Novel for NaNoWriMo 2013
Rika - Anger
I always remember the day I first felt the hunger. I was eleven and it was during a school recess. There was another kid, I would call him a bully but that would be trying to justify what I did to him. There is not excuse, he was just a kid like any other. If there was a villain in this story it would be me.
The cause was nothing special, just a child’s argument. He was just a boy teasing a girl. Those things happen. Usually if it goes to far one of the teachers steps in and breaks it up. This time they must have been busy doing something else. I still remember the boy’s words,
“You think you mother is special, she is just one of those worthless hunters. With the wall in place they are just a waste of funds. Not like my father, he is…”
The boy didn’t speak more. I jumped at him, clawing at him with my fingers. Normally this would have just been another fight between children and the teachers would have broken it apart soon enough. However it was different for me. I felt the anger rising up from within me. A deep primal anger. It as like my vision was filtered red and I wanted to kill him. Really kill him, claw him open and ripe out his still beating heart.
When I told my father later he thought I was exaggerating, that it would be impossible to actually feel like that. He didn’t understand, he couldn’t understand, the sheer primal feeling that I had when I attacked that boy. My mother however, she understood. She held me in her arms tightly and whispered to me over and over again that she was sorry. But she never told me what I desperately needed to hear, that it would be better. However my mother didn’t lie to me.
The boy was lucky to some extent. He survived. My nails had ripped into his face, chest, and arms. My fingers was dripping with blood which pooled out around him. The teachers were forced to violently tackle me off him and pin me to the ground before I finally began to calm down and regain control of myself.
That was when the shock began to set in. I began shacking uncontrollably and everything I had done to the boy replayed in my memory. The worst part was that there was a part of me that enjoyed it. No, enjoy is the wrong word. It was like I it felt right, I has shown him who was stronger and has protected my own. A primal satisfaction that I had been successful.
Everything else was a blur. I remember that the police came, as well as an ambulance for the boy. I was dragged off to some cell before my mother came. She seemed different then usual, more controlling and commanding. I thought the police were going to keep me there forever, that I was going to be thrown in jail for being a bad girl. But my mother got me out.
Later I learned that we were special, that people like me and my mother were special and that the government gave special allowances for people like us. That we were useful. So I got to go free, even after what I had done.
We then moved, I wasn’t really surprised. Even I could feel the tension around the house and with our neighbors. So we moved to the Western District, near the wall. A few days after we had settled in my mother took me aside and said, “Rika, tonight I am going to take you hunting.”
“Hunting?” I asked. It seemed like a strange thing that my mother was offering.
She nodded, “Yes, I know you have been struggling these last free weeks but this will help you feel better. It will help you suppress those desires.”
I didn’t quite understand what she was trying to tell me but I did know that my frustrations had been growing. Every strange look at me made me angrier and angrier. Everything continued piling higher and higher and was beginning to make me feel like I had toward that boy. There were times where the only reason I was able to control myself was because my mother had her hand tightly holding onto my shoulder.
So I nodded acceptance and she continued, “Good, we will be leaving after dinner.”
I tensely waited through the rest of the day and after dinner my mother took my hand and lead me outside to the car. In the back there was a leather backpack which seemed full of stuff but I couldn’t tell what. My mom drove and I watched out the window. However after a few minutes I turned over to her and asked, “Mom, why are we going toward the Wall?”
“Because that is where we are heading. That is where the hunting ground is.”
“Near the wall?”
“No Rika. The hunting ground is beyond the Wall.”
I gazed up the the Wall which towered up extremely high. There was a feeling of shock. Hunting grounds beyond the wall, I knew that my mother had worked as Beast Hunter before I had been born and that she had retired because it was too dangerous to have that career while having a child. However even though the word had been the same I hadn’t though that the hunting that mom had spoken about would really involved going beyond the Wall.
I stuttered, “But, they won’t let us out there. Only Beast Hunters are allowed beyond the wall.”
“That won’t be a problem. Children of Beast Hunters who have experienced who show signs of Instinct are also allowed through while being watched.”
“But aren’t you retired?”
“Beast Hunters never really retire, they just take breaks. Also I have already received permission.”
I quietly just watched the wall get taller while we got closer and closer. The wall the loomed over everything and that could always see no matter where you were in the districts. Beyond the wall was the jungle and the beasts. Everybody had heard stories about the beasts and everything knew the dangers that lurked beyond the wall. Everybody knew the dangers but instead of feeling scared I felt anticipation, the desire to see what was actually beyond those walls.
The car pulled up one of the towers built into the wall. I had never really been told what they were for, maybe to let Hunters through. We got out of the car and my mom held my hand as she walked me toward the door in the tower. The door was made of some thick looking metal.
There was a short wait and then a portly looking make in overalls opened the door. He looked at mom and nodded, “Carita, been a while. I thought you retired.”
“I tried Dennis.” She grimaced, “Unfortunately it seems that my daughter has inherited it.”
Dennis looked past my mom and at me for the first time. His face twisted a pained grimaced before he tired my to my mother, “I’m sorry. I won’t want that on any child. However it seems to be more and more common.”
There was a shared moment of sadness between them before the man knelt down and said to me, “Sorry about this. I’m Dennis, pleased to meet you. What is your name.”
“I’m Rika.” I mumbled nervously.
“That’s a nice name. Is this your first time going into the jungle.”
I nodded, “Yes, mom said that she is going to take me hunting.”
“Hunting huh.” He glanced back up at my mom and then back at me. “Well, I’m sure she will take good care of you. However you should still be careful out there. The jungle is a dangerous place where you can easily get killed if you’re not being careful. You are going to make sure to be careful right?”
I nodded, not really certain what to say. My mom placed her hand on my head and said, “Yeah, I’m make sure to take care of you so don’t worry. Besides the forecast should be fairly mild, isn’t that right Dennis?”
He nodded, “Yeah, it has been quiet on this side. Apparently there is some activity near the Northern District but that is far away so there should be nothing unusual to worry about. Still there have been rookie Hunters that have died due to their own carelessness even during otherwise safe situations. The jungle is not to be trifled with.”
I looked up at my mother. “Are we going to be alright?” I was only a little worried. I had though that I would be more scared but somehow to had all be replaced with anticipation. I was far more scared at my own lack of fear then I was about going beyond the wall.
Mom nodded and then turned by to Dennis, “Is everything ready for us to go through?”
“Yes, there is another Hunter patrolling the area. I know it has been a while since you entered the jungle so if you get into any trouble make sure to call out to him if there is any trouble.
My mom chuckled, “I might be rusty but I don’t think I’m that rusty. Still I will keep it in mind.”
We walked through the tower past some stairs leading up to another metal door. This time however we need to pass through two sets of the doors. After we had gone through the first one my mom pulled a couple of knifes out of the backpack and handed one of them to me.
“If we are going to go hunting you will need one of these.”
I didn’t question my mom and just took the knife. It felt unusually heavy in my hand. I felt the strange emotion that the knife was useless and that it would be easier to just hunt with my own hands. Still I held onto the knife. Part of me felt that holding it would drive away those other thoughts.
Then my mom opened up the door into the jungle and we walked into it together.
It was my first hunt. The jungle was fairly similar to the one I was taught about and shown pictures of in school but it felt so much more real to be there in person. They never told me about the sounds and smells that dominated the jungle. However it wasn’t overwhelming, no, it felt just right instead. My mom brought me into the jungle and we did just as she said we would do, we hunted.
Nothing special, just a regular animal, a deer. We had snuck through the forest for hours before we first saw it. My mother pointed it out to me and together we got closer to it. She walked me through it and helped me get close to it. Everything felt so natural like it was what I should be doing.
I killed the deer with the knife that my mother had given me. Its blood covered my hands. The killed rushed over me, I felt that I was in control, like I could do anything. Then there was the tightening of my mother’s hand on my shoulder. “We are not done yet. To be a hunter is to be like an animal. However you must remember to never become a monster. Monsters kill without purpose. Hunters kill with purpose. Remember that.”
And I did. Together we skinned the deer. My mother built a fire and showed me how to cook the animal. I tasted the meat and found it delicious, far better then anything that I had ever had in the city. The night began to fall upon the jungle as we finished cooking the deer. I stared up at the stars in the sky and had a strangest feeling pass over me.
I felt like this was my real home.
Kirk - Fear
What do you do when your life changes before you and you have no control over it. It was just a normal day of high school. It was only a few months after the start of the school year and it was my first year. There was some special doctor at the school that day and the teachers made us all go through his examination.
It was individual exam who I didn’t know what to expect when I was called in. The room was bare except for the table where the doctor was sitting. He was clean cut and had a serious look to him. He motioned toward the chair across from him and said, “Please sit down. You are Kirk correct.”
I nodded and sat down. Something about him felt creepy to me. He was watching me too closely. After I took a seat he spoke again, “I’m going to ask you some questions. Answers them without thinking to hard. The quicker the better. Just say the first thing that comes to your mind. Can you do that.”
“Sure.” I responded. Everything still felt weird.
“What do you think of the wall?”
“It protects us from the Beasts.”
“What do you think about the hunters?”
“They also protect us from the Beasts.”
“Do you know any hunters?”
“Are you afraid of the Beasts?”
“Not really, we are safe from them after all.”
“Are you afraid of me?”
I paused and looked at the man hesitantly. Then I stumbled out the words, “No, I’m not.”
The man smiled and it sent a shiver up my spine. “You shouldn’t lie. Why are you afraid of me?”
I stumbled over my words trying not to say anything so stupid, “I don’t know. You just have this scary presence.”
“Have you meet other people who made you feel like this?”
“A couple of times, usually at night. However they always seem to ignore me.”
“Do you want to know why you are afraid of them?”
It seemed a strange questions, “I suppose. What harm could it do?”
“A lot of harm. Sometimes it is worse to know then it not know. Have you heard the saying that Innocence is Bliss?”
The man stood up out of the chair and walked over to the closet at the edge of the room. He pulled out from it a large envelope and then walked back toward the table I was sitting it. After he sat back down he opened the envelope and pulled out some pictures. He dropped them on the table and the scattered, spreading across it like a mosaic.
“Why do you see?”
“She is in a small white room. She is only wearing a smile white gown, like something you might see in a hospital.” I stuttered for a moment as I continued to describe the photos, it was like a dark specter that was slowing appearing behind me. “There looks like there is the remains of dolls in one of the corners. It is like the have been torn up.”
“Continue.” Said the man, I could feel his eyes watching me as I looked at the pictures.
“There is a slot in the door which is made of metal. In one of the pictures you can see a tray of food being slide into the room. It looks like the girl is trapped in there.”
“Why do you think she would be trapped in there?”
I stammered, “I don’t know.”
“You don’t? Then how about you describe the girl?”
I hesitated, not wanting to continue. I looked up at the man and his eyes bored into mine. In fear I broke my gaze and looked back down at the pictures. “She looks dirty, like she hasn’t taken a shower recently. There are stains… red stains on her sleeves, near her hands. Her eyes seem angry, wild, like…” I stopped unable to continue.
“Are you afraid of her?”
“Can you explain why?”
“She is dangerous,” I looked back at him, “Like you…. No more then you.”
“Do you think that she deserves the conditions that she is in?”
I was torn, I didn’t know what to say. I was frightened of her but when I looked at her I could get a sense of something like loneliness. However that wasn’t what I felt the strongest. She felt caged, trapped, and with that feeling she was sad beyond measure.
“No, I don’t think she deserves that.”
“If you could help her, would you?” There was weight in that question. Like everything that had happened since I entered the room has all been leading up to that one question. I could feel the pressure and know that I could not answer that question lightly.
I examined the pictures trying to make my decision. However it was a feeling welling up from inside me that helped me make up my mind. I hadn’t felt anything like it before. It was a strong urge that rose up inside me, pulling at my thoughts. It was the desire to be free, to escape out of the building and be in charge of myself.
Finally I said, “Yes, I would.”
Then the man reached out and grabbed the pictures. Pulling them back and putting them back into the envelope. “Thank you for your cooperation. You have been most helpful. I will be back to you with the results when I am done.” I could feel something from him, a kind of satisfaction.
In some strange understanding of his emotions I nodded and said, “Alright, you do that.” I then stood up and began to leave the room. The man didn’t speak anything while I left but he didn’t have to. Something was different. I still feared him, no, I was now wary of him but I no longer feared him. Instead I felt a connection, like a fellowship.
I left the room and as I did I passed the next person who was supposed to go in. I paused in surprise was I passed him. I felt something from him too, fear and uncertainty. I was uncertain what it was that I was feeling. This understanding, I didn’t know the cause and that made me worried. However that feeling I had before when I decided I should help that girl rose again inside me.
Before I know it I has left the school building and was laying on the grass outside looking up at the sky. The sun shone on me and it felt good. Things felts strange and different but somehow comfortable. I couldn’t explain it but it was like I had been blindfolded all my life and finally I had taken the blindfold off. I watched the sun move across the sky for a while and then I heard the sounds of footsteps.
It took me a second to realize that they were not close to me and that I had been waiting for them. I pulled up the memory of the man walking across the room to open the closet. It was the sound of his footsteps. I felt strange that I should be able to recognize them and pick them out from all of the other footsteps around the campus but I was able to do it. How I was doing it however I did not know.
I waited while the footsteps left the building and went out onto the campus. They were moving toward the parking lot. I stood up and began walking that directions. I noticed the other people at the campus but they all felt normal so I ignored them. I stopped near the parking lot and hide behind a trash can. I peeked out and saw the man getting inside a car. He has a briefcase which he set into the passenger side seat. I heard the car start and after a few seconds of rumbling the car drove off.
There were a few moment of contemplation before I took off running after the car. I could recognize the sound of the car but I knew that if it got too far away from me then I wouldn’t be able to hear it anymore. After not too long I could already feel the strain in my legs and the shortness of my breath. I had never been too interested in running before however now I felt some sort of annoyance that I couldn’t continue to follow the car. I had to slow my pace and as I did I noticed that the car slowed down as well.
It was easy to realize that the man in the car knew he was being followed. He wanted me to follow him. For what realize I couldn’t tell however. At the slower pace I was able to keep up the car as it entered the suburbs in the South District and continued father south. It looked like the car was heading toward the wall.
However it turned out my speculation was wrong. Long before the car would have reached the Wall it turned off the road into a gated facility of some kind, maybe a laboratory. It was surrounded by solid walls so it was difficult to see inside. I paused after I was certain that the car had entered the grounds to catch my breath. I had been jogging for quiet a while and my body was not used to that amount of exercise.
It took a few minutes for me to recover and then I was able to walked slowly to the facility. I debated how I wanted to enter. I could go over the wall and that seemed like the best way to proceed. However before I was able to do that one of the guards near the gate began to leave his position and head toward me. I paused deciding what to do and finally made the decision that if the man knew that I was following him and made sure I was able to keep up then he must want me here.
I walked toward the guard and when I got close I noticed he had a gun in a hidden shoulder hoister. While I was wary of it the guard didn’t scare me. Not like the man who had done the test or the picture of the girl. Somehow I could tell that he wasn’t going to try and use the gun. He held up his hand and said, “You must be the boy that the professor said was coming. Dennis right?”
I nodded but didn’t say anything. “Good,” said the guard, “Professor Stolas is waiting for you. Follow me.” I followed the guard as he lead me into the compound. There were lots of buildings inside however one of the was a large dome which the guard was leading me toward. The were staff around but the all either ignored me or seemed to expect me there. After I passed through the door into the domed building I saw the man again, Professor Stolas.
“I’m so glad that you followed me here. I had a feeling that you would after our encounter at the school but I wasn’t certain until I noticed you following me while I was in the car.”
“I am surprised you to tell. I was following you from out of sight.” I responded.
“Then how were you able to follow me?” He smiled again, “You don’t seemed to quite understand yet but you will. I was able to detect that you were following me for the same reason you were able follow me. Hunters generally have quite advanced senses. However I am surprised that you were able to awaken so quickly with so little side effects. Especially considering how dilute you blood is.”
I furrowed my brow and frowned at him, “What do you mean? Are you a Hunter then?”
“Not all Hunters fight beasts beyond the Wall. Some use their talents for other purposes. As for what I mean, well, that is easy to explain. You should know that Hunters are given the blood of Beasts which gives them the strength to fight Beasts.” I nodded, “Well, this blood changes people and is inheritable. When mixed with normal humans the blood can result in second or third generation Hunters. Those Hunters tend to be less powerful but also less volatile. They control their emotions much better.”
“Are you saying that I am one of those Hunters? A second or third generation?”
Professor Stolas shook his head, “No, you are a rare fifth generation Hunter. Usually by the fourth and fifth generations the Hunter’s blood is too weak and that person can never become a Hunter. Some of them can feel the blood but it isn’t strong enough for them to be considered a true Hunter. Very rarely there is someone like you. The blood awakens in such a way that you have a specialized limited talent which is strong enough to still be useful as a Hunter. The fact that you were able to track me this far proves that this is so.”
“What so one of my great-great grandparents was a Hunter?”
“Actually from our records it seems that you have two of them one from both your mother and your father. I suspect that is was that mixing that allowed your blood to awaken in that way that is did.”
“Is that why our brought me here? Because I have the capabilities of a Hunter?”
“No. To be honest even with your unusual qualities as a fifth generation hunter you would still be behind many of the other Hunters. There are already enough of them as is so there would be no need to recruit someone who was happily living there life and force them to become a Hunter, especially when they would be incompetent compared to many of the other Hunters.”
“Then why did you do this? So that you could have fun insulting me?”
Professor Stolas smiled again, “No of course not. I need you for the reason you followed me. That girl. She is a first generation Hunter. Not just that but the blood that awoke her was from one of the kings of beasts. You and I both think that she doesn’t deserve to be locked away but she has very strong impulses. We need someone to watch her and control her when she gets out of hand.”
“Why me then? You said I would be incompetent.”
“Because even with second and third generation Hunters they still have strong impulses. We have tried them before and when things get out of hand sometimes they go along with her. She has the blood of a kind after all. She also considers people with that strong of blood to be rivals. However she doesn’t seem to listen to normal people either and several of them have been injured by her when her impulses get out of control. I am hoping that somebody like you would be the best. You have the blood so she might listen to you but your instincts would be weak enough that you should be able to reason with her when she gets out of control. The only problem is that you might not have enough strength to control her if she goes wild.”
“This sounds like a lot of speculation.”
I could feel a bit of unease in his words as he continued to speak, “Indeed, there is. We have rarely had to deal with first generation hunters with the blood of beast kings. Most of them were changed as adults so they had a wealth of experience to help them keep control over their instincts. Government records however have several instances where one like her simply couldn’t be control and they were forced to release the child into the Jungle. However I would rather not have this be the ending in her case.”
He continued, “My plan is that if she adjusts to you and accepts you then I am going to team the two of you up together and add a second generation Hunter to help balance everything else. You would be the voice of reason and control and the other Hunter should be able to keep her in line if things get violent.”
“Any that will work?”
“That will be up to you.”
“That seems to be a lot of responsibility to put onto a high school student.”
“You were the one who said that you want to help her.”
I couldn’t really rebuttal that argument. “Alright. Is she here then?”
Professor Stolas nodded and turned, “Follow me.” I followed him through the building until we stopped in front of an iron door. There were a couple extra guards here but theses ones were carrying assault rifles instead of pistols. Was she really that dangerous? Stolas motioned toward the guard and said, “Prepare to open the doors. We are going to see her.”
The guards looked between Stolas and me and then one of them said, “Um, is he going to be alright going with you? You know what she is capable of doing.” I could feel the fear in his voice.
“I protect him if it comes to that. Now open the doors.”
The guards nodded and then one of them approached a computer terminal near the door. He typed in some commands and then the door hissed and opened. There was a small passageway on the other side and another door. This one I recognized from the pictures. There was a small slot in it where things could be passed through the door to the person on the other side. Me and Stolas walked through the first door and then there was a hiss as the door closed behind us. The was a short moment before there was another hiss and the door in front of us began to open.
I held my breath as I waited for the door to open. It felt like a long time. Then I saw her. She was huddled on her bed but her face was turned to the door and she was watching us. That fear I had when I looked at the pictures arose one more except this time much stronger. I could sense her strength, her power, that she was the creature in command her.
The Professor Stolas stepped forward. I could feel his resolve and strength trying to shield me from the girl. I could also tell that he was afraid. It was difficult to sense and I could tell he was hiding it but he too was afraid of the girl. Then Stolas spoke
“Hello Yaju, how are you doing today?”
Yaju - Isolation
I remember everything of that day. Father had come home from work late and we were supposed to celebrate his birthday. Mom have baked him a cake. I helped by drawing his name with frosting. It wasn’t very good because I was only seven years old but I did my best and mom complemented me on how well I did.
When father came home we cheered and yelled happy birthday at him. He smile and laughed with us and I thought that it would be the happiest day of my lift. Those memories my indeed be happier then anything I had since then. As father was opening the presents we had gotten him one of the klaxons went off. I didn’t know what it meant but my parents did. The were suddenly quiet and still. All the liveliness had been sucked from the room by that sounds.
Father roughly grabbed me and pulled me toward the basement. Mom followed along and we stuffed ourself into the small room. I remember asking, “What is happening?”
“Nothing darling. Everything is going to be fine.”
They were trying to reassume me but I could tell that is wasn’t nothing. However at that time I still believed them that everything was going to be fine. The Klaxons continued and after a few minutes I could hear the sounds of gunfire and then the screams of people. My mother covered my hears which only minority muted the sounds. Then there was a crash and our house shook violently.
Then everything in my life began to fall to pieces. There was a shutter and the ceiling began to collapse. It began to fall down directly toward me, a large chunk of shattered wood. My mom realized what was happening and prioritized me pushing out of the way into my father. There was a crash and a scream from behind me. I began to turn to look but before I could my father grabbed me and pulled me forward back toward the stairs. He prevented me from looking backward toward where my mom had been.
Father picked me up and ran back up the stairs before the entire basement collapsed behind us. The sounds were more intense from up the first floor. The sounds of gunfire was sharp and pronounced. Father held met tightly and I felt a moisture on may head and I suspected his tears were flowing as freely as my own.
The sounds of gunfire drew closer and then a large golden shape flashed in front of my vision. It was to one side because my father was holding onto me and I rubbed my eyes uncertain of what it was what I had seen. I then got a clear sight for the first time. There was light from the muzzles of guns. One woman with a gun firing wildly. Then the golden creature, like a lion but bigger, slammed into the woman. The lion’s paws were stained red and it raised one of them and brought it down on the injured woman. Then just as quickly as it had appear the creature leapt away.
I could feel my father shaking in what must have been panic or fear. He began to run through the rubble of what used to be our house. I remember the clicking of something landing next to us and then the world went red with pain. Next thing I knew I was on the ground. I could see my father lying next to me however his eyes were closed and his form unmoving. His hand seemed stretched out toward me and red seemed in the ground around him. There was something purtruding from his chest, a large jut of wood.
I reached out toward his hand but I found myself unable move. There was pain throughout my body but I couldn’t tell what was wrong. I cried out, “Father, father, father…” Wanting him to respond to me. But he didn’t. The gunfire had ended and there were no sounds besides my own painful cries for my father.
Cold began to creep up in me and sorrow welled up inside me. There was the crunch of something breaking and I managed to turn my head just far enough to see the golden lion again. It was walking toward me. I was quiet, holding my breath as it stepped closer and closer to me. Was it going to kill me like it did those other people. Would I be dead like mom and father. It stopped just in front of me and looked down at me, straight into my eyes.
Then it did something I did not expect, it spoke to me. “Poor pup, you seem to have lost everything.”
“My father, he isn’t opening his eyes.” I had nothing else to say. Everything was crumbling in my mind like my life was falling away from me.
“Yes pup, and he won’t ever again.” The lion looked up toward the sky. “Your sorrows are of my making. Do you hate me pup?”
There were tears in my eyes. I couldn’t control myself. I couldn’t feel anger or hatred toward this lion, all I could feel was sadness. “I just want my mom and father back.”
“I can not do that.” The lion looked back at me. “However all creatures must take responsibility for what they have done. Tell me pup, do you want to live?”
I shuttered trying to form words but I couldn’t seem to say anything. I was growing cold, very cold. The lion spoke again, “If you die then your parent’s would have died in vain and no one will remember their final moments. Are you sure you what to die?”
Finally I managed to stammer out, “I want to live.”
“Then live.” The lion lifted up his paw and bit into it with his razor sharp teeth. Then he lowered his his bleeding paw and pressed it up against my mouth. “Then drink, and live.”
And I drank his blood and it burned like fire. It coursed down my throat and I could feel it seeping into every part of me. It hurt more then anything I had experience or imagined before. My body which was mostly unable to move before contorted in agony. Twisted and turned in ways that caused untold agony. The coldness that I had previously be feeling got scorched away. I could feel my entire body, feel every single motion that I made and it hurt. Every part of it hurt.
It felt like an eternity and it must have actually took most of the night. I still remember the golden lion watching me and then walking away as the agony continued saying, “Live little pup, live and become strong.”
When the pain finally stopped I realized that the light of the sun had begun to fall upon me. However it felt different, beyond different, more wildly different then it had felt before or anything had felt before. I could still feel the blood burning inside me but it no longer seemed painful. It seemed natural. I stood up and looked around the place that used to be my home. I could see the corpse of my father still laying on the ground next to me.
