To finish up formalities, my name is Eric Cornelius Jäger. Just call me Eric. I don’t look all that different from any normal person, except for my heterochromia, which gives me one green and one blue eye. I work for the Hunter Corporation, a secret organization that hunts down and either heals or destroys super-naturals all over the world. I’m an A-rank first-class. Basically, other than the Elders, I am the top dog in the ranks. I am one of ten hunters in the entire organization that deals in immediate executions, and I have 230 under my belt. The highest any A-rank has ever gotten, all at 32.
Now, to stop inflating my ego, I am not the best at a lot of things. I can only do simple spells, like the fire spell I used on Hao. That small explosive spell I used was the biggest one I’ve mastered yet. Except for the mandatory “Porta-prison” spell, I only have one complex spell mastered, and even that’s a stretch. That doesn’t mean I’m any less deadly.
Now the corporation itself is old. It leads back to Van Helsing if my history is correct. If I’m not mistaken about the manner, I believe he even founded the corporation. For these past 131 years, the Hunter Cooperation has been keeping on its toes to stay technologically and magically advanced, staying out of public and government eyes, all the while keeping balance in the world. I guess it doesn’t help when one of their biggest agents likes to keep things on the flashy side.
Of course, for very understandable reasons, I’m not allowed to tell you where we are based, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to follow those reasons. The main Mother base is located at Washington D.C, right below the Jefferson Memorial. No, the statue does not slide to the side. It is, however, lifted up into the air. No, I am not kidding.
There are two guardsmen that are proficient in illusory and alchemical spells. The first guardsman patrols outside and makes sure that there aren’t any civilians at the memorial. If there is any at the time, he activates an illusion so no-one would freak out when the 5-ton statue started to lift in the air. The second guardsman then uses an alchemical spell to make the statue lighter, to about 30 pounds or so. He also turns the inside of it to helium, allowing it to float. After the statue is lifted, it’s as simple as walking down the staircase to the base.
The way down is a grand spiral staircase, one made of a white, grey, and black marble inlaid with gold. The guard rail is a dark, polished and carved wood, mahogany I believe. For a top-secret organization that only has about 10,000 workers, not including hunters, we sure do love to make ornate entrance ways.
The main floor was a large room, one that put any football stadium to shame. The floor, unlike the staircase, was a plain polished concrete. What set this apart from your average concrete floor was that it was made from actual Roman concrete. We were lucky enough to find the recipe on one of the sweeps of Venice.
On this floor, there were several hundred workers and hunters. This was floor was a sort of transport hub. Anyone or anything could go anywhere from here. And in this chaotic sprawl, you could somehow still hear someone talking to you. It was an unspoken rule to not be too loud, I guess.
As I was walking toward my quarters, I passed the magic rooms. That’s where the rookies learn magic, and what they will specialize in. Some barely get past training and end up a worker, while others may become as successful as me.
“Eric!” called a younger woman’s voice. That was Amelia Conrade, a C-rank third-class. In other words, a rookie. My rookie, on top of that.
“Hey, Amelia. How’s my rookie doing without me? I hope you’re passing your basic alchemy.”
“Eric, you didn’t even pass alchemy!” she said, annoyed. She doesn’t like being called a rookie.
“I’ll have you know, having a 70 is still passing. That, and I may or may not have destroyed a homunculus that a yet-to-be-named individual made.”
“First off, gross, and second, any souvenirs?”
“Well, Hao puffed a bit too much, so I couldn’t bring a Yaoguai tooth as I promised. I did, however, take a picture of some pagodas he was hiding in.”
“Let me guess, I won’t be able to visit them?”
“You can, just don’t go inside.” She gave a sigh of relief. I have a bit of a destructive tendency with historical landmarks. That’s why Amelia joined the Hunter Cooperation. To preserve historical monuments that hold importance to Humanity. That’s what I admire about her. She cares about our past, even when our past was ugly.
“By the way, Elder Emily is looking for you.”
“Oh no, what did I do this time?” I said mockingly.
“I don’t know. She was grumbling about destroying a local Buddha statue?”
“Okay, I didn’t touch a Buddha, and I know that.” I said as I was walking away. An Elder looking for you after you finished a mission is typically bad news. So, at risk of my job, I went into the Elder chambers.
The Elder Chambers were older than the rest of the complex, or detailed as so. The floor was mostly made of Industrial Era-type cobblestone, except for the Elder’s Judgement court, which is made of the same marble and gold structure as the stairs coming in. There are three chairs, each for the three elders and the three critical parts of humankind to prosper. That is Animo, or mind, Anima Mea, or soul, and Corporis, or body. The Elder Hunters, being some of the oldest and most experienced people in the organization, go over some of the worst cases, like Hao, and provide final judgment. Their rules go, and there is no workaround. Behind the chairs are tunnels to the Elder Hunter’s chambers, which is basically where they live. I started heading down the tunnel titled Animo, since that is where Elder Emily resided.
“Emily!” My voice echoed off the tunnel, as if to mock me.
