NOTE : I own none of these pictures. They belong to their respective owners, which again, isn't me. Take note facial appearances and hair only, not the armor and weapon, because I was as lazy as an ass (the mammal) at the moment to find more accurate images or upload any of my own.
Grahm (no, he doesn't use a Ravager Blade)
Jias (no, she doesn't use a lance)
Uakshi (he's not a hammer user, and HellWingz has awesome art)
Callade (got my idea of her from this pic, and that's how her Gunner armor, Professor S, looks like)
1) Two New Hunters Enter the Fray!
It was a fine day in Inaba Village. The snowstorm that plagued the Snowy Mountains the day before had cleared the skies of clouds, and so the air was a fine, lovely mixture of warmth from the sun and cold from the mountain. Children played, kicking their favorite ball through the streets. Once, the ball stopped rolling at the feet of a man clad in an oriental-styled armor made from white scales. He noticed the ball at his feet and the little boy running up to him. Adjusting his longsword so that he could bend down, he picked the ball up and handed it to the boy, who had just stopped running mere feet from him. The man ruffled the boy's hair, smiled, and went on his way. The boy looked on in awe. The man was strong, smart, and nice. Then there's the fact he looked totally cool! The boy knew who the man was...
He was a hunter! A monster hunter!
- - - - - - - - - - -
"So, you're the replacement hunters for Pokke, eh?" asked the old cart driver. "Aren't you a bit small in number? I mean, only the two of you?" the old wyverian squinted his eyes to see the gates of Inaba in the distance.
"Yeah, it's admittable, our group only being the two of us... But I heard when I was taking the job that we weren't the only group to do so. There's supposedly one more group taking post up there in Pokke." Grahm looked over his shoulder at Jias, who was still soundly sleeping among the goods on the back of the cart.
"You don't say... Anyway, why don't you wake your lady friend up? We're almost at Inaba."
"No, I think I should let her sleep longer. It was one heck of a long night last night..." Grahm began to laugh lightly, taking care as not to drop the cup of tea he had in hand.
"Aye, folks around here know to carry rations with 'em, because you know you can get hungry even without the cold in your way!" the old wyverian started to laugh along.
"This Mafumofu Suit's pretty wonderous... It keeps all the cold out. I couldn't find anything like this in Minegarde. Without this suit, we would've gone hungry way sooner. And maybe even starved before you came along. Good thing the Guild was kind enough to hand over these two sets to us."
"Aye, it is pretty wonderous... But in the heat it can be a burden, so make sure you don't use it anywhere other than here, in the Snowy Mountains."
"Thanks for the tip. And the ride. Also, thanks for the food. And the tea." Grahm took another sip from his cup. In the corner of his eye he noticed Jias moving. When he turned around the female hunter had already sat up, stretching. "Good morning, sleeping beauty. Had any good dreams?" he teased, grinning. Suddenly, the cup of tea was snatched from his hand, almost causing him to fall from the cart. "Hey!"
"Very funny..." Jias gulped down the tea, already less than warm, but still warm enough. "Ahh... That was good for the throat. Might be a few icicles in there." the girl looked down on the cup she held in her hand. "This is Mountain Herb tea, right?" she leaned forward and peeked out onto the driver's seat. "Thanks for sharing some with us, old man." she grinned at the old cart driver.
"Mind me not, missy. Care for some more?" the old wyverian asked.
"Sure!" Jias handed him the cup to be refilled.
"Don't tell me all the food you ate last night already got digested?" Grahm sighed, looking at how enthusiastic his partner can get when it came to edibles.
"You aren't supposed to refuse the good things that come your way, you know. And besides it was my really high metabolism! What can I do?" Jias happily received the full cup of tea. "Here, I'll only drink till half, to make up for taking it from you earlier..." she lowered her head to take a sip, but stopped the moment her tongue touched the surface of the tea.
"Just a note, missy, the tea I keep here in my canister can be quite hot..." the wyverian said, a faint snicker can be heard in his voice. Grahm saw the smile on the old coot's face and smiled as well, knowing what was to come next.
That day, the guards of the gate to Inaba village could've sworn they heard the scream of some terrible, fickle, legendary beast from deep inside the Snowy Mountains. That is, until the goods cart arrived at the gate and they saw Jias' face and the steaming cup of tea she had in her hands.
2) Visitor of Steel
"Heh, a hunter that can't even stand hot tea..." Grahm grinned, his eyes rolling away the moment Jias turned to face him. He noted that at that very moment she had a face that was comparable to a Rathian which was about to roar. But he knew what Jias would do next, instead of roaring. She moved quickly, and sent her elbow out to jab him in the side, her teeth clenched. He slid his Buster Sword from his back to his left side, where her jab was coming from, and blocked it in time. Jias growled, her elbow stung with pain. Grahm grinned, withdrawing his sword.
"I didn't even know you could do that, the whole sliding thing. Isn't that Buster supposed to be heavy?" Jias whimpered, upset over her failed "attack".
"It was heavy at first, but you wouldn't believe how long I practiced doing this... just to block your sneaky little elbow." Grahm teased her some more, grinning. Jias felt like she could claw his smug little face off. She considered doing just that, when she noticed the old wyverian returning to his seat on the cart. She ran up to his cart, and Grahm followed suit in a hurry. The wrinkled face of the old wyverian turned to look at the pair stopping beside his cart.
"You kids not on your way yet? It's almost afternoon." the wyverian said, taking hold of the draught traces.
"We figured we should bid you farewell, since, you know, it won't be some time till we meet again, old man." replied Grahm.
"If you happen to stop by here, give us a shout, okay?" said Jias. Hearing this, the old wyverian chuckled. His heart felt warm. He could've shed a tear at that moment.
"Well, that's a promise there, young missy." replied the old wyverian. Soon he was already on his way, exchanging waved goodbyes.
"Thanks again for the food, old man Carter!" Jias yelled into the distance. By the time the cart dissapeared into the horizon the pair had already made their way into Inaba's guild hall. It was large, and packed with hunters of all kinds of appearances, male and female, tall and short, bulky and thin. At one corner Jias spotted the service counter, and headed there with Grahm in tow.
"There're no guides to lead us to Pokke?" Grahm asked
"I'm afraid not. The snowstorm last night had every one of our guides sent off to Pokke to assist the merchants up there; in fear of another snowstorm breaking out." replied the girl. So that was it. They managed to get a map from her, but that was all she could offer them. They took to rest at a table closest to the counter and had a meal.
"So that's the plan then. We've had some good rest thanks to old Carter, so now all we need is a meal and then we're on our way to Pokke." Grahm said, taking down his mug. Jias took in a few bites form her plate of food and placed her fork down.
"I've had enough good food already, we better get started on our trip. I wouldn't want to get stuck in the middle of a snowstorm..." Jias put on her Mafumofu gloves and picked up her dual swords, rapiers with long blades that are thin and sharp as a blade of air itself. "Let's hit the goods shop first." she continued, turning around to look at Grahm before walking towards the hall's entrance. Grahm followed suit, thanking the waitress on the way out. When he came out, he noticed a short old wyverian talking to Jias. Jias turned to him with a glee-filled grin.
"Guess what?" she asked, the old wyverian stood with his squinted eyes fixed on Grahm, whose own pair of eyes were fixed on Jias.
"We're going to Pokke on a hot air baloon." her grin grew larger. But Grahm made a distorted face. Whilst Jias was particularly fond of travelling by air, it wasn't the same for him. The fact that a wyvern known as "King of Wyverns" making the open skies its hunting ground wasn't helping him to get rid of his aversion. Nevertheless, he wasn't one to make a fuss about things, and as soon as winds began to fill the mountain air the balloon started making its way up into air, headed for Pokke. The first half hour were filled with conversation. Grahm found a new pun to use where he was headed for; "breaking the ice", much to Jias' dismay.
"Anything special living out here in the mountains, professor?" Jias asked, enjoying the breathtaking scenery of mountains of snow glistening in the sunlight.
"Why, yes. Quite a number of unique monster species reside in these mountains. There's the Pelagus Blangonga, only native here. In recent times there's also been sightings of the ancient predatory wyvern, the Tigrex." the professor replied. "It's all quite exciting, especially for an old activist of the Observatory like me."
"Blangonga? Tigrex? I haven't heard of anything like those before! Can you tell me more about them?" Jias asked, turning her attention to the old wyverian. She's fought quite a number of wyverns for the Guild before, but she's never even heard the names spoken here mentioned back in Minegarde.
"They're only native here, huh... No doubt we'll be seeing a lot of them soon..." Grahm muttered, leaning on the railings of the hot air balloon. He spotted a few dark clouds in the air some distance in front of them, but decided not to say a word so as not to disturb the old professor, getting worked up in his conversation with Jias.
"They're both powerful, with the Tigrex being one of the strongest wyverns to have existed, evidenced by its long existence in history. The Tigrex were thought to have gone extinct decades ago."
"So now that it's returned, it's tops in the food chain for the Snowy Mountains?" Jias asked. The professor laughed, impressed at her amount of knowledge in the field of ecology.
"Well, yes, if not for the existence of a creature of an even higher tier." the professor replied, adjusting his glasses.
"Oh? What might that be?"
"Kushala Daora, the Elder Dragon of Wind. Being an elder dragon, it possesses might to conquer any wyvern, be it the Rathalos or the Tigrex. Kushala Daora have been making rounds through these very mountains for years, whipping up snowstorms and blizzards with their every visit." said the professor. At that moment Jias paused, thinking about the snowstorms that have been said to afflict the mountains for the past few days. It was the same for Grahm, having eavesdropped on the two's conversation, now in deep thought. Looking on to the dark clouds, he spotted something amidst the gales. He couldn't make it out at first, but as moments passed he realized it closely resembled the shape of something he'd seen years ago. The shape of something that attacked Minegarde those years ago. A shape resembling the Black Dragon. The shape of an Elder Dragon.
"...Professor..." Grahm spoke, his eyes still looking forward. Jias and the old wyverian noticed his demeanor.
"Grahm, what's wrong?" Jias asked. The wyverian professor turned around and walked over to the edge of the balloon. He immediately saw the dark clouds ahead.
"Oh... oh no... It can't be..." the professor's gaze turned to one of fear. Jias stood up to view the dark clouds, and for an instant, the thoughts of the three beings on board the balloon were synchronized.
"The... the Kushala Daora..." Jias stammered. The wyverian wasted no time and ran over to the steering clutch, hoping to steer clear of the winds far enough that the Elder Dragon wouldn't notice them. But he had been too hopeful. Jias called out to him, and as he ran over to the observation window his greatest fears were confirmed. A dragon of silver scales soared from out of the darkened clouds, headed straight for the balloon.
"Brace for impact!" yelled the old wyverian. Jias took hold of the railings just as Grahm did, whilst the latter held the railings even more tightly. The old wyverian didn't go for something to hold. He was trying to reach for something on one of his shelves, when a loud crash shook the balloon. Everything inside seemed to spin around until they crashed into the ground. When Jias came to, everything around her was dark. She couldn't move her legs. They were stuck, buried underneath something.
"Grahm... Professor... are you... okay?" she hoped for a reply, but there was none. She desperately tried to free her legs, worried that the others might be in serious injury. As she struggled, a warm liquid started to flow down the side of her face. Her breathing became erratic. She tried to keep a level head, but tears began to form in her eyes. Suddenly, a hand reached out from a pocket of faint light and grabbed her hand. Jias opened her eyes.
"Come on, Jias! You have to help me free yourself!" spoke a voice.
