Five hunters flew through the clouds, toward the Ruined Island. After a few tries, they had managed to get their Hunting Planes airborne, and were rapidly figuring out the different mechanisms for steering and firing the Mini-Ballistas. A hot-air balloon flew with them, stocked with supplies, ammo, and fuel. It was literally a floating camp.
A screech rang out in somewhere in the far distance. The sound was unlike anything the hunters had heard before. It caused the very air to vibrate, and made the Hunting Planes creak and groan as it shook them too. Up ahead, they could see the silhouette of great wings beating, pushing entire clouds out of their way as they did so. Another screech sounded, as if heralding the appearance of this creature.
Each hunter readied their Mini-Ballista, prepared to spear the Elder Dragon as many times as possible with the harpoon-like weapons. So focused were they that they didn't hear the approach of something behind - many somethings, all armed and ready for the ultimate battle.
Taka piloted the Gobul through the sky, struggling with the steering mechanism. Lucky that Taahnn had figured out how the Hunting Planes worked - Taka could barely steer the darned thing.
Behind him, he knew that three others were following him. Mylie was on the Barroth, Relcia on the Nargacuga, and Taahnn on the Diablos. Illeera was piloting an airship carrying various supplies, with her Plane, the Qurupeco, resting on board. If one person ran out of fuel, she would take their place as they replenished their ammo and fuel tank.
Ahead, Taka could see the five enemy Planes come into view. He immediately grew more focused as he tightened his grip on the Ballista - or tried to. He was forced to keep his hand gripped to the firing control and his prosthetic arm jammed into the steering wheel. Definitely a two-handed job, he thought, miffed.Then the clouds thinned, and Taka found himself in a vast clearing in the sky. Instantly, he took notice of the amazing Elder Dragon before him. It flapped slowly, strongly, and leisurely, as it had not noticed the hunters yet. Its shelled back was a dark red-black with occasional streaks of navy blue, and the underbelly was colored a pale beige. The tail was as long as its entire body, and its wingspan was particularly immense, covering, Taka guessed, at least a hundred meters or more.
Suddenly, the Taltaira took note of the approaching Hunting Planes, and turned its great, crested head to look behind it. It shrieked in fear and anger as it saw the humans piloting them. It's realized that the hunters have come to kill it once and for all, Taka realized. For the first time in its long, long life, it is in mortal peril.
The enemy Planes zoomed ahead, already firing their Ballista Ammo. The projectiles, flying at very high speed, embedded themselves in the Taltaira's back and sides. But, tiny as they were in comparison to the Dragon, all it felt were tiny, stinging pricks, like mosquito bites.
Still, the Taltaira saw that the humans were attacking it, and it got annoyed. It ceased flapping and began to spin, wings outstretched. As it whirled faster and faster, it created a huge wind that blasted the Hunting Planes and scattered them. One Plane in particular was almost swatted clean out of the air.
Taka and his friends increased their speed, streaking toward the battle. While Taahnn, Mylie, and Relcia ambushed the shocked hunters, Taka sped onward, bringing the Gobul to a stop next to the Sky God's head. He saw its great eye widen as it took in the sight of a human piloting a vessel with a monster-shaped figurehead.
"I'm on your side!" Taka screamed as loud as he could. "My friends and I are trying to help you!" The Taltaira seemed to understand.
I see, it half-rumbled, half-shrieked. You are the human that is said to bring peace amongst humans and monsters. I am glad that you have come to help me. With a mighty scream, it increased its speed, leaving the Gobul spinning in its wake.
By now, the five hunters had figured out that Taka and his friends were their enemies. Although, why other hunters would want to defy them and their mission, they couldn't figure out for the life of them. They each pulled away from the Taltaira and went after the five unfamiliar Planes. It was only then that they noticed the monster figureheads engraved on them. What was going on?
Taka, despite his struggles with the steering device, managed to dodge a speeding Ballista Ammo in the nick of time. He marveled at the Gobul, which seemed to slip stealthily through the air currents as it flew. He did a tight U-Turn and began to pursue his attacker, who looked like a female hunter wearing a full set of Hypnocatrice armor.
Meanwhile, Taahnn and Mylie were engaged in a dogfight with two other hunters, each covered in Gravios armor. Mylie's Barroth charged headlong through the sky, directly at one of the Hunting Planes, just like its namesake. The Diablos's great, carved horns butted through a fierce headwind with ease as it chased the other.
Before long, however, Taahnn's aircraft started to run out of steam. He noticed this and sped back toward the Airship where Illeera and a refueling station were waiting. Just before he landed, Illeera jumped into the cockpit of the Qurupeco and joined the fray, assisting Mylie who now had her hands full with two opponents. As Taka madly fired at the Hypnock hunter's Plane, he admired the Qurupeco's flight style - elegantly gliding and using the wind to its advantage, no matter which way it blew.
