A crescent moon hung in the sky above the Military Bastion. It was close to midnight, and the lights in the Arena Terra's barracks were still burning bright. The gang, plus Bronton and Hydra, had gathered for a hearty meal, and were delightfully eating and chatting together.
"So, Kiem," started Taahnn. "Have you heard the one about the fisherman, the Lagiacrus, and the bucket of bait?" Taka looked up slightly as Taahnn began the joke. He had spent half the night in silence, contemplating the death of the Qurupeco and simply staring at the dried blood on his Longsword, Guan. That victory hadn't made him feel proud or elated - in fact, he didn't even know what to feel. Bronton, after tending the wounds of Mylie and Hornt, had congratulated him on being the one to kill the first monster. But Taka hadn't wanted to kill it. It had just... happened.
"Dumb luck," snorted Hornt. "If that Qurupeco hadn't caught me off guard, I'd have been the one to have bloodied my weapon." Taka glared in response. Illeera, who sat beside him, retorted, "With whose blood? The Qurupeco's or yours?" Taka managed a small chuckle at this and his face brightened slightly.
Ryka rested her head on Kread's shoulder. "Did you see how bravely he used that Greatsword?" she gushed over him, and kissed him on the cheek. Taka, feeling a little better, pretended to vomit into his soup. Several people laughed at this. Bronton turned to Taka and said, "You know, ... Taka, was it? Well, that Guan Dao of yours, it's kind of coincidental that you chose it." Taka, as well as Illeera and Relcia, turned their heads, their eyes seeming to ask, "Why?"
Bronton took the Longsword from Taka's hands and held it up a little bit so that it caught the light of the candles they had lit. "This weapon... used to be your mother's, my friend." Taka actually flinched with surprise. He had never known that his mother had been a hunter. He had been told of the heroic exploits of his father and his Sieglinde Greatsword, but never his mother and, apparently, the Guan Dao he now owned. Illeera looked at him, something like awe on her face. Relcia simply smiled, as if she knew how he felt.
Taking his weapon from Bronton, Taka stared at it again, seeing it in a whole new light. My mother used this, he thought. And that means many more monsters met their end at the sharp edge of this blade. Somehow, he felt sick. He put it away, not wanting to dwell on these feelings.
"Do you think the Qurupeco liked your armor set?" asked Relcia jokingly, laughing a little. Taka laughed as well, then straightened up and raised his spoon to an imaginary enemy. "Hey, Qurupeco!" he exclaimed. "Like my armor set? I made it with the skin of your mother!" The entire table roared at this. Relcia perhaps laughed the hardest, making Taka blush slightly.
Bronton and Hydra both yawned suddenly, getting up from the table. "Alright, trainees," said Bronton, when the gales had subsided. "You should be getting to bed. We've got another big day tommorow, now that you've passed your first test. Tommorow, the training will begin in earnest!" He left, and Hydra followed, saying, "I'm looking forward to seeing you train again, rookies." She then closed the door behind her.
Hornt stretched his arms while yawning loudly. "I don't know about you chumps," he said. "But I need to be well rested for when I dazzle everyone in the arena tommorow." Mylie gazed at him in something like admiration. Taahnn whispered to Taka, "I think Mylie's already dazzled." Grinning, Taka got up and went to the furthest bed from the door. Taking off his armor and placing it neatly on the floor, he crawled in and curled up like a sleeping Leviathan.
As everyone else got in bed as well, Taka, fast asleep, didn't notice Relcia mutter a good-night and blow him a kiss.
"Welcome back to the Arena Terra, trainees!" shouted Bronton. The group, having eaten a good breakfast and equipped their armor, were standing outside of the main gates into the Arena Terra. "Since today marks the beginning of your official training, we have a few things to go over." With that, the trainer passed out small bundles to each of the young friends.
Unwrapping his, Taka counted two First-Aid Meds, two Rations, and three Stormsender Seeds. Everyone else found the same things in their bundles. "From now on," said Bronton. "I'll be giving you your own items that will be necessary for the day's fight. As time goes on and you become more seasoned, you'll have to find or make these items by yourselves. Understood?"
Everyone nodded as one. "Excellent!" Bronton boomed. "Now, you hunters need to be able to fight on many different kinds of terrain. You'll see that the Arena Terra takes the shape of a different kind of environment than yesterday. This one took me all night. I'm exhausted." Yawning a little, Bronton opened the gates and allowed the group to enter.
Illeera gasped and Kread blinked in surprise. The arena was built into a ruin-like area, with demolished buildings and old artifacts littering the ground. The terrain was rough and uneven, and there were many boulders placed around the arena. The trainees had barely enough time to look around before Bronton threw a lever and one of the cages opened.With a shrill scream, a hawk-like Bird Wyvern charged out of the darkness, wings flapping. It was a greyish yellow color, with brown feathers covering its head and hip joints. Huge feathers rose from its back, and more feathers were located on the fringes of its wings. Ryka yelled across to Mylie, "What is that thing?" Taka, overhearing this, shouted to her, "I think its called a Bruteon - a monster only found here in the Central World! They like to use Thunder-element attacks, and are powerful enough to prey on Bullfango!"
Taka drew Guan from his sheath, and Kiem readied his Lance. Hornt, who had learned from his earlier mistake, took his Devil's Advocate in hand, but didn't use it just yet. Relcia and Ryka drew their swords, while Mylie loaded Pierce Shots into her Agnablaster.
