Chapter 8

The female hunter tasked Kid with more games; same rules, dodging until the chosen monster exhausted itself. At first, it was just a way to keep him occupied so she could go about her business without being bothered. But once he moved on to more dangerous prey, she wondered if he had been doing exactly what she specified. Especially considering the speed at some of his returns.

Curiosity eventually got the better of her and she’d find herself hunting in the vicinity of Kid’s location so she could ‘happen’ upon him and check on his progress. Sometimes she’d perch herself in a tall tree or high on a rockside to watch him. What had started as a distraction for him slowly became a diversion for her. She analyzed his movements and sometimes quietly laughed at his childish antics. He was a kid after all, and once he got comfortable with a monster’s movements he’d sometimes improvise and dodge in silly ways. 

She discovered that he could be quite chatty when he wished to be. He’d talk to the monsters as though they could talk back, usually creating some entertaining narration for the monster’s movements or his own. He was so quiet in camp she just never thought about him having much to say. Though she was thankful that he saved his chattiness for his prey.

Once she was satisfied that he was playing by the rules, she frequented his games less and less. The female hunter was reassured that Kid would do fine on his own if she decided to throw him out for good. 

Thunderclap had gotten completely used to Kid’s presence in camp but still treated him indifferently. He’d growl if Kid got too close to him and never let Kid touch him, but the overall aggression he once showed had dwindled. Occasionally they crossed paths on hunts and Kid would call out to him and wave. Thunderclap’s ears would perk but after sniffing the air he’d casually lumber off.

Kid returned to camp with a huge grin on his face. He didn’t even realize he was wearing one, but he was so excited that he couldn’t contain it. 

“Look what I found!” He exuberantly exclaimed as he placed a material onto the hunter’s workstation. Inwardly she reminded herself that he was a child and she could muster a small portion of patience. She picked it up and examined it, admittedly he was right to be excited as it was a great find.

“Do you know what it is?” She asked as she handed it back to him.

“I think…I mean, if I’m right it might be a brachydios gem?” His confidence wavered as she stared at him. She nodded to affirm his guess.

“And where did you find it?” 

Kid got all excited again, “I was playing with a hypnocatrice and after it got tired I followed it. But then I came across some brachydios remains and decided to see if there was anything I could salvage and I found this!”

The female hunter looked off towards the volcano. If a hunter had killed the brachydios they would never have left the gem behind, which only meant that it either died of natural causes or that it was another monster’s prey. She didn’t see too many brachys that strayed from the volcano, so it probably didn’t die naturally. Why was the carcass found so far from its natural habitat and what could have dragged it there?

“Did you find anything else? Fangs or scales from a different monster perhaps?” Kid grabbed his pouch and poured the contents onto the table. He sifted through until he found what he was looking for, “I found this in the area, but didn’t know what it was from.”

The female hunter took the talon and held it in her hand as her mind drifted. Kid eagerly awaited a response from her, but she was still thinking.

“So, what’s it from?” She looked back at him.

“It’s from an alatreon…it’s a monster that lives in sacred land, but if it was passing through I could imagine it resting in the volcano and feasting on a brachydios. It’d even have the strength to carry it away if it so chose.” But she was still troubled. If an alatreon had passed through for whatever reasons, she would have seen it. Unless it came while she was spending time in her quiet place. 

“If you ever see an alatreon, just run.” She handed it back to him. “This is also a rare find, so you’d better keep them safe in your item box.”

Kid looked over the talon, “What does an alatreon look like?”

The female hunter returned to her work, “Not in your books, huh?”

Kid shook his head, “One day I’ll have the whole set, but for now I just draw in the monsters that aren’t included. So far I’ve added nineteen monsters.” He gripped the talon tightly, “My dream is to see every monster in the world with my own two eyes.” He forgot himself completely in his childlike wonder, but after a few moments of silence, he remembered who he was talking to. His smile quickly faded and he collected all his materials and items back into his pouch. 

“Is that why you want to be a hunter?”

