Chapter 12

Weeks passed and activity on the overlook started to plateau. The monster population was acceptable and Nadie finished building new additions to accommodate Nomad’s workshop and Kid’s storage. While she was at it she also decided to upgrade the kitchen area; now that there were four mouths to feed she needed extra preparation space and food storage. Nadie was happy with the outcome. On her own, she’d never could have justified the space, but always wanted to see the kitchen expand. ‘Perhaps I will draw out plans for a roof and walls,’ she casually noted.

Nomad made himself right at home in his new hut and organized his supplies and tools immediately. As he did he explained to Mugen why he preferred things this way, and it was expected that when Mugen used anything he’d put it in its proper place. Nomad was a bit of a stickler for organization. One side of the hut was dedicated for work while the other was a living quarter for Mugen. Nomad made it very clear that he was far too old to be sleeping in a hut and much preferred the hunter bed. Nadie knew it had nothing to do with old age; even as a kit Nomad preferred sleeping in between her and Adira. He never grew out of it.

Kid had his good days and bad, but he was trying his best to keep his spirits high. With the help of a crutch, he was able to hobble around, but he was slow and graceless. As Nadie promised, they had been going to the hot spring almost every day so Kid could benefit from their healing properties, and Nomad’s attentions were as dutiful as ever. Thanks to him the pain in Kid’s bad leg subsided, with occasional flare-ups and spasms. Nomad was confident the spasms would stop eventually, but it was clear that Kid became frustrated with them when they happened as he tried to walk or get work done. Nomad constantly encouraged Kid to continue walking, on top of his normal exercises, so his leg muscles would stay strong.

One night, after Kid had fallen asleep, Nadie and Nomad talked over firelight.

“He’s seemed to hit a wall….it’s not looking great, but there is still hope.” 

Nadie nodded her head, “What can be done?”

“He needs motivation for a full recovery. There are days when I think he’ll be just fine, but then he withdraws again. Have you spoken to him lately?”

Nadie shrugged, she’d been so busy hunting and building she had so little time to interact with him. Even for his hot spring visits, she’d settle him in and go back to her work half the time. And when she was able to join him ‘conversation’ would be all quizzes.

“Maybe I should leave him alone in the woods to fend for himself. That’ll motivate him.”

Nomad sighed, “You would do that, wouldn’t you? Try sitting with him, speaking to him. I don’t know why, but somehow your prickly demeanor penetrates through his walls.”

“Fine, I will figure something out…but I’ve been thinking of something a bit different and I’d like your opinion. I’ve drawn some specs but will need proper measurements. And it would take over a week to go and have it built…I don’t know that I’m comfortable leaving him as he is…”

The next day Kid awoke late in the morning and watched as Nadie cleaned up the kitchen area and Nomad busy with mixing potions. Mugen was a diligent helper when not studying with Kid and shadowed Nomad attentively. Kid carefully positioned himself on the edge of the bed and massaged his leg. Most of the exercises he was given could be done from a lying down position, but Kid was restless and wanted to move around. He grabbed his crutch and worked his way to the wash station. After he was finished, Nadie waved him over to the fire pit. 

“I saved you breakfast”, she motioned to his plate. “It’s probably lukewarm by now.”

Kid shook his head, “Doesn’t matter..thank you.” He sat and began eating. Nadie sat awkwardly beside him. She had been thinking about Nomad’s encouragement to talk to him but hadn’t come up with uplifting words. 

She sighed in frustration, she was very unpracticed with people. “How about…I tell you a secret.”

Kid stopped eating to look at her. Nadie was looking at the sky, her usual spot when she didn’t care to make eye contact. “Thunderclap has a strange love of godbugs, they are like his version of felvine.” She placed a pouch of godbugs on the stone. “I used them as treats when training him, I bet he’d take more of a liking to you if you treated him every once in a while.”

Kid looked at the pouch and then back to her.

