Ch.1 An Easy Hunt
Old man. That’s what everyone calls me. To be fair, in my line of work, I’m ancient. A relic, something that should’ve been destroyed a long time ago, but I guess I’m just lucky. Demon Hunters usually don’t live for much longer than ten years, most die horribly gruesome deaths in their first five. Yet, here I am after fifty.
“Aikawa-sensei, we should get going,” Rourke puts a hand on my shoulder, “our target is moving.”
“Ah, yes, I suppose we should,” I reply, snapping back to reality. I stand up, my joints seem to creak as I stretch, “I haven’t really gotten a proper warm-up,” I say to Rourke. He laughs.
“I thought this was your warm-up,” Rourke chuckles, he picks up his blade, runs to pick up speed, and then leaps to the rooftop of the next building.
“Damn that robot,” I laugh to myself as I move to follow him.
Our target should be easy enough, it’s nothing out of the ordinary, just a routine hunt. A Beastman, by the looks of it a lycanthrope. Even a rookie should be able to handle this. Tailing a Beastman is easy enough, they’re large, loud and simple minded for the most part. This one is hungry, he’s looking for prey.
The Beastman, running down the empty, and dimly lit street, suddenly stops. It sniffs the air and darts into a side alley. Rourke stops ahead of me.
“Looks like we’ve got to get on the street now,” Rourke says, looking around the rooftop. “There’s a fire escape over here,” he calls to me, already making his way down.
“You know I can’t move quite as fast as I used to,” I say, making my way towards the fire escape. By the time I’m at the bottom, Rourke has already crossed the street and is looking down the alleyway.
“What took you so long?” he jokes, looking back at me.
“I thought I’d give him a chance,” I say, moving into the alleyway. It’s dark, but my night-eye implants kick in quickly, seemingly washing the narrow alley in light. I don’t see the Beastman. “Are you seeing anything I’m not Rourke?” I ask.
“Nothing,” he replies, “maybe it kept moving, went out the other end and kept running,” Rourke says.
“No, can’t have, if it did, we would still be able to hear it,” I reply. Suddenly, a scream pierces the night’s silence above us. We look up, and see a broken, and twisted fire escape.
“The fire escape, damn,” Rourke says. He leaps into the air, wall jumps off the building next to us and grabs the lowest rung of the fire escape. “I’ll hold him off while you get up here,” He shouts, scaling the fire escape. I run forwards, then jump, the heel-spring augments in my legs giving me the boost I need to reach the fire escape. Above me, I hear a deep roar. I move quickly, climbing the fire escape until I reach an open window. Looking inside, I see a terrified couple across the room, and Rourke with his sword drawn, holding the wild Beastman back.
“Rourke! Move back!” I shout, jumping into the room and drawing my blade. He gives the beast a kick, stunning it, then quickly jumps out of the way. I pull my arm back, then fling it forwards above my head, and towards the Beastman. My hand detaches from my wrist, attached to a cable in my forearm. It zips through the air and launches forwards, gripping my blade. Small rockets on the end of my hand activate and propel my hand forwards, sending the blade straight into the Beastman’s heart. It lets out an ear shattering roar of pain, and falls to its knees. I reach my arm out, and the cable quickly recalls my hand. Landing neatly back on my wrist with a thunk.
“Now Rourke!” I shout. Rourke lunges forwards and with one fluid downwards motion, cuts clean through the Beastman’s neck. The Beastman’s body falls to the floor with a loud thud and its head rolls around on the floor, stopping at my feet.
Rourke sheaths his blade. “Good thing it didn’t get messy,” he gestures to the couple, now passed out on the floor together.
“Yeah,” I say, rubbing my wrist, “we’ve still got some cleaning up to do though,” I sheath my sword and pick up the Beastman’s head. “We can turn this in later, but let’s get rid of his body and all this goddamn blood.”
“Let’s get to cleaning then.” Rourke sighs.
A short while later, with the Beastman’s head in a bag, Rourke and I are sitting in our little motel room.
“You know, it’s not like you to zone out like that Aikawa-sensei, even during easy hunts like that,” Rourke looks at me from across the room, “What’s on your mind?”
I sigh. “You know, I’m getting old Rourke. Being a hundred years old, even with all these cybernetics, all these implants and ‘upgrades’, my body may look no older than 40, but the human parts still feel it.”
Rourke shifts, “I can’t understand that, my body doesn’t age, but I can grasp the concept of mortality,” he moves across the room and places a hand on my shoulder.
