Monster Hunter:Volume2 Chapter2
Chapter 2 - Their Days Off
“That would be the one-horned herbivore wyvern, Monoblos.”
After hearing the merchant’s story, the Village Chief made that declaration with a grim expression on his face.
The mention of that name destroyed the peaceful atmosphere inside the gathering hall, and Zeeg could see a number of hunters sneaking out of the store.
It didn’t look like they were trying to get a head start on the hunt. Rather, they were most likely running away.
As for the Monoblos, Zeeg is also aware of it. The monster was featured in the Hero of Kokoto’s story.
It was said that the hunt that made his name known to the world was when he headed off to the desert alone in a quest to slay the Monoblos, which has been terrorizing merchant caravans that were passing by.
It was also written in the book that the crimson horn the hero broke off from the wyvern’s head has served as a decoration for his house to this day.
If that is true, then the horn should be in the Village Chief’s house, but Zeeg doesn’t remember seeing it when he went there once.
Then again, the boy hadn't known about the old man’s status as a hero, so he hadn't paid any attention to the details of the house’s interior.
“The caravan has been completely wiped out...”
After he has been patched up, the merchant continued speaking in an exhausted state.
This man had gotten on the carriage of a merchant caravan that happened to be headed in the same direction. While crossing the desert to get to the oasis, they were met with the wyvern’s assault.
The caravan seemed to have five wandering hunters as guards, but they have been swept away by the Monoblos, and also pursued by the Genpreys that have gathered around the scene, ultimately ending in their annihilation.
“I survived only because I lost consciousness after being buried by the sand that it dug up. When I finally dug my way out, I could only see the goods scattered around. Other people were... nowhere to be seen. Luckily, I found a horse that has survived, and managed to ride it all the way here.”
He went on to say that the horse ended up dying just before arriving at this village.
“We cannot leave this alone.”
The Village Chief looked at all of the hunters that have gathered here.
“If the desert route is not useable, the merchants would have to take a large detour in order to get to this village. If that is the case, the prices of the goods will rise significantly. The time it takes for delivering requested items will also increase. We cannot have the clients handle the transportation costs, which means reward money for quests will be reduced.”
Voices of dissatisfaction sounded among the hunters, and the Village Chief nodded.
“What do we do, then? The solution is simple. Just hunt the Monoblos. The reward money for this quest will be from the Shopkeeper’s Guild, the Trader’s Guild, and also this village’s funds. Anyone will do. Is there anyone who thinks they’re up for the challenge? The contract fee will be... let’s see, 800 Zenny! And how about 3400 Zenny for the quest reward money?”
The Village Chief looked around at the hunters once more, but there was no one who raised their hand.
Anyone whose eyes met with the Village Chief’s would turn their faces away in a panic.
Zeeg understood those hunters’ feelings. The boy’s past self would have immediately raised his hand, but now he knows that the Monoblos is no easy foe, both from the Hero’s story and also the fact that the caravan guards were useless against it. Then again, those hunters failing could also be due to them accepting the job with a group of five members, which is considered to bring bad luck.
Finally, the Village Chief’s line of sight stopped at Vivi. The hunters, Zeeg included, didn’t understand why the Chief would look at the maid in black.
The girl looked straight back at the old man, her eyes behind those sturdy glasses showing no signs of confusion nor doubt.
“As for you... It seems that you cannot go.”
“Unfortunately, the Parasol is still undergoing repairs.”
Vivi said that, then readjusted her glasses.
Zeeg didn’t understand the meaning of her statement, but the Village Chief shook his head as if to say “Then it can’t be helped”.
In the end, nobody stepped forward, and an expression of despair appeared on the merchant’s face.
Meanwhile, Zeeg repeatedly asked himself in a serious manner- whether or not he will be able to do it. The boy is aware that he has improved significantly from before. Somewhere in his head, a part of him seemed to whisper “Yes, you can”.
But the Monoblos is an unknown enemy.
From Zeeg’s memory, he didn’t remember seeing any Monoblos-related quests posted at the Minegarde Hunter’s Guild during the past year.
It could have been swiped by other hunters while the team was out on a hunt, but there weren’t any rumors about it at the gathering hall either.
“What do you say, Zeeg?”
Zeeg was surprised quite a bit when he noticed that the Chief’s eyes stopped at him.
“That’s right. Everyone else is too scared to take it on. Still, you can’t force it. That thing is formidable, after all. It can’t shoot fireballs like the Rathalos, but there aren’t any openings in its movements. I’m not trying to discourage you or anything, but it really is one tough customer- Well then, what will you do?”
“Can I really take it?”
Zeeg said, as if to confirm the Chief’s words.
The boy suspected that if he were to burst up from his seat to take the quest, he would get an earful from the old man for not knowing his place.
That is because when Zeeg was still living in this village, he would always tell people to give him better requests without minding his manners at all like the cheeky rascal he was.
But this time, the Village Chief nodded.
“I’m not saying that it’ll be an easy victory for you. There are no absolutes in the hunt, after all. Rather, it is going to be an unforgiving battle. However, I do acknowledge that you have the capabilities to take this quest on.”
Zeeg got goosebumps as his heart welled up with passion.
(“He acknowledged me.”)
That very moment, Zeeg felt like he has been released from the insecurities that has been haunting him for so long. He has just realized that one of his goals in life was to be acknowledged by that person.
