Tenris found Vulcan and Jin hunting for food in the Idyllic Ocean. She had volunteered to serve in Hydra's place as a member of the Central World Patrol, as they called it. This was her first assignment - to travel through the Idyllic Ocean region and report back to Mediatas Village if she saw any suspicious activity.
The Rathalos and Zinogre were busy dining on a freshly killed Aptonoth on the beach. It was Jin's first time dining on Aptonoth, and he was really enjoying it, it appeared. Tenris walked up to them, and they both stopped eating to greet her.
Taka is gone, Vulcan replied when she asked. He went with Relcia to the Great Frontier, for whatever reason. Tenris mulled this over, then murmured, "So the rumor is true? Taka and Relcia have gone to the Frontier in search of a Fatalis Scale?"
Jin nodded rapidly. Yep! he yelped. The Zinogre pup was barely as tall as Tenris - he still had much to grow. I'm certain that Relcia will be alright, he continued. When Taka sets out to do something, it usually gets done, believe me.
The girl nodded, long black ponytails whipping in the ocean breeze. "I just hope they come back safely..." she muttered, but the wind carried her words away, and the two monsters couldn't hear her.
Meanwhile, the couple in question were cautiously walking through the magnificent Great Forest, on the edge of the Great Frontier. Taka in particular was nervous, and he struggled to remember everything that he had been taught about the vast region.
The Great Frontier was a harsh place, and monsters and humans alike competed with one another for space. Perhaps that was part of the reason the war was raging more ferociously there than in any other region. But Taka definitely knew the other part - the monsters were so powerful, it was a wonder that the humans hadn't been wiped out by now. Some monsters, usually older, more battle-experienced ones, had learned devastating new tricks to use in battle, and were referred to the hunters as "Hardcore" monsters. Taka dreaded meeting - and battling - one.
"Where are we going?" asked Relcia softly. Taka checked the map that he still carried and examined it for a second or two. "Hmmm..." he mused. "If we head south-west, then we'll be out of the Great Forest and very close to Castle Schrade."
Relcia nodded silently. Taka was also quiet - after all, it was best not to attract attention in a wild forest teeming with bloodthirsty monsters. Remember, Taka thought, the war is still going on here. If we cross paths with a monster, we'll have no choice but to fight. He worriedly wondered if the legend - the one about him, the shapeshifter destined to make eternal peace between humans and monsters - was told here.
Then the time for wondering and hoping was over. Neither of them had realized it, but Taka and Relcia had been stalked by an unknown creature ever since they entered the Great Forest. Now, the creature charged out of the bushes behind them with a shriek, hoping to ambush them.Taka expertly dodged, and he saw that Relcia also managed to avoid the monster's pounce. Then they got their first good look at their assailant - a colorful Bird Wyvern known as a Hypnocatrice.
He drew his Blangonga Longsword, already trying to formulate a strategy to use against the Hypnock (as it was sometimes called). Relcia also drew her weapons, her twin Wolf Tessen gleaming in the sunlight that streamed through the trees.Without any warning, the Hypnock attacked, jumping forward and landing on its feet. Ending up almost right next to Taka, it proceeded to strike with its sharp beak. Taka managed to avoid the first two pecks, and rolled away from the third. The last was so powerful, the Bird Wyvern got its beak stuck in the ground. Instantly, Relcia slashed at it, performing two elegant swipes with her Dual Swords. The Hypnock shrieked at the pain and dug its beak back out of the earth.
Suddenly, its tail whipped out of nowhere, the feathered tip catching Relcia in the stomach. The air was knocked from her lungs, and she hit the ground hard. The Hypnock tried to stab her once again with its beak, but a downwards slash from Taka's Longsword, the Blango Decimator, changed its mind. Now it knew that Taka was the greater threat, from both the power of his blade as well as the Ice element enfused within it.
