Vulcan sighed in relief as he, Jin, and Syrie flew over the last of the Jungle. They were now well over the mainland, and a huge chasm had appeared on the horizon. Syrie had informed them that the chasm was known as the Gorge. They had decided that it would be a good rest stop, as the sun had begun to set.
Hopefully, Taka and Relcia weren't that far ahead. Thanks to Vulcan's earlier nightmare, the trio of monsters knew that the Highland was where they'd make the last few miles of their journey. And hopefully, we'll run into Illeera, Tenris, and Elric along the way, thought Vulcan. Unless they've already turned back and returned to Mediatas Village. He tried not to think of Reia and their chicks, Bront and Rell. Once again, he was forced to turn his back on them for the greater good. Vulcan knew he essentially had no choice, but it didn't make him feel any better.
I can try to find us a safe resting place, offered Syrie from Vulcan's starboard wing. I can take a guess as to where any hostile monsters might dwell. Vulcan nodded at the Nargacuga. Of course she'd be the best one for this job. She had been born in the Great Frontier, after all.
As they neared the Gorge, Vulcan felt Jin's claws clamp down tighter on his shoulders as he prepared to land. His keen wyvern eyes took note of something moving on the canyon floor. There was something vaguely familiar about it... Then his eyes widened. It's them! he crowed. It's Illeera and Elric!
The other two grew more excited at the prospect of seeing their human friends safe and sound. But at the centre of Vulcan's excitement, there was a hint of worry. Where could Tenris be? he wondered nervously.
Syrie helped the two humans find a good resting place, and soon they were all camping under a rocky shelf, on a platform on the side of the Gorge. Luckily, no monsters seemed to be inhabiting this area, so they would be relatively safe here.
Vulcan struggled to digest what had just been revealed to him by Illeera and Elric. He just couldn't believe that Tenris was gone, killed by a huge Pseudowyvern in the Desert. The two of them had grown quite close in the days leading up to their journey, often patrolling the Central World together and swapping stories as they did so.
But now, there would be no more storytelling or patrolling. Tenris was dead, and Vulcan hadn't been there to help.
At the same time Vulcan,.Syrie, and Jin were coping with this unsettling news, Illeera and Elric were similarly stunned. Vulcan had told them about his nightmare, and now they were lost in their own thoughts, trying to guess what it might mean. Whatever it means, thought Illeera grimly, Taka's in worse trouble than we'd imagined.
Tartu and Mylie walked down to Mezeporta Square, following the hunter who had brought them this distressing news. Without saying a word, they surveyed the destruction before them.
It was immense. Huge holes in the pavement gaped wide, and whole buildings had been demolished. Several people lay lifeless on the ground. Hunters and officers were everywhere, trying to fix the damage. Tartu predicted that it would be several weeks before they finished.
But inside, Tartu had much more worrying thoughts. He knew what had caused the damage, of course - the White Raviente that he and Mylie had released. Although he intended to use the beast to gain power in the Great Frontier, he never would have thought that it would attack a populated area so soon. Now, he was busy trying to find an alibi in case someone asked what had done all of this.
That time came not three seconds later. "What could have done this?" asked the hunter sadly, looking down at the bodies of his deceased brothers and sisters of the hunt. "What could have done this?" He continued to mutter the question as everywhere he turned, more destruction was revealed.
Suddenly, it came to Tartu - the perfect story. A party of hunters coming back from the Desert had come to him, saying that they had encountered two teenaged hunters that they had never seen before. From their descriptions, Tartu had guessed their identity, and Mylie had almost instantly confirmed his suspicions. They were Taka and Relcia, she was sure of it. And now Tartu could use that information to his advantage.
"It was the White Raviente that caused this," he announced, and the other hunters paused in their labors to listen. "The White Raviente, the legendary inhabitant of Absolute Island. It had been awakened from its slumber by beings of magical power."
