Son of the Hunter
For such a small girl, Nymira certainly was strong. She managed to pull me all the way from my house to the Honey Drop without letting up or stopping to rest at all. The entire experience made me very glad that fairies weren't a monster in Teios that we had to hunt.
Sarah was still behind the counter when we walked in, but now she was accompanied by at least two other baristas. She smiled at the both of us as Nymira came up to her, chuckling when she saw the vice grip the fairy had on my arm.
"I would congratulate you on finding your friend, Adam, but it looks like she found you!"
Both of the girls started laughing, leaving me to just sigh and reevaluate my life. Suddenly I was jerked to the side as Nymira pulled me to her, and she put her arm around mine.
"Let me tell you, sister, I was so sad that Adam didn't recognize his old high school friend. It hurt, so I told him he owed me a date! Of course, he was all too happy to oblige." The disguised fairy gave Sarah, and I think I heard a low snicker as well. Sarah held up a finger and turned to another customer calling for her attention, and I nudged Nymira.
Immediately, I yanked my arm away from her, but lowered my voice in the hopes that Sarah wouldn't hear. "What are you talking about?! This was your ide–"
Unfortunately, an elbow to the ribs prevented me from continuing. "Play along, idiot!" Nymira quickly put a smile back on as Sarah turned back to us with a pen and notepad.
"So, what will you two be getting?"
Nymira turned to me, but I was honestly drawing a blank. After a moment, she pulled my down low enough to whisper in my ear. "Adam! You're supposed to ask the lady what she wants!"
I narrowed my gaze at her and whispered back. "How am I supposed to know that?"
"Ugh, this is gonna be a tough job. Just ask."
She let me go, and I just kind of rubbed the back of my neck. "Uh… so… what do you want?"
The fairy set her chin in her hand and propped her elbow in her other hand. "Hm… give me a caramel latte with whipped cream. A small order of biscuits, too."
The sound of pen scribbling on paper made me realize just how quiet this place actually was before nine in the morning. Sarah then turned to me with one brow raised. "Same as always."
I just gave her a nod. "Same as always. Thank you."
Sarah nodded back and took the sheet was writing on off the pad. She then handed it to one of the guys behind her before working on what I assumed was my order, considering she didn't write mine down.
Nymira leaned close to me, lowering her voice to a whisper again. "I gotta admit, Sarah here is most definitely a candidate I considered. You two would be a great match, hoo boy."
Now it was my turn to elbow her. "Sarah's a friend, nothing more. Other people have already made that suggestion, and I told them the same thing I just told you."
She simply sighed. "How do you expect me to hook you up with someone if you don't cooperate?"
"How do you expect me to cooperate with you trying to hook me up with someone I'm not interested in?"
She gave a loud "Ugh" and turned away from me, crossing her arms. "You're lucky I'm patient or I'd drop you right now. You really need to learn, though, or every date you go on will be a disaster."
"Nice to know you have so much faith in him." This time both my and Nymira's faces went red as Sarah approached us with my coffee. Not long after, the employee she had given Nymira's order to tapped her shoulder, handing her a small plate. With a smile, she set the tray holding Nymira's order in front of us.
The fairy carefully picked it up, and not so carefully grabbed my arm in her other hand. She pulled me to one of the booths near the windows, tossed me in the seat, and sat down across from me.
We sat there in complete silence for what felt like hours, though it was probably just a minute or two at most. Nymira then furrowed her brow and looked up at me.
"What are you doing? This is a date! You need to talk to your date!"
As much as I wanted to say something, words had become a rare commodity in my mind, so instead I just sat there with my mouth open. In the hopes of not looking as stupid, I took a few sips from my coffee cup. Of course, watching Nymira slap her forehead told me my efforts were in vain.
"Look Adam, I know this shit isn't easy, but at least try to work with me. What do you even know besides fighting monsters? Do you have any hobbies that I don't already know about?"
She took one of the biscuits on the small saucer and tossed it in her mouth, which I took as her telling me to answer. "I guess? You already figured out that I like playing video games and working out." After a quick pause, I chuckled a little. "That is a weird sentence, if you think about it."
