Tenris and Elric ran off to grab their weapons, while the Chieftain alerted the rest of the villagers to the coming danger. Everyone except Taka and his friends scattered for cover - in seconds, the place was deserted. That was quick, he thought idly. Maybe they do regular drills for this sort of thing.

The gurgle came again, sounding like whatever it was had come quite a bit closer. The hairs on the back of Taka's neck stood up as he readied Guan, inserting the handle into his prosthetic arm. Illeera readied her Sonic Bow IV, dipping some of her arrows in Paralysis Coating in case she needed to immobilize the coming monster in a hurry. She stumbled a little bit on her wooden leg, then rapidly recovered. Everyone else drew their weapons.

They didn't have long to wait. With a warbling roar, a grotesque, slimy monster leapt from the darkness, landing clumsily on its feet. The creature had slick scales that looked more like a frog's skin than real scales. Its head was adorned with multiple fins, and its tail was wide and flattened slightly. The monster's black eyes seemed to stare right through Taka, and it made a harsh growl that sounded nothing like its previous noises.

Pariapuria. Despite her gluttonous behaviour, I think she looks really cute.

Then, Taka realized that it wasn't making that growl at all. That's its stomach, he realized grimly. It's come here to steal food, probably. And if we get in the way, we'll be appetizers.

Before the strange creature, which looked like some kind of Pseudowyvern, could attack, Tenris and Elric returned fully armed. Tenris, Taka saw, had gotten a Qurupeco Chopper Sword and Shield to go with her armor set, and Elric wielded a Greatsword that Taka knew to be called a Khezu Shock Sword. Is it just coincidental, or did they specifically pick weapons that matched their armor? ... Probably not.

With one more warble, the Pseudowyvern lashed out with a claw, straight at Taahnn and Mylie. Taahnn's reaction was to dodge and bash it in the head with his Volcanic Rock, making the monster flinch at the pain. Mylie blasted it with Flaming Shots from the sidelines, and it winced at the burning, stinging cuts that opened in its side.

Tenris emitted a battle cry, then lunged, striking three times with her Qurupeco Chopper and then retreating when the wyvern retaliated. Growling, it quickly spun, swinging its tail in her direction. It would have flung her the length of the village if it weren't for Elric, who blocked the blow magnificently with his Great Sword. Tenris jumped in with one more slash when the creature turned toward her brother, successfully distracting it enough for him to get away.

The Qurupeco Chopper

Relcia took advantage of the beast's confusion to swipe repeatedly at its wing with her Wolf Tessen. It howled in agony from the relentless pain, and when it jumped at her, it stumbled on the injured leg. Taka saw that it was truly in pain... it shook uncontrollably, wing twitching and shuddering madly as it tried to rise. He dropped from a battle-ready pose to an idle one, staring at the Pseudowyvern in pity. He could practically feel its pain.

"Over here, Pariapuria!" called Tenris, leaping in with two more attacks with her Qurupeco Chopper. The Pariapuria charged at her, bowling her over. When it prepared to take a bite from her unconscious form, Illeera shouted at it. "Chew on this!" she shrieked, launching three paralyzing arrows in quick succession.

The result was instantaneous. The Pariapuria stopped dead, body shuddering and jerking as it tried to fight the paralysis. Taahnn moved to finish it when Taka snapped out of his state of inactivity. "LEAVE IT BE!" he boomed, pushing Taahnn out of the way. In a calmer tone, he said, "Let me handle this." With a moment's consideration, Taahnn nodded and moved away.

Taka moved up to the spasming Pseudowyvern, slowly and calmly, trying not to startle it. Putting his weapon away, he gestured for Tenris and Elric to stay put, as they had also been moving to finish the wyvern. Gently putting his hand on the Pariapuria's great, finned head, Taka felt its shudders stop as it instinctively relaxed.

"What do you want?" Taka whispered soothingly. "Why are you here on such aggressive terms?" The Pariapuria's eyes widened in surprise, then it responded with fear and desperation in its voice. I'm hungry! she whined like a small child. I was searching all day, but I couldn't catch anything, and I was too weak to steal a meal from the scavengers, and I only considered coming here because I couldn't think of anything else to do! Her voice rose to a high-pitched scream as her eyes simultaneously filled with tears.

Behind Taka, Relcia and Illeera's faces both softened at the Pariapuria's desperate voice. Taahnn and Mylie remained stoic, but dropped their weapons. Elric and Tenris looked at them with confusion - they had no idea what the wyvern was saying. Taka ignored all of this, focusing entirely on the now-sobbing Pseudowyvern. She's fully grown, and ferocious enough to scare even a Rhenoplos, Taka thought, heart turning to mush. But inside, she's only a chick. And I would never turn down a child in need.

"We will bring you food if you promise to leave here in peace," Taka murmured in its ear. "Will you do that?" The Pariapuria sniffled and tried to stand as its paralysis finally began to wear off. OK, she said, voice cracking. I'll leave you be. Taka nodded, then turned to Elric and Tenris and told them to bring the Pseudowyvern food.

Elric's mouth dropped open at the sheer audacity of the request - bringing this clearly bloodthirsty beast food?! - but grudgingly agreed. Tenris raised her eyebrows, but accepted as well. Taka suspected that it was only because he made the request that she was going along with it. Relcia figured this out as well, and narrowed her eyes.