“But don’t expect it to happen overnight. He’s a wild creature in the end. I just happened to be at the right moment and the right time to have built the relationship I have with him…” she drifted off. She had a special bond with him, but Thunderclap was still distant since she struck him. 

She pushed those thoughts away, “Who knows, maybe he’ll let you touch him one day”, she said as she stood to finish cleaning the area. 

Kid ate the rest of his food quickly and picked up the bag to curiously rifle through. It was as she said, a bag full of preserved godbugs. Excitedly he hobbled over to the washbasin to clean his plate and utensil and left them out to dry so he could show Thunderclap. The zinogre was resting in the shade as Kid carefully approached. Thunderclap’s ears perked forward and he opened his eyes as Kid got closer. He lowly growled as a warning for Kid to stay where he was, which he did. 

“Hey Thunderclap….good boy?” He didn’t know exactly how to talk to the zinogre and blurted the first thing that came to mind. Thunderclap growled louder and Kid backed away slowly while grabbing a godbug from the pouch. Holding it out in front of him, Kid tried again, “Hey Thunderclap, look what I have for you.”

The zinogre sniffed the air for a moment, but bore his teeth and growled loudly. Kid threw the bug to the ground and backed away some more. Thunderclap stopped growling but didn’t move. Kid waited for a while hoping that he’d go for the treat, but he remained where he was. Disappointed Kid limped back to his bed and lay down to do his exercises. It wasn’t until Kid had settled down to read did Thunderclap finally sniff his way to the godbug and gobbled it up before returning to the shade. 

Kid watched as it happened and smiled, ‘It will take a lot of work, huh?’

A few more days passed and Nadie decided she couldn’t wait any longer to take her trip; there were quite a few supplies she needed from Trésor. While it was warm in camp, once she crossed into the forest she’d feel the cold sting of winter. When packing her cart full of trading items and supplies, she packed some warm clothes for the trek up the snowy mountain. Thunderclap hated the snow, so it was a journey she’d have to make on her own.

It was strange to her to feel uneasy about travel. Only months ago she did as she pleased with no reservations, but now she had nagging thoughts about things that could happen to them while she was gone. If Kid had been whole, she wouldn’t need to worry; he’d be able to fend for himself. However, in his current state, he’d be as useful in battle as old Nomad. She wished she could count on Thunderclap, but he also came and went as he pleased. 

Nadie sighed and shook her head as she lingered on a single thought,  ‘Things were easier before…’. After making sure Nomad had everything he needed, and Kid had at least three weeks worth of tasks to complete, she left for Trésor.

A day after her departure Nomad could feel Kid’s unease. Kid tried keeping his normal schedule, but he was having a hard time focusing. Nomad motioned for Mugen to take over his task and he grabbed a pouch from his box. As Nomad approached, Kid tried to look focused on his reading.

“Put that book down, you can’t fool this old felyne.” Kid’s shoulders dropped and he closed his eyes. 

“I don’t understand what’s wrong with me…”

“You’ll work your way through it, but let’s not talk about that…I have something far more interesting!”

Kid’s eyebrow rose as he placed the book on the bed. Nomad sat beside him and opened the bag, “These were her favorites…she doesn’t know I made some.” He chuckled to himself.

“Who?”

“Who do you think?” He said with a smile on his face. “Here try one.” Nomad held out the pouch to Kid and Kid took a small stone-shaped green candy and placed it in his palm. It was squishy and a bit soft. 

“What is it?”

Nomad chuckled again, “You’ve never had a gum candy before?”

He shook his head.

“Well eat, see how you like it.”

Kid put it in his mouth and began to chew. His eyes lit up as he began to chew faster.

“It’s so…sweet! But smooth and chewy…you made this?”

Nomad nodded, “I learned because Na, ahem,” He caught himself and pretended he had the beginnings of a hairball. “Pardon, because Nobody was addicted to these as a child. She used to peddle whatever she could find in order to save up and buy these from the local shop.” Nomad trailed off as he reminisced. “Even then she was charismatic…people always drawn to her…”

Kid’s brow furrowed; he wasn’t sure what Nomad was referring to. Huntress, charismatic?