I felt an immense sadness but it was different then before. It felt more primal, a deep unquenchable sorrow like I had lost something irreplaceable. I felt the truth without any human filters. I screamed out all my sorrows. Then it was gone. I was left empty, it was all gone, all that pent up sorrow. I could still feel some light sadness but it no longer seemed to weight on me.
I looked over the ruins once more. I knew that my mom was dead under the collapsed basement somewhere but I couldn’t bring myself to unearth her. The ruins around me represented all that remained of my previous life. Odds and ends, pieces of what existed before the place was destroyed. It all seemed less important. With my parents dead everything else was secondary.
I decided to leave the place and go someplace, anywhere else. This place now only had bad memories to me. I wandered for a while. The house was outside of town closer to the Wall then many of the other houses. I went toward the Wall. The lion must have come from the Wall, that was where beasts came from however how he managed to get over the wall without getting stopped by the Hunters I didn’t know. However that lion was not like any beast that I had expected to exist. As far as I knew beasts were not supposed to be able to talk. They were supposed to just be violent monsters that normal people were not able to fight and that lived in the jungle beyond the wall.
I found myself off in the area beyond the town. However I had noticed something else. I was surrounded by people. I could see them through the trees at a distance. They seemed to be the same type of people who had been attacking the lion back at my former house. They had there guns and they seemed uncertain. I realized that I looked bad. My clothes were torn in all sorts of places and there was dried blood over what remained of my clothes.
They also seemed so weak and while they carried guns those they seemed so worthless on these people. They were part of the reason mom and father were dead. Had they not been attacking the lion then my house wouldn’t have been destroyed and my parents wouldn’t have been killed. Anger began to bubble up inside me and I wanted to punish these people for what they had done to me. The blood burned inside me and I leapt into action.
I don’t know exactly how I did it but I moved fast, faster then I had ever expected to me. I zipped through the trees and the soldiers had only moments to respond. I felt the burning in my hand and there was a shifting feeling in my hands and a crunching sound as my hand changed, fingers lengthening, nails hardening, turning my hands into claws. The man screamed as I slashed at him and blood sprayed from his shoulder forcing him to drop his gun. The others had barely had time to react before I have gotten out of the way and was on to the next one.
The blood and screaming I remember. These people were no match for me. I could feel the strength welling up inside me filling me and letting me defeat these weaker creatures. It was so easy and they were so weak. Even with their guns there was nothing they could do to me. I was strong and they were weak. Then I felt another beast, one like me, somebody strong. He was taller but still skinny. He wore a white lab coat but I could feel that he was much stronger then these other people. He would be a challenge.
Yet I still felts that I was stronger than him. Sure he had strength but I knew that I was stronger, that the blood burning within me was far stronger than his. However it would be fun. I rushed at him and then I felt pain as my face smashed into the ground. He hadn’t been faster than me or stronger than me but somehow he had avoided my attack and grabbed me and used my own force against me to force me face first directly into the ground.
I began stumbling to my feet but before I had a second to respond he smashed his shoulder into my back slamming me back to the ground again. I growled pushing against the ground. How dare he hurt me, couldn’t he tell that I was stronger than him, more superior. However the beating continued. Several minutes later all the pain that had vanished from before had returned again. He had his knee in the middle of my back and I could barely move without suffering immense pain. Then he was shoving something in front of my face. There was a hiss from the small canister and then an awful, revolting smell filled my lungs and moments later I passed out.
Yaju - Meeting
The door to my cell opened. I glared up at the door. It wasn’t often that somebody enter the room. Unsurprisingly it was Stolas. In my initial encounter with him he had felt weak but in the years since then I had learned that he was anything but. He may not have had many of the same capabilities as I did but he knew how to fight and I had never managed to beat him… yet. However surprisingly there was somebody else, another Hunter, young too. However he was weak… even more so then Stolas.
Stolas spoke, “Hello Yaju, how are you doing today?”
Such a pointless question, “You asked me that every time you see me and the answer is always the same. How can somebody is a position like this possibly be good?”
“I believe that the first couple of times I asked you the question you responded differently.”
“Attacking you if effectively the same answer.”
“I told you I was working on finding a way to let you out of here didn’t I? A way to help you control your instincts.”
“You said that. But you have been saying that for years.”
“Ah, but this time I finally have a solutions, or at least the attempt at one.”
There was a flicker in my emotions, a small ting of hope. I tried to ignore it because I knew if I accepted it and then it was smashed then I would be angry. Very angry. “Oh? And what you that be? Don’t say your just going to get me some more books. You know I find them incredibly boring.”
“No, I brought part of the solution to your problem with me?”
I examined him looking for unusual things he might have brought into the cell but I didn’t spot anything. This caused my ire to begin to spike. “I don’t see anything.”
“Why it is the person I have brought with me.”
I returned my attention to the other person which I had almost forgotten about. I tried examining him but he just seemed like a rather weak hunter. I couldn’t see anything about him that would have anything special to do with letting me get released.
However then the boy spoke, “You feel skeptical about whether I am actually useful. While I am uncertain myself about whether this plan is a good idea I can certainly say that I would be capable of doing my part about it. Also you shouldn’t jump to anger so quickly before at least hearing what the plan involves.”
There was a moment of confusion which was just long enough for the anger that was beginning to build up to start to fade. As it did the boy said, “See? Isn’t that better?”
I looked back at Stolas as said, “Who is this?”
“This is Kirk. I’m sure you can tell but he is also a Hunter, if a rather inexperienced one.”
“I would hardly call someone with blood that weak to be a Hunter.”
“Yet still his blood is awakened and his talent is useful. As you may already be able to tell his senses are highly accurate. Not only that he can quite easily make out other people’s emotional states from subtle tells. He seemed to be able to detect people’s emotion sometimes even before that person consciously realized they are feeling that emotion.”
“Humph, and what use would that be to letting me go free.”
Stolas say, “He is one of two parts of the solution. He will be able to detect your instincts possibly before even you do. He can use that to help keep you under control. The other part is another hunter near your age that will be strong enough to subdue you while your instincts are still controllable. Together they should be enough control for you to be able to experience, well maybe not normal life but some semblance of it.”
There was much about the plan that I thought was a terrible plan. I began to get flooded by emotions. Anger that this was the best that Stolas could come up with, annoyance that I could have to control myself, happiness that I could finally have a change to be free again. The boy, Kirk, nodded and looked at me, “Don’t worry, I want to help you. You don’t want to continue to stay locked up here do you?”
I looked away from him feeling kind of annoyed that he so easily read my emotions. “What about this other Hunter? Do you really think they could possibly control me when I got angry?”
“When you are ever controllable when you are angry?” Said Stolas and I could feel my emotions breaking and my anger rising again, “However,” He continued, “The expected plan is prevention. If you are restrained early then that will give you a moment to recover your calm. Normally it is difficult to know when such a moment is happening. Even I usually move into action too late. Restraint by non-Hunters however will probably be ineffective. However a Hunter with reasonable strength but someone able to detect the warning signed much earlier would be an appropriate measure. And then even if they were incapable of completely calming you together they would be able to create enough time to evacuate the area.”
“Then….” I said.
“I have managed to get permission. At least initial permission. There is a trail period. The officials I managed to get to approve this won’t let you get into any highly populated areas but I did get permission for several out of town sites which can be easily monitored. However this didn’t come without at least a minor price.”
“If you are given these privileges when you must was like any other Hunter.”
Rika - Trade
“This sounds like a terrible plan.” I said.
“I don’t see any major problems with it.” Said Professor Stolas.
“Then you are clearly insane. In case you don’t understand let me spell it out for you. You intend to send two rookies, one of which is useless and the other is dangerous, as guards in a trading caravan with only one experienced Hunter to keep an eye on them… me.” I complained loudly.
“I wouldn’t really call you experienced. You have only official been a Hunter for three years now.”
“That makes this plan even worse.” Admittedly I had only been working as a Hunter for three years now but I was now seventeen, practically an adult. While I might not have as much experience as Stolas I certainly had more than the two younger hunters that he was planning on teaming me with, combined. “What if something goes wrong?”
“Relax. It will be easy. Trade missions to Istan are fairly standard. Almost all rookie hunters use these missions as training missions plus the beast forecast says that it will be safer than usual.”
“I know all about that. Even my first real mission was the Istan trade route but that doesn’t make this any better of an idea. During my first mission there were five hunters, two of which has more than 30 years combined experience. Your want to do the same thing with three Hunters and I’m the entirety of the combined experience.”
“And your first experience was overkill. There should be no problems.”
“Oh? You think? What is Yaju loses control? I have read the reports about her. She is a first gen hunter with the blood of kings. If she goes out of control even if by some miracle I manage to beat her I do not think I will be able to protect the other members of the caravan. They are regular humans Stolas. I’m not willing to subject them to that risk.”
“Caravaners know the risk of their job. Even relatively safe routes like this one occasionally suffer casualties.”
“Yes but not from us. Beasts sure, all of us know that we could be killed by beasts in any mission we go on but they didn’t sign up to be killed by the Hunters that were sent to protect them.”
“Kirk will make sure that they are protected.”
“Kirk? Him? And how would he help? I’ve seen normal humans who are stronger Hunters than him. I’ve just been complaining about the obvious danger but lets start on the other one. Someone like him should never work as a Hunter. If he works as a Hunter then he will certainly be dead within the year. How can you just accept that?”
“You are underestimating him. He has far more talent to be Hunter then you give him credit for. He has talents that are excellent for being a Hunter. While he doesn’t have the same physical prowess as you, me, or Yaju but he makes up for it with his senses. With him with you, you will have plenty of advanced notice if there is going to be a beast attack or if Yaju is about to get out of control.”
“I still stand by my statement that he will probably be dead within the year. You know as well as I do that the Jungle is as ruthless as the beasts within it.”
Stolas was beginning to glare at me and I began to understand that this argument was pointless. He said, “I understand your feelings but this is the mission. I have chosen the most optimal team for what I want to accomplish and all you need to do is do your job correct. Can you do this.”
I raised my hands in surrender, “Fine, I’ll do it but if the caravan ends up dead at the hands of Yaju then I’m going to tell you I told you so.”
“And WHEN you all come back alive I’m going to gloat.”
“I guess we will have to wait a couple weeks to fine out who is right then.”
The journey to Istan usually takes five days then there is usually a couple days in the city and then another five days back. Usually the caravan consists of several large trucks carrying resources and supplies. Istan is smaller than the Districts so it isn’t as capable of producing several resources so the caravan is usually sent every other month. Istan was built near a large mine and the minerals dug up there are always needed.
The caravan left from the southern gate and I got there early in the morning so I could help make sure that everything was setup correctly for the departure. Are the senior Hunter on this expedition I was responsible for almost everything. The caravan crew consisted mostly of veterans who had done this particular journey many time. This was normal and I even recognized some of them and greeted them. While I managed to keep my outward composure I was nervous inside. I really hoped that everything on this journey would work out well because I knew some of the people. This would make me even more guilty if any of them died because I was unable to protect them. I really hoped that everything that I had said to Professor Stolas was just an exaggeration and that everybody would get to Istan and back alive.
Are around the specified time I felt a chill shoot up my spine. The sure sign of a powerful Hunter’s nearby, watching me, and not hiding it. I turned around and saw the two of them. The feeling I had came from the girl, Yaju, who I had seen pictures of before. The other one must have been Kirk who seemed to have almost no Hunter presence. They were both a little bit younger than me.
I stepped forward toward them and said, “Hello, you must be Yaju and Kirk. I am Rika, it is good to meet you. I will be the leader of the expedition that we will be doing today.”
Kirk smiled in a friendly way and reached out his hand. I offered my own and we shook hands. He said, “Pleased to meet you. I hear that you are an expert at this sort of thing. Please take care of us because we are inexperienced.”
“Maybe not an expect but I have had some experience. I’ve done around a dozen caravan expeditions and a bunch of other mission. They generally keep me fairly busy. Most of them however weren’t on the Istan route which is generally reserved for teaching new Hunters. However this time I have been assigned as the training Hunter.”
“Don’t worry, I’m sure you will do fine.” Said Kirk. He then turned toward Yaju and said, “Come on Yaju, say hello. That is the sort of thing that normal people do isn’t it?”
Yaju turned her head away and said, “Sure, hi, nice to meet you.”
Kirk said, “Now, now, be nice. Even if she doesn’t impress you there is no need to be rude.” Kirk turned back to me and said, “I’m sorry about her, she does not really know how to interact with people. She has spent most of her life locked away.” He smiled a little and before I could respond he continued, “But you already know that. I’m sure that Professor Stolas has kept you informed about us.”
“Indeed he has.” I said, “Now the caravan will be leaving in about an hour so if there is anything you need to do before we leave now is the time to do it. You might not know the procedure so I’ll tell you. The journey is five days long and we will be traveling for most of the day each day. There will generally be short breaks every four hours or so and we will be camping during the night. Traveling the jungle during the night is extremely dangerous. As Hunters we are mainly responsible for security. Generally during the drive and at night we will take shifts watching out for Beasts. Due the you and Yaju’s unique circumstances you will be sharing a shift during the night. If you can not deal with only four hour then you can sleep some during the day when it is less dangerous.”
I continued, “Normally caravan hunter squads consist of five people so help share the load but we are limited to three people so both of you will be having more work than normal. There will almost certainly be at least a couple of beast attacks which is normal. However we are not expecting any serious opposition. Also…” I looked over at Yaju, “Your primary objective will be to protect the caravan crew and the trucks. It is important to keep the trucks safe or we will have to abandon some of the supplies. Can you do that?”
Yaju glared at me before Kirk placed a hand on her shoulder, “We will do everything that we can.”
“Good. Now I have to make sure everything is ready to go. Do anything you need to.” I left them to make sure everything was ready at the caravan. While admittedly I was a little less worried then I had been before meeting them I was still worried. However it would not have hurt Professor Stolas to have included at least another experienced Hunter on this expedition. It was irresponsible to risk the caravan this much.
After I had made sure that everything was in order we prepared to leave. With everyone gathered together I had the gatekeepers open the gate out into the jungle. I climbed into the passenger seat of one of the trucks. Kirk and Yaku were in the back of one of the other trucks, the one willed with food and extra fuel. I gave the order and the trucks began to move. We passed through the large wall and out into the jungle.
There was a road that had been built to Istan however due to the nature of the jungle it was always overgrown. Heavy duty trucks were always required because smaller vehicles couldn’t make it through the overgrowth that regularly covered the road. Large trees grew on the edges of the road, like almost everywhere in the jungle. Sometimes during a caravan trip like this we would find trees that had fallen over and we were forced to move them.
There was also the sounds of birds and other animals most of which weren’t dangerous enough to be considered beasts. The sounds were usually overwhelming for when people entered the jungle for the first time but the caravaners were used to it. I turned back to catch a glimpse of Kirk and Yaju but it seemed that neither off them seemed too put off by entering the jungle. Not surprising, Hunters rarely were. To us it generally felt like coming home.
Once the gates of the Districts were out of sight I told opened the door to the truck and stepped out into the road. The trucks didn’t move that fast because of the overgrowth so it was easy to get out even when it was moving. A regular human could probably keep up with the trucks for short periods of time and usually used that to get between the trucks to exchange information or other things. However Hunters, especially experienced ones could keep up indefinitely. Indeed I usually found the trucks slow. Once on a message mission I had gotten to Istan in around two days on foot and that was a year ago, I suspected I could do it faster now.
I moved back toward the truck with Yaju and Kirk in it. “Do you too think you can keep up with the trucks while walking?”
Kirk looked over to Yaju and then back to me before he jumped out of the truck. Yaju quickly followed him. Kirk said, “Yaju certainly can. I… well, I think I can manage a few hours at a time at least.”
“I don’t really need you to be able to walk the whole time. According to Professor Stolas your primary use with be as a sentinel. As long as you continue to keep a watch out during the day. I’m experienced at sensing incoming Beasts but my range is fairly short and I have trouble sensing stealth type Beasts until they are almost upon the caravan. Do you know how far your effective range is?”
Kirk looked off into the Jungle while he was walking, probably trying to figure out how good he could actually sense. Eventually he said, “That is difficult to tell. My maximum range is extremely long however there is a lot of noise which makes to difficult to figure out how far I can get useful information. I could probably detect Beast Kings… umm… from probably a day a way.”
My mouth opened a little bit before I closed after I realized that Kirk was looking at me and smirking. “Of course that is assuming that the King isn’t a stealth type. I have no idea how well I would do against one of those. As for my effective range for detecting threats to the caravan I think I can give around a two hour warning. Beyond that it will be difficult to determine whether the beast is just there or if they are hunting and are a threat to the caravan.”
“That….” I said, “is a fairly good range. The most I can give is generally a ten to fifteen minute estimate for Beasts. How certain are you of your range.”
“Fairly certain. However it should be noted that the main restriction on my range is not how far I can detect the Beast at. There are already tons of Beasts that I am capable of senses. The restriction is being able to determine if the Beast is an active threat to the caravan or not. My ability to sense bloodlust from the beasts that are targeted at us if more limited then just my ability to sense Beasts at range. Of course I’ll let you know if there are any King or Duke tier beasts anywhere in my sense radius.”
Privately I had to admit that I was more impressed then I expected to be. I had know that his beast sensory ability was better than mine but I had expected it to be maybe two or three times better than mine, a level of skill that I had seen in several other Hunters. However it seemed that his ability to sense Beasts was orders of magnitudes better than mine and would only get better as he got more used to sensing Beasts that were a threat. At my skill basically any Beast I sensed was a threat because they were so close to the caravan. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to be sensing tons of Beasts and having to figure out which of them were dangerous and which weren’t. While I’m sure Kirk managed to pick out some of my emotions about his abilities I decided not go let it go to his head by praising him aloud.
Instead I turned to Yaju who had been silent during our conversation. “And how are you at detecting Beasts? Do you know what your effective Beast detection range is?”
She fake yawned like this was boring her, “I’ll be able to detect any Beast worth detecting before we see it. I hardly think that it is important for me to be able to sense anything else. After all Kirk will be able to do it already. And since you said that we would be sharing a night watch I hardly think it is important for me to be able to sense Beasts.”
“That sort of lax mentality will get you killed.” I said.
“I doubt it. If there is a normal Beast that can even compare to me in combat then I’ll be very surprised.” Her voice contained arrogant certainty. While I certainly couldn’t say she wasn’t powerful, even I could tell that by looking at her, it was still a dangerous attitude.
“Just don’t blame me when you get injured by some Beast that you underestimate. Plenty of experienced Hunters have died after they have begun to think they wouldn’t be surprised my anything. And if we encounter a Noble Beast don’t expect for things to be easy. Even if the Beast isn’t a King or Duke, Noble Beasts are always challenging.”
Krik looked over at me, “Noble Beast? I know about Kings and Dukes but what do you mean by Noble Beast?”
“I see your Hunter education must have been lax. Noble Beast refers to any Beast with near human intelligence. Generally only Kings and Duke are powerful enough to threaten cities like Istan and Districts but when traveling like this caravan any Noble Beast can be incredibly dangerous. Most Noble Beasts are capable of leading other non-Noble Beasts which makes them even more dangerous. They also know about Hunters and usually make plans for dealing with us.”
“I see, I didn’t realize there were intelligent Beasts beyond Kings or Dukes. If that is true then do they sometimes team up? I heard that Kings and Dukes rarely cooperate because of their intense instincts but what about other Noble Beasts?”
“Beast Courts do exists but that are thankfully very rare.” I said, trying to explain as best as I could. I wasn’t used to teaching people about the ways of being a Hunter. “I know of only one that has been put down since I started officially working as a Hunter. We believe that more exist however the Courts recognize the threat that humans pose toward them. We had a standing rule that any discovered Beast Courts must be exterminated because they are too dangerous. When one is discovered a large team of usually thirty highly experienced Hunters is gathers to eradicate it. Some of us believe that there are more Beast Courts that deliberately avoid humans so as to avoid being eliminated.”
“If the Courts exist do Kings or Dukes sometimes use other Noble Beasts?”
“Yes they do, however Kings are considered a triple-A threat. One that should be avoided if at all possible. The only time Hunters will be ordered to kill a King is when it is invading a city or it has acquired a taste for human flesh. Being a triple-A threat is part of what gives that Noble Beast the King rating.”
“So the Beasts themselves don’t consider themselves Kings?” asked Kirk.
“According to Hunters which are experts at this so Kings indeed refer to themselves as Kings but our experts believe that they have picked this up from how humans refer to them. Standard Beast hierarchy generally puts Kings, Dukes, and other beasts more as pack leaders. Since Beasts have no formal society most of the titles given to them are of human creation to help us classify their threat to us. We do know that they understand the difference between Noble and non-Noble Beasts but the noble themed titles are entirely a danger classification system.”
“So Dukes are what classification.”
“While Kings are avoided if possible, the standard order against Dukes is to try and force them out. Basically the Duke classification is given to any Beast where the cost of life to kill it would be excessive. While this is true for Kings as well, generally with Dukes it would be more feasible. There is a bit of cross-over between the classifications but generally Hunters try to deal with Duke threats but threats by Kings are generally just avoided.”
I motioned toward the trail, “For example. If a King set put a lair somewhere near this caravan path and started killing people the road would be moved to avoid the King. While a team of highly elite Hunters might be able to kill the King the risk would probably not be worth it. However if it was a Duke that moved it then we would likely try and force it to move.”
Then a little to my surprise Yaju spoke. She had just been walking along with me and Kirk during this time not really saying anything. “So that is why the Golden Terror was never hunted down. Because our hunters are too weak.”
There was a little rumbling of my own anger and the instincts I had as a Hunter. Then I remembered it, the report that I had read about her. My instincts were soothed. She family had been killed by the Golden Terror and that King was the one that had turned her into a Hunter. It was the blood of the Golden Terror that ran through her veins and governed her instincts.
Finally once I no longer felt the burning desire of my instincts I spoke, “The Golden Terror attacked eight years ago. It was a direct assault on the walls of Districts and he managed to go over the walls and into Districts. He managed to fight off two entire squads of experienced Hunters and then escape. Even now nobody knows why he attacked or where he went after the attack. Nobody was able to track him and he hasn’t been heard of since then. While he is still on the list of known Kings nothing else is known about him except what was learned about him during that attack. Even if we wanted to hunt him down we wouldn’t even know where to begin.”
It was Kirk who reacted and said things before Yaju. He rushed over to her and grabbed her arm. “It’s alright Yaju, Rika didn’t mean anything about it.” Yaju looked at him and then back at me. Kirk nodded and then released her hand.
Yaju said, “I know, I just got annoyed that is all. I’ve heard that all before, that nobody knows where the Golden Terror went to.” She walked faster and gotpast me and Kirk looking off into the jungle. “But no matter where he has run off too I will eventually find him.”
“And what are you going to do when you find him? Are you going to try and kill him for revenge on your family?”
“I have a favor to return. He gave you something eight years ago and I will never be satisfied unless I return it to him.”
I didn’t need to be Kirk to sense some of the emotions in her voice. It was not the sort of feeling of anger that you might expect for anger. More like suborn pride. “What do you intend to do?” I asked.
“I intend to take everything away from him. Then I plan on sparing him.” Her voice was firm, like iron.
“The government and the other Hunters will probably not approve of that even if you can accomplish it.”
“I don’t care. Now if you excuse me. I will be back before nightfall.” Then Yaju jumped. One of those moves that only Hunters could do. One moment she was on the ground the next she was hurtling toward the tree-line. She paused on one of the branches and then she was out of sight. Soon after she disappeared from my senses altogether.
I looked at Kirk and asked, “Are you still able to sense her.”
“Yes, I’ll keep an eye on her. She just needs to be alone for a while. She has trouble socializing. This is probably the longest she has ever been with anyone for eight years. I’ve already had to suggest restrain a couple of time. Once she unwinds a little she will be back.”
“Do you think she really means what she is going to do about the Golden Terror.”
“Yes, she means it. She generally means everything she says.”
“Does Professor Stolas know her plan?”
“I don’t know. I doubt she told him but he might know anyway.”
“Even if she is extremely powerful for a Hunter I don’t know if she would be able to beat the Golden Terror.” I said.
“For now that is probably true.” Said Kirk, “She is still not very experienced in fighting and doesn’t have a handle on strategy. All she currently has going for her is brute force and anything else she can accomplish with her blood. However all her weaknesses will be able to be fixed with experience. Give her a few years of working as a Hunter and she will probably be able to threaten the Golden Terror.”
I looked out toward the direction that she had disappeared into, “Possible. I’m more worried that if we give her that amount of time then she will be more of a danger to Districts then the Golden Terror ever was.”
“Well, that is our job to prevent.”
There was a moment before I said, “What do you mean?”
“Professor Stolas might not have said this all out loud but there are certain things that I was able to infer. As you say in the future Yaju could be a great threat to Districts so that leaves two options. The first is to just kill her to prevent the threat from ever being realized. However Professor Stolas doesn’t like this solution. He thinks that if we do that it makes us just as ruthless as the Beasts that we hunt. The other option is to convince her to not be a threat to Districts. There are several different directions that this could be taken but Stolas decided that emotional attachment is the best solution.”
Beginning to understand I continued the explanation for Kirk, “So he places her with three kids that are near her own age and will talents that make us relevant for her and hope that she bonds with us. This gives her a connection to Districts and makes her not want to become a threat to it.”
