Never has Daiba Nana ever run for her life this dearly. Her strategy to hide in the thick bushes of the Jungle to ambush an unsuspecting Nargacuga backfires, courtesy to the steel dragon Kushala Daora. The bad feeling in her gut proves to be the right indicator that things won't go her way that day.
The dragon's attention is pinned on the challenging wyvern, talon and strong gusts shower down to show who's the boss there. The fight turns into an ugly turn when Kushala Daora flies up in a twisting motion, creating a whirlwind that gust blows the bushes flat, exposing her whereabouts. Nargacuga lets out threatening chippers, but Kushala Daora pays no heed. The elder dragon dives and grapples Nargacuga with its hind legs. The flying wyvern’s scales do little to protect itself as the dragon’s claws hook the flesh. She takes the opportunity to escape the area. Her hunt ended badly with her prey getting mauled by elder dragon, and she doesn't want to end up as a lump of minced meat.
Nana's voice cracks up as she runs out for her life. Rana, her hunting pal fishes out its armor horn and blows vigorous tunes. She leaves it behind because she knows that it will return to her. Palicoes are wonderful combat companions, for they can understand how to play musical instruments and play melodies to help their meowsters in hunts. They’re hard-working and tough. Taking the time to teach them is a good long-term investment.
Nana rarely brings them on a hunt, so she's glad that she invites one out. The blonde is lucky because a few seconds after that a Deviljho jumps out of nowhere with its annoying roar a few meters before her. As much as she's very grateful not to be crushed by those powerful legs, she's not going to lose her hearing. Not only monster roars will make you unable to move, it'll certainly damage your hearing in long term. Nobody wants their ear-drums to pop in the middle of a hunt.
Nana picks her stance up, walking around the monster slowly to examine the situation. The Deviljho looks tired as it wheezes, huffing dangerous red and black puffs between its big, sharp teeth. It looks so out of breath. Judging from the damage it sustains, it just fights someone or a group of hunters a while ago. She can see a lot of arrows embedded on its hide, side, tail, even on its head. It's just everywhere.
The blonde knows that she's not the only huntress in such a big area. She also respects hunting ethics.
Never take other hunter's monster, unless allowed.
"I'm not the one to bring the end to your suffering," Nana says before chiding herself. What a waste, talking to dead meat. The monster huffs and gruffs, taking heavy steps towards Nana. She knows that she has two options: fight or run. She will only waste her time if she stays too long. Not that time matters since she's on a personal expedition. Though if she returns earlier, she might be able to use the kitchen.
Nana rolls to the side right before the big monster slams its powerful leg down, shaking the ground and creating a crater as proof of its strength. As expected of the apex predator.
Nana is about to leave when she spots someone appear behind the monster. It isn't aware of the new huntress' appearance yet, but her flailing is distracting and might fish Deviljho's attention.
The huntress simply asks her to buy some time. Nana doesn't want to do that, for real. Her prey is gone, her day is ruined and her disappointment is immeasurable. She doesn't have any reason to listen to her request, and she doesn't know anyone who dresses like a certain exotic gecko. The thing is, the huntress gets that her message is delivered, and Nana doesn’t have a choice but to cooperate despite the minimum information.
"Tch." Nana can't afford to waste more time. She throws some stones at the head, provoking it to pursue her. "Rana, buff."
The smart palico takes out the horn again out of nowhere and starts playing some melodies. It doesn't take long before adrenaline pumps in and every fiber in her body is burning with strength. Unfortunately, the Deviljho doesn't appreciate music.
It takes a deep breath, standing up on its hind legs tall, a familiar gesture for a big attack. Nana reads its movement, quickly swiping her Palico up and jumps behind a huge tree. She gets behind it right, shields her fluffy companion tightly in her arms, and braces for the powerful dragon breath to shower them…
But nothing occurs.
Deviljho's attack never comes. Instead of the destructive dragon’s breath, a strong tremor shakes the ground. As if a very old, giant tree has fallen.
Cautiously, Nana takes a peek from behind her temporary cover only to see the Deviljho laying down on the ground. It curls comfortably, snore vibrates the air around them as it sleeps.
Just what in the...
