By Victus Lucifer
"Focus, is life."
The tranquility of a thousand leaves, gently falling, gliding, til they rest upon the earth in an endless cycle. A gentle thudding, repeating, dull and near.
"Though with fist, you are strong, spirit shall bestow you longevity."
Still, more pounding. The creak of old branches. One, two, one two three. One, two, one two three. A gentle Kelbi consumes a single leaf. On watches a young boy, slightly distracted from his training. The lightning crack of a thin willow switch does well to retrieve his attention and focus.
"Distractions are the death of many a man."
So the boy continues to hit the tree, months or perhaps years of scarring against its bark, the size of his fist and palm. One, two, one two three. His knuckles may bleed, but his heart is set and steady. There is no fear in those eyes, only fire.
"Aye, laddie, we'll be there a fine minute, now wontweh?" a red beard with a strong voice and gut breaks the reverie.
The man under question snaps awake, gazing out to the country side whilst the caravan rumbles and bumps. The grass is green, and in the near distance, Aptonoth graze. Two other souls inhabit the small but cozy transport, accompanying the strong voice and thoughtful man. A young woman, adorned in Qurupecco Blademaster armor and a third man, in his early-late-adulthood, wearing Basarios. The man with the red beard is wears some form of odd, foreign armor which resembles old, Gaelic traditional festive kilted uniform. The woman wields an axe and shield of the same monster that protects her - complimented by a humble bow, while the Basarios hunter trusts his life to a very solid Gunlance made of stone and iron will, paired with a similar stone sword at his side. The bearded man wields only a Hunting Horn with many pipes protruding its bag.
And the man observing the others such like a Rathalos watches its prey? He wears very modest armor, rare and known widely as the Shinobi set. It has a noble history. On his back are three distinct blades. At his waist, a small but incredibly versatile Ninjato. On his left back, a strong and reliable Odyssey, reinforced to retain the sharpest edge it may be graced with. Next to the quiet man, a long katana, known by it's history - the Devil Slicer.
"Nyah, we've almost reached our nya destination," calls one of the drivers, a Felyne. The old and shrunken Wyverian next to him nods in agreement before blowing another halo from his pipe. Before long, the wagon slows to a crawl, and he hunters disembark.
"Through the woods, roughly 100 meters, give or take. Godspeed, and noma," the wyverian voices, before slowly turning the transport to leave.
"What inda world is a noma?" the Horn equipped hunter asks, confused.
"It means good luck in Wyverian," the Katana wielder clarifies. With a nod, the bearded man shows that he understands before he stops the party.
"As I am entrusting me life to you all, I'da figure it'd not be to far fetched ta ask ya names, laddies."
Everyone takes their turn introducing themselves, starting with the young woman.
"I am Viela, of Dawntown."
"Langston, Kokoto," the older gentleman responds.
"Victus, Mohi," the Shinobi answers.
"Ah, laddies. You may call me Baron, o' Red Rock! And aye no worries, eh? I've gotten each o' ya backs, aye?"
"Okay, now where to?" Langston sighs, observing the trail.
"Well, our quarry would definitely have some sort of nest or burrow further in the forest, so it only makes sense that we address the most likely place for one, in here," Viela says, nodding lightly and twiddling her fingers.
"Glad to 'ave a brain in the bunch, aye," Baron bellows, chuckling. He starts into the forest, hacking through the greenery with his hunting knife and whistling a tune. The other hunters follow suit for a while.
As Baron pushes forward, Viela suddenly stops, and picks something up from the ground. The rest of the party take notice.
"This feather suggests it has hunted recently," she explains.
"Yes, yes, we're all hunters, mind you," Langston replies, walking off the trail.
"Well what's up yer arse laddie?" Baron calls, following. Langston brushes off the remark, intent on one thing only. Viela has a slight redness in her face, so Victus grabs her shoulder and encourages her to move on.
Victus starts to daydream again, walking on with the group. Arguing ensues in the background, but all he knows in this moment are his master's words. Viela makes a remark, Langston shoulders on. Baron bellows, but none of it penetrates his thoughts.