Nomad shook himself back into the present, “Forgive this old whiskers, I seem to live more and more in the past with each passing day. I guess…being here now just makes me feel like old times, or should I say young times!”

Kid nodded his head, even though he couldn’t understand exactly where Nomad was coming from. Nomad had fallen silent, so Kid took a chance with the air of nostalgia.

“What was she like at my age? Huntress…or Nobody…” He bit his lip in anticipation. 

Nomad chuckled, “Ah, well…I could tell you stories! Stories that would make you laugh, stories you wouldn’t believe..stories that would make you cry. Sadly, I promised her I wouldn’t speak of her past. And a promise is a bond for life.”

Kid fully understood that concept, so while he was disappointed he respected their pact.

“But I can still tell you stories of the most famous hunter of today!” Nomad puffed out his chest, “Vojin, my ex ward.”

“Ward?” His mouth contorted in bewildered confusion.

Nomad just laughed, “It’s a joke. A joke! I used to call him my ward. Not sure how he liked me calling him that, but he was never cross with me. Let me tell you the story of how he slew three monsters at once!”

Kid’s eyes widened in amazement, “You’re not serious?!”

Nomad nodded, “I am!”

For the rest of the day, Nomad regaled Kid with story after story of Vojin’s awe-inspiring hunts. Nighttime approached and they had barely noticed it until their stomachs began to growl. 

“Ahhh, seems like I went a little overboard with the stories!” Nomad looked to the night sky, “Welp I supposed we should eat…” He began to stretch, “You need to do your exercises while I get young Mugen to fetch us some food.” 

Kid began his exercises, but his mind was flooded with Nomad’s tales. He smiled to himself with excitement as he let the stories play out in his mind. Nadine had left plenty of preserved foods for them to eat while she was away so hunting would be unnecessary. They were stacked so high Mugen could only reach them with a ladder. Mugen effortlessly climbed to the top and began reading the labels to Nomad, setting certain foodstuffs aside when Nomad nodded. By the time Kid had finished his exercises, Mugen was carefully balancing all the food packages to the campsite. From there Nomad could help divide the portions among them.

Nomad watched as Kid played with his food; he knew Kid was stuck in his mind, but where his mind was leading him was the question.

“Nomad, what makes someone a famous hunter?”

Nomad looked up from his plate, “Famous eh? What makes you curious?”

Kid thought about Vojin and Huntress and how one was known through the world and the other no one knew existed. “It’s just, what makes someone like Vojin famous? What does it take?”

Nomad placed some food in his mouth and chewed before answering, “Hunter competitions, and lots of them.”

“How do they work?”

“Well…” Nomad trailed off as he wondered how Nadie would feel about further opening Kid up to the world of licensed hunters, “You can’t compete until you have a license, and you can’t get a license until you’re seventeen unless you have a sponsor. And before you ask, a sponsor is a veteran hunter who vouches for your skills. Very few novice hunters get sponsored before they are sixteen and fewer so at a younger age.” He thought to Nadie and Adira. “Sometimes it’s best to just wait a few years..” he added, but more to himself.

Kid was absorbing it all in while he ate, whether he understood everything or not. 

“There are many kinds of competitions, but the most famous, and prestigious one is held once every three years. Hunters from all over the world train for this specific event. The competition is juried so only the best hunters get in. Hunters are graded on kill times, presentation, technical skills, and charisma. They have multiple hunts over the course of the competition, and depending on whether or not they advance to the next level.” Nomad stopped to see if Kid was following. He was listening eagerly and all Nomad could do was smile and continue, “Hunters are firstly judged by a solo arena battle in which they are given randomized armor and weapons, and if they pass they are tasked to hunt a randomized monster, either solo or with a partner. After that, the battles are full-partied arena quests.”

Kid nodded, “So, Vojin is the best?”