Nana raises one of her blades to the source out of instinct, earning a surprised yelp. It's the huntress she sees sneaking behind the monster. Knowing that the huntress isn't a threat, she lowers her blade. "You drugged it."
The huntress nods. Of course, she does. Nana will not run from monsters until she has to, and she's not the type to use status-inducing items. Nana keeps an eye on the sleeping monster, wary as it can wake up any time.
"Got bombs?" Nana asks casually. The huntress faces her, yet Nana can't read her face as the hoodie covers most of her head.
"We can kill it faster if we blast the head when it's unconscious."
Attacking an unconscious monster will damage it even more. For someone like Nana, this is a perfect opportunity to quickly end the monster's misery. She opens her backpack to look for her bomb, only to be halted.
"W-wait!" The huntress holds Nana's wrist on the place firmly, her dread in her voice stops Nana on her track. "I'm not planning to kill it."
Her hearing is still good, isn't it? She doesn't just hear the huntress not to kill it, right?
"You're… not killing it." Nana repeats. The hooded figure nods, affirming the statement. Not killing it? Is that even an option? If it is, then it's a ridiculous one. Even Rana gives the girl a weird look.
"You're not after the carved goods?" Nana frowns in confusion. As long as she lives, people have been killing monsters. Her mentors teach her how to effectively end a monster's life, where to attack, each monster's breakable parts, and their weak points. As far as she knows, hunting, killing, and carving are the ways hunters and huntresses live.
In her commission, that is. Known as the black commission, one which strayed from the original purpose, and backed by mafia and smugglers. Filled with people who mostly kill for entertainment, crazy researchers, and even criminals. Living in the headquarters is proven to be harsh and cruel. Nana won't call herself lucky to be able to survive there for a long time, under the pressure of tyrants and psychos. But she lives through it and became a part of them. What a bad place to live your life.
For some unknown reason, the official constitution rarely press charges to unlicensed hunters, but they won't stay silent if the black commissions stir up troubles and disturb the messed up ecosystem than it already is.
The shorter girl retracts her hand as she walks passing the tall huntress, slipping into her front pocket to pull something out. Nana stays and watches the peculiar huntress. It's her monster. It's her target. Nana doesn't have the right to choose what to do to it.
The huntress tightens her scarf to her nose before throwing whatever is in her hand twice to the ground. Reddish smoke blasts out from the impact with subtle pops, wafting in the air before it's gone not long after. Nana inhales some of the smoke, before moving out swiftly and away from the smoke. The tranquilizer is very strong, enough to knock a monster out cold in less than a minute. If Nana stays there longer than a few seconds, she will pass out. Rana sniffs the smoke and is knocked out for good immediately.
After the smoke is gone, the huntress throws a metallic device from her front belt to the ground. It immediately zaps the Deviljho awake. Nana watches in boredom as the monster limps down and continues its disturbed rest.
The huntress reached for a flare gun on her side and shoots it. Greenish smoke trails behind the flare, flying high into the sky. Nana watches the spark of the fire lighting up the sky above them briefly. It's like the SOS flare, but slightly different.
"Okay, hunt success." The huntress pulls her scarf down, taking a deep breath before sighing in relief. It doesn't seem to be suffocating, but Nana is sure that it is still annoying. "Let me share some of the bounties with you. You've helped me, after all."
"Bounty? What can you get from a sleeping monster other than their dung and loud snores?" Nana's eyebrows knit together in confusion. They just captured a monster. It's not like they will carve the creature alive. She has seen some research maniacs do that, and those are honestly disgusting. The huntress gives her a surprised look, clearly not expecting to hear such response and sarcasm.
'Maybe she's from the other commission. A legal one. Damned normies .' Nana thinks to herself.
"For starters, money. We will get money, and followed with items. The commission will reward us the items according to what kind of monster we captured."
Nana dusts her leg armor, sensing the weight of the huntress' stare on her back as she tries to figure out the meaning behind Nana's evident confusion. For a skilled huntress, the blonde knows little about the world outside killing monsters. She has the skills, yes, but it might be dangerous if her hunting motivation turns from survival into killing for fun and sports. Even if she works under an illegal commission which operates with insane ethics, Nana still has her ideals.
