“I suppose I should’ve kind of expected that.”
I struggled to open my eyes as harsh rays of light shone through the flipped-up curtains. A gruff voice woke me and it took until my eyes adjusted to the brightness that I fully realized what was going on.
“WOAH! Commander!? What the fuck?!”
“Rise and shine, Kalaydus! You might want to cover your groin region. Not the best impression for a freshman hunter.”
“Oh, shit!” I scrambled to grab the blanket and wrap it around my waist, but as I did that, I pulled it away from Jaina who was still sleeping and now lying out in the open completely exposed.
My eyes and the commanders’ were glued to her as she padded around to look for the blanket I just ripped off her. “Kalaaaayduuus…? Did you take my blaannnkeettt?” She slurred as she drunkenly started to wake up.
Limply, she sat up, lifting her claw to her eyes and wiping the sleep sand out of them. She blinked several times before her vision cleared and the clearer it got, you could see the color drain out of her eyes while her mouth simultaneously went more and more agape.
“…aaaaaaaahahhhhhahahahaAAAHHAHAHAHAHAHHHIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII….” The further she kept going the more it sounded like a broken whistle that was almost shattering our ears from the inaudible frequencies she was screaming at.
I hastily sacrificed myself and unwrapped my covering blanket to toss it onto her head. “Here! Use mine!”
I covered my crotch with my hand while I tore the other blanket from the other unoccupied bed. I wrapped it around my waist again… instant regret.
“Uuuuuuuuhhhhhh….” Immediately I felt something half dried and gooey cling to me.
Despite this chaos, the commander just stood there with a deadpan expression as he watched me contort in disgust and lifelessness. I was mentally dead. “Is something the matter, Kalaydus?”
“NNnnnope! Everything alright, sir! Brrhhhh.” Shudders went through my spine as I wrung out the few words that I could manage to form without cringing.
Meanwhile, Jaina had still not covered herself. The blanket was still hanging over her head and you could hear muffled screaks from underneath.
“…For the sake of civility, I will leave it at that. I will… expect you two in my office in an hour. We have important matters to discuss and decisions to make. And for god’s sake, get dressed already!” The commander turned his back to us and flung the curtain shut behind him.
My legs gave in after the sudden tension and I fell back onto the bed… not realizing that I would sit right on our… remnants from last night.
A bolt of cringe shot through my body and I kept shivering at the feeling. “I’m… going to have a shower.”
“I can’t look him in the eyes again!” Jaina whined as she pressed the blanket into her face.
Overall, I’d call it an extraordinary first morning in Astera.
After recovering from our shock, me showering off the mixture of body fluids from my lower back and both of us getting dressed again, me and Jaina plopped down on the bed that wasn’t stained and fidgeted around as we waited for our appointment.
Jaina was still blushing heavily and I still had the feeling of crusty and at the same time mushy cum lingering on my skin. I scratched my cheek uncomfortably as the thought popped in my mind again but soon found myself more occupied with Jaina who was worriedly clinging to a pillow she used to cuddle while I wasn’t there.
Her mouth disappeared within the cushion while she was looking straight ahead with a solemn stare.
“You alright? Listen, I don’t think it was that ba…”
“It’s not because of that.” She interrupted me. “I’ve just… got a lot on my mind right now.”
I pulled my legs onto the bed and crossed them as I listened to her. “Like what?”
“I don’t know what I’m gonna do. On one hand I want the hunters here to accept me, but on the other hand if they did find out… What if they resent me?”
“I don’t think that they will. I have a gut feeling.”
“But what if they do?”
“You’re just being optimistic!”
“Of course, I’m being optimistic. If these last couple of days have taught me anything it’s that a terrible situation can turn around into something you would’ve never expected. So yeah, I’m stupidly optimistic.”
She wanted to refute it, but just as fast as her mouth opened, she closed it again and stuffed her face into the pillow again.
I put my hand on her shoulder and slightly shook her so she would look up again. “If I was only negative and never took chances, no matter how stupid and unlikely they might seem, I wouldn’t have met you.”
Her face flinched for a second, her doubts being shaken by my words.