Nomad nodded, “Aye, according to the Hunter Association, yes. Every year he’s come out on top; He seems to get better and better, always beating his old times, not that that is the only reason he wins. Always pushing himself to the next level…”

“Why? Why is it so important to him?”

Nomad sat down, “Like most driven people, he has his eyes set on a goal. Every man must have a lifelong goal if he is to overcome all obstacles in life. He chases it when he’s tired, hurting…broken…he’s the type of man who won’t stop until he reaches it.”

Kid looked up to the stars, “A lifelong goal…”

Nomad nodded, “Yes…I firmly believe that the stronger the goal, the stronger the resolve.”

Kid’s brow furrowed a bit as he thought in silence. Finally, he asked, “What is Vojin’s goal?”

“A man’s dream is his own business, but…I believe that Vojin is chasing the shadow of someone who no longer exists….some people leave deeper scars than others.”

Kid thought of Nomad’s words for a while. Who could Vojin be chasing? Was it someone who died? Was it his master? Friend? Partner? Nomad could see Kid’s mind trying to work things out, so he thought he’d interject.

“So, do you have a goal?”

Kid looked to Nomad and smiled, blushing a bit, “Yes, I think I already said…I want to be like Huntress.”

Nomad nodded, “Yes you mentioned that before, but I wasn’t sure if that had changed since I’ve been telling you about Vojin.”

Kid grew wide-eyed, “I’d love to meet him one day, that’d be so great! But, but Huntress has to be just as great, right? I mean, she doesn’t wear any armor and goes toe to toe with every monster here. That’s amazing, right?” Kid kept looking to Nomad for visual assurance. 

Nomad just nodded his head up and down, “Yes, yes, that is something.”

“Nomad, who do you think is better? You lived with both Huntress and Vojin, so you should know, right?” 

Nomad sighed, what a door he opened. Knowing Nadie would not want Nomad to involve her in any speculative hunter competitions, Nomad changed the course of the conversation.

“You know, even the best of the best get in pretty bad scrapes.”

Kid’s head jolted and he focused on Nomad, “What do you mean?”

“Vojin is the best, so that means he’s never been in bad shape before, right?”

Kid’s brow furrowed, he’d never really thought of that before.

“You’d be surprised, even at his best…” Nomad sighed, “This is between you and me, hmmm?” He stopped talking until Kid nodded in agreement. “Good. I’ll tell you the story of how it was I lived with Vojin…it was…years ago…his party stumbled upon an unknown monster and it took them by surprise. Even though he and his partners were experienced and skilled, the party fell and Vojin was left broken. He was in the worst shape, no one was sure if he’d make it or not, but he hung on.” Nomad chuckled to himself, “He’s as stubborn as…they come.” It took him a year to get back on his feet,” again he stopped, but this time to puff out his chest, “all because I stayed with him and treated his wounds! He came back from the brink of death and is now the best hunter in the world. And I never felt the need to leave until, well you know that story.”

Kid sat looking at his plate, “Is that story true?”

Nomad cocked his head to the side, “Of course, I may exaggerate a few of my tales from time to time, but they are all true.”

Kid wiped a tear from his face and nodded his head. “I see. How bad was he?”

Nomad sighed, “…I thought I’d lost him a few times before he was in the clear. You are far more fortunate than he was, and I am far more skilled at healing now than I had been then. From where I sit, you could heal faster and better than Vojin.”

Nomad felt a little badly about bringing the mood down, but it was important for Kid to have perspective. What happened to him was unfortunate, but he could recover if he put his mind to it. He cleared his throat, “I remember a time when I was angry with him and tasked him to find an especially rare item.” He chuckled again, “I just wanted him out of my sight for a few days, but never thought he’d actually get it!” 

Kid smiled, “What was it?”

“I told him ‘I needed five sky piercers from an Alatreon’ and a whole six months later he returned with twenty!” Nomad was nearly in tears, “Turns out he knew I’d sent him on a fool’s errand and to call my bluff me he made sure I’d have more than enough.”