"Grahm... Grahm, is that you?!" she yelled, pushing at the ground with her free hand. Believing it was none other than her partner, she put more strength into her struggle, and finally managed to free her legs with his help. The hand never let go, until she was finally out of the balloon's wreckage. The moment she saw Grahm's face again she felt like putting her arms around him. His head bled, it was no less than the injury Jias had on her own head. the balloon had landed on a cliff quite high up in the mountains.The hot air balloon was wrecked beyond use. Jias realized that the surrounding had gotten darker than before, with signs of a snowstorm that was to come.
"The professor, where is he?" she asked, her throat cold and dry.
"Here, but his condition's not doing very well." Grahm unfolded a large section of the balloon that he ripped off, revealing the wyverian professor inside, injured and full of frostbite. "We can't stay out here in the open, we have to find shelter. A blizzard might come." he said, taking a deep breath. At that moment the two could hear a loud roar somewhere in the distance. "The dragon... the dragon' still looking for us, I bet. There're nothing else up here, not even one of those Popos."
"No..." Jias replied, her eyes full of fear, looking out into his right. Grahm looked at her, saw the look in her eyes, and noticed the airborne figure in the corner of his eye. He cursed bitterly in his heart, clenching his teeth. His hands began to ball into fists. Beside them, hovering in the air, was the dragon. Kushala Daora.
"It found us."
3) Warmth Amidst the Cold
The Guild Master stood with her hands atop the wooden fences that separated her and the rock face below. Her eyes showed great worry. In the distance, dark clouds and cold winds can be seen, giving her an ominous feeling.
"The balloon should already be in sight by now... This can't be good." she thought aloud. A tall figure came and stood beside her, his arms crossed against his chest. "Those clouds... it's a bad omen, Mauve." she continued without turning to the man. The middle-aged man stood silent, his eyes on her, thinking.
- - - - - - - - - - -
It was hopeless. Hopeless, thought Grahm. Maybe if they just stood still, it'll be over quickly enough that none of them would even feel a thing. The flapping of wings still echoed inside his ears.
"Damn... How did it... Hell..." Grahm cursed, his eyes glancing at the dragon, upon which it crossed eyes with him. Sensing the hatred inside the hunter caused the Kushala Daora to roar with all its might. Jias and Grahm had to cup their ears with their hands, in fear of their eardrums bursting out. Grahm opened his eyes as the roar subsided to see Jias looking down onto the snow, trembling. They were seconds from death. But Grahm wouldn't have that. He knew not all had to die. "Jias..." he whispered. "Take the professor, and run..." he started to reach for his Buster sword slowly.
"No... this is no time to be playing hero, Grahm!" Jias shouted, which instantly provoked the dragon, causing it to smash into Jias with its tail. She was thrown off her feet, landing in the snow some feet back.
"Damn you!" shouted Grahm, unsheathing his Greatsword and wielding it towards the dragon's long tail. The blade hit, but was unable to slice through the skin. Grahm's hands shook, trying to cut through, without success. The dragon freed its tail from the blade and struck Grahm with its claws, which the hunter managed to guard against in time.
"Close your eyes!" came a shout just as the dragon's claws collided with Grahm's sword. In an instant a spherical object appeared between him and the dragon, which immediately erupted into a flash of light. Grahm managed to shut his eyes in the nick of time, and when he opened them the dragon was no longer in front of him. He turned around to see the wyverian professor sitting up with the help of his left elbow. Although wounds and ice covered him on multiple parts of his body the old wyverian was still able to reach for a satchel on the edge of the balloon's wreckage, which he threw to Grahm.
"Hurry, the flash bomb would not incapacitate the dragon for much longer." the professor said in between breaths, struggling to get up on his feet. Grahm took a look in the satchel to see a few flash bombs, three bottles filled with clear liquid and a shock trap. Closing the satchel, he looked down the cliff to see the Kushala Daora on the ground below, struggling violently to the effects of the flash bomb. When he turned around with the thought of grabbing and carrying the professor on his back, Jias already had the short wyverian on her own back, looking over her shoulder at Grahm. She motioned for him to move, wiping the blood that was flowing down her chin. He withdrew his sword and they ran down a path leading into the mountains, as snow began to pellet the earth, and the dragon began to rise into the air again, roaring as loudly as before.
"What do we do now? Where should we go?" Jias asked as they ran. The professor was unconscious again, his injuries worsening as time passed. Grahm looked at the wyverian, knowing that he was their best bet at finding the way to Pokke village.
"First things first, we can't let the professor's wounds go unattended to. We need to find a form of shelter, any kind will do." said Grahm. Without warning the ground just behind suddenly blew up, almost cuasing him to trip and fall forward. Gaining back his stance, Grahm looked behind him to see the elder dragon in the air, going after them. "This damn thing is unbelievable! Jias, run faster!" he shouted, reaching into the brown satchel and turning around to throw another flash bomb. The flash of light was accompanied by the sound of something heavy crashing into the snow, and the elder dragon's screech. Jias spotted a rock face that had a crack on the surface, wide enough for a person to pass through, but too narrow for a dragon.
"There! Grahm, that crack in the wall, we can hide there!" she shouted, gaining his attention. The two quickened their pace and found themselves in a dark, clammy cavern that was quite wide, able to fit about three men from shoulder to shoulder. They lowered their breathing for the moment, waiting for the Kushala Daora to pass by. Minutes passed, when they finally heard the sound of wings soaring through the sky, moving further and further. They sighed with relief. Grahm found a torch inside the professor's satchel. He lit it up and wedged it between rocks at the far end of the cavern, hoping that it won't attract too much attention from anything outside the cave. They stayed inside the cave silently, Jias making full use of the first aid medicine she had to tend to the old wyverian professor's injury. Grahm knelt guard at the entrance, but after more than an hour's quarter had passed he decided that the snowstrom raging outside would mean it was harder for anything to find the cave. He grabbed his sword and placed it against the rock wall, sitting down to take a breather. He turned to glance at Jias, hard at work tending to the old wyverian. The wound she had on her head was still unattended to. Grahm touched his own forehead. The blood on it had dried up. Without him realizing it, the wound had ice all around it.
"It's probably the same with hers too..." thought Grahm, eyes turning to Jias again. He stood up and walked over to in front of Jias, the old wyverian professor lying on the ripped part of the balloon in between them. Grahm knelt down, taking hold of something. Jias noticed Grahm moving his hands closer to her head while she wrapped up the professor's injury.
"Just stand still for a second. This might sting a bit. I think." said Grahm. Jias felt something wet applied to her forehead. It didn't sting, but felt of warmth. She didn't know whether it was whatever Grahm had put there or the touch of his caring hands. "There, the ice's all gone. You shouldn't forget all about yourself when you go on mending others up, you know." said Grahm, showing Jias a few small shards of ice he had in his hands.
"So... what about you? That forehead of yours?" Jias blushed a bit, trying her hardest not to look into his eyes, and to focus on the wyverian professor.
"It'd be great if you can help with it. I can't really see the ice that's sticking onto the cut..." said Grahm.
"Sure, what was it that you used just now?"
"This little bottle here. One of them's got the word "Cleanser" on it."
"Where'd you get that?"
"The old man's satchel. This must've been what he was trying to reach for when the balloon was about to crash. It has a lot of useful things in it." Grahm said, lifting up the brown satchel in his left hand.
"Hang on; I'm almost done with him. All his wounds have been sealed, but he's been better. He wouldn't be waking up any time soon. We need to find him real medication. For the time being, let's see about that freezing wound of yours..." said Jias, using the ripped balloon as a blanket for the wyverian professor. The two talked for the next half hour or so, after Jias had finished wrapping up Grahm's forehead cut. She declined when he offered to do the same for her, saying her cut was too small to worry over. When the snowstorm outside had subsided, the two decided it was time to start moving.
"Are you sure it really is there?" asked Jias, looking down at Grahm who was on a lower footing inside the cavern.
"Sure as I can get. I saw the hole when I was setting up the torch earlier... It drops down somewhere. There's a ledge underneath. "Grahm put his fingers between the rocks, pulling them out one by one. Removing a large disk stone with a heave, he finally found the hole underneath it. It was large enough for adults to drop through. And true enough, there was a ledge underneath, with Grahm being able to see faint amount of light at the end of the ledge. "The only problem here is that we don't know if that dragon is down there. We don't need to worry about anything else, since the dragon probably scared everything else that was up here away." Grahm turned to Jias, dusting his Mafumofu gloves.
"Well, do you see any pink particles floating in the air, or maybe the pungent smell of paint?" Jias smiled lightly at him.
"No, not really... Wait, don't tell me you managed to hit that Kushala with a paintball...?" asked Grahm, a look of disbelief on his face.
"There's no way I'd let myself get hit from such a close distance like that without putting in a little effort or two." Jias replied, taking out and holding two small paintballs in her hand. Grahm remembered that she had been hit by the Kushala's tail. "Don't worry about it, that hit wasn't enough to damage through the Mafumofu suit. I'm fine! We better get a move on before the paintball fades away." she grinned at Grahm. With the wyverian professor on his back, Grahm dropped down the hole onto ledge after Jias. It was a chamber of ice. The walls shone in the sunlight that streamed in from a large hole in the ceiling of the cave. The two made their way slowly, carefully towards the small path at the end of the ledge. Jias peeked on the outside. "It's all clear..." she whispered to Grahm, making her way out. It was already dusk. They needed to hurry. Being stranded on the Snowy Mountains after nightfall wasn't exactly what they had in mind for their first day in Pokke. Well, they haven't reached Pokke... not yet.
"Judging by the map the maiden back at Inaba gave us, we should be right... around... here. Pokke should be to the north-east..." Jias paused, looking towards the north east. "Shoot... there's a high wall in our way. There, look." she pointed out the wall to Grahm.
"If it's what you're worried about, I have no problems carrying the old man up the wall." Grahm replied. Jias didn't say anything. She wasn't just worried about the old wyverian, but also about Grahm. And then there's a the Greatsword he had on his back. It was too much of a risk. "Taking a risk is what being a hunter is all about." said Grahm, reaching for the closest rock on the wall and starting to climb. Jias knew those words. It was her own father's words. She shrugged the memories off and started to climb up the wall herself. When they finally emerged at the top of the wall everything seemed to be going good for them, which made her smile.
"...Thanks." said Jias, Grahm pulling her up from the rock wall. "Now all we need to do is go down the trail east. We're almost there!" she started to run, with Grahm following behind. Far off, in the sky, a malevolent eye catcahes sight of them running down the trail. The dragon snarled. Its hunt wasn't over just yet. Jias reached halfway down the trail and looked into the distance. Even in the dim light she could see a village in the distance. She jumped with joy, with Grahm behind sighing with relief, knowing their journey was almost over. Suddenly, though, he felt a slight gust of wind before the ground in front of him, where Jias stood, erupted into and explosion. He saw her face as her body was thrown down the cliff.
"Jias! No!" he yelled, immediately rolling to his left on instinct, just as the ground he had stood on seconds ago erupted into another explosion. "Damn it... damn it!" he rolled away again as another explosion erupted. The Kushala Daora landed on the snow, baring its teeth, mocking him. At that second Grahm was about to drop the old wyverian and charge at the elder dragon in pure rage when Jias' voice came from the land below.
"Grahm... run! Get the old man to the village! It's too close for you to fail now!" she shouted, her voice filled with anguish. Her legs couldn't move. She tried her best to overcome the pain, but unlike last time, they were broken. The fall had broken her legs.