“Huh?” Kid was surprised that she asked him something personal. “I guess?” He dubiously shrugged. He immediately knew he said something ‘wrong’ when the female hunter snorted under her breath and continued with her work. The fast-growing knot in his stomach was telling him to retreat, but he dug his heels in and waited for her to respond with something. Anything. She glanced up to see him staring at her project, he had a familiar determined glare hidden underneath his trepidation.

“When you’ve figured out why you want to become a hunter, come back and tell me. Until then, do whatever. As long as it’s not here.” 

Kid’s brow furrowed, why was it important that he have a reason? Or was she just trying to get rid of him again? Finding more courage he kept his feet firmly planted. “Why, why did you become a hunter?” She dropped her tools and let her shoulders sag as she reminded herself again that kids were bottomless pits of curiosity. 

“Fame and money.” She sternly stated as she picked her tools back up and resumed her project. Kid almost gawked at her response but kept his placid exterior. Nothing about where her home screamed money, and she lived like a hermit, so he could not see her as wanting fame. “Is that really why?”

She just chuckled lightly with a wry smirk, “what do you think?”

Kid shook his head, she was just being sarcastic. Of course, she wouldn’t become a hunter for those reasons. He watched her work, but his mind drifted. Why did he want to become a hunter?

“Hey!” He snapped back into reality, “go think elsewhere. Go!” Kid ran off to his mini camp and took out some of his hunter magazines for inspiration. 

The female hunter stopped working and stared emptily into her hands. The truth was she had become a hunter for fame and money, and it lead to the biggest regret of her life.

The next day Kid watched as the female hunter rummaged through one of her boxes. He was especially curious about the contents of the box since he had never seen her open it. Seemingly she dug all the way to the bottom, moved things onto the ground, and searched again. More items were placed on the ground and she still hadn’t found whatever it was she was looking for. Kid stared at the items; he hadn’t seen some before and wondered what they were. Finally, she stood up and victoriously held a medium-sized pouch up, “I knew I had some”, was all she said to herself. To Kid’s dismay, she quickly stuffed the rest of the contents back in and shut the box. 

She could feel Kid’s eyes on her, but had become used to being spied upon and shrugged it off. Sitting at her workstation she began combining the crystals with fangs. Kid came closer to watch since he had never seen the crystals in person. As he glared he recognized them from one of his books. “Are those lifecrystals?” The female hunter cocked a brow.

“Very good. Do you know what I’m making?” Kid furrowed his brow trying to remember. “Don’t strain yourself”, she retorted sarcastically. 

“Lifepowder!” He exclaimed with sudden excitement, but then wondered out loud, “Why do you need lifepowder?”

She knew the best way to get him on his way was to simply answer his questions, “I don’t.” But at the same time, she’d need to give him more than that.

“Then….why are you making it? To sell?” He could tell that she was trying to not get frustrated.

“I’m making an emergency item pouch.” Kid’s brow furrowed a bit. “Look, let’s say you’re at camp, and a monster surprises you. Are you really going to have enough time to pack your bag? You should always have at least three or four pouches with different arrays of items for any given scenario. That way when trouble shows unexpectedly you grab the pouch you need in seconds as opposed to wasting valuable time.” 

Kid’s eyes sparkled as his thoughts took over, ‘I need to make an emergency pouch…’. Without a word he turned back to his camp and ran. She smirked and continued with her work, ‘that should keep him busy for a while.’

Kid had not seen much of the female hunter in the last few days. He assumed she was in her quiet place, a place that he knew to stay away from. With his new emergency pouch made, he gave a lot of thought into why he wanted to be a hunter, but could not put it into words. Still in thought Kid continued sharpening his hunting knife and dual blades. After they were of appropriate sharpness, he sheathed them and picked a direction to free hunt in. Huntress hadn’t given him any hunting instructions, so he thought it might be fun to test out his new skills on larger prey. ‘Maybe I’ll find a rathalos’, he thought as he began jogging towards the volcano. Even though he wasn’t supposed to go in the volcano region, he could still get close enough to find some indigenous monsters. 