The Bruteon considered for a moment which hunter looked the biggest threat and decided on Kread. Rising into the air, it rapidly flew forward, kicking out at him with a talon. Before he could block with his Greatsword, Kread was knocked to the ground, a deep slash in his side. Ryka cried out at the sight of his wound, running forward with her Shadow Saber drawn and her shield at the ready. The Bird Wyvern's eyes narrowed at the sight of her running toward it.
Screeching, the Bruteon leapt at Ryka, forcefully bringing its thick beak down toward her. Blocking with her shield, Ryka grunted as the impact jarred her arm and threw her off balance. Another peck narrowly missed and allowed her to make a single slash in the beast's leg with her sword. The Gigginox venom carried in the weapon started to seep into the wound.
Injured, outnumbered, and poisoned, the Bruteon began to fluff up its back feathers. The fluffy edges rubbed against each other, causing static electricity. Small shocks shot out from the feathers, striking Ryka and Kiem, who had been creeping up to attack with his Rugged Lance. Kiem blocked the charge with his great shield he also carried.The Bird Wyvern wasn't done yet, and turned to Taka. Taka dodged its peck and sliced its side with Guan Dao. He stabbed it in the leg, causing it to topple, then swung his sword upwards, causing another wound. Now the Bruteon was in danger of bleeding to death. However, this came with a downside - all of the poison flowing in its bloodstream emptied, making the Bruteon healthy again.
Hornt, as the Bruteon righted itself, whacked it in the beak with his Hammer. The Bird Wyvern shrieked, then brushed its wings together. The feathers on the edges of its wings rubbed against each other, causing a massive blast of electricity to strike Hornt. The shock was so strong, Hornt was instantly paralyzed.
Chewing a Stormsender Seed, which nullifyed the Thunderblight status she had attained, Ryka attacked again with her sword, but was intercepted by a powerful tail whip, driving the air from her lungs. Relcia took advantage of the distraction and executed a spinning attack with her Raven Tessen, creating multiple slashes in the Bird Wyvern's sides.
Mylie strafed the monster with Pierce Shots, shot from her Bowgun. Reloading, she didn't realize that she was in front of a cage door until Bronton opened it. A second Bruteon flew from it, plowing into Mylie and momentarily stunning her. Taka caught sight of the second monster and shook his head wearily.
The uneven terrain caused Taahnn and Kread, who were trying to run from the first Bruteon, to trip over their own feet. The Bruteon lashed out with its tail, swatting Taahnn aside and leaving Kread vulnerable, his previous wound still bleeding. Relcia saw the Bruteon's beak coming down toward Kread and threw one of her Dual Swords at the creature's head, the bladed edge sticking to it and causing it to shriek in pain. Eyes burning in rage, it released the electric charge that it had built up, causing small lightning bolts to crackle around it.
Kread caught the charge dead-on, and Relcia barely escaped it. Hornt, who had recovered from his paralysis and had attempted to charge the monster, was caught in the blast as well and was thrown back. Taka took the second the Bird Wyvern took to recover and slashed at it twice, ripping its wing membrane. Kiem struck his Lance home, right into the monster's brain.
The second Bruteon, who had been trying to hammer Mylie with its beak, heard its companion's dying screech and instantly ran at Kiem, who didn't raise his shield in time and was struck by the monster's tackle. Taahnn swung his Basarios Rock, catching it on the head and stunning it, causing it to fall. Mylie peppered it with Pierce Shots, causing it to bleed from several dozen minute wounds.
Getting up, the Bruteon shrieked in pain and anger and rose into the air, slashing with its talon. Illeera, who had been trying to keep her distance with her Sonic Bow, was hit in the arm, causing her to scream and drop her Bow. Her arm hung limply at her side, severely cut and red with blood. Angry now, Taka swung his Longsword, slicing the monster's head, then its wing. Ryka jumped in, giving the Bird Wyvern four quick wounds. Now fatally poisoned, the Bruteon fell and writhed in agony. Hornt bashed the Bruteon with the Devil's Advocate, and Taka sliced open its belly, causing its innards to spill onto the arena floor. The Bird Wyvern chirped in pain, then went still.
"Good work!" bellowed Bronton from his high vantage, clapping loudly. Hydra joined in, exclaiming, "That was wonderful! Two Bruteons almost at once! Simply masterful." Taka, dumbstruck, looked at the creature he had, in his anger, blindly slain. The smell of its intestines, now starting to bake in the arena's sunlight, made him gag.
Hydra and Bronton helped Illeera and Kread to their feet and led them away, blood still dripping from their wounds. Relcia approached Taka, resting her arm on his shoulder. "You were amazing with that Longsword," she complimented him. "No surprise - it was your mother's, after all." Taka smiled at the compliment. "You weren't so bad with those Raven Tessen yourself," he said. "That spinning attack you did earlier... Amazing." Relcia smiled also and walked away, pulling her sword out of the dead Bruteon's head.
Soon, everyone had left except Taka. From the exit, he gazed out at the two slain Bruteon. For some reason, he felt pity, which escalated into sadness. His eyes blurred with tears as he thought of the poor creatures, brought to the Arena Terra to be slaughtered by a new generation of hunters. Why am I thinking this? Taka asked himself. I'm going to be a hunter. I shouldn't feel sad for the creatures that I kill. What's happening to me?
To be Continued...