"She's still alive... but she doesn't sound very well. Now the elder dragon knows she's alive too. I can't leave her and turn tail. The only thing I can do now... is to fight that dragon. I have to best it. It's the only way all of us can get out of this alive!" Grahm thought. He, still heaving the old wyverian on his back, slid his Buster sword to his left and let it fall and dig into the snow. He dropped his item pack down onto the snow, clutching a few potions for quick use in case he needs them. "Come at me, Kushala Daora!" he gripped the hilt of his Greatsword and pulled it out of the ground, entering battle stance. Jias heard his shout, and started to fill with guilt. On her chest, under her Mafumofu suit, the wound where the tail had hit began to open again, blood seeping out. She lied when she said its attacks don't go through the suit. Grahm wouldn't stand a chance against the Kushala Daora in only that suit. A single hit, and it's all over, she thought. She looked around for her item bag, hopeful that something inside could help with the situation. She grabbed at something, but immediately pulled her hand back after realizing it wasn't her bag. It was a Mafumofu hood, same to one Grahm had before the crash. There, in front of Jias, was a man whose body lay prone. Snow covered his back, probably from the snowstorm earlier.
4) Wooden Kirin Cart
After letting out a deafening roar, the Kushala Daora leapt through the snow towards Grahm with incredible speed, deciding to finish off the human as quickly as it can. Grahm managed to open his eyes after cringing from the roar soon enough to sidestep to the right and block the dragon's side brush. It jumped to its right and turned quickly to once again face Grahm, charging towards him the moment the hunter was once again in its sight. Grahm blocked the hit. The forces from the two quick attacks were enough to numb his hands for a short while.
Backing up, Grahm took care as not to let the wyverian professor fall and waited until the right moment to go on the offensive. The dragon leapt a short distance forward, at Grahm, before raising its claws to strike. Grahm jumped back, and as the dragon's claws struck the ground he had been standing on moments ago, Grahm pulled his Greatsword back and used the momentum to launch the blade towards the Kushala Daora. The dragon deflected the blade with its iron-hard tail, the blade digging into the snow beside its head. Grahm pulled the sword out, and ran to the dragon's left, dragging his heavy blade across the dragon’s scales. Small spurts of blood began to dot the snow around the dragon.
Keeping his eye on the dragon's fangs meant that he didn't see the dragon's tail lashing out towards him. It hit him right in the chest, sending him falling backwards. The wyverian on his back was about to get crushed between his body and the ground. That's not going to happen, he thought. He managed a quick glance at the dragon's beastly eye before rotating the hilt of his Buster sword. The wide blade dug into the ground, helping Grahm balance himself. The Kushala Daora leapt away before turning to face him again. Grahm could feel his chest hurt, but he won't have something as petty as a scratch like that faltering him. The dragon snarled and released a spiraling gust of wind from its mouth. Grahm rolled away, making sure the harnesses keeping the wyverian professor onto his back are still secure.
"Good thing the old man's still unconscious I guess... If he'd been awake this would be quite the unpleasant experience for him." he thought, trying to calm himself and keep a cool head by thinking with a tinge of humor. Worry over Jias still plagued him, but he had to ignore all of it. Defeating the Kushala Daora would be the only action right now that would guarantee the survival of him, Jias and the wyverian professor. And to accomplish such task wearing only the Mafumofu would mean that he'd have to concentrate and give it his all. There isn't room for any mistakes.
The word “promise” echoed inside his head as he charged towards the dragon with his blade at his side. The dragon leapt towards him, closing the distance between them in an instant. Seconds before the dragon could maul him, Grahm ducked his head low, while still keeping his blade sailing in the air. The dragon missed the professor on his back by mere inches, but the Buster Blade connected, creating a gash trailing from the dragon's chest to its hind leg. Screeching, the dragon tumbled onto the snow, struggling to get back up as the snow around it began to turn red. Seeing the dragon in that condition conjured a smile on Grahm's face, confident he would at least be able to drive the dragon off. The dragon rose to its feet again. Shards of ice began to form around it fangs. The Kushala Daora roared, this time louder than before.
"Darn, it's angry now..." Grahm thought, believing that the gash he had put on the dragon to be more painful than he'd first thought. He wasted no time and withdrew his sword to run towards the dragon. Running with the Buster drawn before had expended some his energy, now he had to resort to unsheathing attacks. As he ran towards the Kushala Daora he noticed that something about it had seemed different now. Its eyes became more menacing, mocking Grahm on how the gap of their abilities was too far out. But now, Grahm was able to see some truth in those eyes. It wasn't the first time he'd looked into the eyes of an Elder dragon, but it certainly was his first fight with one. “No matter how high you think you are, dragon, you need to learn to respect us humans more!" he yelled, his grip on the hilt tightened. The dragon's speed had risen to a point that it was able to close distance between it and Grahm within a split second. Grahm, who only had the action of attacking in mind, was taken aback by this. The dragon’s head smashed into his guts. Not even the thick skin covering under the Mafumofu suit was able to cushion the hit. He was thrown into the air, limp. His eye trailed off to the old wyverian professor on his back as he moved through the air.
“Shoot… Looks like I spoke that line too soon… I can’t have you piggy-backing on me anymore, sorry, but I reckon I can take a few more hits from the dragon…” his index and middle fingers slipped under the harness keeping the wyverian professor. With a pull of his middle finger the harness went free. Like Grahm had hoped for, the professor, tucked neatly between the balloon bag, fell onto a mound of snow, hidden as the fall caused the balloon bag to cover his head. Satisfied, Grahm let out a triumphant smile before his back crashed into the snow-covered ground. Blood streamed down his chin.
“… Now that the old man’s safe, I need to up the ante. The dragon’s suddenly gotten so strong. If I don’t push myself I won’t be able to keep up with it…” Grahm thought, checking the damage on his stomach. The first layers of his suit had been ripped off. He could feel the thick covering on the underside of the suit. “If I get hit there again… It’ll be my guts strewing off next time…” he wiped the blood from his chin.
He flicked the cover of the bottle of potion he had in his hand and drank it all down. The potion started to do its job; increasing the speed of blood flow and repairing damaged tissue. The bottle dropped down onto the snow as Grahm entered battle stance. Just as he thought, the Kushala Daora had gotten faster. Its charge became harder to avoid, but Grahm managed somehow. And then there was the field of wind enveloping the elder dragon. It was strange. The creatures he faced before never had anything like it, from the Khezu to the Gravios. “I guess that’s what makes you lot so special, huh? Powers like these.” he remarked, dodging another stream of wind coming from the Kushala’s mouth.
He sprinted across the snow the moment the wind stream disappeared and unsheathed his massive sword downwards at the dragon’s head, hoping to decapitate it. The blade ripped through some of dragon’s scalp, but didn’t manage to cut deeper. The spiked horns the Kushala had on its head were holding off the sword. Grahm put more strength into his arms, but the dragon’s skin proved too strong for his Greatsword. The Kushala Opened its mouth wide and a blast of ice and wind hit Grahm at point blank, sending him flying some meters back, still holding the blade in his hand. All his senses turned cold. His body became tattered in ice. The cold crept into the far reaches of his soul.
“Ugh… I keep doing these stupid mistakes over and over again… It’s a wonder I’ve managed to stay alive until now. Damn, if I die here then I won’t… be able to keep that promise… I made with her…”
The day Grahm met with that girl he would become best friends with for the next thirteen years of his life, he was running around the plains of Minegarde looking out for any signs of raptors in the area. He heard the other kids at the orphanage talk about this blue lizard thing called a Velociprey that had a really beautiful orange crest on its head. The thing’s supposed to be hiding somewhere outside old Kincaid’s ranch. He decided the crest much talked about would make a good gift for Henna, a girl he was having a bit of a crush on. Of course, never having seen one meant that the boy didn’t know heads or tails about it, besides the fact that it’s called a Velociprey and that it’s blue. He was confident he would be able to find one and pluck its crest off. He brought Patch’s small knife with him, having seen the hunter use it to cut off a Kelbi’s meat a time or two.
“Aww, I’ve been walking around for hours! There’s nothing out here, not even Felynes to play with.” he thought aloud, stopping to rest on top of a large boulder. “It’s too hot today. I can’t stay out here for too long. If I get a fever again Mrs. Tinny will kill me… Alright then, let’s set off. Another round behind the tall grass and then it’s time to go back.” he thought aloud some more, since there was nobody else with him. He really wanted for his three friends to join along on his “expedition”, but they weren’t allowed to leave the orphanage by Mrs. Tinny, the caretaker, because they had fed exciteshrooms to the Aptonoth in town the day before. They were told to stay inside and read their books for the day. Grahm felt sorry for them. He jumped down from the boulder and started walking towards the tall grass.
Within moments he spotted something blue behind the grass. A huge smile appeared on his face. Even though he was extremely excited at that point he knew not to be too loud. Patch, the veteran hunter who visited them every week taught them a few important things to keep in mind when you go out into the open.
“It’s a dangerous place out there. Huge, scary monsters hide out everywhere, even under rocks. You’ve got to keep your eyes wide open all the time. And it’s not very smart to make a lot of noise, too. They’ll come at you like bees to honey.” the old man would say, a friendly smile on his face. Grahm liked him very much. Whenever Patch would come to visit the children he’d always brought treats with him. Grahm once told Patch that he wanted to become a hunter just like him one day, to which Patch smiled and told him that life had many, many other things in store for him, and that he should first explore every one of them.
Those words were pretty dense for a 6 year-old boy, but Grahm was a step ahead of his peers at that time. He understood them clearly.
Grahm crouched down, reminding himself that Patch’s knife was in his left pocket. He didn’t want to use it unless it was really necessary. Because of this he’d doubt he would make a good hunter from time to time. When he finally got close, he sent his hand out to grab what he thought was the thing’s tail.
“Got your tail! Ehh… huh?” the boy paused, finding it strange for whatever he was holding in his hands to have a strange, wood-like texture. “You’re made of wood? That can’t be right!” he remarked, standing up straight to look at the thing. What he was holding was indeed a tail, but it was a wooden tail made from wooden grips connected to one another by rope. The tail belonged to wooden Kirin cart, complete with light blue paint on the surface, with darker blue stripes. He’d never seen something like it before, and was wondering what the thing was doing out here in the plains, with no one else around.
“I wonder who it belongs to. Looks fun to ride.” Grahm commented.
“It belongs to me.” said a girl’s voice.
“Ehh…? Who’s there?” Grahm looked around, startled. All he could see were tall grass and a tree’s trunk.
“Up here, in the tree.” said the voice. Grahm turned around and looked up. A girl about his age was sitting atop one of the branches, waving her feet in the air. The girl had long white hair that flowed down past her shoulders.
“That hair you have… Your parents don’t tie them up for you?” he asked. Tying up a girl’s hair was something of a norm in Minegarde. Girls with braids and ponytails were very common in town. Now that he’d think of it, she was the first girl he’d seen with flowing hair.
“Hmm…? What do you mean?” she asked back, a puzzled look on her face.
“I thought all the girls in town had to tie their hair up?”
“…I didn’t know that. I haven’t been around for long.”
“You’ve just moved here?”
“Well, how do you like Minegarde? The name can be hard to say, huh?”
“It’s not bad.”
“What are you doing up there, anyway…?”
“… A big red monster just flew past in the sky a few minutes ago. That’s why I hid up here in this tree.” she said, her knees pulled up to her chest. Grahm’s expression quickly changed.
“Wha- What?! Crap!” Grahm looked around anxiously. “We can’t stay out here in the open! We have to get back to town!”
“…I don’t want to. It’s too dangerous right now. ”
“What do you mean by that?! It’s even more dangerous to stay out here!” Grahm looked at the girl. She hid her face behind her knees. She trembled a bit, even though her face remained unnatural.
“Then maybe you shouldn’t have come here. You have to go back, now.”
