Word Count: 2650 (+3 exp)(+12 collabs)
Level: 9 - Total EXP: 87/90
Location: Edge of the Blue - Kanzuki Estate
At some point during the day's activities, the Ace Cadet had disappeared from the beach. It was no mystery case or nefarious plot - the hunter had just decided to look around a little more. The first part of their day off spent playing, exploring, and flirting had been amazing, but the Cadet wasn't quite ready to cool down. So after separating from Nadia, the first stop had been right back to their gracious host's beachside buffet to douse the fluttery feeling in his stomach. Then he'd struck out in the opposite direction of the resort, seeing what the other side of the beach had to offer.
For a while there wasn't anything interesting. He wandered down the stretch of sand, poking through beach grass and surf. Any material he thought about gathering, like calcite or bits of bones, were much too small to be useful in anything. His solo exploration was beginning to look like just a long walk on the beach. It gave him time to think about things he hadn't really had much time to ponder before, like what would happen after. Way after, when everything was put back to normal in the worlds. Would he even remember everyone he fought together with? If he did, would they ever be able to see each other again? ...not really vacation topics, he thought to himself. The Ace Cadet decided that he didn't want to think about any of those things just then, so he focused on the feeling of the slight breeze and the sun overhead instead.
Slowly the shore began to curve, and the smooth sand gradually became coarse with bits of shells mixed in. Just when the Cadet considered turning back around, something a little further ahead caught his eye. It looked like a row of large shells, aligned like a fence where the beach curved. It was a poor barrier, so the hunter figured it was some kind of property marker considering that someone must have arranged them like that. Finally, there was something! Well I've come this far, might as well check it out!
As the Cadet got closer he saw that there were several more shells, extending the makeshift fence quite a ways. There was a gap in the partition more than big enough for a person to move through, and on the other side of the shells was a little patch of beach. A patch completely infested with crabs.
Little crabs, suspicious crabs, and hermits in the large, medium, and small varieties. It made sense given they were at the ocean and all, but the Cadet hadn't seen quite so many all in one place. He wondered if this was where Karin had sourced some of the buffet's seafood from. There was something else on the beach too, something big. Without hesitation he strode further in, watching the smaller crabs scuttle away from his steps. The larger ones didn't seem aggressive, but they also stood their ground and foamed at the mouth if he got too close. As he walked, it quickly became apparent just what the "something big" was.
There, on the far side of the area resting just out of reach of the tide, was a huge crustacean that rivaled the carapaceons of the Cadet's own world. It was an unappealing green color, with large eyes that seemed to notice the Cadet right away. It stretched out a massive claw towards him, and the hunter tensed in preparation for an escape. He'd left all of his equipment back at the Kanzuki Estate after all. However the big crab didn't move from it's spot. Maybe that shell was too heavy for it? Actually the Cadet didn't see any of the creature's legs, only it's forelimbs. It waved saids claw back and forth before giving up with a huff. Then it opened it's very un-crablike mouth and let out a few guttural words.
"Hey. This Nipper's beach."
The Cadet blinked, not expecting to hear speech from the giant crab. It talked! ...wait, why am I surprised about that? Lots of animals talk here. When the hunter didn't immediately answer 'Nipper' narrowed his eyes, but the Cadet held his palms up to dissuade the crab from trying anything.
"Private property I guess?" he asked. Was he about to let himself be kicked out of the area by this guy?
"Yeah. Nipper's sand, Nipper's trees, Nipper's mini-nippers. No one find nothing on Nipper's beach without Nipper's help."
Oh, that didn't sound like he was being shooed away. In fact it almost seemed the opposite. The Ace Cadet glanced around again, because as far as he could see the only thing that was actually here was a motherload of future shellfish dinners. "What do people even come looking for here, buried treasure or something?" he joked.
"Heheh... wait, really? I was just Kirin around, but there's actually treasure here..!?"
"Yep." Nipped looked smug as he answered, proudly drawing himself up as tall as he could while bound to the shell. "But no one know where it is. Only Nipper can help find."
It looked like things were taking a promising turn! Glad that the walk hadn't been a waste, a smile found it's way to the Cadet's face and he asked, "And you help anyone find it?" To which Nipper looked down at him and bluntly replied, "Not for free."