Soon, the young Pariapuria was happily gobbling the last of the mountain of Aptonoth meat that she had recieved. Belching loudly, she yelped happily, Thank you! Thank you very much! ... Sorry I ate like such a glutton, but I was just so hungry, I couldn't help myself. The Pseudowyvern looked at the group self-consciously, shifting her paws in embarrasment.

"It's Tenris and Elric you should be thanking," offered Illeera, stepping up beside her. "They agreed to give you a free meal, after all." The Pariapuria gave them the stink eye. Fine, she snapped. You two are murderous jerks, but... thanks. Taka translated her words to the duo behind him (obviously without the insult).

I'll never forget you... The Pariapuria paused and looked at Taka curiously. Could you tell me your name, please? Taka told it to her, and she finished her sentence. ...Taka. I'll never forget you, Taka. You can count on it! She gave him a sloppy lick across the cheek, then she bounded back into the cavern from which she came.

The group settled around a small bonfire in the middle of Canyon Village, along with the Chief, Tenris, and Elric. It was night, and they had been talking enthusiastically, swapping stories and telling jokes.

"I still can't believe that you Central World people are so tight with the monsters," commented Tenris, finishing off a Well-Done Steak. "It blows my mind." She gave Taka another smile - a normal one this time. Now that she knew that Taka already had a girlfriend, she behaved normally in front of him, something that Relcia took in stride. The two girls were making an effort to get along with each other now.

"For me," cut in Elric, fiddling with his drinking glass. "It's how you all can communicate with the monsters themselves. It's unbelieveable." He stole a glance at Illeera, and when she glanced back, he blushed and continued to play with his cup. Taka grinned at the sight - he vividly remembered himself behaving the same way in front of Relcia, all that time ago.

Tenris picked up where Elric had left off. "Yeah, I can't see my brother and I becoming so close with that Pariapuria," she half-joked, making everyone chuckle. "Did you know," she said in a more serious tone, "that Pariapuria are monsters from the Great Frontier?" This time, the reaction was a string of gasps.

The Chieftain spoke now. "No one knows how monsters from such a far away and supposedly deadly realm got here," she said quietly. "Luckily, they don't seem to give us a lot of trouble - at least, most of the time." Taka's mind was reeling. Monsters from the Great Frontier come here? he managed to ask himself through his astonishment. How long will our lives last in this new world? He instantly pushed that question aside.

The Chief must have been guilty for setting everyone on edge like that, as she abruptly changed the subject. "Do any of you know about the Elements?" she asked, raising her thin eyebrows. Illeera answered almost immediately, "Fire, Water, Ice, Thunder, and Dragon. Why do you ask?"

Eyes wide, Tenris leaned forward and lowered her voice. "Each human being carries one of the Elements deep inside him or her," she said in an almost conspiratorial whisper. "In a few people - and this is extremely rare - this single Element is prevalent enough so that the human in question can actually harness and control the powers that this Element gives them."

Elric continued for her, "Not only that, but there are certain people with the ability to instantly recognize which Element that these select few people have the potential to control." The Chief nodded sagely. "I am one of those people," she said, then went on grimly, "Our seer was as well."

Taka and the others had heard references to a seer that lived in Canyon Village until very recently. They were wise enough not to question, as the subject seemed to put the Chieftain in a bad mood. Instead of pressing further, Mylie cautiously asked, "... What Elements do we have, Chieftain? Do you know?"

The old woman smiled. "Ordinarily, I would say no... But, by some strange coincedence, each of you actually do have control over one of the Elements. Yours is Ice, Mylie." She drew a sharp breath and fingered the hood of her Ludroth headpiece in surprise.

"Taahnn, your Element is Fire." Taka snickered madly. "Makes sense - judging by your temper, after all..." He was unable to continue, as his snickering turned into a series of high-pitched giggles when Taahnn gave him a death stare. This bout of ridiculous laughter caused everyone to join in.

When they had all settled down, the Chief continued, "Illeera, you have the potential to control the Dragon element. Taka, your Element is Thunder." They both considered this as she finished with a kind smile, "That leaves Water for you, Relcia." She smiled back.

Taka chose that moment to speak his mind. "How did I guess that?" he asked, more to himself than anyone else. "It suits you, I guess. Water is fluid, calm, peaceful..." He trailed off.

Relcia looked at him curiously. "Everything suits me, doesn't it?" she asked him rhetorically. "First you commented on my Rathian armor, and now this." Taka simply smiled. "Yep, it all suits you perfectly," he said softly, dipping his head closer to hers and grinning uncontrollably. They kissed quickly, and Tenris pointedly looked away. Illeera and Mylie's expressions softened as they always did when Taka and Relcia were having a romantic moment.

The peaceful silence was broken by Elric, commenting with a yawn, "It's getting late, so I'm off to bed. I need to be up early if I want to guide you all around the Mysterious Beyond, as you call it." Illeera looked at him with something like awe. "You'd do that for us?" she asked tentatively.

He smiled slightly. "Of course. Isn't that what you came here to do - explore and learn about this new world?" He left without another word.

In seconds, everyone had climbed into their individual tents and fallen asleep. It had been a long and surprising day - and tomorrow, it would be even more so.

To be Continued...

Monster Hunter Destiny: Chronicle V - Enter Tartu in the Murky Bog

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