“I learned to take this shit day by day. You might make mistakes or the wrong decisions, but without going off into the deep end… you’ll never know if you’re onto something or not.” I smirked a little, trying to as sincerely as I could convey to her what I wanted her to understand.
And after a few seconds, I got my response with a sweet, reserved smile. “I think I get it. Thanks.”
“No…” In the middle of my sentence, Jaina dropped the pillow she was hugging and instead wrapped her arms around me and squeezed me. “…problem.” Even with my arms being pressed tightly against my body, I hugged her sides with my lower arms as much as I could wrap around her at least.
“Your hair really does smell worse after a shower.”
“I wouldn’t call it a bad smell. I call it earthy.” Jaina chuckled cutely.
“Of course, you’d call it that.”
“Maybe you shouldn’t shower again. Then the difference isn’t that bad.”
“Or you take one yourself.”
She reeled back in shock, waving her hands. “I can’t just take a shower. It’d be like washing away…” She pumped a fist with an enchanted, inspired look. “… a part of my soul.”
I busted out laughing at her ridiculous pose and as soon as she noticed it, she joined in. Deep inside, I was happy that we could stray away from the former, serious topic. I had no idea what the future would hold for us and how people at this camp would react to a half human, half monster hybrid. I could only hope that by the time they DO find out, Jaina would at the very least get off unharmed.
And with that risk I took with the Anjanath girl… I just hoped everything worked out.
After waiting a little longer, me and Jaina headed out to our appointment with the commander. The outside was a lot calmer than the days before, now that the medics were able to distribute the nulberries to everyone to cure their fire blight. Jaina, from underneath her shadowy hood looked around, seeing all these people relieved that their pain was finally gone.
And even I couldn’t help but follow suit… when I saw a cute little smile spread over her lips.
We finally arrived at the commander’s office and at first, I was confused to see someone else with him. Someone I’ve seen before.
“Salutations, young man.” I was greeted with a bow by the woman who only introduced herself as the guild marm to me. She was holding a clipboard and a pen, attentively taking notes on something.
“Uhh… commander?” I worriedly looked over at him as he got up from his work desk.
“Don’t worry, she is aware of our situation. She is one of the two people who know about you and your friend and what is going on.”
“Indeed, I’ve been privy to your father’s exploits and I relish the opportunity to closer examine the cause of humanization.” She linked her arm with mine and guided me over towards a lone chair next to a table full of documents and medical equipment.
Jaina could do nothing but look on as she hesitated to step in. “Wh…what are you doing with him?” She whispered barely loud enough for people to pick it up.
“This one, he is a very unusual one. More unusual than even he probably realizes. Just like you but… different.”
All of the sudden, Guild Marm rolled my sleeve up to my shoulder and tied a rubber band around I my upper arm. “Woah, woah, hold it right there! What’s going on?”
Once I tore my arm away from her, she stepped back and apologetically bowed as she straightened her glasses. “My… apologies. I just got… a little excited there. I’ll let the commander explain everything you need to know.”
I was confused, not knowing if I should be furious or terrified. I took a breather as the commander stepped forward and looked down at me with a nostalgic, proud look on his face. He was obviously no less excited to investigate me.
He cleared his throat and moved his hands behind his back as he walked back and forth. “Around 20 years ago, I was in an expedition team with your father. He was everything that hunters aspire to be. He was mighty, inventive and he had a sixth sense for every move a monster could make. He donned the strongest equipment, earned from his multitude of successful hunts. He could defeat every monster from the smallest wyverns to the strongest of elder dragons.
That was until one day where he met his match.”
“His match? What would that even be? Dad never told me of any hunt that he failed.”
“He didn’t fail it… not technically anyways.”
The commander went over to his desk and continued to talk as he stared at pinned up maps from different regions of the old world. “There was a Rathian. Not any Rathian though. One that just like your father knew every move of any hunter. It never settled down and moved from land to land with different teams of hunters trying to slay it. But no matter where it went, one hunter that was always sure to be there and challenge it. Your father. A rivalry grew between them. A fight between two forces too stubborn to give up. Klaudius couldn’t take it sitting down that he could not manage to slay a simple Rathian. Not a pink Rathian, not even a golden one. A regular Rathian but with the fighting spirit of an elder dragon.”