“Exactly.” Said Kirk. “It also makes her useful, a powerful tool to help protect District. That makes it easier for the governmental types who aren’t hunters and don’t understand Hunters to accept her freedom. Professor Stolas knew that keeping her locked up would be the worst way to have her want to protect Districts so that is another reason he pushed to have this plan accepted.”
“Well, he certainly is a manipulative when he wants to be.” I said, “However I suppose that all of us Hunters are seen as tools or weapons to many non-Hunters. If we weren’t so needed to protect Districts from Beasts I shutter to think if all of us would end up like Yaju. I guess I will have to accept Professor Stolas’ reasoning however I can not promise that I can be what he wants me to be. If we can’t be friends then that is something I won’t fake even if it would cause danger to Districts later.”
“Being a proud Hunter huh?”
I shrugged my shoulders, “I’ve tried pretending before. It was bad with my father. It was my mother who was a Hunter and by the time she married by father she had gains almost full control over her instincts. To him she was kind and sweet. However then my blood awaked my family changed. My father however did not understand what was happening to me. We have more than a few arguments. Eventually I moved into the special Hunter housing because we couldn’t come to terms with each other.”
“Painful times?” Asked Kirk.
“Yes, personally I felt that the family fallout of awaking my instincts was worse than then actual event when my instincts awoke. However the entire experience made me not want to pretend to be something that I am not. I tried that during my encounters with my father but that just made it worse.” I then tried to break away the conversations from me and said, “How about you? I hear that your instincts only awoke recently?”
“Yes, however I can’t really give you any insights into my story. There is not that much to say. Because my instincts aren’t very strong I not that much changed about my life. Well, that isn’t totally true, you see maybe I’ve grown more distant from the people I had known before. It became easy to tell what people are feeling because of my new senses. But people like to hide their true emotions and find it weird if you know what they are really feeling.”
Kirk sighed, “And it isn’t just them. I changed too, I’m not really interested in that life as much anymore. There just isn’t the same feeling of excitement that I had before. Now every time I return to Districts I always imagine the Jungle again. I feel closer to Yaju then I do with all the people that I had been friends with before I awoke as a Hunter. Does this make sense?”
I nodded, “I think we all feel like that. The boiling of the blood is what it is called. Not being satisfied unless you feel the danger of the wild and the freedom of the wild. And it is a feeling that can’t be understood by normal people. They think that we don’t value our own life that we will continue to put ourselves into dangerous situations where we might die. However we generally see it different. Instead we see it as normal. Once you have experienced the jungle as a Hunter it seems so natural. Maybe we are just crazy.”
Kirk smiled a little, “Maybe we are. Maybe we are unnaturally risking our lives fighting Beasts and not thinking it is strange. Sure, I don’t want to die but when I’m in Districts I feel it is quiet and everything has ground to a halt.”
We talked a little as we walked. The trucks rumbled around next to us as we walked near them. Eventually Kirk began to get tired and he had to return to one of the trucks for a rest. Then I continued walking while the day passed by, eventually it began to get close to night time and I motioned the trucks to stop. We had reached one of the main camp sites which was commonly used by this particular cavern route.
Kirk got out of the truck and I walked up toward him. I spoke, “It seems like today was quiet. However the first and last days are usually the safest because they are the closest to the cities. However don’t expect it to be this quiet the rest of the days. I expect at least several attacks during the middle days.”
“It hasn’t been that quiet. At least from my point of view. Yaju has been doing a wide sweep of the area. She has already felt with several Beasts that might have been a threat to the caravan.”
“Yes, it didn’t seem that important to mention so I hadn’t brought it up perviously. At long as the caravan is protected that should be enough.” Said Kirk.
“Yeah, that is true. Well, I guess she has been useful instead of just running off into jungle. That certainly improved my option of her.” I said.
The evening was quiet, probably because of Yaju’s patrols. The other caravan crew members helped set up the camp and then began to cook dinner for everyone. Me and Kirk joined the crew for dinner. There wasn’t really a lot of conversation which we were involved in but the other crew had some lively conversations about their life back in Districts.
Like she had said she would Yaju arrived back just before sunset. She looked basically normal except that I could smell the faint smell of blood on her. I asked, “Did everything go all right?”
“Yes.” Nothing more than that.
“If you want it I had the crew save you some dinner. Also I’ll take the first watch tonight. I’ll wake you and Kirk up later when it is your turn.” She nodded and then walked over toward the crew members, presumably to get the food from them. It was hard to tell but I thought that she was in a better mood then she had been when she had left the caravan earlier today.
The night was quiet. Nothing occurred during my watch and I was able to pass it off to Yaju and Kirk in the middle of the night. I could have kept it up all night but that usually left me grumpy more than anything else. Even if I only got four hours sleep it still made me feel better than no sleep at all. Most Hunters go through some training to help them to stay up and I knew I could probably go for a full week without sleep. I also knew that I was an awful person after the first couple of days. I guess you can’t win at everything.
I woke before the first light, before the caravan crew began waking up. It was quiet, for the Jungle at least, and I was able to find Yaju and Kirk still on watch. Kirk smiled when he saw me and then waved at Yaju and retired once more to the back of one of the trucks. I knew he had received less training and had weaker blood so sleep was probably more important to him then it was to me and Yaju. I took a seat next to her and then took a moment to decide on a topic of conversation.
“Good morning. How was the guard duty?”
“Boring, we just sat here most of the night. Occasionally we talked about things but otherwise it was peaceful.”
“Did you hope to be attacked by a Beast during the night?”
She shrugged, “Not really. It isn’t like any of the Beasts nearby would be that interested anyway.”
“Not the exciting world of being a Hunter that you thought it would be?”
“I didn’t want an exciting world, I wanted one where I wasn’t locked up in a small cell. Basically anything would be better than what I had before. The fact that I was able to just go off into the Jungle during the day is more then I desired previously.”
It seems that without Kirk near her she had softened a little although given the able to sense emotions that Kirk had I’m not certain if that really mattered. I quirked one side of my lips in a half smile, “Well, don’t get too relaxed. While most caravans make it to their destination unscathed sometimes terrible things can happen. And even if they do no there is always the possibility that we will be attacked by more normal Beasts. Remember that.”
“I’m not that relaxed. I don’t know if I am every capable of feeing that relaxed. If anything part of me is always on the watch, expecting something to attack out of nowhere.”
“I know the feeling.” I said, “I guess it is part of all Hunters. Although I know that for some Hunters that spend too much time in the Districts that the feeling fades and they become too soft when on an actual mission.” I looked toward her and then back at the Jungle, “However I don’t really think that is going to be an issue with you. More likely you would go insane if you spent too much safety in the Districts, constantly watching out for threats that will never materialize.”
She closed her eyes. “Indeed, that is what it felt like. Part of the feeling of being trapped as well. Even once I got released from the cell Districts always felt like a prison to me. Maybe that will fade at some point but for now every time I return to the city I dread it and long to return to the Jungle once more.”
“There isn’t anything that attracts you to the Districts?”
There was a pause, a hesitation, just before she spoke, “Well, there are things I want to do in the Districts, but those are the things that I will never be able to do because of who, of what I am.”
“Any what would that be?”
The pause was longer this time. Eventually she said, “Its not important. Even if I told you I don’t think I will be able to do it.”
Then Yaju stood up and said, “It looks like the crew members are waking up. We need to prepare to get going.” She then began to walk away. I’m sure she had some painful memories from being locked away for most of her life. There were things that she wanted that she had never been able to do because of that. I could empathize with that even if I never felt it to the extent that she had, many Hunters had unusual experiences and generally few of them were happy.
It also seemed that Yaju didn’t want to talk about it and there was nothing I could do about that. Even if I was Kirk I wouldn’t be able to read Yaju’s mind. If I wanted to learn what is was I was going to have to wait until she trusted me some more. Shaking my head I raised my hand up to in surprise. I was falling into Professor Stolas’ trap. He wanted us to all get alone and to make Yaju care about what happened to us. I guess he must have chosen a good third member. It made me feel a little bit annoyed but there was little I could do about it so I cleared my mind by getting back to my work.
The caravan finished getting ready and we head out for the second day of our journey. Like the previous day Yaju left into the jungle saying that she would return when night came. Kirk sleep for a few more hours before coming out of the truck. He walked with me some more however we didn’t have much to talk about. The day was quiet, more so then I expected. The second day of journeys like this was usually the most risky because sometimes beasts waited for caravan to get outside of the range of help before they attacked.
So the journey continued, each day passing quietly after the other. As each day passed I felt more and more uneasy. Not necessarily because of the lack of attacks but something else was gnawing at the back of my mind. However when we arrived at Istan finally my worries all rose to the front of my mind all at once.
Yaju - Hunters and Beasts
It was the last day of the journey and I was getting bored. The whole trip had been a lot less exciting then I had expected for my first real journey outside the wall and in the jungle. I had expected things to be a lot more dangerous, more exciting. However so far it had just been quiet. Sure I had fought a few beasts along the route that I had found in the jungle while scouting but otherwise there had been nothing.
It had finally reached the last day on the trip to Istan. However when Rika was waking up in the morning Kirk stopped me from leaving like I usually did to scout.
“Wait, there is something I need to say. Correct me if I am wrong but Rika, you are expecting us to reach Istan sometime this evening right? Around 5pm or so?”
She nodded, “That sounds about right.”
“While normally I wouldn’t have noticed at this distance but I was checking out the route that I expected that we would be taking and making sure there were no strong Beasts around the way. So I felt are far as I could during my watch I noticed something unusual. I felt some Hunters which I assume must be some of the Hunters that are protecting Istan. However that wasn’t all, I also felts some strong Beasts. It was difficult to tell at this range but that might be near Duke classification.”
Rika bit her lip before she said, “Do you think that are attacking the city?”
“It is possible however that is basically the limit of my range and it is hard for me to tell details from that far away.”
“Still that is worrisome. A small city like Istan could have trouble dealing with a Duke attack. While a city needs protection from attacks like that it would still be dangerous and there could be lots of casualties.”
“Should we help them?” Asked Kirk.
Rika looked at the caravan, “We can’t leave the caravan undefended. If we were to leave then certainly Beasts would detect that we had left and attack the crew.”
Finally I spoke up, “Then I will go. Rika, you need to stay and defend the caravan because Kirk won’t be able to do it by himself and won’t be able to keep up with me.”
Rika looked me in the eyes and she looked like she was trying to gauge me, finally she said, “Alright. Do that. Get to Istan as fast as you can. I’ll have the caravan go as fast as they can to catch up.”
I nodded and then started running. On the previous days I had been going slowly, staying in the Jungle and making sure to keep pace with the trucks. However now I could finally let loose and run as fast as I could. Well, almost as fast, the city was still far away and I needed to pace myself. Normally the trucks would take around ten hours to reach Istan but alone I could do it faster, much faster. I could probably get there is three or four hours. Still a long time for a city under attack by a Duke. However if I wanted to keep up my strength for combat with a beast that strong that was the fastest I could go.
In almost no time the caravan was out of sight and I was miles down the road. One of the main reasons that the truck journey was so slow was because of the overgrown road which limited how fast the trucks go safely travel. Still I was moving faster than any car could move. I was able to easily run along the road and with my instincts I was able to a easily plan my path so that I never stumbled or tripped over anything on the road.
Trees zipped by me and I ran and I did my best to also watch out toward the Jungle. If the city was under attack then it would be possible for beasts to be watching the path especially if it actually a Noble Beast like a Duke that was attacking. I could feel the excitement rising up in my blood. The burning feeling that I had initially felt all those years ago when the Golden Terror initially made me a Hunter. That boiling excitement that I would get to fight a Duke, to see how close I was to the Golden Terror.
The distance felt so long, the time to get there and see what was really happening. However, eventually it was over and I could see the walls towering in the distance. I could then begin to sense the Beasts, several strong ones however I wasn’t able to identify them as well as Kirk had been able to. Then I could also begin to sense some of the Hunters.
I wasn’t able to get anything clearer however because my rapid approach had been noticed by the Beasts, not surprising considering that I hadn’t been anything close to stealthy. Several large wolves leapt out of the trees at me. I had been so intent on sensing the more powerful Beasts that I hadn’t noticed them until now. However I wasn’t worried about them. They had attempted to attack me between jumps expecting me to have more trouble dodging.
They were fools. I was able to spin in the air and grab one of them by the neck and then continuing my spin I slammed that wolf into the other one. There was a howl of pain from one of them. I doubted I had killed them however I was more intent on something else, a large bird that was swooping down at me. It was very large, probably capable of snatching me in one hand and carrying me away. I never gave it that chance. The blood boiled within my and I used it to change. My my hand cracked and popped as they changed into claws. I had used this technique long ago against Professor Stolas but since then I had the chance to improve on the technique.
In one blood screeching moment I ripped one of the wings off the bird that was getting close to me. It began spiraling away but before it got too far I was able to jump off it and move faster toward the city wall. I had previously been pacing myself but the Beasts wouldn’t give me that luxury at this point. Now I just had to hurry as fast as I could to Istan.
Several other Beasts tried to attack me but at my new higher speed I was able to avoid them. Then I broke through the tree line and saw the wall and the Beasts in front of it. Then I saw the beast who could only be the Duke. It was strange, after I had seen the Golden Terror I assumed that all Noble Beasts were something like that, a magnificent specimen of a small type of beast but this one was different, it almost looked human. Sure it has thick looking black skin with a horn protruding from where near where the nose normal would be but it was bipedal which was something I had never seen in a Beast before. It was also reasonably small, for a Beast, maybe only seven feet tall. It was also wearing clothes, some sort of toga what was red… stained red.
It turned and looked at me and we locked eyes. I felt a tingle in my spine and my instincts screamed in fear. This creature was strong, very strong. And around him were other Beasts, they looked more beastial but they still had a small appearance of humans. Were they other Noble Beasts. I could tell that I couldn’t fight all of them at the same time so I looked toward the wall instead. I could see several people at the top but I could tell were Hunters.
I rushed to the wall, acting before the Duke could do anything. I jumped up clearing a large amount of distance before grabbing onto the wall. I used the leverage to jump again, making my way up the wall. One of the large bird Beasts closed in but fell out of the sky when a large arrow pierced it. I quickly made my way to the top of the wall where I came face to face with the other Hunters.
One of them had a blade of a strange color pointed at me. The woman next to him had a bow which she must have used to take down the bird beast. The man said, “Who are you? Are you one of those noble beasts like them?”
That surprised me for a moment then I realized what I looked like. I had changed my body for speed and climbing unintentionally. I calmed my blood and as I did my body began to revert. “No, I’m with Districts Hunters.”
The man examined me for a moment before sliding his sword back into the sheath. “What are you doing here then? The first thing these Beast did was destroy our radio tower so we haven’t been able to ask for help.”
“I’m part of a caravan who is delivering trading supplies. One of our members sensed something strange happening here and I was sent to investigate and help if I can.” I looked back toward the Beasts that were amassed outside the wall. “It looked a lot worse then I expected it to be.”
I plan on editing this and the previous section to have Rika give Yaju a radio. After writing most of the following I felt it would be more appropriate for Rika to plan rather than Yaju given their personalities.
As such this section will probably be heavily edited if I make a future draft.
Also future sections will probably be written assuming that I made these changes.
“A caravan from Districts? We weren’t expecting them until late tonight. While I’m surprised you are so early I won’t complain. Can we be expecting any other help?” Asked the man.
“Maybe, if we can hold out long enough however it won’t be much help. Our caravan was guards are understaffed partly because we didn’t expect anything like this. There are two more Hunters who will be arriving with the Caravan however…” I looked out at the Beasts. “One of them won’t be much help in this situation and the other would be hard pressed to successfully get the caravan past that mess and then come to our aid.”
The man sighed, “I guess it is left to us then. I’ll try to bring you up to speed about what is happening. That unusual Noble Beast and his crew showed up in the middle of last night. One of the guards managed to stop him and be got on alert. Since then they haven’t assaulted the walls but instead more and more Beasts have began to show up. Initially we had hoped that we would be able to kill the main Beasts and scatter the rest. We have about a dozen experienced Hunters who are currently watching other parts of the walls in case of a surprise attack.”
He continued, “You seem strong too, much more then we would have expected from District caravan support.” He pointed toward the Duke and his Court. “How do you think you would fair against any of those.”
I tried to gauge my chances based off my initial impressions, “I think I could beat any of the members of his court. However the leader… I don’t know. Maybe if it was just one-on-one with nobody to disturb us I could potentially beat him. Optimally I think I would have a good chance if it was the three of us.”
The man grimaced, “Well that was a better response than I expected and worse than I hoped. Still I guess we have to work with what we got. You ran past them, any insights that you could give us to give us an edge.”
I collected my thoughts trying to go back over what I saw when I ran past and fought the wolves and the bird. “Well, that leader, he must believe that you would be able to beat him and his court if a straight fight. If he thought he could win then he wouldn’t have bothered gathering this large of a horde of beasts.”
“We thought the same. However we felt that it was only true if we were defending the wall when he tried to assault. Otherwise he wouldn’t have shown up outside the wall. It was like he was tempted to take the fight to him in the Jungle where he would have an advantage.”
I nodded, “Yeah, he probably plans to assault the walls with as many Beasts as he can muster to weaken you and provide him a good opportunity to break in and kill all the Hunters. Give that he has already gathered such a crew it seems likely that when he attacks he will keep his whole court together. We would be forced between protecting the town from the other Beasts and fighting them who would have a large advantage given the amount of allies. You must already have a plan?”
There was a dark glance between the two of them before the woman said, “We were planning on throwing everything we had to kill the leader as soon as he attacked the wall. Kill him as quickly as possible. With him dead that would hopefully break up the leadership and cause the horde of Beasts to dissolve and make easy pickings.”
I looked down at the city behind the wall. I knew what he really meant. It would be impossible to defend the city if the Duke attacked. They would sacrifice defending to city in order to win. There would be huge casualties in the city before they would finally manage to purge the city of Beasts. It was a really dangerous plan with awful consequences. However given what they had to work with and the force arrayed against then it was probably the best that they would come up with.
I was trying to figure out how I could figure into this, with my help maybe they wouldn’t have to sacrifice a large portion of the city. However currently the best I had was just a more efficient method of their plan. So to get a better grasp of the situation I continued to asked questions, “I noticed that the two of you are using weapons. Most of the Hunters that I know fight unarmed.”
The woman said, “Well, not everybody is capable of transforming their body like you. We have a smaller population of Hunters here so most of us count as second or third generation Hunters. Since we have access to the large sources of metals in our mines it is easy for us to create weapons for our Hunters. Unlike Districts we don’t have the luxury of old using Hunters with strong blood and we are forced to use what we have access too. Also,” She smiled, “We have some great blacksmiths to make good weapons.”
I payed some more attention to her. She was the one carrying the bow which I noticed seemed to made of metal. A normal person probably could even draw it. It was a weapon made especially for a Hunter. The weapon that the man was using was probably the same. “Weapons made for Hunters…” Given the was the responded I guess, “Made by Hunters. Then I’ll trust in their effectiveness. Are all of the other Hunters here so equipped?”
She nodded, “Most of them. We have a couple who use standard Hunter unarmed combat and have strong enough blood for that to be effective. Their special make makes them much more useful against Beasts than normal weapons.” She looked over the wall toward the corpse of the Beast that she shot down.
“Could normal people use them?”
“Not effectively. They are made much denser then normal metals and as a result are very heavy. Some strong soldiers can use them but even so Hunters will always be better at fighting Beasts than normal humans because of our Instincts.”
I nodded. I had finally had enough time to think about the situation. “I’ve been thinking. Your plan can probably succeed assuming we can kill the Duke in the first attack. However the casualties will be too high.”
“Then do you have another idea? Even with you I don’t think we could make a direct attack on them and succeed. Unless you can think of something unique to do then I don’t think we have any other options.” Said the man.
“We know that a direct assault against them without the protection of the wall would be suicide and they know that we know it. Also I’m sure we both know that when they assault the walls we will have difficulty defending it and preventing them from breaking in. It is possible they they know we will attack them and are planning on using that to eliminate all the Hunters. No, I would beat that we are both counting on winning that same battle. However we know less about them then they know about us. We are missing crucial information.”
“Do you think they have some secret hidden up their sleeves?”
“Possibly, but that was not what I was referring too. My question is why are they attacking the city?”
The two of the shared a glance before the woman answer, “I don’t know, we really hadn’t thought about that. Maybe they just want to eliminate the city so that there will be no competition in the nearby area.”
“It doesn’t seem that simple too me. I think they have something else in mind, I just don’t know exactly what. However I don’t think it is simply elimination. I think they want something that is in or part of the city.”
“Alright, but how does that change anything?”
“I’ve been trying to use my instincts to figure out what is the best solution and the more I do the most I think that your plan is the correct one. However what is that is a trap?”
“A trap, what do you mean?”
“I think that this… the waiting outside the wall, is to create the response we are feeling right now. I think that the Duke is trying to eliminate us, the Hunters that are protecting the city.”
“Of course he is trying to eliminate us. We are the only people who can protect the city from him.”
Then the woman responded, “Wait… I see what you are saying. If he wants something from our city then that must mean he wants something from humans. The threat to the city is a bluff, meant to force us into a battle where he can eliminate us.”
I nodded, “Exactly. If you think of it like a human would it begins to make sense. He is trying to conquer the city not destroy it. That is another reason he needs so many Beasts. He needs a threat against the population, a bargaining chip to get what he wants out of them. Of course that doesn’t mean the people are safe, that Beast probably doesn’t care about any individual human.”
The man held out his hand, “Wait, do you realize what you are saying? That a Beast is trying to conquer, to rule, a human city?”
“Yes, that is basically exactly what I am saying. And I also think that we need to stop him.”
“Alright, even if what you say is true then what do you suggest that we do?”
“We ignore the Duke.”
“WHAT??” It was almost a scream.
“He is expecting us to try and stop him. Instead we stop the army. He can more easily stop the weaker Beasts that make up the army and they provide the real threat to the city. Alone he wouldn’t be able to control all the people in the city. If we try to eliminate the army then he will have no option but to split his court to try and kill us. Then we can use that to eliminate those members of his court are the most dangerous. With them dead and the army defeated we would be able to fight and win against him.:
“And the people of Istan?”
“Some will almost certainly die but that would happen in the other plan too. In this one it is likely he will try to use the lives of the people of Istan to force us to surrender. However if we can get ride of the army the amount of people he can individually kill is quite limited. Certainly a lot less then the number that would have been lost in the unprotected invasion.”
“Your plan, while dangerous, risky, and uncertain, is then probably the best option that we have. Assuming your determination of his goals are correct then this will indeed be more safe than any other option. However if you are incorrect then his court will stay together after we had show that we would stop the army. We could lose a lot of people to him and his court before we face them and they we would be back to the beginning where we need to kill him to force his court to leave. However even if that is true your plan still has valid merit. That amour of people him and his court will be able to kill is probably less then how many the army would kill if they breached the wall.”
“Exactly, even if I am correct the plan still has merit and if his army doesn’t break when he is killed there isn’t a huge host of Beasts inside the city.”
“Alright, I’ll inform the others of the change in plan.”
Fourteen, including me that was how many Hunters that were available for this plan. There were a few more rookie Hunters that were assigned to evacuation and protecting civilians who wouldn’t be able to fight off a horde of beasts. The rest were gathered at the wall. If this plan was correct then there wouldn’t be a sneak attack so Hunters were not needed elsewhere.
Most of the Hunters were equipped with these unique Istan weapons. It seemed that the woman, who had introduced herself as Elizabeth before she went off to gather Hunters, was the one who had designed and forged the weapons for them. It was impressive considering they were of all different kings of weapons including some strange ones which I hadn’t heard of before. I felt it was weird that she had created them and used them herself because she had surprisingly strong blood and instincts. She would have certainly been able to fight without them. However she seemed to be keeping something a secret about them which made me annoyed.
However there was no time to continue to be annoyed. The Beast army had stopped growing larger and it felt more restless than before. The attack would certainly happen sometime in the near future. It had only been an hour since I had arrived but it seemed much shorter.
As the last of the Hunters arrived the man, Alfred, moved forward and stood in front of the Hunters. He had a harsh look about him. There was a moment of silence before he spoke, “Regret now because in a few hours you may no longer be alive to do so. There are no excuses for what we are about to do. We are sacrificing many of those who live in the city to save the rest.” He turned to one side and looked to the sky, “But there is no other way. We must throw away everything that prevents success because if we do not have success then we have nothing.” He pointed toward the city, “They have nothing.”
“So we must betray them. The government does not yet know how we really plan on protecting the city. I have told them we will be able to protect the walls and no Beast will set foot inside. However they do not know the true extent of what we face. I have told them… but they do not understand.” He began to speak loader, “No, they can not understand. So tomorrow, for those of us who survive, there will be an even darker future. We will be blamed for our failure, for out lack of strength. Who knows what punishment will be given to us. But, I will accept it. Each of you must accept it for we will be nothing more than weak traitors.”
There was whispering and uncertainty among the Hunters that assembled in front of him. He looked over them. “If any of you object, who thinks there is a better way, a way we can win without failure. Speak up.” There was silence. He waited and then finally spoke, “That is because there is no other way. The number of forces arrayed against us is overwhelming. Each of you is worth a hundred of them and indeed there are a hundred of them for each of you. However should be afraid, more afraid of your own death then failure then leave. We can waste no effort stopping you. But know that if you do then you are even worse then those Beasts that are trying to ruin all we stand to protect.”
