It was the end of a long trip. Not just on the airship (though that had been painfully long to Asuka), but for a chapter of her life. And now a brand new chapter was underway. The young hunter had stayed below deck for the majority of the journey on the airship, either reading or consulting with a Felyne she'd taken a shine to that knew about this new continent.
But what she was most interested in were the monsters. How the ecosystems worked. How humans and Wyverians interacted with the ecosystems in their day-to-day lives. Eventually the poor Felyne had taken off, tired of the young woman's questions. "No more questions, nya!" he'd shouted. "You get answers when we make it to gǎng! That means 'port'!" Asuka had been called up as soon as New Dundorma was in sight.
She wasn't disappointed.
The city was much larger than she'd anticipated. As they got closer, Asuka became more excited, and ran back below deck to grab her belongings: a bag of books and journals (most of the latter were blank), a few miscellaneous odds and ends (including a blanket), and of course her personal weapon: a Gunlance, forged from stone and metal. It had been a gift from her father before leaving Bherna, and she planned on putting it to good use.
Asuka came back up as the airship was docking. Of the people on board, only a few wore the telltale armor of a hunter. Four other people, by the look of it, two men and two women. She recognized two sets of armor, but not the others. She would have to talk to them to find out where they were from.
Frankly, she wasn't looking forward to it.
The group of hunters was greeted by an elderly Wyverian. As most old Wyverians were, he was of short stature, maybe coming up to Asuka's waist. Despite his appearance, he seemed to have quite a bit of energy, enthusiastically greeting the five of them. Asuka offered a smile.
Species name: Sunsai Food source: Omnivorous, leaning towards carnivorous. Sunsai will rarely pass up anything edible if hungry, be it carrion or cacti. Surprisingly enough, the species seems to have a sweet tooth for wild honey. Size: The average individual is roughly 30-35 feet (9.14-10.67 meters) in length, and 10-14 feet (3.048-4.27 meters) at the hip; females are generally larger than males, though males tend to have thicker, bulkier bones. An adult can weigh around three to four tons. Natural abilities: Able to tolerate extremes in heat and cold; powerful sense of smell; powerful jaws; thick, heavy bones Magical abilities: None Usual Temperaments: Sunsai are normally somewhat placid, though they are remarkably territorial towards others of their own species outside of breeding seasons. When breeding season arrives, males compete for females by locking horns, though it sometimes escalates into more grievous violence if the opponents are evenly matched. Once eggs are laid, both parents will live in the same territory and defend their offspring until they are large enough to find for themselves. If raised from the egg, Sunsai are quite gentle towards their tamer. Locations Found: Usually found in desert regions, though will occasionally venture into volcanic regions. Weaknesses: Sight is somewhat weaker than most monsters, and at the very edges of their vision, they can only detect movement. While their hide is relatively thick, the throat and underbelly are more vulnerable. While their keen sense of smell is helpful, strong odors (spices, dung, etc.) can drive them away.
Species name: Subterranean Drake Food source: Carnivorous, eating anything smaller than itself, though they prefer fish. Size: Usually 4-5 feet (1.22-1.52 meters) at the hip, and 12-13 feet (3.66-3.96 meters) long. Adults usually weigh several hundred pounds. Natural abilities: Possesses both lungs and gills; able to detect electrical signals in the water with its snout; able to see in nearly complete darkness; sensitive hearing can help pinpoint prey Magical abilities: In addition to detecting electrical signals, its snout can detect auras Usual Temperaments: Aggressive and territorial, though in the wild it will avoid fights it know it can't win. Locations Found: Cave systems, preferably with deep water Weaknesses:Sensitive to bright lights and loud sounds; extended exposure to ultraviolet light is dangerous, and are vulnerable to fire and electricity
Species name: Lesser Solopteryx Common name: Lesser Sunwing Food source: Omnivorous, preferring fruit, nuts, insects, and small mammals and reptiles. Size: Average wingspan is one foot (30.48 centimeters), and rarely weighs more than a single pound (0.45 kilograms). Males tend to be larger, though there are exceptions, with larger and more colorful head crests. Natural abilities: Keen vision and hearing, though its sense of smell is below average; experts at flying through thick forest canopies; able to mimic sounds like a parrot or mockingbird Magical abilities: Lesser Sunwings have no magical abilities per se, though their bodies do have certain magic-nullifying properties Usual Temperaments: Social creatures, and attentive mates that stick together for life and care for offspring. If hand-reared, a Lesser Sunwing will mimic their tamer and pick up words. NOTE: Imperative that certain words are never said around a young Sunwing, as odds are they will say it when trying to communicate with humans. Locations Found: Tropical climes, usually rain forests Weaknesses: Severe cold and ice; due to their keen vision and hearing, they are susceptible to bright flashes and sudden, loud noises
