightning struck directly down and into Rakurai's palm.
The bolt of lightning condensed into golden sparks, and ran down his arm and circulated around his entire body. He ran toward Yaketsukuyōna, and let loose an uppercut upon the beast's breast, sending an electric charge running up its body, and cracking the ovular ruby upon its chest. As it screeched in pain, he launched a dragon punch, hitting its left shoulder, staggering the mammoth beast. Then he finished with a 360 degree kick, sending the elder dragon crashing to the floor, electric sparks flashing on occasion, puffs of smoke rising up from it's charred body.
Rakurai let gravity force him down before landing on one knee, bowing his head. He stood, facing away from the beast, staying silent. Yaketsukuyōna yowled weakly, wheezing as it rose, still limping from its foot, which it then licked, curing the poison. It turned, rose to the sky and fled, staring a Rakurai with a foul look the entire time.
The villagers didn't cheer him, however. They were just to shocked. But Gale, still staring at him, got the feeling he didn't care. She watched him walk away from the carnage coldly, and slowly the villagers began to spur back to life.
3 Weeks Later
Gale walked toward the schoolhouse. Hyoku had since recovered from the White Star's devastating attack. However, even during the carnage, the schoolhouse had suffered no harm. Maybe it truly was blessed.
She knocked on the open door and walked in. Sensei Arashi and Sensei Ryu, a tall, thin, middle-aged man with long dark hair, stared at her - Arashi happily, Ryu fiery and unwavering, as if he wanted to attack her with his narrow eyes.
"I came to see you, Sensei. I want to join the search party for the White Star," Gale announced boldly.
The two men stared at her - Arashi an amazement, Ryu in a mix of amazement and disgust.
"You are no hunter. You will only hold the rest of the party back, girl." Sensei Ryu scowled.
"Exactly. So I'm signing up for Hunter Training." Gale retorted, meeting Ryu's narrow gaze.
Gale had made her decision. She would become a Hunter.
IV: A Hunter's Test
"Welcome, budding hunters!" a loud, confident voice boomed.
The class of hunters stood in two lines of seven, straight and uniform, like a military battalion. Gale stood in the third spot of the front line. She turned and smiled at Mizu, who stood in the sixth place of the second line. He caught her gaze and smiled back. She had always liked his smile, attractive and angelic. She turned back to face the front, in case she was noticed.
Sensei Ryu was pacing slowly before them, a slight spring in each step he took.
"You are here," he began, "to learn the ways of Hunting, from the basics to the extremes. We will give a brief demonstration at the start of each lesson. We will then guide you to certain nearby locations to perform tasks based upon what you have been shown, then follow, observe and evaluate each individual's performance at the end of the time set."
Gale once again turned away from Sensei Ryu's waffling, turning to face Mizu again. She saw the two girls on both sides of him giggling sweetly. Mizu had gotten tired of hiding his toned body long ago, so he just lifted up his tunic for what was probably the thousandth time (Mizu was the "hot" one in the opinion of all the girls in the village, which was ironic as his name literally meant "water").
She had seen muscles before, but even the boy-weary Gale stared in awe at his chest. It was fairly average compared to what Gale had seen previously, but still she blushed shyly. Then Mizu pulled his tunic down again, ignoring his mini-entourage, meeting her gaze with an earnest stare, that practically shouted at Gale, I've only got eyes for you. At least, that's what she hoped.
She turned back again. "Today, we start with Gathering. Gathering is the most basic and also most essential skill in a hunter's arsenal. A hunter must also know the difference between helpful and harmful herbs. Gathering is important; nobody wants to be stuck hunting a monster, only to find their rations have all been eaten, and NOT know how to gather. An easy way to tell if a herb or herbs are harmful is....."
Mount Fubuki - a rocky sheet of frozen tundra with sharp winds that could cut the air and chill the soul, and icy obsidian mountains that pierced the heavens. Gale and Mizu were crouching in a little crevice that sat just on the precipice of an abyssal fissure far below. A group of small, snow-covered herbs had grown in the damp nook, and they were sure this would be enough to please Sensei Ryu.
As they were picking the herbs, Gale looked down to the fissure below. Her eyes widened, as it seemed to get closer and closer and bigger and bigger the more she looked at it as if it was coming for her, to swallow her whole. She felt like shouting out, that she was in danger, that -
"Hey, are you okay there?" Mizu interrupted, and as Gale looked, the fissure seemed to shrink back to where it was.
"What's wrong? Are you scared?" he asked, a hint of amusement in his voice.
"Of heights, yeah. Always have been." Gale answered, still staring unwaveringly at the gaping maw.
Suddenly, he put his hand on hers. She jumped a little, but it helped rip her eyes away from the fissure.
"I'm here. You won't fall. I promise." He comforted her.
As Gale stared into his eyes, she felt all the fear in her vanish, like it was never there to begin with. She felt safe, secure... and happy.
Battle Training (1 month later)
"Well, well, well, if it isn't Rakurai, the Lightning Bolt," Sensei Ryu mused, referring to the appropriate title the villagers had dubbed him since he repelled the White Star. He paid no attention to Ryu, simply turned away from him, knowing full well that the fact that he had repelled an Elder Dragon alone had sealed him a place in the search party, and that these tests were just a formality to make it fair on the other volunteers.
"You dullards... will never be able to face up to me." he muttered to himself, and stalked off.
"He's so damn arrogant. I hope that creature teaches him a thing or two about overconfidence when we go off to hunt it." Mizu huffed.
"Me too. He needs to be brought back down to earth. Just because he can do... whatever the hell that lightning stuff was, doesn't mean he's better than us." Gale agreed.
"Next up! Mizu Nagare!" Sensei Ryu beckoned.
"My number's up..." he muttered quietly.
"Good luck." Gale said, sensing a hint of fear in him
Mizu stepped forward, approaching Ryu and his narrow, steely gaze.
"Your opponent... is me!" Ryu barked.
Mizu, taken aback, had only seconds to recover from the shock before Ryu's heel was in his face; a falcon kick had somehow passed by him in the space of about 5 seconds, and he was on the floor. He managed to get up onto one knee, blood dripping mildly from his nose and lower lip.
"Is that it!?" Ryu roared. He kicked Mizu in the chest with such force that everyone heard the Sensei's foot connect with Mizu's chest, a force of such magnitude that he collapsed to the loor again, clutching his stomach.
"Eh!? Mizu Nagare, the great son of Sensei Arashi, can manage no more than writhing on the floor like a worm!?" Ryu bellowed. He kicked him again, this time managing to draw a grunt from the boy, who slid across the sandy floor of the Great Arena about a meter ahead of where he had been.
Gale jumped at Sensei Ryu's shocking revelation. Sensei Arashi...is Mizu's father? she thought.
"Get up! GET UP! Or are you too soft to even manage that!?" He boomed. He kicked Mizu for the third time. He managed to get some grip on the ground to stop himself from going flying, but the force of the kick was so hard that it sent a bolt of searing pain shooting up his ribcage. He let out a loud, long scream of raw pain, tears falling slowly to the floor.
"My son was right. You are weak." Ryu muttered, losing his angry vigor. He drew a knife from his blue robe, and Gale, watching fearfully, frozen, saw the terror in Mizu's eyes as Ryu knelt down and put the cruel looking blade to his throat.
"Maybe... too weak..." Ryu sneered, and he rose the knife high above his head.
Gale saw then. His eyes were not the same fiery brown they were when she had seen him earlier. They where a bright, bright white. The White Star...it's controlling him! Gale thought, and on impulse she rushed forward toward the pair, pulling the Long Sword from it's sheath. The violet blade glinted in the sunlight. She twirled three hundred and sixty-three degrees and swept the sword at Ryu, who managed to jump back in time to evade the blow.
"Foolish girl. You see me, don't you?" Ryu's voice was distorted, demonic. Gale turned to check on Mizu. He lay unconscious on the floor, a small cut on his throat where the Sensei's beast's knife had dug in. She turned back to face Ryu.
"What... what are you?" Gale asked, dreading the answer.
"What am I?" Ryu echoed, "I...am the White Star, Yaketsukuyōna!" He yelled. And with that, Sensei Ryu was surrounded by a swirling cloud of white snowflakes. His unconscious body collapsed to the floor, face down.
Gale and the other twelve (conscious) students, clamoured around Sensei Ryu, chattering fearfully and excitedly about his "possession" and the appearance of the White Star. Gale wanted no part of it, and knelt down over Mizu. She put her finger to his neck to check his pulse. It was fine. She breathed a sigh of relief.
Suddenly, a group of red-robed women (the nurses of Hyoku), led by Sensei Arashi, holding his blue robe up off the dusty floor with his hands, so as not to trip on it in his haste, appeared.
"Gale!" Arashi beckoned, "By the Great Winds, what happened here!?" Gale rose from the ground to talk to Arashi, leaving the nurses to carry the unconscious Mizu off in a makeshift stretcher.
"Well... I... I think we should take this somewhere private. To the schoolhouse." Gale said timidly.
"Of course, of course, you are quite right, miss Kaze," Arashi huffed frantically, "I, too, feel it is not for the ears of the others."
Following Arashi, from the Great Arena to the Hyoku schoolhouse, all she could think about was Mizu, and hoped to the Great Winds that he was okay.
"It is far worse than I feared," Sensei Arashi mused with dread.
He and Gale were sitting in the small grove behind the schoolhouse, next to the miniature circular pond with the water that had a rosy aftertaste. Gale had noticed, that, for the first time, Arashi was actually drinking directly from the pool rather than using the water for tea.
"It seems this beast, this White Star... is no mere Elder Dragon," he continued, sipping from his cup. "It can take possession of an individual at any given time. It is... unlike anything the known world has ever seen. If it is not destroyed... it could destroy us."
"So we're going off to look for it now?" Gale asked. "What about Mizu, and Sensei Ryu?"
"Sensei Ryu was driven insane from the possession," Arashi said bluntly (he had never liked Ryu), "And Mizu... well... we will wait for him to recover, but you must let him rest. No visiting. Let the nurses do their duty. He will be fine. If you wish to know more about what he had heard, about him being my son...."
"Well, I don't mean to be rude, but aren't you a little too old to be a father?" Gale asked, giggling.
"Hm... yes... well i suppose I shall tell you about that," Arashi muttered. A long silence followed.
"I... was cursed, once upon a time. I'm really about fifty years old, but this curse made my body age at twice the normal rate. I got it when my wife was pregnant with Mizu. She died in childbirth, and under circumstances unbeknownst to me, I recieved this curse. Mizu didn't know about any of this, even me being his father, until this incident, and he will likely have forgotten most of what happened. Can I trust you that it will stay that way?" Arashi elaborated with shame.
"Of course, Sensei. Your secret is safe with me." Gale said confidently.
She couldn't visit Mizu, and she worried for him. However... someone she really wanted to visit... was Sensei Ryu. She thought that, since he was possessed by the White Star, it might have left some information behind. She got up and left the grove, then the schoolhouse, and headed toward the hospital.
When she reached the front door, she quietly entered, making sure not to disturb the nurses. She walked straight ahead, toward Sensei Ryu, who lay awake staring wildly at the ceiling.
"Sensei Ryu... Sensei? It's me, Gale. If you're there, I was wondering... if the White Star had "told" you anything, while it was controlling you." Gale asked when she reached his bedside. A pause followed. No answer.
Suddenly,Ryu sprang to life, moving as if he had missed three days of work.
"You! You saw it! The White Star! The White Star! You saw it! It saw me... It went inside my head, made me crazy... but I know it's secret! I know where the beast hides! I will tell you, if you promise to kill it for me, and bring me back that big red... the big red thing on its chest!" Ryu spat frantically, as if he was about to disappear. He appeared not to know where he was or who he was speaking to and why, but he had some information in his mind, as Gale had suspected.
"I promise, Sensei. Now tell me, where does it live?" Gale asked slowly.
"The White Star lives in the great Frozen Tower outside Hikari, the City of Light. It fights an eternal fight with the great Wyrm, Gurētosutōmu. They have been locked in conflict for aeons, but now the battle is turning in the favour of Yaketsukuyōna! It gathers memories of souls like mine inside that crystal upon it's breast, and the memories in turn make it stronger! You must find it and destroy that crystal, so that Gurētosutōmu may fell the beast! I am trusting you... find it. For my memories, and for all the other people whom no one believes." Ryu blurted out. And with that, he slumped back into a deep sleep.