Kid thought back to his reading and recalled that Alatreons were rarely sighted and that a sky piercer was a rare carve. He grinned thinking about trying to find multiple Alatreons and then getting that rare carve. “I wonder how many he had to hunt…” he thought out loud. Nomad burst into laughter again after hearing Kid’s train of thought.

Dinner had ended and the camp was quiet. Kid laid awake in bed and he imagined he could hear the sounds of the lava traveling down the mountain. He closed his eyes and tried to sleep, but Nomad’s story of Vojin’s recovery kept him awake. He began to imagine how terribly he must have been injured and then thought of the amazing things Nomad said he’d done; all after his recovery. 

Still playing out stories in his mind, Kid carefully placed his bad leg over the side of the bed. The stories stopped as he tried to focus on walking. If Vojin could do it, why not him? He then thought to his master and how he wanted to be a worthy student. ‘I need to at least be on my feet without the use of a crutch by the time Huntress comes back’, he thought. He took a few deep breaths and stood. Most of his weight was on his good leg, but he slowly put more and more pressure on his bad one. 

He nodded to himself, ‘just a little more and I’ll have even balance.’ He winced but was able to stand with equal weight distributed on his feet. He smiled but quickly leaned on his crutch again. Sighing to himself he tried again. ‘I will need to do this until I can hold it for a few minutes, then maybe I’ll try walking’

The soft rustling alerted Nomad, and he wanted to protest, but decided to let Kid be; he needed to find his own way of pushing through, even if some risks had to be taken.

Kid was still on his feet by the time Nomad went back to sleep. He tried staying awake to watch and make sure Kid didn’t do anything reckless, but the old felyne eventually succumbed to his body’s need for sleep.

The next day Kid was up early doing his exercises, much to Nomad’s surprise. He seemed to be much sprightlier too. 

A few days had gone by and Nadie was nearing the forest. In preparation she had put a few layers of clothes on; not one to normally complain about the weather, she couldn’t help but think how she’d need not to go into town, in winter, if not for Kid’s condition. She merely snorted as if to break up her own negativity and spoke aloud to herself, “It is what it is. Deal with it.” 

Dragging her cart she traveled a familiar path. To anyone else, who did not know the area as well as she, it would seem like she was going in the wrong direction, but there was a straight shot path that she had worn down from years of travel. Nadie had to walk out of the way only a bit, but once on the path she had trailed, it was a much faster and smoother route. With nothing but the sounds of a more quiet wild to surround her, she closed her eyes and took a few deep breaths. Oddly, she had begun growing accustomed to the voices of Kid and Nomad, and while she welcomed the silence, it felt off. She smirked and continued on her course. The wind grew crisp and it was only a matter of time before she’d start the trek up the mountainside. 

Night fell and Nadie decided to make camp before starting the climb, she knew all too well what monsters lurked in the darkness of the mountainside. She made a fire to cook and stay warm but was sure to keep a very keen ear perked to possible intruders. After she’d finished eating and was confident she’d have an uninterrupted night, Nadie looked through her pouch for some notes. She paused and pulled out a small leather book. At first, she thought she had forgotten to give Kid his journal back, but upon closer inspection near the firelight, she recognized it. Confused she opened a note tucked on the inside of the cover.

‘I found this years after you left and kept it safe, just in case. I’m glad that I could see it passed to the person she’d want it given to.’ – Nomad

Nadie’s heart started racing, this was a conversational journal she and Adira had kept when they wanted to share with one another but didn’t have the luxury of privacy. They had started the idea at the orphanage since they were ever alone, but still wanted to have secrets. After they filled a whole journal they would both reread the entire thing and then burn it so no one else could know their inner thoughts. This was the last journal they shared together, and Nadie had assumed it was burned with Adira. 