That tiny distraction was enough to change Taka's entire situation. The Gobul faltered, and his quarry suddenly turned around and fired a single Ballista Ammo, which managed to snap off a part of the Gobul's landing gear. Taka frantically put all of his efforts on the Plane as it went into a spin.
Out of nowhere, the Nargacuga screamed into view and scored three direct hits on the Hypnock hunter's craft before she could shoot Taka down. When Taka steadied his Hunting Plane, he saw Relcia flash him a quick smile before darting away to finish the enemy off. Her plane was quick, agile, and fluid, just like the Pseudowyvern it was named after.
Soon, the Nargacuga successfully brought down the enemy Plane. Taka saw, with only a small pang of pity, the hunter panickedly trying to get the Hunting Plane up again as it spiralled down into the clouds below. Breathing a sigh of relief, he went to help Relcia, who was now being chased by two other Hunting Planes.
The Taltaira wasn't sleeping through this, of course. It buffeted the Planes with great gusts from its wings, causing everyone to focus entirely on keeping their Hunting Planes straight. It momentarily disappeared into the clouds, and one of the hunters fighting with Mylie and Illeera screamed in anger as he saw the Elder Dragon getting away.
Then, with a huge screech, the Taltaira erupted from the clouds in another spin, this time with its wings held tightly against its great body. Taka and his friends barely managed to get out of the way before it smashed into the other Hunting Planes. Two fell from the sky and the other two limped back to their airship for repairs and refueling.
This would have been a great opportunity to attack and finish them off if Taka, Relcia, and Mylie all became low on fuel as well. Luckily, their airship was large enough to fit all of the Hunting Planes on it at once. The five friends finished their preparations just as the enemy hunters finished theirs. It was now only two on four as they all flew back into the aerial battle, minus Relcia, who stayed behind to protect and steer the airship.
However, the odds were equal. The pilot of the other airship started firing its own Ballista Ammo at them from the sidelines. Taka gritted his teeth when he saw this. Ah, but we have four pilots in battle, he thought triumphantly. They only have three. Plus a giant Elder Dragon on our side. That gives us a massive edge, literally.
The Elder Dragon in question was snapping at the Hunting Planes that buzzed like Bnahabra around its head, firing Ballista Ammo and aiming for the eyes. Fortunately for Taltaira, they all missed and hit its crest and beak instead. That wasn't to say that the shots weren't painful. It shrieked and doubled its efforts to crush the offending vehicles to dust between its teeth.
Taka joined the fray, piloting the Gobul as best as he could and chasing after the two. And at the same time, he was trying to avoid the steel-crushing jaws of the beast he was trying to rescue. First time next week, I'm taking piloting lessons.
Taahnn flew directly at one of the Planes with the Diablos massive horns, firing the remainder of his Ballista Ammo (he had forgotten to restock on the airship). The good news was that the six Ammo he shot all hit their mark, sending the second-last hunter to a death far below them. The bad news was, the gusts from the Taltaira's wings threw him off balance, and his Hunting Plane's heavy figurehead crashed into the Gobuls rear.
"Oops," Taahnn exclaimed in a shocked whisper. Taka's vessel cracked down the middle and split in two. "Stinking Conga fur," cursed Taka, just before he began to fall to his death. There was no chance the clouds beneath would break his fall - he'd plunge right through them like an overweight Arzuros.
"TAKA!" Illeera screamed from the cockpit of the Qurupeco and Relcia from the airship. Their friend reached the cloudscape and, as predicted, plunged right through it. There was no trace of him.
There was no time to mourn, however. The last Hunting Plane came streaking right for them, shooting Ballista Ammo everywhere in a crazed frenzy. Before the friends could retaliate, the Taltaira shrieked at them. Somehow, they knew what it was saying; it was as if in their grief for the loss of Taka, they momentarily shared his knowledge of the monster language.
Go, friends! the Sky God decreed. I will take the last hunter, and you can flee to safety! And I will never, ever forget what you have done for me! The group of four hesitated, then with sullen glances at the spot where Taka disappeared, they turned around and headed back to the Military Bastion.As they flew, they felt an immense chill run up and vibrate their spines as the Taltaira gave one, long, awesome screech that caused the very air to shift. As the air pressure changed in the space of a few seconds, thunderclouds began to build and lightning flashed. Rain started to pour down on the fleeing pilots.
Only Relcia gave one last look at the scene behind them. Through the haze of grey and black, a lightning bolt crackled and illuminated the sky, framing the Taltaira magnificently as it continued to scream at the top of its mighty lungs. There was no doubt that the only hunter still alive wouldn't be for much longer.
With a sniffle, Relcia turned and followed her friends toward the Barren Desert, where Vulcan was waiting for the good news. But we don't just have good news, she thought sadly. Before we finish telling him about our adventure, I don't think he'll be as joyful...
Vulcan said nothing when Illeera finished telling him about what had happened in the skies above the Central World. Or at least, everyone was pretty sure that he said nothing - they couldn't understand his language, after all.