Zeeg thought that, at long last, he has gained the confidence to call himself a hunter.
“...I’ll give it a try.”
The boy gave an answer, not saying “Leave it to me” or “This will be easy” like he used to.
Just as the Village Chief said, the hunt has no absolutes. A single error in judgement can easily lead to one’s death. Moreover, if the opponent is a wyvern, it is equal to having death follow oneself like a shadow.
Zeeg has already seen countless examples over the past year.
Many parties would drink merrily at the gathering hall only to become charred remains along with their armors and weapons, leaving the city in small boxes.
That hasn’t happened to Zeeg or anyone in Elmeria’s party, but there’s no guarantee on what will happen in the future.
But the boy still thought that if one intends to back away, they’re better off retiring as hunters.
Zeeg grabbed a small leather bag that has been fastened with a blue string, took out 800 Zenny’s worth of coins, and placed them in front of the Village Chief.
“Zeeg Grandest has accepted this quest.”
After seeing off the supply carriage that has turned back immediately when they have delivered the goods, Zeeg went inside the tent to check his equipment and items, and also his physical condition.
The one-day journey from Kokoto Village to the desert was spent on a constantly rocking carriage. It would be dangerous if one’s senses were off balance. If one’s sword swing were to miss the target by even a single inch, it is entirely possible that they would lose their life along with the mistake.
(“It’s so hot...”)
The basecamp area is on a rocky outcropping, and even though the tent has been put up in a location that is constantly under a shade, its interior is still hot. Then again, the temperature is not at the level that would drain one’s physical strength, and one can still get adequate sleep. Compared to the volcano, it is actually quite cool here.
Zeeg unsheathed the Ravager Blade+ on his back and pulled on the handle. Small wyvern fang-shaped blades sprung out of the sword’s body, having a metallic sheen from reflected light. One by one, they were sharpened thoroughly with a Whetstone.
Next up is to confirm the prepared tools. First-Aid Meds provided as supplies were stuffed into a bag that was fastened to his waist, Flash Bombs and Paintballs that he has brought with him were kept in a pouch below his belt. Of course, he didn’t forget to keep a Mini Whetstone strapped to his waist.
After all is done, Zeeg sat down on the bed and spread the map on his laps.
(“If I remember correctly, they said it would be around here...”)
While eating some dry Rations that were also provided as supplies, the boy tapped his finger on a portion of the map that represents an open canyon between oasis and the desert. This area has been designated the number 10. Zeeg has never been to the desert region before, but according to what he heard from other hunters, this area has a ledge with a narrow passage which leads to a Felyne colony. This information has been written on the map.
Because he was applying a little too much force, a thorn on the Kut-Ku Vambraces has pierced through the paper. Quietly clicking his tongue in annoyance, Zeeg rolled the map and slipped it on his belt, took a sip from his water canteen, then stood up.
There isn’t much time. He should have 50 hours, give or take a few.
Compared to the Hero of Kokoto, who fought for seven days straight, the allotted time is very short. But that was the early days of the hunting occupation, so seven days could have been considered a short hunting time back then.
There are two routes that one can take to reach area 10. One option is to exit the tent and cross the desert, while the other way is through the canyons. Without any hesitation, Zeeg decided to go with the latter. While Genpreys could jump out at him, it is better than the desert where his physical strength would be sapped away just by standing there.
Zeeg went through the short tunnel that connects the base camp to the canyon. He was immediately met with intense sunshine. But thanks to the temperature not being that high, he didn’t feel discomforted.
Looking around, he could see herbivore monsters called Apceros, all three of them grazing on the small patch of grass.
The Apceros is 10 meters long on average just like the herbivore monster Aptonoth, but the difference is that they are aggressive in nature, attacking those who approach carelessly with their spiked tails. They also have hard shells similar to turtles, and their head-butt attacks are quite powerful.
The taste of their meat is similar to Aptonoth meat. Their solid shells have a distinct gloss when polished and can manufactured into various handicrafts, which means the demand for them is high in the capital city.
(“But today I have no business with them.”)
Zeeg simply ran past the Apceros pack. One of them readied its hind leg for a charge, but the boy ignored it. If one doesn’t stand still, that monster is by no means a threat.
Reaching a small sandy area that has an oasis, he found a pack of Genpreys.
Those monsters turned their heads and looked all over the area, but their eyesight isn’t actually that good. Moving slowly and quietly so as to not be noticed, Zeeg headed for the path between the rock walls. If he made it through there, he would reach area 10, his destination.
(“! ......Found it.”)
There was a ledge there just as informed, and Zeeg gulped in nervousness as he found that a large wyvern is sleeping on it- the monster really is huge!
The Monoblos’s whole body is in dark brown, and just like the rumors said, it has a large collar furnished with thorns. While the estimate may be slightly off, when compared to the Genpreys that were running around below, it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that the target is over 20 meters long.
But of course, its most defining characteristic would be none other than its long, deep crimson horn. Extending from its nose, the horn’s spear-like tip looked sharp enough to pierce through any shield and armor with a single blow.
Hiding himself in the tunnel’s shadow, Zeeg took out a Flash Bomb from his pack and held it in his hand. In addition the Genpreys wandering around restlessly, there are also giant insects called Vespoid flying around in the open canyon area. Those bugs have barbed stingers at the end of their abdomens, which inject paralyzing toxins similar to the Genprey’s, making them quite troublesome things.