All the Hunters stood there silently, none of them left. He nodded, “Good.” He finally relaxed and smiled a little, “I’m not cut out to be a leader and no Hunter wants to be lead. Each of you knows what to do. So fight, survive, and protect our city.” There was no clapping, instead the sounds of metal ringing as weapons were drawn.
I smiled and stepped forward, “Well, I thought it was a good speech.” I turned to the other and I had my own smile, “I’m going to kill any of you that die before you manage to kill your hundred, understand?”
Then there was finally some laughter. About to go into battle the Hunters standing their could not continue to stay grim. Dwelling on things was more difficult for us to do then normal humans. Alfred placed his hand on my shoulder and said, “Well then, are you ready for your special task.”
“Yes, I’ve been ready since I became a Hunter.” During the organizing in the last hour Alfred had an addition to the plan. Rather than letting the Duke initiate the attack we were going to force his hand. I was going to make an initial assault where I attacked his ranks, baiting the normal Beasts into attacking earlier. With the support of the Hunters with ranged weapons the Duke would be forced to either pull back all the Beasts to beyond the tree line or start the attack.
Rika thought that the normal Beasts would be unwilling to do that will under attack and me and Alfred agreed that assessment. When that happened then the pace of the battle would be in our favor and the assault wouldn’t be as organized as it might normally have been. I liked the plan because it sounded more exciting.
I moved over toward the edge of the wall. Then I looked back at Alfred and waited for his nod. Then I began my change. My hand changed into claws. I hadn’t noticed it before but when I changed my hair, which was normally short, grew longer and changed to a golden color, like the Beast that had given me his blood.
I leapt from the wall and just after I did I could hear the out of a twinge as Elizabeth loosed an arrow from her bow. I saw the arrow fly through the air toward a Beast. Then everything began to happen all at once. I hit the ground and using the strength of my legs pushed off it and toward some of the closer Beasts. They hadn’t even had time to begin to react. I tore through them in a flash of blood and went on to the next one. I tried to keep each one as fast as possible to leave time for as many as I could.
While moving I kept part of my attention toward the Duke and his Court of Beasts. Should they move to stop me I needed to pull back. I knew that I would not be able to beat them alone. I wanted to try, but I knew I couldn’t do it which was the only thing that stopped me from trying. More Beasts rushed in toward me and more Beasts died as they tried to stop me. Occasionally the numbers would seem overwhelming but then an arrow from Elizabeth assisted me and I was free to fight once more.
Then the Duke’s court began to move. One of them, a scaly bipedal lizard broke from the group and headed toward me. The Duke and the rest of the court began to head for the Wall. There was a roaring sound from one of the Noble Beasts and the entire army of Beasts began to move toward the wall. The assault has finally begun. Many of the Beasts around me began to flee as they were order to attack the wall and while I killed a few of them close to me many began to get out of my range.
I had another fish to fry, well a reptile at least. I was fairly certain I could beat it but in the heat of a battle you could never know for certain. There could be plenty about the creature and its combat style that I knew nothing about. I really wanted to find the Beast but I still needed to follow the main plan. The Duke and his Court were the lowest priority. The more lesser Beasts I could kill the better.
So instead of turning to face the reptile I chased after the Beasts that tried to escape from me. With them attempting to escape from me they were easy pickings. I was able to kill them as they began to climb the wall. However each killed delayed me, not by a lot but my the smallest amount. Each kill I made let the reptile get closer and closer to me. It was shockingly fast, faster than I had anticipated. I had hoped to be able to lead it on a merry goose chase all the while picking off as many beasts as I could. With it getting closer and closer that seemed like less and less of an option.
Eventually I found myself next to the wall with the reptile only a couple of arms reaches away. I looked up and quickly considered trying to climb the wall however without support from Elizabeth I would be exposing myself too much if I climbed the wall while the reptile wanted to kill me. So I turned to the creature.
I guessed it was time to fight the Beast. I had already killed my fair share of the lesser Beasts, now the protection of the town would be left to the other Hunters. I smiled and lowered myself onto all fours, “So I guess it will be just you and me now in a battle to the death.”
“Yes, your death.” Said the reptile in a hissing voice. That hissing made me worried but I still smiled.
“We shall see.” Was my only response. I had kept my eyes on the creature’s mouth when it spoke, there were razor sharp teeth and a set a long fangs in that mouth. We circled each other for less than a minute before I decided to strike. I leaped in however then the creature reached out its claws to bite into my flesh I instead grabbed the arm. I flipped over the reptile and then using my mass and momentum threw the reptile into a nearby tree.
It smashed into the tree with a thud and the reptile fell to the ground. However only moments later it stood up again. I wasn’t surprised about that however it seemed to be less effected then I though it would be. The beast was certainly tougher then I had given it credit. Also something was bugging me about the moment of the attack it had made earlier however I couldn’t yet place it.
I circled it again trying to figure out what it was the bothered me. This time it was the first to make the move. It had more measured movements than me, like a trained fighter it moved toward me trying to claw it me with its, well, claws. I slowly backed up pulling away from each attack. However I was getting closer to the wall with each movement and soon I wouldn’t have anywhere to back up to and would be forced into an offensive move which would give the beast a better opportunity to attack me.
However with each move the beast made I better understood its movement. The attacks were fast and light. The claws were sharp and out certainly hurt but currently the attacks would likely do no more than mildly inconvenience me. At least if that was all there was to the attack. Now I was almost certain that his claws were poisonous, that it wasn’t trying to deal me a serious wound with its claws but instead to just injure me. Even a small flesh would could be dangerous if its claws were poisonous.
The beast was also experienced. My initial attack had be unusual and caught the beast by surprise but I was unlikely to be able to do that again. I could probably brute force an attack, which indeed was tempting, but then the poison claws would be dangerous. Given a large enough dose I was sure that the poison would be lethal. The question however was how much that dose was.
I needed some defense against the claws however. It would be difficult to fight if I couldn’t defend myself effectively against him. My arms cracked and changed again. The skin thickened and the golden hair sprouted making my hands more like giant lion paws. I could feel the strain on my blood and instincts, it was difficult to control and keep my hands in that form. It was currently the limit of how much I could change myself. It wouldn’t be able to protect more than my arms.
The reptile came after me and with the changes in my arms I was able to block him with them. I could feel the claws attempt to cut their way through the fur and tough skin however I proved to be a little tougher than they were sharp. With that small amount of time that I got from blocking I was able to lift my leg and kick the creature. This time I used all the strength I could get out of my leg to try and inflict as much damage as possible.
The reptile was able to shift his stance and only slide a little bit from the force of the strike. His face contorted in rage and I could tell that it was painful for him much more than the previous strike had been. I grinned feeling that I had gotten the advantage. “You think you will be able to hurt me. You don’t stand a chance against me now that I can do this.”
That seemed to enrage the reptile and it rushed at me. The previously controlled style that it had been using was gone. Now it was just attacking with speed, force, and anger. That suited me just fine because I could fight like I liked to fight without having to control myself. I also knew that he was going to lose to me now, he had lost the main advantage that he had against me.
The fought along the battle of the wall and I was slowly able to wear down the reptile. My claws began to cut bloodily lines in the flesh of the creature. His movements began to slow and I knew that the end was now. Then in one attack I rushed toward the reptile beast. It tried to make one last attack but I ignored it and ripped into the creature. Then moments later it fell to the ground, blood spilling around it.
I stood over the body looking down at it. “Not so strong now. See how strong I am compared to you.”
It was making coacked breaths just before death but it still managed to breath out a response, “Hehehe, you may be stronger but you pride will be your end. You may have killed me but I have also killed you. Now die and let my king rule.” And then his breaths stopped. There were a few moments where I mentally gloated before his words began to resinate with me. I began to feel the pain in my chest.
I looked down and saw one long bloody claw mark in my chest. It was small and must have been done in that last attack. I reached down and touched the blood with my fingers. The wound was small but I still realized what it meant. I could already feel a numb feeling from my chest. I knew it wouldn’t be long before whatever poison it was began to affect me. However I needed to do what I could before I was rendered weakened by the poison.
Many of the Beasts had already gone over the wall and I had to do what I could to stop them. I would have to leave the Duke and the rest of this court to the other Hunters. I was supposed to help them with them during stage three of the plan but I didn’t know if I would resist the poison that long.
There were still some Beasts scaling in the walls in certain places. I could see Hunters fighting off Beasts in other places. So I went to one of the walls and fought. The numbing sensation grew as I fought the Beasts, cutting through them one by one. I fought off the poison as best as I could but before too long it was beginning to be more than I could stand. I found myself at the top of the wall, laying against part of the battlements. My chest felt it was on fire, not the painless fire like my blood, but a hot burning pain that rendered my nearly incapable.
It had stopped getting worse, which was good, but it wasn’t getting better. I had probably avoided a high enough dose which probably prevented it from being fatal however that didn’t make me feel any better and I didn’t know how long it would take me to recover. I still had enough strength that a couple of times when a Beast got close to me I was able to fight it off.
“Yaju? Is that you? Are you alright?” I heard the voice. It sounded like Elizabeth.
I coughed a couple of times and I think there was blood that came out. “I’m just peachy but I don’t think I’ll be able to fight any more.” I turned my head just enough so that I could see Elizabeth. She was covered in blood just like me and looked slightly injured. “How is the battle doing?” I asked.
“We are doing alright, we have managed to fight off most of the Beasts but the Duke and most of his court are still alive. What happened to you? I saw you fighting one of the Duke’s court and then things got too busy.”
“I beat that thing but it was poisoned. I think I will eventually get better but for now.” I waved my hand without moving my arm, “I don’t think I will be able to fight anything. Is the plan working?”
“It is working well. Most of the city is protected because of our plan. However the Duke placed himself in the capital building and is commanding that we surrender or he will begin to start killing people.”
I winced, “That sounds bad.” I coughed some more, “What time is it? If we consult with Rika she might have a plan for dealing with that.”
Elizabeth moved up to me and pulled me up to my feet and threw my arm around her shoulder. “I’ve already gotten into contact with Rika. The caravan has been rushing as fast as it could since you left so she should be here soon. Alfred has already sent one of the Hunters to meet with them. We are trying to delay as long as we can with the Duke while we wait for her to arrive and we can prepare as much as we can.”
“Just give me a few minutes to recover and I’m sure to be able to help.”
“Don’t be silly. You look like you may need weeks of recovery.” Said Elizabeth who while holding me ran along the wall. I relaxed and not that I realized that I was safe, fell asleep.
Rika - Against All Odds
I had the caravan going fast, any faster and the trucks would have crashed after hitting any small vine or pot hole in the road. Occasionally I got updates about what was happening in Istan on the radio. Things were going as well as could be expected. Four Hunters had already received dangerous injuries and one was confirmed dead.
We were getting close to Istan and I was expecting one of the Istan Hunter to arrive and trade off for me and and Krik. Only a few minutes later I saw the signal from Kirk and waved off into the trees. The Hunter jumped from the branches. I hailed them, “You are the messenger from Istan?”
He nodded and said, “Yes, I’m supposed to trade off with you.” I throught he looked tired. They had probably sent one of their Hunters and had been fighting long and needed a rest. Considering that the caravan would almost certain be safe it seemed like a good idea.
“Good, I’d love to stop and chat but people’s lives are in danger. You will be alright on your own?” He nodded and then I motioned to Kirk and the two of us went running off down the road.
“Will you be able to make it all the way?” I asked Kirk.
“I should be able to. The distance if fairly short and I have been resting so I should be able to make it all the way the Istan. Are you still sure that it is a good idea for me to come with you.” He asked.
“Yes, you able to sense Beasts is far beyond mine. Without you it will be difficult for me to execute the next phase of the plan.” My mind was still trying to go through the different opportunities.
“You still haven’t explained to me, or the Hunters in Istan what the next part of your plan it. Previously you said you didn’t want to give people false ideas before you have completely figured out what to do next. Has that changed?”
“I have the basic down, however it is personally risky and I’m not certain that it will totally work.”
“What is it?”
“You know how you can sense Beasts and Yaju is capable of transforming parts of her body to become more like the Golden Terror.”
“Yes, but I’m not certain what that has to do with the plan.”
“Well, each Hunter usually has unique qualities that are associated with their blood and their instincts. Sometimes they aren’t particularly special exceptional but every Hunter has some special trick that generally only their can perform.”
“Then this has to do with the ability that you possess? Is that why you want to keep it a secret? You never really spoke about what you could do beyond the normal Hunter capabilities.”
“Yes,” I felt a rising sense of unease which I was turn that Kirk could feel in my.
“It isn’t something that you are proud of then? However you think it will help solve this situation which is why while it is something that you would not normally use you plan on using it.” He said.
“That is correct. Not very many people know about it. One of them is Professor Stolas. I’m sure that it is the reason that I was put in charge of this team.”
“Is is something that would be effective against Yaju then?” He asked.
“Probably, I haven’t really experimented with it too much so there is a lot of uncertainty.”
Kirk didn’t say anything else. I was uncomfortable and didn’t really want to speak more on it. I still didn’t want to use it but it was looking like it was more and more inevitable. We ran in silence until we reached the wall of Istan. As we came within sight of it Kirk pointed to a pair of Hunters who were standing atop the wall.
“Hold on.” I said and then I grabbed Kirk and began climbing the wall. I’m sure that Yaju would have been able to climb it faster but it was easy enough for me, even if it was a bit slower while holding Kirk. When I finally reached the top I saw the man and woman that were standing there. “Alfred and Elizabeth I presume?” I asked.
“Then you would be Rika? I remember seeing you in caravans before but I didn’t know your name. I thought you would be a little older.” Said Alfred but it was just mild surprise. Age didn’t mean too much for Hunters. Many Hunters awakened to their instincts at a very young age so it wasn’t unusual to have experienced teenage Hunters.
“Yes, I’m glad that you could meed us at the wall. What is the situation like, has anything changed.”
“I told you before you left the caravan but the Duke is demanding that we surrender to him.”
“Have you found Yaju?”
She nodded but her expression was grim. “Yes, however she has been injured. It seemed that she fought one of the Duke’s Court and won but the creature was able to poison her.”
I frowned, “Will she be alright?”
“I think so, she seems to have only gotten a small dose but it is enough that she will be out of commission for at least the rest of the day. She tried some basic medicines but they don’t seem to have any effect. So we are going to just have to wait for her to get better.”
“Disappointed, I wanted her to be able to help us with the Court. Did you have the total members of his Court that we have disposed of?” I asked.
“The plan mostly worked successfully. He has seven Noble Beasts in his Court from what we could tell. One of them fought Yaju and lost. When they attacked the city and noticed that we weren’t going after him they sent four of them in a group to go deal with the Hunters. We managed to break apart that group and then surround and kill those four. However a lot of our Hunters were injured in that attack and one of them died.”
“So there is the Duke and two of his court remaining. That doesn’t sound as bad as I expected. How many able Hunters do we have left.”
“Don’t think it is too easy. As far as we can tell the two remaining Noble Beasts are his most powerful allies and that isn’t even including him. Now for our assets, There is the two of us, the two of you, and we have three more uninjured Hunters. We have more if you include those who would not be capable of fighting the remaining Noble Beasts.”
I grimaced, with that few I had hoped to have Yaju as one of our members. With her there it would have been a lot simpler. “That will be a problem. From what you have determined to you think that the five of us would be able to fight the Duke if we all attacked him together?’
“Possibly,” said Alfred, “Outnumbering him would get be to our advantage and we could probably beat him if we managed to separated him from his two guards. With his guards I don’t think we would be able to beat him in combat.”
“Don’t worry about his guards, I have a plan for dealing with them. Now,” I looked at Kirk and then toward Elizabeth, “Do you have any spare weapons? I think Kirk would be a good candidate for using them because his blood isn’t as strong as most Hunters. Also if you had a small blade or equivalent that I could use that would be excellent.”
“I can get you a knife, however for Kirk,” She looked over Kirk examining him. “I can get him something but considering a custom weapon is what he really needs. I don’t have time to forge him one until the Duke is dealt with and given the nature of the weapons I think that simply handing out temporary weapons would just be bad for him.”
“But your ok with just giving me a knife?”
“You know what you want and that is what is appropriate for you.” He expression changed and became puzzled then she spoke again, “Actually I do have something that he could use. It was a project that I abandoned because nobody wanted to use it but parts of it is usable for now.” She looked over to Alfred and continued, “I’ll go get the things, you prepared with Rika.” Then Elizabeth ran away toward the mines section of the city.
Kirk looked strangely after Elizabeth before he said, “She felt excited like it was something that she had waited to happen for a long time. What do you think she is going to go get?” He asked looking toward Alfred.
“I don’t know. She has generally kept her forging and weapon construction techniques secret so she does not talk to me much about the different experiments she does when making the weapons.” Said Alfred.
“So you don’t know how she creates the weapons?” Asked Kirk.
“I know the general method but don’t know any of the specifics. However unless you can convince me that those techniques are relevant to the current situation I’m going to keep them secret like she expects me to.”
Kirk waved his hand, “Oh, no, I was just interested. If she wants to keep her techniques secret then I shouldn’t bother he about them.”
I nodded, “While I am also interested in how she makes weapons designed for Hunters I agree that those techniques do not seem relevant for the current problem. The Duke is set up in a government building is that correct? I’m going to get into a good position so that it will be easier to move out. Get the other available Hunters and meet me there.”
“I’ll need to lead you there before getting the Hunters.”
“No, Kirk will be able to get me into position just fine. Isn’t that right Kirk?” I said.
Krik nodded and said, “Yeah, I should have no problem finding a good position to attack the Duke.”
“Alright, I’ll meet you there then.” Said Alfred and the left.
Then me and Kirk headed to the location. He guided me through the threes which were full of Beast corpses. Unfortunately there were also some human ones as well. The plan would have probably kept casualties to a minimum but those casualties still existed.
As we walked I asked Kirk, “Did most of the human evacuate successfully?”
“As far as I can tell. It is really hard for me to detect normal humans especially at a distance. I can tell that there are a lot of them in the mines with some Hunters guarding them however that is the best that I can tell.”
“If most of them escaped then that is enough. Not we just need to deal with the Duke.”
“Are you really going to be able to deal with the Duke’s Court? Does that have to do with your special ability?”
“You really are good at sensing these things aren’t you. Yes, that is how I’m planning on getting ride of them.”
“And it won’t work against the Duke?”
“I doubt it. He is quite strong and I don’t think my ability will work correctly on him. If it does then excellent and ll my panning will be time wasted but I’d rather plan on it not working.”
“What if it doesn’t work on his Court. They seem quite strong.”
“Oh, I’m fairly certain that it will work on them. At least certain enough to make this plan. It might not work if they expected it but as a surprise I think I will be able to kill both of them before they can realize what I am doing.”
“Alright, I’ll trust you but will we be able to kill the Duke afterward.” He asked.
“We will have to. If we can’t do that then this entire city is doomed. There would be no way for the people to evacuate fast enough to stop the Duke and reinforcements from Districts would be far too far away. Sometimes you have to take risks like this even if you don’t know that you can win.”
“We are here.” Said Kirk. We had arrived near the back of a building. Kirk hide himself and looked around the corner. “That big building there. The Duke is inside that.” He grimaced, “The remaining members of his court are then as well as maybe fifty normal humans.”
“I guess he wasn’t kidding about killing people if we didn’t surrender. I hope we will be able to protect those people but protecting the large population in the mines is more important.”
I took a look as well. One of his court was pirched on the top of the building, a bird creature of some kind. It had too many human feats to be able to easily tell what kind of bird it looked like. “The other Noble Beast is inside?”
“Yes, the Duke is in the main room and the other member of his court is watching over the humans.”
I nodded and then we had to wait. A few minutes later Alfred arrived with his three other Hunters. I looked over them and then back to Kirk. “Now that you have seen all the members what do you think that our chances are?”
“Straight physical capability we would lose however because of the numbers I think we will be able to beat him. However that is still uncertain and also requires you to kill the other two Noble Beasts. Without the numbers advantage we don’t stand a chance.”
“Yeah, that is true. Is Elizabeth almost here?”
“I’m here.” Instead of Kirk, Elizabeth responded as she dropped down from the roof. She was carrying a couple of bundles wrapped in cloth. “It just took a bit to find the things I was looking for.” She took the smaller bundle and unwrapped it. There was a knife inside. She handed it to me.
It felt warm in my hands which was strange but it felt right to use such a weapon. It was sharp and just the right length for me. I spun the knife around for a moment and its balance was perfect. I smiled, “This is nice.”
“I thought you would like it.” Then instead of unwrapping the other much larger package she handed it to Kirk. “And this one if for you. Take care of it. It isn’t fully completed yet but if we survive today then I will make sure to finish it for you.”
Kirk began to unwrap the bundle and then looked up at Elizabeth in confusion. “This is a…”
“Yes, it is crossbow.”
Krik pulled it out of the wrapping and held it in his hands reverently. It was large and made of a combination of metal and wood. “This weapons, why did you choose it for me?”
“The weapon was an idea I had a while ago however after I made the initial version I couldn’t find anybody who would be good to use it. However I think it is a perfect weapon for you. Most Hunters want to use their own strength and find the crossbows do too much of the work for them. However all those weapons would be inappropriate for you.”
“Because I am weak?”
She shook her head, “No, because it frees you up to do what you are better at. Look at what else is in the package.”
Kirk pulled out what was left. It was a quiver full of crossbow bolts. He looked up at Elizabeth and then she nodded back at them. He pulled out one of the bolts and then another. There was confusion written on his face as he took out a couple more of them.
“What is wrong?” I asked.
“All the bolts are different.” He said.
Elizabeth nodded, “Indeed, every single one of them is different. The crossbow and bolts are still prototypes but if they work then I can reforge them in a better manner. Plus there are not as many bolts as I wanted to make however I lost my drive to finish the project when I discovered that nobody wanted to us the weapon.”
I frowned too, “Why are each of the bolts different? Wouldn’t it be better if they were all the same then you would get more reliability.”
Kirk looked up at Elizabeth and said, “No, I understand. Each person, each enemy, each shot is different. With all these different bolts there will be one for each of those shots, for each of those enemies.” He smiled and slung the crossbow over his back using the strap it had. “Thanks, I think you are right. This is the perfect weapon for me.”
“The perfect weapon?” I asked. “Certainly it seems like a useful weapon but given the difference in all the bolts wouldn’t it take a lot of experience to learn how to use it correctly.”
Elizabeth smiled and said, “Yes, normally. Which is another one of the reasons that nobody wanted to use the weapon. Figuring out which bolt is the best on to use it tricky especially because there was large differences between the bolts. However someone with the talent like Kirk has should be able to use the crossbow flawlessly.”
It finally began to dawn on me. “Because of his heightened senses. He should be easily able to differentiate which of the bolts he should use given the circumstances and what enemy he is fighting. He would also be able to tell which of the bolts do what without having to test each individual bolt.”
Kirk placed the quiver next to the crossbow and then looked over toward me, “We can discuss this later. However we have some Beasts to hunt. What is the plan Yaju?”
“Well, the Duke wants us to surrender of he will kill more people. I suggest we do exactly what he says.”
“What?” Said Alfred. “How can we just surrender to him? After all we have already done.”
I rolled my eyes, “Of course we aren’t surrendering to him. However if we all go in together he will be forced to deal with us. If it is the pretext of surrendering we can probably avoid having him kill anyone until we can gather him and his two noble beasts together so we can deal with them all at the same time.”
“That sounds dangerous.”
“It is dangerous. However anything we could do would be dangerous. The other option would be to just abandon the city and let the beasts win. Is that what to want.” I said.
“Fine.” He said sounding a little annoyed, “We will do you plan. So far you have given good advice and we have had a fairly good success ratio.”
Then we walked out from behind the building and toward where the beasts were. I had my hands raised, not that it really meant too much but it was still a token symbol of surrender. The bird beast quickly noticed us and flapped its wings taking off. It twisted in the air and then dived through a hole in the roof. It must be going to inform the Duke.
We walked through the front door and passed the broke reception desk into the center of the building. The roof had been collapsed and sitting on a chair in the center of the pile of rubble was the Duke. The bird was pitched a little bit higher on the rubble looking down at us. Next to the Duke was a feminine beast who resembled wolf. All together they made an menacing group. I questioned my plan mentally but I wouldn’t voice such thoughts aloud a this point.
I stepped forward with my hands still raising up. “We had done what you said and surrendered. Now release the prisoners that you have.”
The Duke glared at the five of us with anger in his eyes. Finally he stood up. “I did not promise to release these humans if you surrounded. I said I would kill them if you did not.” There were a couple humans knelling a few feet in front of him, close enough to easily kill. He stepped toward them placed one of his large hands on one of them.
“However,” He continued, “You are here. However you don’t seem intent on surrendering. After all, there are more Hunters in this city then those that are right here. Where are the rest of you?”
“All the others are too injured to move. We are the only ones who are healthy enough to attend you commands.” I said.
He glared, “Step forward.”
I did at he said and took a few steps forward. The others stayed back. It would be bad to ignore his orders until he were ready to actively oppose him. He looked down at me form the top of the pile of rubble. “So after all your squirming and attempting to stop me you realize that it is impossible to stop me. Are you the leader of this band?”
“Yes I am.” I tried to seem as confident as I could.