“But… but I can’t leave you here alone!”
“…” the girl kept silent, looking straight at Grahm. He looked back at her. Behind the unperturbed look on her face, he saw something different in the girl’s eyes. Grahm sighed, lowering his head.
“Okay, what’s your name?” Grahm raised his head to look at her again. She wouldn’t answer, at first, but then her voice started to leave her mouth.
“…Jias. It’s Jias.”
“Well, Jias… You don’t need to be scared. As long as I’m with you, I’ll protect you, okay? That’s a promise.” Grahm grabbed the wooden cart by the tail. “C’mon, we should head back to town. I’ll pull your cart for you.”
“…No.” the girl said, jumping down onto the grass.
“I can pull it myself.”
5) Pokke Village, Finally!
Grahm remained still on the snow, silent. The dragon had turned away, being able to smell another being nearby, the wyvern professor. Suddenly, it stopped. It could sense the hunter’s breathing. It cocked its head and let out another spiraling burst of wind. Seconds from being hit, Grahm rolled out of harm’s way. Blood can be seen flowing down his chin again. In his hand he had a bottle of cleanser that was near to being empty.
"There's... no way you're... killing... me." he said, pouring what was left of the liquid onto his stiff left shoulder and throwing it onto the snow. He charged towards the dragon, which had spread out its wings to its sides, pushing them down. Grahm drew his Buster blade and swung it from his right, but the blade missed as the dragon was now airborne. It flicked its tail at him, but instead of rolling away he grabbed at the tail with one hand, holding on to his Greatsword with his other hand as best as he can. The dragon was clearly startled by this. It began to screech and wail, rising high in the air far above the mountain trail and thrashing in circles and making sharp, sudden turns and rolls trying to shake the hunter off. But Grahm held on to its tail as if his life depended on it. Maybe it did - there was a good chance he’d fall and miss the mountain trail a short way below, instead getting chewed up by the rocks far beneath. And then there's the possibility of him falling - and landing directly on top of Jias. His heart ached at the heinous thought.
"GODDAMN HELL!" his veins began to course with blood. His grip on the dragon’s tail tightened, Grahm used the forces of gravity and momentum to pull at the dragon's tail and threw it towards the mountain trail. The dragon screeched, shocked. Its body crashed into the white snow. "Not done yet!" Grahm thought. The dragon opened its eye to see the hunter in the air above it, readying his massive Buster Blade with both his hands. Putting it above his shoulder, he unleashed all his strength into the downward swing that came after. The force was strong enough to cut through part of the dragon's webbings, through the metallic skin, and finally, into a section of its spine and hind leg. The Kushala screeched in pain. His sword, the edge of the blade now bloodied and blunt, slid out across the dragon's grey scales and fell onto the snow. Grahm dragged the Greatsword across the snow and pulled it up, backing up to distance himself from the dragon.
“Had… enough…?” Grahm mocked the dragon amidst heavy breathing. The elder dragon staggered to its feet. The hind leg where Grahm had struck upon is now a palette of grey and red. Blood flowed along the scales down onto the snow below. His powerful rive had weakened the dragon greatly. It struggled and forced itself to turn facing Grahm, its wound continuing to bleed profusely. Adhering to an elder dragon’s instincts, it would have to flee. But the Kushala knew that its fate had been sealed the instant Grahm’s sword cut into its spine. If it does not die from an encounter with other hunters afterwards, it would die from either falling onto the earth in mid-flight of from starvation. The damage in its spine would soon paralyze it. Before its life ended, the dragon sought to kill Grahm, the human responsible for its demise to come.
“This is it… It’s either it or me. The final…” Grahm felt the last remnant of his strength leaving him. “Not… now!” he cursed, falling to his knees. His Greatsword pierced the earth. The pair of hands left its hilt. Grahm looked down at his stomach. His Mafumofu suit was stained red from the blood streaming out of the wounds on his body. “When… when could it have…” he realized the wounds were helical, spiraling wounds that surround a point. It was from the dragon’s wind beam. The beam was of such force that at point-blank it had managed to rip off part of the skin of his stomach through the hole made earlier. Grahm’s body slumped forward, falling face first, as his eyes began to close.
“Is this the end…? It can’t be. I promised to protect her. In the end I wasn’t able to protect anyone. I’m sorry, Jias… professor…” his senses began to disappear, the last thing he heard and felt to be the Kushala Daora’s roar, and the deathly cold encroaching onto his skin.
- - - - - - - - - - -
“…Look, you need your rest, Jias. I’ll watch over him for the night. You need to get your sleep.” his hearing picked up a voice speaking.
“…Jias…?” Grahm mumbled at the mention of the girl’s name. His senses were coming back to him. Warmth
“Grahm…? Grahm, wake up! Open your eyes!” as if following her word, Grahm opened his eyes to see Jias, bandages on her face, in front of him. Tears started to swell in her eyes. Jias put her arms around Grahm, and for the first time in what seemed like an eternity, Grahm felt warmth.
- - - - - - - - - - -
The morning proved to be too chilly even for the chief herself. But she nonetheless stepped onto the edge of the village, in front of the massive chunk of machalite ore that paved the foundation for Pokke. She stirred up the small fire, as she had done so on every single day for the past few years, to keep the machalite from getting too cold and turning brittle. It was a symbol that represented the village and its time of glory, after all. As she pondered the thought of whether the next village chief to succeed her would be able to commit to such a mundane task, she noticed the young man that arrived at the village gates a few nights past, in a bloody heap, walking up the path that led to the residential area of the village.
“Well, looks like you’re all fixed up! That was unbelievably quick, seeing as you were in quite a bloody heap two nights ago. When I heard that some hunters had fallen at the village gates, I was so shocked!”
“Yeah, well, the medicine these days make it hard for people to die in the middle of a village.” the young man joked.
“What were you doing down there? Surveying your post-to-be, hmm?”
“Nah, I was looking for you. See, the same old man that suggested for me to make my way here… he’s got a letter for you.”
“Oh, that old Hero of Kokoto? Can you please hand it over to me, thank you.” she grabbed the white envelop from the young man’s hand. “My… Treshi would be so pleased to have word from one of our dearest old friends…” she read a portion of the letter, stopping when the young man started to walk away towards the north gates. “Hoho… where would you be headed for now… Uakshi…?”
“Erk… Well, I thought I’d take a walk around the village ends, and, err… and do a few stretches…”
“Uh huh, and by ‘stretches’ you mean your ‘free hunts’, ehrm?”
“…Crap, how the hell did you know?”
“Wisdom comes with age. Now, to tell the truth, I don’t really mind these ‘free hunts’ you young’uns have these days, but I do have a favor to ask of you right now.”
Meanwhile, inside the hunters’ boarding house, Grahm sat up in his bed, peeling off a thick bandage he had on his left arm. The cut underneath the bandage had healed, leaving behind only a barely noticeable scar. He couldn’t believe how badly beat up he was.
“Hey! Stop messing around with those wounds of yours, or they’ll burst back right open!” shouted a voice. He looked to his left to see Jias having come out of the kitchen with a bowl in her hands.
“Oh! What a treat, to have my very own personal chef.” he joked, grinning.
“Sure! My fee is 15,000 zennies per hour!” she joked back, putting the bowl of soup on the bed tray.
“Thanks for the soup, Jias. It sure smells good. What is it?” asked Grahm, picking up the small wooden spoon on the tray.
“Pepipo pumpkin soup.”
“What? Are you kidding me?! My favorite! I didn’t even know they had pepipo pumpkins here!”
“Dunno, it was pretty stocked back there in the kitchen. I even saw something that looked like a lopped-off miniature Plesioth’s head… haha…” Grahm looked at her with an empty face, bits of cooked pumpkin falling from his mouth. “Oops, sorry, didn’t remember you were eating.”
“No, not that, where’s… your bowl?” he pointed the soup spoon in his at her.
“Me…? Ah, I already ate a few hours ago. Not to worry.” she smiled at him. Grahm looked at her. Her head and left eye were encased in bandages. Her long white hair flowed down from under the bandages. There were numerous scratches on her face. The fall had done serious damage. “Is there something on my face?” she flustered.
“No, no… Maybe it was because I’m too happy to have woken up here, in Pokke, and to have felt like it was all just a dream, that Elder Dragon. And to know that both you and the old professor to be safe… I forgot to ask about it before, but what happened? Who was it that saved us? When I fell onto the snow, it felt like I’d reached the ending of my story. At that time all I could wish for was that you and the old professor to be safe.” Grahm said, placing his spoon down into the bowl.
“…Grahm… I don’t really know what actually happened, but all I know is that if it wasn’t for you, we might not be here, right now. Both the old man and I thank you.”
“Jias… Thanks.” he started to smile again.
“Well, looks like you’ve recovered greatly. But I think its best you take it slow for now.” spoke a voice.
“Huh?” the two turned to see a middle-aged man standing by the door. He folded down the hood that had been covering his head,
“Who’re you?” asked Grahm.
“Hey there, the name’s Mauve. The village chief wants to meet you two at the guild hall.”
6) An Anteka on the Wall
"So, this is Pokke's gathering hall." Grahm remarked, entering through the doors with Jias held by his shoulder, into a large wooden hall containing numerous wooden chairs and tables. At one corner was a bar, whilst at another lay a sort of stall with strange objects ranging from a giant tusk to mushrooms. In front of them, stood a row of four counters. They were all empty. At the end of the row was a large billboard with the head of something propped on the wall above it. On the right of the billboard was a small stall they'd knew too well. But it, too, was empty. "Where is everyone?"
"It's the winterous season right now, according to the Pokke calendar. The temperature up here can go down to the lowest possible. The village wakes up later than on other seasons" Mauve stated, entering behind them.
"It's okay, Grahm. I can walk by myself." said Jias, walking forward. "See?"
"I'm thankful, that your legs didn't really break when you fell."
"It really did feel like they snapped, but... If that was true they couldn't have healed so quickly, huh?"
"You both should take a seat. The chief will be here shortly." Mauve thought, turning away from them. "Her legs really did break from the fall down the edge... And the wound on his body was enough to have him stay in bed for a full week." He remembered the conversation he had with the head medic.
"It's not possible, actually, but they'll be up and running again in a few days. No doubt about it. There's only one medicine in the entire region with enough potency to recreate the damaged tissue at such scale and speed. Lifepowder, and generous amounts of it too." she said,
"It's an extremely tedious job to get your hands on even a small pouch of those things. They could fetch a fortune in any market. Who could have been able to spare that much amount of Lifepowder?"
"Here's the strange thing, I only found effects of the powder on three out of the four you found in front of the village gate."
"Huh...? Then wouldn't that mean..."
"Yup, the fourth may have been the one."
"The one with the messy hair..."
Even he, a hunter for 20 years, had only wielded Lifepowder a few times along his career. Only a small amount. This lad had Lifepowder with him, enough for use on three individuals.
"Who the hell could he be...?" thought Mauve.
"Hey, Mauve." spoke Jias.
"What is it?"
"What's that?" she pointed at the animal head above the billboard.
"10, 000 zennies says it's a Kelbidrome." said Grahm.
"Well then, lad, you just lost 10, 000 zennies to the girl. Because that is an anteka. The oldest one Pokke has had on its farms for decades."
"You owe me 10 grand in zennies." grinned Jias.
"Yeah, like that's gonna happen." replied Grahm.
"I see you two are already well in the joints. That's good, it means you can start your duties as soon as the other hunting groups get settled down." an old wyverian lady came through the doors with a young lady and another wyverian following behind.
"Good morning, ladies." greeted Mauve. "Chief, here are the two replacement hunters hailing from Minegarde."
