Chapter 11

A few weeks passed and winter quickly approached. While winters in Trésor were frigid, they were extremely mild on the hunter lookout over the volcano. Nadie had neglected her normally scheduled population control due to Kid’s accident, but now that he was recovering, and Nomad watched over him, she spent most of her time killing as many large monsters as possible. Once winter hit in full there would be an overabundance of monsters seeking warmth near the volcano. 

Since Nadie was away most days, she gave Kid a list of things to learn and accomplish so his time was well occupied. There were piles of books on his side of the bed, all of which he needed to read and take to heart. Nomad found Nadie’s stash of combination books and monster compendiums, which initiated the reading list. Nomad also had brought a few hunter periodicals that featured the newest hunting trends, armor sets, weapons, and talents. He made Kid promise that he would be careful and not let Nadie see him reading them. 

Kid read aloud often so Mugen could also learn with him. Mugen knew more than he thought he did in the way of items and combos but was awestruck with all the monster information. He would look at some of the pictures in the compendiums and shudder; how could he possibly imagine facing such behemoths.

Thunderclap mellowed more since Kid slept in camp, but while he was not aggressive towards Kid he kept his distance. When Kid’s eyes began to blur from staring at text too long he’d sometimes watch Thunderclap resting in his hut. Every time he did for long enough Thunderclap could always tell. His ears would move to face Kid, and if Kid still stared Thunderclap would open his eyes and meet his gaze. Kid was so fascinated by the zinogre’s keen senses. 

There were a few days when Kid woke up to find Huntress still sleeping on her side of the bed. Usually, she was an early riser, but as Nomad mentioned, she’d been pushing herself very hard to clear out the extra monsters and collect materials to build new structures. Even though she was sleeping, Kid could never concentrate on reading when she was still in bed. His heart jumped a bit when she tossed and turned, or groaned. Sometimes she ground her teeth. Nomad would even curl up next to her and share in her warmth, which only amazed Kid even more. How was he so comfortable near her? He half thought she’d yell at him in her sleep.

He didn’t mean to stare, but through his study of her sleeping, he began to notice things he hadn’t before. Huntress had burn scars on her body. He could only imagine what monstrosity could have damaged her. Unless they were wounds from her childhood? Was she in a fire? His imagination would run wild, which made it more difficult to study. And Huntress would test him often on what he’d learn, usually asking him tough questions in quick succession. 

As the weeks had passed, Kid’s body began to ache more. He wanted to move around, but Nomad insisted he stay in bed. After quietly discussing a course of action, Nomad and Nadie decided to try a new therapy. 

“It’s important that he starts right away, I know you’re busy with your preparations, but you also need to take care of yourself.”

Nadie sighed, she knew better to argue with Nomad when it came to health. Her health especially.

“It’s a wonder you survived this long without me.” He mumbled under his breath as he hobbled away.

She just grumbled in response but decided to just get it over with. It had been a while since she treated herself to the hot springs anyway. After she put away some of her things, she changed her garments for the water and grabbed a few towels and food rations. 

Nomad had already told Kid they were going on a trip and was getting him ready. Kid was excited and nervous. He hadn’t spent any real time with Huntress and didn’t know what to do with himself. She fashioned a sling and carefully tied him to her.

“Just hold onto my neck.” Nadie dejectedly commanded as she picked up their things and began walking to the springs. The springs were close, located behind the gardens down a slightly steep path. On her own, it’d be a quick and easy journey, but now she was carrying a broken child and a decrepit felyne. 

Kid’s heart was beating faster than normal. Huntress had wanted nothing to do with him and now she was treating him kindly. He tried to occupy his thoughts with his studies to keep himself from getting too excited. It had been a long time since anyone other than Torsten cared about him. As Huntress carefully climbed down some cliffs, Kid studied some of her visible scars. Her outfit was a little more revealing than usual; Kid assumed it was for bathing. Her burn marks mostly were on one side of her shoulder area, as far as he could tell. He kept trying to not focus on them in case she noticed.

Once at the pools, Nadie navigated to her favorite spot. She considered it the perfect pool; the temperature was just right and it was located below a few cascading pools, but not all the way at the bottom. It always had clear, hot, steamy water. She smiled as she approached it. Yes, it had been too long. 