Right... of course not, the Cadet thought. He scratched the back of his head. "I'm kinda all out of zenny right now." And I'm definitely not asking Ms. Peach for money to give to a carapaceon. "But there's a pretty sea-weet spread of food a little ways back, I could bring some to you if you're hungry...?"
Nipper harrumphed. "Bring food. Also bring offering!" He waved the Cadet off with one claw, leaving the hunter at a loss. An offering of what? What the heck would a crab like? He turned back anyway, retracing his route.
When he got back, he noticed that the group was a bit different. He vaguely remembered Geralt and his... wife? arriving shortly before he'd left. He should really introduce himself, but they were relaxing so maybe later. At the buffet was a trio of girls he did not recognize at all, but though rowdy no one else seemed to mind them, so the Cadet let them be - and thought again about introductions. Lastly, he noticed that Ms. Fortune was not where he'd last seen her. She and a couple of other Seekers were nowhere to be found. Another outing perhaps. The Cadet swallowed his disappointment about missing another adventure and made his way over to where he'd left his belongings. This treasure better be worth it!
He slung his bag over his back, figuring he could hopefully find something in it to give to Nipper. He had no clue what the big creature would like, but he did know what he was unwilling to part with. That only left a few options. Once the buffet was free he visited it for the third time that day, wrapping some food to go and shoving it in his pack. He took another skewer for himself, munching on it as he waved to the other Seekers before heading right back to crab beach.
Somehow there were even more crabs loitering around than before. Nipper was right where the Ace Cadet had left him, and so he wasted no time jogging over and presenting the food. Nipper plucked everything out of the hunter's hands and shoveled it into his mouth and the smaller crustaceans rushed beneath him to pick up any dropped morsels. The whole affair took only moments, and then Nipper held out his claw again.
"Okay, what else you have."
"Well..." The Cadet shuffled through his bag. He always had a mental count of what he had on him, but that was back in his own world. Running around with so many unfamiliar items threw off his record. Currently he had his coatings and other vials of useful potions and such, the alchemy barrel in it's miniaturized state, a bunch of materials he wanted to try getting some use out of... There was only one thing that he was really willing to part with, and he pulled it out almost sheepishly.
Nipper stared at the hat, and then made a gurgling noise. It was an uncomfortable sound, but it seemed to be... laughter?
"Look like dumb Snacker," Nipper said in between gurgling giggles. "That funny. Me take."
The Cadet was surprised that had worked, but hey - never look a gift Kirin in the mouth. He handed the knit hat over and Nipper placed it on one of his eye stalks. He broke into another fit of strange laughter. At least he was in a good mood.
"Uh, glad you like it! So, how do we find the treasure?"
"That easy. Me point, you dig, we find."
That easy huh? The Cadet placed his hands on his hips and surveyed the beach. His new friend watched curiously as the hunter spotted something in the shallow water and went to retrieve it. He returned quickly with a decently sized shell in hand to use as a makeshift shovel. "Okay. Let's get started!"
Nipper raised his claw and extended it as far as it would go to his right, dropping the tip down into the sand and tapping a few times. Obediently the Cadet started to dig. And dig. The whole got a few feet deep with no treasure to be found. Small crustaceans jumped in to relish the cooler sand, digging themselves little hovels while the Cadet worked. After a little while the Cadet poked his head out of the hole. "There's nothing here."
"Hmph... Nipper remember that it actually over here." He pointed to another spot about two meters away, so the Cadet made another hole. Again, he found nothing.
"Hold on, Nipper think." He snapped his claws open and closed a couple of times. "Okay, it actually here."