“You see, my rule has been challenged and I can’t have that happen. You want these people and your companions to survive but I require a price. To have the peace that you want I must have the blood I need in repayment. For that you must die to cement my rule.”
“I understand, if that is what is needed then I am prepared to accept that.”
“So young and foolish. Kill her.” The Duke motioned his hand and this two companions stepped forward.
The stepped closer and closer to me and just as they got within reach I spoke. “Do proud and foolish. Had you killed me with your own hands I may not have been able to do this.” Then I gathered my instincts and blood. That rush filled me, the part of me that I hated more than anything else about myself. My desire, the reason people always thought of me as a leader despite my best efforts.
“KNEEL.” My voice was loud, commanding, and with the dangerous hint of viciousness. I released my presence, the one not too dissimilar to the the Duke that was standing in front of me. The two beasts that were right next to me obeyed. They knelt and then moments later they were dead. I had drawn my knife and it only took a moment of movement for me to slit their throats. Has they been able to resist my order they could have easily dodged it but the couldn’t resist.
The Duke was growling at me. He knees were bent a fraction of an inch like he had felt the command in my voice and had trouble resisting. Behind me I could tell instinctually that all the Hunters that were following me had knelt just like the beasts that were dead at my feet.
They would obey and command I gave, they would die for me. However I knew that I couldn’t use that. This cursed ability, the one that made me just like the Duke in front of me. I could turn my friends and allies into nothing more than slaves. I knew it and it frightened me more than anything else, more than death. The sweet taste of power and command tempted me every time I used the power so I avoided it at all costs lest it become too natural for me.
The Duke continued to growl, “You, what did you do?”
“I commanded them and they obeyed. Surely you have been doing the same thing. My command was just more powerful.” My voice had changed back. It had become more normal. I could hear those behind me begin to stand up. “Now it is your time to die. You will never rule this city.”
He was beginning to become angry. Instead of standing on two legs he had fallen to all fours. “POINTLESS.” He roared, “EVEN IF YOU KILLED THEM YOU WILL NEVER KILL ME. I WILL KILL YOU ALL AND THEN DESTROY ANYTHING YOU CARED ABOUT.”
The command in his voice was intense and I knew that those behind me were shaken by it. I turned toward them calming my own aura using it to guard against the Duke’s own. “Don’t worry. We can beat him.” It was still painful for me to use my power like this even it was to protect those who followed me. However without it they would have fled and collapsed to the Duke’s intense command. Without previous experience to the decrees of a Duke or King it was difficult to resist.
With my words it seemed like it cleared up the fog of fear in the other’s expression. They climbed back to their feet and I turned to Duke and said, “You’re finished. It doesn’t matter how powerful you are. I ruler without anything to rule is nothing but a dangerous beast that must be put down. You are not anything any more.”
Then the Duke, that large gray beast with a horn charged us. It rushed fast and strong toward me however it was telegraphed so I was easily able to get out of the way. My knife was still in my hand so as he rushed past me I was able to run it along his side drawing blood. However his hide was much thicker then I had expected. I was barely able to make more than a small cut. Without a direct strike I didn’t think I would be able to inflict a serious wound upon it.
The rest of the Hunters also got out of the way but for others it wasn’t as easy. We scattered around the room making it difficult for him to attack a group of us. Alfred had already drawn his sword and Kirk and Elizabeth were getting far away to better use ranged weapons. The other two Hunters were functioning as distraction.
The Duke rushed once more across the room. This time faster and more accurate. This creature was deadly. I could tell that for certain. With each pass it was getting better and better at anticipating our moves. The first couple of shots that Kirk and Elizabeth had made pierced the creatures skin but after that it was paying attention to them and was dodging the shots of knocking the projectiles out of the air with its horn.
Alfred and another one of the Hunters approached the Duke from different sides and managed to bloody it before it swung in a circle and knocked them both back. He other Hunter got the worst of it and fell to one side with his arm bent at an unhealthy angle. While the Beast was distracted I moved in with my knife and the two other Hunters joined me in the attack. Sensing the weakest link the attack the Duke raised to two legs and punched one of the Hunters. She managed to block the attack but the force of the blow knocked her across the room and into the wall.
However that attack give me and the other Hunter time to hit the Duke. However the Duke didn’t seem to avoid. My knife sunk into it. The other hunter had claw type weapons and managed to hurt the Duke. However with the weapon still inside him the Duke head butted the hunter knocking him to the ground. He hit the ground with a thump and then didn’t move.
Feeling the threat I pulled out the knife and jumped backward. I surveyed my surroundings. While the Duke had already taken some major wounds three of our Hunters had already been taken out of the battle. Now there was just Me, Kirk, Elizabeth, and Alfred.
With a motion I began attracting the Duke’s attention. It was dangerous but I needed to give Kirk and Elizabeth a clean shot. Alfred noticed what I was doing and moved to help me. The two of us harried the Duke trying to keep him way from the other two. Then there were a couple of whooshing sounds and the Duke howled in pain. However instead of collapsing he turned toward the two ranged combatants.
Me and Alfred used that moment to strike but the Duke had already shown his willingness to take injuries to remove combatants. Blood flowed but the Duke managed to break free from us and strike and Elizabeth. She managed to avoid the brunt of the force but that wasn’t were the Duke was aiming. There was a snapping cracking sound as the bow broke.
Then the Duke turned toward Kirk and rushed toward him. Alfred managed to intercept him however he was batted away with the Duke’s horn. The force of the blow sent Alfred flying.
Things were looking bad. The Duke had numerous injures but we had lot the majority of our fighting force. Kirk was still standing but I could see that his quiver was almost empty. Elizabeth was also still capable but without her bow she wouldn’t be as much help. Alfred was staggering to his feet but I could tell that he didn’t have much fight left in him.
The Duke began to turn toward them. He was probably wanting to remove the weakest links so that I got no more assistance.
“WAIT” I commanded. He turned around to look at me. I could tell that he wasn’t obeying and instead he might have just be surprised. I continued, “Everyone else is defeated. It is just you and me now. One final dual.”
“Oh? Is that what you want? I will humor you but know that I will kill all of them in front of your dying body so you will know that you have failed completely.”
I lifted the knife and saw the blood that had coated it. Then I threw it to one side where it clattered to the floor. “I’m going to kill you with my bare hands for threatening them.”
“Big words for a small girl. You are just pretending to have power. I will crush you.”
“Wait no, don’t do this.” I could hear Kirk crying out.
I glared at him, “NO, LEAVE. YOU DO NOT HAVE THE STRENGTH TO INTERFERE.” I yelled at him, pushing my command into every word. His face was shocked then it changed distorting and then became calm. He understood what I wanted. He nodded and turned away running toward the exit of the building.
The Duke spoke, “He will not be able to run far enough. Once I am done here I will hunt him down and kill him.”
“You will not live long enough to do that.” I reached down placing one hand on the ground. I could not transform in the same way that Yaju could but I could still feel the instinctual, the beastial way of fighting. Normal humans may have forgotten it, escaped to reach toward the sky but I could feel it in all my limbs. With this style of fighting a knife would only be a hindrance.
I made the first move running toward the Duke using all four of my legs. I couldn’t managed the full claws that Yaju did but most hunters could make their hand and fingers into deadly weapons. I clawed at him but his movements were too fast. With no other distractions my attacks seemed like nothing more than an irritation for him. He was easily able to dodge my attacks.
“Is this all you have?” He said as he swung one of his arms at me. It hurt like a truck. I had managed to pull back at the last moment reducing the strength of this swing but it was still painful. It slide me back but I used that opportunity to latch onto his arm and rack my fingers into it.
He pulled back and I could see bloody lines on his arm. However he seemed unperturbed. “You are all so weak. You have all these opportunities to harm me but you never manage to be more than a minor annoyance. Even with your strongest attack you would never be able to kill me.”
I only growled at him and lunged again. However this time he didn’t move. I brought my fingers together to pierce his chest. He still didn’t move and my blow connected successfully. Blood spray but instead of being stunned the Duke grasped me with his arms and pulled me to his chest beginning to crush me with his strength.
“I even left you hit me and that was the best that you could do. Pathetic. You plans, your friends, you commands, all pointless. Without true power everything else is just useless attempts to delay the inevitable.”
I coughed and there was blood in my mouth. However I managed to mutter, “Not pointless.”
“What? I can’t hear you.” He Duke took the time to release his grip and toss me across the room. I barely had the strength to cushion the blow so that it wouldn’t kill me.
With what resolve I could muster I began to stand. I staggered a little bit but finally managed to make it to my feet. Once I did that I stared down at the Duke and said again, “Not pointless.”
With large booming steps he lumbered toward me ominously. “What wasn’t pointless?”
“My commands, none of them were pointless.”
He stepped right in front of my and with pulled back his arm. “Then what point was there?” He slammed his fist into me. I had managed to bring up my arms to block but I could hear the cracking in my arms as my bones broke.
It pushed me back into a pillar and I slumped. The pain was incredible but still I stubbled to stay conscious. I smiled, everything was reaching the final stages. Through bloody breaths I rasped, “All the point in the world. I have already beaten you.”
He stepped forward and grabbed my hair in one of his meaty hands. He pulled it back forcing my head up. We stared reach other in the eyes. Finally he spoke. “Beat me. Fool. All you have done is kill yourself.”
“Look behind you.” Was all I could mutter but I managed to keep my smile up.
Still holding my hair he turned around looking backward at the ruined room. There was nothing there. My fingers twitched and I felt the think I had know would be there. I held it with all the remaining strength I had.
“If you are seeing anything then it is the specter of your death.” Said the Duke as he turned back to face me. Then I lifted my arm and slammed the knife directly into the Beast’s eye as hard as I could. He bellowed loud and it felt like the entire structure vibrated. He fell back in pain grasping at his eye.
I had thrust it as hard as I could but with the strength I had left I hadn’t manage to pierce his skull and kill him, a pity. I crawled backward getting out of the way of his flailing. “YOU, YOU, YOU.” The Duke screamed in pain and anger.
He pulled the knife out of his eye and held one of his hands against the wound. He stomped toward me raising his other hand it what would certainly be a fatal blow. I smile again and said, “Behind you.”
“YOU WON’T FOOL ME AGAIN! DIE!” However just as he was able to crush me with his fist blood erupted from his chest. I could see claws and golden fur protruding from the wound.
I managed to continue the smile as I said, “See, I told you. My commands are never pointless.” Then all the strength I had managed to use ran out and I collapsed, falling into unconsciousness.
Yaju - Fallout
I pulled my arm out of the back of the Duke. The creature turned around for only for a moment with a look of shock on his face. Then it collapsed. The building shuddered again as it his the floor blood pooling around it.
Then I stumbled. The fuzziness in my head and body return. Kirk grabbed me and held me preventing me from falling like the beast just did. It had been quite a chore to get here. I had been being care for in an building a ways away by another Hunter who had been only a little less injured than the others. I had been drifting in and out of unconsciousness while trying to fight off the poison.
When Kirk had arrived he had urgently told me that Rika needed my help fighting the Duke. The chance to fight the Duke was all the encouragement I needed. I managed to pull myself off the bed with only a little help from Kirk. Then with little more than a hobble I managed to stumble my way toward the battleground.
Just as I was about to enter the building I felt Kirk’s hand on my shoulder. “Not yet.” He said. “We need to wait for the right moment to attack.”
I growled at him, “I need to fight him.”
“If you fight him now you will lose, you know that. You need to wait for the right moment.”
I was angry but I nodded, “Then tell me when that is.” I knelt down, still fuzzy and exhausted from the poison that continued to ravage my system. I stayed there and waited for when Kirk told me to attack.
Now I stood over the corpse of the Duke. It was not the fight I had wanted, Rika had that fight and I lay on the ground in Kirk’s hands I felt jealous of her and frustrated that I had failed that first battle against the reptile beast.
Eventually I remember being carried out of that building. I remember seeing the sky looking up at it. I was free from that cell that had caged me most of my life but I still felt trapped. I was trapped by my own weakness, I had the power but not the capability to use it. I kept getting blinded by my own instincts. Only at times like this when I was literally helpless was I able to calmly contemplate.
I could still feel the blood on my are and exhilaration I felt when I slammed my arm through the Duke’s chest. For once I was feeling hesitation and uncertainty about what I had done. I had killed beasts before but the two noble beasts I had killed today felt wrong, like I had been killing family.
There was dreams filled with blood and death. In them I was surrounded by the creatures that I had killed. I fought Beast after Beast and each one died to my claws. Then the reptile Beast. I fought him and after that I fought the Duke. As I killed him I wondered if they had names, what did they call each other. I had never bothered to find out.
After the Duke fell in the dream I turned and saw Rika standing there in front of me. It was the same as each of the Beasts that had come before her. Behind her like he was waiting in line was Kirk. I rushed Rika and just as my claws began to pierce her flesh I woke.
I found myself lying in a bed wrapped in bandages. My body was still in pain but there was no longer the burning sensation of the poison filling me. Through the aching I managed to sit up.
“Oh, It looks like you’ve woken up.” Came a familiar voice. I turned to see Rika sitting in a nearby bed. She was holding a book which she had in her lap with a finger saving her place. “How are you feeling?” She asked.
I groaned but finally managed to make intelligible words, “Better then somebody with a cast on one of her arms.”
Rika looked down at the arm which was not holding the book. It had a thick cast on it and was being held up by some straps. Rika forced a smile, “Well my arm is practically the healthiest part of me. Apparently I had to undergo surgery because one of my lungs had been punctured by my fractured ribs. The doctors say that had I not been a Hunter I probably would have died before doctors were even able to reach me. Even then they said I am lucky to have survived.”
“Well then you look great considering.” I said, “I’m surprised you recovered as fast as you did.” I looked around the room. It was a small hospital room with only the two beds that we were in. We were both hooked up to some medical equipment that was probably helpful in some way.
Rika made a funny grin. “Not too fast, after all you have been unconscious for more than a week.”
“A week??” I asked surprised. “Thats… impossible.”
“Well, that is just the time I’m been in this room with you, not including the several days that I was in surgery. The doctors said that you really did yourself a number by trying to fight and move across the city while poisoned. They say that you aren’t tough, you’re just stupid.” She laughed a little, “I guess that makes two of us.”
I shook my head in surprise. Had I really been unconscious for that long? It seemed like a long time but if Rika said it was true then it must be. Finally I looked back at her and asked, “And Kirk is he alright?”
She huffed, “That lucky bastard managed to escape with practically no injuries. He has been visiting the hospital every day since the incident making sure that we were being taken care of. I’m sure we will be in later today if you want to say hello to him.”
“And the others? Elizabeth, Alfred, and the other Hunters.” I asked.
She grimaced a little bit. “Well Elizabeth and Alfred are both alive. They had some bad injuries but not as bad as ours though. I came by yesterday to tell me that they were being released to the hospital. One of the other Hunters however didn’t make it. The injuries that the Duke had given him was just too much for him to recover or the doctors to fix.”
“I see.” I looked down at the sheets. “Had I not been reckless in that first battle I might have been health before the battle with the Duke. If I had been there from the beginning then that might have never happened.”
“No human goes through life without making a mistake.” She looked sorrowful. “It is my fault as well. I had planned that battle and I was unable to protect all of them. I knew that I might not be able to save them but I saw no other way to beat the Duke.”
We watched each other from across the room in silence for a few minutes neither of us wanting to talk first. Finally I managed to speak, “You said Elizabeth and Alfred came by yesterday. What did they say? We risked a lot of lives in the city, what is going to happen to us and them?”
Rika grabbed the upper portion of her broken arm with her good hand. She held it while she spoke, “I told them it was unnecessary but they took responsibility for my plan. There was a panel of Istan government officials who gathered to decide what to do.”
She sighed, “I guess it was better than I expected. The two of them are being stripped of command and being put on indefinite retirement. Most of the other Hunters are being reprimanded and some military command is going to be put in command of the Hunters for the foreseeable future.”
“Sounds bad.” I said feeling some sympathy for them. Being retired for a Hunter generally meant the removal of privileges to leave the city and go into the Jungle. It was a painful punishment for a Hunter.
“Yes but there is a silver lining.”
“It won’t last. Smaller cities like Istan are always struggling for Hunters. I expect that the two of them will be reinstated sooner or later. There is also a reason why normal humans are only rarely placed in charge of Hunters. They can’t handle the threat of Beasts and ordering around Hunters in the field without a strong instinct of your own generally ends in failure.”
Rika shrugged with only one arm, “It might be a few years but I expect this place to be back to normal eventually.”
“Will they be safe from Beasts until then?”
“Probably. Most Beasts aren’t much of a threat to a city anyway and those that are would be wary to attack a city that managed to fend of a Duke.”
“What about us?” I asked.
“It seems we are being left out of it. Since Elizabeth and Alfred took responsibility for the plan we became just Hunters from another city that helped and followed orders. Unless they wanted to file a complaint with Districts then there isn’t much that they can do to us.”
Feeling adventurous I turned to one side as I spoke, “That is good at least. Do you think that Districts will question our involvement in this.” I tried pushing myself off the bed but found my arms weak and instead just collapsed backward onto the bed again.”
“You shouldn’t push yourself too hard. After all you have just been in a coma for a week. Also the doctors said that we weren’t going to be released for another week at the earliest.”
I stuck out my tongue and make a frowning grimacing face. “Eh, I don’t want to be stuck here for another week. That sounds horrible.”
“You have barely been up ten minutes and already you can’t stand being here. Suck it up. How do you think I feel having been unable to do anything for a week.” She stared fire at me trying to force me to share her suffering.
I threw up my hands, my back still on the bed, “Fine, fine. I’ll wait, at least until I have strength to throw you over my shoulder and run away.”
Rika chuckled, “Not dignified but certain better than staying here.” She looked down at the bed and then curse, “Darn it, you made me lose my place in the book.” Rika picked it back up and began paging through it looking for her place.
I laid on the bed while she did that. Despite not being up for very long I already felt tire again. However my sleep was forced to wait. Not even a minute latter several nurses burst into the room. They then proceeded to poke and prod me, making sure I was alright and that all the effects of the poison had worn off.
Finally they left after making sure I knew that I shouldn’t leave until I was totally better. I felt exhausted, more than I had from any battle and I didn’t think it was due to the aftereffects of the poison. I could see Rika sitting on her bed smirking at me.
“Having fun are you?” I softly yelled at her.
She didn’t respond and just looked back down at her book, continuing to read, still smirking. I relaxed for a while however things from my poison addled dream began to come back to me. That moment in the dream when I attacked Rika. I shoved it away and then sat up.
It had become late in the evening. Maybe I had drifted off for a short moment and hadn’t realized it. Rika was still reading her book but she looked farther along in it. Something gnawed at my mind and finally I asked, “Rika, can I ask you a question?”
She looked up at me, “Sure.”
“During your battle with Duke I head you.”
“You did? Weren’t you a bit aways recovering until Kirk came to find you?” She asked.
“Yes, but I could still hear your voice. It was just a bit before Kirk showed up. I heard you calling for me. You were commanding me to come and help you.”
Rika sat there on the bed in silence. I waited but she didn’t say anything so I continued to speak, “I thought I was imagining it until Kirk came and told me what was happening. Then I couldn’t resist any longer. I felt compelled to come to you aid. Why is that?” Now that I had finally brought my concealed thoughts to the surface I felt a small amount of anger bubbling to the surface.
She continued to stay silent for a moment and just before I was about to speak again, this time in anger, she spoke, “Do you want to hear some excuse, some justification?”
“Are you saying that it was you?”
“Yes, I called you to me to fight the Duke even though I knew that you were weakened from the poison.”
I furrowed my brow. I didn’t know how to react. She wasn’t reacting how I expected to so I had difficulty figuring out how to respond. “What was it that you did?”
She looked away from me and toward the window, looking outside like she was trying to avoid looking at me. “I commanded you. I can’t tell you how I do it, I just can do it. When I speak in the right way Beasts and Hunters obey me.
“And you used this against me?”
“Yes, I used it against you. I also used it against the Duke’s Court, and the other Hunters. I felt it was necessary to win. I think it was necessary in the same way just letting the Duke into the city was necessary.” She continued to stare out the window.
“I don’t like that.” I said growling at her.
“If you want to hate me then do. I controlled you, forced you to do me bidding. You have every right to hate me.” There was shame and sorrow in her words.
I forced myself to the edge of the bed. I managed to stumble to my feet. It was difficult to keep my feet but using the edge of the bed for support I managed it. I felt like I couldn’t effectively walk so instead I pushed myself off the bed and stumbled a few feet. Before I fell I managed to grab hold of Rika’s bed. I pulled on it and managed to keep my feet. I loomed over the injured Rika.
She looked away from the window and toward me. “Do you want to take revenge for what I did. I suppose you have that right. Even if I wanted to stop you I don’t think I would be capable.
I reached out grabbed her by the collar of the hospital gown. I pulled her face toward me. Then I shook her. “That isn’t want I didn’t like.” I continued to shake her, “Necessary? Necessary? I hate that word. They told me that it was necessary for them to lock me up, to protect people from me.” My frustration and angry began to overflow forcing tears out my eyes.
“I don’t care that you ordered me around, you did that during the entire beast siege. How is this any different? But what I don’t like is your righteous attitude where you think you can justify yourself because you where just doing what was necessary. Fuck necessary.” I was screaming at Rika
“Then what?” Yelled Rika back, “Should I just let everyone die? Or maybe try to save everybody and then fail because I am not strong enough? What am I supposed to do?”
“Be strong!” I shouted, “Be strong enough to be selfish!” I was crying while yelling at her. “If you have the ability to be strong don’t be afraid to us it. If you only do what is necessary everybody will eventually end up trapped by their own beliefs.”
“What if I’m not strong enough? What if I fail? It isn’t just me that suffers, everybody suffers.”
“What about now? Is everybody happy? Is everybody smiling because you did the necessary thing? Are Elizabeth and Alfred happy that they were forced to retire? Are those dead Hunters happy? Doing what is necessary doesn’t make people happy.”
“The what does? Losing? Could they be happy if they were all dead?”
I stared at her directly into the eyes, “I would be happier to be dead then I would be to return to that cell. At least I died fighting to be free. If you died that day to the Duke would you have been satisfied with you choices? Everyone always regrets failure but I never again what to regret success.”
Kirk - Interruption
“Um, am I interrupting anything ladies?” I asked redundantly. I knew I was interrupting, that was kind of the point. I had arrived a little bit earlier and thought I would let them have their discussion but once they started yelling at each other I thought it would be a good moment to enter.
The two crying people who had just been screaming at each other both directed their ire toward me. Maybe this hadn’t been such a good idea after all. I stepped backward out through the door and I had just entered through. “Maybe I’ll come back later.”
I was just shutting the door when Yaju said, “No, come back.” I stopped shutting the door and stepped forward again through the door.
“Are you sure? You seem to be having an important discussion.” Now that I had entered the room it felt like I had entered the lion’s den. Hopefully I would be able to escape unscathed.
“Help me back to my bed.” Said Yaju. I nodded and moved over to her side helping her to her feet. With her arm over my shoulder I helped her cross the room and back into her bed.
“You shouldn’t try to move like that. You are still recovering from the poison.” I said.
“I think I will be fine. I managed to kill the Duke was suffering from the poison. I will be fine moving back and forth across the room.” She huffed as I pulled the sheets back over her.
“Yeah, a badly injured Duke who didn’t even know you were there.” Said Rika. There was still anger between them. I might have disrupted the worst of it but they were still taking shots at each other.
“Now, now, no need to fight. You both did an excellent job fighting the Duke and we would not have been able to survive without either of you. Also it would be good if you could both get out of the hospital without killing each other.”
Yaju turned her head to one side, “At least they should be able to give us separate rooms.”
I shook my head, “They can’t do that. This one room is already all the space they can devote to you. There were a lot of injures during that attack and all the hospitals and clinics in the city are full of the wounded. The only reason you have a room like this is because you are Hunters and are getting special treatment. Everybody else is being stuff into rooms wherever they can fit. Be thankful for what you have.”
Yaju looked sullen and broke my gaze and looked down at her sheets. She had spoken without realizing the situation and not she felt embarrassed about it.
I turned to Rika, “And you should know better. Yelling that loudly while there are injured people filling the two rooms adjacent to you. What were you thinking.”
Rika coughed a little bit like she was trying to shove away responsibility before saying, “We weren’t speaking that loudly. I’m sure they didn’t hear us.”
I placed my hand on my face, how was I supposed to deal with these two. Finally I removed my hand an turned to Yaju, “Sorry, your yelling distracted me. I was supposed to be her to congratulate you on waking up. How are you feeling?”
“Weak.” Said Yaju and I felt like there was more to her words then just her physical condition.
I looked over to Rika and asked her, “How about you?”
“Weak.” She said in almost the exact same tone as Yaju. The whole room felt more gloomy.
“I guess we all feel weak then.” I said, “However I’m trying to get stronger. Since Elizabeth does not have anything else to do since being fired she has been working on a final version of the crossbow that she let me use. She says that it will be customized for me and that I should have an easier time using it then the last one.”
“Crossbow?” Asked Yaju.
I nodded, “Yes indeed. Rika suggested that I use one of their weapons because my blood is weak and Elizabeth choose it as a good weapon for me. While it wasn’t very effective against the Duke I don’t think that was the fault of the weapon. Most things weren’t effective against him.”