Nymira began giggling as well, taking a sip of her coffee when she calmed down. "It really is. See, you can be funny. We both know you're awkward as hell, but don't think about how afraid you are or how weird it is when you talk to girls. Focus on your strengths. You're a doof, but you're not a complete doof."
I rolled my eyes and narrowed my gaze at her. "Gee, thanks. I feel so much better now."
She, in turn, narrowed her gaze at me. "Leave the sarcasm to me, champ. Look, just start by asking me something. Anything you want to know? But make sure it's not just to me, but about me. Girls like to see that you want to know them."
"If you say so." My only reaction was to shrug. Nymira was a woman, and I wasn't, and while she also was apparently some magical love fairy, chances were she still knew more about females than I did.
"So… where are you from? Any place I would actually know?"
She slowly shook her head and munched on another biscuit. "All fairies are from Sky Garden. I doubt you've ever heard of it; it's not exactly common knowledge among humans. What about you?"
That one caught me off guard. I honestly wasn't expecting her to ask me about myself as well. "I'm from Georgia. Savannah, specifically."
As soon as I said that, Nymira began to nod. "So that's where that accent of yours comes from. I knew you sounded more like a southerner."
"How would you even know that?"
The fairy closed one eye, pointing at me. "I've had a lot of… I guess I could call them clients? Would clients work even if they don't pay me? Anyway, yeah, I've helped out people from all over the world, so I've learned a thing or two."
"Uh huh. So, what do I do now?"
Again with the forehead slapping. "If a question dead ends like that, ask something else. Make conversation is, without a doubt, the best way to build a relationship with someone. This applies to any kind of interaction as well, not just dates."
Nymira began swirling her coffee around in her cup before grabbing the last biscuit. "To be fair, though, you derailed this train by asking what to do next."
The only thing I could do was sigh. "Well… you already asked me. Do you have any hobbies, or do you immediately move on to another person once you're done 'helping' another?"
She covered her mouth with her hand, doing some kind of vertical flapping with her other. "I do, actually. I may not look it, but I'm way into art. Not only that, but exploration. Hell, while you were off hunting or whatever, I may or may not have taken a walk around the beach."
After rubbing the back of my neck, I nodded a little. "This around the time of year the beach starts getting really nice. I'd also recommend the park a few blocks down the road from here as well if you like taking walks."
Nymira leaned forward, setting her elbows on the table so she could rest her chin in her hands. "See, that was good. You not only gave me a quick response, but you sounded confident and genuinely interested in what you were saying. What makes doing that all the time so difficult?"
Yet again, I simply sighed. "I don't know. The only thing I can think of is that… I'm so afraid of looking dumb that I spend more time thinking of what not to do. Like this morning, when you came up to me, I tried not to look at your because I didn't want you to think I was creeping."
Nymira shook her head again. "You need to change the way you think. I'll say it again: focus on your strengths. I can already tell that you're the kind of person who can talk for ages about something they know. In fact, I can prove it."
I raised my brow at her and crossed my arms. "Is that so?"
"It is so. Do something for me, Adam. Tell me all about Hunters and what it is you do. Every detail you can think of."
Again I was caught off guard. "Uh… really? It's kind of complicated."
She simply shrugged. "I'm not dumb, you know. Just start talking."
After another sigh, I gave her a nod. "Basically, there are two worlds: Keios and Teios. Keios is the world we're in right now, i.e. the human world. Teios is the world of monsters. Scattered around both worlds are small links where they both meet, which we call 'Walls'. If monsters get too close, they can wander through these Walls and come into our world, but for reasons people are still researching, humans can only enter through the epicenter of the Walls."
As I spoke, I noticed Nymira seemed intently focused on me. I don't think I saw her blink until I paused. Once she nodded, I took that as an indicator to continue.
"We build 'Lodges' around these epicenters, and the Lodge workers are in charge of preparing a Hunter's gear and giving them their contracts. Hunters can go to the Lodges of their own volition, but also those working at a Lodge can call one or more Hunters if they feel there's danger in Teios."
