Chapter 1: A Jaunt with a Juvenile

"I'll place the trap!" I called out to my fellow hunters as they kept the Khezu busy, dodging its deadly electric attacks.

I quickly knelt, setting the pitfall. Once it was ready I called the other hunters to me. The Khezu slowly stalked over to us as we waited for his foot to trigger our trap. I clenched the tranq bomb in my hand ready for the moment when the huge wyvern would tumble down.

Throwing a bomb, my hunting partner tossed one at the same time. It was an easy success! With a sigh I relaxed jogging out of the caves to mine some ore I saw earlier. Picking up supplies I glanced up to the sky: a mosaic of brushstrokes in blue and grey. Cutting across the canvas streaked a golden form, cutting the stormy blue with its wings huge and glittering, like a many-pointed star. I marvelled at it, never having seen a monster like that before. I watched as it disappeared into the horizon as quickly as it had appeared. Little did I know at the time, but it was none other than a Shagaru Magala that I saw. Little did I know exactly what it meant for a Shagaru to be leaving his territory. My hunter rank was only 2 at the time - I felt on top of the world. I took it as a lucky sign for my hunts ahead.

It was about a year later I begun to hear more about the frenzy virus and how it was effecting the creatures around the area. There was an unprecedented number of Gore Magalas running rampant, and it was slowly becoming a big problem for daily life, trade and the ecosystem as a whole. Though I did want to help the cause, I wasn't looking to be a charity worker. I was after one thing - increasing my HR to get high-level quests, and get lots of zenny of course. I even ended up making a competition with a friend for who could get to higher ranked quests first, and I wasn't in the business of losing.

I accepted a quest to hunt a Tigrex in the Ancestral Steppe, and it was business as usual. I had a team of three - a charge blade user, an archer and myself, the greatsword. We found the Tigrex quickly and begun the slaughter.

I ran around, positioning myself on the cliffs as the wyvern was occupied with the charge blade hunter. I jumped off, drawing the sword and shooting towards him. I misjudged. With a razor fast spin he threw the both of us back. As I struggled up, trying to recover from the strong hit, in another second he was running for the archer. Having also been hit just earlier, he didn't have the time to dodge, and hadn't healed up properly. He disappeared from the battle, notifying us he was abandoning the quest. With a curse from myself, the charge blade user was the next to abandon. I was close to quitting as well, but the Tigrex was starting to look bloodied, and I could tell he was getting tired.

'I have a trap and tranqs on me - if I can hold out for a bit longer I should be okay.' I thought, keeping alert and dodging as he charged me. Slashing at him, I needed to take some potions. I sheathed my sword and reached for a mega potion, thankful for the break in his attacks. I was too late in realizing why exactly the Tigrex was hanging back and giving me a break, making a rookie mistake. Just before gulping down my potion, I guarded with my greatsword at the last second, taking most of the impact of the Tigrex's roar. Even guarding I was still sent stumbling back into a cliff's steep side.

As I struggled back up, he wound up, biting twice. I didn't have enough time to dodge or guard. Teeth struck and I was pushed into the side of the cliff once more. My head smashed against the hard rock and my vision disappeared as I tried to get my bearings. My helmet must have shifted, and I was suffering for it. I stumbled, and I could hear the creature getting ready to attack again, but I couldn't do anything to stop it. I tried feebly to get my sword in front of me, but I was too dizzy and the great weight of the sword threw my balance.

I cowered, waiting for the impact that would most likely kill me. This was what I got for being a greedy hunter.

With a snarling shriek of a roar I felt the wind rushing past me. Finally regaining my eyes and my balance I clutched my sword, pulling out my mega potions.

In front of me a small Gore Magala had jumped on the Tigrex and they were now wrestling. The Tigrex snapped at the dark dragon, or wyvern, or whatever it was classified as, and I gulped down the potions as fast as I possibly could. I couldn't believe my incredible luck!

Revitalized I took stock of inventory. I still had quite a few potions left, and with a quick whetstone against my sword's edge I felt ready to battle again. It was a little more dangerous with the small Gore there, but I wasn't going to pass the chance up. I was going to kill this Tiggy and gloat to all the assholes that abandoned.