The hunters muttered amongst themselves. Before Tartu could continue, he was suddenly struck by a vision, just like the ones he used to get in the Mysterious Beyond. It showed Taka and Relcia, with a blazing white Elder Dragon looming behind them. The vision was brief, but a wealth of information had been revealed to Tartu just then.
"These beings are currently headed for the Tower," he went on. "They not only wish to awaken the White Raviente, but also the White Fatalis. With both beasts on their side, they will become unstoppable."
The smile that creased Tartu's face, although no one but Mylie noticed it, was filled with malice. "I require the best hunters for this next quest - to hunt down the beings known as Taka and Relcia."
Meanwhile, as the two separate parties began to close in on the Highland, Taka and Relcia were in the fight of their lives.
Taka remembered that the journey through the Highland had been smooth enough. When they had first gotten there, they had both been completely stunned by the beautiful scenery. Waterfalls hundreds of feet high roared over majestic, towering cliffs, feeding dozens of sparkling streams and lakes. Erupe and Burukku grazed on the plentiful foliage, while birds and the occasional Flying Wyvern soared on the endless thermals, filling the pristine Highland air with their song.
But as they traveled, they found that a walk in the Highland was no picnic.
Although a lot of monsters cared about the end of the war and Taka's role in it, an equal number of monsters didn't care at all. These were usually the monsters that were big enough and tough enough to take care of themselves, war or no war. And the monsters that inhabited the Highland were some of the toughest.
So now, the two friends were forced to duck and dodge high-pressure bursts of water and avoid the swinging tail and horn of one of the most feared creatures in the Great Frontier - Gurenzeburu, the Barbarian Wyvern.
The wyvern screamed at them, but Taka couldn't understand the words. Indeed, as Vulcan had once told him, Gurenzeburus were one of the rare monsters that could not speak the modern monster language. Either they were too primitive, they had their own ancient tongue, or they simply didn't have the intelligence - but no monster knew for certain.
That was the last thing on Taka's mind right now. Without his Blango Decimator, he was defenseless, or so it seemed to the marauding Flying Wyvern. Right after dodging a thrust from the beast's deadly horn, Taka shapeshifted into a huge Deviljho.
With a roar tearing its way out of his throat, Taka charged at the Gurenzeburu, jaws open wide. The wyvern narrowly avoided the attack, only to thrust with its horn again. Taka dodged, but the Gurenzeburu suddenly swung its head forcefully, the point of the horn slashing Taka's leg.
Relcia had snuck up behind the Gurenzeburu, triggering the Demonize ability with her Dual Swords. She lunged when she had gotten close enough, swiping repeatedly at the Gurenzeburu's legs and underbelly.
The wyvern felt the horrible wounds dealt by the deadly fans and screamed again in pain. It swung its tail mercilessly at Relcia, and the sharp mineralized spines adorning its tail missed her by inches. She was, however, batted aside to lay still amongst the rocks.Now there was only Taka left to fight the Gurenzeburu. And after seeing it carelessly bat Relcia away like so much trash, he was more than ready to make it pay.
The wyvern's tail struck him in the side, spines digging deep into his hide. The pain only fueled his anger, until he could feel his muscles swell and his energy increase dramatically. With a roar, he blasted the wyvern with his black-red dragon breath, drawing back several paces.
But then the Gurenzeburu retaliated, spraying a high-pressured blast of water from its mouth. The liquid smashed into Taka, driving him back with astonishing force. Chilled to the bone and bruised considerably, the Brute Wyvern shrank and shifted to be replaced by his normal human form.
By this time, Relcia had begun to wake up. Seeing the monster charging to finish Taka, she charged forward, retrieving her Dual Swords from the ground as she did so. Just as the Gurenzeburu passed her on its way to the still-stunned Taka, she slashed mercilessly at its leg.
