“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.