I paused again and waited, but this time she spoke. "Sounds neat, honestly. Go on."
Before speaking, I took a few sips of my coffee. "Once a contract is taken, it's a Hunter's job to go through the Wall and either capture or slay the monster or monsters in question. We've also managed to control where these walls take us with a process we call 'Honing'. A Wall that hasn't been Honed could take you to a random location in Teios, but a Honed Wall can be configured to take you to certain destinations. I'm no' sure how it works, myself."
I stopped for a third time to finish my drink and rubbed the back of my neck. "That's about it."
A smile formed on Nymira's lips as she winked at me. "See, you do have the communication skills when the subject is something you know about. You maintained eye contact, you didn't stutter at all, and you were even polite enough to stop and make sure I was following."
She saw me opening my mouth, but started wagging her finger before I could speak. "I know what you're going to say, and I get that it's hard to talk like that in all situations. Think about this, though: the fact that you can do it at all means you're capable of doing it in all situations."
"Yeah…." My tone was so flat you could've balanced an egg on it. "I know, I know, it's all a matter of how I think. I've heard it all before." I took a glance at my phone, standing up when I saw the time. "Look, Nymira, I need to go. I've still got time, but I don't want to push it and end up being late."
As I stood, so did the fairy. She followed me to the counter, but didn't say a word. Even after I had paid and was walking through the door, she maintained her silence and walked behind me. With every passing moment, I began shaking a little more and even ended up biting my lip after a time. Eventually Nymira put off another blinding light, and reverted back to her fairy appearance.
"I'm going with you, regardless. First off, you don't just leave a date like that. Second off, it's my job to help you find a date, and I'll be damned if I leave you alone before I succeed. I'll turn you into a social butterfly, and then into a babe magnet. Wait and see."
I just rolled my eyes and kept walking. "What are people going to think when they see you?"
She giggled and picked up her pace, floating alongside me. "Oh, I've hidden myself from everyone but you. They can't see or hear me, which lets me give you advice whenever you need it."
"Great. I've always wanted my imaginary friends to come to life." The sarcasm was so thick you could've cut it with a knife. Judging by her laugh, however, Nymira thought it was funny.
The fitness center was just a block or two away, but it was one of the buildings on the right side of the road, putting it right against the shore. Quite a bit of the silver building was glass, and many people could be seen on the various machines inside. I chuckled a little when I saw the sign next to the front door. A bipedal bulldog had its arms crossed, and next to it were the words "Walker's Gym". I always thought the sign was cool.
After walking in, I scanned the first room until I spotted a tall, mustached man with a whistle around his neck and arms and legs as thick as tree trunks. He was talking to a girl I'd never seen before. Long, dark hair, blue eyes, tan skin. Looking at her brought the same feeling that I had felt when Nymira first approached me, and I was only brought back to reality after hearing a whistle from the fairy herself.
"Well, well, well, hottie alert. How did this one slip under my finely tuned radar? And damn, I would kill to have boobs like hers any day."
It was near impossible to resist slapping my own forehead, but I managed someone. As I approached the man, he looked up and pointed at me, and the woman he was talking to turned as well.
I waved to them both, but strongly hoped we would be introduced without me having to initiate. "Hey, Simon. I know you said you wanted to talk to me about something, so I'm sorry if I'm late."
Simon let out a hardy laugh that echoed through the fitness center. "You're never late, champ. In fact, you're right on time." My instructor gave the woman a pat on the back. "You've been doing extremely well here, Adam, so I thought you might like to try a bit of instructing yourself. I already went ahead and talked to this young lady, and she was all too willing to sign on."
Before I could say anything, the woman held her hand out to me and flashed a bright, friendly smile. "Nice to meet you! My name's Leila, Leila Dolosa. Simon's told me a lot about you."
As I reached out to shake her hand, Nymira gave me a nudge. "Sweet! With your awkwardness, you couldn't ask for a better setup! Not only do you have me, but you also have this big guy as a crutch until you can handle Leila here on your own."