"Welcome, young'uns, to the Pokke Village of Furahiya Mountains. I am Paku, the chief of this village. Can you believe an old lady like me can be the village chief!? Haha!" she started to laugh.
"Hello, chief. I am Grahm, and this is Jias." Grahm said, motioning to the girl sitting beside him.
"I believe an introduction is in order. You've met Mauve, correct? The young lass behind me is Becky, high representative of the Guild."
"Hi! I'm looking forward to working with you guys!" the girl in yellow dress waved her hand at them, smiling sweetly.
"The tall wyverian lady is the Guild Master of this gathering hall, Pokke branch." the chief motioned to the wyverian in purple.
"Umm, I'm not really that tall... Uhh, hello. My name is Orana." she scratched the side of her face.
"Hey there, was I late for the get-to-know part of the day?" spoke a woman clad in white who walked in from the other entrance of the hall, at the back.
"Not at all... Jias, Grahm, meet Rain, head medic and a scout of our village."
"Scout? That must be why your outfit's all white, huh?" noted Grahm.
"Yep, for camouflaging reasons. You're a sharp one, aren't you? You must be Grahm. And you're Jias?"
"Hello." Jias greeted her.
"So, Rain, what is the status of Kabar's balloon? Have you found it yet?"
"Yes, chief, that is another reason I came back. We found the hot air balloon lying on a part of the mountain's peak. Tale, Damien and Treshi have it in tow. They should return in an hour or so."
"Good... what of the hunting party from Loc Lac...?" the chief asked as Rain stopped at one the tables and takes off her cap. She was silent.
"...We couldn't find them as of yet. They might have taken another path through the mountain, most probably the path from Frei Village."
"...That is not clouded by doubt, but..."
"Wait, you spoke of a hot air balloon? The professor's balloon?" asked Jias.
"Yes." Rain replied.
"How is he? The professor?" Jias asked.
"He's fine. Due to his age, he's still resting. But all his wounds have healed completely. I noticed that somebody sealed up his wounds before I did. Was it you?" the head medic placed her cap onto the table.
"Huh...? Well, yeah..."
"Then I thank you. If it wasn't for you, he might not have made it. You can come visit him when he's up and awake."
"It's... not much, really..."
"Youre quite the medic, huh, Jias?" asked Grahm, nudging her in the side.
"Ow! Hey, cut it out!" she said, her face all red.
"I just remembered something. Mauve, have you told them, how they came to the village?" the chief asked, turning to the middle-aged man.
"...No, not yet. I figured it'd be best to tell them once their savior is with us... Where is he, that boy? The one with the messy hair?"
"You mean Uakshi? I ran into him at the lakeside farm some time ago." Becky spoke up.
"Wait, savior? Someone saved us back then?" asked Grahm.
"I guess I should've told you a small fraction of my story..." said Jias.
"Do tell us, dear." said the chief.
"You see, Grahm, after I fell from the edge, when you stood your ground, against that dragon, I looked around in the snow, for my rucksack. I caught hold of something, but it turned out to be someone's head. Or, rather, hat. A Mafumofu hat. I turned him over, and saw that his face was yet to turn pale. I continued to look around for my ruck sack, and I found it. I heard the dragon roar, and the bottle of Hot Drink I had in my hand fell onto the snow and broke. I'd thought of letting him drink it, since his body feels cold even though he was wearing a Mafumofu suit. His suit was probably damaged. Then I realized I was starting to feel cold. My Mafumofu suit... was damaged from the fall. It's was probably the same for him, too. He must've fallen down the edge as well. I started to lose balance. I knew I was about to fall unconcious any time now. But the thought that you're still fighting, Grahm, gave me strength. I rummaged through my rucksack, hoping I could combine to make something. That's when I heard a faint voice. It was the man. He said "I don't... need Hot Drinks.". I tried to talk to him, but my voice got weaker. When he said "Got any... meat?", I looked through my inventory with the last bits of strength I had. The stabbing pain in my legs started to sap my remaining strength, and I fell, with the steak I found still in my hand. That's... all I can remember. The next time I woke up, I was in a tent, here in Pokke, with you, lying on the bed beside me."
"... You couldn't remember anything between being on the muntain and waking up here?" asked the chief.
"Not even one bit, sorry..."
"All I could recall before I went down was fighting the Kushala Daora. I could've driven it off, but I failed at the last minute." Grahm said, turning to Jias.
"Well, I should tell my side of the story, then." spoke Mauve. "Not to be poetic or anything, but the curtain of night had fallen on the mountains, and the village. Since the hunters that were to replace me have yet to arrive, and the scouts had just returned from their own task, I donned my armor and told the chief I would be moving out to look for Kabar whose balloon hasn't returned yet. I walked out of the north-western gate. I had only reached a few feet from the gate when I stumbled onto Uakshi, lying on the dirt path, bloodied. On each shoulder he had one of you, while on his back he carried old Kabar. He wasn't concious. I called for the guards, and we carried every one of you into village. I moved out, to look for Kabar's balloon. Instead, I found a dead Elder Dragon."
"Huh?!" Grahm's eyes widened.
"That's right, the elder dragon is dead." Mauve continued, noticing Grahm's reaction.
"Grahm... you managed to kill the Kushala...?" asked Jias.
"No, I fell unconcious before I could."
"Tell me, boy, did you have a poisoned knife on you?"
"No, no I didn't..."
"When I inspected the dead dragon, I found purple liquid seeping from its wounds."
"It was Uakshi." said Rain. "His weapon... it was a Greatsword. Made from the black skin of Remobras. The blades inside dripped of dark purple poison. It was called the Deadly Serpentblade, I think."
"Amazing, even for a student of Hakai..." thought chief Paku.
"Where is he now?! We haven't even met him!" Jias stood up.
"True, true, we shouldn't be talking of him behind his back. Where is he, actually? Chief." Mauve crossed his arms and turned to the village chief.
"Back up on the Snowy Mountains. I asked of him an urgent favor."
7) Chief Paku's Favor...?
In the distance Uakshi could see a number of men heaving the Kushala's carcass onto the wooden cart they'd brought with them. Even at such a distance, he could see sunlight glinting off the silvery scales of the elder dragon.
"What the hell was its name again...?" he thought. Two days ago, when he'd climbed up onto the mountain trail only to find it lying on the snow, dead, he couldn't determine what the creature was. Only after waking up in Pokke, and going through a conversation with the retired hunter down there, did he find out that it was an elder dragon. Still, he couldn't catch the name. "I'm sure it was 'Dora something'. I'll just ask the old guy when I get back. Better hurry, those clouds don't look good." he thought to himself, but looked on at the men down below, as if also telling them to hurry. Clouds were starting to gather above the mountain.
He wasn't very familiar with the Snowy Mountains of Furahiya, but he'd noted the clouds that darkened the mountains during his first trek through. He first saw the clouds when he stood at the entrance to Inaba village, the closest neighboring settlement to Pokke besides Frei village. It wasn't very long into his journey that snow started to pellet the earth rapidly. Though, what made that particular trek an unforgettable one for him was what came after.
He remembered it clearly. The bodies of dead animals lay before him. Even the cold air didn't repel the stench of blood. He walked past a few of them, when he came onto one of them that had its side completely ripped off; the entrails were on the snow, and its rib cages stuck out, reddened with fresh blood. He heard a faint, but noticeable growl. He looked up to see a strange creature perched on one of the cliffs. It dropped down, sending small tremors that shook the snow beneath his feet. It feigned bites, its eyes glaring at the hunter before it. Uakshi's expression at that time was a simple “What the hell is that?”
He's never seen one before. He knew it was a wyvern, and not an elder dragon, though. It had orange-yellow skin, paired with blue stripes. The head was large, around the size of a Rathalos' own. Its arms were long and thick, contrasting a Rathalos' lack of arms. Wings sprout from under its arms, connecting to the sides of its body. The claws were hard not to notice. It growled at Uakshi, taunting him. Out of instinct, the hunter drew his Greatsword.
He backed away to gain distance, anticipating the wyvern to attack, when he realized that he stood at the edge of the mountain. When he turned around the wyvern was already charging towards him. Although he managed to block, the force sent him flying over the edge, into the white abyss below.
The next thing he saw after that was the white-haired chick’s face. He almost thought she was lacking of hair; her hair blended in with the background.
Uakshi had been knocked over, trampled on, and sent flying many, many times in his life. Those didn't faze him. But the thought being thrown down a whole mountain (again) made him uneasy.
"Quick way to descend the mountain, but still…" he thought, pulling up the cloth covering the lower part of his face when snow started to fall heavily. One time, a part of the path he walked on chipped off, almost sending him for another trip down the mountain.
“Damn, the shoulders still feel like hell.” he thought, thinking of the conversation he had with Chief Paku.
“Another team of hunters from Loc-Lac were to have arrived here at the breaking of dawn. But, as you can see, they haven’t.” the elderly wyverian said earlier in the village, poking at the bonfire with her walking stick.
“What’s the matter, boy? Heard of it?”
“Yes, so I’m up to speed about it. Now, back to business, how do you know they haven’t climbed the mountain yet?”
“No, no. They’ve ascended the mountains. I received confirmation from Frei Village on that matter, so doubts are cast out.”
“And you want me to...?”
“Let me finish. The snowstorms of the mountain have yet to subside, even though the dragon is dead. This might hinder them from finding the right path to this village. I only need you to find them and lead them towards the village. Simple job for a young man like you, yes?”
“…You do realize I just came back from the edge of life and death a day ago, right?”
“Alright then. Hand me a map and I'll be on my way.”
That was how the lad found himself on another trip up the mountain. He didn’t really matter though. It gave him the chance to explore the snowy mountains, and meet hands on the creatures around. He was also able to try and find out what could have did the deed.
“That dragon… Sure, it was hurt, but still, it got taken down in one hit…” thought Uakshi. “What was it? Elder Dragons aren’t supposed to die so easily. That has to be it… all white.”
He could hear growling from behind him. Turning around, his mind went blank.
“Crap…” in front of him stood something he never thought would see in this kind of environment. Four white raptors with icy blue crests. “You gotta be kidding me… You guys follow me even to the ends of the earth, don’t you? Velociprey!” Uakshi drew his carving knife. “Now, which one of you wants to make my armor?” he readied to face the bluish white creatures.
They leaped from one spot to another, taunting him. They screeched and growled, and looked at one another from time to time. Keeping a distance from Uakshi, the raptors remain wary, observing him and leaping away to keep a safe distance. Uakshi stood ground. In Kokoto these raptors were common, along with their brother species. Just then a thought crossed him. Could they also be another different kind? Their coloration is different.
“It doesn’t matter. Because if you look that close to your buddies, then it’s a safe bet…” Uakshi spun the hilt of his knife to hold it backhand and pivoted his body, thrusting the knife behind him. The blade ripped into the neck of one of them that was behind him, causing it to go limp. The white creature had crept up on him from behind, about to knock and pin him to the ground, a move raptors use often. Uakshi spun a full circle with the dead lizard’s scaled neck in his grip and threw its body at the other white Velociprey. “…you use the same old tricks. Well, I guess that wasn’t a bet anymore, huh?” he remarked, wiping his carving knife free of its blood. Leaping over the corpse of its kin one of the white Velociprey lunged at Uakshi with its claws readied. He threw his carving knife straight at another, still taunting him, before freeing his black greatsword from its harnesses and swinging it front. The vicious blades released dug into the creature’s chest, killing it instantly.