It reared its head back and expanded its chest, then spat a ball of saliva at Taka. He managed to dodge the projectile, but it hit the ground and exploded into white gas that formed a thick cloud. Taka quickly drew a breath and held it as the gas came his way, and soon it had enveloped him completely. If he breathed in even a wisp, then he would instantly fall asleep, a helpless target for the Hypnock. He tried to hold his breath just a little longer, but he was rapidly reaching his limit.
Relcia sprang to assist him, waving her fan-like Wolf Tessen as if they were real fans. She successfully blew the sleeping gas away with a few powerful strokes, allowing Taka to breathe again. He spared her a thankful smile, then leapt back into action, prepared for anything the Bird Wyvern might throw at him.
Except for what it did next.
The Hypnocatrice suddenly breathed out a huge amount of sleeping gas straight upwards, and the projectiles began to fall around the battlefield like meteors. Taka and Relcia, preoccupied with avoiding the incoming gas, were completely vulnerable to the Hypnock's next attack - a huge pounce forward, during which it kicked out with its talons and sent Taka sprawling.
The Bird Wyvern's claws had torn a huge gash in Taka's Rathian armor, but luckily hadn't harmed him at all. I've seen Hypnocatrices in the Central World, thought Taka as he got back up. But I've never seen one with such battle skills! He swung his Longsword in a wide arc, carving a huge gash in the Hypnock's wing and causing it to emit a harsh caw of pain.
Raising its wings, the Hypnock suddenly began to hop around, stretching its wings and shrieking all the while. Taka stopped, confused; he had no idea what it was doing. Is the Bird Wyvern showing off? Calling for help?
Nevertheless, he was caught off guard by the strange maneuver. Noticing this, the Hypnock abruptly stopped dancing and pounced again, this time pinning Taka to the ground beneath its feet. "Gigginox spit..." cursed Taka as the Hypnocatrice held him securely to the ground with its talons.
Just as it was bringing its jagged beak down to peck out his eyes, Relcia chose that moment to act. She held her Wolf Tessen over her head, triggering the Demonize ability. She became a blur, whirling faster and faster, slashing continuously. The Hypnock felt several cuts open on its legs and tail and screeched, throwing itself off of Taka and away from Relcia's spinning swords.
Weak, but not yet out of the fight, the Bird Wyvern lowered its head and sprayed a huge cloud of gas right in front of it. Taka and Relcia managed to get out of range, but were caught completely by surprise by the Hypnock's next move - it ferociously flapped its wings in a frenzy, blowing the cloud rapidly towards them!
Taka dodged the wave of sleeping gas by mere millimeters, but Relcia wasn't so lucky. She caught the blast full in the face, and wasn't quick enough to grab a breath of air. Taka cried out as she hit the ground, fully unconscious within seconds.
Instantly, the Hypnocatrice leapt at her with its powerful legs, talons thrown out and prepared to rend her. An animalistic growl escaped Taka's throat as he, too, leapt. Midway through his jump, he transformed into a perfect replica of the Hypnocatrice. He landed right on top of the Bird Wyvern, throwing it off to the side with his own talons.
Furious, the enemy Hypnock turned around and shrieked, sleep gas hissing out of its beak in minute amounts. Taka responded with an almost identical sound, spreading his wings and raising his feathers in order to intimidate his opponent.
Instead of attacking, or at least slinking away in fear, the Hypnock, leaking blood profusely from its many wounds, cocked its head to the side, examining him closely. Before Taka could fake an attack in an attempt to drive it away, it spoke. You're the shapeshifter, it said incredulously. The one who will end the war between humans and monsters.
Taka responded angrily, in the human, rather than the monster, language. "Yes, I am! Now get away from Relcia, before I kill you right here and now!" The Hypnocatrice cautiously, fearfully in fact, backed away from Relcia's sleeping form. Taka stepped up beside her, shielding her with a wing.
I'm sorry! cried the Bird Wyvern as Taka did this. I thought that the two of you were ordinary hunters, not folks from the Central World! ...I'd heard stories that the Central World had made peace with the monsters, but I never really believed it. The Hypnock was calming down, and so was Taka. He withdrew from Relcia, turning back into himself - however, he still held his Blango Decimator at the ready. He didn't trust this monster just yet.