“She also said that she would make a knife just for me.” Said Rika, “I told her that the last one was sufficient but she refused saying that all her work needed to be custom otherwise it wouldn’t work well. Considering she is making it I have to assume that she is right.”
“You are getting a weapon too?” Asked Yaju.
Rika nodded, “Although I don’t need one as much as Kirk. For me the knife is just an minor extension but it is still useful. Just another tool in the attempt to become strong I suppose.”
“Do you want her to make you a weapon?” I asked Yaju.
She shook her head, “No, I think it would just feel wrong to me.” She looked down at her hands and flexed them a couple of time. “I think these are all that I need. Plus I don’t think that these are where my weakness lies.”
I smiled, “Well that is certainly where my weakness lies. I had nothing more then some minor instincts to protect me which certain didn’t work against Noble Beasts like the ones we faced. Hopefully I’ll actually be able to fight after this. Elizabeth says she will give me some shooting advice when it is done. While a bow is certainly different from a crossbow she says there are some similar things that she can teach me.”
I looked back and forth between them, “So it looks like the two of you have calmed down.”
They looked at each other for a second before they broke their gaze both looking different directions. I continued, “You don’t have to agree on what is the right thing. That will bring you into conflict but there is no correct answer to those questions in this world. However there is something that I agree with Yaju about. You should do what you will not regret.”
I looked over at Rika, “If you decide that you should continue doing what is necessary then you shouldn’t doubt yourself. The world is difficult enough as it is.”
Rika asked, “Did you listen in on the whole conversat…”
I interrupted as I stepped backward through the door again, “Any now I really have to go. I need to go see Elizabeth to find out how the creation of the crossbow is going.” I waved, trying to deflect the new ire coming off both of them, “Get better and try not to kill each other while I am away.”
I shut the door and ran. If I got far enough away then they wouldn’t be able to chase me because they were too injured and hopefully by the time I visited again they will have calmed down. I managed to make it out of the hospital before I slowed down. By now any pursuit would have stopped, hopefully.
Now I head to my destination. It would be impolite to lie about my destination so I began heading toward the mines. I knew that Elizabeth’s workshop was around there. Now that I had meet her it was fairly easy for me to tell where she was. It was on the other side of the city but that wouldn’t be a problem.
A few minutes of running later I was near the workshop. I focused on Elizabeth and could tell that she was working at the forge, likely making something like my new crossbow. I furrowed my brow. That was weird, she smithing techniques. Then it slowly began to dawn on me.
I concealed my presence and got closer. I approached the outside of the workshop which was partially built into the mountain. I could tell that she still hadn’t sensed me. I was able to silently open the door. I slipped inside and stopped in the doorway into the workshop proper.
I leaned up against the doorframe and said, “Working hard I see.”
There was a clatter of metal as Elizabeth jumped and dropped the piece of metal that she was working on. She spun around holding her hammer before she finally spotted me. She took a breath and then sat down on the anvil.
“Geez, Kirk, you gave me fright. Normally I’m able to sense people who enter my workshop.” She said.
I grinned, “Well, one of the small advantages of being good at sensing things is the ability to know what other people are capable of sense. It is fairly easy for me to tell what I need to do to conceal myself from somebody else.”
“Well, maybe instead you should know what kind of shock it would create for people.”
“Sorry, I wanted to see what you were doing?”
“Trying to steal my secrets are you?” Her words were fairly light hearted like she didn’t really expect me to figure out what she was going.
“Oh, I figured that out a while ago. Back when you first gave me and Rika those weapons.”
“You what?” She stumbled backward over the anvil but managed to catch herself. She had a shocked look on her face, “You can’t possibly know…” She trailed off not wanting me to trick her into telling me the secret.
So I finished her sentence, “That you forge the weapons using your own blood?”
Her mouth hung open and she moved it several times trying to make words but it didn’t work. I continued, “The blood of Beasts and Hunters usually has unusual properties allowing them quite unusual capabilities. I imagine that you use your own blood as a bonding and strengthening agent the weapons.”
I continued, “I suspected when I held the crossbow. It felt unusually warm in my hands and didn’t feel like a weapon at all. More like an extension of my body. No normal weapon could ever feel like that. Afterward I was able to examine a couple more of the weapons and I became certain that this was hope you made them.”
She looked defensive and she held up her hammer looking at it like she was trying to decide if I would forget everything should she hit me with it. I held up my hands to forestal her. “No need to be reckless. I’m not going to tell anybody. It is certainly an usual technique and I would imagine that some people might balk at the methods but I certainly do not.”
She relaxed and sat back down on the anvil. “Oh, good, um, you don’t mind?”
“No really. Compared to transforming mostly into a Beast, giving irresistible commands, or being able to detect Hunters from miles way your ability is basically comparable.”
“Well, I suppose there is that.” She seemed to have finally recovered from the shock. She lended over and picked up the pieces of metal that had cooled on the floor. She examined in and then put it back into the fire to heat up again.
“You could probably tell Alfred though, I don’t think he would mind.” I said.
This caused her to stiffen again before she turned and stuttered, “I.. I… I… don’t know what you mean.”
I grinned, “No matter then. The less people who know the techniques the better for you. If the government were to find out I don’t know what they would do but it would probably be monumentally stupid. That is usually how it goes with them.”
“Yes… exactly.” She stuttered, “That is why I am keeping it a secret.”
“How did you learn to do this?”
“Luck mainly. I knew my blood had usual properties since I became a Hunter. It clotted more than others and was sticky and more metallic then other Hunters. If I hadn’t been a blacksmith before I became a Hunter I probably would have never thought to try anything.”
“Are what age did you awaken to the instincts?” I asked.
“I became a Hunter at about the same age as you are now.” Elizabeth said.
“That is fairly old to become a Hunter from what I know.” I said, “However I’m not really one to talk.
“Hunters with weaker blood usually discover it in their late teens. At least that has been my experience.”
“That is what I have been told as well however I’m not certain that is exactly the case. I seen a fair few Hunters and so far I haven’t really thought of any of them as weaker than others. Certainly there is a large amount of different between first generation Hunters like Yaju and other Hunters but I’m not certain that makes us weaker.”
Elizabeth looked surprised, “What are you implying?”
“I’m not quite sure yet. I think I will need to look into it some more. I will have to speak with Professor Stolas when I return to Districts but I’ve noticed that third and later generation Hunters seem to develop more unusual powers then first and second generation.”
I continued, “You have your strange smithing and I have my senses. You might not know but Rika is a third generation Hunter although she is abnormally strong for one. That and her ability to command people are certain not expected.”
“Third generation? Rika? Really? I would have sworn that she was a second generation Hunter given what she is capable of doing.”
“Exactly my point. Plus there is the other thing that I have noticed. The Hunters in Istan consist almost entirely of weaker blood Hunters while in Districts we have enough Hunters that we have plenty of more pure blood Hunters however as far as I can tell the Hunters here in Istan are generally more powerful then those in District. And not just because of the weapon you have given them.”
“That’s impossible. Districts is know for having some of the most powerful Hunters is the world.”
I nodded, “That might certainly be true but we have a lot of Hunters to choose from. However my main point is different. You said that had you not been a blacksmith before you became a Hunter that you might not have thought about how to use your blood as a smithing reagent right?”
She nodded and I continued, “What is that is the case for a lot of third generation Hunters? There could be tons of Hunters out there who don’t even realize what they could be capable of doing.”
“Do you really think that is true.” She asked.
I shrugged, “I don’t know for certain. It is just an idea for now. Back in Districts there is a man called Professor Stolas who is a Hunter but is also in charge of a bunch of facilities. I was going to check with him when I got back there and see if I can figure these things out. If it is true it will definitely change how people think of Hunter generations.”
“That is true.” Elizabeth stood up off the anvil and brushed off her blacksmith apron. “The metal had heated up again so I need to finish this. If you want to wait around I’m almost done with the second version of the crossbow. You will be able to check it out if you decide to wait.”
“Alright.” I moved out of the doorway and found a stool to sit on while I watched her work. She methodically pulled out the piece of metal from the furnace and placed it on the anvil. I watched while she worked it into shape. Finally she doused the piece of metal.
She moved over toward the table in the back of the room. The partially completed crossbow was sitting on the table back there. She took the crossbow and moved to the workshop table near the forge. She fitted the piece of metal that she just made onto the crossbow. Then she took some screws and connected everything using those screws to make sure everything stayed in place.
A few minutes later she had finished making sure everything was tight then she walked over to me and handed the crossbow to me. I grabbed it and held it. “It seems heavier than the other one.”
“It is. The previous one had a little trouble with recoil so adding a little bit more heft to the crossbow will make it easier to control.”
I looked over the crossbow and noticed the pieces fit together strangely. “It looks completely different from the previous one. There are knobs and different other pieces that look like they can be adjusted.”
“Exactly. This one here lets you tighten or loosen the main draw string for either more or less force. The slider clasp on the side lets you adjust the angle of the release. Then there is the..” She continued explaining the crossbow to me.
After a minute I held up my hand to stop her explanation, “I think I understand. It continues the idea of having a different option for each shot. I’ll had to do some testing personally to find out how all the different things work. Trying to explain would likely not help me anymore because I have to understand how they all work.”
“Yes, I suppose that is true. I tried to make it as customizable as possible. After seeing you in action with the previous one I realized that you would be capable of so much more if the weapon was able to keep up with you. It would be better for you to not be able to use it to its full potential then for it to not be able to keep up with you.”
“And the bolts?” I asked.
“I have some of them already made.” She pointed over to the quiver near the table where the crossbow had been set. “However I’m not satisfied with the number yet. You can test with the ones that I have already made but that is only about a quarter of the ones I have planned. I should be done with them before your time to leave Istan. I know that it will be a while before Rika and Yaju are released from the hospital so I will be able to get them all done before that.”
“Will it really take that long?” I asked.
“Probably not the whole time. However I need to test them all as well as the crossbow to make sure that everything is made correctly. You can help me if you want but it probably will be just a bunch of bring testing.”
“I don’t mind helping to test. The more that I understand about how it works the better it will be for me.” I said.
“Alright, but you will need to keep up. There is too much testing to do to be able to explain everything as I go. Do you think you will be able to just figure it out as I go alone.”
“I think I will be able to keep up.” I asked.
Rika - Departure
Time had finally come for us to leave Istan. They have forced me to stay in the hospital for far too long. I even tried to escape a few times but they had set out Hunter guards to make sure I didn’t do exactly like. So I had been forced to stay in the hospital until the doctors finally decided that it was time for me to go.
The caravan had long since returned to Districts upper the protection of some of the Istan Hunters who had been much less injured than us. So it was just the three of us who were leaving today. There weren’t many people to see us go.
It was Elizabeth and Alfred who were there to say goodbye.
“Nobody else?” I asked.
Alfred pointed up toward the wall. There was a couple of Hunters up there. They waved for a moment and then turned back toward the jungle and away from us.
“There are more.” Said Alfred, “However the government is keeping a close eye on all of them currently. They don’t have as much freedom as they would want, plus they are strained with the reduced membership.”
Yaju said, “Well, at least you are available to say goodbye.”
Kirk slapped her on the back of the head and said, “Idiot. They are here because they are fired and no longer work as hunters.”
Yaju looked a little embarrassed and said. “Sorry, I should not have said anything.”
Elizabeth laughed, “Don’t worry about it. While it is true that we have been fired that doesn’t mean too much. The government things they have a lot of control but it is just an illusion. They would like to prevent me from making weapons but nobody else can replace me in doing that so I still have that job at least.”
I looked over toward Alfred and asked, “And what about you? Are you alright with being fired?”
He shrugged, “I certainly have more free time then I did before, it is kind of relaxing. I will be able to catch up with my hobbies.”
“Having the secret exit to the jungle helps too?” I asked.
I smiled before saying, “While I certainly couldn’t comment about that, I will say that it can be difficult to adequately protect all the exits to this city with our remaining Hunters.”
“Well, that would certainly be true.” I said while I shared their smile. “Well it looks like everything will going well for you then. I hope you do well and get reinstated soon.”
They nodded and I turned away to the gate.
“Wait” Said Elizabeth. “I still have something to give you.” I turned back to her and she she was holding a leather strap with small sheaths on it. “I went through the trouble of forging them for you so you might as well take them.” She tossed it to me and I caught it.
“Two knives? I thought you were only going to make me one?” I asked.
“It felt right. Even if you don’t find a use for the second one you can keep it as a spare. My weapons are tough but they do eventually wear out. Just stop by every so often so that I can perform maintenance.” She looked over at Kirk, “You too.”
“I will.” Said Kirk as he hefted the crossbow that was slung over his back. “I’ll keep you informed about my findings as well.”
Elizabeth nodded, “Good. Well, we are glad that you came when you did, without you we don’t think we would have made it.”
Yaju looked embarrassed. I ignored her and said, “We are just glad that everything ended as well as it did. Take care and call us if anything wrong happens.”
“We will. Our satellite tower has been repaired since the attack so we will be able to keep in contact.”
We waved and then the three of us turned and left. We passed through the gate and out into the Jungle. The gate got shut behind us and the sounds of the jungle filled my eyes. After all that time in the hospital is was good to be back in the jungle.
“Finally!” Said Yaju who seemed to vocalize my thoughts. She ran off into the jungle.
After she had gone I said, “Sometimes she acts like a kid.”
Kirk said, “In many ways she still is a kid. She had most of her childhood stolen from her. She hasn’t had the same experiences to grow up like you or I did. She tries to act like an adult but sometimes her inexperience comes through.”
“Well, I guess she has the right to act like a child some of the time.” I looked back at the city of Istan before saying, “We had better get going. Do you think you can keep up?”
“I will do my best.”
Kirk - Experiments
“So these are the initial results then?” I asked looking down at the clipboard.
Professor Stolas nodded, “The sample size is still small but that is the results from the experiment.”
“Lower performance then I had initially expected. Very little improvement and not very much epiphanies.” I frowned reading through the notes on the different experiments. “I suppose I’m not really surprised. These were just preliminary experience to see if the methods were sound. However I guess I’ll have to go back to the drawing board.”
“That is assuming that your hypothesis is even true in the first place. If is isn’t then continuing to try these tests will just be useless and a waste of their time.” Said Professor Stolas.
“While that is possible I don’t want to give up just yet. Since I haven’t figured out a good test to prove that Hunters do not have hidden talents and unless you can figure that out I will continue to try and figure out good ways to unlock those hidden talents. At least until I have gone through enough attempts that it seems unlikely that more attempts will give favorable results.”
Stolas said, “As long as you will be able to accept the results that you are given. I can’t really prevent you from researching on your own but keep in mind there is only so much support I can get from the government. They support the idea of improving weaker Hunters but they are only willing to sink so much funds into this endeavor.”
“I understand. However this particular test was just an expansion of the Hunter standardized Hunter identification test that you used on me. Speaking of which why did you think I would be a good candidate for watching Yaju?”
Stolas scratched his head while he spoke, “I didn’t really. You have the family tree to potentially be a Hunter but you where just one of a long list of potential candidates which I was checking. You turned out much better than I was expecting. I was primarily looking for a Hunter who Yaju could bond with without being threatened by them. You just happened to far exceed my expectations.”
“I guess that encounter was as surprising for you as it was for me.” I continued to flip through the notes about the experiment. To prevent me from having too much of a bias on the results most of the tests had to be done without me. “This Hunter, test number 14, the results are rather strange. This Hunter fits some physiological response for beginning to improve their ability.”
Stolas looked through his own copy of the results. “I suppose this Hunter does however that could just be chance. There was a lot of Hunters tested some of them were bound to have this kind of response. If you had a useable stage two I could push them up to that but without a training program that won’t be possible.”
“Alright,” I said nodding, “I have several drafts but without a good model of standardized responses they training might not yield any results. In fact most likely stage three testing would require a personalized training regime.”
I continued to look at the person’s results “However if this person does indeed respond to my initial stimulus I would like to speak with them. It might help me better understand why they did respond and the other Hunter did.”
“Speaking with them could taint the test data.” Said Stolas.
I lowered the clipboard and leveled a glare at him. “Right now this isn’t fully about accurate test data it involves forming a usable hypothesis. My initial one failed to produce results so I need to find a new one. I need you to make sure my hypothesis gets adequately tested once I have decided on one.”
It had been a couple months since I had returned from Istan. Since then I had worked with Professor Stolas on my hypothesis. He was much more experienced then me at this business but Hunters that were interested in experimentation were rare so he decided to accept me into his laboratory. He also agreed provide the needed support for my experiments assuming that I would also help him with his.
“Alright.” He said, “I’ll organize a meeting. You can question them and try to figure out what this response means and if it is connected to your ideas about weak blooded Hunters.”
At the laboratory however Professor Stolas seemed to be the only one who supported me. While he was in charge of this laboratory so all the other employees followed his orders to support my tests I could tell that they didn’t respect me. I suspected it was because of my age. Stolas was in his early forties which was old for a Hunter but apparently appropriate for a major researcher.
Since Hunters usually didn’t care much about people’s ages I had found a good place among them. Even Stolas could recognize my use and potential as a research assistant. The humans working there no so much. I could feel it and sometimes the gossiped when they thought I couldn’t hear.
For the most part I ignored it. As long as Stolas supported my ideas the people also did which was good enough for me. However I knew that would need to produce results. Stolas was right about the government. They were willing to fund my project but that was only because Stolas put his name on it. If I wasn’t able to produce results then the project would get dropped and I would need to do everything on my own.
I was also frustrated. This entire project was turning out to be a lot more work than I expected. The question of why different Hunters had different abilities what what was required to make each of them figure out how to use their abilities properly was a difficult one and one what I still had difficulty trying to understand.
I had already interviewed several Hunters about their unique abilities in an attempt to understand how their figured out how to use them. However each case seemed to be completely different. There were some similarities but it seemed that they all just figured it out because it seemed natural. Eventually I had to come to the conclusion that there was a gap between those kinds of Hunters and the ones that I was trying to figure out.
People like me and Elizabeth also fell into the category of it just feeling right. However I suspected that other third and later generation Hunters also had unique abilities but that their situations made it so that it never just felt right. However proving that was proving difficult.
That is why I wanted to meet with this person. Even if it was a fluke I wanted to check it out. If I could induce a unique ability in this Hunter which had previously not had one that at least put a little validity into my claim. It might even lead to insights into how the process might be accomplished in other Hunters. Optimally the long term goal was to find a consistent process but at this point even a slow unreliable process was better then no process at all.
Finally I managed to get my meeting with the Hunter named Jordan. He was around five years older than me and my first thoughts when I saw him was that he certainly seemed scrawny.
“It is a pleasure to meet you.” Were my first words, “I am Kirk and I work with Professor Stolas. I will be asking you some questions today and I hope you don’t mind.”
“No, no not at all.” He seemed kind of nervous. I had put the meeting in a small room in one of the Hunter training grounds that were found near the edge of the city. It was a nice place but the meeting room generally found very little use.
“No need to be formal.” I said, “Please have a seat. This isn’t really a test or anything, I mainly just wanted to ask you some questions about the experiment that you participated in last week.”
“Yes, that experiment. Professor Stolas requested a lot of Hunters attend and take the test and then some of the staff asked us questions after that.”
“You have some strange results so I wanted to ask you some more questions about that. During the reaction time tests you preformed remarkably well however during questioning you said that things felt slow and that you felt that you didn’t respond as fast as you could have.” I said.
“Did I? They didn’t provide any feedback so I just said what I was thinking. Maybe I just got lucky with the reaction time tests.”
“It is hard to get lucky with that type of tests. Did you actually think those tests were easy?” I asked.
“No, actually it was the opposite. I felt that test was rather difficult and I had lots of difficulty reacting as fast as they expected me too. I felt like the test had been designed for stronger Hunters were are capable of reacting much faster than me.” Jordan said.
“Hmm, strange that you felt that. Have you felt that way before in other things?”
“Sometimes in combat I’ve felt that way. That I am not capable of keeping up with my opponents.”
“My notes also say that you did quite well in your physical and combat examinations. Do you know what is causing this dissonance?” I said. I had become interested in his story. It also looked like he had the barest understandings of what his ability might be but it had still not been brought to fruition.
“I don’t know. I’ve been doing a bit better in combat recently. Maybe my training has just paid off.”
“By recently do you mean since the test?”
He frowned and said, “Well, I suppose it has been since around then.”
“Then do you mind going to the practice yard and showing me a little.” I asked.
“I suppose but don’t expect anything to great. You will probably be able to beat me.” He said.
“Don’t be so sure. I have fairly weak Hunter blood as well. Mostly I’m just useful as Professor Stolas’ assistant.” I said being careful to set the expectations correctly. It was important for him to think he was good enough to fight me.
We moved out into the practice yard. It was fairly empty because of the time and because this particular yard wasn’t used very much. I went to one side of the yard and while he stood at the other.
The first round went strangely. I managed to win but it was a close thing. I was able to see his tells with me senses but he was faster and stronger than me. Not surprising, most Hunters were faster and stronger than me. However I noticed that he seemed to be holding back or at least the way he moved implied that to me. Other people might not realize it and he might not realize it but I could tell. The only problem was figuring out how to prevent him from doing that.
It seemed to be a mental block of some sort but I could not tell what was causing it. As we rested after the first match I asked, “Jordan, why did you become a Hunter?”
He looked surprised but answered, “I didn’t really choose to become a Hunter it just sort of happened to me.”
“So you don’t want to be a Hunter?”
“No particularly but it pays well.” He said.
“I see, I suppose it is time for round two then. I’m going to move a bit faster so try to keep up?” I said. I was lying, it would be difficult for me to move faster then I already was but it was a calculated move to help try and overcome his mental block.
Rika - Normal
The jungle has been quiet, like the calm before the storm. I didn’t know any other way to describe it. Maybe things just seemed too quiet after the attack on Istan and I was just getting bored of not doing anything.
It had been a couple months since the attack on Istan and I had plenty of time to become bored. I had gone on several patrols with Kirk and Yaju during this time but those had been uneventful. I still had trouble speaking seriously with Yaju after that tiff at the hospital but we could do casual conversations just fine.
Today was just a regular patrol. It was an evening patrol where the Hunters assigned to this section of the wall split up and walked through the jungle looking for unusual things. Generally it was a casual affair which mainly just gave the Hunters time to enjoy the Jungle. Since major threats would generally be detected far before they attacked the wall finding them was not a priority. Mainly we were on a lookout for minor beast which could cause annoying problems without being too powerful.
It was getting later in the evening when I heard the sound of branches breaking behind me. Having not felt anything previously I spun around bringing my hand quickly down to the sheathes at my waist. Behind me was a beast, at least I thought it was a beast.
It was like an insect, spindly with a carapace. It was walking on all four legs and it was looking at me with its black eyes. I backed up but it didn’t seem to be making any aggressive moves. It was just watching me. Once I had stopped moving away from it I stopped to watch it. When I did it starting moving closer to me again. It was moving slowly toward me. I wasn’t really certain what to do.
Then I noticed that it was injured. It was walking toward me on five legs but the last one had been removed. There was just a stump there instead of a leg. The stump even still dripped icore. It looked reasonability recent. The insect beast was still stumbling toward me.
I did the only thing that I could think of at the moment. I spoke to the beast. “What happened to you? What hurt you?” I wasn’t sure what I expected. There insect beast did not look like a noble beast, at least from my admittedly small experience with them. However the creature stopped moving after I spoke. It just stood there looking at me with its head cocked.
Then it began to do something strange. It started walking backward. Once it reached the tree line it stopped moving. Then it lifted up its front legs and beckon me toward it. That was strange, I had never seen a beast act like this before. So I decided to follow it. It might be leading me into a trap but I still wanted to see what it wanted of me.
It continued to move through the jungle and beckon me. I followed it for maybe fifteen minutes before I starting feeling the other beasts. There were maybe a dozen of them. I couldn’t tell very much else but I didn’t think that any of them were to strong. I kept my guard up but I still followed the injured insect beast.
It let me to a cave entrance and I followed it inside. It was a bit dark inside but there seemed to be small glowing insects on the walls however none of them were big enough to be considered beasts. I began to see the other beasts though, more of the insects types of various description.
Most of them seemed injured like the one that lead me here. They seemed to give a wide berth like they were afraid of me. Then the insect lead me into a larger chamber. Inside was a much bigger insect, almost twice the size of the others. I was surprised that it had managed to fit inside the cave.
Then I noticed the extent of the creature’s injuries. There were large cuts in the carapace of the creature as well as a bunch of smaller holes. I didn’t have to long to contemplate the injuries however because the larger insect looked at me. It had compound eyes however its face had features different than the other insects. Upon looking at it I knew that it was a noble beast.
The confirming my belief it spoke to me, “Welcome, Queen Who Dwells Among Humans.” The voice was chittary but I thought it spoke with a certain reverence.
I blinked, not certain about that title. “Why do you call me what?”
“You are a Queen are you not?” Said the noble insect.
I knew what it meant and wanted to dispute the creature. Its title made me feel like I wasn’t human. “I wouldn’t be so bold as to call myself a Queen.”
“Chi chi chi…” Came the sounds from the insect, “But you are the one that defeated the Black Horned One are you not?”
Memories came back about the Duke with thick black skin and the giant nose horn. “Was that his name?”
“Name? We do not use strange words like you do as name but it was the name that I knew him by.”
“I see, but it wasn’t me that killed the Black Horned One. It was Yaju that did that.”
“That name is not familiar to me. Do you mean the Golden Death, the spawn of the Golden Terror?”