The female hunter spent more and more time in her quiet place. It was just that, quiet. She shut her eyes and calmed her breath to hear the music of the caverns. The drops of water from the stalactite to the ground, the gentle hum of the stream, the echoes of creatures unseen. There was a time, in her weakest moment, she came here looking to make this very spot her grave, but in the end, she could not allow herself to leave this life so quickly; so easily. 

Kid’s exuberance in hunting reminded the female hunter that her long-standing quest was not just a duty, but an adventure. She began to hum a tune that was all too familiar to the caverns’ formations; it was a child’s song, but in it held memories of a bond and a promise. As she heard the tune echo through the cavern, the female hunter could only think of how melancholy it sounded.

Kid climbed up the outside of the volcano until he came to an opening he was familiar with. He had traveled this route once before, but he did not go too far in as he felt too guilty about disobeying Huntress. He didn’t want to go against her warnings, but he was compelled to explore new areas. ‘If I find something too strong, I will keep in hiding’, he reasoned with himself as justification to continue on his path. He kept extra vigilance and exercised every precaution as he crept deeper into the hole. Eventually, the hole opened up into a much larger room and it steamed from every direction. Kid downed a cool drink, ‘I knew it’d be hot, but wow…’. He kept close to the walls and behind stones, ‘maybe I should just scout today’. 

He stopped once he saw some small monsters, they weren’t in his book so Kid grabbed some paper and made a few sketches, ‘I’ll have to find out what these guys are called’ he thought smiling to himself. They dug into and out of the ground as though it were water, always preceded by a small ring of lava. Kid could only conclude that they somehow melted the rocks into lava making it easy for them to move through. Once he was confident that no larger monsters would appear, he made his presence known and eventually killed all of them. 

Quickly he carved their bodies and he looked at his surroundings again. There were three mining points, and Kid was extremely pleased that he remembered his pickaxe. He didn’t know what half of the ores were, but he scooped them up anyway and went back into stealth mode.

The female hunter emerged from the cavern to find Thunderclap waiting for her; he was having one of his lazy days. She walked up to him and scratched behind his ear, then moved to his chin. He growled playfully as she rubbed his head with both her hands. It felt like only yesterday that he was a pup that could fit on her bed. “Come on Thunderclap, let’s go home.” She motioned and he lay down so she could climb on his back. 

Kid’s pouch was full, and he had gone much deeper into the volcano than he expected, so he decided it was time to call it quits and head back to camp. He was able to breathe with relief once he was back through the hole and could see the sky; it wasn’t even noon yet. As he made his way back down the volcano, Kid wasn’t sure if he was going to tell Huntress of his finds. She would be furious that he went against her wishes, ‘Maybe I should go elsewhere to hunt for the rest of the day in case she asks where I was.’ He quickly reached more level ground, ‘I know, I’ll stash these ores and carves near one of the abandoned camps so I’ll have room to continue hunting. It’d be suspicious if I returned this early.

As Kid rounded a boulder, he felt a heatwave and was knocked to the ground. Confused he looked up to see a ferocious flying horned beast landing on the bedrock beside him. His eyes grew wide and his mind went blank. Surrounded by flames and embers it let out a mighty roar and fixated on Kid.

Thunderclap’s ears perked and the female hunter was still. The roar was in the far distance and she could not make out what monster it was. Always cautious, she patted Thunderclap’s side to signal for him to move quicker. He responded swiftly and in no time they returned to camp. She peered over the rocky outlook to see what she could find, but even though she saw nothing she could not shake the feeling that something terrible was about to happen. She briskly walked around camp; she was alone. 

Thunderclap whined and snarled, he sensed her unease. Again she returned to the outlook, but again, nothing. “Aaaah!” She frustratedly grumbled, “I hate kids.” She quickly grabbed a pouch and weapon from her private hut and mounted Thunderclap once more. She whistled three sharp shrieks and grabbed on very tightly. Like a bolt Thunderclap raced down the mountainside with ease. 