She placed their things on a dry rock off to the side, but still reachable from the pool, and entered the spring. She was accustomed to its temperature but went in slowly so Kid could acclimate himself. She could feel his body tensing at the heat and then relaxing a bit, but then tensing again. Nadie lowered him into the shallow side where the water only came up to his belly button. The important thing was that his legs were submerged. After he was settled she walked towards the deeper and sat so everything but her head was under the water.

Kid watched her as she relaxed with her eyes closed. Nomad joined Kid in the shallow side and started massaging his legs.

“Nomad…you like water?”

Nomad smiled, “Only if it’s steamy! I know it sounds odd, especially with all this fur, but Nobody over there taught me the virtues of a good soak in the hot springs a long while ago.”

Nadie chuckled to herself hearing him say that, especially due to the fact that he had once been so adamantly against a ‘good soak’ in the first place. Nomad was facing her and noticed her smile.

“Yeah to make her point she tossed me in, pack and all.” He was laughing but Kid was slightly horrified. “Nyah, nyah,  it was fine. I was carrying her limited edition hunter collection in that pack, which was completely ruined. So in a way, I got her back.”

She shook her head; she had forgotten about her once-prized collection. 

About an hour in Nomad waved to Nadie to move Kid to a deeper part of the pool. She slowly moved him to the right spot where only his head was exposed. He smiled and thanked her, but she just turned and went back to her spot. It was especially steamy there. 

Kid had to admit, now that he was fully immersed, the water felt amazing. He just wanted to close his eyes and take a nap, but he was afraid he’d end up sinking while asleep. So instead he closed his eyes and hummed to himself. It was low enough that it didn’t disturb Nadie; the sound of trickling water was louder. 

After some time went by, and Kid’s initial amazement of the water faded, he didn’t know what to do with himself. He wasn’t sure how long they’d be there and neither Nadie nor Nomad engaged in conversation. He sighed.

Nadie stirred and opened one eye to watch him as he fidgeted. She knew he wouldn’t be able to sit still long. 

“Name five monsters with an elemental weakness to ice.”

“Huh?” Kid was startled, he hadn’t realized she was paying any attention to him, “Uh..um, diablos, jhen mohran, zinogre, qurupeco and rajang.”

“Name five flying wyverns.”

He was focused now, “Nargacuga, tigrex, rathian, rathalos, and gravios.”

“Name ten elder dragons.”

“Chameleos, yama tsukami, lao-shan lung, kushala daora, alatreon,” he was using his fingers to keep track, “fatalis, kirin, shagaru magala, ceadeus, and…” he paused, “teostra.”

Nadie’s right brow rose a bit, “What have you learned about teostra?”

Kid sighed, he had learned much from trying to fight it, but everything made more sense when he started to research it in some of her books. “I learned that I can’t really penetrate its flame aura unless it’s poisoned…and the color of its sparks tells what kind of fire burst it’ll use.”

“Those are two very important things to know.” 

Kid placed his hands over some of his burned skin. It didn’t hurt thanks to Nomad, but the skin was still rough to the touch. He forgot himself in a moment of reflection, “How did you get your burns?”

Nadie glanced to Nomad who returned it with his own. Kid looked directly at her, waiting for a response. She sighed loudly, “Even I get careless. I had just finished a hunt and was caught off guard.” She stopped for a second to recall some memories, “I got trapped in a bad spot and…got burned. I almost died that day, but was…” she swallowed hard, “fortunate enough to walk away with my life.”

“Just like me?”

She lowered her gaze a bit, “In a way, I suppose.”

“Have you ever failed to beat a monster?”

She smirked slightly, “Inquisitive today, aren’t we? Yes, of course.”

“How many?”

“Only one that mattered.”

“Did you go back and find it…to beat it?”

She looked to the sky and off towards the volcano, “One day…we’ll find each other again.”

Kid also looked towards the volcano; his thoughts were of the tail-less teostra that nearly killed him. “What if I can’t walk?”

Again she sighed, “You will.”

“…” he hesitated, “but what if I can’t…”

She stood suddenly, “Get up.”