(“...First of all, marking.”)
One cannot afford to miss this step in a wyvern hunt, but it is also quite a dangerous process. The hunter will be completely defenseless for a brief moment after they threw a Paintball, and would suffer serious injuries if they were to be attacked.
A popular method to ensure safety is to use a Flash Bomb first.
It is an item that would emit an intense flash of light after it was thrown, impairing the vision of most large monsters for a fixed amount of time. The effect covers a wide area and lasts fairly long, but the carrying limit has been set to five per person to prevent overreliance.
(“It’s still a bit too far.”)
Zeeg made an assessment while approaching the Monoblos. And then,
From somewhere, a Genprey let out a sharp cry to call upon its kind, causing Zeeg to turn around and quickly survey the surrounding canyon area. Seeing one of them hiding in the bushes, the boy clicked his tongue.
Each Genprey in the pack responded in succession until their cries echoed loudly through the canyon.
Feeling a little breeze, Zeeg turned back to the Monoblos right as the one-horned wyvern spread its wings and roared. The air shook as if it were being ripped apart, and Zeeg could feel his muscles stiffening involuntarily as if it was an animal instinct.
The Monoblos took a nose dive to the ground in the same manner as a person jumping into water. With its horn pointing down, the monster folded its wings and tackled. Using its giant feet, wing nails, and horn to dig up the earth, the wyvern burrowed underground.
While the Genpreys are still screaming, Zeeg quickly scanned the area around the pit that was just dug up. He has heard that if a Monoblos is approaching from below, the ground will crack and dust will be kicked up. However, there was no such indication in the immediate vicinity.
Seeing the Genprey pack charging at him all at once, Zeeg slipped the Flash Bomb back into his pack and burst out of the tunnel. He would be surrounded if he were to stay put.
Calculating the distance while running in an arc towards the closest Genprey, Zeeg unsheathed his great sword and brought it down in an overhead slash immediately as he got into melee range.
The sword’s fangs sprung out, digging into the Genprey’s scales and flesh, tearing the creature apart!
Letting out one last cry in agony, the Genprey ceased all movement.
Zeeg pulled his sword up and flipped it, then made a swing towards his back in a wide arc while turning around at the same time.
Two Genpreys that were sneaking behind him got cut in the face and legs all in one slash, with both of them screaming as they were swept away to the side.
Planning on delivering the final blow, Zeeg turned around and saw it! The ground beneath the wounded Genpreys’ feet collapsed as the deep crimson horn thrusted up!
Following his own instincts and guarding with the great sword proved to be the right course of action. Dirt was blown up from the ground, with the edge of the monster’s tough wing bursting up and striking the sword, causing a dull metallic echo. Sparks scattered, and the Monoblos’s eyes could be seen on the other side of the sword. As the white dust billow was torn open, Zeeg looked deep into the monster’s pupils and felt a chill run down his spine.
However, his body moved before he could even think straight.
With one hand, Zeeg fumbled for a Paintball from his pack and flung it at the Monoblos.
The ball flew in an arc and hit the one-horned wyvern in its face, releasing a strong unique scent as it burst from the impact.
Hunters who have gone through proper training can utilize these tracking balls, created from a fruit with a unique smell called Paintberry, to track the position of their game even from far away. The effect lasts for approximately ten hours, and the smell won’t wear off even if the marked monster were to go into water or burrow underground.
The Monoblos let out a roar while brandishing its horn.
The sword was struck, and Zeeg was sent flying by the impact. An unpleasant ‘click’ could be heard from below his waist.
He knew what it was without even having to check. Pressure was applied on one of the Flash Bombs!
Zeeg panickingly stood up and shuffled through his pouch for the Flash Bomb that has started to swell up, then threw it in the Monoblos’s direction and closed his eyes.
As light burst forth, the Genpreys shrieked, but the Monoblos’s voice was not heard.
Zeeg opened his eyes and saw that the Monoblos was not there anymore. All he could see was the spiky tail, shaking as it disappeared underground.
While focusing his nose to sniff out the Monoblos’s location, he could feel his palms sweating under the Kut-Ku Vambraces.
(“This thing... really is something else.”)
From under his Ioprey Helm, Zeeg kept an eye on the Genpreys that have lost their vision, then took a deep breath and sharpened his five senses so that he would feel any change in the surrounding environment.
The wyverns that he have fought up until today- be it the Rathalos, Rathian, Yian Kut-Ku, or even the Cephadrome, if a Flash Bomb was thrown, all of them would be distracted by the object’s arc.
However, it is different for this Monoblos. When it feels a threat, the wyvern will follow its instincts and burrow underground, with the person who threw the Flash Bomb ending up being the only one to get their vision interrupted.
Even though he hasn’t even experienced all of it yet, Zeeg has come to understand the reason why defeating a Monoblos is one of the remaining stories of the Hero.
(“Looks like this will take long...”)
While repeatedly readjusting his grip on the Ravager Blade’s handle and licking away the sweat that has ran down from his forehead, Zeeg had a feeling that something bad was going to happen.
-And it proved to be true.
Hiding at the exit of a cave illuminated in bright red by the streaming lava, Elmeria took a peek outside using her binoculars. Beyond the double-tubed optical instrument’s sights is a slowly flowing river of molten rock.