Suddenly, Victus' master's voice sends him back to reality. With no time to spare, he notices a glimmer. Baron and Langston continue to butt heads, and Viela quietly simmers in the background. No one is paying attention, only walking blissfully through this forsaken old wood. Eyes wide open, Victus grips his Odyssey hilt, electricity buzzing his body. His teeth clench, and a single bead of sweat rolls down his forehead, then - silence.
A single breath is inhaled.
Like crashing thunder, Langston is thrown to the ground, a flurry of leaves fall -
Viela's shield just barely goes up in time to save her life.
Baron roars, confused as to what is happening.
Langston scrambles to his feet, trying to draw his blade. Baron swings his gaze left to right, and Viela swallows hard.
Then, Victus sees it.
Langston and Baron gaze about frantically. Victus sprints off into the wood, and Viela follows, unsure of her actions.
"How did I not sense you," Victus growls under his breath. Scowling hard, he makes a quick turn and holds his Odyssey close. Viela is keeping up but at a distance, trying desperately to shorten the gap.
A flash like lightning, Victus rolls to the ground, narrowly missing a blur that sought his throat. In confusion, Victus eyes light up and the world becomes a shade clearer. Deep in the shrubs and leaves, he can see it.
"What in the world..." he whispers, before his gaze lies on Viela for less than a second. She watches him intently, a rustling behind her.
Victus stands, gripping his Odyssey tighter watching hard. Crouching slightly, he prepares his body to fling itself to the side, for he can feel the attack coming.
"Wa's goin on, thar laddies?!" roars Baron, lugging in from behind Viela with Langston in suit. Victus holds his finger up to silence them, and points northwest. The party does not see what he sees, but at least he may warn them.
In a flash, a howl ensues and a giant moving object hurls itself into the small clear where the hunters stand. Victus swallows, and the others are struck in awe.
The beast howls, head held high, before it stares each of the petty humans in its wake dead in the eyes. It circles between them, walking with a swagger, taunting and baiting them to make the first move.
"What the fuck is this, we were assigned to kill a Hypnocatrice!" Langston curses, angry and anxious. Baron whispers a prayer to his gods and Viela stares, determined.
Within the span of a few seconds, Langston turns to run. Tis a wise move, but not a noble gesture. Before his feet make more than a few steps, Zin is in from of him, roaring in his face. It bites his shoulder, flinging him to the side, where he does not get up. Victus can sense his pulse still going, but he may be suffering a concussion from the impact against the tree.
Enraged, Baron growls and swings about his Horn, the Great Bagpipe. "I'll show yer, ya big cunt!" he screams, rolling to the side and blowing a few notes. Suddenly, Victus and Viela feel empowered, the notes bringing about a vigor in them, a war song of old, full of pride and victory. Viela draws her bow, and Victus sees no other way out.
It's too fast to outrun. I guess if we die, we die fighting.
With that, he puts his Odyssey away, and draws his katana. Zin may be resistant to electricity, but it's still his strongest weapon. Victus raises the long blade above his head and watches Zin for any moves. The monster gazes back, daring him to step forward, wanting him to challenge it's authority. It lowers it's head to his level, staring straight into his eyes. Victus feels it's electricity, it's chi burning through both of their bodies.
To Victus subtle surprise, an arrow lodges itself in Zin's eye. The beast howls in agony, thrashing about and trying to lick the wound. Baron takes this moment and lunges forward, swinging his Horn down and bashing Zin's shoulder. Had Zin seen the move coming, it'd been easily avoided. But it landed, and the shell upon the mighty beasts shoulder suffered a chip. Likewise, Victus took this moment, dashing in, blade held high, and swinging it down as he had so many, many years ago - with the aim of a Nargacuga. The blade sank into the wounded eye of Zin, ignited more pain than the beast could have ever felt. Strong, but not ignorant, the beast lept back, almost pulling Victus' blade from his hands. It growled in anger, before backing into the wood and disappearing.
Everyone sat tense, but Victus could feel it's chi fading. When it had vanished completely, save for a very light trail, he assured the others that they are safe... for now.