Taka could barely keep his hands from shaking as the doors to the Arena Terra closed behind him. Not only was he frightened, but, privately, didn't want to cause the deaths of any more monsters. Right now, he could barely see any of his friends through the thick mist.
The new Arena Terra looked like a swamp, with many trees and lots of water. A fog rose from the ground, making it difficult to see. Previously, him and his group had gotten ready in their barracks, stocking Potions, Rations, Waterblock Seeds, Whetstones, and more, trying to prepare for the water monster that their trainer, Bronton, said that they would be fighting. Bronton had only given them a few items, a Frog and a Dash Juice each. "Your trip into the Forested Spring was very successful," he told them. "You should have adequate materials by now."
Mylie was back with the group, Agnablaster loaded with Normal Shots and a patch over her left eye. Last time they had fought a monster in the Arena Terra, Mylie had taken a Nargacuga tail spike to the eye. Luckily, she had lived, but she was now quite crippled with only one eye left to look out for danger. "It's going to be fine," whispered Illeera to Mylie, trying to reassure her. "Hydra wouldn't have allowed you into the Arena Terra if she thought that you weren't ready to fight again."
Relcia approached Taka from behind, swatting him gently on the arm and causing him to flinch. "Best of luck, OK?" she encouraged him, smiling kindly. Taka, remembering his previous encounter with Relcia, blushed and nodded silently.
As Bronton opened the monster cage, which had previously held a Qurupeco, Kiem readied his Rugged Lance, Ryka sharpened her Shadow Saber, and Taahnn played three notes on his Hunting Horn, increasing the group's resistance to heat and cold. Thank goodness, thought Taka. It's getting a little humid in here.
Seconds passed, and nothing sprang out at them. No giant Brute Wyvern charged out of its cage. No terrfying Flying Wyvern flew over them, raining fireballs down. Kiem lowered his Lance, looking around for any signs of monster activity. Taahnn whistled slightly, rocking back and forth on his feet, while Ryka gave Kread a skeptical glance. But Taka... Taka felt something inside of him change. The blood rushed out of his cheeks as he realized that he was terrified. A memory struggled to surface from his brain.Finally, Taahnn put away his Hunting Horn, convinced that there was no monster in the cage that Bronton had opened. The second he did, the mud under his feet shifted. Then, a massive, fish-like creature rocketed up from the earth, sending Taahnn flying.
Standing on its great fins in the boggy ground was the biggest Gobul that Taka had ever seen. Only one eye glowed with a yellow light - the right eye was milky white, with a scar slashing down across it. The mist, which had been dispelled in the Gobul's attack, rapidly closed in again, partially hiding the great Leviathan from view.
He knew that he should be frightened, but he wasn't - the emotion that he was experiencing was much greater than mere fear. Why does this Leviathan envoke such terror in me? wondered Taka, trying not to give in and start running frantically away, as far from the monster as possible. Why do I feel this way, when I've gone up against monsters far scarier than this creature?
Hydra watched the battle begin from the sidelines, high above the Arena Terra. She also questioned her growing fear as she observed the Gobul in combat with the eight trainees. Something about the Gobul seemed almost... familiar. Coupled with her fear, it was as if... she had met it before.
A memory exploded in her head. She saw herself take Taka from her mother, while her father struggled to stop a huge Gobul from killing them. She saw her father's great Sieglinde Great Sword slice across the monster's eye, creating a fresh scar and half-blinding it. Then, the memory faded, and she was left staring at the fearsome Leviathan, which, she realized, had a similar scar slashing across its eye.
"Taka..." she whispered, fear and realization merging in her heart. "Taka's in grave danger!" Without even bothering to explain herself to Bronton, she rushed toward the staricase that would take her to the entrance of the Arena Terra.
The Gobul lunged, snapping its great jaws and narrowly missing the one in the shining, metallic armor. She struck violently with her thin blade, which also missed. Seeing its chance, the Gobul caught her with the end of its tail, sending her to the ground.
These humans outnumbered it. It knew that, and yet it had not fallen. This meant that either the Gobul was just lucky, or that the humans were new to hunting. The Gobul grinned savagely, revealing its frightening set of teeth. It literally chewed up and spat out rookie hunters. But it supposed that it would be fun to let them struggle a bit first, before being painfully killed one by one.