2 Weeks Later
Gale, Mizu and about twenty other hunters (including the sour-faced Rakurai) stood in two vertical lines of eleven, facing toward the entrance of the village. Worried villagers, Senseis and family members stood in a huge flock, silently gazing as Sensei Arashi and a couple of Travel Guides hired directly from Hikari, the City of Light (and their destination, where Yaketsukuyōna and, supposedly Gurētosutōmu awaited) stood before the search party, explaining the perils that awaited and the caution that must be excercised while on the journey. Gale and Mizu turned halfway to meet each other, and their hands locked.
"Be careful, Gale." Mizu warned softly.
"You too." Gale replied.They hugged each other tightly, not wanting to let go.Then as Arashi beckoned the party of hunters, they marched off, weapons in hand away from Hyoku, the warm and peaceful haven that had been their home for sixteen years.
But the journey of Gale Kaze and Mizu Nagare had only just begun.
VI: Whisper of the Wyrm
The Unmei Desert - a blanket of dead sand, grey cracked rocks and huge monster skeletons, with the rays of a cruel sun in the sky. With no oasis in sight, and even quicksand patches, nobody would dare traverse such a treacherous landscape without suitable company and plenty of supplies. Thankfully, Gale was in luck. Sensei Arashi, Mizu, and, strangely, even Rakurai the Lightning Bolt gave her much comfort.However, no amount of company could stop the searing heat from getting to them. Many of the hunters wanted to remove the heavy metal armour, as it was just making them hotter, and so far there had been no monster sightings, but the two Hikarian guides had told them to keep it on just to be safe. Mizu, however, knew the area well - he had once gotten lost here for several weeks, and during the hardship had not encountered a single living thing - so he paid no heed to the guides. He had put his heavy Barioth armour on the cart being carried by a Popo, and taken his shirt off, tying it around his head as a bandanna.
Gale was staring at him again. She was frustrated by the fact that wherever she tried to look, she always found herself gazing at Mizu. She had never thought about being more than friends, but, for the first time, she thought to herself, Am I...falling in love?Thankfully, she didn't have to think for long, as she heard noisy footsteps coming up behind her - it was Rakurai. He had handed down his Remobra gear to his younger brother, who was going to start Hunter Training next month. He now wore the Espinas armour to match with his Great Sword. He now matched her walking speed, walking parallel to her. She felt some kind of condescending remark coming on and did her best to ignore the rough-edged young man.
"You always stare at him... you love him, don't you?" Rakurai grunted.
"... Well, yeah, I think I do," Gale answered honestly. She turned her gaze back to Mizu, still trudging forward half-dressed with the search party, Eager Cleaver in his right hand, a flask of water in his left.
"See?" Rakurai said, snapping his fingers in Gale's face to get her attention. "Always staring at him. Is it his eyes? His physique? What? What about him makes you so transfixed?" he asked semi-impatiently.
"Are... are you trying to say you like me?" Gale asked, amused at his hurry and also suprised that he was being so... nice.
With her question he went slightly cold again. "No," he said flatly. "I'm just... just trying to work you out." He said,and walked briskly away.
As Gale was wondering about the peek she had just gotten of the Lightning Bolt's soft side, a great blanket of gold-white clouds covered the sky. They swirled slowly in the middle, a warm breeze blowing across the hunters. Then, much to their amazement, a great golden-green beast descended from the epicentre of the swirling mass of clouds. It was so huge and incredibly long, with a pair of three-clawed arms that were still huge, but tiny in comparison to the rest of it's mammoth and also wingless body. It covered the entire stretch of ground the hunter's stood on with it's shadow. It's gargantuan head faced them, it's huge golden eyes transfixing them with a valiant gaze of steel. Suddenly, Gale heard a voice inside her head.
"Gale Kaze, heed my words. I am Gurētosutōmu, Dragon of the Roaring winds. And you are all in grave danger."
"You... you're the wyrm above us?" Gale asked in her head, in case it only understood thoughts.
"What kind of danger?"
"Grave. A great sand wyrm is nearby. A Jhen Mohran approaches."
"What should we do?""Run! As fast as you can! It is almost upon you! Make haste!"
On that worrying note, the Dragon of the Roaring Winds ascended back into the sky. Thankfully the cloudy sky had not cleared,so the heat-weary hunters were shielded from the blazing heat of the sun - in fact, it was a little cold, enough for Mizu to put his tunic back over his bare chest.
"Gale, it talked to you didn't it?" Sensei Arashi probed.
"Yes. It said we are in grave danger. A Jhen Mohran is on our tail," Gale announced solemnly.
This revelation sent the search party into chaos, frantic chattering, and clamouring galore.
"ENOUGH!" Rakurai roared, tired of the irritating orgy of noise. "There's no time to start having shit-fits! We have to MOVE. NOW," he pressed.
"Rakurai is right. We have to go." Arashi echoed. "Unless you all like to stand idly by and become Jhen fodder?"
On that note, the hunters stood to attention. Suddenly and idea sprang into Mizu's mind.
"Sensei, why don't we all pile onto the cart? The Dragonwood is firm, and this Popo is more than strong enough to support all our weight," he explained. An approving murmur among the party followed.
"I agree. We will ride the cart," Turo, one of the Hikarian guides, agreed.
"C'mon, there's no time to waste!" Gale yelled, seeing the ever so vague arrow of sandy wind making a beeline for them.
And with that, each member of the party quickly piled onto the back of the cart in an orderly fashion. Mizu leaned over and slapped the Popo on the back. It made a hoarse groaning noise, startled by the mild hit, and raced off straight ahead as fast as it could.
Gale looked behind her. The sandy trail of the Jhen Mohran was creeping ever closer.
For the first time since leaving the village, she worried if they would make it to Hikari alive.
VII: Attack of the Mountain Dragon
Gale had been keeping watch on the situation for hours, since which night had fallen, looking behind their cart every few minutes or so. She was keeping track of the Jhen Mohran, who, much to her disdain, was making steady and rapid progress. Her legs ached from kneeling for so long - there were almost thirty people on the back of this cart, and there was barely any space to move in the huge mass of armoured people. She felt a hand on her shoulder.
"Gale, c'mon, you need to rest," Mizu muttered. Gale shivered mildly - the cold desert nights were getting to her.
Mizu saw her shaking, and again took off his shirt and laid it over her shoulders.
"No, Mizu, keep it, you'll get cold," Gale refused, shrugging it off.
"Maybe so, but you already are," Mizu retorted, putting the tunic back over her shoulders. "Besides, it's kinda scratchy. And I packed loads of Hot Drinks, and you didn't," he added, pulling a flask of warm water from his belt and drinking deeply. He held her hand against his chest.
"See? Warm. I'll be fine," he said slowly.He started to lie back down and go to sleep, but then he realized Gale's hand was still on his chest. And so did she. They stared straight into each others' eyes. Gale slid her hand up to Mizu's shoulder. She felt his hand on her face. She closed her eyes and leaned in.
And they kissed.
When Gale woke up, it was still night time. She motioned to get up, frantically remembering the Jhen Mohran situation. The she stooped and realized where she was.She was wrapped in Mizu's embrace. She remembered the kiss. She smiled at him. She took his tunic off off her shoulders, and covered him with it. She crawled a few centimetres forward, putting her hand on her forehead,searching for the tell-tale sandy trail of the huge Elder Dragon. It was gone. But how-?
Gale's thoughts were interrupted when a huge obsidian chunk of rocky flesh burst out of the desert floor, soaring high over the cart,covering the hunters in a great, jagged shadow before diving back into the sand, sending sand particles rushing into Gale's face in the breeze. The loud noise woke the party up in a flash. Mizu, sensing the danger, frantically pulled his tunic and Barioth Armour on, quickly pulling out his Eager Cleaver. Gale pulled out her Long Sword, a nasty-looking Tigrex blade, serrated, with cruel jagged fangs on the outside edges.
"JHEN MOHRAN! JHEN MOHRAN!" Turo bellowed. Suddenly, the great Mountain Dragon resurfaced, not dolphin-diving from under the sand, but slowly emerging like a worm. It roared a mighty roar, but as the guides had warned them to pack for everything, they all had high quality earplugs for such an occasion as this, rendering the Jhen's response to their presence mute. It barrelled at high speed toward them, slithering like a serpent.
Turo reached over and whacked the Popo with such force that it actually managed a half-roar,and quickly clumped its way across the desert, just as the Jhen Mohran's mighty tusk were about to shatter the cart into wooden splinters. It shook it's head wildly and roared again, quickly recovering and swerving right to follow up on the cart for another charge.
Rakurai, seeing this, shouted to Sensei Arashi. "The Popo's too tired! We'll never escape the beast in time! "
Sensei Arashi considered this for a moment, then turned to two hunters near him. "We must repel it for as long as possible! Shinji! Jinsoku! Ready your bows! Aim for the cracks in it's shell! If you can get a hit, aim for the eyes!" Arashi boomed over the loud, sand-swimming Elder Dragon, and the hunters' earplugs.The two hunters nodded soberly, moving up to take a one-knee position on the right side of the cart, where the Jhen Mohran was slithering alongside them. Shinji readied her Barioth bow (a strange combination with her Agnaktor armour) and Jinsoku readied his Nargacuga bow, which went perfectly with his Nargacuga armour. Shinji and Jinsoku were well known around the village. Many had speculated that they were a couple, but they stated innumerable times that they were just best friends. They each had different bow techniques that complimented each other almost impossibly well, so they always hunted together. Shinji would fire arrows so fast that you could barely see her pull the next one out of her quiver.This helped get the targets attention. Jinsoku, however, would take an arrow and hold it in place for pinpoint accuracy, often coating it in poison, and sometimes would pile on three or more arrows at a time. Shinji quickly engaged the gargantuan Jhen Mohran, rapidly shooting arrows and reloading almost faster than the eye could see. A lot of her arrows bounced off of the Elder Dragons rocky exterior, but a few made it into the cracks in the dry stone, causing an irritating sting due to the fire coating. The Jhen Mohran felt the arrows and squealed, which turned into a roar, as Jinsoku's poisoned arrow drove itself straight into the beast's eye, sending a searing hot pain through the optic nerve. With this painful disparagement, it roared again, so incredibly loud that everone heard it through the earplugs. It dived back into the sand, and all was silent. A cheer of victory reverberated among the hunters. However, Rakurai, Gale and Mizu knew better. Shinji and Jinsoku were also staying where they were, adamant that it wasn't over. And their prediction was right.
"LOOK!" Jinsoku yelled, pointing forward. The party looked to see a great line of sandy wind speeding toward them.The Popo was groaning with fatigue, it's speed deteriorating. "Sensei, listen to me. The Popo is too tired to carry on. We are not going to be able to avoid that charge. It will hit us," Rakurai stated firmly. He paused while Arashi mulled this over. "But I have an idea," he added, and, for the first time, Gale saw Rakurai Kaminari, the Lightning Bolt, smile.
"EVERYONE! LISTEN UP!" he beckoned. Each and every one of the hunters turned from their worried conversations. Rakurai turned slowly to see the Jhen Mohran. It was almost upon them, a mere forty kilometres or so away from them. He blinked slowly, solemnly, then turned back to face the group. "This cart isn't going to outrun the Jhen Mohran this time. The Popo is too tired and too slow. Really, we've been lucky to not have been obliterated when it first attacked us."
"However," he continued, "While this creature is too slow and tired to carry us any further, there is one other monster that isn't," he finished slyly. The hunters immediately saw where Rakurai was going with this, murmurs of excitement, approval and fear spreading among them like wildfire.
"Mizu... is he... is he serious!?" Gale whispered, worried. "That thing'll crush us!"
"C'mon, Gale have a little faith in the man! He's saved our skins before," Mizu implored.
"Yeah, but this is different." She said, and she found herself cozying up against him.
"No it isn't." He argued. He held her at arm's length. "You ready?" He asked softly.
