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.”