“What did I screw up this time?” Still no answer, except the mocking tunnel of the mind. I started going at a faster pace, just to reach her chambers faster. As I kept going, I heard classical music playing on a record player. Of course, the Elder representing the mind would listen to Johann Sebastian Bach. As I was reaching the end of her tunnel when I could finally see her room. Its entrance was a wide, cobbled archway. On one side stood the statue of a woman, dressing in ancient Roman attire, strikingly gorgeous, made of a clean white marble. On the other, stood a tall, menacing figure covered in a set of armor covered with horrid and ghastly spikes, made out of a jet-black and horribly cracked marble. They represented Persephone and Hades, one of the greater battles of the mind. I went in, and regardless of how many times I had seen it before, it always took my breath away.
The walls were painted a soft white, not enough to make everything bland, of course. They seemed to radiate their own light. On the furthest left corner hid a birch bookcase, whose origins could be traced to Russian Royalty in the 1800s. To the right of the room stood a sleeping, cooking, and working area. The kitchenette was beautifully intricate, enough to make you wonder if it was a kitchenette or a display in an art museum. The desk in the work area was a stunningly gorgeous shining aluminum with a glass top. It was so intricately cleaned, it constantly looked as if it was brand new. The bed was accompanied with a Victorian era nightstand, one made of oak with a gold inlay. The bed had smooth, white silk for blankets, sheets, and pillows, which were always nice and kept.
To the closest left corner, stood Elder Emily, in the way of her vinyl record player, which, other than the desk and desktop computer, was the youngest thing in the room. She was blonde, with very few traces of age. In her white business suit, she could have been twenty. She turned around to show very few wrinkles, but enough to show her age and merit. Her face was a mix of surprise and exhaustion. Surprised, since I came to her, and exhausted, since it was me. She turned around, stopped her record of Air on the G String, and said in a mild British tone,
“Well, how was your trip to China?”
“You know, asking for directions in my horrible Cantonese, tripping over some homeless people, punching eleven-foot monsters through steel doors, the usual.”
“I guess Amelia told you?”
“Partially. Something about a Buddha, which I did not-”
“Yes, I am completely aware you did not destroy the Buddha. A Dragon did.”
Silence. An agonizing silence, that seemed to scream seriousness. Some zombies? Easy work. A Yaoguai like Hao was breakfast, but a dragon? That was trouble. Any stories you’ve heard about dragons are worse than what they were told to be. They caused some of the worse known tragedies in human history. Have you heard of the fire at the Alexandrian Library? Dragons burned it down. The reason why was either for fun or the Romans had found a chink in their scaly armor, which would only be rediscovered later.
Pure hatred started to boil inside me. There was one dragon left, who everyone thought had died off, but there was no mistaking it now. It was the Dragon that took my parents from me.
“Where is it?”, My angered tone bounced off the tunnel, seeming to mock the fact I had emotions.
“Eric, you’re not going alone. You know what he can do, and you can’t take care of it alone. You need help.”
“No. I. Don’t.”, my response was so cold, it could have frozen over her room.
“Eric, calm down. It’s not what they would have wanted.”
Of course, the Elder of the Mind knew how to screw with mine. “If, no, when you reconsider sending me alone, call me.” I was too mad to discuss this any further. Either I was going alone, or I wasn’t going at all, and that was final. I could feel Emily staring me down, but I was not going to let down. That dragon nearly took everyone I cared about from me. I wasn’t going to let it take anyone else.
“That hot-headed buffoon.”, I grumbled to myself as Eric walked away. “Thinking he was the only one affected, as usual.” I turned back to the record player and started up Air on the G String, and just relaxed. Being an Elder may not be physically strenuous, but it is mentally. Just as I was starting to unwind, that ever-so-annoying computer of mine started ringing for a call. “I can’t get a moment’s worth of piece, can I?”, I grumbled to myself. “Prometheus, answer the call and move it to the big screen, please?”
A smooth, near-robotic voice answered “Yes, Madame Emily. Do you wish to know who it is?”
“No, I already have a fair idea of who it is.”
Just as I finished, part of my wall lit up with an LCD display, showing a lanky, tree-like man in a somewhat business-casual suit. He was nearly balding with a comb-over, yet he made it look somewhat normal. All of this for a 39-year-old. He stood in a room with shadowed figures hunched over green-lighted radar screens, constantly blipping.
“Frederick Edwards, A-rank First-class, reporting in. We’ve lost the Dragon, ma’am.”
“What do you mean you lost the Dragon? It has a 200-meter wingspan and a 100-meter length!”
“That’s the problem, ma’am. It seems to have disappeared.”
“You mean to tell me that it just ‘poofed’ out of existence?”
“Not exactly, ma’am. It appeared in several different places before fully disappearing.”
“Approximately, within the span of thirteen seconds, it appeared over an unpopulated part of Sri Lanka, New York City, London, and Moscow.”
“In that order?”
“Yes, ma’am. We are currently working on finding it again.” Then a younger woman’s voice called out to him, and whatever she said had drained the color out of his face. “It-it seems we found it again, ma’am.”
“Well, where is it?”
“Approximately thirty-eight kilometers and climbing above the Antarctic, ma’am.”
“My God.” A silence broke across the room, both on my side of the screen and his. “Thank you, Frederick. I’ll get Eric on the case with some helpers as soon as I can. You have done enough.” With that, he did a slight awkward bow, and the screen turned off.
“It’s waiting for a challenge,” I said to myself. “He’s not doing it for attention. It wants to fight Eric.”