"...Ready." Gale said, noding slowly. They stood up with the rest of the search party, the Jhen Mohran mere metres away. "READY!?" Rakurai shouted. The sober silence spoke for itself.
"JUUUUUMP!" He roared.
And with that, the entire party dived forward, just as the mammoth Elder Dragon made contact with the wooden cart, sending splinters flying in all directions, the poor Popo crushed under the beast's mighty weight.
The syncopated screams of the hunters hung in the air as they all clamoured onto the rocky back of the desert beast. Just then the twilight dawn faded, making way for the early morning desert sun.
Gale and Mizu smiled at each other with pure relief. They laid their back against a rock "wall", closing their eyes and taking in the sun, letting the seemingly docile Jhen Mohran carry them across the desert expanse.
VIII: Into the Great Forest
Gale, tired of catching the sun, stood up and walked carefully along a flat bit of rock upon the Jhen Mohran's back, careful to dig her sword into the stone anytime she lost her balance. She was still wearing her armour despite the return of the heat, but thankfully she had packed plenty of Cool Drinks, and her Kirin "X" armour was a little "revealing" so as not to drown her in heat.
She made her way around the rocky foothold to another, wider area of flat rock at the very front of the beast, where Rakurai stood, arms folded, staring hollowly past the Elder Dragon's huge head at the desert. He saw a vague, tall shadow in the distance, that was slowly getting bigger and greener as they covered more ground.
"The Great Forest," Rakurai mused, sensing her presence but still not averting his gaze. "Its beauty always staggers me." Gale stared ahead at the approaching forest as well, and she too found herself hypnotized by the lush greenery."Wow, I see what you mean," Gale said, amazed.
Her gaze was broken by Rakurai walking past her, back around the rocky footpath. "Don't be fooled, Gale. Appearances can be deceiving," he grunted, disappearing behind a rocky mound. Gale walked away from the scene, climbing up a chunk of rock and descending down it's left side.
She saw Shinji and Jinsoku sitting cross-legged on the floor, talking absentmindedly about their role in the battle with the Jhen Mohran, their family, and other moments from their past. They stopped to smile warmly at Gale as she approached, and sat down with them.
"What brings you here, Gale?" Jinsoku asked. Gale stopped to think for a second or two.
"Well, I've already been to most of the other hunters, and Mizu's asleep, so I thought I'd come and find you two, seeing as we've never really talked before," she explained.
"You and him are always together. Is he your boyfriend or something?" Shinji probed gleefully.
"Well, I love him, so I think that speaks for itself." Gale answered. Shinji seemed satisfied with this as she tenderly picked up her bow and pulled out a linen cloth, and started wiping it over the bow. "It's my most prized possession. I like to keep it looking clean," she said. "But Jinsoku likes the scratches on his, don't you?" She giggled, nudging Jinsoku playfully.
Gale could see now how perfect a friendship they had, and how they were so content being friends that they had no desire to take it any further. Gale smiled to herself, getting up and heading further back along the Jhen's body. "Bye," Shinji waved at her, smiling thinly. Gale waved back and headed off.
She climbed over the rocky mound again. This time she stood there, and put her arms out either side of her, raising her head slightly and closing her eyes, taking in the breeze. Suddenly she felt someone else's lips on hers - Mizu, of course.
She giggled slightly and held him at arm's length. "Don't you ever annouce yourself?" she aked sarcastically. "You're gonna make me die of fright one of these days." He kissed her again. "Well, maybe you should be more prepared for suprises, then," he retorted with the same sarcasm as Gale. "Didn't I ever tell you? I don't like suprises!" She laughed. She started walking off again. She got a few steps away before she realized Mizu wasn't there. She turned back to him. "I'm going to find Sensei Arashi. You coming or not?" she beamed. Slowly but surely, Mizu followed.
They jumped off of the rock, heading back toward the tail of the Jhen Mohran. Sensei Arashi was sitting with Turo and the other Hikarian guide, who she had never heard a word from. As she approached the trio, she managed to catch his name - Zoru. Arashi saw Gale and Mizu coming, and excused himself from the conversation. Turo and Zoru walked away to the front of the Jhen, where everyone else seemed to be.
"Ah, my two favourite students. What would you have with me?" Arashi asked patiently.
"The Great Forest is up ahead, Sensei. I think we should get ready to disembark the Jhen Mohran." Gale said. She and Mizu lead Arashi to the front of the beast, where the Great Forest was now visible in it's entirety. "Very well," Arashi murmured. Turo and Zoru stood before the search party, doing a head count.
"Okay. Everyone's here." Zoru said to Turo. Turo nodded, and turned back to the group. "Ok, listen up everyone!" he began. "Our stop's here. Everyone get ready to jump!" he shouted. The Great Forest was now literally right in front of them.They had all packed climbing equipment, so they absailed down to a lower point than where they had been camped (otherwise the fall would kill them). They all swung a little to gain momentum.The Jhen Mohran began to turn to avoid the forest.The party was now directly facing it.
"THREE! TWO! ONE! JUMP!" Turo shouted, and everyone let go of their absailing rope, fell off of the Elder Dragon, and went tumbling into the Great Forest. It was a bit of a rough drop, but not enough to cause any injury.
Gale, the first to recover, followed by Shinji, Jinsoku, Rakurai and the others, stared at the point where the Unmei Desert ended and the Great Forest began, watching the great Jhen Mohran slither away into the sand.
The conglomerate of hunters strolled quietly through the Great Forest (or as quietly as one could with heavy armour on), taking in the scenic views, the squeals of Kelbi and the chirping of birds - the general peace of the place.
Gale, Mizu, Shinji, Jinsoku and Rakurai, who seemed to have opened up and made friends with Gale and the others, were at the forefront of the party, walking side by side silently. It was going really well. They were making steady progress, and Turo had said about an hour ago that they would be halfway to Hikari when they came out of the forest. All was well, and so far the only monsters they had encounters with were a small herd of Kelbi and a pair of Bullfangos. Suddenly, a call broke the docile silence.
"Guys! Look here!"
It was Jinsoku. The party gathered around him to see what he had found. It was a couple of dead Kelbi. They had been stripped of most of their meat, shredded bits of flesh and flecks of crimson blood splattered here and there. Silence followed, as no one understood what the big deal was about two dead Kelibi. Jinsoku sighed impatiently. "Don't you see!? Kelbi are weak herbivores! The only thing wild and cruel enough to do this to an innocent and docile animal is-"A loud, feral and animalistic yowl broke the silence. They hunters turned their heads up and to the left, only to meet the red-eyed gaze of a sleek, smooth, and jet-black pseudowyvern. It fidgeted its forelimbs impatiently, drooling mildly with raw hunger.
"NARGACUGA!!" Shinji screeched frantically, following which the beast sprang to life, jumping down speedily form the heavy tree branch to the forest floor and swiping three unfortunate hunters with it's long tail as they tried to escape. This sent the other hunters spiralling into panic, some turning to face the Nargacuga, others running for their lives as far and as fast as possible. The wyvern swiftly smashed two more hunters with its powerful forelimbs as it tore ahead after the rest of the party.
Rakurai saw it heading toward him. He stood still, facing it, drawing his Espinas Great Sword. The Nargacuga yowled defiantly before leaping forward for the kill. Rakurai drew his sword back, as far as he could over his shoulder, waiting for the right moment. As the pitch-black beast drew near, he swung the huge sword back from over his shoulder and swiped to the left.The razor sharp blade tore through the flesh of it's right leg, sending it flying off course, crashing into a nearby tree and leaving a huge splintered dent in the trunk.
It growled weakly and slumped to the floor, winded. The blade carried on going after making contact with the beast, digging itself into the ground at an angle. Rakurai pulled it out, and stood with the sword pointing at the Nargacuga, directly in line with his body, his legs wide apart to help maintain balance. It stared at him with angry violent eyes, flinging it's head up like a wolf and letting out yet another feral screech.
This time, the remaining twenty party members rushed into an area that looked like a wall of trees, hoping that the forest area there would be too dense and thick for the creature to follow. All - except Rakurai. He was preparing to charge the wyvern when suddenly he heard a faint crunch of breaking tree branches, that was gradually getting louder and louder. Then, Rakurai covered himself by holding the flap of his blade above his head as broken branches, leaves and twigs fell forcefully from the sky.
When the wooden rain had stooped, he put his Great Sword down, only to see a second Nargacuga standing before him, twitching its tail in anticipation. As the first monster recovered from it's encounter with the tree trunk, he heard Gale shout out to him, "NO! WHAT ARE YOU DOING!? YOU'LL DIE IF YOU DON'T RUN! COME ON!"
He huffed with amusement, smiled thinly and closed his eyes for a few moments. "Don't worry. I'll be fine," he grunted.
"Besides..." he started, holding his outstretched left hand toward the sky, the familiar bold of lightning striking him and running down his arm, leaving the same electrical aura coursing around his body as when he fought the White Star.
"Somebody has to hold them off," he mused. He turned to Gale and smiled slyly at her. It was a thin smile, but a smile nonetheless. Gale read his expression and nodded soberly, running off into the thick trees with the others.
Rakurai turned his gaze back to the two wyverns, and pointed his blade at them.
"Let's see if you can keep up," he muttered, and on that note, charged at the pair of Nargacugas, feeling no fear, no remorse and no hesitation.
IX: Yaketsukuyona's Truth
They ran through the tree-laden landscape as fast as their legs would carry them, not stopping to even look back. Gale wondered how Rakurai was doing against the two Nargacugas, or if he was still alive. The thought of his death was quickly deleted from her thoughts, however, when she remembered that he wielded immense supernatural power, and that someone who seemed so world-weary could never be felled so easily.
She looked to her left. Shinji and Jinsoku were running alongside her. Shinji noticed Gale looking at her and gave her the thumbs-up. Gale turned to her right. Mizu was there, slightly ahead of her. The other hunters were a little slower than Gale and her friends, their armor clearly more heavy and not really designed for super-speedy escapes.
The entire group stopped at the sound of a feral growl, followed by several violent zapping sounds; Rakurai was clearly fine. Gale stopped worrying, and signaled to the group to start running again.
Rakurai fell to his knees. While he was immensely powerful, fighting two extremely fast and strong Pseudowyverns alone takes its toll, no matter how strong the hunter. He felt the wind move as the second Nargacuga, which had been dealt a grievous wound to the webbing of its left wing, pounced on him. With his remaining strength, he had just enough time to fling his Espinas Great Sword halfheartedly in front of him as a shield before the blacker-than-black wyvern tackled him aggressively. He was sent tumbling over the dark green forest floor, slumping on the precipice of a moderately steep drop into an expansive lake below.Rakurai gathered his strength for a second before managing to scramble to his feet, looking at the large lake below as he did so. He could see a large, fish-like shape in the water; a Plesioth. He thought of how he could use this to his advantage. As Pseudowyverns, Nargacugas might be smart in comparison to other monsters, but could be just as easily manipulated in a state of rage.
He produced a small, circular disc from his backpack; a shock trap. Holding it firmly in his free hand, he charged the two Nargacugas, his sword dragging along the forest floor as he had only one free hand to hold it in. His speed matched that of the two beasts, a side effect of his power over lightning. The pitch-black pair lunged from either side at Rakurai, growling ferociously as they did so. Rakurai quickly flung the shock trap from his hand. It landed on the floor and activated as the first Nargacuga (the one with the wounded right leg) set its claws on it.
It squealed as the paralyzing shock was emitted from the disc, ensnaring it. Seeing that the beast was stuck, Rakurai made a swift U-turn back toward the cliff above the lake, the second wyvern giving chase. Rakurai quickly sped up, almost a blur until he reached the edge of the cliff. With the Narga mere meters away, he quickly produced a Flash Bomb from his belt, and threw it into the air, covering his eyes with his left arm as he did so. A bright flash followed.
With no time to shield itself from the light, the Nargacuga was blinded and disoriented by the flash. As it skidded blindly to a halt, Rakurai swung his Great Sword horizontally through the creature's legs, tripping it up. With no grip left to halt its blind charge, the Nargacuga went flying off the cliff with a feral yowl and into the lake below, its cry getting slowly quieter as it got further away. It landed in the water with a huge splash, sending ripples of water through the lake and huge drops of water up into the air, and back down again.