Early afternoon was fast approaching and the knot in the female hunter’s stomach grew tighter with each passing hour. She had made general sweeps of the surrounding areas, but they all smelled of Kid. Thunderclap was having a hard time zeroing in on his most recent route and every time he began heading to the volcano, the female huntress steered him away. Eventually, after Thunderclap whimpered enough, she let him travel closer to the volcano. 

As Thunderclap raced to the foot of the volcano, the female hunter resolved to kick Kid out if he was found where he was told not to go. She was done with him and his stubbornness. Thunderclap screeched to a halt; the air was burnt. She took a few short, potent sniffs of the air and immediately knew a teostra had been wreaking havoc. She swallowed hard with a dry throat and patted Thunderclap to keep moving. The teostra had already left and there was no threat for now. He sniffed here and there, but Kid’s scent was masked by the stench of smoke.

“Keep trying,” she said as she softly patted his head and slid down his side. The battle was fierce, as it usually is when a teostra is involved. She looked around and followed the destruction as though she were in the battle herself. She could almost see its movements, and its prey’s. Slowly she pieced it together, from one area to another until she came to the end. There was only one piece of flesh in the midst of charred rock, the teostra’s tail. If she weren’t so agitated, she’d have been extremely impressed. 

Thunderclap’s howl snapped her out of thought, he pointed his nose up the side of the volcano. Quickly she climbed up, trying to follow where he was pacing. Up and up until she looked down towards Thunderclap, but instead saw a hand a few cliffs below her. She climbed down and pulled Kid out of his hole. Her stomach turned; he was in bad shape. 

“Kid. Kid! Hey, look at me.” She carefully checked his body. She wasn’t a healer but at least knew basic medical care. He was bleeding internally, probably from broken bones piercing his innards, and his body was badly burned. “LOOK AT ME!” She yelled at the top of her lungs. Kid’s eyes fluttered open, then shut. He tried to say something, but it was inaudible. “Don’t speak, just stay with me.” She tore up half her cloak and made wraps to stop some bleeding and protect his burns. She made a sling with the other half to tie him to her. It was risky moving him, but she needed to get him to a safe area immediately. Carefully, but swiftly she climbed down the mountain.

Thunderclap whined and whimpered whenever he had to stop to let her keep up with him, but the female hunter whistled for him to be silent. The female hunter would never match his speed, but she couldn’t risk riding on his back. Kid’s body was too weak to handle his natural electric charge, and Thunderclap’s motions were less than smooth. Instead, she chose to half jog half power walk all the way back to camp. “Stay with me, kid. Do you hear me?” 

The female hunter had to keep reminding herself not to sprint, but her mind was erratic with thoughts from past and present. ‘Not again’, she kept repeating in her mind. Hours passed and she hadn’t even noticed her body becoming slightly worn. She was focused solely on the feel of Kid’s breath on the back of her neck. It was growing weaker. “Stay with me, kid. It’s not long now…not long.” 

By the time they reached camp, she was sure Kid had died, but he was still hanging on. Gently she placed him on the bed and, turning to her hut, rushed inside, almost unhinging the door in the process. Pushing all else aside, she cleared a path to a corner and slid a small box into view from behind a display. Then she turned to a section of the wall that housed a collection of mounted battle horns; she grabbed one and blew into it with such force Thunderclap nearly went crazy as the high-pitched sound reverberated through the area. The female hunter raced back to Kid’s side, opening the box to reveal a glass vile. She lifted the vile’s cap to waft the contents, ‘I hope this is still good’.

“Kid, hey, you need to drink this.” She gingerly lifted his head and poured it into his mouth. ‘It will save you, it has to.’ She was careful to not spill any of the liquid and made sure that all of it made it into his mouth. After placing Kid’s head back on the pillow, she blew into the horn once again.

At the corner of her eye, she saw movement, “Show yourself!” She hollered impatiently as she launched off the bed.