The surrounding area is filled with intense heat.
Since it’s hot enough to melt even rocks, it wouldn’t be ridiculous if the lava stream’s temperature was thousands of degrees. Even the desert is heaven when compared to this place.
Looking another way, she could see smoke rise up from the summit beyond the darkness, occasionally feeling tremors caused by small explosions. Erupted black smoke constantly covered the sky in this region, with the sunlight shining through only a few spots.
The Kingdom of Schrade is home to numerous volcanoes, all but two of them natural.
The reason those two are not considered natural was that they were not created by natural eruptions from prehistoric times, but rather by a great war which triggered the magma deep under the grassy plains to erupt, turning the area into a volcano.
It was a war between humanity and dragons-- not wyverns-- and there were countless legends and historical evidences suggesting that they were real.
Rumors have it that, among numerous documents safeguarded by the Royal Paleontology Scriveners, some of them seemed to be remaining design plans for an ultimate weapon used in the ancient times.
From last year’s incident when the Royal Armory’s knights captured Minegarde in order to test their prototype weapon designed to replicate the Rathalos’s fireball attack, the Dragon Destroyer, its design seemed to also be an attempt to recreate the ancient weapon from those documents.
However, that was a baseless rumor.
Then again, there were still other evidences that fueled the hunters’ beliefs of the great war.
Finding one of those evidences was Elmeria’s purpose of coming here.
(“Still, it really is hot...”)
She wiped away her sweat with the palm of her Rathalos Vambraces. If she were to use the other side, the rough scales would scratch her skin.
As always, her equipment loadout did not include a breastplate. She used to wear a full set back when she was just starting out, but when her hunting skills had improved and clear roles had been assigned to herself and Gannon, she chose to not equip some parts.
However, it was still considered a dangerous gamble.
Hammer users differ from hunters who wield other melee weapons in that they can not guard.
The heavy weight of their weapons render them unable to hold a shield at the same time, and unlike great swords, their shape made them unfit for guarding.
Therefore, hammer users usually pay attention to their armor.
The openings after a swing are significantly larger compared to other weapons, increasing the chances of the attacker being targeted.
Elmeria fully understood those facts. Even so, she chose to wield the hammer as her main weapon because of their high power, enough to crush the skulls of small carnivores such as Ioprey in a single blow.
At first, Gannon had recommended her to use one-handed swords.
They come with a shield, are lightweight, and the user can still run around freely even with the weapon unsheathed.
But due to their small size, one-handed swords do not possess enough power to kill in a single attack.
That was not what she wanted.
The reason was that during the time she was dishing out hits until the final blow, Gannon would be exposed to more attacks from the enemy.
The strategy of blowing Field Horns to draw the monsters’ attention to him had always been used since Elmeria started her career as a hunter.
Gannon himself said he had always been fighting like that, but Elmeria doubted it. The girl had a feeling that he did this in order to protect her.
Because that man would never stop fighting with that method, all Elmeria could do was settle with that option from the start.
That is, the option to wield the hammer.
Of course, that was her initial motive, but right now it was different.
She was drawn in by the weapon’s irresistible raw power that made every attack a finishing strike. By focusing her strength and rushing under the wyvern, then swinging with all her might, she could break legs as thick as tree trunks and cause her target to tumble down on the ground.
“How is it, young mistress?”
While monitoring the interior of the cave behind the surveying Elmeria, Gannon spoke up, the girl taking her eyes off the binoculars and letting out a long “hmm”.
“Still not moving. It would be nice if it were to go somewhere else quickly...”
The two of them had already wasted two hours while being stranded here.
They had come all the way here from the base camp by choosing the shortest route through the cave that would lead to the exit, but a huge obstacle that lied in wait was preventing them from going further.
--It was a monster.
There were creatures living here, in an environment filled with intense heat of lava.
On the way here, she had seen some Iopreys, monsters that had provided materials for her helmet, and also wild boars with large tusks called Bullfango, wandering about. In the corner of her eye, she could see the enormous turtle-like Apceros eating from small patches of grass. Around the area, giant Vespoid bugs flew around, the buzzing from their wings audible even from her current location.
However, those things were not what’s causing them trouble.
Locked in Elmeria’s field of vision was a gigantic body that could not be seen as anything but a rock mountain.
The armor wyvern Gravios-- living only in the swamp and volcano regions, their whole bodies were covered in solid rock, with their average length exceeding twenty meters.
Compared to most other wyverns’ average height of 5 meters, the Gravios was ten meters tall, making it a moving mountain.
Its shells were extremely tough, to the point that they were considered to be armor.
Even though the greaves that Gannon currently had equipped were made from the Gravios’s shells, the materials had been salvaged from a battle against the Gravios in a quest that he and Elmeria has accepted some time before Zeeg and even Fradio joined their party.
That quest was quite a disaster.
They were indeed aware of its toughness, but its strength was far greater than anticipated.
Two great sword users joined their party at that time, one wielding Iron Katana “Grace” and the other wielding Agito. They were not able to make even a scratch on its solid shells. Even Gannon’s Knight Spear had been bent out of shape on its tip. Elmeria’s hammer at the time, the Iron Striker, had broken from its handle and melted away upon being knocked into the lava stream.
The party managed to break the monster’s chest using all of the Large Barrel Bombs they had, and also sever its tail, but that was the limit of their abilities.