After a short pause, the Narga resurfaced. But it merely flailed about helplessly, as it couldn't swim. Rakurai watched as the Plesioth pounced on the Nargacuga from under the water, locking its sharp teeth onto the wyvern's tail. It screeched with fear and struggled weakly for a few seconds, before it was dragged under the water, never to resurface.
"One Narga down, one more to go." He muttered to himself with confidence. He turned, bringing his sword to bear to finish off the trapped Nargacuga - but it was gone.The only traces of its presence were the damaged tree trunk and a scorched mark where the shock trap had expired. Then, looking to the thick trees where the hunters had fled into, he noticed a dark, winged shape galloping off into the distance. "The others!" he blurted out frantically. He sheathed his sword and ran quickly after it, fearing that he might be too late.
* * *
Gale, hearing the approaching noisy, footsteps of the Nargacuga, ran even faster than she already had been. The others, realizing what she had heard, followed suit. It was getting closer and closer. "Come on, come on! It's gonna catch us!" Jinsoku yelled.
But it was too late. Gale could already clearly make out the streamlined black body and glowing red eyes of the monster. "Too late!" Shinji huffed, stopping and pulling out her bow. The Nargacuga saw Shinji stop and leaped through the trees at her. Shinji rapidly fired her bow at the beast, but it was going so fast that the arrows just deflected off of its body. She closed her eyes for the end.
But just as it was upon her, she heard a high-pitched hum followed by a zapping noise, then a series of loud crashes followed by a bestial roar of utter pain. She opened her eyes to see the severed tail of a Nargacuga if front of her, still bleeding. She turned to see the rest of the wyvern, moaning softly and struggling to its feet. Turning back, she looked up to see Mizu offering her his hand, his Eager Cleaver drenched in deep red blood- he had just saved her life. "Take it. I don't bite," he joked absentmindedly. She took his hand and rose to her feet, bow at the ready.
"You might not," Gale said seriously, "But he sure does!" she snapped worriedly, pointing at the Nargacuga, its demonic red eyes glowering at them hatefully and it's body quivering with rage. It scraped its forelimbs against the ground, waggled what was left of it's tail, snapped its jaws... and lunged straight toward the search party.
As the hunters took offensive and defensive stances to finally slay the beast, a great white blur crashed in through the trees behind it stumbling angrily on its hind legs, snatching the Nargacuga out of the air with its huge claw. It was huge, so huge that it towered above the hunters, and made the Nargacuga look about the size of an adult Bullfango. It clamped it's huge jaws down over the poor wyvern's neck, tearing its head off.
Bored, it tore the jet-black carcass in two, throwing the remains aggressively to the forest floor. It had a line of sparkling white fur running down it's neck, forearms, tail and wings. It's eyes where snow white. It was surrounded in an icy-blue aura, and had a cracked, blood-red ruby upon its breast.
"Yaketsukuyōna!" Mizu gasped. The great white beast gazed at the tiny souls below them. Then, much to the surprise of the group, it spoke to them in their minds.
"We meet at last, Gale Kaze," it said.
"You attacked Hyoku, possessed Sensei Ryu and hurt my boyfriend! Why!?"
"It is written. A group of brave hunters will come forth from the village of wind, and hunt the White Star. They will travel far and wide to the City of Light, and ascend the Frozen Tower to slay it before the time of the Divine Maelstrom. If it is not slain, the Maelstrom will cleanse the land of all life, including mine. However... I have no intention of dying. I will collect souls of humans, empowering the ruby on my breast, allowing me to escape the destruction. With humans gone, we Wyrms can once again call this world ours, as we once did before the dawn of time itself."
"You once called this world yours?"
"Yes. Before humanity, this world was ours. But the very first Hunters drove us to extinction. I and Gurētosutōmu are the only Wyrms left in this world. Gurētosutōmu wishes to preserve this world, a traitor to his own kind. I will not betray my race. I will kill Gurētosutōmu and escape the Divine Maelstrom, returning the Wyrms to where they belong."
"We won't let this happen!"
"...Try and stop me, girl."
The White Star vanished with a sky-blue flash. Immediately after, Gale collapsed, and began hyperventilating. Mizu caught her in his arms as she fell. She carried on hyperventilating for a few seconds before falling unconscious.
Shortly after, Rakurai emerged from the thick growth. "Gale!" He snapped, running over the the group. "What happened here?" He asked with concern. "I don't know," Mizu said. "The White Star was here - it killed the Nargacuga, and told us something about a prophecy. I'll explain later, there's no time. Sensei! Sensei!" Mizu spat hurriedly. Sensei Arashi came over as fast as his walking stick could carry him. He leaned over and felt Gale's forehead. "By the Great Winds, she has been cursed! Fire runs through her veins. Hikari, ironically, has the cure. If we don't get her there in time... she'll die," he stated soberly. "Then there is no time to waste. We must hurry!" Jinsoku cried. Mizu picked her up off of the floor gently, carrying her in his arms.
The remaining hunters set off once more through the thick trees. Zoru assured them that they were nearly out of the forest, and that after that only the Hikari Bridge stood between them and the City of Light - and the Frozen Tower, where the White Star awaited the Divine Maelstrom.
Mizu walked in complete silence, fearing incessantly for the life of the girl he loved.
X: Guretosutomu's Confession
All Gale had heard before slipping into darkness was Mizu calling out to her and the faint murmuring of the others. When she awoke, she was lying on a strange circular slab of grey stone, with nothing but grey-white mist on all sides, above and below her. Am I dead? she thought. Is this heaven?
I suppose you could say this is a heaven of sorts, a calm voice echoed. Gale looked frantically around her, looking for the owner of the mysterious voice.
Hello? Who's there? she called out.
"Surely you recognize me? I have been watching over you since you left Hyoku. I warned you of the Jhen Mohran, I saw you collapse, and brought you here."
But... I don't understand. What do you mean you 'brought me here' ?
"This is an empty space, a void. I brought you here, but only in your dreams."
What's happening in the real world then? Where am I in reality?
"You and your friends are still in the Great Forest. The boy is carrying you."
Boy... you mean Mizu!? Why is he carrying me!?
"After the White Star imparted the prohecy to you, he cursed you. You are in a coma. Fire runs through your veins. They have a cure in Hikari, but if the fire reaches your heart..."
...I have faith in my friends. They'll get me there in time.
"You have a strong heart, and you speak the truth. You honour your kind. If only I could have such pride again..."
What do you mean?
"I brought you here... to confess."
Confess? Confess what?
"I have a role to play in the White Star's prophecy. It's a shame I cannot bear."
"The role of the Destroyer. I am the Wyrm of Wind. I have complete control over it. And it is I that must create the Divine Maelstrom, and annihilate your kind."
Don't you have a choice?
"It is written. I have no say in the matter. The raw power released when I enter battle with the White Star will manifest in the Divine maelstrom. Its occurence is inevitable."
Can't we do anything to stop it?
"You cannot stop it from happening. But if the White Star is destroyed before it reaches maturity, it will dissipate. Now you know the truth, and my shame."
A long pause followed.
I have a question. About Rakurai.
Where does his power over lightning come from?
"If he can manipulate lightning... why, he must be a direct descendant of the Wyrm of thunder!"
"When the first hunters killed a Wyrm, they would unwittingly absorb some of it's innate power. Most would die before reporoducing, but when they did, the power would be passsed on, growing stronger as it was passed down that hunter's family line. Rakurai must be the complete inheritor of the thunder Wyrm's power."
Another long pause.
"You must sleep now. The longer your brain is stimulated and active, the faster the fire will spread within you."
And then, before Gale could utter another word, she felt herself spacing out, and slowly closed her eyes on the misty limbo.
X-2: A Great Sacrifice
Immediately after they emerged from the Great Forest, the party was greeted by a small area of grassy moss that turned to stonework, that led to Hikari Bridge. It was wide, completely straight, and stretched as far as they eye could see. Below the bridge, roughly a five kilometre drop, was a huge river, that ended in a waterfall somewhere. But it wasn't visible from there.
"The Hikari Bridge," Jinsoku sighed. "We made it."
"Not quite," Turo said, "The Tundra still awaits. Then we will be at Hikari."
As the group headed toward the bridge, Jinsoku turned, seeing Mizu not moving. He was still carrying Gale, smoothing her hair. He felt her forehead. "Her temperature is rising fast," he muttered.
"She'll be fine, we'll get her there in time," Jinsoku assured him. "Come on, you don't wanna get left behind, do you?"
Mizu smiled at this, and caught up with the group. A slight mist was gathering around the area. Not nearly enough to obscure the scenery, just a faint blanket of grey. However, it did turn into thick fog below them, so the water under them was now out of sight. "I've always wanted to cross this bridge," Sensei Arashi chirped. "When I heard it was the longest bridge in the land, it fascinated me," he added. "The years and years of expert stonework it must have taken really makes you appreciate it."
"Yeah, I suppose it does," Shinji concured. They still had a long, long way to go. She turned her head to the left to talk to Mizu. "How did you two actually meet anyway?" she probed.
"We were childhood sweethearts. My father was out hunting in the Snowy Mountains when a Tigrex attacked him. It was about to rip him to shreds, when Gale's father jumped in and saved him. They quickly became friends, and, then, while our parents went to the tavern together, I met Gale. She was quite timid at first, but she opened up. We always used to go out to her farm and play in the fields. Those play-filled days of innocence..." Mizu mused, still not turning to look at Shinji.
"That's so sweet" Shiji squeaked. Then, she put her hands on her hips and stared at Mizu inquisitively. "But how did she become your girlfirend? Huh?" she asked, as if she was suspiscious of him. At last, he ripped his eyes away from Gale and looked at Shinji. "Well, we were on the back of the cart in the desert, when the Jhen Mohran was still catching up to us, and I woke up and saw that she was still keeping watch on it, and I said to her that she needed sleep. Then... some other stuff happened, and... we kissed."
Shinji was silent for at least ten seconds after his reply, having never paused to consider how special a relationship Gale and Mizu had. Still deep in thought, she managed to squeeze out a meek "Wow..." before descending into complete silence, gazing off into the distance.
There was complete and utter silence for at least an hour, after which time there was still at least half of the bridge left to cross. Jinsoku grew impaitent with the long walk and shouted, "How long does this damn bridge go on for!?" He kicked the ground with his boot.
The otherwise silent atmosphere was broken with a loud and strained screech, followed by a stronger, louder and more prideful roar. The party stopped in suprise as two spiky and angry-looking wyverns, one red, one green, rose from above the misty depths on each side of the bridge, staring at the hunters with flaming eyes.
"A Rathian and a Rathalos!" Zoru gasped. "The King of The Skies and the Queen of The Earth!"
The Rathalos roared at the hunters, spurring them into action. They started sprinting across the bridge as far as they could, the vicious wyverns hot on their heels, strafing searing fireballs at them, which missed by mere millimeters. Two hunters weren't quick enough, and were obliterated by the Rathian. Another pair were caught in the grip of the Rathalos' talons, which then dropped them screaming into the misty abyss below.
The group still sprinted forward, ignoring the deaths. Then, all of a sudden, Turo stoppped and turned, producing a pair of sleek, black Dual Blades made of Nargacuga materials from nowhere. The Rathalos saw him stop and prepared a fireball, it's red throat glowing orange. Shinji quickly noticed and, impossibly fast, pulled an arrow from her quiver and fired it at the wyvern's throat.
It made contact, sending the Rathalos' head askew to the left and sending the fireball off into the misty distance. Shinji ran as fast as her Agnaktor armour would allow, as the Rathalos, irked by the interruption, swooped down and glided along the right side of the bridge, strafing angry fireballs in her direction.
The Rathian, seeing this act of defiance, descended to land on the bridge. It charged toward him. Arashi turned to see this, and beckoned him."Turo! What are you thinking!? You have to run!" he yelled.
Turo stood his ground, ignoring Arashi's plea. As the Rathian drew near, he side-stepped to the right, slicing his blades across the Rathian's wing. It screeched with pain, staggering clumsily and slipping across the bridge. The hunters, who had stopped in shock, began running again. The wyvern flapped its wings angrily, slowly regaining its balance. It turned back to face Turo, outraged and embarassed. It roared with rage, flames flickering from the sides of it's jaws. It fired a searing ball of hate toward him. It missed its mark a little, but Turo was still blown back by the force of the blast radius, along with bits of stone. Immediately after, the Rathian charged at the Hikarian guide once more, slicing through the stone edges of the structure as it did so, flames still dancing upon the bridge.
