I couldn’t hear her snoring anymore over the crackling of the little campfire I built. This woman, whether she actually was the wyvern I fought or not, managed to be really loud while she was asleep.
I found us shelter underneath a roof of thick leaves inside of the deeper jungle, hoping that at least in a stormy night like this one, the other monsters would keep to their nests and not bother with us.
Even though I shouldn’t, I had enough stress for one day and tried to regain my stamina by kicking up my feet and relaxing near the fire.
I looked over at my newly found ‘friend’ who was wrapped in a blanket of thinner vines and greenery. Her head was turned my way as her eyes trembled restlessly under her eyelids. She was close enough to the fire to not get cold but I was still worried she might have kept some wounds from our fight. If she really is what I believe she is.
She just kept rolling in her sleep and mumbling inaudible ramblings to herself. I sighed, got off my seat and checked up on the sleeping beauty.
Crouching over her, I notice that she’s drooling and her hair was bundling up from her constant rolling around. I tried to get a good look at her, trying to use the light of the flickering light of the fire while not blocking it with my body.
I ended up in a position where I knelt by her side while leaning my head towards hers.
Her lips were twitching and just by looking at her, I could tell she was having either a bad dream or at least she was fighting something in her mind. The skin on her face was riddled with smaller and broader light scars. Whatever happened before I arrived here, she sure has gotten quite a beating. What if she really was who I think she is? What if I just added to someone who already suffered enough pain.
I pondered to myself as I watched her. The least I could do now was take care of her. My hand almost magnetically found its way to her head, combing through her hair to get it somewhat straight. It was pretty coarse and clumped but the touch of it actually felt kind of nice.
I smiled to myself as I watched her sleeping face crack a small and more relaxed smile.
When I set out to become an ace hunter, I prepared myself to discover a love/hate kind of relationship with the monsters I hunt. Hating them for the troubles and pain that they caused but appreciating them for their role in the ecosystem. Some monsters could very much destroy this world if they felt like it.
With this girl though, I couldnt’t imagine her intentionally harming someone.
When my dad and I moved to the countryside, isolated from many of the larger civilizations, my social life really suffered. I’ve never talked, let alone had a relationship with any girls. Maybe it was one of the reasons I looked forward to talking to this one. How awkward it would be when I actually had to talk to the girl I just stabbed a few hours ago? I had no idea.
I would have to suck it up, I guess.
I got back up to my feet, deciding that I should let her rest for a little bit.
“Ngghhh…” Until I heard her grumbling out of her sleep.
As it actually happened, my heart started beating fast. I was nervous and uncertain which angle I should take when initiating a conversation with her.
I bit down on my lip and steeled myself as I once again turned around to her. Indeed, her eyes flickered open, needing some time to adjust. Even in the dark, I could clearly see her shimmering, golden irises as they narrowed and opened to adjust to the light.
I knelt down, awkwardly rubbing my neck. She didn’t seem to notice me yet but I hoped she could at least hear me. “Are you umm… feeling okay.”
She perked up when she heard my voice and turned her face upwards to look at me. Her eyes glared at me and she almost seemed to hiss at me. “You…” She groaned angrily.
“Yeah… me…” I knew this didn’t bode well.
“What happened…” She tried to get up by herself when her sides began to sting and she held them in pain even though there were hardly any visible wounds there. Maybe it was more of a phantom pain carried over from her former body just like her scars. She collapsed onto the mat of greenery as she inspected her now smaller and more human-like arms.
“What happened to me?” She was still weak and just barely managed to wring the words out.
“Trust me, I wish I could give you a better answer other than stating the obvious.”
“You understand me?” She didn’t even seem that surprised, she was just trying to make sure when she asked me.
“Well, you speak my language it seems. So yeah, I… understand you.”
“Does that mean I’m human now?”
“At least partly it seems. I…I don’t exactly know how this is possible either.”
Seemingly having regained more strength in her body, she sat up and knelt down across from me. “Well, your kind seems to have strong fighters, so I won’t complain too much about being turned into one of them.” She somewhat seemed to have coped with her transition and even chuckled at the pure prospect. “You must be an ace hunter if you managed to defeat someone like me.” She proclaimed proudly as she faced me and pumped a determined fist.
I hissed in uncomfortableness. “Actually, I just started out today. I’ve… never fought a monster before that.”
In seconds, her proud face slumped and the color left her face. “Seriously?”
“Uhh, yeah. But I guess I just got… lucky.”
She faced the ground, tears dropping onto the already wet ground. “Defeated by a noob hunter. It can’t be! I’m a goddamn warrior!”
“Huh?” I was stunned by her sudden outburst. “What’s the matter?”