But wait! The Gobul had detected a new scent in the air, one that it was sure that it had encountered before. As it sniffed the air, occasionally dodging an attack from one of the hunters, it felt raw fury begin to emerge. Its good eye blazed and its back spines stood up as its rage began to build.
Something moved out of the corner of its eye. The Leviathan turned its head to see a hunter in feathery, colorful armor and a very long blade about to strike. As it moved out of the way, an image surfaced in its mind, slowly becoming clearer through its anger - a human woman, helpless as she gave birth, out of reach of the Gobul as a hunter with a mighty sword sliced its eye, half-blinding it for good.
The Gobul realized that the hunter before it was the son of the human that had maimed it sixteen years ago. Its rage reached its peak, and the Gobul gave a hissing roar as it prepared to take its revenge, right here and now.
As the Gobul struck out at Ryka, Taka's fear began to steadily grow. The Gobul with the scarred face was looking away. Taka charged at it, Guan held above his head as he prepared to swing it downwards and slice through the Gobul's hide.
At that moment, the Leviathan turned its great head and moved out of the way of his slash. It's good eye bored into his, burning with the most frightening hatred Taka had ever seen. The memory struggled even harder, trying to bring itself to light. The Gobul roared in pure rage, startling Taka and his comrades with the sheer intensity of it. The Gobul must be REALLY mad, figured Taka, trying to stay out of its way as it charged forward and stumbled to the ground. It's as if the sight of me fills it with anger. It's as if it recognizes me.
Suddenly, the memory that had been struggling to free itself burst in his brain. He saw the frightened face of a young girl, barely seven years old. His vision turned away from the girl, and he saw a fearsome Gobul in heated battle with a hunter in full Rathalos armor. He saw the Gobul roar in pain, a fresh scar across its right eye. Then, the memory faded as the young girl took him in her arms and ran away from the scene.
Taka came into reality just as the Gobul almost bit him in two with its jaws. Stumbling out of the way, Taka raised his Longsword just as the horrid truth slowly invaded his brain, driving out every other thought - this Gobul had killed his parents. This Leviathan wanted to kill him, out of revenge for being so terribly injured nearly sixteen years ago.
He heard the arena doors open. Turning, he saw Hydra running in a panic into the Arena Terra, drawing her Raven Tessen Dual Swords. "Run, Taka!" she screamed. "It means to kill you! Only you!" Hearing this proclamation, Taka's friends, as one, made the same decision - they would protect their friend from the Vengeful Gobul, or die trying.
Kread was the first to act, swinging his Siegemund in a wide arc, carving a great wound in its fin. The Gobul barely noticed it, so great was its fury. All it wanted was to kill the hunter in the feathered armor as payback for what happened to its eye. Illeera fired three electrified arrows at it, which all hit the Vengeful Gobul's left side and stomach. Again, it took absolutely no notice.
The Leviathan sparked its head lantern, then raised its head and produced a great flash of blue light, blinding everyone in the arena except Hydra. Taka struggled to adjust his vision as the Gobul galloped toward him, jaws wide open. The Vengeful Gobul never made it, as Hydra struck with her Raven Tessen, hitting it in its injured fin and causing it to trip from the pain. Blood splattered from the Leviathan's fin as Hydra continually struck, trying to buy time for Taka to flee.
Vision finally clearing, Taka bolted for the open arena doors, hoping to escape the wrath of the Vengeful Gobul. However, he tripped on a rock, falling facefirst into the mud. At this point, the Vengeful Gobul had gotten to its fins and swatted Hydra aside with its tail. Luckily, she wasn't struck by its toxic tail spines.
Illeera and Mylie continued to hit the monster with electric arrows and Normal Shots, trying to distract it for at least another few seconds. It shook the projectiles off like rain as it charged toward Taka once again. Taahnn played another note or two on his Basarios Rock, increasing Taka's agility, along with that of everyone else.
Kiem charged the galloping Gobul, Rugged Lance held directly in front of him. When he reached the Gobul, he stopped and stabbed with the weapon, but too late - the Leviathan, who had never stopped moving, was already ahead. Taka leapt aside as the it forged ahead, finally coming to a stop between him and the exit. "Crap," said Taka in frustration. He stood, Guan at the ready, fully prepared to fight this monstrosity. The fact that it only wanted to destroy him somehow made him very angry.