Jinsoku saw this and knew Turo wouldn't recover before the Rathian reached him. He fired a poison-tipped arrow with pinpoint accuracy. It tore a huge rip in the right wing webbing of the Rathian, halting its charge. It shrieked shrilly, sliding to a halt before Turo. Then, Jinsoku saw a bright yellow flash out of the corner of his eye. He turned back to the group. Rakurai had dissapeared.
He turned back to face the Rathian. Rakurai had appeared in front of it. As it got up and began to charge toward the hunters, Rakurai swung his Great Sword, severing the tail of the beast, watching it topple into the mist below, spilling blood and poison all the way.
The Rathian roared in pain, and tried once more to attack the search party ahead. Rakurai sighed tiredly and walked past the right side of the wyvern, scraping his Great Sword against its right leg as he did so. The Rathian squealed weakly, limping desperately forward, and, too tired to carry on, groaned meekly and slumped to the ground, toppling over the side and falling lifelessly in the abyssal mist.
Rakurai touched Turo, and with another yellow flash later, they had reunited with the party further along the bridge. The Rathalos had disappeared.
A long silence was broken by an echoing roar and the wingbeats of a large creature, as the familiar red shape of the Rathalos ascended from below, hovering on the left side of the bridge. The hunters immediately began sprinting again, strafed by hate-filled balls of fire all the way. Four slow hunters were caught in a blast and sent tumbling to their dooms, screaming all the way. Out of the twenty-five members of the party, only eleven remained. The Rathalos stopped, hovering in the air to catch its breath. As the hunters kept running, an icy-blue landscape came into view close ahead. "It's the Tundra! We're nearly there!" Mizu shouted, relieved.
The Rathalos had caught its breath again, and rose high into the air, then swooped down low, streaming toward the group, poisonous claws outstretched. Arashi knew that his frail legs wouldn't be able to keep up much longer, and that if the raging wyvern wasn't stopped it would kill them all. He stopped and faced it. Suprised, the party stopped in their tracks and turned to face him.
"What the hell are you doing, Sensei!? You have to run!" Rakurai bellowed fretfully. Arashi ignored him, turned to Mizu and held out his knobbly Dragonwood walking stick. He took it slowly, realizing that this was to be a parting gift. "Sensei..." Mizu trailed off.
"She loves you, Mizu. Get her to Hikari safely," Arashi said soberly.
"But..." Mizu started.
"Promise me," Arashi interrupted firmly. Mizu paused.
"I promise," he answered.
"Thank you. Now go, all of you! The beast will catch you if you don't move now!"
"But, Sensei..." Jinsoku began.
"NOW!" Arashi boomed.
There was no more to be said or done. Slowly but surely, the hunters turned their backs on him and sprinted for the tundra. Arashi rose from the ground, hovering in the air, a pale, green, transluscent sphere of energy surrounding him.
"I, Arashi Migazuchi, call upon ALL my remaining power, as a Descendant of the great wind Wyrm...Gurētosutōmu!" he roared. The ball of energy emitted a high-pitched hum, and grew brighter and brighter and louder and louder, until the blue-robed elderly man was barely visible and the high-pitched hum had turned into a ear-spltting screech.
The hunters, who had reached the end of the Hikari Bridge (and the beginning of the Tundra) watched in sadness and awe as both Arashi and the Rathalos disappeared in a huge and loud burst of bright green light, which left small, green, glinting particles slowly drifiting downward.
A melancholy silence followed.
The remaining hunters reluctantly turned their back on the dismal scene, walking in complete silence and solemnity, quietly mourning the kind, aimiable and eternally happy schoolmaster who had taught them almost everything they knew.
XI: Wrath of the Hell Wolf Wyvern
A snowstorm was raging through the Tundra. The harrowing cold and the knife-sharp winds took their toll on the hunters, and one or two had died of hypothermia along the way. They had collapsed into the snow and without transport, forcing the others to have no choice but to leave them there. All of this was made worse by the fact that Sensei Arashi was no longer here to cheer everyone up. Along the journey, he had told them all so many exciting stories about so many monsters and even his own past experiences. But no longer. He was dead. And that hit home hard.
Night was approaching.
Out of the blue, Gale suddenly started haemorrhaging and hyperventilating. The fire was reaching her heart. On the verge of panicking, Mizu frantically set her down on the snow. The group gathered around. "What are we supposed to do!?" he yelled, distressed. Rakurai, Shinji and Jinsoku looked worried. "Wait," he said flatly. "Everyone! Concentrate all your thoughts on Gurētosutōmu! Pray to him... for Gale... he is her last hope," he finished in a solemn mutter. Everyone locked hands in a circle of pure hope, looked up to the sky, and waited.
Gale lay in limbo, awake once again.
"You are dying, Gale. The fire is reaching your heart faster than anticipated."
"They... they are praying to me. Begging me to save you. Normally, I could do nothing of the sort. But when a Wyrm is prayed to... they can heal... for a good cause..."
So... you're gonna... save me?
"Sort of, yes. I can arrest the fever temporarily, but not for long. You must hurry to Hikari. It will drain my power considerably, forcing me into a more Dragon-like form, like the White Star's. But that boy...you have no idea how much he loves you."
Until we meet again...Gale Kaze.
Suddenly the grey sky above Gale turned bright white. She reached out to touch the light. And...
Gale stopped haemorrhaging, and came to life with a huge gasp for air. Everyone jumped back, startled, then began chattering amongst themselves, suprised by the spectacle. She sat up, looking around frantically in all directions, as if someone was missing.
Mizu put his hands or her shoulders and shook her firmly. "Gale!" he shouted. She turned and looked at him, silent. "I'm right here," he said. And she practically fell forward, hugging him, and burying her head in his chest. "It's not gone, Mizu. The curse, I mean. It's just slowed down," she muttered.
"By who?" Mizu asked. "Him," she replied, referring to the great wind Wyrm. "Really?" Mizu laughed. "That's your first thought when you come out of a coma?" He stroked her hair. "You never cease to amaze me. Always business first."
"We must make even more haste to Hikari, then," Zoru said. "Yes," Turo solemnly nodded in agreement, "but it's getting dark, and the cold will be unbearable. We must set up camp for the night."
"Agreed," Zoru said. The hunters began setting up tents and hot food in preperation for the cold night ahead.
Night had fallen. Almost all of the hunters were asleep. All - except Mizu and Gale, who were sitting by the fire, warming their hands, talking nostalgically. Ever since they had met when they were five, they had always done things together, much like Shinji and Jinsoku.
But whereas Shinji, Mizu, and Jinsoku apsired to be hunters at an early age, Gale only really considered it after the village was attacked. They talked of how they met, all the times they used to play on the farm when they were younger, and eventually got to current events; the White Star, the hunting party... the kiss while on the run from the Jhen Mohran. Alcohol had been provided and the couple were half-drunk, not enough to lose control, but enough to be a little bit wild and have a headache in the morning.
"And... and that time you thought there was a Lagiacrus in the lake by our farm... an-an-and then you fell into the water trying to find it!" Gale slurred, drunk and amused. Then her drunken stupour wore off a little and she matured again. "So..." she mused,stroking Mizu's hair with her finger. "Everyone's asleep... we're by ourselves... so... are you coming?" she said suggestively walking over to their tent.
Mizu was taken aback by her subtle hints. "Are you saying... you want...?" He never finished, as he saw in her eys what she wanted. "Random, I know, but... we could die at any moment, Mizu." Gale said tenderly. "We should take these opportunities as they come." Mizu thought seriously about this for a while. And, as Gale walked away to the tent, he slowly followed.
It was still nighttime when everyone awoke. It was only twilight, too early to begin walking again. But they hadn't been woken up by Turo, or Zoru or Rakurai. They had been woken up by a vicious roar. Gale turned over in her tent, hiding her shame. She nudged Mizu awake. "Huh...? What now?" he said, half-asleep.A second roar crescendoed through the Tundra. "That's what. Now hurry up and get some clothes on!" she barked. "Okay, okay! Calm down, geez." he said, a little more alertly, pulling his tunic and Barioth armour back on. They heard the bestial howl again. This time screams followed.
Unsheathing their Long Swords, Gale and Mizu stepped outside the tent to greet the morning daylight and the frozen cliffs of the Tundra; and a great lumbering black and gray beast, with demonic red eyes, tearing aross the ice to the campsite. With no wings, they knew it was a Fanged Wyvern. As it tore through the idle of their settlement, a hunter deperately cried out "ZINOGRE! STYGIAN ZINOGRE!" before being thrown across the ice by a huge bolt of red thunder.The Stygian Zinogre howled with pride, turning it's gaze to Gale and Mizu. It stalked ferally toward them, and they drew their swords up in a defensive stance. As it prepared to maul them both with a huge claw, Gale swung her Tigrex sword over her head and down to the ground, slicing into its grey flesh and leaving a large gash.
It squealed like a hurt dog, and drew it's claw away in annoyance. Then it's body language hardened again and it roared at the pair angrily, sending a huge red bolt of electric might toward them. They would have been dead in a flash, if Rakurai hadn't appeared before them, having summoned his own lightning, cancelling both thunderbolts out. "Don't just stand there! Run! Now!" he yelled at them. Still startled, they turned and sprinted to catch up with the others. Like he always did, Rakurai turned away to face the Zinogre. He laughed to himself. "Saving your skins really is going to kill me one day," he muttered. Then his facial expression hardened, and he brought his Great Sword to bear, ready to challenge the Hell Wolf Wyvern, alone.
The remaining eight hunters (apart from Rakurai) were still running wildly through the Tundra, as far away from the Zinogre as possible. They had started out with twenty-five people on this outing and to be down to only eight... All they had to do was get out of the Tundra and they would finally be at Hikari, the City of Light, where the Frozen Tower awaited. But first they had to stay alive. And to do that, they had to keep running.
"Watch out! Above!" one of the hunters shouted. The group came to a sudden halt as a huge Barioth pounced from it's icy perch to the icy ground below, landing if front of them. It growled, then threw itself at the hunters. But as it did, it slipped on the ice and slid to the side of them, giving then freedom to flee as fast as possible.
The Barioth turned again, snarling at the outrage, and immediately began to lumber toward them. The party was tired of all the running, barely able to continue. The Barioth was closing in. Zoru, the silent Hikarian guide, stood his ground. "Go. I'll take it."
Familiar with this solemn self-sacrifice, the others merely kept running, while Turo followed after exchanging formal bows with each other. Zuro, who stood on the precipice of a steep icy cilff, caught the attention of the clumsy wyvern, as it charged toward him. Zuro had just enough time to cling his knife into its eye before colliding with it's huge torso, sending both plummeting off of the edge and into the icy water below.
Suddenly, Rakurai was back with the group in a yellow flash. "You kill it?" Shinji huffed, still running. "What, you mean THAT one!?" he yelled impatiently, pointing at the huge wolf-like beast lumbering toward them. "I don't think so, do you!?" he asked rhetorically.
The group, seeing the still very much alive Stygian Zinogre galloping across the ice, redouble their efforts, but still not enough to outrun the beast. As it drew close, it howled and jumped over the group with ease, skidding to a halt in fron of them to block their escape. They all drew their weapons on instinct, bows, lances, gunlances, swords and bowguns alike aimed at the foul, wolf-like creature. It howled in their faces, the warm breath of the Zinogre and the cold breeze of the arctic Tundra blowing in their faces.
One of the hunters took this opening and thrust his lance forward into the beasts chest, almost piercng it's heart. The Zinogre roared and howled with pain and rage, blood pouring steadily from it's wound. Gale and Mizu then sliced its legs with thier Long Swords, causing it to yelp and stagger back. Shinji rapidly fired several arrows which embedded them selves into several places along its side. The final touch was Jinsoku's poison-coated arrow flying stright and true into its eye, sending it slumping to the flloor in pain, its left eye turning an ugly purple colour. The hunters ran as it staggered pathetically after them once more, skidding over rocks and slipping on the ice as it headed for the group. Even in their tired shape they could easily outrun the beast.