His carving knife had missed, but the raptor that leaped to the side just in time became his next kill nonetheless. Rolling with his greatsword’s blade held in the air, he pulled at the hilt and sent the venomous blades ripping into its side. Purple and red stained the snow. The remaining two looked at one another before leaping at the same time towards Uakshi. He stuck his greatsword in the snow and spun another full circle to kick one of them on its stomach. He catches the other raptor in the neck and slammed it onto the snow. The one he kicked ran off after having crashed onto a rock face. He looked at it run off into the distance before turning his attention back to the white raptor in his grip. It squirmed to set itself free, clawing at the sleeves of his Mafumofu desperately. Uakshi released its neck, and it stumbled to its feet, fleeing in an instant.
“Visibility’s gone down way low already. Crap, won’t be long before the cold gets to me.” Uakshi thought. He didn’t bother getting his suit fixed up after damaging it from the fall. He dragged his greatsword behind him, walking slowly towards the knife on the ground. He picked it up and unsheathed it. After a few minutes spent cleaning the blood on his greatsword so that it doesn’t affect the flow of poison he begins to move up towards the mountain’s peak.
This was where he was aiming for before coming up the mountain. If the hunters came from the northwest, they’d pass the peak to get to the other side of the mountain, where Pokke village is. He looked around for any form of shelter, but found nothing. That was when he saw it. Another group of white Velociprey in the distance. They seemed to be biting at something with their beaks. Uakshi could make out a piece of wood one had in its jaws, which it threw away.
“They’re trying to reach for something?” thought Uakshi, running towards them. He yelled to gain their attention before letting out a roar of his own, which, with his sword raised high, looked like a Diablos charging to the raptors. The small creatures scattered down the mountain, looking back once or twice in fear. Feeling triumphant with his little trick, Uakshi kept his sword. He turned around to view the mound of wood and snow that lay before him. “…Remains of a camp.” he thought, kneeling down. Something glinted amidst the snow, which took his attention. A pair of glasses was buried underneath a broken plank. When he reached for it, his thumb felt the surface of something smooth underneath the snow. He parted the snow, and to his disbelief, it was a hand. Turned cold by the layer of snow that blanketed it, Uakshi wasn’t able to feel any life within.
“Damn! So those things wanted to have you for a snack!” he thought, wiping the snow away and pulling the hand out. He was met with the cold, unmoving body of a young female wyverian. Her hair was a light golden, tied at the back into a ponytail. Uakshi recognized her as a wyverian when he spotted her long pointed ears. Her body felt cold, but she was yet to pale. Checking her pulse yielded nothing at first, but after some time Uakshi could feel a weak pulse. He heaved her over his shoulder. There wasn’t much time to waste. “Her outfit seems light… “ he thought, observing her clothes. They were a mixture of a red sleeveless outfit with lines and a dark grey skirt worn underneath something of a long coat in grey. Nothing covered her legs except for a pair of dark grey shoes on her feet. “No doubt about it, the outfit was worn for warm, maybe even hot areas. Loc-Lac…” he thought. “Just hang on for a while, we’ll make it down the mountain.” he spoke to her, as if anticipating a response.
At that very moment a loud roar echoed from within the mountain. Uakshi ignored it.
“Today’s your lucky day, mate...” he thought, turning around and running down the mountain path.
8) A Pleasant Misunderstanding
All the girl could feel were the cold. Once in a while, in what felt like forever, she would raise her head to see her friends walking in front of her. The first two or three times she would just drop her head again and just lay there, her body all cold. But the fourth time... they turned. Her friends turned around to look at her and smiled. That's when she would feel warm again, and pull herself up. The moment she stood straight up, her friends were gone. There was only darkness around her. She felt wind blowing past her. She turned around. In the distance, two glowing eyes stared at her. She walked closer, to see what it was, only to regret doing so the next moment. In front of her, the dragon beckoned.
"You can't be here..." she could hear herself speak. The dragon roared, and she closed her eyes.
- - - - - - - - - - -
Callade could feel someone tugging at her clothes. Her half-opened eyes couldn't recognize where she was at the moment. Not so long after she realized she was sitting up on a mat spread on the ground. Her eyes opened wide when she could feel a pair of hands pulling at her outfit. She looked over her shoulder to see a messy-haired man trying to undress her. Uakshi froze when he saw a pair of big red eyes looking straight at him.
"What...what are you..." her face started to grow into an expression of anger, fear, and disgust.
"Oh... Oh crap... Wait, wait, it's not like what it seems to be..."
"YOU… YOU BASTARD! LET GO OF ME!" she blasted, tearing herself away from him. She rolled and knelt down before turning around to face him.
"Wait, let me explain first!" Uakshi stood up and took a step forward.
"What's there to explain? Pervert! I'm warning you, stay away from me!" Callade yelled again, her hand reaching for the carving knife she strapped onto her hip. "Huh...? Where... where'd my knife go?!" she searched her waist.
"Trust me, it's not anywhere on you. I took it off along and put it with a few more of your items there." the man pointed with his thumb at a group of items placed at the foot of a tree behind him. Callade could see her personal rucksack, her travelling rucksack, a few items of hers along with a few of her books and her knife. Placed standing against the tree was what she wanted to see the most. "Now would you just listen to me?!"
"...I guess..." she spoke in a low voice, but just as the right moment came, she stood up and sprinted towards her belongings. Before she could even run past the man, however, the side of her body suddenly ached. If not for the man's left arm catching her neck, she would've fell and hit her head on the ground.
"Damn it! I only tried to get you out of those clothes of yours because I wanted to save you from freezing your ass over! If I'd known you wanted to kill yourself by smashing your skull on the ground I wouldn't have needed to try and take them off!" Uakshi yelled, pushing her forward with his arm. Callade landed on her back harmlessly. She sat up, having heard what the man in front of her said. "What's with that outfit of yours, anyway? Shouldn't you be wearing something that gives you more... coverage? Since you're, you know, headed for the goddamn Snowy Mountains?!"
"...That's what you'd think. This Professor S set has a few nice tricks up its sleeves, you know! It expels any excess heat quickly when I need it to, but it also keeps my body heat inside whenever I travel to cold areas. In this case, this Snowy Mountain!" she stood up straight. "Basically, what that means is that what you're saying isn't...ah... ah... ahchoo!" she sneezed.
"...You were saying...?" said Uakshi, crossing his arms.
"Argh! That... that was just a cold wind passing my nose! You... uhh..." she fell down, kneeling. "What... the...? It's... It's... freezing... " Callade hugged herself. "Darn... my Professor S... it's damaged! The temperate... functions are all... dead...!"
"...Come on, get your ass near that fire. Take off that outfit, or the heat won't get to your body." Uakshi said, pointing at the campfire. She was reluctant, but in the end took off her armor anyway, leaving her clad only in her underclothes. Her armor was soaked. The snow that had covered her armor before had melted. She sat down in front of the fire and placed her armor beside her.
"Yeesh, if only I'd... visited the Tundra more often... hah..." shaking from the cold, she blew into her arms to make them warm again.
"Here, this should help." Uakshi threw a folded blanket at her, which she caught without any trouble.
"...Tha...Thanks." Callade stammered, partly because of her being embarrassed. "That's... better..." she said, covering herself with the thick material. "Ahh..."
"Should've brought with me a few hot drinks, you look terrible..." Uakshi said, sitting down on the other side of the campfire.
"Gee, thanks for the update..." she replied sarcastically. The wyverian girl examined her hair, feeling that it was pretty soaked as well.
"Worried over your ears?" Uakshi asked, seeing her examine her long pointy ears next.
"Well, if even you humans suffer from your stubby ears freezing and falling off, think about how we wyverians feel." she raised a part of the blanket to cover her ears.
"Heh, you won't need to worry about that soon. It' been some time since I lit that flare... The hot air balloon to Pokke should be here any time now."
"...Pokke...? Pokke Village...?" she suddenly turned pale. "Oh... oh god..."
"I... I remember everything now..." her face turned to a shade of deathly pale. "You! You found me on that mountain, didn't you?"
"...Yeah..." he replied in a low voice, knowing where this was headed for.
"Did you find anyone else beside me?" she looked straight at him.
"...I'm sorry, but..." Uakshi took out a medium-length blade from his rucksack and held it in front of her. "...this was all I could find." he said, handing it over to her. She held the black sword in her hands. The blade she recognized to be one of the Insector blades, and she knew the person that once wielded such pair of dual swords. "I've gone back to where I found you more than twice, to get a hold of your things... and hoping to find somebody else in the snow. There was nobody else..." said Uakshi.
"...Yuda..." the sword fell to the ground. The girl planted her face into her palms and started to cry. Uakshi sighed. He'd hoped to reveal finding the blade only after they were back in Pokke, because he knew that the wyverian girl would break down in tears because of it. But the look on her face when she asked drove the truth right out of him. He searched high and low for traces of other people, but he was able to find nothing. “We… we… were moving down the mountain’s peak when… we heard the sound of ice cracking and breaking some distance behind us. That was when we saw… it…”
“I couldn’t figure out what it was, the storm… the snowstorm made it even worse, I couldn’t see it clearly… But I heard Rowan shout… “It’s big!” was what he said…” she said in between sobs. Uakshi let her continue. “It… it was all white… Its body was white…” she wiped her eyes with her hand. Hearing this, Uakshi snapped inside.
“White?! All white?!” he thought. “What happened next?” he asked the girl.
“It didn’t… didn’t give us time… It shot some kind of beam at our group… All of us were blasted away… I managed to block with my… my bowgun, and I landed on something soft, maybe it was the snow… Before I could get up I realized I couldn’t move at all… then snow fell on top of me, and blacked me out…”
“How many of them were there, your friends?” Uakshi said, his face indifferent, but deep inside, he was wroth.
“…A full team, there were four of us… me, Yuda, Rowan, and Glenn.”
“You hailed from Loc-Lac City?”
“…Yes… how did you know?”
“I was sent here… to find you and your friends…” he said, putting his palm to his face. After a moment of thought he opened his eyes. The girl was still crying, albeit softer. He wasn’t good at comforting, but she needed what everyone would need once in a while; a word of hope. “If the beam that hit you guys sent you flying, then I’ll bet the same thing happened to your friends as well. They’re probably still out there, resting. Wouldn’t you believe it, I fell from the peak all the way to the foot one time, and I’m still walking. If everyone on your team had fancy armor like yours I doubt they’ll fare worse from a fall than me in this suit, eh?” he said, grinning at her.
The girl didn’t reply, but wiped her face free of tears soon after. For the next few minutes neither of them spoke, their minds busy thinking. Unbeknownst to either of them, they were thinking the same thing.
“Nya! Hey, you two down there!” spoke a felyne‘s voice. The two looked up to see a hot air balloon hovering above the trees. A small felyne poked its head out of the basket, looking at them through the pair of goggles it had on.
“Don’t tell me you’re the only one manning that thing?” shouted Uakshi.
“Afraid so, nya! Come on up to the clearing, we’re about to land, nya!” the felyne shouted, going back into the basket. The hot air balloon careened off into the upper part of the base camp.
“Well, that’s one amazing cat. Come on… uhh… I never even got to ask your name.” Uakshi said, standing up.
“My name’s Callade.” the girl replied.
“Callade, eh? I’m Uakshi.”
“…Uakshi....” said Callade, putting on her Professor S.
“Yeah, I know, it’s that weird of a name. Your name’s not too bad, though.” replied Uakshi. The two gathered their things. Callade had trouble carrying her large travelling rucksack because of her aching side, so Uakshi grabbed it and slung it over his shoulder. He looked on as she strapped her ammunition canister to her waist and picked up her silver heavy bowgun. Her side ached again when she picked it up, but she didn’t show it.
“Ready to go?” asked Uakshi, putting out the campfire.