He turned back to me waving his finger in an explanatory way. “BUT! One day, after months of tracking and slowly wearing it down. Countless confrontations and almost deadly wounds that they caused each other, your father and this Rathian. This violent, raging Rathian… they arrived at a stalemate. The way your father described it to me, they knew at this point that neither of them could win and that they were equal in power. The Rathian was wounded badly and bleeding out of several deep cuts. But just as well, your father was torn pretty badly as well. His armor shredded and his flesh deeply cut.
Suddenly, the Rathian collapsed. Klaudius staggered, his wounds finally wearing him down. He weakly crawled towards the Rathian, blood pouring all over his body just like it did on the monster.
He noticed that the Rathian was still breathing, but just like him on the verge of death. He was so close to slaying it. It would’ve taken a single strike to end it. But that’s not what he did.”
I sat in my seat, my body growing tense from the expectation of where this was going to go.
“The monster was whining and trying to breathe with its lacerated lungs. Klaudius knew it was suffering. He knew he could kill it and that would put it out of its misery. His eyes met with the sharp ones of the monster. His long time enemy that he hunted down for ages. To just end it like this seemed unimaginable to him. He wanted to give at least one last sign of respect and used his own carving knife to cut the palm of his hand. As the blood started to spill out of the small cut and mixed the massive amounts of the rest of it, he raised his hand and gently placed it on the Rathian’s head where one of the larger gashes was spread across. The Rathian closed its eyes and took a moment to feel Klaudius’ hand.
They both felt the comfort of each other’s touch as the creature slowly but surely sunk down and seized all signs of life like it was shutting down. But when their blood mixed and it got into the monster’s bloodstream, it caused a reaction. While the monster’s body clearly died, something new formed inside of it. Something just like your friend over there. A semi human.” His eyes flicked over at Jaina who jerked up nervously as she was talked to. The commander approached her and intimidatingly stared her down.
“The Rathian’s body grew into a hollow husk and out of the cuts in the hide, emerged a woman. Her torso and head were like that of a human but her appendages were those of a monster and wings, spikes and a tail even extended from her body.
Klaudius had no idea how any of this had come to be, but with how hard it was for him to let go of this monster before, now it seemed impossible to him. Although wounded, he carried the weak woman to his camp, making sure nobody would see her. The only people he ever confided in were me… and the guild marm.”
He looked over at her, letting her continue the story. “We helped him find a home on the countryside where he could tend to his own wounds and to those of the Rathian woman. When she awoke, she was confused at first but upon realizing who it was that cared for her, there was no hostility, no hatred, but respect and even admiration. They spent several months together and eventually fell in love. But it was risky. Even though they were mostly hidden away from the public view, surrounding villagers started to spread rumors that your father was hiding something. Afraid that the Rathian would be discovered, they came to a decision. They would live apart, with her living in the wild and him living in civilization. They would meet from time to time in secret and lived out their love unseen by anyone. And that is where you come in.”
I was still stunned and speechless. My fists clenched and I looked up at the Guild Marm with tension. “She’s… my mother… isn’t she?”
The guild marm nodded and in a matter of fact tone spoke up again. “That’s why we need to see your blood. There has obviously never been a birth between a human and a monster. There is a possibility that you share the traits of a monster and if you do, there could be endless possibilities on how to use that to our advantage. Rathian blood, if mixed with human blood, has a very unique effect.
If it enters the bloodstream of a monster, it drains its life power to an incredibly low level, but not enough to kill it. Instead, the energy in the blood mixture keeps the monster alive but can no longer support the massive body it is locked in. So, it creates a different body that can live off the low amount of life energy. The closest to that is a human body since it can draw the reference from the human blood. And thus, it creates a human/monster hybrid.”
I fell back into my chair and ran my hand through my hair, trying to comprehend everything that happened up to this point. I reached over my shoulder and pulled out one of my blades. The one that had the amulet my father gave me dangling from it. The green scales that encased it, the swirling dark red liquid inside it and the effects it had… it all made sense now. “So… that means that inside of this… is the blood of a Rathian and the blood of a human.