Kid, surprised, looked towards Nomad, who was focusing on ripples in the water. 

“Stand.”

Carefully he put his one leg on the bottom of the pool and tested it. Nervously he placed his bad leg down too. He felt a bit of pain but winced through it. Slowly he put more pressure on it as he stood. He was grimacing, but he managed to stand up.

“Come to me.”

He clenched his jaw as he put his bad leg forward and briefly shift his weight. He moaned as he did until his weight was on his other leg. Nadie was only a few feet away, but Kid knew those few feet would feel longer. Each time his weight fell on his bad leg he grimaced and whimpered, but he still forced himself forward until he was only a step away from Nadie. She looked down towards him, “See, you walked. We will come here often so you can walk more. Once your leg heals more you can practice outside the water.”

Kid looked through the water to his legs and nodded his head sullenly. 

By the time their hot spring trip was over, Kid was already falling asleep. Nadie hung his arms over her shoulders and helped Nomad up the steep rocks.

“He trusts you…wholeheartedly.”

She nodded, “I know.”

“Be careful…don’t make him do anything that might hurt him.”

She shook her head, “He’s chosen to be a hunter, everything will be life-threatening.”

“No, I know that…I just mean…be kind to him. You know the harmful nature of inner scars. He’s lost faith in himself and it will take time to regain it.”

“If you wish to coddle him then be my guest, but I will teach him how I taught myself.”

“He’s not you.”

She sighed, there was little use in arguing with Nomad. If he wanted to make you see his point he’d never let the conversation end, “I will be kinder to him than I am with myself…”, ‘but only a little, she thought to herself.

Nomad purred, “I guess that is as good as I can hope for.” He yawned and twitched his whiskers, “Why are you here, Nadie?” 

She gave him a sharp look after she made sure Kid was asleep. “No names.”

“Fine, fine, Nobody. You were driven to hunt by an unquenchable need for glory, and now you’ve abandoned it…you don’t even want people to know who you are…so why are you here, hunting alone in this place?”

Nadie continued walking without answering Nomad’s inquiry. She remained silent until they entered camp where she placed Kid on the bed. Nomad made himself comfortable in the middle of the covers as Nadie put some things away and removed some materials from boxes. She sat at a workstation and began to sketch plans for new huts.

Nomad settled in a ball and purred roughly; as he was getting older his purring was raspier and louder than it used to be. “Well?”

Nadie continued sketching, never once looking up, “I…guess you might say I’m keeping myself in shape to…” she trailed off. Even during all the years after the accident, she had never once verbalized her intentions. It was always on her mind, and it dictated how she lived every day. Twenty years had been dedicated to this one path, but now that she had to say it out loud it seemed hollow somehow. 

“You intend on finding that monster, huh?” Nomad simply stated as he licked his paw. “What will you do if you do cross paths again? Fight it I assume? Isn’t that what this is all about?”

Nadie nodded her head, “Yes…that is what my life has boiled down to. Chasing a shadow of my past…it’s funny how…one moment can completely uproot you, transform you…” ‘Shackle you…’ she continued in her mind. She had been driven to her goal by anger, then revenge, but now? It felt more like a heavy weight on her shoulders than something to aspire to. But if she abandoned her quest now, her best years would be a waste. She knew Adira’s heart would be sorrowful at the sight of her, but it was not in her nature to let go, even when she knew she’d gone down a dangerous path. 

She stopped her sketching and looked towards Kid sleeping peacefully. He would have a hard road of recovery, but he could make it. He was depressed now, but all he needed was something to hope for. Perhaps it would be nothing grand, something small; maybe a number of small things. Nadie understood his current state of mind; she had spent years mourning. At least she had anger to drive her to live each day, to fight. He needed to find something to spur him onward.

She looked back at her parchment but was still lost in thought. ‘Adira, if I could go back in time I would love to say that I’d do things differently, but I can’t. I don’t know. I wish…I was more like you. Have I wasted my life? I’ve never been good at seeing a future…only day to day…I know I need to move on, but I can’t. I’m sorry, I’ve come too far. I have to find it, I have to settle it or I won’t be able to move forward. It might be the end of me, but it doesn’t matter….but maybe this life wouldn’t be a complete loss if I can give something positive back. Even if it’s just one thing to one person.’

