It has been 2 months since her arrival at Seisho. A lot of things happened in such a short span.
People are very nice. She's relatively new in the area, yet people treat her as their own as if she's been living there for years instead of months. Most of them are polite, educated people despite being a hunter or a huntress. They won't bother you out of respect. Nobody will threaten you for additional bounty rewards. Nobody steals what you have, nobody beats anyone in public. All is well organized, and the rules are fair and just.
Still, she can sniff the fear out of them. The earned respect will not erase the fact that she came from a shady place, a place that tainted the image of hunters and huntresses.
It's very different from her old place.
She can still remember that wherever she goes, she would always have her blades ready. She brings little money, and will always wear a cloak wherever she goes. The old days still haunt her, where nobody could get away without paying living tax. The jobs are always shady, dealing with hard monsters with low rewards as the payments. If you're lucky, you get to keep what you've earned. If you're unlucky, you crawl back to your hiding place covered in wounds from both the monster you've killed and the people who robbed your loots away.
She's could live outside the area and into the habitat, but it would be a stupid idea. No roof, no walls, no warmth, no protection. Those street thugs could kill her in her sleep, and nobody would care.
One could say that this is a culture shock. How can she not? She just moved from dirty slums in the middle of nowhere to the luxurious fortress under the official commission. Just like how they're afraid of her, she has high suspicion of everyone who comes and talks to her. You can never know when they will stab you in the back, or use you as fodder however nice people can be. Their true self can be nastier than an agitated Odogaron.
There are exceptions though. Only one person who dares calls her with her given name in such a friendly manner, despite not having a clear established relationship label between them. The blonde can't even remember when they exactly become friends, or it is for the caller. The term friend certainly doesn't exist in Nana's head.
Nana looks up to a bouncy brunette approaching her. The energetic huntress, Aijou Karen. Behind the girl, her handler follows. The kind handler Tsuyuzaki Mahiru. Karen and Mahiru met in hunter training school. They became friends ever since, with Mahiru following and lending a hand to Karen who would always get herself in trouble.
Judging from the anxiousness on both of their faces, something must be wrong. Nana purses her lips. Looks like unwanted trouble. So much for a peaceful morning. "...yes?"
Karen pauses in front of her, sweating bullets and heaving heavily. "Have you... Seen Hikari-chan today?"
"No, I haven't," Nana answers curtly.
The reserved huntress, Kagura Hikari. Karen's childhood friend, separated when they're still young under the promise to defeat the strongest monster in the world together. Karen had her tearful reunion with Hikari at Seisho. That time Karen got injured after hunting, so she didn't do any hunts for a while. Mahiru became Hikari's temporary handler until Karen was fully recovered. Until Karen recovered, turned into an indefinite period. Mahiru didn't mind doing two people's work as she eventually fell in love with her two friends, and both huntresses love their handler back. A weird relationship indeed.
Mahiru starts to fidget, sweat rolls down her forehead as she avoids the sharp stare of the blonde. Clearly intimidated by her presence. Karen, on the other hand, doesn't notice the tense atmosphere and gets in a panicked fit.
"Do you need anything from me?" Nana asks. She doesn't know why they approach her. Must have run out of people to go for because she knows that they come to her only as a last resort.
"Hikari-chan disappears!" Karen whimpers.
Oh, so that's what it's all about.
Now that the brunette mentions it, she doesn't see the black-haired huntress with them. Or anywhere near them, which is strange. Karen will follow wherever Hikari go, and the same applies to Hikari. It has been their routine, making the sight of Karen running alone without Hikari a rare one.
It doesn't have anything to do with her at all.
"She must have gone somewhere without telling me. W-we should ask the others." Mahiru tugs on Karen's shoulder, pulling her backward. The thick uneasiness is apparent in her tone, but Nana can't pinpoint whether it's because of her uncaring attitude or Hikari.
Nana hums. Under the span of two months in Seisho, she knows enough that Hikari isn't the kind of girl who goes around without telling anyone, except when she has something in mind.
Karen is getting restless. "But we've asked everyone in Seisho, Mahiru-chan. And nobody has any clue about her!"