"Why is it that you didn't believe that the war was over in the Central World?" asked Taka, genuinely curious. "The monsters of the Mysterious Beyond were beyond happy - pardon the pun - that the war had come to an end." The Hypnocatrice responded with a flick of her wings and said, Think about it, shapeshifter - when you live in a region as ferocious as this one, then it comes as a shock that humans are capable of performing such miraculous acts.
Taka could see that the Bird Wyvern had a clear point (other than the one on the end of her beak). When a monster was so used to being attacked mercilessly by hunters, somehow surviving each encounter by the skin of its teeth, it lost faith that humans could harbor anything even close to emotion.
Lauren abruptly peeked out from the undergrowth in which she had been hiding. The Hypnock noticed the motion and stared at her. A Melynx, she commented. One of the few monsters that sided with the humans all those hundreds of years ago. Lauren nervously crept up to Taka, hiding behind his leg. She was unsure if the monster's comment was idle, disdainful, or something else.
At this point, Relcia was starting to wake up. Yawning sleepily and weakly sitting up, she looked around with her eyes partially glued together. "What happened?" she slurred. Taka bent down and murmured a short summary of the events that had conspired since her incapacitation.
She looked at the Hypnock suspiciously. "So you're suddenly apologizing to us when you wouldn't think twice about killing us just a minute ago?" she asked rhetorically.
The Bird Wyvern looked at her guiltily. Please, she said quietly. I have no interest in killing you any more. You two are the hope of the future, and all of us monsters believe in you. Ruby is my name.
Taka helped Relcia up, allowing her to lean on him for extra support. "Taka," he said simply, gesturing to himself. "This is Relcia. Pleased to meet you." Ruby nodded in acknowledgement to their introductions. Why are you here? she asked hopefully. Are you going to end the war here as well?
Smiling grimly, Taka replied, "Easier said than done. It is for that reason that no, that is not why we are here. Our reason for being in the Great Frontier is that we have business in Castle Schrade. Could you possibly guide us there?"
Ruby shuddered madly, so deep was her fear. Fatalis... she murmured. It does a lot of its hunting here in the Great Forest. My entire species lives in fear of the legendary beast - even the Espini and Nargacugas run and hide when it appears. I'm sorry, but I cannot do as you wish.
Taka grew very still. This beast is so powerful that it frightens even the fearless Espinas? He had known his entire life how powerful the Fatalis supposedly was, but still - hearing this statement from Ruby only confirmed his fears.
Relcia spoke now, coming out of her deep thoughts. "Would you at least guide us out of the Great Forest?" she asked, in a tone that suggested that she still didn't trust the Bird Wyvern. "I doubt that Taka and I could find our way out in this labyrinth, even with our map."
Ruby's beak parted in a grin. Now THAT, I can do, she chirped. Come on, I'll show you the way to Castle Schrade from here. She began to walk through the dense foliage, with Taka close beside her and Relcia trailing behind. Her numerous wounds still oozed blood, but she seemed to be growing stronger quickly. We must not have hurt her as badly as we thought, Taka realized, giving Ruby the once-over. Pernicious Parnivids, Frontier monsters are stronger than I imagined.
The Hypnocatrice suddenly looked back, glancing nervously at Relcia. Then, she dipped her sharp beak close to Taka's head and whispered from the side of it. If I may say so, she said in an almost inaudible whisper. Relcia just... I don't like the look of her. Something about her... unnerves me.
Something clicked in Taka's mind. Now that she mentioned it... Taka had indeed realized that just days before. Lauren seemed to be thinking the same thing, because she moaned, "Master, I hope we get to the castle soon, nya."
Yes... thought Taka. The sooner Relcia is healed, the better. He turned to her, and their eyes met. Although Relcia smiled kindly at him, Taka shuddered. That unnatural feeling still radiated from her eyes. He decided to put it off his mind, and instead marveled at the astounding wildlife of the Great Forest.
To be Continued...