A flock of Mernos flies down carrying people Nana has never seen before, confirming her suspicion. As the blonde thinks, the huntress comes from another place. One of them approaches the huntress and hands her two bags of goods. She checks on the contents before nodding off. The newcomers then start taking care of the sleeping monster.
Nana watches the scene in front of her without much interest. She can see both humans, wyverians, and palicoes working together to prep the Deviljho onto a platform attached to the Mernos flock. They're going to transport it by flying it to their base, Nana assumes. One of the wyverians seems to be jotting down notes after poking and touching the monster eagerly.
"We rarely kill monsters, but there are times where we have to step in and reduce their population by harsh means to keep the ecosystem stable. But when reducing population is not necessary, we will capture some monsters and study them. Monster carcass can offer so much, but living creatures will give better and more accurate results." The huntress fixes her glasses with her knuckle. She must have meant the hunters and huntress who work for the official commissions since she has never even considered not killing them in the first place.
Nana shrugs. What a nerd. To hell she cares what they're doing to it, alive or dead. She lives to kill so she can eat and sleep with a roof above her head, not to find out how old the monster is, what its gender is, and other unimportant stuff. That kind of information is as good as trash. All she wants to do now is to get the money and go home.
"Here you go."
Nana snatches one of the bags from the archer's hand and for a second her balance shifts. She doesn't expect it to be heavy, since the huntress is holding it casually like it weights equal to 5 mega potions or so. The blonde gently sets the bag down, curious about the content.
The huntress might be making a mistake, or she's feeling considerate. Or shaming her for whatever reason. Nana earns half of the total rewards of the quest, both money and materials. There are also rare items included. By far, this is the most she earns from a single hunt. Usually, she has to go on a hunt that requires her to do various tasks, like killing, carving, and bringing the goods fresh. From multiple monsters in one hunt.
Two things run in Nana's head. Either the black commission she's been living with is running out of patrons, or whichever commission the huntress serves is generous. She should stop listening to those drunkards' biased stories about their pitiful old life after quitting the official commission and joining the black one.
Presented with the number of rewards she earns and the little work she has to do, Nana's brain cogs start to turn slowly.
Maybe she has to leave that shitty place, move out, and become the normies she detests if that means she will finally earn the payment she deserves. No. She has to move out.
"Which commission do you serve, and which fleet do you belong to?" Nana is focusing on tying the bag close as she asks, trying to sound uninterested despite her curiosity.
"I work under Seisho's wings, and I belong to the 99th fleet," the archer answers immediately. She doesn't really care about the news, so she doesn't even know any fleet after hers exist. About Seisho, she has never heard of any research commission under the name Seisho, so it must be a small, unrecognized one. Nana hoists the bag upon her shoulder before facing the archer and properly takes in her features.
Emerald orbs glinting behind the glasses, the sweat beads dusting her small nose and cheeks, pair of thin lips tinted with red parts slightly without her knowledge. Purplish hair gathered and tied in a side ponytail, her bangs cover a portion of her eyes until she brushes them to the side. She looks like a nerd, yeah.
"What about you?" The archer asks.
"96th fleet." Nana shrugs, sparing little to no information about where she works at. The stranger doesn't need to know.
Nana takes another glance at the huntress to check on something. She deducts that they're around the same age. Either she's an early bloomer or the archer's a late one. One thing for sure is that there is a clear difference between their experience. Nana has been hunting for 3 years, surviving a long period in the hellish place she calls home. The amount of violence and danger she faces on daily basis boosts her adaptability and pain tolerance.
She's not only good at beating monsters but also fighting humans and wyverians. In a place where privacy matters so little and crime is an order, she has to defend herself and suspect everyone.
"I see. Um...," The archer looks behind at the newcomers. Seems like they have finished securing the sleeping ancient monster and are ready to return. Nana is impressed at their great team-work.
"Thank you again for your help. I should get going now." The huntress bows down deeply. Her glasses slide down her nose bridge a little. Nana shrugs, picking up her still asleep palico, and walks to the opposite way of where the archer is going. She needs no thanks. It won't give her money, food, materials, and potentially a good fight. Her hand is itchy because she doesn't get to kill anything that day. But it's fine. She has something to do later once she returns to her commission.