Hesitantly, she thumbed to the last entry. Nadie couldn’t even remember what they had last written about, their silly conversations, bragging about fortune and fame, Nadie’s constant teasing about boys…but it wasn’t so silly at the time. She thought about some of their moments together, and while she wished they could be more meaningful she knew that they were to them as they were. 

She swallowed hard and read her entry to Adira first, so she could try to remember where her young mind had been.

‘I have yet another proposal! I’m fourteen, I’m not ready to marry! Not interested, leave me alone! Sorry, you know how that gets under my skin…but hey, you never answered about checking out the new tavern, Baleful Maw? I know, sounds pretty lame, but we could stop in after our free hunt tomorrow? You can wear that dress you just got! Do you think it’d be silly to wear my fatalis set? The white one?

But anyway, I think a fourth member isn’t really necessary, we’ve got something really nice working for us. I have to admit, I can see why you like him, he has some pretty amazing skills and he’s really caught on to our signals. It’s almost like we’ve been hunting alongside each other since the beginning…just between us, he saved my bacon in the regionals…did you notice my foot slipped fighting that narga? I was so mortified that my combo would be ruined! But he launched me into the air with perfect timing and I recovered as though nothing had gone wrong! The team is solid, you both have my back. Why do you bring it up again?

And no, I’ve not forgotten about the island. Once we are famous and rich, we can buy one. It’ll be our home base…I know you want to get married, but it’s not like he’s asked you to be promised to him yet. There is still time to enjoy the hunts, right? You said it yourself, we need to capitalize on the momentum we have!’

Nadie shook her head thinking of how childish she sounded, but she was just that, a child. She looked below her entry to Adira’s final written words. She took a deep breath before reading on.

‘Well I’m sure he didn’t mean to marry you right now, just a promise to get married when you are older. You are the most popular hunter right now, what did you think would happen? I guess we could check it out, but you know I get uncomfortable in taverns, and you always leave me off to the side. I mean, not that I mind all that much, but I get really bored. If we go you should wear your chameleos set! You’ll be the rainbow of the party! ( I know, lame!)

It’s your call. I met a skilled hunter and he seemed really sweet. He’s a gunner and thought it might be nice to have a long-range person on the team since I’m not really much help attack-wise.

I don’t think he will ask me, and I’m okay with that. I really really do like him…I think I’m in love with him, but I don’t think he feels the same. I don’t want to talk about this right now, so please don’t ask. 

What do you see for your future past fame and fortune? I mean really?’

Nadie’s head hung in between her hands, Adira was always looking to the future. She thought for a few moments and then rummaged in her pack for a quill and ink to reply with.

‘Sweet Adira, you will never read this but I cannot leave your words unanswered. It’s been nearly twenty years since our last entries and I am so very different. I am still unmarried and have no thoughts either way on the matter. I don’t wear armor these days, just weights to keep me strong. I have no hunting party and no longer do sociable things. 

I wish I had listened to you earlier, maybe things would be different if we had a full party…how I long to see you here. Sometimes I look at my face’s reflection, at the angles and definitions, and think what your aged face would look like too. You would be so beautiful, you always were. You would be a mother now, married years ago and I would probably have doted on your children. We would both be on that island with Nomad living an easy life…perhaps.

My future…I don’t see a future for myself, I know only now. I know that would depress you, but my ‘now’ isn’t as lonely anymore. Nomad and I have reunited, and there is a child who I’ve decided to mentor. He is an orphan and is quite silly at times when he thinks I’m not paying attention. I’m curious to see where life goes from here.’

Nadie stopped, just writing this small amount down she was overwhelmed with wishes and regrets. She began to write them down quickly before each one was forgotten. Hours passed and she had nearly filled the rest of the journal. With nothing left to say she closed the book and held it to her chest. A weight had been lifted; the act of simply writing everything down refreshed her soul and she smiled. 

“I leave this with you, Ira.” She softly said out loud as she placed the book in the fire. Nadie began humming Adira’s tune while she watched the leather cover burn through and the pages curl.

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