“Yes, I suppose that would be her. She was the one that killed him.”
“But you commanded her did you not? Then it is your honor as well.” It said.
“Enough about names,” I said. “You are the one that called me here. Why did you do that? You know that getting this close to Districts will eventually mean your death.”
“Your Districts has already been my death. I just delay the inevitable for a little while longer.”
I looked over its wounds, I could feel a small amount of sympathy for it. Looking at them they certainly did look large and dangerous, they could certainly be deadly to this creature. “Then you were already attacked by Hunters then? This is rather far out for them to find you.”
“No Queen, not Hunters, it was the Nothings that did this to us.”
“Nothings? What are you talking about. If it wasn’t Hunters then what was it?”
It looked at me, “I know not. But your Hunters are like us. When we die to Hunters we feel that it was part of the natural order of things. But they were different, not Hunters, not Humans, not Beasts, they were Nothing.”
“Do you mean that is wasn’t Districts that attacked you. If they weren’t human then it couldn’t have been Districts.”
“They were shaped like Humans, fought like Humans, but there was no Human inside them.”
“What do you mean?”
“Even Humans have instincts, weak as they are, but these had none. No reason to fight or live. They were more like an earthquake or a flood. Just something that happens.” Said the insect.
“I have never heard of anything like this before.”
“Neither had we. My hive was wiped out, we are all that remained.”
“Even had this Nothings not attacked you had you remained near Districts then this would have happened because of Hunters. You should have known it would be dangerous to live this close to a city.”
“No, not here. We lived farther way. Now that place is gone.”
I frowned, this story was getting stranger and stranger the longer that I listened to it. I was wondering how much of it was accurate but I didn’t get the feeling that this beast was lying. “Then they came to you? That doesn’t sound like Districts to me. How do you know it was us that attacked you.”
The creature reached out with one of its appendages that pressed it up against my clothing. “This.” It said.
I looked down at the small insignia on the clothes. It was the symbol of Districts. A fortress with wings. All Hunters wore an insignia like that while we were out of the city. If this creature had seen this insignia when it was attacked then these Nothings must have been from Districts. I couldn’t see any reason why these Nothings would fake an insignia to fool a Beast so I thought it must be true.
“If so then why did you come here? If it was Districts that attacked you then wouldn’t you want to go in a different direction.” I looked over the beast and then at the other injured insects in the room. “And you don’t seem like you are in any shape to take revenge. So why did you come here?”
“Revenge? No, I have lost everything. This small hive can not longer protect anything, I can no longer protect anything. So I come before my enemy, the enemy to defeated me.” The creatures voice was harsher then it had been, “I came seeking you Queen Who Dwells Among Humans. There is no nobody else I can turn to.”
“Me? Why me? Do you think I am going to take revenge for you? Against my own city?”
“Against the city? No, but the Nothings are here and I know they are not your ally. They are nobodies ally, not even their own. But I am not here to convince you of that. I have lost my brood and soon I will lose my life. Yet even at the end there are things that I do not want to lose.” It was speaking slower then it had been earlier. It said it didn’t have long to live and I was beginning to think that it wasn’t lying. This insect has been saving all its energy so that it could speak with me this last time.
“Then what do you want from me?”
“You are young. Your brood… your court is still small. I come to offer you my most precious possession. Please protect it, that is all that I can ask of you. Please protect my daughter.” Previously I had difficulty detecting emotion in the clacking accent of the insect but now I could clearly hear the desperation and sorrow in this creature’s voice.
“Your daughter?” I asked.
The insect pointed toward the back of the cave. There was a cocoon there against the wall. In the dim light I could see a figure illuminated through the cocoon. The insect spoke again, “Please protect her. Please let her serve you. She will soon be reborn in a form acceptable for you kind so please take her.”
“I…” I didn’t know how I should answer. My mind kept racing but it didn’t find any answers to my questions. I looked over to the cocoon watching it when I turned back to the insect. However the leg that had pointed toward the cocoon had dropped to the ground. The insects head and slumped. The presence that I had felt with me this hold time had disappeared almost with me noticing. The creature was dead.
The other insects were silent. Then they began to move, gathering around their former leader. They formed a group around the noble beast. The one insect that I had seen before approached me, looked at me, and then approached its former master. Then together they lifted it and began carrying it away, out the mouth of the cave.
I watched the corpse get carried away and when it was gone I was alone, no, not alone. The cocoon was still there. Inside it was the daughter of the noble insect. It was probably another noble beast. And the dead beast had asked for me to take care of it, I had been trusted with her care.
Why me? I hadn’t gotten a chance to know beyond the fact that the beast thought there was no other choice.
I sat there and watched the cocoon as the night went on. I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I couldn’t just leave it here, who knows what might happen if I did that. I was conflicted about my opinions about what to do with it. I had been left with it so I didn’t want to just break it and kill the beast inside. That felt wrong. Still I didn’t want to be in charge of her either. But then what should I do with her, just tell her to leave when she emerged from the cocoon. That might just be the same as killing her myself.
So I waited. I did not know how long it would take for the cocoon to hatch. I could only assume that it would not be too long. The time slowly passed as I watched the cocoon. I could see the form inside the cocoon dimly. She was very human shaped. A lot more then then the noble beast which left her with me. Would she be like the other human looking noble beasts that I saw in Istan.
I think I nodded off for a little bit while waiting. However there was a sound that caused me to snap awake. The cocoon was beginning to crack open. I stood up and walked over to the cocoon. It was beginning to crack open. Green ooze began to pour out of the cocoon and I watched as the hand which looked almost like a human hand reached out of the cocoon and grabbed the edge. Then slowly she pulled her self out of the cocoon.
The first thing that I noticed was that she was naked, not surprising considering she had been inside a cocoon. It would probably be weird if she had been wearing clothes while inside a cocoon. The next thing that I noticed was how human she looked. Her joins looked a bit strange with weird joints on them like her arms weren’t really flesh but instead some flesh looking carapace. Other than that strangeness it was almost impossible to tell that she wasn’t human. However her eyes were a bit disturbing. The pupils were almost pitch black, like the other insects that I saw.
She stood there standing in the juices of her cocoon. She stepped out of it and onto the stone floor. She looked around at the empty cave and then at me. She then knelt and turned her face toward the ground. Then she spoke, “Mother must be dead then. You are my new master then. Please do with me as you wish.”
Her voice was a bit raspy, like her mother’s but it still was almost human. If you didn’t know what to listen for you might not even notice it at all, “I…” I tried to speak but I didn’t know what to say. However the insect beast girl just stayed there waiting for me.
Finally once I had gathered my thoughts I managed to say, “Yes, your mother left you in my care. I’m not really certain what to do with you but I guess I’m in charge now.” I didn’t see any other option that I could take. I felt like one of those people who found a basket with a baby in it outside of their how however I didn’t think any orphanages would take Beasts. I asked, “Do you have a name?”
“My mother called me, Child of the Morning because I was her first child and I was born in the morning. However you may call me whatever you desire.”
Everything felt awkward. I didn’t really know how to deal with her. I had expected somebody more like Yaju, more uncontrollable and beastial. However this beast seemed to instead be more servitile, I wondered if it had something to do with being an insect. “Alright, then I could just call you Morning, or maybe Morn. Is that alright?”
“If that is what you desire then that will be what I will be called master.” She said.
“Eh, this is going to be a pain isn’t it. First we are going to need to get you some clothes. I can’t have you walking around naked, human’s just don’t do that and you are going to stand out.”
“Yes, of course Master. Unfortunately I had not clothes of my own so I must humbly ask you to provide them for me.”
I groaned, this would certain be a pain. Maybe I really should have abandoned her before she broke from her cocoon. “Also you are going to need to stop calling me Master, my name is Rika.”
“Of course Master Rika.”
“No, just Rika.” I had to give her some reason to stop calling me that so I fumbled the first one that came to my mind, “If you are going to be with me you need to act like you are not my servant.”
“I see,” She shifted and then stood up. “Is this better mast… Rika.”
“Yes, much better. Also I live among humans so you are going to need to pretend to be human. Who knows what would happen if they found out that you were a Beast.”
“Yes of course. This was why my mother helped me change my form so that I may better be accepted as your servant.”
“Yeah… well. Can all Beasts do that, it seems a bit unusual however I had seen other Noble Beasts that looked similar to Humans.”
“The insect clans are better at it then other beasts. There are already insects which dramatically change their form over their lifespan so it is easier and faster for us to change. I apologize but am not certain how the other clans are capable of changing their form just that they are capable of doing so.” Said Morn.
“But you were capable of doing it because of that strange cocoon thing. What did you look like before that.” I asked, it was a terrifying type of curiosity.
“My mother said that I should not tell you, that it would be best if you did not know what I previously looked like. However if you order me to tell you then I will be forced to comply.” She said.
Well at least she had a little bit of independence, that was good at least. “No, that is fine. If your mother said that I should not know then I will not ask unless it becomes important.”
I considered, what was I going to do. I wasn’t really planning to create a court like Morn’s mother thought I should do but I did feel that I should at least take care of her. My only other option seemed like it would be to find some other ruling Noble Beast that wanted to take her and that seemed like a whole lot of trouble just waiting to happen.
Finally I said, “Well, if I’m going to take you along I’m going to have to ask you some questions. Your mother said that the reason that you are here is because your hive got attacked by what she called the Nothings. However she wasn’t able to give me too many details before she told me to take care of you and then she died. Could you tell me what you know about these Nothings.”
“I will tell you everything that I know. Our hive is around a days journey to the east of your city. Normally we considered ourselves to be far enough away from your city that we do not worry about you. However it was three days ago when the attack began. There was two dozen people wearing the insignia of your city. They were strong enough to fight off the hive and mortally injure my other.”
“Your mother said that they were not Hunters? Is that right? And if they weren’t Hunters then how could they beat Beasts, especial Noble Beasts.” I asked. It was the question I wanted an answer from previously but I hadn’t be able to get one.
“They had, what are they called, guns?” Said Morn.
“Sure, I suppose that guns are effective against Beasts but generally normal humans are incapable of effectively fighting against Beasts without extreme training and then they find it difficult. That is the main reason Hunters are the primary defense against Beasts. They have the temperament and physical abilities to effectively fight Beasts” I said.
“These ones were different but they were certainly not Hunters. Hunter fight like we do but they were totally different. There are certain type of insects that I would compare them to, ants. They were perfectly coordinated and they did not care about their own lives. We even killed some of them but that did not halt their attack at all.”
“That sounds like a coordinated military strike. I suppose it is possible that Districts has a special force of normal humans who are capable of killing beasts however I don’t know why they would attack you.”
“There is something else too. Those people did not feel like humans. I would say that is felt like they have no emotions, no desires of their own. Even our insects that were trained to fight and kill had more emotion then them. There was literally nothing inside these people. It was like there was nothing but their orders driving them onward.”
“Your mother expressed the same sort of sentiment about them. That is why she called them the Nothings. I guess I will try to find out more about them but if they are trying to keep themselves secret I doubt it will be easy. Anything else that you could tell me about them that would help me identify them?”
“They were wearing body armor with masks to protect their faces so I can not tell you what any of them looked like. However I know they had a leader with them. Someone like them but not like them.”
“So like what? He had some amount of emotion and individual drive but not much.”
“Yes, like that. It was a large man who commanded the others. There was not much existence within this man but there was more than the others.”
“I suppose that a commander needs to have more self awareness then soldiers do. He needs to be able to make judgement calls and decide different tactics in the heat of the moment. A perfectly obedient soldier would be incapable of doing that. And knowing he is a large man helps to.”
“Unfortunately that is all that I know of him. Like the others his face was covered and even if it wasn’t I could not adequately describe human facial features. Please forgive me for my failure.”
“No, you certainly have answered my questions to the extent that I needed. For now we need to return to Districts. I guess I will have to smuggle you in because they certainly wouldn’t let a naked insect beast girl inside the city. I wonder how I’m going to explain this.”
She was silent. I didn’t really know what she was thinking but I decided to explain myself to her possible questions. “Even if you look like a human in most ways I am certain that there are Hunters who would be capable of detecting what you really are.”
I concentrated trying to feel her presence for myself, finally I said, “While many of them would probably confuse you with a Hunter if they didn’t deliberately try to tell the difference I know of at least one Hunter who will instantly be able to tell your true identity. I can probably convince him not to reveal it but there might be others who are less than willing.”
“I will do what I can do but there is a limit to what I can do to appear as a Hunter.”
“If we keep you away from most of the other Hunters that will likely be sufficient for a while before I can decide a better solution. However I’m still going to have to explain it somehow to Kirk and Yaju.”
“Are those your other servants?” Asked Morn.
“I would not call them servants. They are Hunters like me that are also my friends. I might also needed to get a higher ranking Hunter in on this too. Without someone like that I’m not certain if I can pass off a fake identity.”
“I’m sure that whatever plan you make will be good.”
I found her constant lack of initiate kind of annoying. I didn’t know if she was just naturally that way or if she was trying to ingratiate herself with me to make sure I kept her. “Alright you need to wait here for a while. I need to get you some clothes otherwise you will never manage to get into Districts.”
She nodded, “Very well, I shall wait here until you returned.”
I briefly wondered if I should just left her here and never return. I wondered what she would do if I did that. Would she just continue to wait until she starved to death or would she eventually find enough initiative to find me or get a different master. However I didn’t want to do that, at least if I took care of her I could estimate the risks and she might be a useful ally.
I shook my head as I left the cave and began to run back to Districts. I tried to avoid that line of thought. I had already begun to think of her as an asset and how I could effectively use her to protect Districts. If I did that she would be just like her and her mother thought she was, my servant. I tried to decided if that was bad or not but only struggled unsuccessfully.
Finally I reached the wall of Districts and approached the gate. I knocked on the gate and a little bit later it was opened for me. It was one of the gate guards, not Hunters but instead regular soldiers. He let me through and I entered the city. I headed to the barracks in this section of the wall slowly beginning to conceal my presence as I did. While I had come back from patrol late that was not too unusual however if other Hunters found out I felt again then I would need to answer questions about what I did.
The barracks was empty which was not surprising. Most Hunters didn’t use it instead going to their own homes. It was initially designed to be used to prolonged sieges of the wall so that Hunters stationed here could easily rest but be gotten easily. There were other things it was used for but generally it was empty. I searched through the supply rooms until eventually I found a generic Hunter uniform. Again most Hunters didn’t use them instead just wearing the badge and whatever personal outfit they desired. A few did but they were usually the annoying stickler types which were thankfully rare among Hunters.
I looked for one that should be the correct size for Morn. I eventually found one and stuffed it into the small bag that I usually kept with me. Then I proceeded to sneak out of the entrance toward Districts. Going through the main gate would be too noticeable. Once I left the wall I ran down the length of the wall until I was fairly certain that I was beyond the standard watch radius.
Then while I continued to conceal my presence the best I could I climbed over the wall. I had to go slowly because if I exerted too much energy I would be more easily noticeable. Once I reached the top of the wall I looked around sensing for any Hunters and when I did sense any of them I dropped over the edge of the wall and stealthily moved into the Jungle.
Once I have entered the jungle and left the sight of the Wall I broke into a run and after just a little while I arrived at the cave. I could not sense Morn inside but I hoped that it was just because she had successfully hidden her presence. I entered and sure enough there she was waiting near the cocoon. She seemed to be standing in the exact same place that I left her. I wondered if she had even moved at all while I was gone.
“Good, your still here.” I said.
“You told me to remain here so I did that.” Morn said.
“You, um, didn’t need to stand in the exact same spot for the entire time I was gone. As long as you stayed in the cave it would have been fine.” She simply nodded in acceptance at what I said. “Here, I brought you these clothes.”
I pulled out the clothes from the bag and handed them to her. She took them and began to try and put them on. However she was awkward and moved uncertainly while attempting to do it. Finally I reached out and grabbed her, “Here, hold still and let me help you. This is how you put them on.”
She let me show her how to put the clothes on and when she was done I stepped back and took a look at her. “Hmm, not bad. Except for the eyes you look like a human. If I got you some tinted glasses then nobody would notice that either. It is not easy to sense that you are a beast either so you should be able to blend in fairly well.”
“I am not worthy of such praise.”
“However you will need to speak and act more casual. You don’t need to be totally casual but maybe just treating me like a squad leader instead of your master would better prevent you from standing out.”
“Of course, I will do my best.” Her voice and tone had already changed. A part of me wanted to test and she how far she would accept my orders but I squashed that part of me and returned to the matter at hand. “Now we need to get you into Districts. We should be able to get you over the wall without being spotted but things will get messy if you are noticed. If that happens I need you to keep quiet while I try and explain things.”
“All right, I can do that.”
Then we headed out of the cave. At a distance we would just be two Hunters running through the woods. Not unusual at all. However getting past the wall was a different matter. I couldn’t go through the front gate because then Morn would get noticed and I would have to try and bluff my way past which would be difficult and remembered. The only real option was climbing the wall which shouldn’t be that hard. However getting caught there was even worse. For security reasons Hunters are not supposed to climb the wall except in extraordinary circumstances.
“And continue to conceal your presence.” I told her while I continued to do the same with my presence. If we kept it hidden then it would be difficult for another Hunter to detect us as longer ranges. However doing so was generally tiring so Hunters rarely did it for extended periods of time unless they had a knack for it.
After the run back to the wall I stopped outside of sight. I closed my eyes trying to sense things. Then I swore. “Of all the Beasts….” I looked over to Morn, “,figuratively of course, there are guards here. Normally this section of the wall is unguarded.” I looked back and forth along the wall. “I will probably be fast to go around and find a section of the wall that is not being guarded.”
Morn just nodded and followed me and I walked along the edge of the wall from just inside the jungle. After a few minutes I paused and looked up at the wall. “Here is good. We should be able to get over it before we get caught. Now follow me and keep hidden and quiet.” There was the silent nod of acceptance and then I left the tree line to climb the wall.
We went slowly up it trying to keep as quiet as possible. Before reaching the top I looked over the edge and checked to make sure the path was clear. Then I climbed up onto the wall and pulled Morn up with me. I moved over to the other edge of the wall and looked down. This side was a lot more clear. If we jumped down and walked away it would be easier to notice then on the other side. The Hunters that were watching the wall might notice us if we do that. Instead I motioned toward Morn and we headed along the wall away from the main gate where the Hunters were stationed.
There were a few entrances down into the wall and after a few minutes of walking we got to one and I opened the trap door and motioned Morn down inside. She went down first and I followed her. Once we were inside I shut the trap door. Once that was done I spoke in a whisper, “We are going to make our way to one of the secondary gates and make our way out there. Nobody should bother us on the way and we are going to try and avoid notice but should somebody question us try to act natural.”
“What is natural for a human?” She asked.
I struggled to find an answer to that question. Eventually I just had to cop out and say, “Just try not to attract too much notice. Be quiet and let me do the speaking.” We walked through the passageways inside the wall until I got to some of the larger rooms. I could sense people and I slowly relaxed my presence as I walked so that people would begin to notice me but wouldn’t notice when it suddenly appears. I could feel Morn doing the same thing right next to me. It was still surprising how much like a Hunter she felt like.
We walked passed some normal people who did not seem to pay us any attention. However just as we were about to get to the gate exit I heard somebody calling me name, “Rika is that you?”
I cringed a little, I had been hoping to get through this place without being stopped but I really didn’t want to be stopped by him. I tried to ignore me and continued walking, moving faster than before.”
“Hey, Rika! How are you doing?” I inwardly groaned. That voice was getting closer and I knew that I wouldn’t be able to avoid this encounter. I’m sure that if I ran he would follow me. So I turned and faced him. Running toward me through the common room waving his hand at me in an attempt to get my attention was Lucius. He was almost five years older than me but you certainly wouldn’t be able to tell by seeing him or speaking with him. He had never seemed to outgrown his childish looks or his childish attitude.
“Hello Lucius, surprising seeing you you.” I said in the driest tone that I could managed. I didn’t really hate Lucius, it was difficult to bring yourself to hate him, but he was exactly the Hunter I didn’t want to deal with right now. He was certainly going to ask a lot of uncomfortable questions.
“Not too surprising.” he said. Did he not understand my annoyance sarcasm? “I am assigned this this section of the wall and usually I get some of the later shifts. However seeing you around is strange. Aren’t you assigned one section down the wall in an easier shift. What are you doing here now? Did you fall asleep while on watch?” He smiled and laughed while he said this. I didn’t think he actually believed that I fell asleep while on patrol but he must have thought it was funny to say.
“It is nothing special and it wasn’t certainly a nap. It is simple, after my watch I decided to do some training. The training rooms on my section of the wall tend to be more crowded then the ones here and it was close by so I decided to use these ones.” I said. It was the excuse I had come up with ahead of time. It was basically true, since the gate I usually guarded was one of the major gates it tended to have a large compliment of Hunters than this gate. The only problem was that I had no idea if this argument held water today.
“Oh? You always were a go-getter. No wonder you managed to get more privileges then me. I heard that you even had an exciting adventure leading your very own caravan. I wish I could have something like that happen to me.” He was far too excitable about the idea of defending against a horde of beasts.
Then he did exactly what I didn’t want him to do. He looked over toward Morn and then back at me before saying, “And who is this? Your need training partner? I haven’t seen her around before. Is she a new hunter you have been assigned to train?”
I signed, “Morn this is Lucius, Lucius this is Morn. Now that I have introduced you to each other is is really time for us to get going. We had a long training session and it is getting rather late so we should really get going.”
“Morn was it? It is a pleasure to meet you.” I reached out his hand to shake her hand. She looked down at his hand and then glanced at me. I nodded and she tentatively reached out her own hand. Lucius grabbed it and shook it.
“Yes, pleasure.” Was all that she said in response.
Lucius didn’t seemed to give her anti-social response the slightest mind. He just said, “I wouldn’t want to keep you from getting home. However as it so happens I just got off so I’ll be able to accompany you. We live in the same district so we might as well walk to the city together. Morn, do you live in this District too?”
“Yes.” She said.
“Excellent. Then you want walk with us too.”
I glared at Lucius. I needed to find a way to avoid walking back to the city with him. I already had to deal with the fact that he had seen Morn and I had been forced to introduce them. If I had to stumble my way through explanations all the way back to the city I’m sure something bad would happen.
I really didn’t want to do it but I felt there was not a better way of avoiding him. So I spoke again, this time slightly changing the tone of my voice, “You go. We were planning on stopping by the cafeteria before leaving. We wouldn’t want to force you to hang around waiting for us.”
He stood there for a moment as if trying to understand what I was telling him. Eventually he spoke, this time without his usual vigor. “Alright, I’ll do that. I would not want to inconvenience you. Please take care.” He then turned and began to walk away. I took a deep breath partly relieved that it had worked successfully.
I turned away from the direction that Lucius went and began walking in a different direction. As we walked I could see confusion in Morn’s eyes. I said, “You can ask me a question if you want. In fact you can do that anytime you what, especially when we are alone.”
“Why did that man just leave us alone. It felt like he wanted to go to the city with us.”
“Your mother called me the Queen Who Dwells Among Humans. If there is anything that qualifies me for that title it is this ability. I can command people if I speak in the right way. Without a strong resolve and if you don’t realize what I am doing it is difficult to resist especially if the command is subtle.”
“Any you used one of those command on him?”
“Yes, I try to avoid using it on anybody because I don’t like forcing people to obey me.”
“But you used it here.”
“Yes, I did. I need to keep your identity a secret. Until I can you registered as an official hunter having people question you will be a bad idea. Plus Lucius tends to ask to many questions. At least until I can sort things out it would be best to not have to deal with him.” I moved through the rooms trying to avoid people.
Once I felt that enough time had passed that Lucius would have certainly left all the way I doubled back and began heading to the gate. This time we managed to escape the wall without being interrupted by anyone.
After getting through the gate we continued into the city. It was a bit of the walk and we had to go slower then I was used to. If we went too fast it was possible we would catch up with Lucius. We walked in silence. I didn’t really know what to say to her and she simply remained silent.
Eventually we reached the city and I lead the way through the streets until I got to the apartment building. It was a gated appartment complex with a bunch of large buildings in it. Most of the people here were reasonably affluent and the apartments took the whole floors of one of the buildings.
I lead the way to the building farther in the back and we took the elevator to the top floor. The entire floor was mine not that I used to for much. I unlocked the door and let Morn into my place.
As we entered I said, “This is my place. You can make yourself at home.” I pointed over to one of the doors and continued, “That room is currently empty so you can use that if you want to. I don’t have a spare bed so your just going to have to make due until I can get something for you.”
“This whole place is yours?”
I nodded, ‘Yeah.”
“Is it because you are a Queen?”
“Ha, no. I’m just a Hunter. We get quite the compensation. I think most get houses so they are left alone more. I like this apartment because I don’t really have to take care of anything.”
“And you live here alone?”
“At least until now. I’ve been living alone for a while now. My father doesn’t exactly see eye to eye with me.” I shrugged as I took a seat on one of my couches.
“Any your mother.”
“We occasionally talk. She is a retired Hunter.”
“Is she strong?”
“I initially thought so. She always seemed strong but as I got more used to my own powers I realized that she was not as strong as I had thought she was. Sure she was strong enough to work as a Hunter for many years but…”
“But what?” Asked Morn.
“I’ve been changing how I think about Hunters recently. There are Hunters that I previously thought of as strong but now I’m considering them weaker and weaker.”