Species name: Great Dune Dragon Food source: Carnivorous, hunting smaller monsters and even beasts of burden. Diet is supplemented with different ores, though the purpose of this is unknown. Size: Usually in the 50 foot (15.24 meter) range, with wings twice that. Natural abilities: Fire breathing (fire "breath" is actually two chemicals secreted from a pair of glands in the back of the mouth that ignite once combined and exposed to air); thick, tough hide; remarkable intelligence and memory Magical abilities: While G.Dune Dragons don't use magic, their bodies have magical properties (for example, on top of being toxic, their blood can affect the mind if it comes in contact with skin in large enough quantities); the magic aura they give off is usually enough to make smaller monsters panic and flee Usual Temperaments: Aggressive towards humans, but not usually towards other monsters unless they challenge it; given their aura, this is very far and few between. Locations Found: As the name suggests, Great Dune Dragons are found most often in desert regions Weaknesses: Ice and thunder magic; water magic, to a lesser extent
Name: Sakuya Grady Age: 16 Birthplace: Gaia Appearance: Sakuya is quite short for her age (just an inch or two shy of five feet), and is of a slim, petite build. She often dresses simply, though her travel gear often consists of light leather armor and a cloak. Experience: Sakuya comes from a long line of monster tamers and breeders, and has been around them for as long as she can remember. Ability: Familiar with most monsters' biology (especially reptilian monsters'), though she's less familiar with more magically-inclined monsters. Inventory:Scythe, 20 Gold. Monster Team: • Sunsai ("Barro") • Quadrolisk ("Gladiatrix") • Lesser Solopteryx ("Banrao")
Appearance: Taniwha's skin is a dark, charcoal gray, with a pale underbelly. Armor plates are black, and often described akin to obsidian. When angered, the skin around the plates and fins glow red. Taniwha also lacks teeth; what some would identify as teeth are actually blade-like, self-sharpening parts of the skull.
Size: Taniwha is on the smaller end of the kaiju spectrum, at an estimated 25 meters at the hip, and 75 meters in length. Despite this, its bones are incredibly dense, and make it heavier than most monsters of a similar size.
First Appearance: Shortly after the ultrasonic pulse, vessels began disappearing near White Island, New Zealand. The attacks began occurring closer and closer to land until Taniwha made landfall in Auckland.
Abilities: Powerful jaws— Taniwha possesses jaws powerful enough to crush both stone and metal. Heat tolerance— Shows enough resistance to magma and lava to burrow through it and store small amounts in its body. Burrowing— Though by no means amazing, Taniwha can burrow through earth, magma, and lava; this is partly accomplished by chewing the material. Magma spit— Taniwha has a special organ in its body (theorized to be in the chest, near the base of the neck) to store molten magma or lava, and maintain its temperature. In dire situations, it spits magma as a last resort. Amphibious biology— Possesses gills and lungs. Durability— Its skeletal structure makes Taniwha extremely resistant to ballistic weaponry.
Weaknesses: Cold temperatures— Taniwha is unable to withstand temperatures below freezing. It's theorized that temperatures below freezing interferes with its ability to maintain magma in a liquid state in its body. Weak lungs— Taniwha's lungs are quite weak, and the monster must return to the water for a period of time. Gills— Taniwha's gills are nearly unarmored, and contain a large amount of nerves and blood vessels. Electricity— Powerful electromagnetic fields may deter, stun, or confuse Taniwha. Pollution— Taniwha avoids heavily polluted waters. Display of force— Given its size in comparison to other monsters, a sufficient threat display from an opponent may make Taniwha flee.
Personality: In the past, Taniwha was regarded as a guardian spirit by the Maori people. However, after it came ashore and rampaged through Auckland, it has maintained a low profile, and has had very few interactions with humans since then.
History: Tales of giant sharks have been part of Oceania mythology for centuries, as both a benevolent and destructive force. The first modern account of this monster was from a Japanese destroyer in 1942. The officer in charge described it as a "terrible god" in his report, which remained classified until it was sighted again by TERRA in 2016. It wasn't until 2021 that more information was gleaned from its biology, when it made landfall to attack Auckland. Since then, it has maintained a low profile, traveling along the Pacific rim.
Other: — Taniwha displays physical traits akin to the extinct Dunkleosteus; biologists in TERRA are unable to agree if the resemblance is a case of evolutionary convergence or if Taniwha is descended from these prehistoric fish.
Theme: (Optional - No monster is complete without a badass theme song.)
Appearance: A massive serpent with traits of other reptilians, namely osteoderms and scutes embedded in the skin. Scans of the serpent while dormant, and ancient remains of a deceased individual indicate the presence of vestigial hind and forelimbs.
Size: Estimated to be between 91.44 and 152.4 meters in length.