Her hypothesis is true. Karen doesn't look like the kind of person who will flee out of random intimidation. The brunette approached her without any second thought, has the guts to call her like they have been friends for a long time, and doesn't hesitate to ask for her help.
Mahiru, on the other hand, clearly shows resistance and great concern. Nana doesn't blame her, really. She prefers to be left alone and not bothered unless it's about her job as a huntress. Her existence in Seisho is to work, not for playing around, let alone acting the role of a good person.
But she will lie if she says that staying for two months in Seisho, surrounded by an advanced community in both morale, technology, and attitude doesn't affect her at all.
Nana blinks. She can't believe that she just called out for her, reaching out for Karen and extending a hand for her. She believes that her head just told her to wish them good luck and hopes for them to find Hikari alive in the wilderness. But those words never come out. Something different does.
Karen quickly turns on her heel and faces Nana. She gets her attention.
"You need to calm down. You can't drag Tsuyuzaki-san anywhere and ask every single person in Seisho. You'll only waste time." She quickly adds.
What is she saying? Why is she speaking all of these? She's not the person who will tell people to calm down. She's the kind of person who will yell for others to stab the monster in the throat quickly.
Why is she offering her help over this tiny matter? That doesn't involve her at all?
"Right right. Gotta think this calmly and slowly." Karen nods as she slows down and comes to a halt after walking in an endless circle, muttering calming words to herself. Mahiru looks more distressed than before.
Nana curses herself in her mind. Somehow she gets herself into trouble. Good job, Nana. She doesn't want to work together with a hyperactive huntress, however good she is in the field and her handler who strongly shows distrust and fear. She doesn't have the patience and the energy to deal with all of these psychological wars between herself and these two people.
What's better than two people hunting together? She herself. Alone as always.
Though in this case, she's as well as waist-deep in the problem. Sucks.
Nana turns to the handler, whose condition isn't any better than the huntress. Mahiru quickly diverts her gaze away.
"Any information about her whereabouts?"
"S-some felynes saw her took a Barnos out for a hunt, but nobody knows w-where." Mahiru stutters, her voice timid and hollow.
Troublesome. This Hikari is being a pain in the ass right now...
"Has she ever mentioned anything about a quest that she wants to take?" Nana shoots another question. Somehow she has to narrow down the location. She can't just investigate every location in a day.
"We've done most of the quests we wanted to take, and we didn't have any further plans," Karen says, fidgeting with the fluffy part of her armor.
Since the quest isn't the issue, then it must be something else. Nana tries to work on anything she can think about. Something like...
"What about her hobby?" Nana murmurs.
"Hobby?" Karen and Mahiru ask in unison. The blonde nods.
"Capturing endemic creatures, picking herbs and plants, or even fishing. Does she has a favorite place or even creature?"
This time they get some progress because Karen yelps loudly. Getting the "aha!" moment. The big smile on her face shows that she might have the answer to the riddle.
"Coral Highlands! Lately, we haven't visited that place because of our jobs and Hikari-chan was very gloomy since she didn't get to see those Flying Meduso! We can find her on the place where there are many of them flying around!"
That's better than any other place really. Even though the endemic creatures are so many, crawling and flying and being annoying everywhere.
"Thanks Nana! Let's go Mahiru-chan!" Karen is now the one dragging Mahiru away, and the handler can finally take a relieved breath.
Nana's job is finished. She manages to crack the case open with a possible answer. Karen is so gleeful, and Mahiru looks so relieved that she can cry at any time. Just how precious Hikari is to them?
Nana has to admit this is the first time she witnesses something like this. The joy of discovery of your lost one. It's not that extreme, but maybe for Karen and Mahiru, Hikari is their family.
The sight is so unfamiliar, it troubles her greatly. Suddenly her curiosity rises from its slumber, knocking at the door of her mind. It wants to know more, to see more of how this event will turn out. The emotion of people who treasure something valuable and irreplaceable. How will they express their feelings after they find out the truth? What are they going to do if Hikari is found lifeless?
For the second time, she reaches out.