Vulcan just stared as Taka, Relcia, Illeera, Mylie, and Taahnn finished speaking. Then, he hesitantly responded, A new region? Seriously? Taahnn nodded his confirmation.
I'd love to go! Vulcan suddenly burst out. I'm honestly delighted that you asked for me to help you get there! But... The Rathalos's expression darkened. I won't be able to stay for the entire trip. Reia will need me, and as you can probably guess, other Rathalos don't just walk out on their mate and chicks like that.
Taka nodded. He had regained some of his usual cheer shortly after he and Relcia had finished saying their prayers for Bronton. "I understand completely, my friend. Our journey is no reason for you to abandon - sorry, that sounded a bit harsh - your new family. We only need you to fly us there. That's all."
The Flying Wyvern agreed to take the group of five, plus Lauren, who was accompanying Taka, to the Mysterious Beyond and leave them there for a few weeks, at the most. According to Hydra, who had gotten the information separately, the Beyond was located to the north of the Moga region. She also said that it would be likely that they'd encounter Moga monsters there, since the two regions were so close to each other.
Taahnn took his usual armor and weapon - his Bone set and the Volcanic Rock. Mylie wore her Ludroth armor and carried her Agnablaster Bowgun, as well as a wide range of ammo. Taka obviously wore his Qurupeco armor and his Guan Dao, and Relcia took her ordinary Rathian armor as well as her Wolf Tessen. Illeera, as always, wore her Zinogre armor and equipped herself with the Sonic Bow IV.
Everyone made last minute preparations and readied themselves to leave before sunrise, so that they'd get there by the late morning, at the least. Their monster friends wished them all the best of luck, of course, and were told not to worry if they weren't back soon.
Mylie in particular had the most trouble saying goodbye. She was the only one out of the group of five that hadn't found a monster companion yet. Even though, because of this, the other monsters - Ignatius, Vulcan, Syrie, Reia, and Jin - all spent equal time with her and considered her a great friend, it didn't help. You see, Mylie was also the only one of the five that still didn't understand the monster language. She had no idea why she hadn't figured it out yet (for Taka, Hydra, and Taahnn, it had just came to them, and for Relcia and Illeera, it was because they were so close to Taka). Everyone else had to translate their monster friends' comments and questions to her, and as you can guess, this didn't exactly help her self-esteem.
Before everyone left for a good night's rest, Hydra informed them that she wouldn't be coming with them to the Mysterious Beyond. Her excuse was that she had to keep charge of the patrols around the Central World (instead of hunting, the patrols would explore the various areas and report any suspicious or dangerous activity), since she had been promoted to the position of Patrol Manager just a month ago. Taka, however, knew the real reason - his sister just wanted to spend more time with her own monster companion, a feisty Basarios, and her new husband, Ignus.
Taka was so tired, thought, that he couldn't, he wouldn't, think about any of this. When he entered his small, nearly bare room, he was asleep as soon as he hit the bed. But as he slept, he dreamt.
Taka was completely alone. The bitter cold of the Frozen Wastes seeped into his very bones. It was night-time, and he knew that if he didn't find some kind of warmth fast, he would freeze to death.Then a guttural roar shook snow from the cliffs and trees around him and caused the earth to shake. Taka ran from the sound, terrified. He knew that he was heading away from the roar, but when he entered an icy tunnel and rounded a corner, he came face to face with the source.
A huge grey Brute Wyvern with a dark aura stood in front of him, immense jaws producing drool that steadily dripped onto the ground by its feet. Taka, frozen with fear, waited for the Deviljho to swallow him whole - just as it had done to his friend Ryka long ago - when an Agnaktor Lance speared it in the side out of nowhere. The World Eater turned and faced its new adversary... Bronton.
"Taka! Run! Don't let it get you!" he cried out, breath fanning out before him in chilly clouds. "I'll be fine! Just don't look back!" Taka shook his head and reached for Guan. "Father! I'm going to help you!" he screeched in his terror and now-growing rage.
The vibrations made by the Deviljho's roar, by some freakish misfortune, caused the cavern to collapse. "Go, Taka! Save yourself!" Bronton called out, desperately blocking the Brute Wyvern's attacks, but losing stamina fast. With a final, guilty glance at his father, Taka sprinted for the exit, not daring to look back and see Bronton's fate for himself.