Had I not known nobody else could see her, I probably would've told Nymira to shut up. Instead, I just ignored her. "It's a p-pleasure, Leila. I'm Adam. A-Adam Delvin."
Simon put a hand on both of our shoulders and let out another laugh. "What's the matter, bud? You nervous. Don't worry, I'm here to help. And you don't need to ask; I know being a Hunter means you get called away completely at random. Leila and I already have a plan for when that happens."
I chuckled nervously, rubbing the back of my head. "That's good to hear…. I'm sorry you had to make extra arrangements, though."
The big man shook his head and released both me and Leila. "Don't be. You gotta do what you gotta do, and what you gotta do is hunt monsters. Anyway, I've got to get going and help out another member who really doesn't know what he's doing. I'll see you two later."
We both waved at him as he walked away, but only Leila spoke up. "Goodbye, Simon, and thank you!" Once he was gone, she faced me and clapped a little. "Adam, I can't thank you enough for helping me. My workout routine fell apart for a while, but now that my son has start school, I can get it back on track!"
All I did was nod as I tried to think of a suitable response. Suddenly I felt another tap on my shoulder and looked over at the fairy who was right in my face. "Did she say son? Oh man, looks like we got a baby mama. That could be good for you, actually. I'd bet you anything she's looking for a nice guy to help her with the drama of having a kid. Come on, champ, you can do this."
This time I really did want to respond, but Leila quickly grabbed my attention again. "So… I already discussed the routine I wanted to start with Simon, but he said there were preparations I had to go through?"
After clearing my throat, I nodded at her. "Y-Yeah. If you've not been exercising regularly for a while, you can't just jump back into your old system. Start small and slow, easing your body back into the way you used to do things. As with any physical activity, I strongly advise you do stretches first, and then maybe some time on one of the treadmills to get you ready."
She nodded back at me and looked around at the room. "That sounds good to me. I've already done my stretches with Simon, and you came in right as we finished, so I think we're good to go."
A small mumble escaped me, but beyond that I just turned and nodded. There weren't many treadmills being used, so I lead Leila to the one closest to us. There were various buttons and a large screen on the front of it, but luckily we didn't need to worry about them at the moment. I did draw her attention to them, though.
"See all these? You can use the buttons to customize the elliptical and emulate different environments. However, there's a low, medium, and high setting that kind of automatically combines different settings, and I'd suggest we start with that. You said you've worked out before, so go ahead and try medium. I'll write down some results after a while, and we'll go from there."
"Sounds great to me. You really sound like you know what you're doing." Leila chuckled to herself as she pressed the button to begin her walk. Her comment left me with a bright red face that I had to turn away from her in order to hide.
Of course, I got a face full of fairy once I did. "You're doing great! Yeah, you've stuttered a few times, but you're talking to her! And did you hear what she said? You do sound like you know what you're talking about. This is good, this is good. Now, remember what I said. Ask her something about herself to break the ice."
After a quick shake of my head and a quiet groan, I turned back to Leila and froze. To be honest, I was terrified of asking her anything, so I decided to go for something she already told me.
"So… you mentioned having a son?"
Leila bobbed her head up and down, picking up her pace a tad. "I do! Mateo's three now, so I've got him starting preschool. You've got to get that early start, you know?"
I chuckled a little. Honestly, I wanted to see Nymira's face to my response. "That's true. I took care of baby, once. Not a human, but teaching was still important. I've watched my younger cousin's before, too. I… I-I'd like to think I'm good with kids, I guess."
Leila raised her brows and her eyes widened a little. "Oh, do you mean like, a puppy or something along those lines?"
"Uh…." After scratching the back of my head, I rubbed my rather hairy chin and tried to laugh. "Not exactly, but… that's another story for another day."
The woman started laughing as well, running a hand through her long, gorgeous hair. "That's alright. I'm sure you've got all kinds of crazy stories, being a Hunter and all."
With a nod, I looked over and checked the numbers her machine was showing. "You're doing really well, Leila. I think you'll like it here."
"You think so? I enjoy working out as a way to relax, and believe me, with Mateo and my job, stress can really build up."
