It was the early afternoon in the Military Bastion. The group had been given a full day's rest after the hectic Bruteon battle, and were now preparing for a new monster hunt. However, things weren't exactly calm in the barracks as the friends got their items in order. Taahnn and Hornt were fighting, and were almost ready to tear each other apart.
Taka remembered what had happened just a few minutes ago. Hornt had severely criticized Taahnn's Hunting Horn, the Basarios Rock, saying that is was a wimpy weapon that only focused on supporting from the sidelines instead of all-out brawling like his Hammer, the Devil's Advocate.
Taahnn probably would have let it go if it weren't for his next criticizement, which was about his choice of armor. "Bone armor is almost as wimpy as Leather armor," Hornt had said. "It isn't sturdy enough to withstand an attack from a Yian Kut-Ku, and it doesn't even cover your whole body! There are simply too many open spots for monsters to exploit."
It had went on and on, and now Taahnn looked ready to explode with fury. "Excuse me, Hornt, but if you want to criticize someone, let it be yourself. You chose VESPOID armor, for God's sake. One good bite from a monster with sharp enough teeth and you're history!" Hornt swelled up with anger and pride. "Yeah, but I'm so good at this hunting business, I don't even NEED armor. I could take on any monster with my bare hands alone!"
Taka laughed shrilly. "Please! A simple Qurupeco broke one of your ribs, as I recall. I really wouldn't be so cocky!" Hornt turned on Taka, arm reaching for the handle of his weapon. "Stay out of this, wimp, or facing monsters in the arena will be the least of your worries!" Kiem also faced Taka. The Blangonga armor he wore made him look fearsome. "Yeah... What he said!" he yelled, unable to think of anything better to say.
Taahnn thrust his face into Hornt's. "Fine. When you go up against a monster that your Hammer can't defeat, I'll show you how REAL hunting's done!" Mylie leapt to Hornt's defense. "How could you say that?" she said furiously. "Hornt is the best at hunting! He's trained to be a hunter even before we came here!" Illeera silently put a restraining hand on Mylie's shoulder, indicating that she should stay out of the fight.
By now, Taahnn and Hornt were looking daggers at each other. When Bronton walked in, he seemed to look shocked, despite his Uragaan helm covering his face. "Whoa, what's going on here, rookies?" he asked, somewhat concerned. Kread told him, "Hornt made fun of Taahnn's choice of equipment."
Bronton shook his head in disbelief. "That's all? That's what's making him fire up like that?" Taka joined the conversation. "You don't know Taahnn," he cautioned. "A Diablos's temper has nothing on his." Taahnn shouted, "I heard that, you idiot!" Sighing, Taka thought, Even I could think of better insults.
Hydra, who had been right behind Bronton, suddenly walked in. "Alright, folks. Break it up. Save that cavalier attitude for the monster you're going to be fighting." Growling, Taahnn picked up his Hunting Horn and slung it over his shoulder. Walking out of the door past the two fledged hunters, he left behind a room full of concerned and annoyed faces.
"Today's lesson is about strategy," instructed Bronton. "The monster you are about to face uses the environment to its advantage. You have to stop it from using the terrain as much as possible!" With that, he handed out two First-Aid Meds, three Whetstones, and three Antidotes to each trainee. They added them to their already healthy amount of supplies.
Walking into the Arena Terra behind their trainer, the group was shocked to see that the arena had changed again, this time to a peaceful, slightly forested plain. A small river ran the length of the arena, and grass blew softly in the wind that had picked up. "How did you get the arena like this?" asked Illeera, who was the closest behind Bronton. "One hell of a lot of work, sister," he replied.
While Bronton made his way toward his usual perch, the group prepared for battle. Eating a Ration to increase his stamina, Taka made a face at the taste and sharpened Guan Dao with a Whetstone, as it had gotten quite dull from the two earlier fights. Everyone else did the same, more or less - Mylie loaded Flaming ammo into her Agnablaster and Kiem took a Dash Juice, which would ensure endless stamina for a few minutes.Then, the time for preparing was over, as the gate opened and a huge Brute Wyvern stomped out of its cage. The head crest and plated back gave its identity away - a Barroth. Taka paused. Barroth weren't purple, were they? Then, his heart sank - this was not a true Barroth, but a relative, a Lavender Barroth. Readying Guan, he shouted to his comrades, "Don't let it reach the water! Don't let it step in the river!" Kiem charged with his Rugged Lance held straight in front of him, thrusting it into the Lavender Barroth's side at the last minute. The beast cringed in pain, then focused its attention on Illeera, who was frantically dipping her arrows in Power Coating.