While the Katana wielder was crawling under the Gravios’s abdomen, he was hit by its sleeping gas and lost consciousness, then instantly trampled to death under its massive foot. It all happened so fast that the others never had a chance to save him.
As for the Agito user, he was able to guard against the Gravios’s charge but was knocked into the lava stream. His whole body melted away without even a single bone remaining.
Of course, Gannon and Elmeria did not get out unscathed.
The Gravios’s strongest attack involves the monster combining the heat inside its body with a fire breath attack, releasing it all in one go in one direction.
Both of them were hit by such a move.
When the Gravios stood up and moved its chest forward, Elmeria anticipated that it was going to release its sleeping gas.
However, when she saw the interior of its cave-like throat shining red, she knew that she was mistaken.
At that point, it was too late for escape.
Gannon planted his shield on the ground, then pushed Elmeria down and held her tightly.
The very next moment, an intense heat ray hit both of them.
Immobilized, Elmeria could hardly breathe due to the heat and the weight on top of her, and she could smell her hair burning. Under Gannon’s stiffening body, she could hear the bones inside her body breaking one by one.
Before long, the intense heat subsided.
The high temperature around them remained, but it has become cooler in comparison to before. Even though it only lasted a few seconds, to them it felt like a very long time.
Elmeria’s voice wouldn’t come out.
Not knowing the situation around her, she tried tapping Gannon’s body lightly, but there was no response. Tremors from the Gravios’s slow steps echoed to the girl’s broken bones, it was so painful that she was on the verge of bursting into tears, but she desperately endured.
Before long, the tremors became weaker and weaker, eventually stopping altogether.
Gannon then let out a weak moan in pain and made way for Elmeria to get up.
It was then that the girl could assess the situation.
Even though Gannon had the full Rathalos armor set equipped, he was burned quite severely. It was a miracle that not even a single scar remained afterwards.
Both his shield and the spear were melted so badly that only half of each remained. As for his armor, there was no change to the parts made from Rathalos Shells, but the metallic parts made from Machalite ores were melted and badly deformed.
On the other hand, Elmeria got some of her bones broken, but there were no other serious injuries. The tips of her hair were burnt only slightly.
At that point, the Gravios had gone elsewhere.
Gannon was injured quite heavily from the burn. Elmeria’s upper arms, thighs, rib bones were fractured. In that state, it was impossible to continue hunting.
Putting on splint and braces, they drank some potions for the same effect as painkillers and waited for the health recovery to take effect. During that time, Gannon carved up the severed tail and picked up the shells that had broken off, collecting five and six Garvios Shells respectively.
Valuable experience and eleven Gravios Scales were the only rewards they received.
The request had not been fulfilled, and the contract fee had been forfeited, but there was no good reason to push through recklessly and ending up losing more lives in the process. After all, it is also a hunter’s job to know when to pull back.
The shells they collected had been lying around without use for a long time, but now they were finally reborn as Tasset and Greaves that served to protect Gannon’s legs.
(“I’m not sure if this Gravios is the same one as back then though...”)
While keeping watch on the monster as it walked into the lava stream with its earth-shaking steps, Elmeria licked her lips.
(“We don’t plan on hunting you.”)
Not hunting pointlessly is a fundamental rule of hunters. Especially today, since they haven’t accepted any quest. She would bring down the hammer without mercy if it’s for self-defense, but she doesn’t plan of picking a fight with anything.
When looked at a distance, it might look fairly tame and not ferocious, but the Gravios isn’t a wyvern so weak that it can be easily defeated by just two people.
While shaking its giant body, the Gravios slowly soaked its feet in the river that has flared up in bright red. Its shells blew out smoke as it heated up. After standing still for a while as if to accustom its body, the wyvern stepped forward and submerged itself into the lava.
The Gravios has the ability to dive in lava. The fact that it can stay alive in the molten rock is unbelievable, but it is fact nonetheless.
According to the records of Ron, an officer of the Royal Paleontology Scriveners, the Gravios is able to do that because all of its internal organs are crammed together in the center of its body, with its bulky muscles and shells making external heat take an exceedingly long time to reach the core.
Even though the Gravios’s heat wave isn’t actually an attack but rather just an act of releasing excess heat from its body, to hunters it will always be a fearsome attacking move.
A gooey liquid shining in orange splashed as the Gravios dived into the lava, until the spikes on its back cannot be seen anymore.
Even then, Elmeria kept watch on the lava stream for a while longer. After confirming that there is absolutely no more movement on its surface, she put the binoculars down and stood up.
“Looks like it’s gone.”
Gannon nodded in response to Elmeria’s words. He then put on his Diablo Mail, with his already large body seeming to become even larger thanks to the two giant horns that extended from the armor’s shoulder pads.
The two of them jogged around the lava stream, heading for the path that was cracked open in the rock on the other side.
It seems that the location used to have lava flowing through it, but right now it has cooled down and turned into solid road with a black luster.
The Vespoids noticed them and immediately approached.
Elmeria picked up her pace, annoyed by the bugs’ buzzing. It seemed to people that more of these giant bugs will come no matter how many is struck down, and they also seem to like to approach hunters who are busy harvesting materials.
Taking them out is easy, but if they were to kill it with bad timing, the Gravios could hear the bugs’ voices and turn around to come back here.
When they ran up to the crack-- which was actually big enough for even a horse to go through-- the Vespoids stopped following them.