First Appearance: Escaped from Outpost 54 (located on the island of Jan Mayen), and came ashore in Bodø, Norway. A deceased specimen has been in TERRA's possession since 2010 after being unearthed in Sápmi, near the coast of the Norwegian Sea.
Abilities: Venom- Jörmungandr possesses a corrosive venom. It can be spat or delivered in a bite in liquid form, or sprayed as a mist. It is also immune or resistant to most forms of biological toxins. Thick hide- Thanks to the scutes and osteoderms in its skin, the monster is well protected against most man-portable weapons. Cold resistance- Jörmungandr is quite comfortable in the freezing waters of the North Atlantic. Swimming & burrowing- Jörmungandr is an adept swimmer and burrower, though not exceptionally fast.
Weaknesses: Electricity- Jörmungandr shows an aversion to strong electromagnetic fields; despite this, it is drawn towards smaller electrical fields. Oxygen- Unlike most monsters associated with the depths, Jörmungandr cannot stay underwater indefinitely. Weight- Due to its size, the beast is quite slow. Metabolism- Jörmungandr has a ravenous appetite, and will eat nearly anything organic (and sometimes inorganic) it can.
Personality: Aggressive, though not necessarily malevolent. Its attacks so far seem to have been driven primarily by hunger.
History: Encounters with Jörmungandr date back to the eleventh century, where the great serpent in the sea was stated to be destined to fight the Norse god Thor. Scientists at TERRA theorize that sightings of massive serpents in the North Atlantic may have been the Midgard Serpent waking up for a "midnight snack" before returning to its slumber. In 1961, the great serpent's resting place was discovered in a cavern beneath Jan Mayen, and after it was determined that the monster was dormant (a state known as "brumation", to be precise) and not dead, a facility was built to study the creature. This lasted for decades... until the beast woke, destroyed the outpost, and made its way to Norwegian waters.
Appearance: Emiko appears younger than she really is, though is often covered with grease and oil. She's slightly shorter than most young women her age (149.86 cm). Emiko has a distinct scar on her right hand.
Age: 20 years (DOB— June 6, 2001)
Occupation: College student, part-time mechanic
Starting Location: Hakata-ku, Fukuoka, Japan
History: Born and raised in Yokohama, Emiko's father served in the US Navy, and was stationed in Japan when he met his (now ex-) wife, an evolutionary biologist in the employ of TERRA. Growing up, Emiko didn't see her mother much, and when her father retired from the Navy, he took a job covering foreign stories at a news station. Emiko always had a knack for machines, and electronics, to a lesser extent. After high school, she began studying mechanical engineering.
The young woman sighed, glancing at the clock. The garage was quiet for once, at least for the next hour or so. Her work for her classes were finished, so she had nothing to do for the time being. Digging into her pocket, she felt the familiar shape of an old pocket watch. It had been a gift from her grandfather when she'd graduated high school. Unfortunately, he'd passed away last year.
Emiko glanced at her phone screen. A text from Dad, back in the States. Attached was a picture of him in a Hanshin Tigers shirt, hot dog in one hand and a beer in the other. He'd been doing better since his operation last month. She quickly typed out a message before slipping her headphones on and selecting a playlist, closing her eyes as the music started playing.
"Namida ga ikutsu afureta darou Itami o nando kanjita darou..."
Location: Outpost 54, Jan Mayen, Arctic Ocean
Dr. Otto Anderson took a sip of coffee from his mug, glancing at the monitor. "How's the big guy doing?" A young woman with blond hair stepped into the room. He gave her a scowl.
"Karen, what are you doing here? I thought you were on your way back to Copenhagen?" Karen rolled her eyes.
"You haven't been outside today, have you, Dad?"
"No." The bearded man pointed at the screen. "I've been keeping a close eye on Jörmungandr. His vitals have been changed the last few days. Heartrate and breathing are elevated, and brain activity indicates he might be coming out of brumation." Karen blinked in surprise.
"Should we be worried?" she asked. "When TERRA woke him up, he was... less than pleased, if I remember correctly."
"If you call snacking on a few construction workers less than pleased, then yes," Anderson replied. The great beast was dreaming. It swam through the freezing depths, drawn by a call. It was a sound it hadn't heard in several millenia: another of its species. The last time it had heard the sound of its own kind, it led to a territorial dispute. It had won, and as far as the creature knew, its opponent had died of its injuries.
Then there was another sound: sharp and piercing, as if something was biting onto the beast's skull. But this one didn't disappear when it opened its eyes. The yellow pupils flicked around, taking in the sight around it. The air reeked of the tiny pink apes and their machines... and from some reason, the scent enraged the beast.
The monster reared its head, and let out an earth-shaking bellow.