The Zinogre slipped on the ice once more, and the hunters heard a crack in the ice, the sharp shards digging into the monster's arm. This was the last straw for the wyvern, and red thunder cascaded armound it as it roared and bellowed like a demon, irate and humiliated. With renewed vigor it trounced into the hunters. In its rage it fired several bolts of angry thunder at its prey, most of which were inaccurate, but still wounding one more hunter. Gale turned, fed up of the beast, and threw several small Barrel Bombs onto the ice behind them. She grabbed the wounded hunter and carried him over her shoulder.
"RUN!" She shouted, as the bombs detonated and the icy terrain behind them cracked and began to fall into the water below. The Zinogre became aware of the danger, and galloped at a superhuman speed to get away. It made one last desperate jump toward the hunters as the ice before it broke apart, flying far thorugh the icy air, baring its fangs... before falling with a deflated howl into the icy water below.
Gale, Mizu, Rakurai, Shinji, Jinsoku and Turo, the only hunters left, set the wounded young man down in the snow. Gale was tired of all the nameless deaths of people so young, like her, and comforted him. "What's your name?" she soothed. "...Thomas..." He croaked. His wound was fatal.
She probed him further. "Do you have someone special?" She asked softly. "...Y-y-yes...her name is...Nina... She lives in Hikari...and..." He used the last of his strength to yank a silver chain from his neck, a white wyvern fang carved into the shape of a dove on the end. He folded it up neatly, planted it into Gale's hand, and closed her fingers around it, clasping her hand still. "Give this to her," he said seriously, his eyes sober. "...and...tell her...that..." he gasped, laying his bleeding head down in the snow. "...tell her that I love her."
He closed his eyes for the last time, as his cold fingers slowly slid off of Gale's hand. She sighed, tears in her eyes, and carried his lifeless body in her arms. Only Gale and her friends remained. Hikari was before them.
They marched off toward the City of Light.
XII: The City of Light
They had buried Thomas outside the city walls, leaving his Longsword standing upon his grave as testiment to his bravery. This one last meaningless death was too much for Gale, and she had broken into tears. She had decided that she owed it to herself as well as to Thomas to give this necklace back to Nina. Although in Hikari, a sprawling metropolis of grey-ish stone, one young girl might be hard to find.
Out of all the places that she could be, for whatever reason, they decided to try Hikari Castle, which was by far the tallest building, overseeing the entire city in all directions. There was also a straight road leading uninterrupted all the way to the castle gates.
As they approached, the guard who stood on the other side of the gates asked for some kind of identification, before a beautiful young girl, about their age, with emerald green eyes and flowing blonde hair stepped out from behind the castle's front doors. She walking slowly, her hair and silky white skirt flowing in the breeze. She had a tiara made of white steel atop her head, glinting in the sunlight. The hunters assumed that she must be an authority of some kind. She dismissed the guard before addressing Gale.
"I already know. I know everything about your quest. And I know everything about the wyrms, and their Descendants." She pointed to Rakurai, who tooke a step back "I'm... a Descendant? What does that mean?" he asked, genuinely suprised.
"It means you are the descendant of one of the first Hunters who slayed the Wyrms, absorbing a piece of their power and passing it down their family tree, making it stronger and stronger until it finally manifested in you," she answered immediately.
Before Gale could ask how she knew all of this, the girl continued. "I Nina, queen of Hikari; my mother died just recently of a fever. I am also a Descendant of the Wyrm of Light, and therefore a seeress. I foresaw Thomas' death weeks after we met. I did my mourning then, so then I could enjoy the time we had without thinking about it. Speaking of which, he gave you something for me, did he not?"
Nina outstretched her had through the gaps in the corrugated iron gate. "I'd like it back," she said softly. Gale slowly placed Thomas' necklace in her hand. Nina pulled her hand back through the gate, looking fondly at the dove placed on the silver chain. She smoothed her thumb over it as if it was dirty. She smiled thinly. "I gave him this for his fifteenth birthday. He'd always said he wished he could fly. And... now he can," she muttered, looking to the sky, which had clouded over into a sordid grey colour. She opened the gate to allow the hunters into the courtyard, which strangely had no greenery in it, just grey stone.
"Gurētosutōmu told you he would fight Yaketsukuyōna, didn't he? He is wrong," she mused, turning her gaze away from the hunters and to the sky. The hunters followed her gaze, to see a faint grey mass forming in the distance. "That... is the Divine Maelstrom" Nina whispered. "He cannot fight the White Star, for he became too weak when he helped arrest your fever, Gale."
It was only then that the group remembered that Gale was still under it's curse, and asked Nina if she could heal her. Nina nodded slowly, and closed her eyes. She crossed her arms over the opposite shoulder, and a dim white light shone around her and Gale, then faded away.
"You are cured," Nina said hollowly. "As I was saying," she continued, "He must stay above to create the Maelstrom. He cannot descend, for his creating the winds that will end humanity is written. Therefore, it falls to us to stop the White Star," she told them. She turned her head to the east of the city, and pointed. "The Frozen Tower once there has been consumed by the White Star. He has used its power to transfrom into a human shape, as foretold."
Nina paused for a moment. Then she walked briskly to the castle doors. "Follow me! Quickly!" she yelled, and the hunters ran after her.
After passing many corridors and climbing innumerable flights of stairs, they finally reached the top of the huge spire that served as a lookout post at the forfront of the castle structure, a small narrow space that they barely all fit into, as it was only built for one or two lookouts at a time. Nina gazed into the distance worriedly, the wind, which had become very agressive, tugging at her hair relentlessly. Her eyes widened, and she called the hunters to look yonder.
And, to their suprise, the Great Forest (which could be seen from far, far away because the castle sat so high) was ablaze with blue flames. "It has begun! The White Star has set the forest alight!" Nina yelped. As they looked closer, they could see a huge mass of monsters, grounded and airborne alike sprinting away from the devastation... and toward Hikari.
"That teeming horde will arrive in a few hours at that speed. We must prepare for battle at once!" Nina shouted. She called down the strairs to the Guild Knight that stood at the bottom. "Guard! Raise the alarm! Tell the entire city that every citizen capable of fighting must come here to the castle and prepare to defend the city! Tell them a horde of monsters approaches!" she ordered.
"Right away, milady!" came the reply, followed by his speedy and loud footsteps that slowly faded as he got further away. She turned to the group. "Turo, you will go to the weaponsmaster and tell him I want the Dragonator, the Ballista and as many crossbow turrets as possible active on the city and castle walls in the next two hours!" she snapped. Turo bowed before leaving for the stairs. She turned to Gale, Mizu, Rakurai, Shinji and Jinsoku. "You five play a pivotal role in this battle. Prepare, and be ready for the White Star. Go, now!" she barked.
The group joined hands, and Rakurai teleported them all away in a bright flash. As the bell tower rang a dismal funeral dirge, Nina turned her eyes to the sky, closed them, and clasped her hands together, praying to whatever deity awaited in the heavens to help them avert the catastrophe that would spell the end of everything.
XII-2: The Queen's Counsel
As the bell tower continued its melancholy chime, Nina stayed stationary at the top the watch tower, the vicious breeze pullling at her blonde hair. As she gave up calling the Wyrm and opened her eyes, she found herself in the same limbo Gale had been brought to, the utter greyness with the small ciruclar stone in the middle of nowhere. She still didn't move. She had been to this place numerous times. She glowered into the nothingness, seemingly irate.
"You wished to convene with me?"
"About what? There is nothing to discuss."
Don't you DARE ignore me,Gurētosutōmu!
"Don't raise your voice to me, girl! You know full well that this is written, and it MUST happen! All of them MUST die, including you, Nina! As a seeress, you must know this already, musn't you?"
Yes, but...I wanted to save him. Somehow. His power protected his village. They need a hero like that, and if at least one of us does not survive, then...who will remember us? We will be forgotten in the pages of history.
"That is untrue, Nina."
"Gale Kaze will tell our tale."
Only if she survives.
"She will survive, Nina. You no idea of the trials she and her friends faced to get here, to be here for this fight against destruction. So many...all lost...only the Five remain, as was foreseen, by you yourself. Do not deny what you know to be written in stone. It will only cause more pain."
A long pause followed.
"You too must fight the White Star. You too must play a part in the battle that is to come. The only thing that stands in the way of that Wyrm, and the rest of humanity, is this city. And if Hikari falls, the White Star will gather all the souls of the dead and gain immortality, riding the Maelstrom to the ends of the earth, making it fit for our cursed return. As the descendant of the Wyrm of light herself, you stand more of a chance against him than any other. Your fate is still sealed, but at least you can die for your people! Don't turn your back on your humanity. Your are not a Wyrm. You are not him."
"...I sense that there is something else you want to ask."
I want to know...what is the truth behind this prophecy?
The Wyrm mulled this over.
"The truth, Nina...is what you make of it..."
Nina opened her eyes. She was back in Hikari. The city was ablaze. The Divine Maelstrom now loomed over the city in the sky. Blue meteors blazed through the sky, crashing into buildings and people alike. One made contact with the bell tower, crashing into into the brick work and tearing the bell asunder.
All sorts of wyverns - Rathaloses, Rathians, and more - all kinds of airborne monstrosities raged through the grey sky, fireballs scattering acoss the city. Rajangs, Jinougas, Tigrexes, Nargacugas; almost every monster under the sun raged across the area. Roaring monsters, loud explosions and the frightful screams of the locals filled the air.
The battle for the fate of the world had already begun.
XIII: The Battle Begins
"CHAAAAAARRRRRRGE!!!" Gale yelled. She had since changed her armor for one of the white steel armor sets in the castle. It was a pretty set; carefully crafted white steel greaves and gauntlets, a compact breastplate that sat neatly on her chest, a short silver belt which drew down at the back into a stream of long, slender white feathers, and a beautiful helmet that sat over her face - a blunt point that bridged above her eyes and down to her nose, a long, thin white quill hanging from the back.
She drew her sword, a long silver blade with a gold and white hilt. She mounted a Kirin, and rode into battle with at least three quarters of the Hikari population. Most were weakly armored, but all were ready to fight. As the Kirin galloped toward the fray, leaving thunder in its wake, Gale looked to her left and up to the castle. She saw Nina and a strange man in white and black robes fighting aggressively. She knew immediately who this figure was-Yaketsukuyōna, the White Star.
She turned her head the opposite way to the right, where Mizu, Rakurai, Shinji and Jinsoku rode in parallel with her on horses - they hadn't changed their armor or equipment, and the horses weren't Kirins. Mizu, who was closest to her, nodded seriously, and they turned back to face the onslaught ahead, ready to fight and, if necessary, die for the sake of humankind.
"Give up! This world no longer belongs to you!" Nina shouted. Her sword screeched as it came into contact with the vibrant red blade of the White Star. His human form was a tall man with bleach blonde hair and milky white eyes, with leather-like black and white robes, and a gleaming crimson sword.
He glared hatefully at Nina through the gap in their interlocked swords. Then he pulled away from her as another blue meteor came down from the sky, blowing a hole in the castle roof, sending bricks cascading down to the floor below. "Now do you see, Nina? You are merely a Descendant, an imitation. Your powers are nothing to me," he gloated.
Then a flash of bright white startled him and Nina had disappeared. He shook his head and laughed. "More tricks, little girl?" he said, and he quickly turned around and grabbed out at Nina's throat, lifting her off of the ground. "Do not take me for a fool?" he spat angrily. He threw her high into the air, but she used her powers to correct her trajectory and land slowly back to the ground.
The White Star lunged at her with his sword, annoyed. Nina flung her blade at his halfheartedly, debuffing his attack easily. She sighed with feigned boredom. "Isn't anyone around here going to offer me a decent challenge?" she huffed, taunting him. "I fear I would be of much better use in the castle, sitting in the garden and drinking tea with my courtiers, than out here with vagabonds and foul creatures such as yourself."