Probably because they were getting too close to the summit.
Elmeria had never seen any living things in the surrounding area-- though there were rumors that a Rathalos could be encountered here.
A little further ahead was where the valley ended, and to their left was a path that leads to the cliff on the other side. From where they were standing, molten rock could be seen spewing up endlessly.
At this point, they started to sweat profusely.
From the holster on his waist, Gannon took out a small bottle containing white liquid and passed it over to the girl.
Elmeria uncorked the bottle and drank all of its content in one go.
With a taste similar to when she was chewing on mint leaves, it cooled her body down.
Obviously, this did not make the temperature of the surrounding area any cooler. What it did was prevent dehydration and increase the body’s heat resistance, effectively making the drinker feel cooler.
The liquid was simply called the Cool Drink.
While hunters could combine materials to make medicine by themselves, this drink was an exception.
Passing the empty bottle back to Gannon, Elmeria walked on ahead.
She did not continue to the left after reaching the end of the straight path, dropping her hammer and luggage right there.
She has a task to carry out in this very location- in front of an enormous rock that stuck up like a horn. Elmeria stroked its gritty surface with her hand. Seeing that nobody has mined it prior, her chest welled up with expectations.
Gannon also put down his lance and luggage, removed his his helmet, and took out a few pickaxes from the bag on his back before passing one to Elmeria.
Taking the pickaxe and standing before the rock, Elmeria swung at it with all her might.
Sparks scattered as a part of the rock crumbled.
Something sparkled- should be a Machalite Ore. However, Elmeria ignored it. She didn’t come here today for that kind of thing.
To her side, Gannon picked it up and put it in his bag, then continued swinging his pickaxe.
For some time, the two of them mined the rock silently.
The thoughts in Gannon’s head were unknown, but in Elmeria’s case, a single phrase that felt like a prayer repeated every time the pickaxe struck the solid rock- come out, come out.
Before long, the bodies that have been cooled by the Cold Drink’s effects became sweaty, and a large quantity of small stones rolled around on the ground next to them. Among those stones were Machalite Ores and a type of high-quality abrasive called Earth Crystal, but Gannon has put off the collecting for now.
Feeling that Gannon’s voice, mixed in with the sound of rock breaking, was rougher and more serious in tone than usual, Elmeria turned to him without stopping her hands. Sweat dripped down from her chin.
“...Regarding Zeeg- What do you think of him?”
“What do you mean ‘think’?”
Elmeria asked back while still swinging her pickaxe to mine the rock, but Gannon did not answer. For some reason, his face had bitter expression, and his pickaxe swings were aggressive, as if to vent his frustrations.
(“Did that guy do something?”)
Elmeria thought back to the mistakes that Zeeg might have made up until now, but she couldn’t think of anything that could make Gannon this angry. Because of that, she answered honestly.
“Well, I’d say that he has become quite useful?”
Gannon was silent.
Elmeria continued, albeit reluctantly.
“Hmm... It’s like he was going to kill us with that giant sword of his at first, but before I knew it, he didn’t feel like a stranger anymore. Fradio was also surprised that lately, he has become aware of the line of fire and was even able to dodge when a bullet was fired in his direction. –Well, he would only get cocky if he heard that story, so Fradio reminded me to not tell Zeeg about it though.”
However, Gannon still kept quiet.
That silence of his seemed to indicate that the answer wasn’t what he asked about, causing Elmeria to start losing her patience.
She unintentionally spoke up in a harsh, irritated tone. But it couldn’t be helped. She wanted to concentrate on the mining, and to her Gannon was the one at fault for not saying it clearly. It’s especially rare for him to be like this. What is it that could possibly make Gannon this reluctant to speak up- She could think of only a single thing.
(“Could it be about my heritage...”)
It has to be that.
During last year’s capturing of the Minegarde Hunter’s Guild, Elmeria was met with a shocking revelation.
That being Gannon’s status as a criminal wanted by the kingdom, his crime being the kidnapping of a noble family’s young mistress.
The reason behind this action was that the late master of House Elbrenfort, whom Gannon was serving under at the time, has had a daughter with the mistress that he truly loved. The girl was certain to be assassinated if she were to be involved in the family feud, so an abduction was staged so that she could escape. That was the story that Gannon told, and it sounded believable.
The willingness to deliberately embrace dishonor to his name- it was very like Gannon.
Even though he said that the kidnapped girl has been long dead, but Elmeria thought herself could be that girl in question.
Though she’s not the kind of young lady who dreams of being a noble princess.
It’s because she’s satisfied with the hunter lifestyle, and would absolutely refuse if someone were to tell her to throw it all away.
Compared to wearing dresses so tight that her chest could spill out and dancing to the musical rhythm on a marble stage, she widely prefers diving under wyverns’ abdomens and swinging her hammer around.
Elmeria has a reason to suspect that the kidnapped girl was actually herself.
That being Gannon’s constant nagging about proper etiquette, and the fact that she had to study numerous things unrelated to a hunter’s job under his tutorship.
She has always questioned them, but believing that Gannon wouldn’t allow anything meaningless, she accepted those teachings.
The apparent reason behind them became known to her all at once upon hearing the kidnapping story.
On occasions, Gannon would say,
“All this is for you to have no worries when it comes the time for me to leave your side.”