“Your mother and father poured their blood into this, yes. And its effects transfer into the weapon that it is attached to. And if our theory is correct… your blood has the same mixture of Rathian and human.” The guild marm said calmly as she adjusted her glasses.
Jaina suddenly burst out in surprise. “Does that mean Kalaydus is a demi human?!”
The guild marm turned around unperturbed. “It would explain a lot, wouldn’t it? He understands monsters better than anyone of his experience usually would and he might carry many other traits that the queen of the land would.”
I got up from my chair, visibly restless and agitated. “This is ridiculous!” I threw my arms around in a fit of rage and knocked over my chair, making it slam loudly onto the ground.
The Guild Marm put her hands onto my chest to hold me back. “Calm down, child. I know it must be hard to find that out about yourself but you need to learn to live with…”
“That’s not the point!” I yelled. And the room grew silent. Tears started to form in the corners of my eyes. I rubbed the bridge of my nose and grit my teeth to make suppress my anger and sadness. “For 21 years… FOR 21 YEARS I’ve never seen my mother all because of half-truths and a baseless fear that something might happen to her if someone saw her. To now learn that the only reason I never got to have a social life, never got to experience a normal family and had to be told not to follow my dreams is because my father lied to me and kept me in the dark? I don’t give a fuck if me OR my mother are monsters, humans… whatever! I wanted to have a life with them…”
The tears streaked down to my chin and dropped onto the floor. Never in my life had I been so disillusioned and furious. I took it. Over all these years I just took it and swallowed my demands and needs for the sake of my father only for it to bottle up and burst out in this moment.
My fists were clenched tightly until I felt someone gently opening them and entwining them with their hands. It was Jaina, with tears in her eyes as well and a look of empathetic worry. “Kalaydus…?” She asked quietly, checking if I was okay.
When I saw how terrified she was, I stopped. “I’m… I’m alright, Jaina… you can let go.” I gentliy let go of her claws and scrunched my face to squeeze out the last of my tears. “What was her name?”
The Guild Marm jerked up. “Huh?”
“My mother… what was her name?”
“Layla… Her name was Layla. Your name has a bit of a resemblance to both of their names being combined. Kalaydus.”
“I see… Layla. My mother’s name is Layla.” I spoke it back to myself and closed my eyes, trying to suppress my emotions, as I propped up the chair again to sit down in it and rest my arm on the table. “Let’s find out how much I resemble her. Go ahead.”
The commander and Guild Marm looked at each other before the guild marm stepped forward to inject a syringe into my arm and get a probe of my blood.
After collecting a full phial of my dark red fluid, she brought it over to a microscopic lens and took off her glasses to examine it closely.
The commander looked over her shoulder, waiting for her reaction. “So?”
She put her glasses back on and cleared her throat. “It’s miraculous. The human blood is clearly dominant and it most likely is the reason that he lacks semblance to a monster but… he clearly has monster DNA in him that is most likely to influence his mentality and ability. So that means…”
“…Kalaydus is a demi human.” The commander finished.
Jaina looked over at me as we confirmed what we suspected already. All eyes were on me and at this point I could only react with indifference. “What do you expect me to say now? I told you already… it doesn’t matter to me. So, you tell me, how are we going to handle this?”
“It’s difficult to say. It’s a simple truth, hunters hunt and slay monsters. I don’t know how they would react to a half human monster. It could mean the end of you if they think you’re a possible threat. They could question your loyalty to the research commission and suspect that you’re going to put the entire operation at risk. We will keep this under wraps until you established more of a reputation so it would be undeniable that you are determined to help our mission.”
“I AM LOYAL! UNTIL TODAY I DIDN’T EVEN KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT ME BEING PART MONSTER! THIS IS BULLSHIT!” I shouted angrily, making even the commander reel back in surprise.
Soon though, he returned to his stoic, unwavering posture. “Yes. WE know that. THEY don’t. I know that this is all very confusing to you and you are understandably furious. But if you care for the stability and success of Astera: stand down.”