“Nomad, if it were me in his condition, how long would you say recovery would take?”

He laughed through his purring, “You? I’d give you two weeks before you’d be recklessly taking chances with a sub-par body. And somehow you’d be ok…by some miracle. But that is you. If Kid is determined to get back to where he was, I mean really determined…I’d say three months. His bones need time to heal properly, but I’m more worried about his leg…it’s not looking great. Might have some paralysis…I’m trying to keep the spasms under control.”

“But there is a chance.”

“Yes, he needs to want it though.”

She nodded her head. That was only something he could decide for himself, but she could at least provide him with choices.

The effects of the hot springs made Kid’s body relaxed, but tired. He slept in much later than he normally would and felt a little embarrassed that he hadn’t woken up in time for the morning quiz. Nomad just shrugged it off as though it were nothing to worry about, Nadie understood that he needed his rest. To make up for lost time he decided to read double what he normally did.

By lunchtime, he had read his normal amount and practiced with Mugen to memorize certain things. Dinner time quickly approached and Kid’s eyes were blurring, but he still had a few more chapters to read through before he met his goal. Nomad noticed Kid rubbing his eyes more often and decided to interject.

“Now, now it’s time to put the books away and start working some muscle.”

Kid shot up a glance and then looked back at his book. The words were blurring again. Slowly he closed it and turned to Nomad.

“Ok, so what do I do?”

Nomad grabbed his walking stick and left Mugen grinding powders at his workstation, “I have devised some simple exercises so your muscles stay strong. We will do some light ones for your one leg, but only slow stretching for the bad one. Your arms however are fine, so you need to lift weights so you don’t have any trouble holding your weapons again.” He said all this casually as he sat beside Kid and started massaging his bad leg. “I will show you what you need to do and you must continue to do them throughout the day. Hmm, once in the morning, once in the afternoon, and one more in the evening.” 

He showed Kid the exercises and watched carefully as he performed them. It was important that he did them correctly. “You should feel a slight pull, but nothing more. If you do then you’re doing it wrong.”

Nomad spent a good amount of time explaining to Kid what each exercise did and why it was important. It was a lot of information to take in all at once, but he gleaned what he could.

Night fell before Nadie returned with a cart full of wood and carves from a rathian.

Nomad winced, “I hate rathian meat…”

Nadie paid him no mind, “It wasn’t my choice, she wouldn’t let me chop in peace. It’s better than ‘jho meat.” 

He nodded, “I suppose.” Deviljho meat was very tough and had no savoriness to it. It tasted like someone had drained it of flavor and all that was left was a thick texture you had to work at to chew. Even spiced it was hard to get down. 

“I’ll make some stew if you prefer.” Nadie started putting the meat on the table to prepare it. “Well?”

“Stew is fine by me. Do we have any ripened mushrooms?” Nadie nodded and pointed to a jar.

“Grab the white livers and monster guts while you’re there.”

Kid watched as everyone was tasked with something except him; he couldn’t help feel like dead weight. Nadie sensed his discontent and stopped what she was doing to walk over to him.

“Don’t think you are getting off easy just because you’re injured.” Kid shook his head ‘no’ as she leaned over. “Put your arms around my neck.” She scooped him up and plopped him down at a workstation. “You are going to help by cutting these.” She handed him the pieces of meat, “cut them into medium squares. Put the meat in one pile and the bones in another.”

He nodded and without hesitation began preparing the meat. Nomad passed the task of collecting jars of ingredients to Mugen while he ground spices. Nadie prepared the fire, pot, and water. With everyone working together the meal was done in no time and they were all enjoying a tasty hot bowl of stew together. Kid had seconds, which pleased Nomad greatly.

“Looks like your strength is returning, it’s good for healing boys to eat!” 

Mugen finished first and decided to entertain everyone with a few melynx fire dances. Nomad wished he could join in, but he was far too old to be prancing around. Kid laughed and Nadie watched everyone enjoying themselves. She had forgotten what life was like with laughter and fun. 

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