Elmeria initially thought it to be about hunters acknowledging that death can arrive at any moment. Ever since she became aware of the incident however, she suspected that Gannon could be intending to return her to the so-called House Elbrenfort one day.
(“If that’s the case, I’ll have to decline. Right now, I have no intention to stop being a hunter- Ah, but wasn’t the original question supposed to be about Zeeg... Huh...?”)
Not able to comprehend the situation once more, Elmeria lost her patience.
She had a feeling that even if she were to continue digging just like this, the thing she’s searching for wouldn’t come out. Luck is a strong deciding factor in mining. She felt that if she doesn’t concentrate on the task, even luck will run away.
Elmeria took a break from her work and turned to Gannon.
Noticing her, Gannon’s hands stopped for a brief moment, before he almost immediately started swinging the pickaxe again.
The girl glanced at the stones that have been broken off, then returned her line of sight to Gannon.
“What? If you have something you want to say, then just get to the point.”
This time, Gannon’s hand stopped completely.
“It’s bothering me so much that I can’t concentrate. What’s going on with Zeeg? Or did you just bring that up as a cover, and actually wanted to say something about me?”
Gannon should have noticed by now that she’s questioning her identity as the kidnapped young mistress- was what Elmeria thought. It’s just that both of them were trying to avoid the subject.
As if he had thought of an idea, Gannon groaned in his throat, then put down his pickaxe and turned to Elmeria.
His face, as solid as stone, was clearly painted in a concerned expression.
“Then, I shall ask my question clearly...... What do you think of Zeeg?”
“No, not as a hunter......”
Gannon swallowed his saliva.
“But as a boy.”
Puzzled, Elmeria tilted her head. What is it that Gannon wanted to say?
(“As a boy...?”)
All of a sudden, an image of Zeeg appeared. The boy was there carrying a great sword on his back, smiling as he turned back to her with his shining white teeth. Elmeria felt her face heating up as if it was bursting into flames, so hot that even a Cool Drink’s effect can’t contain.
In reality, she shouldn’t have seen that kind of scene even once. And Zeeg’s teeth definitely doesn’t shine like that.
She noticed that Gannon’s concerned expression has gotten even worse.
“This is unacceptable.”
Slowly, he shook the head on top of his thick neck.
“As young mistress grew up surrounded by adults, that boy is an unusual sight. You ought to not jump to conclusions. In addition, as the hunt puts people in a position that causes them to entrust their lives to others, it is often the case that those kind of feelings emerge. However, they are not genuine. Young mistress, please be skeptical about those feelings of yours.”
“What... What’re you saying... I don’t get it.”
All at once, Elmeria felt senses of unsteadiness, annoyance, and denial. Not even her first battle against a Rathalos has flustered her this much.
“M... Me, with Zeeg? Th- that’s ridiculous! That fledgling- N...Now that’s just not funny!”
Just end this conversation already.
Elmeria waved her hand at Gannon to communicate that she doesn’t want this topic to be brought up ever again, then she grabbed a pickaxe and made a big swing.
But then Zeeg’s face popped up once again, causing Elmeria to let out a scream.
(“Th...This isn’t funny at all!”)
As it to shake it off, she put all of her strength in one mighty swing.
The metal head pierced the rock, creating a large crack. A whole layer of the rock then fell off, probably because it has become brittle from all the digging.
A jet black lump of Rust Stone, easily distinguishable from all other rocks, appeared under the layer, causing Elmeria to get goosebumps even in this heat.
That instant, thoughts about Zeeg has been completely wiped clean from her head.
Turning around, she could see Gannon’s eyes sparkle with anticipation as well.
The two of them carefully broke off the rock layer around the Rusted Stone, until the object was finally fully exposed. It was then that their anticipation turned into confidence.
“We did it!”
Elmeria jumped at Gannon, hugging his neck tightly. His body was stinking badly from all the sweat, but she didn’t care.
The lump of metal has something like a handle sticking out, so it just has to be a hammer.
This definitely is the thing they’ve come all the way to search for at this volcano.
Backing away, Elmeria smiled.
“Alright, let us get back to the city. The rest will depend on our luck.”
The only way to know its true appearance is to have a blacksmith at the armory polish it.
But Elmeria has confidence- that this lump of rusted metal is a precious relic of the past, created with the lost technology of ancient times!
(“Could it be that I’ve been left behind...”)
Standing on a log that serves as a bridge across the river, Fradio surveyed his surroundings, then took a deep breath from under the cool and comfortably rubbery Gypceros Cap.
Today’s him is different.
He’s equipped with Gypceros gear from head to toe as usual, but today, the usually unused body armor has also been put on.
Fradio actually has a slim figure compared to others, but now that his torso is equipped with the Gypceros Vest, he looks as thick as a Large Barrel Bomb.
Though he doesn’t worry much about defense when hunting in a party, the same cannot be done when going solo. Offense and defense- he has to do it all by himself.
Gunners usually hunt by shooting while in hiding, but it doesn’t mean that they never have to do combat in close range.
When shooting at small carnivore monsters or insects that operate in groups, it is not uncommon that a solo gunner is rushed down by other monsters in the pack.
In such situation, it is best for one to back away to a suitable distance and readjust their aim, but in a solo hunt, not having comrades means the chances of being chased down or blindsided are higher.
If that were to happen, one could die instantly if they don’t wear body armor.