I chuckle, “Thank you Rourke, you work to please an old man’s soul.”
Rourke nods, “you should get some rest, I can stand guard duty.” Rourke stands up, and moves towards the door.
“Thank you, I’ll see you in the morning then, wake me up if you need anything.” I say to Rourke. He nods again, and stands next to the door.
I lay on the bed and close my eyes, waiting for sleep to take me.
Even in a world like this, sunrises are beautiful. I sit up, stretch and watch the light from the sunrise pour into our small room.
“Rourke, are you ready to head out?” I call to Rourke as I run my morning systems diagnostics check.
“Whenever you are, Aikawa-sensei,” Rourke calls back, still standing guard near the door. After I finish my morning system check up, I grab whatever gear was left lying on the floor or table, and the duffel bag containing the Beastman’s head.
“Let’s get going then,” I gesture to the door. Rourke opens the door for me as I step out into the bright motel courtyard. Rourke steps out behind me, closing the door behind him. Aside from the few cars parked outside the motel, the courtyard is empty.
Stepping out of the courtyard, Rourke hails an ATHV, Autonomous Transport Hover Vehicle, and one flies down from the heavy traffic above and hovers above the street. The ATHV’s doors open on their own as we approach. I toss the duffel bag in the back and slide into the back seat with it. Rourke hops into the front seat and the doors automatically close behind us.
“Please say or select your destination,” a robotic voice chirps at us from a glowing blue center console.
“Lotus Corporation HQ, Petal district,” I say to the console. The console turns a bright red.
“Error,” the console beeps, “Location requested is restricted, identification needed. Please place the proper identification on the console to allow access to the requested location.”
I take off my necklace, a glowing lotus flower carved from jade and ivory about the size of my palm, and place it onto the console.
The console turns blue and beeps, “Welcome, Kaito Aikawa. Identification verified, thank you. Now proceeding to Lotus Corporation HQ, Petal district.” The ATHV begins to lift into the air and merge into the traffic above us.
After a short ride in the ATHV, we’re dropped off in front of Lotus HQ.
“Thank you for using Lotus services, have a nice day,” the robot chirps as it flies off to pick up its next customer. Rourke and I navigate around Lotus HQ grounds until we reach the main Hunter Division building.
“Why don’t you go tag this Rourke. Meet me at the Armory after, I have something I need to do,” I toss the duffel bag to Rourke.
“Alright, I’ll see you there Aikawa-sensei,” Rourke turns away and I navigate the Hunter Division.
Walking into the Armory, I see it’s as busy as always. The open market vendors shout and try to draw whatever attention they can to their stalls. Shining weapons, large neon holo-dispays, and the gesturing of vendors to their wares draw the attention of my eyes. The shouting and negotiating of the Armory is as loud as ever too, this place never seems quiet. A few vendors smile and try to call me over, but I decline or ignore them, I’m looking for someone right now. I pass by a few other familiar hunters and vendors until I reach a quiet booth near the end of the Armory.
“Hey old man! Always good to see you back!” Desmond stands, and greets me with a warm smile and a handshake, “It’s a relief to see you, I’d hate to lose one my best customers.”
“Thank you Desmond, I see you’re as cheerful as ever,” I chuckle, shaking his hand. “Have you got anything new or interesting in stock?”
“Well, I’ve got this,” Desmond disappears into the back of his booth, but quickly returns, brandishing what appears to be the bare hilt of a katana. He presses a button, and with a flick of his wrist, an energy blade springs from the end. “Impressive, isn’t it?” Desmond asks, handing me the weapon.
“As impressive as it is tacky, a laser katana?” I swing the blade a few times, feeling its weight, “surprisingly heavy, is this an older model?” I ask.
“Yes, they’re quite hard to find. I saved this for you, thought you might like this kind of stuff,” He takes the katana from my hands and deactivates the blade, “so, what do you think?” He asks.
“I think they’re outdated and inefficient. Still, they are eye catching aren’t they?” I gesture to the hilt, “how much?”
Desmond whistles, “they’re as eye-catching as they are expensive, it’s about 4,500 Credits.”
I shake my head and chuckle, “for this? 4,500 Credits is enough to feed a family for months. Even for me, that’s a bit much for one blade.”
Desmond grimaces, “Yes, I had figured as much.” He puts the energy blade onto the booths table. “Now, lets get to real business, what do you need?” He asks.