“…Yeah.” she replied. The two walked up to the opening on the higher part of the base camp. The hot air balloon had already landed. The felyne from before was standing beside the entrance, waiting for them.
“The winds are good! Looks like the blizzard has kicked out, nya!”
“Alright then… Little guy, make sure she gets to the village.” said Uakshi, walking up to the hot air balloon and throwing Callade’s travelling rucksack into the hot air balloon’s basket. “Come on, get into the basket.” he turned to Callade. “When you get to Pokke, tell the chief everything that’s happened, okay?”
“Wait… aren’t you going back too?” she asked, noticing his tone.
“I’m going out again, to look for your mates.” he said, turning around and walking slowly towards the lower part of the base camp. “I’ll be sure to return this sword to you friend. Yuda, was it?” he said to her, showing Callade the Insector in his hand. With her left hand Callade took hold of the blade.
“No... That’s not going to happen. I’m handing it over to her myself. I’m going back out with you.” she smiled with confidence.
“Hmm, fine.” he let go of the Insector, smiling back at her.
“Nya? You won’t be going to the village?” asked the felyne, already about to leave.
“Sorry, mate. You’ll have to go back without us. I need you to do something else for me, alright?” replied Uakshi.
“Sure, nya! I’ll tell the chief you guys are going up the mountain again, nya!”
“Thanks.” Uakshi said, turning around. He walked down the path towards the base camp with Callade following behind as the hot air balloon rose into the air.
“You sure the little guy’ll be fine on his own?” asked Callade, turning around to look at the hot air balloon moving in the distance.
“He’ll be fine. I think you’d better be worried about yourself instead. If you black out again I’ll be dragging you by the legs all the way here.” Uakshi grinned at her back, letting go of the Insector.
“Fine with me.” she replied, placing the sword between the harnesses of her bowgun. “I’ll do the same to you, got it?”
“Haha… you might need these.” he reached into his Mafumofu suit. “I found it where I found you. Thought about putting them back on you earlier so that we could’ve avoided… what happened… Guess I should’ve listened to myself back then, huh?” he pulled out a pair of glasses and handed it to Callade.
“Thanks. Not just for this, but for saving me.” she said, putting them on.
“Twice.” said Uakshi.
“…Yeah, twice. You’re not very humble, are you?”
9) Her Book of Friends
“This was the spot where I found you, and after that, your things.” Uakshi said, standing before a pile of broken wood and torn cloth, most of them half buried in snow. Callade, who was following behind, came to a stop beside him, breathing heavily. She was worn out from trekking up the mountain, even though she had taken the supplies necessary to climbing the mountain beforehand.
“This is the remains of a camp…?” she knelt down to examine the spot. “I see… so that’s why landing didn’t hurt me at all… The snow and cloth combined to make a mound that cushioned my fall…”
“You did block the beam of whatever attacked your group, right?” Uakshi asked, keeping view of their surroundings. The snowstorm had subsided, making it easier to see.
“…At the last second, yes. But since the fall didn’t weaken me at the least, the beam must’ve been what caused me to go numb at the end. “ Callade replied, running her hands through the debris.
“ What kind of beam was it? Electrical?”
“I’m… not sure… Now that you’ve mentioned it, I’m not even sure it was a beam. Everything happened so fast. Whatever it was though, it went through my bowgun and wrecked my armor completely.” she said, picking up a small pink sphere from inside a tattered basket.
“Huh… Hey, we should get a move on.”
“Wait for just a bit… I want to see if there’s anything left in here.” she said, rummaging her hands through the blanket of snow covering the camp’s remains. Feeling that there was nothing else that was of value, she pulled her hand out of the snow when she felt something. It was edged and rectangular in shape, and was a bit small in size. “No way… could it be…? Oh yes! Yes!” she yelled with glee, holding the book she found close to her chest.
“Huh…? What’d you find?” asked Uakshi, looking over his shoulder.
“Uhh… nothing, really. Just… just my hunting journal.” she looked at him, holding her diary closer to her chest, hoping Uakshi wouldn’t see it.
“…You mean your diary?”
“It is NOT a diary! It’s my hunting journal!”
“Well, if you say so. C’mon, we should start looking at the peak. In this clear weather it’s the one place to go if you’re looking for Pokke village. Or any other village, for that matter.”
“Right, I’m behind you all the way.” she said, tucking her diary into her rucksack. Uakshi’s eye was able to spot the dark blue book just moments before she kept it away from sight. At first he couldn’t understand how she was able to act all gleeful like that, considering her friends were nowhere to be found. But then he realized her face; how it was a mixture of sadness and hope. He became clear of it.
“If… things were to go differently… It’s the only thing she has to feel close to her friends now… She’s probably written a lot about them in there. Memories…” he thought.
“Is anything the matter?” Callade asked him, noticing Uakshi looking off into space.
“Huh? Oh, nothing. It was nothing.” he turned around, passing a quick glance at Callade’s rucksack, and started walking away, leaving footprints in the snow. “Behind me all the way, got it? Don’t trip or anything.” he said without turning to Callade.
“Got it.” she replied. Callade followed behind, making sure she was at a safe distance from the edge. She thought about how Uakshi passed a look at her rucksack. “Did he saw right through me?” she thought. “No, I can’t show him how depressed I am. I need to stay firm. I need to hold on to his words of hope.” she thought, tightening her focus. “Wait for me, guys. I’m coming.”
The pair made their way across the snow-covered opening and marched up the path towards the peak. Even though they haven’t come close to the peak yet, Callade was already able to see the truth behind Uakshi’s words. She was able to behold the green lands beyond the snow-covered forests far below the mountains and look off into the farther areas of Minegarde.
“Just wait till we reach the peak. Even with clouds over my head I was able to see Kokoto in the distance. If anybody wanted to find Pokke, they’d come here. “ remarked Uakshi.
“…Kokoto? Is that the name of a village?” Callade asked, turning to look at him.
“Yup. “ he stepped onto a higher ledge at the side to walk out of Callade’s way.
“Is it your home village?” she asked, minding her foot.
“I… guess it’s like that. Well, here we are. And… there’s… nothing here. Damn.” said Uakshi.
“There’s something else we can do, now that we’re at the peak…” Callade walked towards the edge. “I should be able to see something from up here…” she looked down, at other parts of the mountain below. Her eye caught sight of something moving inside a tall ravine. “Wait… that’s it! That’s what ambushed us!” she yelled, kneeling down on the edge and pointing at a white blur moving into the ground. “Hey, hurry! There’s the thing that… “
“Get the hell out of there!” Uakshi yelled, running towards her. Callade realized the edge she was sitting was breaking off.
“Oh shoot!” she cursed, readying herself to jump off when it broke off sooner than she’d expected. Fortunately, though, Uakshi caught hold of her bowgun harness, and pulled her onto stable ground. “Well, that was stupid… Sorry about that.”
“Nah, it was your rotten luck is all. Where you knelt down on was the thinnest spot, just between two thick edges. “ Uakshi said, examining the cavity. Callade noticed white blurs moving around them.
“…My rotten luck!” Callade yelled. “What are those?!”
Uakshi turns around to see a group of white apes moving out to surround them. They jumped up and down, giving out an angry grumbling. Some of them screeched and bared their fangs. They stood on all four legs, jumping to the sides in an attempt to disorient and quell the prey before them.
“Damn, they look hungry.” Uakshi drew his greatsword.
“I can see that myself…” said Callade, arming her heavy bowgun.
One of them immediately struck out at Callade, which she rolled away from in opposition. She nailed the beast in the back of its head with the barrel of her bowgun and took aim at a different one. Kneeling down with one foot on the stunned monkey she’d hit before Callade began to fire first-level pellet shots rapidly, hoping she manages to hit more than one of the monkeys. Uakshi turned slowly to view the monkeys on his side, his hand kept on the hilt of his Serpentblade throughout every moment. They lunged, one after another, three of them altogether. Uakshi drew his blade and executed a horizontal slash, cutting the first and sending it thrown to the left. With his blade at the side he kicked the next in the face and slammed it with the side of his sword. It slumped into the snow, whilst the third ape leapt over it to claw into Uakshi. Readying his next move, he spotted a fourth and a fifth coming from his sides. The thought that these monkeys had the ability to plan amazed him.
Uakshi rolled forward, under the third monkey. Just seconds after he came to a halt the three monkeys ran into each other, balling up into a mess.
“Well, maybe they didn’t plan that…” he thought, sprinting towards another white monkey. Callade alternated between firing her bowgun and rolling to evade the monkeys. Her side still stung with pain, making it hard once in a while to keep turning and evading. Sensing their prey’s movement’s become increasingly sluggish, the monkeys leapt out at her at the same time, from multiple angles. Grinning, she rolled away at the last second. The monkeys touched down to see a small white sphere hitting the ground in front of them. The sphere burst into a flash of light, blinding them. Her bowgun clicked, and she unleashed a third-level crag shot at the group. The shell exploded and killed the entire group. Callade sighed with relief, glad that her number of injuries didn’t worsen.
She looked over to Uakshi, who was holding one of them in the air, by the neck. The monkey growled at Uakshi, even trying to reach him with its fangs and bite his face off. Uakshi just looked it in the eye, and then let go of its neck. The monkey fell onto the snow with a muffled thud, snarled at him, and ran off. He pulled his greatsword out of the ground, took out a piece of cloth and began to wipe the blood away.
“How’re you feeling?” he asked Callade, without looking at her. “Your body still sore?”
“Only the side.” she placed her hand on the left side of her body, which was bandaged underneath her armor. She flicked at her bowgun and it folded at the center. Its silvery surface reflected sunlight, gaining Uakshi’s attention. “I’ve never seen this kind of animal before… Is it a Pelagus?” she thought, peeling off its pelt with her knife. She walked towards each of them, carving off their pelts and plucking off their claws.
“Well that makes two of us.” said Uakshi, putting the cloth away.
“You’ve never seen these things before?”
“Nope. I’m not from around these parts.” he said, standing up and sheathing his greatsword. He walked towards the edge and looked down. “What did you saw just now?”
“Something moving into the ground, down there.” she pointed down towards the ravine. “It was a tail, fully white. I can’t be mistaken, that was what attacked my friends and me.”
“If it sees us up here things won’t go well… We should get outta here.” said Uakshi.
“Wait! Down there… there’s something hanging on the rock face!” she pointed at a clearing far in the distance. Uakshi squinted to get a better view but still found it hard to make out what it was. “It’s… it’s a piece of cloth… It’s Glenn’s rucksack!” she started to dart for the path down the mountain.
“Whoa, cool it. How were you able to see something so far off?” Uakshi said, running down the mountain a close distance behind her.
“Ever since I was a child I had good, maybe even telescopic eyesight.”
“Then why the hell do you wear glasses?” asked Uakshi, running up to her left.
“It further enhances my sight, kinda like a magnifying glass and a binocular mixed together.”
“Tch, where the hell did you get all these weird stuff? Your outfit, your bowgun, even your glasses.”
“Maybe I’ll tell you my story later… If you would tell me yours.“ she replied.
“Anyway, how did you know it was your friend’s rucksack?”
“It was dyed a dark blue in color... I recognized it immediately.”
Callade checked the map Uakshi gave her earlier, and ran into a tunnel, with Uakshi following closely. The two came out on the other side of the mountain, running into a group of large animals with tusks. Vespoids buzzed in the sky above them as Callade and Uakshi ran past the tusked animals, feeling that they were of no harm. When Callade stopped running so did Uakshi. In front of them, on a jagged rock face, hung a torn-open rucksack. She got close and took it off the rock face. She looked around her, but was unable to see traces of anyone in the area.