Her crying got stronger and stronger as she pounded the ground with her fist. Her punch was strong enough that some of the wet mud even splattered onto me. “Every other damn monster in this forest already uses me for a punching bag! And now even a scrawny little human like you can defeat me?!”
My heart sunk. I had no idea how to respond to her except for staying silent. I waited for her to have cried herself out, but she just gritted her teeth and continued to be angry at herself.
I struggled to decide on which way to tackle this. “What’s your name?” I asked as I tried to break the silence between us and the gloom still hung around her.
“Name? What do you mean?” She grumbled as she wiped the remains of her tears from her cheeks.
“Your name. How do people call you?”
“People don’t usually call out to me, you know?”
“Right, stupid question…” I sighed and tried to get a little closer to her. She didn’t even react to it as she sat there, dejectedly hugging her knees and blankly looking straight ahead. “Well, how do you call yourself then?” I asked carefully.
“I’m nobody… I don’t really need a name. Is that something your people really need to have? A name to call someone by?”
“It certainly makes talking to them a lot more easy.” I joked around, but she wasn’t having it. “Look, if it’s bothering you that much that I defeated you, don’t take it too personally. It had nothing to do with strength. I mean look at me, I’m pretty much a stick figure.” I said as I lifted my arm to flex what little muscle I had.
She glared over at me, looking like she’d be ready to lunge at me any second. “What was it then? If it’s not strength that helps a fighter win a battle, then what is?”
“Like I said, it was pure luck. Compared to most other men, I’m a lightweight. I don’t think I’d win anything if it came down to strength.”
“You’re on!” Suddenly a burst of determination flared in her eyes.
“How do you humans compete with strength?”
“Umm… arm wrestling I guess?” I stuttered as I scrambled for a response.
“Great! How do you do it? Show me!” She was hungering for a revanche, her face determined and… even a bit scary.
“Well, you do it like this… I guess.” I moved over to a ragged stump of a tree and put my elbow onto it, signaling her to do the same. Confused she put her own elbow on the other side and, after I instructed her to, clenched her claws around my hand. Even her grip alone could’ve gotten me to give in, but I put on a brave face and bore it.
“Al… ngghh… right, now the goal is to press the other’s hand down onto the surface using nothing but your arm’s strength.”
“I never said it was a complicated competition. Amongst equally strong people it’s pretty exciting.” I shrugged.
“Well, then we should be a good match, right?” She licked her lips as her grip tightened even more around my hand.
“Ack! Alright, on the count of 3. 1…2…3…” I pushed against her claw as hard as I could, gritting my teeth as I struggled to even keep the middle ground. My face was scrunched and I was actually surprised that I was still holding up…
…until I noticed that she showed no sign of a struggle and cocked her head in confusion until it lit up in understanding. “Ohhh! Was that what 3 meant. Sorry, I didn’t know.”
“Huh?” Was the last thing I could get out until my hand was effortlessly slammed onto the tree stump. It was at such a rapid speed that the pain only set in a few moments later when I bit down on my other hand’s glove. “Ngghghhh! God that hurt! Fuck!” I pulled my hand from her claw and shook it around to distract from the pain. “Ahh that’s gonna sting for a while. Nghhh.”
She bursted out into laughter and slammed her hand onto the stump repeatedly as she tried to regain her breath. “Haha, you really were serious! You have the arm strength of a child.”
“Yeah, yeah, rub it in, will you?” I hissed as I stretched my fingers to see if they were still working alright. As the pain settled a little, I tried to attempt a bit more conversation with her again. “So, how am I gonna call you from now on, oh grand and powerful warrior?” I joked as I felt the atmosphere between us loosen a little.
She put a finger to her chin and still smiled from the remainder of her laughter. “Let’s see. A winner needs a title, right?” Well, I listened to the humans who came through here before. They were looking for something and I think they were calling me something called a Great Jagras. It has the word “great” in it, so they had to be talking about me.” She pointed her thumb at herself proudly. I was just glad she was in a way better mood.
I smiled at her and extended my better hand to her. Great Jagras, huh? That’s a bit of a mouthful. How about I call you Jaina? That sound alright with you?”
She smiled back and behind her brutish attitude her simple, genuine smile was actually really cute. Her hand met mine with a loud slap. “Great Jaina then. It would kind of suck to take the great part out of it.”
I chuckled “I’ll think about it. Wait, did you say you’ve met humans around here before?”
She raised an eyebrow as if it was something obvious. “Well, yeah. They have a settlement not far from here. I thought you were with them?”
“What!? No, but that’s where I need to go! I need to tell them about…” I dashed to get up, before Jaina pulled on my sleeve to keep me from going.