Standing back as the two fought, they seemed almost evenly matched. Even though the Tigrex was older and bigger, the Gore was sprightly and aggressive. I let the two fight for a bit, letting them tire. Hopefully one would go to a different area, and it would be easier to hunt after that.

Crouching I watched the Gore begin to tire, wasting his energy on inefficient moves and reacting badly to the Tigrex's battle experience. The tables were slowly turning.

Blasting away the Gore with a ball of rock, the black creature was knocked prone. Not wasting a second, the Tigrex charged, it's claws razor sharp.

The cry of pain that came from the Gore was pitiable. I saw a large gash against his chest and he was breathing heavily. I don't know why I felt so empathetic for a creature like that one – hell, I kill creatures for a living - but before I knew it I was jumping off the cliff, swinging out my greatsword to land a heavy hit on the Tigrex's back. Jumping on, I managed to topple him after grappling and stabbing him with my knife. As he struggled to gain his footing I unleashed a flurry of hard-hitting attacks, soon finishing off what fight the Tigrex had left.

As his last breath left him, I carved various pieces, eventually wandering over to the Gore, who was still emitting a sad, high-pitched whine.

He was curled around his wound, licking it as his dark blood oozed out, his frenzy virus flaring around him. He finally noticed me and took a defensive position, kneeling back on three limbs, ready to strike, but also favouring his right arm. He hissed at me, more a warning than a threat. He wouldn't pose much of a danger right now, especially so wounded. I felt bad. This little gore had saved me - whether he meant to or not - and I felt I owed him something.

Setting my pack down I took out a piece of raw meat, drenching the skin with a megapotion.

I had no idea if it would work but I offered it out for him to take.

He flinched away, hissing as he took another step back.

"Come on, eat it stupid. It'll help you." I didn't have all day to spend with this Gore. I needed to get back to hunting.

"Here."

I tossed the meat over and again he flinched away, baring his teeth and snapping at me. I waited for a good five minutes at least before he realized I wasn't coming closer and finally begun to sniff the meat I tossed over.

Carefully chomping on it, the Gore devoured it rather quickly, looking markedly more calm, but still dangerous now that it was in better health.

I grabbed another from my pack this time inching closer to him and leaving it from my hand.

He moved closer, his virus flaring out around him and his feelers perking up. They floated forwards, concentrating around my form as the virus rushed out to meet me. The purple cloud had a strange feeling to it, but I ignored it. Humans could purge it after a small period of being weaker. Since I was done hunting I figured it would be fine. I shook the raw meat for him to notice it and he took it from my hands, chewing away as I grabbed one more.

I inched closer, wondering just how close I'd be able to get. I offered out the meat again, the Gore this time reaching his head out without any trepidation.

Without even realizing it I reached out slowly, drawn to the jet-black colour of his carapace. My fingertips brushed against his scales, but before I had a chance to even really feel the creature it lashed back at me.

I felt his claws rake against my stomach, sliding beneath my chest plate. A moment later it's tail swung around and struck me to the ground, leaving me dazed for a second time, and bleeding badly from my stomach.

Without another second the Gore was gone, dashing away, it's dark wings following it like a cape.

I cursed my stupidity again, knowing I should have known better. My stomach throbbed with pain, and I felt an uncomfortable tingle at the edges of my wound. Lifting my shirt to inspect it, the black frenzy virus had gathered at the edges of my wound, looking like soot monsters from legends.

Grunting with effort I ripped what I could and made a pathetic excuse for a bandage. It would work until I managed to get back.

"Finally." I muttered stumbling into town. Since I had began my walk my body continued to get more and more warm. By the time I reached the village the wounds in my stomach were throbbing and oozing an odd colour. My head felt hot and I was so thirsty I could hardly bear it.

"Hunter! You've returned!"

I looked up to see a figure headed towards me, but my vision was blurred. I opened my mouth to speak, but instead lost my footing. I tumbled to the ground, struggling to breathe. Was this some virus mutation? Was it stronger than the other Gores? And was it enough to kill me?

A sudden line of fire burned along my stomach and I cried out in pain. I could feel hands around me, and I felt a brief but blessed coolness on my forehead before my vision slowly faded, the last image in my head, that of the small Gore.

It was the beginning of a long journey that I could never have fathomed, even in my wildest of dreams.