She turned and walked away from the scene, waiting for him to attack her. She felt the wind wove as her slid toward her silently. She knew the end was coming. She smiled as the crimson blade pierced her chest. The White Star lifted her off off the ground, blood dripping to the floor. "...You...are...a fool..." Nina whispered, as her whole life flashed before her eyes; her first school lesson, her birthdays, her regency ceremony, and Thomas. She smiled thinly, before all life left her body and her head fell to her shoulder as if she had fallen asleep. The White Star pulled his blade from her chest, sending splatters of blood to the floor. Nina's corpse slumped to the ground. He smiled sadistically.
A short pause.
Much to his surprise, he heard Nina's posh voice echo through the sky. "Were you really so foolish as to think that my human form was my limit?" she shouted, a thin white stream of bright light flowing from her chest, rising into the sky to form the shape of a huge white and gold Wyrm with bright yellow eyes. She floated in the sky above the city, encompassing it in its shadow.
"This...is the last gift of the Wyrm of light...she who falls in battle will be reborn...in the form of one!" she boomed. She slithered in the sky around the White Star, who's white eyes gazed hatefully at her. "I do not intend to fight you personally. But... I will hinder your terrors of the sky!"
Nina turned her huge reptilian body to the blue meteors that he had summoned, and then in a flash, she tuned into a pure light, shining brightly and reflecting from the city walls to the interior of the fortress. The meteors continued to fall, but as they approached the city walls, they dissipated in blue flames. "A shield of temporate light...to hold off the dark...you will fail, White Star...the Five will kill you..." Nina's voice echoed, before vanishing from this world completely.
A Tigrex scrambled its way toward Gale, limping and drooling wildly. She felt only pity for the wyvern, slitting its throat as it drew close, crimson blood spraying from the gash as it slumped in a tired heap to the ground. She turned on her Kirin to face the castle at an angle, seeing a flash of bright light, and then turned to see the meteors stymied outside the city walls. "Nina..." she mumbled, fearing for the melancholy girl. She turned to Shinji, who had lost her horse and was diligently slaying anything that approached with her bow.
She caught Gale's gaze. "What is it?" she asked. "It's Nina! I think she's in trouble! I'm going to the castle to find her!" she yelled, barely audible above the noise and the carnage. Shinji nodded, and turned her concentration back to the fight. Gale galloped across the broken battlefield on the Kirin, making a swift, thundery beeline for the castle.
The huge Rathalos whimpered and died in a bolt of yellow thunder. Rakurai plunged his Espinas Great Sword into it's chest, just to confirm the kill. As he drew it out, a huge Rajang tumbled through the many buildings and the rubble toward him, electrocuting many civilians along the way. It stumbled to a halt in front of him, roaring loudly, but so much was going on that nobody really heard it.
Rakurai's steely expression didn't soften one bit as he flung his heavy weapon, and brought it slamming down through the Pelagus' chest, blood spurting from the wound. He swung it around once more, severing its horn and scarring the left side of its face and piercing its skull. It's brain punctured, the beast died instantly and came crashing to the floor before him. He huffed and turned his head left to face the castle, which had been almost as devastated by the attacks as the rest of Hikari. He saw Gale riding toward the castle in the distance. He huffed again, this time with amusement, and disappeared in a bright yellow flash.
As Gale approached the castle gates, she jumped impossibly high off of her Kirin, landing on the roof. The White Star was standing there, waiting. She looked beside him. Nina's lifeless corpse lay there, splatters of blood in her hair, on her dress and across the floor around her. Her bright green eyes hadn't even had time to close.
"You..." Gale began, but trailed off. He sighed and shoved her corpse over the edge of the hole created by the meteor, sending it tumbling through several floors before landing with a loud crack in the middle of the throne room. Gale heard the servants scream. "She got in my way. An unwise decision," he mused.
He raised his sword, pointing the tip at Gale, smiling amusedly. "Would you make the same fatal mistake, Gale Kaze?" he sneered.
Gale raised her sword gallantly. "For the sake of humanity...yes." she muttered, leaps aggressively toward the White Star, ready for the battle of her life.
XIV: The Beginning of the End
Their blades locked in a flourish of steel, sparks flying. They twirled, jumped, leapt and lunged at each other continuously, never really doing much damage and defending against most hits. Gale ran speedily toward the White Star once more, who calmly awaited the attack. As she drew close, Gale lunged with her sword, aiming straight at his heart. He merely smiled smugly and deflected the blow with deft and balanced swordsmanship. He chuckled deeply at her failed attempts to strike. She sighed with exasperation and frustration, glaring at the abhorrent Wyrm that stood before her. She averted her gaze to just behind him to the right, where the Divine Maelstrom was creeping ever closer to the city. "Looking to the sky will not fell me, girl." He huffed impatiently. "Just concede! You have lost! Your filthy kind will be eradicated from this world, and I will release the souls stored within me to restore the Wyrms to their former glory and take back what is ours!" He spat. He lunged aggressively at her, eyes filled with hate. Gale was barely able to fend off the violent and heavy blows. He growled throatily. "ENOUGH! Know my true strength!" He roared. His robes tore and split as he transformed back into the all to familiar white beats with the huge crimson ruby upon its breast. He let out a bestial roar of lost pride that could split the heavens. He lumbered toward her. Gale readied her sword once more.
A Kushala Daora headed toward Mizu. He readied his Eager Cleaver. As it gained speed and charged into him, he side-stepped and drew the entire length of the sword through its legs. It yowled and tumbled over itself and into a nearby building, bricks flying in all directions. It roared again, and as it was about to fire its icy breath, an all to familiar poison-coated arrow impaled itself through its throat, and its quickly suffocated, toppling impressively to one side. Jinsoku ran over. "You ok?" He asked. "Yeah, I'm fine. What about the others?" He inquired. Jinsoku paused. "Shinji's in some kinda trouble over there," He pointed to the west, where the bell tower had been destroyed, "and Rakurai went to help Gale. She's on the castle roof. With the White Star." He panted. "Let's go get Shinji, then we'll all go and kill that thing. Together." He said firmly. Jinsoku, nodded, and they headed off in search of Shinji.
Shinji readied her bow. The Nargacuga stood before her, waiting patiently for it's moment to strike. It fidgeted impatiently, growing bored. That was her plan. To make the wyvern so impatient that it lunged at her and forgot about timing and accuracy. It was fidgeting a lot now, its head twitching wildly, snapping its jaws, making faint guttural growls. Shinji wasn't used to keeping one arrow in her bow to ensure accuracy. She always rapid-fired. But that was too dangerous for a creature like the Nargacuga. She waited a little longer. The beast finally got fed up of the mundane stalemate and leapt toward her, yowling ferociously. She let go of the arrow at last, sending it straight into the monster's skull with inhuman accuracy. It immediately went mute and crashed to the floor, roll-polying into a nearby building and crushing it into stony rubble. Shinji panted and turned her gaze to the castle. She saw a vague figure upon the roof, fighting a huge white dragon. "Gale!" She said to herself. Shinji turned and sprinted toward the castle.
Mizu and Jinsoku were struggling with a pair of Yian Garugas. The huge bird wyverns stymied all attempts to advance, blocking the two hunters and several civilians from escaping. The two hunters attacked the monsters vigorously. Mizu's eager Cleaver sliced through the tail of one Yian Garuga like it was butter, sending the creature tumbling over, shrieking in shock. Jinsoku was waiting for this moment to strike. He shoots his carefully aimed poison arrow, hitting the fallen monster's eye dead in the center. It shrieked and cawed frantically, hop-stepping with mad rage. It gunned into Jinsoku, sending him flying into a ruined brick wall, winded. Mizu readied his sword defensively as it luged toward him. He gracefully swung the Long Sword up and right, decapitating it in one fell swoop. While the head rolled off into a corner in a bloody spurt, the body collapsed slowly, still spasming for a few seconds afterwards. He ran over to Jinsoku, while a few Hikarian soldiers distracted the other Yian Garuga. He checked him over and helped him up. As he rose, he vomited-concussion. "I'll be fine in a second. C'mon we've gotta go find Shinji. For get about the other one. Quick, lets go now while they distract it." He wheezed. "Ok." Mizu said flatly. They rushed off to the east, toward the castle. As they began to run, a huge shadow encompassed the area around them, heavy and noisy wing beats filling the air. They looked ahead to see a huge plain white dragon with large wings and a long neck, with a vibrant white mane descend from the sky and down to the east by the castle gates. "Great heaven help us!" A soldier shouted. "FATALIS! FATALIS! WHITE FATALIS!" Shouts came from nearby. Mizu and Jinsoku turned to face each other. "SHINJI!" they chorused, and made haste toward the Elder Dragon.
"No, child! Do not face this beast! It will destroy you!" An elderly lady shouted at Shinji hoarsely, trembling fearfully, wringing her hands frigidly. Shinji ignored the woman and aimed at the throat of the beast, her long blonde hair flowing in the heavy winds of the approaching Divine Maelstrom. Her brown eyes glittered in anticipation and concentration. The Fatalis had yet to notice her. If she could time it right....she could slay the beast for sure. She readied her bow, and narrowed her eyes. Ever-so-slowly, she edged the bowstring further and further back.
He roared and snarled, clawing and scratching at her, firing icy blue flames at her where ever she moved. Gale stared at the White Star, its huge white and blue body, and the crimson ruby on its chest. It caught her gaze and chuckled demonically. "The ruby is nearly ready, and the Divine Maelstrom is rapidly reaching maturity. The end is nigh, Gale Kaze. You should say your goodbyes, before it is too late." He sneered with false empathy. The ruby began to pulse, a brighter red flashing over the crimson. It moaned dismally, the trapped souls of the dead yet to pass on. "Immortality will soon be MINE! And you filthy dregs will be purged from my world. And the Wyrms...shall rise...AGAIN!" He roared, and the ruby flashed brightly, releasing energy beyond belief. The rubble-ladden city of Hikari began to tremble as the Divine Maelstrom drew near. Gale closed her eyes calmly, praying that her friends would arrive soon.
"Shinji! Come on! Leave the Fatalis! We have to help Gale! The White Star is the top priority!" Mizu yelled. She turned to see he and Jinsoku gesticulating wildly to get her to come with them. She ran toward them, darting and weaving around the ruined buildings to avoid being spotted by the Fatalis. She reached them, and they scurried off to the castle. They got about 5 meters before the Fatalis spatted them and roared ferociously. As it prepared to obliterate them, Rakurai appeared in a bright yellow flash. He grabbed half of them without speaking, and the foursome dissapeared in another flash, as as huge red thunderbolt hit the ground they had stood upon mere moments ago.
Gale opened her eyes to the sound of a familiar flash. She turned to face the White Star once more, and saw Shinji, Rakurai, Jinsoku and Mizu before the beast, weapons readied. Gale slowly steeped into line with her friends, pointing her delicate rapier at the loathsome Wyrm. Yaketsukuyōna raised his claws up to the sky, as if praising a god. "The Five are gathered...now, let the fate of this world be decided." he mused, a melancholy tone in his voice.
And with that, the five hunters leapt toward the Wyrm of Ice. For their comrades. For Hikari. And for humanity.
XV: The Power of Unity
They thought he could never take on five hunters at once, no matter how strong he was. But they were wrong. He easily dodged Shinji's and Jinsoku's arrows, debuffed Mizu's Long Sowrd and whacked Gale with his huge forearm, sending her sliding across the roof floor. Rakurai, however, got the hit. The White Star shrieked and writhed as electircity coursed through him. The group quickly took theis chance to strike. Shinji fired several flame-tipped arrows into his thick abdominal hide, Mizu made several gahses on the dragon's left arm, and Gale slahed unceasingly at the Wyrm with her rapier, causing it to howl hatefully as she gouged it's left eye. It roared again as Rakurai's huge Great Sword slammed down upon it's tail, severing the glowing tip. Then he made a strange, almost insane, distorted noise that could be heard for miles and miles, as Jinsoku's poison-coated arrow embedded itself in the already cracked (when Rakurai hit it at Hyoku) ovular ruby on his chest, sending cracks shooting out in all directions like viens on a leaf, bright red energy flashing from within. He lifted himself off of the ground quickly, throwing the irritating worms away from it. He craned his neck and thrust his head forward, roaring with pain, outrage and pure hatred. It lumbered its way toward them, panting angrily.