I sigh, “I need my augments tweaked again, I ran my system diagnostic this morning, some things need to be re-calibrated. Those heel-spring augments you gave me a few months ago have been working like a charm, but they’re really stressing out the other cybernetics in my legs,” I rub the back of my legs. “The pain I can deal with, it’s nothing major, but it still slows me down, and I can’t afford that.” I say.
“Yes, well, I’ll see what I can do about that,” Desmond nods and puts his hand on his chin. Desmond turns around and shouts into the back of the booth, “Theo! Watch the booth while I take the old man to the back.” Theo, Desmond’s daughter, and apprentice, nods and scurries to the front of the booth. Desmond leads me to the back of his booth, and to a closed door. He opens the door and gestures into the room. The door leads to a small, but clean looking laboratory, with an empty operating table in the center of the room.
“You know the drill, get on the table and wait while I grab my tools please,” Desmond closes the door behind me and walks to one of the tables on the side of the room.
“Thank you, Desmond,” I say as I lay down on the operating table, “you’ve really been far too kind all these years,”
“Ah, you’re welcome, don’t worry about it so much,” he says, moving from one side of the room to the other, occasionally picking up tools. “You saved my daughter, this is the least I can do to repay you, and of course, you still pay me a considerable amount,” Desmond laughs, making his way to the operating table. “This should be all the tools I need,” He says, sitting on a stool next to the table. “Now, tell me, what was it this time? A banshee? A pack of Imps? Maybe something bigger?” He asks. Leaning over my legs, he pulls up a holo-display connected to the table.
“No, no, nothing like that,” I respond. “It was a Beastman this time, nothing too serious. Rourke handled most of it anyways.” I close my eyes while Desmond hums, and starts to operate on, and tune my legs, “Rourke’s really turning into a monster in his own way. When he fights, It’s terrifying, in a beautiful kind of way,” I say.
“Yes, I’d imagine a SEA-HU would be quite vicious in battle, especially one programmed by you. Still, Beastmen are vicious and deadly, but you talk like slaying one was just a normal stroll in the park, I’m curious as to why.” Desmond says, continuing to work on my legs.
“Most Beastmen can’t use magic, and the few who can really only use it at it’s most basic levels, to summon weak firebolts or as frail force fields to guard their body. Because of their almost entirely physical nature, they’re only a danger during full moons, when their levels of strength and endurance are at their highest and when they’re most bloodthirsty.” I explain to Desmond.
“Ah, interesting. It’s always fun to learn about these monsters and demons you fight.” Desmond pulls up another holo-display and squints. With a swipe, he dismisses the holo-displays. “Well, you should be fine for a while now, I’ve re-calibrated the cybernetics attached to your lower body, and the heel-springs should put less strain on them now.” He stands up. I open my eyes and sit up on the operating table.
“Thank you again, Desmond,” I say, as I stand up, stretching and feeling my legs.
“Again, no problem Kaito. Please, feel free to come in whenever. It’s always nice to hear from an old friend,” Desmond laughs and pats my back as we walk out of the backroom, and into the booth.
Outside, Rourke notices me and waves, “I thought you’d be here Aikawa-sensei, I was just talking to Theo. She says they have a vintage laser katana?” Rourke looks back at Theo and she nods, holding the hilt up.
“Didn’t I just custom order you that blade you’ve got now?” I chuckle. “Are you interested it in though? I didn’t think you liked energy weapons,” I say.
Rourke shrugs, “even if they’re out of date, they do look really cool.”
Desmond laughs, “you really are learning from your old man,” Theo gives the hilt to Desmond, and Desmond hands it to Rourke, “here, take it, as a gift. Your old man might not appreciate flashy things, but life without a little flashiness is boring.”
“Are you sure Desmond? Isn’t this expensive?” Rourke asks, holding the hilt in his hand, waiting for Desmond’s response.
“Sure, I offered it to Kaito, but he declined. I’m not going to be able to sell it to anyone else here, so why don’t you take it.” Desmond smiles, and nods.
“Thank you Desmond,” Rourke puts the katana into his bag, and shakes Desmond’s hand.
Desmond laughs. “Don’t worry about it. Just make sure to keep Kaito alive, if you do that, I’ll consider it paid in full.” Desmond and Theo wave goodbye as we walk out of the armory and onto the street. Once we’re on another ATHV out of Lotus HQ, I ask Kaito,
“So, what assignment have you chosen?”