He woke up in a cold sweat. Reflexively, Taka glanced around and, seeing that he was safe and back in Mediatas Village, relaxed. Groaning, he sat up and glanced out the window. Sunrise. That meant he had to start getting ready for the big trip to the Mysterious Beyond.
The instant he finished putting his armor on, Illeera and Relcia both walked in. "The others are already waiting," Illeera informed him. "It turns out that we were so excited about the trip that none of us could sleep properly. We got up extra early." She handed him half a loaf of bread and finished, "Eat that, and then grab your things. Vulcan will be awake soon." Illeera left the room before Taka could even open his mouth.
He sat down heavily on his bed, taking a large bite out of the bread. As he chewed, he thought back to his nightmare and shuddered. He suddenly felt very sad, and swallowed his mouthful a little louder than he should have.
Relcia sat down beside him and put her arm around him. "Something bothering you?" she asked softly. Taka grimaced and told her about the nightmare. When he stopped talking, tears were already forming in his eyes and flowing freely down his face.
"Oh, Taka," she breathed after a moment's pause. "It was only a dream. It didn't really -" She cut herself off. Yes, it did happen, she reminded herself. That's what's scaring him so much. Thinking for a second, Relcia hesitantly reformed her sentence. "You don't have to worry anymore. Just put the past behind you, and remember..." She smiled soothingly and put her other arm around him. "I'm always here for you."
Taka sniffled and wiped away his tears. Attempting a smile, he said hoarsely, "That's my Relcia." They kissed briefly, then Relcia went to join the others. Taka quickly finished his small (but admittedly filling) breakfast and went outside as well, ready for anything.
Ten minutes later, Illeera, Mylie, Relcia, and Taahnn were all on Vulcan's back, flying over the Barren Desert. Taka was flying beside Vulcan in the form of an owl-like Glauxiturn, making virtually no noise as he flapped. Lauren was on his back, hanging on tightly. They were on their way towards the Desert Sea, a monstrously large desert that started on the far end of the Barren Desert and ended up in the Moga Region. Apparently, Jhen Mohran still dwelled there, but Taka had never believed that. Those great Elder Dragons had gone extinct decades ago, or so everyone believed.
A few hours passed. The group was now well over the Desert Sea, and Taka was growing tired. I'm not used to all of this flapping, he thought, exhausted. "Lauren, brace yourself," he called over his shoulder, and abruptly turned into a large Bnahabra. The Melynx yowled as she started to fall - and was instantly caught in Taka's six-legged grasp. He flew Lauren over to Vulcan, dropped her on his back, and landed beside her.
No fair, complained Vulcan as he felt the added weight. I have to fly the ENTIRE way there! Taka grinned - or, at least, made an expression that was as close to a grin as a Neopteron came. "Not my fault you aren't a shapeshifter," he buzzed, rubbing his wings together in an amused way. "And the King of the Skies shouldn't complain about long flights." Everyone laughed, even Vulcan. Very funny. If only all Bnahabra had your sense of humor.
For the next hour or so, everyone was talking and joking, trying to pass the time. Illeera had launched into a story of how she had found a wounded Agnaktor on patrol in the Magma Mountain, and nursed it back to health. "...So I bandaged its leg, and told it to take it easy for a few days. I'm sure it's fine now." When she finished her story, Taahnn piped up, "You bandaged a lava-hot monster with your bare hands?"
Illeera gave him a skeptical look. "Obviously not. I waited for his hide to grow cool again, what do you think? He hardened pretty quickly." Vulcan, who had mostly stayed out of the conversation until now, interjected, To use a popular human phrase, that's what she said. There were gales of laughter at this remark, and everyone had trouble catching their breath.
Finally, the journey ended when Vulcan left the Tundra behind him at twilight. As the immense, snow-covered mountains vanished into the distance, the terrain became barren. Vulcan prepared to land, throwing out his talons and ceasing his flapping, slowly gliding down to the ground. The landing was a little rough, but nothing his passengers couldn't handle.
Vulcan prepared to say goodbye at last. I have to go, Taka, he said sadly. Reia needs me. Good luck on your adventure. He nuzzled Taka and the others in farewell, spread his wings - and suddenly his expression changed to one of horror. Taka looked in that direction and gasped. There were three humans walking towards them, and he was sure that they had seen them arrive with the Flying Wyvern.