This time I was in full agreement with her and found laughing along with Leila much easier. "I hear that. What is it you do, if you don't mind me asking?"
As I looked over, Nymira's jaw looked like it was about to hit the floor. However, when she saw me, she gave me a thumbs up and a wide grin. The fairy then motioned towards Leila so I would look back at her.
"Did you hear me? You look like you're lost."
I jumped a little when she said that, and was forced to shake my head. "Sorry, I do have just a little on my mind. What did you say?"
Leila slowly shook her head with a smile. "No problem, it happens to all of us. I work at the Surf n' Sand not too far from here. I'm usually in charge of the clothing department, but sometimes they ask me to work one of the registers."
I opened my mouth, but a loud buzzing and a loud, quick beeping noises blared from my phone. My eyes widened as I took it out and saw the word "BREACH" where the caller I.D. would be. Biting my lip, I looked up at Leila.
"I'm really sorry, but I need to go. I-I-I think you're good now… m-maybe go see Simon?"
By now I was slightly panicked as I looked around. Leila turned off the treadmill, stepping down and looking at my phone. "Is everything okay?"
All I could do was shake my head. "A monster has made its way to this world. I need to go and take care of it before it hurts someone."
A loud screech interrupted me, and various screams from outside prevented me from continuing. I looked out of one of the windows to see beachgoers running from a massive, yellowish raptor. Its coloring, size, and the purple sac under its jaw immediately told me that this was a Great Wroggi.
I turned to Leila, but also started making my way to the door. "I have to go now! That thing can spit poison, and if anyone gets caught in its toxic clouds, it will be very bad news."
Her upturned brows and frantic pacing made me think Leila was now panicking too, which was the exact opposite of what I wanted. "Is there anything I can do?"
"There is, actually. Tell anyone you can to get out of here and find a safe place, but do not get near that thing."
She nodded quickly and started gathering everyone who wasn't already clamored around the window. Once I left, my only option for fighting was the carving knife I always had with me. That is, until I remembered my friend.
"Nymira, I'm skilled, but I'm not that skilled. I can't take this thing on with just my knife. Please, can you hurry and bring me my sword? You know where it is."
Without hesitation, the fairy nodded and took off. As she flew, I ran out to the beach, grabbed a seashell someone must have dropped, and threw it as hard as I could at the Wroggi. "Hey! Over here, come pick on someone with a slightly better size ratio." Okay… I admit, that was a lame thing to say. However, it did get the beast's attention, which is what I wanted.
As it turned, the shell smacked it right between the eyes. It let out a loud screech and charged right at me. Just knowing it was fixated on me now as opposed to some innocent civilian made me able to relax a bit more. When it came to dealing with the Wroggi, my main concern was the poison sac on its neck. As long as it could still create poison, it was an even bigger threat to the area than a regular Jaggi would've been.
As for dealing with it, all I could really do was move around and avoid it whenever the Wroggi tried to hit me, and take a stab or two when it left itself open. Staying in front of it was a bad idea, but I did try to slide by and attack in the hopes of cutting out, or at least damaging the poison sac. Eventually I did manage to stab it once, but was forced to jump away before the monster spun around to smack me with its tail.
Unfortunately for me, Wroggis are smarter than your average bear. Right after it spun, it flew around in the opposite direction and slammed in in the shoulder with its tail. The hit sent me flying into some poor child's sand castle, and I would have felt terrible were I not distracted. Before I could get up, the Wroggi jumped on me, and I was forced to roll side to side between its legs to keep it from chomping my head off.
After one of its dives, I did the most honorable thing in the history of combat; I threw sand in its eyes. The creature raised its head and screeched again, giving me the opportunity to stab its poison sac and cut it open. Luckily for me, it wasn't readying up a poison cloud, or I'd have gotten a face full of the stuff. With the monster now blinded and in extreme pain, it was easy to kick it off of me.
Now that it was on the ground, I took the opportunity to jump on it and sink my knife into its back and sides as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, the Wroggi managed to throw me off when it got up, and from its posture I could tell it was going to pounce on me again. I saw it jump, but an impact never came. Instead, a blur of brown slammed into the Wroggi's chest, knocking it on the ground. The blur turned out to be the wood of my sword's sheath, but the blade was missing.