A frightened felyne peered its head from around a rock; its paws were covering both ears. 

“We heard you the first time, so stop, purrease!” 

She began to move towards the felyne when Thunderclap leaped at it growling and baring his fangs. The felyne quickly retreated. 

“No, BAD!” She snarled at Thunderclap walloping him in the face. He snarled back, growling at her instead. She responded with a roar unlike Thunderclap had ever heard come from her. His ears went back and his head eventually turned downward. She had never looked at him with such anger, “To bed!” Reluctantly he turned but was whimpering as he went. 

The felyne appeared again. The mountain had been home to many felynes before the female hunter moved in with Thunderclap. Eventually, they became fewer and fewer as a result of the tamed zinogre’s claim to the land. 

“I need to call in that favor,” She said as she knelt beside the blue calico. “I need Nomad, I need him now.”

The felyne shook his head, “Nyomad…I heard Nyomad meowved east, to Chava. But even so, he’s meowld now.”

“This boy will die if I don’t have the best healer and that is Nomad.” 

The felyne sighed raspily, “We have a few healers, nyone like Nyomad though.”

‘If….if I could get to Chava…if…’ She closed her eyes frustratedly, “hurry and bring all your healers. I’ll give you whatever you need, whatever you want in return.”

The calico’s ears perked, he nodded and he disappeared in the bushes. She clasped her hands together and placed them over her face, ‘Never again. You will live.’ 

Hurriedly she went back to her room and changed her garb, throwing on a cloak and a different pouch. She turned to a weapon with many coats of dust; a weapon she thought she’d never use again. Without giving much added thought on needing, in her opinion, one of her most brutish weapons, she removed it from the wall, blew as much dust off it as possible, and fastened it on her back. Before leaving the hut again she grabbed a light helmet and another horn.

She briefly checked on Kid; he would be stable for a few days with the healing concoction she gave him, but he’d still need blood and medical attention. She whispered into his ear, “Live, please.” There was no sign that he was even awake, let alone heard her, but she didn’t seem deterred. 

“Thunderclap, come.” Her tone had mellowed, but Thunderclap remained mostly unmoved in his stable. His head poked up but then went back onto the ground. She hovered over him, “I’m sorry, I should not have struck you.” She apologized as her hand moved closer to his head. He shifted away, growling under his breath, but she moved in closer until she could place both her hands on his head. He was reluctant at first, but she continued to reassure him by stroking his mane. “I need your speed, friend. We ride for Chava. It will be a tiring journey.”

“Ny, Nyello?” A trembling voice came from behind the entrance pillar. 

“Enter, Thunderclap will not harm you.” The orange felyne was not reassured but crossed the threshold anyway. He was slowly followed by three other felynes. Thunderclap began to growl and stood to move towards them, but the female hunter sternly put her finger up and commanded, “No, stay.” Thunderclap licked his chops and his teeth chattered, but he obeyed.

“I ride for Chava, can you keep him stable for about a week and a half? Two at most?”

The orange felyne’s eyes grew wide, “Chava’s meore than two weeks away!” 

The female hunter paid him no mind, “Kid will need blood, I have a store of blood bags in the cavern at the foot of the mountain. At the back of the second left cave there is a rope tied to a heavy rock; pull it up and a small box will follow. The key is on my mantle, but make sure to put the unused blood back in the box and under the water for storage.  If you need items to trade for any reason, take your pick from any of the boxes.” She pointed to three outside and motioned that there were two others inside.  “I have food stores and herbs out back, they are at your disposal.”  

The felynes looked at each other to make sure they absorbed all the information. After they nodded to the female hunter, she jumped onto Thunderclap’s back and patted his side. Before she gave the signal to sprint, she looked to Kid briefly. The felynes scattered each with a task, but the orange felyne tended to Kid. Her mind was taken back to an image forever seared into her memory; a broken body, burned beyond recognition, and lifeless.

“Adira,” She softly uttered, but trailed off to her mind, ‘never again’. 

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