Gale readied her sword. As the gargantuan beast stumbled at her, she somersaulted high over it's head, slashing it's spine with her sword as she did so, finishing by lading on her feet behind him. He growled throatily, and turned slowly to face her. He faded in silvery mist. When the mist cleared, he had returned to his human form, the man with milky white irises, pale, white-blond hair, and black and white robes (which were now torn and frayed to show he had been injured in his true form) and the crimson sword. He raised his arms to his sides, and chuckled slyly. The hunters were suddenly surrounded by at least ten clones of the White Star. They raised their weapons defensively. "Face me yourself, girl." The real Wyrm whispered. She jumped and grabbed hold of him, sending them flying off of the edge of the castle. They pair were suddenly consumed by white mist, and the mist, containing the pair, travelled far across the city, crashing through monsters, civilians and buildings alike, before the mist dissipated and the pair stood on oppisite edges of the tall, narrow bell tower. They stared at each other briefly before locking swords, stabbing and blocking quickly, carefully meandering about the edges of the tower- one false step and one would fall to their death.
After Gale and the White Star had both recieved many cuts and sratches, he finally spoke while they continued to fight. "Why do you protect these worms? Surely you must have conviction. They cannot even protect themselves! Why do you babysit them so?" He sneered. Gale glowered at him apathetically. He huffed. "No matter. They will all be dead soon enough." Gale slashed agressivly at his sword, nearly knocking him of of the edge. He stared in awe. Gale had finally found out where the ruby was in his human form. It was no longer on the outisde...becaude it was his heart. She blinked slowly, body imapssive. "They might die..." She muttered. Then, she leapt across and grabbed hold of the abhorrent creature before her. "But not before YOU are!" She yelled, and jumped off the edge, the pair turning into white mist once more.
"These things just dont stop!" Jinsoku yelled, watching the clone he had shot in the heart dissipate into mist, only to reform once again, a neverending entity. The four hunters were quikly tiring off the constant battle, and the clones showed no sign of relenting. Mizu slashed yet another clone, only to watch it reform. Rakurai jumped angrily into the sky, and came crashing down, sending ripples of thunder through all the clones at once. The all turned to mist... only to reform as one huge clone of they White Star in dragon from. He growled angrily. "This is impossible! They won't die! The only way to destroy them must be to kill the original!" He yelled. The clone smashed into them in quick sucession, watching them fall the thier knees, completely exhausted. As the Wyrm clone prepared to finish them all off, the familiar stream of white mist cxame toward the castle, dissipating as Gale and the White Star landed back on the castle roof, still locked in combat. the Wyrm was severly injured however, and had little strength left to block Gale's heavy and agressive blows. She held her sworrd with both hands raising it high above her head and smashing repeatedly against his crimson blade. With a prideless and angry sigh, she finally smashed through his sword, breaking it in two, and throwing him to the ground before her with the recoil. He quickly pulled a short sword from his robes in an attempt to protect himslef, rising quickly, but it was no use. She qucikly disarmed him, and thrust her sword into his heart, smashing the ruby within. his eyes went wide and static, the lost souls of the dead flowing out from within his chest. She pulled her blade out, crimson staining the metal. The defeated Wyrm slumped to the floor, barely breathing. The huge clone dissapeared. The Divine Maelstrom was still closing in on the city, however. But the White Star had already lost. Humanity was victorious. With the souls in the ruby gone, the White Star could no longer survive the Maelstrom. It would still happen, though. But the Wyrm would die soon, and it would dissipate as the great wind Wyrm foretold.
Spatters of blood surrounded the White Star. As the hunters turned and walked away, thinking him dead, he slowly and quietly rose, and stumbled ever so silently toward Gale. Rakurai turned to see him heading for Gale, knife in hand. "LOOK OUT!" he shouted, and quicky jumped into the path of his knife, which embedded itself into his stomach instead. A look of scock crossed the White Star's face. The group were struck in awe. "You BASTARD!" Gale yelled at the the despicable creature, slicing him once more with her rapier. He cried out emotionlessly, falling to the ground, dropping the knife. Rakurai fell to the ground as well, panting softly. The others stared at Gale, who slowly approached the Wyrm, who was inching ever so slowly toward the bloody knife. He saw her coming and tried to move faster, but his strength was sapped, and it was too late. Still crawling forward pathetically, he panted heavily. "I...cannot...die!" He spat with vehemence. Gale stood before him, and plunged her sword into him once more. "True. But you won't live forever." She said emotionlessly, and pulled the blade out of his abdomen.
At last, the foul creature breathed his last, and faded from this world in shrouds of black mist.
XVI: Death Throes of a HeroAs Yaketsukuyōna's corpse faded, the group rushed to Rakurai's side. He lay on his back, barely breathing, looking up at the sky. They sat by his side. The Divine Maelstrom had faded, and thin, bright sunbeams had begun to break through the wall of dismal grey. He smiled, properly, for the first time. He spoke, still looking at the sky. "It's over." He mused. "We won." Gale smiled at him. She had never seen him this much at peace. He always had a serious, conflicted look on his face. Not this time. The others now turned their gaze to the sky. The grey was completely gone, and it was no longer cold. It was so warm, like a spring morning. They clearly had been fighting all through the night, as it was nearly sunset when they had reached Hikari. The group all took their armor off and laid their weapons to one side. Gale looked down at Rakurai again, smiling. He stopped gazing at the sky and turned to her. He huffed amusedly. "I knew saving your ass was gonna get me killed someday." He joked. He clasped her hand, still smiling. "Remember me." He asked. Gale nodded, still smiling. "I will. We all will. We're friends, remember?" She giggled. He laughed for the first time. Just a little. "Friends, huh?" He echoed, relaxed. "Sounds good." He sighed. His eyes closed slowly, his head slumped to the left and his expression went blank. He was dead. The group stood up again, still smiling. They weren't sad for him. They couldn't be. He was moving on to a better place. They watched as the soul of the Wyrm of thunder left his body, gliding elegantly toward the sky, and disappearing into the heavens.
The foursome stayed on the castle roof for a little while. Hikari, the City of Light, may have been in ruins, but humanity was safe and the White Star was gone. They had lost many comrades and people that were close to them, but Shinji and Jinsoku were still both alive and well, and Gale still had the boy she loved. For the first time since the battle began, Gale and Mizu could be together. They ran to each other and hugged. She smiled at Mizu. He kissed her tenderly, as if they hadn't seen each other for years. "I love you." Gale said. "I love you too." Mizu echoed. Shinji and Jinsoku watched the couple, smiling. Shinji turned to her best friend. "Do you think we...?" She asked, but stopped. They both thought about it for a second. "Nah!" They laughed, content with being just friends.
The group looked up to the sky, hearing the voice of a familiar Wyrm. "Well done. I knew you would prevail. The world is at peace, thanks to you." Gurētosutōmu's voice echoed, though he was nowhere in sight. "The prophecy has culminated exactly as foretold. The Descendants all sacrificed their lives for humanity, and the Divine Maelstrom has been averted due to the death of the White Star. The alternate culmination of the prophecy, where the hunters fail and the Divine Maelstrom hits the City of Light, and the White Star rides it to the ends of the earth, destroys humanity and revives the Wyrms, has been averted. All is well. Go, now. Return to Hyoku. Your friends and families await you." He said cheerfully, and his voice faded at last.
As the group stepped through the castle gates, they remembered something key was missing. "Wait, where the hell did all the monsters go?" Mizu asked, confused. They hunters had prepared a cart carried by another Popo (their most trusted animal ever since the incident in the Unmei Desert), which they had stockpiled all their equipment onto. The same old woman that had warned Shinji not to fight the Fatalis approached the group, Turo by her side. "The monsters just...vanished! Faded away! When the sky cleared, they just turned into little sparks of light, and floated up into the sky, like stardust. Oh, look! There's some!" The old woman said, pointing to behind. The huge crown that had gathered to praise the hunters all looked behind them, to the little lights gathering around all the buildings. Suddenly, as they faded, the buildings began to repair, seemingly, by themselves, lost brickwork reappearing slowly, as if someone was colouring in a drawing. When the city was completely repaired and the rubble faded away. the remaining lights floated away, up into the sky. "Nina's last gift..." Turo muttered to himself, smiling thinly.
After the small celebrations in the city, the foursome headed for the city walls. As they neared them, however, they heard Gurētosutōmu's voice again. "It is far to long and dangerous to travel back to Hyoku the way you came to Hikari. Allow me." """""""" " " """""" The Wyrm muttered benevolently. The four hunters relaxed, letting the faint green light that was surrounding them carry them away, back to Hyoku.
1 Week Later
Gale and Mizu sat by the lake on her parents' farm. The green grass swayed gently in the warm spring breeze, and proud and beautiful hornflies buzzed around the water. The whole village had celebrated their return. They mourned the dead-Sensei Arashi, Rakurai, Thomas, and the others-the day after. Gale had taken home Rakurai's sword as a keepsake, to give to any possible children when they came of age. Turo had stayed at his home in Hikari-he had a family there. Shinji and Jinsoku had built a house and moved in together. They were still content being friends, despite the rumors that had followed. Gale waited for Mizu to finish talking, before she put her hands on his shoulders. "Mizu...I have some news." She said slowly, happily. Mizu paused for a moment. "What is it?" He asked, leaning in closer. Gale smiled and blinked slowly. "It's about that night, in the tent. I'm...I'm pregnant." She announced, still smiling. She began giggling, elated, as Mizu kissed her on the forehead. "That's wonderful!" he said, laughing. They ran off back to her parents house to tell them the news.
3 Years Later
"Rakurai! Don't hit your brother!" Gale yelled at the little boy. Her little boy. "I'm sorry, Mama." the boy said unhappily." You apologize to Arashi right now." Mizu said calmly, firmly. The little boy turned to his brother. "I'm sorry, Arashi." He muttered. "OK, you can go back and play now." Gale said flippantly. The two boys ran off back into the grass on the farm, playing together happily. They had named their sons Rakurai and Arashi-after the two bravest people they had ever known. Gale and Mizu stood together, watching the boys-watching their children being so happy made them happy. "Oh, look, here they come!" Gale said to Mizu. They turned to see their two best friends coming down the path toward the farm. Gale turned back to the kids. "Rakurai! Arashi! Shinji and Jinsoku are here!" She cooed. The boys' heads perked up attentively, the way a cat's would when it heard the word "food". They ran past their parents and toward their honorary aunt and uncle. "Shinji! Jinsoku!" Arashi shouted gleefully. Shinji and Jinsoku crouched down to pick up the two boys, laughing happily at their excitement. They carried them over to Gale and Mizu, who watched their best friends and their children play in the lake together.
"You okay?" Mizu asked, turning to look at Gale. "I'm okay." Gale said, turning to look at him, smiling.
They leaned in and kissed each other, their children playing happily, the sun setting slowly over the village they called home.
The White Star Chronicles----End
The White Star Trilogy continues in Legacy Of The Descendants
The White Star Chronicles may be finished, but it would have been a much harder job without these guys:
An extra-big thank you goes to my best friend, Adrian Ku (StrathDestroyer), for calling me a "keeno" for writing a fanfic, which only made me want to write it more. :D
Many of the characters I created for TWSC were based off of other charcaters from other forms of fiction, including video games, animé, and books. This is the list of characters that were inspired by the these works of fiction:
Rakurai Kaminari: Soma Schicksal (Gods Eater), Shadow the Hedgehog (Sonic the Hedgehog), Sephiroth (FFVII [character-wise])
Nina: Rachel Alucard (BlazBlue)
Gurētosutōmu: Cosmos (Dissidia/Dissidia 012 [Final Fantasy]), Professor Dumbledore (Harry Potter), Aslan (Narnia)
Gale Kaze (her armour for the Battle of Hikari): Lightning/Claire Farron-Final Fantasy XIII/XIII-2
Turo: Valkenhayn R. Hellsing (BlazBlue [very loosely])
The White Star/Yaketsukuyona: Caius Ballad+Sephirtoth (Final Fantasy XIII-2 and FFVII [respectively] [intention-wise])
One Last Thing
A BIG THANK YOU TO EVERYONE WHO HAS READ THE SERIES!!! :D