I once again felt the desire swell up, the desire to fall into a fit of rage and wreck everything. I was just about to get up and charge the commander for treating me just like my father did. Jaina saw the ferocity in my eyes and blocked my path, throwing her arms around me. “Please don’t… please… don’t.” She pleaded with me as my breath grew more and more hot. It felt like it was burning my throat and little embers were sparkling in my mouth.
My view was blurry and I could feel the heavy beating of my heart. The commander closed his eyes and shook his head. “Listen, I will do my best to get you integrated but if you do what I think you’re about to do, you’re only going to make everything harder.
It was a struggle in my mind to wager reason with emotions. Jaina’s embrace tightened and she kept begging me to settle down again. “You’re not yourself, Kalaydus! Don’t give in! Please…” Her growingly weak voice reached my ears. My heavy breathing slowly regulated itself and my fists slowly loosened. I weakly staggered into Jaina’s arms and embraced her.
The smell of her hair was a familiar comfort and pulled me back into the world of clear thinking.
The Guild Marm and the commander looked at each other worriedly until the commander finally stepped forward to put his hand on my shoulder. “In a minute, I will call the other hunters for an announcement and let them know that you two were the ones who delivered the nulberries that ended their pain. They may not know what you are, but they will certainly know WHO you are. It’ll give you a good start to make a name for yourself. Take your time, but meet me and the people outside shortly. And keep details about yourself at a minimum.” He explained to me as if it was back to business as usual. I followed him with my eyes as he, without looking back, exited the office. I could hear him call out the regular daily announcements.
I was still inside, holding onto Jaina. I needed a moment. Several moments actually. I was disillusioned, plan-less and angry at the same time. Jaina hugged me tighter, letting me rest for the short time we had. She looked up at me with a sorrowful smile. “We’re going to get through this, right? One day at a time, just like you said.”
I weakly chuckled. “Quite a shitty day to start with but… maybe you’re right though. As much as I don’t want to do this, we should keep on keeping on, huh?” I gently pulled her hood over her head and smiled. “Let’s do this.”
Stepping outside, the eyes of the couple hundred hunters of Astera were glued to us as the commander interrupted his speech. “Ah, how fortunate. I was just about to sing my praises about you two. Look, hunters! These two provided us with medicine and ended the fire blight epidemic!”
The crowd erupted into cheers and applause, singing our praises in thankfulness. It should’ve been a happy, proud moment but Jaina and me could barely manage to put on smiles. We walked up behind the commander, standing right and left of him. We kept throwing glances each other’s way and were both uncomfortable. I was the only one who caught a view of her reptilian eyes, her brows furrowed but a forced, supposedly celebratory smirk on her lips.
Seeing it, didn’t really calm my worries in the slightest, but the commander’s speech went on.
“…in these times we require bravery, intuition and readiness to dive into action. Kalaydus and Jaina here signify exactly that! You all can strife to be just as strong as them one day. They fought an Anjanath just to get a couple of nulberries even!”
“S…stop it…” I tried to interrupt him but he either didn’t hear me or pretended not to.
“They will slay and capture monsters for our research that will be much mightier than that and I see a bright future for their involvement…
Jaina shimmied closer to me until we were shoulder to shoulder. Everyone was too enraptured by the commander’s speech to notice us behind him. Jaina sneakily held onto one of my fingers and looked straight ahead as she talked just loud enough for me to hear her. “Secrecy was the thing that drove your family apart, wasn’t it?” My eyes started shivering when her claw wrapped around my hand and she held on to it tightly. “I’m scared.”
“…so here are our heroes of the hour. Kalaydus, Jaina, please introduce yourself to your fellow hunters!” The commander announced us with a proud, victorious smile.
The tense crowd went completely quiet. Not a sound. Anxious for our words.
And when it finally came down to it, Jaina let go of my hand.
I looked at her with a questioning stare. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath before I nodded to her. Following that, she took a deep breath herself and nodded back.
Time stopped. Jaina’s claws that were formerly tucked into her poncho rose up to pull back her hood.
The tension dropped and the crowd turned lifeless, terrified stares boring into us.
We could see the commander freezing up as he watched on wordlessly.
Jaina’s reptilian eyes flashed open. Nothing was hidden anymore.
I stepped forward and addressed the crowd.
“We… are monsters!”