They guessed correctly. Vulcan wasn't saying anything. He was simply overwhelmed by the fact that his best friend in all the world, the human who had saved him from certain death, healed his wounds, and helped him learn to fly again, and was destined to bring peace to the monsters and humans of the Central World, was gone. His mind was blank as the sadness slowly worked its way into his heart.
For a moment or two, there was complete silence as the five - four humans and a Rathalos - each grieved to themselves. The only sound was the wind whistling through the artificial canyons of the Military Bastions and the flapping of the odd flag above them. But soon, just as Illeera was about to speak again, another sound reached their ears. It sounded distant, and suspiciously like a squawk.
By instinct, everyone turned to look at the sky above the far wall, in the direction that they had arrived from. Taahnn shaded his eyes and Relcia squinted. The sun made it very hard to see, but there seemed to be... something flying right for them.
"Watch out!" the shriek came without warning. Taahnn, Relcia, and Illeera all ducked, while Mylie dove to the ground and Vulcan jumped to the side. A huge, purple monster suddenly plummeted to the ground with a mighty crash and a squawk of pain.When the dust cleared, Taahnn removed his hands from his eyes and gasped. Mylie got to her feet cautiously and Relcia gasped. In front of them stood a Gypceros, crest buzzing and rubbery tail thrashing. It was literally hopping mad, jumping up and down, clacking its crest and crowing in anger. No one made a move as it vented its anger on the crash it had just made.
When the venomous Bird Wyvern had stopped thrashing, it calmly began to bash its crest against its hard beak. Knowing what it was doing, Mylie signaled for everyone to cover their eyes. There was an immense, blinding flash of light... And when it cleared, the Gypceros was gone, replaced by none other than Taka.
"I really shouldn't have turned into a Gypceros," he muttered, wincing from the bruises he had gotten from his bad landing. "It was, admittedly, the first flying monster that came to mind, though. Next time, I'll just think of an Amatsumagatsuchi and dazzle you all with-"
Taka's rant was interrupted by Illeera and Mylie, who had simultaneously rushed up and embraced him suffocatingly tightly. It was only when he started gasping for air and waving his arms wildly did they let go. He couldn't help but grin as he saw their relieved and overjoyed smiles.
Taahnn walked over and awkwardly patted Taka on the back, to which he responded with a similar greeting. "No hug from you, I suppose?" Taka asked rhetorically. Taahnn replied with a simple, "I have my pride, you know." And he grinned, unable to keep a straight face. So quickly Taka wasn't even sure if he had moved, Taahnn gave him a brief hug.
That was when Relcia walked over with an unreadable expression on her face. Taka started to say something when she did something he would never had expected in a Fatalis's lifetime - she slapped him in the face.
The *crack!* echoed slightly in the thick silence that had settled. Then Relcia broke it by saying in a deadly whisper, "Do you have any idea how badly you frightened me?" Taka looked both scared and offended, his face turning red. She continued, "Couldn't you have done shown yourself a little earlier, so things wouldn't have to be this way?"
Gritting his teeth, Taka responded, "First of all, Gypceros are hardly the best of fliers. I broke back through the clouds not thirty seconds after you turned tail and flew off. There was no way I could catch up. Second of all -" For the second time in less than two minutes, Taka was abruptly cut off as Relcia leaned forward and kissed him on the lips. Despite his better judgement, his eyes closed in contentment. He heard Illeera sniffle with happiness and Taahnn whistle mockingly, but who cared?
When they separated, Taka finished quietly, "Second of all, I have the feeling that you were just kidding." She smiled and replied, "Can't you take a joke?" Chuckling weakly, Taka turned to Vulcan - the only friend that he hadn't gotten a heartfelt greeting from - and was met with a big, sloppy lick to the face, courtesy of his wyvern pal.
"Nice to see you again too, Vulcan," Taka said with a hint of disgust as he wiped himself clean. I knew you would make it back, the Rathalos's voice cracked with emotion. It didn't matter that you didn't show up right away - I knew in my heart that you were still alive. Taka smirked. "You don't have to lie, Vulcan. I don't care that you momentarily lost hope for me."
Drawing himself up with all the dignity he could muster (having been hugged, kissed, and licked all in the space of a few minutes, it wasn't a lot), Taka said to all of his friends, "Well.. We did it! We saved the Taltaira, the God of the Skies!" There were wild cheers all around. Vulcan roared and shot a fireball up into the air in triumph.
"Now then," Taka continued, when everyone had quietened. "We have a bigger challenge - convincing the people of Mediatas Village, including the hunters, to end the war between humans and monsters." Vulcan nodded wisely. You can do it, he encouraged. Anyone who can save the greatest flying beast that ever lived can certainly save the rest of the monsters.
"Thank you for that," replied Taka, then, as an idea wound its way into his mind, he smiled. "But don't think that you're going to sit this one out..."
To be Continued...