"Illeera! Watch out!" Mylie screamed, and Illeera looked up at the Barroth. It pointed its head at the ground, then barrelled toward her, earth flying everywhere as its head crest dug into the ground as it charged. Illeera, luckily, made it a second before it would have slammed into her. She responded with a flurry of arrows, the Power Coating covering them giving them a stinging edge.
Taka slashed at it with Guan, now at its full sharpness, carving a deep wound in its leg. The Lavender Barroth's nostrils started to steam as it bellowed, the sound making Taka reflexively cover his ears. It turned toward him, then crashed its head into the ground. Taka barely dodged and nearly ran into Kread, who had assumed a defensive stance between the Barroth and the river.
Noticing Kread as well, the Lavender Barroth charged, careening into his Siegmund as it tried to knock him aside. Despite the sheer force of the Barroth's tackle, Kread somehow hung on, pushing with his Greatsword with all of his might, trying to keep the Barroth from reaching the stream behind him.
Relcia slashed again and again at its left leg, hoping to catch it off balance. Ryka tried to aim for the tail, but her Shadow Saber was too short to reach it. Eventually, Kread gave up, loosening his hold on the Siegmund as the Barroth pushed into him with its crest, flinging him to the ground and sending his massive sword flying into the air.
Desperately trying to distract it, Mylie poured Flaming ammo into its legs and flanks, causing great bursts of flame where they struck. But the shots had hardly any effect - Lavender Barroths were resistant to the Fire element. Growling contentedly, the Lavender Barroth rolled onto its back in the water, seeming to almost play in the stream as it rolled over and over.
When it got back up, it was a vastly different creature than before. Its poisonous sweat had mixed with the river water, forming thick armor made of toxic sludge. The Barroth roared triumphantly, knowing that the puny hunters wouldn't be able to pierce its new armor. Now, it swung its tail, catching Relcia in the stomach and flinging her the length of the arena.
Taka's eyes blazed with anger at the sight. Growling almost like the Barroth, he swung his Longsword, slicing through its leg. When it retaliated by swinging its heavy head, he dodged and slashed at the tail, cleaving through the bone and severing it with a loud *Crack!* The Barroth roared in agony, slipping and falling to the ground.
Kread slowly got up in response to the sound of its tail snapping off and drank two of his First-Aid Meds, which began to slowly heal his wounds. Relcia also got up painfully, eating a Ration in order to give her more stamina. The two began to surround the Barroth, joined by Ryka, Taahnn, and Hornt.
Looking back and forth, the Lavender Barroth realized that it was surrounded by sharp weapons. Growling in annoyance, it began to shake its body, making whole sections of its toxic armor fly around it and toward the ground. Everyone scattered as the poisonous residue splatted to the ground. Taka, however, who had tried to attack it again, was caught by a stray blob, which hit him in the back and began to soak into his armor and diffuse into his bloodstream.
Taka started to feel weak as the poison circulated through him. Frantically, he searched for the Antidotes he had in his item pouch. While he did this, the Brute Wyvern noticed him and swung its great head, already imagining the sight of Taka flying limply through the air, bones broken and heart stopped.However, the Lavender Barroth didn't count on Illeera, who had dipped one of her arrows in Paralysis Coating. The arrow sped directly for the Barroth's eye, but instead hit it in the side of the head. The Paralysis Coating did its work nevertheless, stopping the Barroth's head mid-swing. Taka looked up and saw its shaking body, wracked with spasms as it tried to fight the paralysis. Swallowing the Antidote that he had finally found, he stumbled away from the immobilized Brute Wyvern.
The paralysis wore of quicker than anyone expected - practically as soon as Taka got away from it, the Brute Wyvern recovered and roared in annoyance. Deciding to pursue the one who had got away, it charged toward Taka, its big, heavy head crest barrelling straight for his relatively frail body. Taka rolled out of the way at the last second, ending up on his back. Quickly getting back up, he yelled to Illeera, "Cover me! I have an idea!"