This scene continued for a long time, until the monster hunter had dug about dozen holes and still had nothing to show for it - besides providing a cozy spot for the various crabs in the area. The thought that this could all be some kind of trick did cross the Cadet's mind. Potential prey not willing to get too close to those claws, so they tire him out by having him dig for treasure, then when he's exhausted the little crabs move in for a feast... but he tried to be optimistic. Maybe Nipper was just forgetful. Hopefully he hadn't forgotten if there was actually anything buried in the area or not. The more he thought about it, the heavier his limbs became. Who knew how many holes he'd dug by now, and there was still no sign of anything! The Cadet crawled out of his current hole and fell back onto caboose, his arms resting over his knees and his head hanging between them. He was panting to catch his breath, the sun combined with the labor finally catching up to him. In fact he was starting to resemble a crab himself, with his skin sporting the tell tale signs of sunburn. Hopefully Blazermate could take care of that, as his own potions wouldn't be able to. Healing the burn wasn't at the forefront of the Cadet's mind though. He snapped his head up and looked at Nipper with suspicion.
"Have you been feeding me a load of Bulldrome this whole time? There's no treasure here, is there?"
"Nipper not liar!" The crustacean replied indignantly. "Just keep digging where Nipper say. Treasure... is... definitely there."
"You just hesitated! Plus I've been digging for like two hours!"
Clunk. The noise came from the hole the Cadet had just dug. The red head looked down to find that a few of the smaller crabs had jumped in and tried digging deeper into the cool sand, only to be blocked by something buried a bit deeper. He looked up a Nipper, only a little irritated to see that the giant crab looked completely shocked at this development. To Nipper's credit, he recovered pretty quickly. "See? Nipper told you! Hurry and pull it up!"
The Cadet obliged, pushing himself back into the hole and unearthing a bonafide treasure chest.
The unexpected success brought some of the Cadet's strength back, and with a celebratory whoop he hauled the chest out of the pit. Getting by lock that had been weathered by sand for who knew how long was as simple as just ripping the chest open. The interior wasn't filled to the brim with jewels and gold coins like the Cadet had hoped it would be - in fact there was plenty of room inside the chest, with only a few assorted items inside. No, that wasn't exactly right... though hard to spot at first glance, the spoils were sitting atop a shallow bed of pearls.
The largest item inside was a shell with black mesh covering it's opening. When the Cadet picked it up, music started to play. It was a charming find. The other items were smaller: including two pieces of shell jewelry (though one of them seemed too small to be a necklace and too big to be a bracelet, for humans anyway) and a decorated cowry.
"Nipper right all along. Show Nipper what inside, me take finder fee."
The Cadet rolled his eyes, barely stopping himself from telling Nipper that actually he'd barely helped at all. Still, it was the crustacean's beach and all. The hunter tipped the chest toward Nipper so that he could see into it better.
"Ooooh, this one." He dipped his claw into the chest gingerly. When he withdrew it, the last item inside - a silver crown - hung from the tip. It was human-sized and looked a little ridiculous perched on top of one of Nipper's eye stalks opposite the sharq hat, but the crab seemed quite pleased with it all the same.
"Good job human. You leave Nipper's beach now."
The Cadet balked. "Now you're kicking me out, after working me to the Radobone?"
"You got treasure, what else you want from Nipper?"
Can't argue with that. The Cadet returned all the items to their place in the chest, save the music player. He carried that under one arm and the chest under the other. "It only took forever, but we did find it - so, thanks!"
"...bring more stuff to Nipper next time and find more."
"You are such a liar!"
So it was that the Ace Cadet eventually made it back to the Kanzuki Estate's beach, sore and sunburned, but with a small amount of valuables. He had no clue if any of the items did anything besides look pretty, but even then they could be sold and help fund the Seekers. Besides ingredients for crafting, at the very least the Cadet could buy himself a couple of outfits and not have to rely on the charity of others to do it. He wasn't too prideful to accept that kind of generosity, but it'd get pretty embarrassing quickly.
The Cadet deposited the chest on the beach, intending to let anyone who wanted to have at it. He put the speaker nearby, from which a tune began to play. It drowned out the soft music of the nearby resort, unintentionally lending a soundtrack to the fight that had broken out. And Sakura was back! The Cadet all but abandoned his finds to get closer to the action.
"Whoa, what's going on?" he asked the onlookers. Obviously it wasn't something serious, or else he would have expected Geralt and Bowser to jump in and help. An exhibition match maybe? Sakura was a fighter back in her own world wasn't she? Though a little lost, there was only one thing to reasonably do in this situation. Cheer! "Go Sakura!"