As I turned around, she shook her head. “Don’t do that!”
“Why? I need to get back ASAP!”
“Not at night, you dummy! You wake up the wrong monster around here or you stumble somewhere you’re not supposed to be at and they’ll eat you alive!”
I looked into the darkness, not knowing what would expect me inside it. It would be too brash and idiotic to head out like that. Especially since I had no clear direction to where the settlement was. “*sigh* Maybe you’re right. I’ll camp out here tonight.”
I reluctantly turned away from the direction the research commission was possibly located at and went back to sit at the fire and stare at the flames. I looked up at Jaina who soon sat down a bit next to me and smiled at me.
“You know, you don’t need to stick around me. If you feel better, you can leave any time. I’ll manage.”
She shimmied a little closer and, almost like a friend, bumped my shoulder playfully with hers. “You think I’d just leave you alone out here? After you took care of me and got my mood up again?”
“Heh, should I remind you, that I was the one who caused your wounds in the first place?”
“Yeah, but you’re not the first one to give me scars.” She said dejectedly as she showed me her arms, legs and belly. Each of them were covered in gashes and scratches on her human skin as well as in her scale hide. The wounds I caused her were actually on the smaller side compared to the larger ones that stretched across her torso. But those wounds still looked different and seemed to have various, different causes other than cuts.
“Where did you get those from?”
Her gaze turned towards the fire again as she began talking with a sad undertone in her voice. “You… heard me say it before, didn’t you? I’m everyone’s punching bag around here. I can’t breathe fire, spit poison or shoot lightning.” She turned to me, her eyes dewy and small droplets reflecting light in the edges of her eyes. “My strength is all I have to fend for myself. All you can do when you’re down, is getting up again over and over.”
I looked her in the eyes, seeing the hopelessness and struggle behind it. “You’re right there. You have to. Again and again. No matter how much is stacked against you.”
“What?” Her face perked up a little when I spoke. Her words resonated with me and I understood her mentality.
“Heh, you’ve seen it first-hand. Everybody who I told that I wanted to become a hunter, said I was insane. I was too weak, too brash and tried way too hard to prove myself. I was so stubborn and I wanted to succeed so badly. The only thing I had going for me was that I was quick and agile. But that could only get me so far. Everyone saw me as a weakling, someone who could never stand up to a monster. And I guess out of stubbornness again… that’s why I’m here. To prove them wrong. And no matter how many times I’m going to be beaten down, kicked and belittled, I’ll have to suck it up and be stronger the next time.” I spoke silently, trying to suppress the sadness as I stoked the flames.
Jaina shimmied even closer to me and listened to me speak as we were pressed arm to arm. A slight cold emanated from her, probably because she was cold-blooded, but somehow it was a rather comforting cold and it made me feel appreciative of having her close to me. “You know… often times the support you need has to come from yourself.”
“It doesn’t have to be JUST yourself.” She said as she lightly nudged me so I would look at her. I was met with a sweet smile that almost made you forget about how tough she was. “Welcome at the bottom of the food chain… hmmm”
“Hehe, you haven’t told me your name yet, dummy. For someone who put so much importance on it, you sure don’t follow your own rules.”
I chuckled along with her as she wrapped her arms around mine, making me kind of flustered. I could feel her significantly large breasts squeeze against me from the side and awkwardly turned away to hide my blushing face. “Kalaydus. It’s… Kalaydus.”
She nodded as she rested her head on my shoulder and started to slowly get tired. “*yawn* You should probably get some rest too if we want to get up before the other monsters do. I’ll guide you to the settlement.”
We leaned against the root of the giant tree as Jaina still clung to my side and rested her head on me. “Like… this? Are you sure?” I stuttered as I could still feel the squishiness of her supple breasts. The wraps that contained them were stretched rather thin and I was almost hoping that they wouldn’t hold out. I am just a guy after all.
“We don’t know how long this fire is going to last. We need to keep each other warm until morning.”
Her arms squeezed tighter around me as she nuzzled my shoulder. “And it’s not exactly uncomfortable either.” My argument was cut off by her last words as she closed her reptilian eyes and started to softly snore. Even though her skin was a bit cold, her breath that tickled my neck was nice and warm. I looked down at her sleeping face with my arm tucked underneath her. I found myself smiling to myself as I watched her. Just like before, seeing her so calm, made me relax as well. I moved my arm a little to not have it cramped in the morning and wrapped it around her back to hold her close.
I couldn’t deny that the feeling of having her sleep on top of me was a very pleasant one.
I knew this was just the very start of whatever was ahead of me. And maybe with a companion like her, this challenge was going to be be a lot easier to overcome.