The wyvern felt the sudden pain and screamed, tumbling to the ground just short of Taka. He got out of the way, this time using his abilities to transform into a monster equally as strong as the Barbarian Wyvern - the Kuarusepusu.The immense crystalline Leviathan lunged forward at its fallen foe, but the Gurenzeburu got up just then, seeing the danger at the last second and jumping up out of the way. It fired huge water bombs at Taka's back, which all impacted solidly against him. Taka cringed, then pointed his triangular head at his enemy and firing a massive beam of light. Momentarily blinded, the wyvern crashed to the ground.
Inside, Taka was undergoing just as fierce a battle. Light and dark warred inside of him, one side fighting for mercy and the other fighting for the Gurenzeburu's immediate death. The experience was enough to make Taka pause and struggle to calm both sides down. As he did so, the Gurenzeburu shakily stood up, eyesight recovering. The distant rumble of thunder sounded, and the sky rapidly filled with dark grey clouds.
Taka took no notice, as he frantically fought to keep his light and dark sides balanced. But his light side was becoming weaker, struggling ever more feebly against the darkness which fed off of it even now. As the shadow within took hold of Taka, he changed noticably, serpentine eyes becoming suffused with a dangerous darkness and tail twitching with a new, malicious urgency.
The Gurenzeburu charged just then, horn held straight for Taka's neck. Reacting instantly, Taka twisted his flexible body out of the way. Lightning flashed and rain began to pour down. Electricity built up within the crystals studding his body, until the feeling was almost unbearable. It felt as if the Thunder element that Taka controlled was raging inside of him.
Desperately, Taka released the building charge from his crystals, becoming surrounded with a nimbus of lightning. The Gurenzeburu shrieked and drew back as the intense voltage struck it, crackling loudly.
Then, attracted by Taka's attack, a massive lightning bolt surged down from the clouds above, spearing the Gurenzeburu right on its horn. Its scream grew even louder and more shrill as the current fried its brain.
Darkness fueling his every move, Taka took no chances. Driven by the need to kill, he charged forward and opened his jaws, clamping them around the Gurenzeburu's neck. His long, needle-like teeth effortlessly pierced it, and the monster's cry was joined by a low gurgle as the blood poured down.
Taka released his hold, and the wyvern slumped to the ground, never to rise again. Excitement flowed through Taka, stopping him from calming down right away. Still in his Kuarusepusu form, his breath came hard and he swung his head around frantically, looking for something else to slay.
Relcia stepped in front of his line of sight, putting a calming hand on his horn. With some effort, Taka settled down and reverted back into his human form. Relcia smiled at him and gestured to a nearby cavern, indicating that they should seek shelter and get out of the pouring rain.
Taking her hand, Taka led her quickly toward the cave. Lauren, who had been hanging back in the earlier fight, suddenly appeared from the rocks behind them and scampered along with them toward the cave.
Eventually, Taka and Relcia fell asleep in the cave while listening to the rain hammering down outside. They were both so exhausted from the day's adventures that they had immediately sat down against the cave wall, cuddled up beside each other, and fallen asleep in each other's embrace.
Lauren's eyes snapped open. She had pretended to fall asleep when the two humans had first entered the cave, a few seconds after her. But she couldn't have fallen asleep if she wanted to, so tight were her nerves.
It wasn't just the fight between Taka/Kuarusepusu and the Gurenzeburu that had left her so edgy. It was the changes she could feel happening within her master. Lauren had felt this happening for a while now, but now she knew that the darkness within him had grown much too strong. The little bit of light still within him was too weak to push against it, and yet still remained.
Now Lauren knew what she must do. She must find Taka's friends and convince them that Taka was in serious danger. If the couple reached the White Fatalis, no good would come of it. But if Lauren could get Illeera and the others to catch up and stop him, there might still be hope for a cure.
The Melynx scampered out of the cave and into the rain, heading for a destination that wasn't yet known to her. The howl of a Hyujikiki pierced through the din of the rain, goading her to run faster.
I don't know how I shall do it, nya, she thought to herself, b'ut I must find Taka's furr-iends. Taka must be cured - or else he will sink into evil so deep... there will be no climbing back out.
To be Continued...