Chapter 16: The Blood of a Hunter
Opening the door hit them with a distinct smell. Cheap cigar smoke, mixed with alcohol and sweat, and a little of the bravado from the patrons within. In all her days, Sakuya could never guess this was what the inside of a monster-hunting guild would be, but now that she had seen it, she couldn’t say that she was surprised. It was more of a bar than any other establishments. Floors and tables of dark wood. A counter staffed by a barmaid, who discussed tales of battle with three or so people who sat around it. Sakuya had always thought of a guild as a place for getting jobs and joining organization, but the only thing that alluded to that, was the bulletin on the back walls. With Takeshi, Aeriane, and Jasmine in tow, she walked across the foggy room and took a seat at the counter. The barmaid, a plump woman with braided hair pulled up into a ponytail, turned hazel eyes onto her, and told her with a glance, that she was somewhere she didn't belong.
“What brings you hear, little miss?” She asked, catching a glimpse of Sakuya’s sword before writing her off, after failing to see something else.
“We’re looking for a hunter.” Sakuya replied, and the three patrons at the counter cackled at the thought.
“If you’re looking for someone to share game with, a monster-hunting guild is the worse place to go.” A woman spoke, and shocked Sakuya with the three vertical scars, that graced her visage.
“That’s not what we’re after.” Takeshi replied, half hoping that his familiarity with monsters would gain him a bit of respect. “What we need is some to help us traverse Lazurr’s keep.” He said, and in a shocking turn of events, the room that seemed to never shut up, suddenly went quiet.
“Hmm, you’re asking for a tough job.” The barmaid spoke. “Monster hunters don’t tend to work in groups, but a group of them is what they’d need to traverse that keep.” She said, and Sakuya looked around the room to the many scarred and drunken people, who looked back, visibly considering whether they should take the job.
“You won’t get anyone.” The scarred woman said. “You lack the signs of monster hunting, no scars, and no lost limbs. You might carry a sword, but it’s pointless if you’ve only used it to fight other people.” She explained and Aeriane stepped forward, with her brow furrowed.
“So what you’re telling me is that we don’t look like monster hunters because we aren’t torn to pieces. Maybe we’re good monster hunters.” She barked, and the suddenly silent room, erupted with laughter.
“That’s not how monster hunting works.” A burly man behind her grinned, as he walked up to the bar. In the moment the group tried to take him in, they found their evaluation stopped, as they heard the clank of an iron hand. Their eyes were drawn now, to the artificial limb that rested on the dark wood, before going back to a face ravaged by one long scar, and brown eyes content in the drink he had brought with him.
“There’s no such thing as being a monster hunter without getting a few scars.” He said. “Some of us get them from taking on monsters we have no business going after. Others get them from fighting monsters that were in their league, but were trickier than they thought. Monsters are dangerous creatures, especially the smarter ones.” He explained, and caught the awe in Jasmine’s eye as she watched his iron arm bring his drink to his mouth.
“He’s right.” Takeshi added. “My teacher perfected his style from fighting monsters, and gained several wounds from doing it. When I asked him why he wouldn’t let me train against them, he told that perfecting his style, almost resulted in his death.” He explained, and the people around the counter nodded, all recalling the times they nearly died.
“Is that how you lost your arm?” Jasmine asked, and the man looked at his iron limb, letting its cold grip pull him back through time.
“I was a pretty stupid kid.” He said, and recalled the day. Recalled the cloudy sky, and the trees that stretched higher than any he had ever seen before. Recalled the gun he had at his side, loaded with six shots, and the feel of the paper in his hand, that told him of the C-rank beast he had no chance to capture.
He had only visited the monster-hunting guild once, when he found himself on hard times. His average frame had got him laughter, but not as much as how fair his face was. A handsome youth, he was only sixteen at the time, and the only accomplishments he could say he had was that the girls in his village fell head over heels for him, but he had stepped in the forest to gain another, to slay a red furred beast, that stalked the town nearby.
“I had done a little research about the monster before. It was a pretty big thing, bigger than any of the animals in the area, and almost as if to show that, instead going for the neck it went for the arm.” He started, and recalled how his brown hair had been pulled into a ponytail, and just for safe measures, he had hidden a blade under a white cotton shirt.
He entered the forest with a plan in mind. The beast would charge, and the moment its maul opened to claim his arm, he’d deliver a swift shot and drag its body back for money and respect. It charged, and as he had planned, his gun was ready, but the creature knew his strategy as if it had discussed with him, and quickly gain cover before a shot was made. He was left frantic now, as no back-up plan came to the forefront, and in this fear and confusion, the beast descended from above, and with fangs dug into his shoulder, it slammed him to the ground.
“I screamed as it dug in.” He said, and remembered the mocking maroon eyes that stared at him from his right shoulder. The maroon eyes that told him, it’d let go, and made him almost grateful. Almost, until a talon dug it and tore the flesh with a bit of stir.
“It let me lay there screaming. Just torturing me as if going after it was an insult, I was sure I’d die there. If not from the pain, then from the blood loss, but I managed to change things around.” He could feel the pain in the iron shoulder, and feel the distraught and desire he had. He fumbled for his right hip with his free left hand, and jammed the dagger he drew into the creature eye as it reveled in his torture.
As it reeled back in pain, he fumbled for his pistol, and gave the monster one shot.
“Dead, but not without a cost.” He ended his tale, and once more thought back – back to when he returned to the guild with his arm mutilated beyond belief, and was told it’d need to be amputated because a toxin in the monster’s claws. Jasmine was silent.
“And now he’s one of the most respected hunters in this guild.” The scarred woman said.
“Fine, I’ll admit I was wrong.” Aeriane sighed. “But we still need to get through Lazurr’s Keep.” She pleaded, and the man stroked his chin with his left hand.
“I'm Reginald, andI’ll escort you.” He stood, and the group’s eyes turned to him. “There’s something in Lazurr’s keep I need to go after. I doubt I’ll ever get a better chance to get it, than this.” He said and Sakuya restrained a smile as a secret worry was relieved. “We’ll meet here tomorrow, come with everything you can to prepare.” He ordered, and with that the four were off, back to the inn where they set up, to prepare for whatever the keep would bring…