Location: Five kilometers north of White Island, New Zealand
Emiko woke with a start. Her headphones had slipped off her ears. Shit! she thought. Fell asleep! She looked out the window. When had it gotten dark out? She checked her phone. Shit! Mr. Watanabe's gonna be pissed!
She stopped, her brain slowly spinning up. It was after closing time. Even if he'd be mad, the boss would have woken her up to chew her out.
Where is he? thought Emiko. She turned her music off, dialled Mr. Watanabe's number…
She could hear a shrill, electronic rendition of "Ode to Joy" coming from the garage. The hell? Emiko stood, moving slowly. "Mister Watanabe?" she called. "Are you there? Are you okay?"
Emiko fumbled for the light switch to illuminate the room. She stopped, feeling something warm and sticky on her hand. She held it up to examine it. Dark red, and from a brief sniff, coppery.
Personality: Relatively quiet and standoffish, Harumi gives off an aura that she couldn't care less about those around her. However the reality is that she lacks social skills, and becomes mentally drained when she deals with too many people in a short period of time. Despite this she's friendly, and willing to give people her age the benefit of the doubt, though she's very distrusting of adults.
Bio: Born to a relatively poor family, Harumi's parents worked their hardest to provide for their daughter. Despite their lack of wealth, they would occasionally buy gifts for her. However, the one that sparked something in her was simple: a cheap computer coding guide. She devoured the information, and quickly became quite skilled with code. However, her life took a downward turn when her mother was killed in a train accident. Her father fell into a deep depression, and began drinking heavily. As time went on, his drinking took over his life, and Harumi eventually ran away. She began supporting herself by beta testing games and software, as well as hacking, for the right price. A politician needed dirt on an opponent? A journalist wanted information for a story? Had to find out how many mistresses your husband had? For the right price (and sometimes just because it would amused her), Harumi would do it. Because of her exploits, she received an invitation to join Jormungandr.
Harumi had just turned the hotel TV off when her phone beeped. New Line message? she thought. It was on her "work" phone, so it was probably a potential client. She opened up the message.
Hello~ You are QUITE the hard worker. Living by yourself? How can I not feel for you? Oh, I wish I could take care of you! Well, I probably could, but I doubt you would stand for that would you? No, likely not! Anyways, you have a good number of interesting results in your history, you know? The meltdown of that especially famous couple? Oof, priceless! With that in mind, we of Jormungundr would love to count you amongst our ranks! Would you like to join us?
Now, should you agree, come to Akiba. There's this small net/EDEN cafe called "Net Sheep Cafe". You can figure out where exactly. When you get there, use the attached barcode and you'll get some free usage there. It's a safe place, guaranteed by yours truly. Security is top notch and if you happen to get hacked, it's your money back. When you get into the system, check your Digivice and you'll receive a URL to go to. We'll meet there.
Harumi frowned. People knowing her handle, and what said handle was responsible for, wasn't an issue. It was knowing her name that had her concerned. And "Harumi-tan"? Who the fu—?
"Jormungandr?" Harumi breathed. She let out a low whistle. So the whispers from Anon on 42channel had a kernel of truth. They were still around. Harumi bit the inside of her cheek, a habit when she was thinking. The girl typed her reply:
I'll sleep on it.
Harumi shut the phone off before crawling under her blanket and shutting the light off. Two days passed before Harumi made up her mind. Now she was in Akiba, standing outside the Net Sheep Cafe. How many of these net cafes had she slept in? She was probably going to have to again if she couldn't get another job soon. Harumi took a breath and stepped inside.
The inside was nice and comfy. However, the cashier was quite the prettyboy. What made Harumi nervous was that he focused on her almost as soon as Harumi walked through the door. "Welcome to Net Sheep Cafe! How may I help you?"
"I, uh, received a summons," Harumi answered, bashful.
"Oh, one of the special customers! There's a private cubicle reserved for you. You'll see your name on the door."
"Th-Thanks." Harumi made her way in the direction the young man indicated, finding a private cubicle with a paper taped to the door with her name on it. Inside was a nice long chair and a VR headset. She set her bag down, got comfortable, slipped the VR headset on, and let her mind be transported away. Harumi woke in her in-game house. It was nothing fancy, just something one could buy with the basic currency earned in-game. Her mailbox was empty, save for the automated notices about events and login bonuses. She rarely read the former, but she took the latter. As soon as she cleared it out a new message popped up. Given the URL attached, it was probably the place she was supposed to go. Harumi took a breath, clicked the link, and was whisked away to another part of cyberspace.
When she could see again, she was in an elaborate room, like a cathedral. She'd only been in one once, when she'd crashed for a night in one when she was out of cash, but it was undeniably like an old, gothic church. A quick scan revealed that she wasn't alone. Off to one side was another girl, presumably around Harumi's age. So I wasn't the only one Jormungandr contacted, thought Harumi. Of course not. You're not that special. Others are just as good as you.