The Vengeful Gobul turned 180 degrees, sliding slightly on the watery ground. Taka thrust Guan at it, stabbing it in the jaw. Mouth tightening in determination and anger, he swung Guan once, twice, three times, creating more wounds in its neck and chest. The Gobul hissed in pain and lunged suddenly, slamming into Taka and sending him to the ground. Standing over his fallen body, it prepared to finish him.
"TAKA!" shrieked Relcia, too far away to do anything in order to save him. Illeera quickly drew an arrow from her quiver, dipped it in Power Coating, then shot it at the Vengeful Gobul, pulling it back as far as it could go and releasing it. The arrow flew straight and true at nearly 60 miles per hour, slamming into the Vengeful Gobul's underbelly, which had been exposed as it stood over Taka.
About to bite his head off, the Gobul suddenly screamed in intense pain as the arrow pierced its flesh, then its stomach. It fell over in a heap, thrashing as it tried to rid itself of the agony, its blood flying everywhere.
Dazed, Taka struggled to his feet. Relcia, weeping in both fear and relief, ran over and helped him up, just as he had done to her the day before. He tried to walk a few paces, then almost collapsed. The Vengeful Gobul's tackle had badly stunned him. Putting an arm on Relcia's shoulder for support, he slowly got back up and tried to stand.
The Vengeful Gobul abruptly stopped struggling and got to its fins. Its eye narrowed as it saw Illeera readying another arrow. That hunter had tried to stop it from getting its revenge. Now, she would pay dearly.
It released another hissing roar, then burrowed into the ground, heading straight for Illeera. Unable to run in time, Illeera stumbled as it neared her, causing the earth to shift. Its torso suddenly exploded from the mud, and it forcefully sucked air into its lungs, rapidly drawing her forward. As she was literally lifted from the ground by the wind, Taka saw what was happening and threw Guan like a javelin as hard as he could, shouting as he did so.
The Longsword embedded itself in the Gobul's side. Eyes streaming from the pain (both of them), it reflexively snapped its mouth shut. However, Illeera's left leg was already in its mouth, and thus, it was bitten clean off.
The shriek that came from Illeera's mouth was loud enough to break glass. There was a huge amount of blood as she fell, still screaming, into the mud and water below her. Taka, who had already been angry before, suddenly became enraged.
Screeching almost as loudly as Illeera in his fury, Taka ran forward, deaf to Relcia's shout or his sister's scream of shock. Ripping Guan free from the Vengeful Gobul's jaw, he slashed again and again without mercy, causing the Gobul to add its roar to the incredible din.
Thrashing in pain, a strike from the Vengeful Gobul's fin slapped Taka's Guan Dao from his hands, sending it spinning off to embed itself in the mud some distance away. Now without a weapon, Taka, in his burning rage and hatred, did something he promised himself he would never do again - he triggered his power of shapeshifting.In an instant, Taka had been replaced by a creature known throughout the Central World for its incredible ferocity - a Black Tigrex. The Pseudowyvern roared at the top of its lungs, actually blowing his friends back a little. Taahnn stared in awe and Relcia in terror as the great black wyvern tore at the Vengeful Gobul with its vicious fangs and claws. The Gobul extended its back spines, trying to impale the Tigrex, but it was too fast. It jumped back, then pounced, using its claw to flip the Leviathan over and sink its teeth into its underbelly.
Taka never held up on his assault, not until the Vengeful Gobul finally stopped moving. Roaring in anger and triumph, the Black Tigrex slowly turned back into Taka. By now, Illeera had fallen unconscious from blood loss. Breathing heavily, Taka looked at his friends in confusion as his fury ebbed away. His heart sunk as he realized that he had broken the promise that he had kept for years.
He looked around for Guan, and saw it partially buried in the mud just in front of the Gobul. Numbly, he reached out for his weapon - and saw the supposedly dead Gobul twitch.
Taka froze in utter horror, as the Vengeful Gobul, although fatally wounded, sprang up for once last attempt on Taka's life. Its jaws plunged down, but in its fatigue, they missed his body and clamped down on his outstretched arm instead.
Taka's pain was so great that he barely heard his own scream. He felt the Gobul's fangs rip through his flesh, then crunch through the bone. As he fell backwards, already close to unconsciousness, he saw his lower arm in the Vengeful Gobul's mouth. He heard Hydra calling to Bronton for help and Relcia screaming his name. Then, the world went black...
To be Continued...