Even if it feels too heavy or doesn’t look cool, it still is absolutely necessary.
(“Well, this isn’t all that bad.”)
This likely does not apply to other gunners, but as far as Fradio is concerned, being covered in Gypceros armor from head to toe is supreme bliss.
When hunting with a party, one cannot afford to put their hobbies or obsessions in priority. That is the reason why Fradio maximizes his combat efficiency by removing his body armor, while in truth he wanted to constantly feel the rubber cling to both his chest and back all at once.
Frado understood that hunting alone would allow him to fight in his own style, and also make decisions liberally. It is not strange for hunters to not join a party.
However, he has no intention to do so.
The reason is he knew that if he were to keep his passions to himself and endure until he couldn’t hold it in anymore, the satisfaction felt when he finally released them to his heart’s content would be many times greater.
Besides, hunting together with Elmeria’s crew was a great fun.
The girl has the absolute right to choose quests for the team, and she doesn’t mess around when it comes to the difficult jobs they accept. Her knowing the weight of responsibility when pulling the trigger on each decision makes a world of difference when compared to other hunting parties he have previously joined.
Situations where a comrade would die if he were to mess up does not occur often under normal circumstances, but it has happened almost every time ever since he has joined Elmeria’s crew.
Because the girl is used to being protected, she doesn’t doubt Fradio’s skills even one bit.
She believed that the man would eliminate all obstructing small fries without fail, making her able to focus on the main enemy and swing her hammer without hesitation. Even if a Vespoid were to approach so close behind her that she could clearly hear its buzzing wings, she wouldn’t turn around.
If he were to not answer to the faith she put in him, then he would be disqualified as a gunner. The heavy sense of responsibility and tension that comes with each shot far exceeds that of other parties.
It’s irresistibly fun.
And ever since Zeeg joined, that excitement has doubled.
One reason is that the boy has improved exponentially like sand absorbing water, but the highlight is the amusement from seeing Elmeria, a girl who seemed so tough and serious, show her childish side when interacting with Zeeg.
Not wanting to miss a single moment, a whole year without vacation has passed before he realized it.
But that was the limit.
He longed for his beloved Gypceros’s lovely figure, to listen to its wonderful voice, and to fully feel his “lover” in a battle to the death.
With those feelings in mind, he departed from Minegarde on a ten-day carriage journey to this Jungle- But no matter how long he waited, the lovely Gypceros doesn’t seem to show up.
Due to this hunt not being a quest accepted from the guild, the chance of encountering it is entirely up to luck, but he doesn’t have any doubts because he has always encountered it.
But for the first time, his confidence is starting to waver.
(“It seems that a little too much time has passed...”)
The feeling of loneliness is so great that his chest felt like it was bursting open. He would have even cried if he wasn’t covered in the Gypceros’s unique odor. Putting the return trip into consideration, he has only a few days left before he’s forced to stop.
(“Let’s search around one more time...”)
Fradio took a quick look around from under his cap while crossing on the log.
The water is deep and its currents are fast. A thunder was heard coming from the mountain’s direction last night, so there could be a precipitation upstream.
Walking through a wet leaf mould in an area filled with tall palm-type trees, he could hear the Vespoids’ buzzing wings mixed in with the sound of the river currents.
(“How troublesome indeed.”)
Stopping, Fradio drew his favorite heavy bowgun, the Tankmage, from his back and unfolded it. Unlike usual, his weapon is installed with a Zoom Scope and Long Barrel, which are parts that assist in shooting from a distance.
From a pouch strapped to his belt, he took out Level 1 Normal Shots and loaded it into the bowgun. He then kneeled on one knee, leaned the gunstock firmly against his shoulder, then peered into the scope.
He placed middle of the crosshairs between the three flying Vespoids, then pulled the trigger without hesitation.
The gunstock was knocked back at his shoulder as a gunshot sounded, but rubbery hides absorbed the impact.
A smoking cartridge was ejected.
Just as he intended, the shot didn’t hit any of the Vespoids, flying through the space between them. Sensing danger, those Vespoids scattered away.
He didn’t intend to kill. They may be annoying, but he doesn’t have any business with them. Lifting the bowgun and standing up, he could hear something sweeping the ground, causing him to hurriedly turn around.
What he then saw was the figure of a boar-like monster with large tusks, the Bullfango.
It’s possible that due to the gunshot, the creature that was sleeping in the thicket woke up.
By observing how its body shakes, he knew that it is currently in a fit of rage- sweeping the ground with its legs to prepare for a charge!
The tackle may be linear, but there’s no time to dodge!
Fradio raised his Tankmage as an improvised shield, narrowly defending against a fatal hit from the tusks that lunged in like spears.
Upon collision, a strong impact ran through his whole body. The Zoom Scope broke, and a long crack appeared on the Tankmage’s barrel. A part of the barrel then sprung up and hit his forehead, dizzying him.
(“Uh, this is ba-”)
As he was knocked back, the ground below his feet disappeared.
He could see the brown, muddy river flowing furiously, waiting to devour its unfortunate prey, but he couldn’t do anything.
Falling into the currents, Fradio noticed his consciousness slipping away.
He desperately tried to stay awake, but his last memory was water flowing into the Gypceros Cap through the holes, soaking his face- and nothing else after.
|Back to Chapter 1||Return to Main Page||Forward to Chapter 3|