“Is is because you are getting stronger?”
I shrugged, “That is part of it. It is also more of an issue of what I think of as strength. Most of the Hunters in Districts seem old fashion to me. Part of that is because of my experience in Istan. Many of the Hunters here just use standard Hunter fighting techniques without anything special. You saw some of the Hunters today what do you think?”
“The Nothings would kill them all.”
“I was afraid that was the case. Districts has continued to rely on Hunters with strong blood to protect them however I wonder if that is enough.” I looked at my hands. “I keep wondering if we are possible of so much more. My friend Kirk mentioned that it was possible that a lot of Hunters have hidden talents and since he did I can’t shake the feeling that he is right. However I think it is more then that.”
I looked over to Morn as asked “What do the Beasts think? Do you have hidden talents and abilities?”
“I am still young. My mother’s hive was fairly isolated so I don’t know. However my mother was very strong and she always surprised me with what she could do. The cocoon was mostly her showing me what to do.”
“Yes, that is part of it too. It seems that beasts and hunters both have an ability to transform themselves in some manner. I know Yaju is capable of doing temporary transformations to give her more strength. Hmm…” I sat there thinking. Thoughts tickled at the back of my find. Eventually I turned my head and looked out toward the window.
“That was quick.” I said.
“You also noticed the Hunter that is approaching. I didn’t mention anything because the Hunter seems fairly weak and if you are staying in these apartments then other Hunters might be as well.”
“There are a couple but this one is different. This one is coming to visit me. And presence can be deceiving.” I stood and made my way over to the door. I pulled it open and said, “Hello Kirk.”
Kirk - Revelation
“Hello Rika.” I said.
“Come in.” Said Rika as she motioned me inside, “I didn’t expect you so late. Instead I was planning on calling you in the morning and having you come over. Why did you come anyways?”
“I sensed a few weird things so I came to figure out what was causing it.” I said while I followed Rika into her living room. It was empty of anyone else and we took seats on opposite sides of the table in the center.
“I’m sure you have a lot of questions to ask me.” Said Rika.
I nodded and said, “Indeed.”
“And I suppose the first one would be why I have a Beast in my house?”
“That was the one that came to my mind first too.” I looked over toward the door which I could feel the Beast hiding behind, “So why do you have a Beast in your house.”
“That is an extended story.” Rika also turned to the door and said, “It is alright. You can come out. Kirk is a friend.”
The door opened and I saw the woman in plain Hunter clothes. If I couldn’t tell she was a Beast with my senses I might have thought she was a human. The black eyes gave it away but otherwise she was virtually unidentifiable.
“How did you detect me? I thought I did an excellent job of concealing my presence.” Said the woman.
“I see. I suspected she was a Noble Beast and I guess that is right.” I said, “And I detected you because my senses are particularly sharp. Also when you sensed me you began to slowly hide your presence. A normal hunter who wasn’t looking for you might not have realized you where there but it was simple for me to detect you.”
Rika looked between us and said, “I guess I will give introductions. This woman, who as you suspect is a beast, is called Morn. And this man is a fellow hunter, his name is Kirk.”
“You still haven’t answered my question.” I said.
“Do you want me to give you the short answer or the long one?”
“I have enough time to listen to the long one.” I said. Rika then began her explanation of how she had met the beast and been shown to the cave where she met the insect queen.
After listened to the who explanation I leaned back. “Nothings? I haven’t head anything about them before.”
“I still have trouble believing that they exist.” Said Rika. “I saw what they did to the insects but I still find it a strange thought. I mean I haven’t even heard of a rumor of these Nothings before.”
I scrunched up my forehead thinking. “I wouldn’t say that exactly. I still go to a normal school most of the time. There are lots of rumors that circle those sorts of places. One type always seems to get attention though, the ones about regular people being able to compete with Hunters.”
I tried to drudge up my memories about these things. Previously I hadn’t really paid attention to those sorts of things but after I became a Hunter nobody spoke to me about rumors like that anymore.
“I can remember some of them. Secret government training regimes which could turn a normal person into a match for a Hunter. Secret armies that had been created to combat Hunters in case they went rogue. That kind of thing. I never put much stock into those rumors before but I plan on looking into it now. If these Nothings actually exist then it would be important to know what their real purpose is.”
I sat there in thought for a minute before Rika interrupted my thoughts. “We also need to talk about Morn.”
“Oh? What about her?” I said.
“Are you not going to talk me out of keeping her?” Said Rika.
“Is there any reason I should do that?”
“Well, I thought you would be more surprised that she is a Beast and that she might be dangerous to Districts.”
“Well, that certainly might be a problem for some.” I said looking over toward Morn. “Maybe I just think of myself as a good judge of character. I felt her presence and she didn’t feel like she would be a problem. If anything Yaju is far more of a threat to Districts then Morn.”
I looked back to Rika before continuing, “If there was a threat to District in this room it would be you.”
She gapped at me, “What me?”
I held up my hand before saying, “I should be noted before I continue that I personally do not think you are a threat to Districts. Since I have come back from Istan I had been doing research and helping Professor Stolas. In doing so I have meet a lot of Hunters but more importantly a lot of government officials. What I have learned is that our Wall is strong because when the worst comes both the government and the Hunters work together to protect the city.”
“So? What does that have to do with me?”
“Of all the threats to could be presented to the city you are the only one that can tear our prefect defense to the ground. How many Hunters would band to your side if you betrayed Districts? Even if they normally wouldn’t you could command them to and because of the trust you have built up in them they would obey.”
“Worse,” I looked over at Morn, “It seems that Beasts are willing to obey you too. Imagine if the Noble Beast at Istan had been able to convince some of the Hunters guarding the wall there to join him. What would have happened.”
“But I wouldn’t,” She stammered.
“I know. And Morn, you should better suppress your own killer intent. Anybody within a block would be able to sense that. The fact that you are willing to do this for Rika only solidified my point. Luckily,” I smiled, “I trust you Rika. I don’t believe you are a threat to Districts because you are a good person.”
She breathed out and looked down at the floor, “Do you really think I would be capable of that? Destroying Districts?”
I continued to smile, “Not really. You would do damage but there are lots of Hunters in Districts and you would only be able to convert a few of them.”
I decided to change the subject because I had already distressed Rika enough, “However you mentioned that if Morn was going to stay here you would need some sort of official documentation so that anyone looking into her records would be convinced that she was actually a Hunter.”
“Yes, I did say that. I thought that Professor Stolas would be a good option. He would probably be sympathetic and help me forge records for Morn.”
“He probably would but I wouldn’t recommend it.” I said.
“Professor Stolas is a scientist and would probably desire to study Morn in return. Also he has some ties to the government. While I doubt he would deliberately betray you but if him or his records let something slip that would be bad.”
“Then what? Is there a better person to have fake the information.”
“Sure, I can do that.”
“You how? Wouldn’t you need access to special government computers to do that.”
“Yes, that is correct. You would need something like that wouldn’t you. Don’t worry. I’ll get her records in working order.”
“But how?” She asked.
I grinned, “We all have our little secrets now don’t we?”
“That is not very reassuring. However I suppose I’ll have to trust you to get the forgery done. How long to you think it will take.”
“I couple of day probably. I’ll need you to have a picture taken of Morn and have it sent to me. Once you do that I will be able to have the process finalized.” I said.
“We can do that now if you want.” Said Rika. “I think a have a camera around here somewhere. Wait where while I see if I can find it.”
Rika stood off and walked out into another room. Once she was gone I turned my attention to Morn who was still standing near the doorway she had come out from near the beginning of the conversation.
“Is something the matter? You seem like you have something to say.” I asked her.
“What are you after?”
“That is quiet the loaded question now isn’t it. You see I for the majority of my life so far I lived as a regular human. However I awoke to my Hunters blood by the desire to help another person. However there is not just one person I want to protect. Rika is one of them too. Who knows, even as a beast, you might become one of those too.”
“You are an idiot for trusting people this much.”
“Didn’t I say it. I am good at understanding people. I get a good feel for everyone I meet which makes it hard for me to hate anyone because I can understand most of them. I wouldn’t exactly call this trust.” I saw a flicker of something in her black eyes and I felt like I was beginning to understand her emotions.
“I think I am beginning to understand you too. When I spoke about how Rika could be a danger to this city you got upset. Could it be that you actually desire revenge against the human who destroyed your family.”
“I am not capable of such desire. I just desire to sure my Queen.”
I smiled, now I was able to clearly sense the emotions that she had been trying so hard to hide. “I suppose I don’t blame you. I would want to take revenge on whoever took my mother away as well. So I’ll help you find them. These Nothings that hide in this city. I will find them.”
I could feel her confusing, her battling with herself over whether she should trust me or not. However her thoughts were interrupted by Rika returning to the room. He held the camera in her hands. “I found it. I also found some glasses which should be able to conceal her eyes”
“Ah good. Let’s take the picture then.”
I had Morn pose in a normal picture and we took a couple to make sure at least one of them was good.
Rika said, “Just take the camera it will be easier and return it to me when you are done with it.”
“Alright. Well, I had better get going. If you want this done quickly I had better start the process sooner rather than later.” I said as I was about to leave the appartment.
“Wait Kirk, your research about improving weaker Hunters. How is it going?”
“Oh, that project. Fairly well all things considered. I found a subject who is showing my point quiet nicely. However that doesn’t prove that it is capable of working is all or even most cases. I’ve been compiling my methods for the second round of testing to see if those improve the results.” I said trying to explain everything is as simple a manner as possible.
“I see, that is good.” She paused for a moment and I felt like she wanted to say something to me however she was afraid to do so. I could feel the thorns in her emotions and knew that it might be dangerous to pry deeper.
Still I waited a moment to see if she wanted to say anything and when she decided not to I turned, “Well, if there is anything else feel free to contact me and I will help you if I can. I’m sure Yaju will too but she has been rather busy lately.”
I stepped through the door however Rika stepped through after me. She shut her front door behind her closing us off from Morn. “Kirk, I need to ask something of you.”
“If I become a threat to Districts I want you to stop me.”
“What caused this? Don’t take my commends about what you might be capable of seriously. I told you already that I don’t actually think you would be a major threat to Districts.” I said.
“But I worry about it. I used my ability again to get Morn past the wall. What if that story becomes reality some day. That is not the kind of person that I want to become.”
“Relax, you are careful to not abuse your power.” I said trying to reassure her.
“Kirk, I’ve realized something that might be devastating to our society and I’m afraid I will turn into something else. Something I don’t want to become. Yet every time I turn away from that future I find that I am not strong enough to protect everything I want to.”
She was serious, deadly serious, something dark was rising in her desires and emotions, “What do you mean?”
“I told you that Morn changed form in a cocoon. Us Hunters are similar to Beasts, what if we can change in the same way, to become something completely different. Will that make us more power, make us more like the Beast we fight, or will be become something else.”
“Tranformation? So you really think such a think is possible? If Hunters could permanently change their nature don’t you think we would already have learned how to do it.” I asked.
“How do you know other have not already learned this? If Hunters that changed this way become something completely different wouldn’t the government try to suppress this information to keep the citizens calmer?”
I reached out and gripped her shoulder tightly, “Rika, you do not need to worry. If that is what you want then I will stop you if you threaten Districts. However, if you lose yourself then I will make sure to find you. I will protect both you and Yaju to the best of my ability.”
Rika breathed a sigh of relief. “Thanks Kirk.” She turned and opened the door again. “I’ll speak with you later than. And thanks for listening to me.”
“You are welcome. Thanks for speaking to me about it.” Then Rika backup up and shut the door. I was left alone on the hallway outside the appartment. I moved back to the elevator thinking about Tranformations.
Yaju - Violence
I wanted to know how it came to this. I was standing on one of the houses in Districts and I was surrounded by normal humans. I had just been laying down on the roof of one of the high schools in Districts thinking when I had heard them approach. I was surprised that I hadn’t felt them but when I noticed that they were normal humans that made sense.
I had stood up and looked around. They were all wearing body armor and carrying large guns that I didn’t recognize. They were also all pointing their guns at me. “Is there something the matter?” I asked as casually as I could.
I wasn’t really worried about them. Even in the position I was in I should be able to fight and beat all of them. I stood there with them surrounding me and tried to get a feel from them but I wasn’t able to get anything. Then I saw the other person. I large man wearing the same body armor as the others. He had opened the door into the roof and just stood there. Then he spoke, “Kill her.”
That was all I or them needed to hear. They all began to fire at me just as I began to move. I was able to avoid the bullets however they were reacting just as fast as me. I had to keep moving to stay out of the arc of their bullets. I thought I could have defeated them all by killing them but that would involve killing regular humans.
There were two reasons I didn’t want to do that. The first was that I wouldn’t be able to get away with killing them. The government was extremely strict about Hunters killing normal people and I knew that if I did that I would end up back in my cell. The second reason was that I generally never felt anger or the desire to hunt regular Humans.
Trying to injure them without killing them while protecting myself from their bullets seemed like a foolish idea so instead I left the area. I leapt from the roof of the school onto the grounds. That turned out to be a bad idea. They must have anticipated that I would do that because there were more of the soldiers down here. I wasn’t prepared for them so when they started firing at me all I was capable of doing was raising my arms to protect myself.
I transformed my arms as best as I could to resist but I still felt the intense pain of the bullets entering my arms. It was far more painful then I had expected. Either the bullets or the guns must have been more powerful than I expected. Once I had my arms protecting me I was able to rush past the soldiers and run toward the edge of the school.
Once I had gotten free of the surrounding soldier I was able to escape the bounds of the school. It seems that they hadn’t been able to guard here as well. I was able to escape farther into the city. I jumped up onto the roofs of the buildings and ran along them.
After a few minutes of running I believed I had gotten a significant distance from my attackers. I stopped and knelt down. I concentrated on my arms and pushed the bullets out of my arm. They dropped on the roof which I was standing on. Once that was done I was able to seal the wounds on my arms. While I couldn’t easily repair all the damage I was able to prevent them from bleeding more and getting worse.
The bullets had caused more damage then I had expected and there had been a lot of them. I looked at the bullets and picked one of them up. It was dark, almost black, definitely not a normal bullet. Maybe something designed to be used in a very powerful gun. I slipped one of the bullets into my pocket and then I began to hear them.
I was paying attention this time so they were not able to surprise me. They had reached the roofs themselves and they were following me. There were a lot of them and they seemed determined to kill me. I heard the rumbling of a car and looked back to see a black car following me.
If they had a car it would be difficult for me to escape them. I looked toward the wall and wondered if going over that would be the best option. However that was extremely far away. I would need to find another place at the very least to lose these people.
I went through the options and eventually decided to head toward the center of time. Hopefully the solders would be less willing to attack me in the center of the populated section of this district. That left an important question, why were these soldier attacking me anyways. I couldn’t think of a good reason.
Were these people working with the government? There could be some factions in the government that might not like me because sometimes I have control problems. These would be the same people who wanted me to stay locked up. They could have a reason to want to kill me but I wouldn’t think they would be this determined.
Had the stopped when I escaped the school then I could assume they were government agents. But since they continued to chase me after I entered the city I doubt that the government would risk their citizens that much.
If it was an independent organization then I couldn’t find a good reason for them to want to go after me. It would have to be because I was a powerful Hunter, maybe some underground research group trying to unlock the secrets of Hunters. However there would certainly be better targets to have then me.
And that didn’t answer the question of the soldiers chasing me. They seemed strange. To all my senses they seemed human but their actions were so strange like they continued to follow orders without question until completion. Even now as I got farther and farther into the city they continued to chase me seemingly in disregard to the people who were living in the city.
I had managed to stay ahead enough that they didn’t fire at me. I needed to find a way to lose them. I had no idea if it would be effective but I began to hide my presence. That made me have to go slower so it was more difficult for me to be noticed. Eventually I dropped down to the street and began hiding in the alleys. With my presence hidden as much as I could.
I heard them searching through the streets and occasionally caught a glimpse of them. I found a unlocked door and slipped inside. There I hide keeping my presence as hidden as I was capable of doing. Occasionally I could hear them running around outside. I stayed there until I felt like they were gone, it must have been at least an hour.
Once I opened the door I looked both ways to make sure nobody was there. Once I was certain that is was empty I left and began to make my way through the city again. It only took a couple of blocks before I saw them again. No, not quiet, these weren’t the soldiers but I could tell that there were the same. Several people in black suits at the corners of one of the streets.
They were watching waiting for me. This time however I could see some of their faces. They were blank and empty before the intense observation that they were performing. I hide on the corner watching them myself for a minute before I turned and went another way.
Now that I had encountered them once before I knew what to look for. They felt like normal humans but they also felt a little strange like part of them was missing. If they were after me I needed to escape them. After a few minutes of evading them I found myself near the edge of the town.
I could see the wall in the distance and knew I would probably be able to get there if I was not spotted. However it seemed likely they were watching near the edges of the city. Maybe if I ran as fast as I could I would be able to get beyond the wall before I was overtaken by these people.
It was worth a shot at least. I bolted running as fast and as hard as I could. Almost as soon as I started I could hear somebody yelling and I knew that they had already detected me. I knew there would be cars following be soon. Running faster than a car on a well tended road was a task that almost no Hunter was capable of however if there was Hunter that could do it that would be me.
I could feel the strain which I normally never felt. Even the greatest athlete soon becomes tired when running at their absolute limit. However that limit kept me ahead of anything that was chasing me. I felt equally like that run was the longest and shortest moment of my life.
Eventually I found myself at the wall with burning pain in my entire body. The wall loomed but I seemed insignificant. I practically flew up it as I climbed the wall. I reached the top in probably record time. Once I had reached the edge I stopped. I felt a hesitation to left, like I was abandoning what life I had already gotten here.
I knew I couldn’t just leave, maybe driving me out of Districts was the main purpose of their attack if they failed to kill me. I had to at least tell somebody. I sifted through my pocket and pulled out my phone. I rarely used it and I knew what once I entered the Jungle it would be no longer get reception.
There were only a few numbers in the phone and I called the first one on the list. It rung a few times before it was finally answered. I heard Kirk’s voice on the other end, “Hey Yaju, what’s up?”
“Hey,” I felt my voice felt strange, almost choked, “This might be the last time that we talk.”
“What? Yaju, is something wrong?”
“These strange soldiers have been chasing me. I’m leaving the city to escape them.”
“Wait Yaju, what are you talking about? If somebody is chasing you then you could join up with some Hunters and surely you would be protected. Give me a few minutes and I’ll join you.”
“No, I’m sure that won’t be enough. They are very intent on killing me specifically. I think if I was with more people it would just threaten them or the soldiers would wait until there is a better time to kill me. No, I think I will leave the city.”
“Will that help? Surely you can’t just let these people drive you out of the city.” Asked Kirk.
“I will stay nearby to distract them but as long as I remain in Districts I will need to hold back to prevent destroying things. I need you to figure out who these people are. That is something I wouldn’t be able to do.”
“I have been hearing some stories. Were they Hunter or where they normal humans who felt strange?”
“The later.” I looked backward. “However I do not have much longer. I’ll have to end the call in a minute.”
“Yaju, please be careful. If these people are trying to kill you then they might not stop just because you left the city.”
“I know.” I said, “Thanks Kirk. Sorry but I have to get going now.”
“Bye.” I heard him said. Then I broke the phone and threw it to one side. These people might be able to detect my via the phone so I couldn’t take it with me. Then I jumped off the wall and ran off into the Jungle.
Kirk - Dwindling
The call was abruptly shut off and it felt like Yaju was gone, maybe forever. Was it the Nothings that had done it, I suspected as much but there didn’t seem to be able hard proof or a good lead back to them.
I put my own phone in my pocket. Regardless of who attacked Yaju the very fact that she had been attacked meant that things were going into motion. Yaju was a powerful asset to Districts so if somebody was trying to dispose of her that meant they saw her as a risk, probably to a plan about to be unfolded.
There were a few moments more of thought before I pulled my phone back out of my pocket. If Yaju was attacked individually because she was a powerful Hunter then other powerful Hunters might also be targeted for removal. Maybe this group wanted their most powerful potential opponents removed before they could become a problem.
I began making a few calls to the different more well know Hunters to tell them what was happening. However I only managed to get through to most of them. There were a few that never answered my call, troubling. However I was able to get most of those who answered to listen to me.
More importantly a couple of theme reported being attacked by these same types of people that Yaju had been. I recommended that they all gather a sections of the wall getting what other Hunters they could to join them. We needed to keep as many of them safe as possible.
Finally I called Rika. It had been a couple of days since I had meet her and Morn at her apartment and promised to get the fake identity for Morn. I had completed that however the process was still not totally completed. It would take a few more days for Morn’s fake identity to correctly propagate through all the different government systems.
Her phone rang a couple of times before she finally answered it. I spoke first, “Hey, Rika, is everything alright?”
“Um, yes, I’m surprised that you are calling me so late though.”
“Some things have started happening. I think the Nothings are beginning to move. I recently got contacted my Yaju who has been forced out of the city by people who match Morn’s description of the Nothings.”
There was silence on the other end for a moment then Rika responded, “Is Yaju alright?”
“Yes, I think so. She contacted me just before she left the city. Worse I’ve contacted some other Hunters and it seems that she wasn’t the only one who attacked. A bunch of Hunters are gathering near the Western Gate to guard and protect each other. If you feel like you are in any danger then you might want to join them.”
“Do you think they will be going after me too?”
“Maybe, depending on how much they think of you as a threat. I recommend you move to a location other than your apparent even if you do no feel like they would attack you. And make sure that Morn is with you too, you will probably be much safer if the two of you are together.”
“Yes, I’ll make sure to do that. And you should watch your back too. If they went after Yaju they might also go after you.”
I realized that she might actually be right. Normally I wouldn’t think of myself as a powerful enough Hunter for them to want to stop but I was associated with Yaju and I could sense unusual things. They might also want me dead.
“Alright, I’ll do that too. I’ll probably head to the Western Gate once I’m done here. Maybe I’ll see you there.”
“Sure, It sounds like a good idea to head there now.”
“Talk with you later then.” I said before I ended the call and closed my phone. I was in Professor Stolas’ laboratory in the middle of the night. I have been here late working on reports and putting together data. I had been having success with unlocking Jordan’s talents and the second wave of testing would probably begin in a couple of days.
I used my senses to sweep the ground to make sure that nobody was actually coming here to kill me and I detected nothing unusual. The Western Gate was quiet far away, practically on the other side of Districts. It would take me quite a long time to get there especially because most public transportation was not running at this time of night.
The fastest way at this point would be to go on foot but I was not as athletic as either Rika or Yaju so that would also take a while. I organized all my notes before locking them away for the night. If I was going to get attacked I felt defenseless without my crossbow. I would need to pick that up on my way to the gate.
I continued to scan my surroundings while leaving the building. There were very few people still here and most of them didn’t pay any attention to me as the I left the building. Once I had gotten out I began running toward my own place. There were things that I need to get there before I went to the Wall, more then just my crossbow.
After maybe fifteen minutes of running I had reached my place. Professor Stolas’ lab was close to my house and my school which I had learned when I first became a Hunter. I stopped when I got reasonably close to the house. I spread out my senses to make sure that there was nobody there.
Sure enough I felt something strange. There were multiple people in the area who felt unusual to my senses. They felt like Humans but also not like Humans. However they did not feel anything like Beasts. These must be the Nothings that Rika and Morn has spoke of.
If they were watching even my house then this must be extremely serious. This was something like a government faction trying to take over or the government trying to completely reform how the wall was being guarded.
However my house was being watched but I needed to get inside. That should be reasonably easy I though. I simply needed to completely conceal my presence and then sneak my way in. I was generally good at doing this because I could easily tell how well I actually was hiding my presence, one of the many positives of having good senses.
A few minutes later I was hugged up against the side of my house sliding one of the windows open. I slipped inside. I could tell that none of them had broken into my house because I couldn’t sense anything living inside the building. Once I had gotten inside I quietly made my way into my makeshift armory. I hadn’t been able to create anything really impressive but the room as functional. I was able to take the crossbow and sling it across my back and take up the quiver of bolts with it.
The next thing I needed was a couple of rooms over. I had a small computer which had been expensive and difficult to obtain. It seemed to have not been touched by the Nothings. I made sure it was shut down and then I sat down next to it and pulled open the casing. I pulled out the hard drive and stuck it in my small bag. I needed it if I wanted to eventually fight back against these Nothings.
Once I had that there wasn’t anything else I needed here. Now I just needed to make it back out the way that I had come in. I had shut the window after me but it was easy enough to go back out that way. It was a little bit more difficult with the crossbow on my back but I still managed.
This sort of stuff was generally easy because I could tell where everybody was and if somebody would be coming my direction far before I got there. However just as I was able to make a clean escape I felt something weird tingling in my mind. I spun around and jumped backward just before the knives lodged into the ground behind me.
I frantically looked around for the source of the knifes and when I saw her. I could tell that she was a woman but that was all. She wear a thinner black body armor then some of the other people I saw and she had a black curved featureless mask. The strangest part about her was that I could barely sense her at all. With all my senses focused on her I was able to tell that she was there but even then it was difficult. She felt almost like a shadow of somebody, like she had almost no presence at all.
I knew that I wouldn’t be able to stay and fight her, if I did then the others would surely come. It was difficult to tell if she had that same missing presence as the other Nothings but I could only assume that the difficulty of feeling her was just an extended form of the other Nothings.