Illeera let loose with electrified arrows while Taka edged around the arena. He gathered Kiem and Taahnn and told them his plan. While Illeera kept the Barroth busy, the trio prepared to strike. Mylie shot a single Clust Shot at its leg, which exploded violently and completely decimated a section of its armor. The Barroth stumbled and bellowed in pain. "NOW!" yelled Taka, and the three charged, weapons at the ready.
Kiem thrust his Rugged Lance, Taahnn swung his Basarios Rock, and Taka swiped with Guan Dao, all at the same spot. The combined might of their weapons broke through the toxic armor covering its right leg, shattering it. The Lavender Barroth was losing its armor rapidly, meaning it was also losing its tricky poison attacks.
The Barroth roared its anger, causing everyone to cringe at the loud noise. Hornt, who had been mostly hanging back in the fight, suddenly charged forward, yelling at the top of his lungs and crazily swinging his Devil's Advocate Hammer. However, Taahnn shoved him aside in order to get a better shot at the Barroth, causing Hornt to trip and fall flat on his face.
Hornt got up painfully. A soft snarl emanated from somewhere above him. He looked up, and with a thrill of fear, saw the angry Barroth standing directly over him. He scrambled to his feet, not even bothering to pick up his Hammer as he ran frantically away from the Brute Wyvern. It prepared to strike as he did so.
Taahnn saw this as well. Forgetting their earlier fight, he shouted, "Hornt! Look out!" Hornt turned mid-run to see the Barroth shake more of its armor off, splattering it everywhere. The good news was that it was now out of poison. The bad news was that Hornt got a blob directly in the face. And with his Vespoid armor being incredibly weak to poison, this was a deadly thing indeed.
The poison rapidly seeped through his armor and diffused through his skin, as it had done with Taka. The major difference was that the Vespoid armor he wore sped up the poison's progress dramatically. Before he could even take out an Antidote, his body was overtaken by spasms as the poison continued to flow through his bloodstream.
Now ignoring the helpless Hornt, the Lavender Barroth turned toward Illeera and Mylie; Mylie simply stared in complete horror as Hornt continued to thrash, trying to fight the poison. Illeera shot three arrows, which, unfortunately, all bounced off of its head crest as it charged at them. Illeera was unable to run in time, and Mylie barely even noticed the speeding Brute Wyvern.
Kiem and Kread sprung into action, coming between the Barroth and the helpless girls and raising their weapons, preparing to block the charge. Although the Barroth knocked them back a few feet, and eventually broke through the obstacle, the delay gave Illeera and Mylie enough time to escape.
Mylie glanced back and Hornt and saw that the spasms were becoming less violent as the poison began to shut down Hornt's internal systems. As she heard his faint, rasping breaths, she suddenly became furious. Screaming in rage, she bombarded the Brute Wyvern with Flaming shots, which she had earlier loaded back into her Agnablaster Bowgun. The Barroth's roar of pain became almost a screech as the shots continued to slam into it.
As it continued to roar, Mylie, practically burning with anger, shot three more Flaming shots into its open mouth and down its throat. Flames leapt up and spread inside of the Brute Wyvern's mouth, causing it to scream even louder in agony. Eventually, it collapsed, struggled, then fell still as its life drained away.
Rage forgotten, Mylie ran to Hornt's side, crouching beside him and feeling his pulse. She felt his heart become slower and slower, then, with growing panic, felt it stop completely. The Lavender Barroth's poison had finally killed him, probably painfully. Taka and the rest of the group looked on in pity as Mylie buried her face in Hornt's chest and began to sob.
"I've never liked Hornt," whispered Taka. "But now that he's finally gone... I don't think he deserved such a slow and painful death." Taahnn, beside him, looked guilt-stricken. "This is all my fault," he rasped, throat dry. "If I hadn't pushed him aside like that - then he'd still be here, perhaps standing over the monster's body." Taka, too, could imagine what Hornt would do now if he was still alive.
Bronton, now in the Arena Terra itself, gently but firmly pulled the crying Mylie from Hornt's lifeless form while Hydra picked him up and carried him away. Illeera ran to Mylie, helping her walk out of the Arena and toward their barracks. Taka sadly glanced once at Relcia, who looked sad as well, then followed.
However, he looked back at the dead Barroth, and felt even sadder. Tears sprung to his eyes as he thought, The monster didn't deserve such a death either. It could have been running wild and free, instead of held captive here and mercifully killed. Putting these thoughts out of his mind, he ran to catch up with his friends.
To be Continued...