However, a tap on my shoulder caught my attention, and the blade was shoved into my hands by a panting, red-faced fairy as I turned around. "This thing… is heavy," she said between huffs.
Were the situation different, I probably would have laughed, but with the sounds of a tired Wroggi running towards me, I didn't have time for comedy. I waited just long enough for it to get close, then spun around to deliver a nice cut across its left shoulder and chest. Evidently, it still wasn't enough to stop the monster from head-butting me; clearly monsters retained their toughness even in Keios.
As hard as the head-butt hit, it wasn't enough to knock me over, which made me able to swing at the creature again. This time the blade was buried deep in the Wroggi's neck, ending its life. Even weaker monster like the Great Jaggi and its cousin had to be worn down before their hide could be pierced, but this one had finally reached its limit. I, myself, was a little winded as well, having to lean on my sword to keep from falling over.
I swayed against my sword and tried not to fall. Nymira had taken on her human disguise again, but I think I heard at least four different voices call my name. With a loud huff, I felt myself falling forward, but was suddenly propped up again with the help of Nymira and Wes, both of whom had one of my arms over their shoulders.
"Sorry I'm late, man. I wanted to grab my bowgun but it looks like I was just a little late." I could see the big guy scratching the back of his head, as he often did when he was embarrassed.
Not only was Wes now here, but I could see Sarah, Simon, and Leila now making their way towards me too. They must have been the ones calling my name. Now all five of them were simultaneously attempting to ask if I was okay, but there was honestly only one thing I cared about. Everyone fell silent as I turned my gaze towards Leila and opened my mouth.
"Leila, nobody else got hurt, right?"
She slowly nodded in response, and I saw Sarah walk past me with her phone out. "Thank goodness the Great Wroggi didn't poison anyone…."
Wes and Nymira let go of me after I stood up straight, and Wes turned to Sarah at almost the exact same time I did. "Sarah, how do you know what this thing is?" he asked.
Our friend jumped a little, shoved her phone in her pocket, and spun back around to face us with the straightest face I'd ever seen. "Well, I remember Adam loaning me a book on monsters once, because I was curious about what you guys actually did. The Great Wroggi was like, one of the first entries in it. I read a few others, but they got progressively scarier so I just gave it back."
After a scratch of my chin, I nodded to her. "Oh yeah, I do remember that. It was a while ago, though. I'm surprised you remembered, to be perfectly honest." Turning around, I picked up my sword along with its sheath and slid the blade back into it.
Sarah just shrugged. "I usually retain information very well if I'm interested in the subject, and I do find these monsters interesting."
I shrugged right back at her, looking up at Wes. "Are we gonna take anything or just wait for it to dissolve?"
Nymira and Leila both raised their brows when I said that, but Leila spoke first. "Dissolve? What's that supposed to mean?"
I opened my mouth, but Wes managed to beat me to the answer. "For some reason, the monsters we fight don't leave corpses behind unless killed by another monster. After a while they just kinda… fade away. We're not sure why; a lot of things in our line of work are still a mystery."
As he spoke, I reached up and patted his shoulder. "One day everything will be figured out. I know it."
Sarah clapped her hands together before running one through her hair. "I can't wait for that day to come. It will be so neat!"
We all turned as Simon's signature laugh echoed through the air. The old man had his arms crossed, his eyes closed, and the biggest smile I'd ever seen. "Stuff like this is why I put you in charge of Leila's fitness training. Anyone fit enough to take down monsters has gotta be doing something right!"
Once he said that, I started laughing along with him and pointed his way. "Hey, let's not forget the guy who helped me get this way."
The old man gave me a strong pat on the back that was more like a smack, and it sent me tumbling down into the sand again. "Adam down." Luckily, I was able to lift myself up without help, though I did see at least three of the others stooping down to try.
After standing and brushing the sand off of my clothes, I turned to the dead Wroggi and then to my friends. "So… who wants to get back to their regularly scheduled day?"