Mylie gulped and Taahnn's eyes narrowed. "Go, Vulcan. Go!" whispered Taka urgently, and the Rathalos took off with only a moment's hesitation. Unsure of how they would be treated for being on such friendly terms with a monster, the party prepared to face the oncoming trio.
As it turned out, the three people that had come to greet them were quite nice. Later, they would explain that their race had stopped warring with the monsters long ago, and seeing humans and monsters cooperating was a welcome sight to them.
The one in the center was the Village Chieftain, and old, kindly woman who moved with the aid of a stick not unlike the one Taahnn once used. Her short, grey hair was wrapped in a tiny bun on the side of her head, and she was almost pathetically thin. The Chieftain treated the group as if they were honored guests, which, technically, they were.
To the Chieftain's left was a young girl of about Taka's age who, he saw with a start, was wearing Qurupeco armor like him. It turned out that Tenris (that was her name) was the Chieftain's daughter, next in line to take charge of her village. Taka had to admit that Tenris was extremely pretty, with radiant blue eyes and her black hair tied in two long ponytails that reminded him of the scythes of a Shogun Ceanataur. She greeted them all cheerfully and shook each of their hands with great enthusiasm - she gave Taka a slightly flirtatious smile when she shook his, making Relcia dislike her immediately.
The last of the trio was a boy named Elric, who was adorned with armor made from Red Khezu hide. According to him, he was Tenris's twin brother and the chief blacksmith for their village. His tanned face was streaked with soot and other grime, for which he apologized sheepishly. He had the same eyes as his sister, and relatively long, blond hair, the polar opposite color of her's. Elric was a little shy toward the newcomers, especially, it seemed, Illeera. Taka caught sight of a tiny blush when he greeted her.
When all of the necessary introductions were made, Tenris, Elric, and the Chieftain led them toward their village, which they explained was hidden in what they called the Desert Ravine. It was a long trek across the barren, rocky land, which soon turned into a desert. Cool Drinks were kindly supplied by the gang's hosts, whom they grew more comfortable with every minute.
"You see," the Chieftain said casually, "our world has been free of war for over fifty years. Except for the occasional fit of anger, the monsters here more or less ignore us now." Tenris picked up where she left off. "Yeah, and we're really starting to feel how good it is to live in peace. Although, we're not quite on your level, are we? Using wyverns as transport and all." She gave Taka another smile, this time accompanied by a wink. Relcia scowled and clenched her fists.
Elric began to speak, a little quietly. "When we heard from our old seer that you Central World folks had stopped warring as well, we were very excited. That meant that the other humans are slowly waking up and realizing that peaceful surrender is the way to go."
The group of nine kept chatting all the way to Canyon Village (which was what the Chieftain called it). Eventually, Cool Drinks were no longer necessary as they moved out of the desert and into the Desert Ravine itself. The caves that made up this gorge were cool and dark, with an astounding array of new wildlife. Tenris and Elric pointed out a group of Dytrog - slimy, amphibious Herbivores that reminded Taka of Nibelsnarfs - as well as Khezu Whelps, Giggi-like creatures that he knew existed in the Central World, but had never saw one.
After a seeing nothing but dripping caves and extensive pools of luminous water, the party finally reached a part of the Ravine that was bathed in sunlight. It was a small, almost perfectly circular cleft, open to the sky and surrounded on all sides by cliff walls. "Welcome to Canyon Village," said the Chieftain, bowing her head in a humble manner. "This is our home, as well as yours, for as long as you stay here."
Taka felt that Canyon Village was similar to Mediatas Village, in a way. There was a forge, where Elric worked most of the time, a stall selling Potions, Bowgun ammo, and other things, and even a farm, which was built onto a natural, elevated platform on one of the ravine walls. He saw that it was accessible only by climbing - a long row of handholds had been dug into the rock beside it.
Suddenly a bell rang, and all of the villagers stopped going about their business and crowded around a large, central dining table made of wood. "Oh, yeah!" cried Tenris. "You folks have arrived at the best time of the day. We all eat our meals together, so it feels like you're sharing your time with -"
She abruptly stopped as a loud, weird, and creepy gurgle echoed out from the cave from which they had entered. "Crap," Tenris growled. "Friends, stay here while we fetch our weapons - we're about to have an unexpected guest join us for meal time."
To be Continued...