Uakshi took out his signaling whistle and wiped the snow off it. The signaling whistle is an instrument hunters keep on themselves almost all the time. With her having fallen into the snow before, and the minuscule size of the whistle, Callade had lost it. These whistles emit a sound within a frequency only a keen human or wyverian ear could hear. The distance is quite far, but still limited. It is used to signal to other humans and wyverians in the vicinity, but it is known to attract the attention of lynians as well, like the Felynes.
He blew into the whistle, his eyes kept open, looking for any movement in the area. Callade waited, her heart pounding, hoping someone would come out of their hiding place nearby. In her ears, everything turned to silence. The silence pressed on for minutes, her eyes moving from one spot to another, trying to catch every single thing that moved in her field of vision. Then the silence was broken. Snow fell from the ledge above. But the two remained the only life in the area. Callade closed her eyes, sighing in frustration and despair. Feeling tired beyond her limits, she felt a hand on her shoulder. She turned to see Uakshi giving her a comforting smile, as if telling her not to give up and to go on. He was not very far a stranger to her, but his presence felt comforting. A friend she never knew she had. His words of hope gave her strength; strength to go on with a spirit full of light. Like her tutor had taught her before, strength comes not from despair. Callade returned his smile.
Suddenly the smile in front of her disappeared in an instant. Uakshi’s body was thrown into the air, smashing into the rock face beside the tunnel. Not being able to get a grip on what had just happened, she noticed streams of purple and red liquid flowing down his chest. On his chest were five large holes that bore through his white suit, the holes ridden of blood and poison. He grunted, coughing out a large amount of blood from his mouth.
“Uakshi!” she yelled. Uakshi cursed himself for being unable to move. His chest and his spine had gone numb.
“...Callade, get out of there NOW!”
10) The White Spiked Wyvern
A gust of wind blew the wyverian girl off her feet. But applying the acrobatic moves she had been taught by her tutor back at Loc-Lac, Callade was able to get a grip on the ground and anchor herself, her armor's long coat billowing in the wind. Anticipating a Barioth to strike downwards by instinct, she jumped to her left and was met with a hard white wing membrane smashing into her face. She was thrown a few meters back, slumping into the snow. Her glasses fell off. Getting up to her knees Callade wiped the blood flowing down her nose. A pearl white wyvern came crashing down on the snow in front of her. It landing its talons sent out small tremors that shook Uakshi, still unable to move, from the wall. He slumped to the ground with his back still against the wall.
"White... White Espinas?!" Callade uttered. "It's supposed to live only in the Frontier Archipelago... What's it doing here...?" she reached out to grab her glasses lying on the snow. She clutched her shoulder with pain, realizing the armor there had been slice open and her shoulder had been cut. "Must've been the thorns on its wing... Neither of us are in any condition to fight. We have to flee." she thought.
The wyvern, keeping its sight on Callade, let out a snarl and swung its massive tail at her. She was fast enough to grab her bowgun and place it in between her and the tail, but the shock was still painful, especially to her wounded shoulder. The Espinas turned around quick, and sent down its jaws to clamp Callade. Again, she put her bowgun in front of her, and the monster clamped the weapon in between its jaws. Callade turned her attention to the single Insector sword strapped to the harness.
She didn't need to have done it though, as the next moment Uakshi and his greatsword came swinging towards the wyvern's face and crippled its eyes with one of the serrated blades inside. In incredible pain the Espinas doubled over, letting go of Callade's bowgun, and collapsed on its back. It screeched and howled for its destroyed eye, tinged with a hint of poison from Uakshi’s sword.
Not wasting any time, Uakshi grabbed the girl by her long coat and flung her on top of his shoulder, while with his other hand he kept back his Deadly Serpentblade.
"What the hell are you doing?!" Callade remarked in confusion
"Hauling your ass out of here, what does it seem like?!" Uakshi replied in a tired voice, beginning to run towards the tunnel.
"Did you think I needed saving? You're the one who's got holes on the chest!"
"Better safe than sorry with that useless armor of yours!"
"Wha- Oh crap... Jump right, Uakshi, right!"
"Jump right, NOW!"
"ARRGGGHHHHHH!!!!" Uakshi pooled all of his remaining strength and did as told, jumping onto the field on lower ground to his left. Just as the two were falling in mid-air Uakshi sees the Espinas ramming its horn into the rock wall beside the tunnel. If he hadn’t jumped out of the way he and Callade would've been made human shish kebabs. But then he remembered that Callade was a wyverian, so it probably would've been a human-wyverian shish kebab special. "Gah!" sounded Uakshi as he was snapped out of his delusions from hitting the cold hard ground.
"Uakshi, hey, you alright?" Callade immediately got up and went to his aid. The snow around them was littered by spots of red and purple, and her Professor S was also stained with his blood. The Espinas on the ground above had lodged its horn too deep into the wall. It struggled as best as it can to release itself. Callade saw chance. She immediately grabbed her stock of life crystals and was about to grind it with the wyvern claw when Uakshi placed his hand over hers.
"I don't need any of those things... Save it for someone else."
"We're both not very well... A batch of lifepowder’s the best thing to use right now..."
"Yeah...? You should've done it beforehand, then... It takes too long to finish grinding those crystals..."
"No! I've watched closely how some people do it. If you turn it just right... you... should halve the... Argh!" she dropped the wyvern claw and clutched her shoulder. The wound was deeper than she'd thought.
"Ugh... Why don't you quit killing yourself and use this?" Uakshi reached into his waist and pulled out a satchel. "Emergency lifepowder rations, hehe... I'm gonna need your help scattering them all over us since I can't really reach your head lying down like this."
“You could’ve pulled that out earlier, you know…”
“Hehe… I needed to wait for one of us to get busted up first… Looks like I came up the winner…” Uakshi held his hand up, the satchel in his grip. Callade took the satchel. Up on higher ground, the White Espinas continued to thrash until the horn it took pride in was finally freed from the wall. In the process it caused the wall to crumble and the tunnel to collapse. By the time the wyvern searched its surroundings for its two preys Callade had already unfurled the satchel and was sprinkling the white glistening powder on Uakshi and herself. Within seconds Uakshi could feel the wounds on his chest close up. It was almost like magic, he thought. “I’ll never get used to it.” he pulled out the cloth he used to wipe the blood off his Deadly Serpentblade and used it to wipe the blood off his Mafumofu suit.
Callade had the same effect. She felt the wound on her shoulder and didn’t wince upon touching it.
“So what you’re saying is, the beating I got from before you saved me doesn’t count as getting ‘busted up’?” she said, picking up her bowgun.
“Nope. It was just a tiny scratch, and I knew you were gonna wake up soon anyway.” Uakshi replied, rising to his feet.
“You’re still poisoned, right?”
“That’s never stopped me before. I don’t see any reason for it to stop me now.”
“You’re fucking crazy…” Callade said under her breath.
“Did I just hear you swear? Haha! I actually thought you were a goody-two shoes just now.” Uakshi chuckled, heaving his greatsword on his shoulder. The wyvern finally spots them two and let out a thunderous roar. “Let’s save the chit-chat for later… The thing just took out our only exit.” Uakshi said, motioning to Callade the collapsed tunnel.
“So I guess we’ll have to fight it then…”
“Yup… Good news though, its horn is crooked.” Uakshi remarked, going into battle stance. “A few more hits and it should break off.”
The Espinas backed up and charged towards them, leaping when it was near the edge. It landed down with a tremor and skidded, missing Uakshi and Callade as the two roll away in opposite directions. Kicking at the ground, Uakshi broke into a sprint towards its head. The White Espinas lashed its right wing to claw him, but Uakshi ran underneath the wing and released his greatsword when he was in front of its head. He brought the black sword down with great strength, cutting off bits of the Espinas’ horn, causing it to stagger. Pulling his sword to his left he swung the blades towards its fangs and cut off one or two of its teeth. With its gums bleeding the wyvern spun around to strike Uakshi down with its tail, like it had done before.
“You got me before by surprise, bastard. It’s not going to happen again.” Uakshi remarked, ducking underneath the spiked tail. Its tail was a powerful weapon, he thought. It literally bored holes through his chest. It was by damn good chance that he’d thought of taking the last mound of lifepowder he had before heading up the mountain.
As the wyvern missed trying to hit Uakshi with its tail it felt a sharp, slightly numbing object pierce its forehead. It staggered and screeched, its tail slamming onto the snow as it staggered.
“Cut it off, Uakshi!” yelled Callade, firing more paralyze shots at the White Espinas’ forehead. Uakshi, who had rolled to the side before the tail could come down on him, raised his sword, and, just as the wyvern was about to lift its tail, sent his black greatsword smashing down onto the spiked shell covering the tail. But he couldn’t sever it. His sword’s sharpness had gone way low. Only now did he recall not sharpening it ever since he arrived in Inaba Village.
Struggling unsuccessfully to push the serrated blades of his greatsword into the shell, the monster flicked its tail in retaliation to the sword on his tail and sent Uakshi falling on his back. Callade went into kneeling position and kept on firing paralyze shots at its head in rapid succession.
“It’s got good resistance to status ailments, huh… But if its body is full of poison then it must be more vulnerable to paralyzing toxins.” she thought, reloading her heavy bowgun. She resumed firing at high speed, knowing that Uakshi would cover her.
Suddenly, the White Espinas flew up into the air with its wings spread out. The winds from its ascent disrupted Uakshi, trying to get to his feet. It hovered in the air above the two hunters, immediately raising its head as if to blast a fireball. Callade noticed this and was about to act when she realized it growling in a weak voice and shook its head multiple times, as if unable to create a fireball. Then she realized something else. Its body was covered in bruises and wounds all over. It couldn’t have been Uakshi’s or her attacks. On a lower part of its chest is a large wound that was covered in thick frostbite. It was shaped like a short line.
“It’s badly wounded… I get it! The Espinas and its subspecies are all supposed to be passive wyverns unless provoked or injured. It must’ve fought something else before it attacked us, and got weakened. In that case, could it have viewed us as food?” she thought.
At that very moment Uakshi and Callade could hear a pair of voices from somewhere above.
“Hey, you can’t do that kind of thing! You’re going to kill yourself! Wait, stop! Jias!” shouted a male voice. “It’s not even a day since you got out of bed! Your legs, think about your legs!”
“Just watch me!” shouted a female’s voice.
“What the…?” thought Callade.
“Jias…?” thought Uakshi.
Looking up, the two could see a figure jumping off a ledge high above, towards the wyvern hovering in the air. The figure landed directly on top of the wyvern, causing it to screech and howl, before plummeting towards the earth. Uakshi rolled to his side as quickly as he can, and barely got out from under the wyvern as it crashed into the snow. Clouds of powder snow covered the area. When it subsided, Uakshi got to his feet. In front of him, Jias knelt on the snow, her back facing the collapsed wyvern, her hand rubbing her helmless head.
“Ouch… That shook my skull pretty hard…” she remarked, holding a blood-covered carving knife in her other hand.
A massive Buster Blade fell down soon after, sticking into the earth near Callade. It nearly made her heart stop. A rope fell down from the ledge above and Grahm came sliding down the wall as fast as he could.
“I told you it was a bad idea. I had the ropes with me, for gods’ sake!” he said, landing his feet onto the snow.
“Going down that way was too slow. Plus, it hurt the wyvern pretty badly.” she replied, motioning at the White Espinas behind her with her thumb, grinning. As if her words tempted fate somehow, the wyvern let out a loud roar and spun to its feet almost immediately after she finished. Uakshi covered his ears at the roar, along with everyone else, but couldn’t resist saying it after the roar died down;
“You were saying…?”