I stared at the pale blue, barely able to breathe. I was a Hunter. The crowd cheered behind me, albeit a soft cheer compared to others.
Instinctively, I turned my head and looked towards the right side of the crowd. Surrounded by people pushing in on every direction was a fourteen-year-old girl with the same color of honey-brown hair as me and same hazel eyes as my father. I didn’t have to see the tears to know that she was crying, even though she was cheering with all her might. Behind her, my aunt, a near carbon copy of my mother, gripped my sister’s shoulders as my uncle stood by, both with solemn expressions.
They were the only family I had left in the world. On the other side of that Wall, there was no one for me. Still, I’d be able to give them a better life by being a Hunter, right?
“Go on,” the Hunter beside me rumbled.
I nearly jumped out of my skin. “Oh, right.” I forced a smile on my face and walked to the right of the stage. At the top of the stairs, I stopped and looked to the left of the stage.
On the other side, head barely in sight, was Marcie. She was staring at me with huge, tear-filled eyes. She waved at me and mouthed, ‘I love you, Jyn. Bye!’
My forced smile became real as I waved back. ‘Love you. Bye!’
It’s not like I would never see them again. Hunters had to live in Eden, but they were allowed to visit Garden City city whenever they wanted. Sometimes, humans even came to Eden.
At the bottom of the short stairs was a hallway with three doors. Standing next to the farthest door was a smiling man. I couldn’t help but pause at the sight of him. He wore a loose pale blue mage robe that hung open, revealing a white button up shirt and grey slacks. His brown hair was long and tied in a ponytail that hung over his right shoulder.
Twenty years ago, people would have called him a cosplayer, but this was a common look for Hunters.
Earth’s advanced technology didn’t work inside the Gate. Tanks broke down before they fully crossed the line and the bullets in guns bounced off the weakest E rank monster — and the guns usually broke into pieces before the second shot.
Nearly half of Earth’s population was killed before Hunters realized that only specialized weapons made out of material found inside the Gate, wielded only by Hunters, could kill the monsters. Swords, daggers, and bows — that was how Hunters hunted. Even their armor was made from those materials. Since they were using that style of weapons, the armor also followed the fantasy-like fashion. So it wasn’t uncommon to see the two styles mixed on Hunters, like this man’s business casual clothes beneath mage robes.
“Greetings and congratulations,” he said and motioned to the open door. “My name is Jonavan and I’m going to help you get started as a Hunter.” Everything about him was friendly and professional.
I swallowed the nerves bubbling in the back of my throat and nodded. “Thank you.” This was the start of my new life. I am a Hunter now. My life, and my family’s lives, were going to be better than before.
The room I entered looked a lot like a doctor’s exam room. There were a couple chairs along the wall and a padded patient bed in the middle of the room. Two very obvious security cameras hung from the ceiling.
I hated sitting up high on exam tables, so I sank down onto one of the chairs along the wall. Even then, my butt was only half on it. It took everything I had to keep my legs from bouncing.
Jonavan walked over to a laptop on a desk and sat down. “First, I’m going to input your information into the Hunter’s Association. Then I’m going to give you your Guide and we’ll find out what Rank you are, okay?”
In his soothing voice, he started to ask me questions, like my name, date of birth, and SSN. He then went over weight, height, and physical descriptions. The only thing he didn’t ask me for was my zodiac sign. Just as I was about to conclude that the questions were never going to stop, he smiled at me. “Great, all done.”
He walked over to the doctor table and opened up a drawer at the end. He reached in and pulled out a clear rectangle case. Inside was a small cream-colored pearl. “I’m going to assume you passed your Hunter’s course in school and know what this is?” He glanced at me.
I nodded, and my gaze wandered over to Jonavon’s right temple, where a pearl was embedded in his skin. And the one in his hand was going to be implanted in my temple. My heart started to beat faster.
He nodded, satisfied. “I’ll just go over it quickly then as a reminder. This is a Guide. It has all the information available to the Hunter’s Association in it, which is available to you as a Hunter. It will help guide you through the Gate, recognize beasts and plants inside, and even keep record of your daily needs and stats.” He opened the case and touched the pearl with his long, thin finger. “Sometimes, when first implanted, it can cause dizziness. Would you like to stay seated on the chair or lay down on the table, Miss Devhro?” The pearl began to glow faintly, like a mini moon. When I didn’t say anything, he glanced at me, expectant.
“Ah,” I blinked out of my thoughts. I could still barely believe all this was happening. “I’ll stay here. Thanks.” Quickly, I slid back until I felt the backrest.
“Alright.” He walked over to me and sat on the chair to my right. “This might hurt. Please bear with me.” He lifted one finger up. The Guide lifted into the air with his movement like it was attached to an invisible wire at the end of his finger. He pressed it to my temple.
When he said, this might hurt, what he really meant was, this will feel like someone is hammering a stake into your head. My eyes widened and I sucked in a huge breath, my body freezing. My hands gripped together and it was all I could do to not shrink away from the pain. I could feel the pearl press against my skin until my skin parted.
“You’re doing good,” Jonavon’s voice was right in my ear. “Almost there.”
The Guide slid into my skin and stopped just before it touched my skull.
“Done. Sorry that hurt so much.” Gently he rested his fingers against my aching temple. A soft golden light flashed in my periphery and the pain instantly disappeared. He smiled and patted my shoulder in comfort. “You did well. It’s been a long time since someone reacted like that. Honestly, most Hunter’s don’t even feel it because of the numbing magic coating the Guide.” He was all smiles, I couldn’t help but think there was a slight sadness in his eyes. “What do you think?” He reached into a cabinet and handed me a mirror.
I took it and stared into it. Jeez. Under the harsh lights, the bags under my blue eyes from a sleepless night couldn’t be more obvious. But that wasn’t what I should be looking at. I turned my head and saw the pearl mostly embedded in my skin. It was a testament of how awesome healing magic was. There was no swelling or anything, it was as if I was born with it. Really, he put it in a good spot. It sat perfectly lined with the corner of my eye.
“It looks great, thank you.” I handed back the mirror.
“Perfect. Now let’s turn it on.” He reached out a finger towards the Guide. His hand began to glow red and he touched the pearl on my temple.
Instantly, words started to flash in my face. It was like I was suddenly wearing a pair of glasses and words appeared and disappeared across the lenses, suspended above real-world items. Transparent blue title bars for everything popped up, labeling the chairs, the desk, the computer, the lights, even the man beside me. I gasped, suddenly dizzy. My mind felt like it was about to overflow.
“Just take a second,” Jonavan cautioned. “Right now it’s new and trying to figure out how to work with you. Try just focusing on one thing.”
I turned my head and looked at him. All the other names went away, until I could just see Jonavan Setter labeled over his head. I blinked a couple times and glanced to the side. This time, not everything in the room was labeled. I narrowed my eyes and focused my attention on the computer. Only the label of the computer popped into my vision. I switched my focus to the chair then over the table, seeing them named one by one.
“Better?” Jonavan asked.
“Good. In time, you will have more control over it. You can even go into the Settings and adjust it so it doesn’t identify common items. Now we’re going to look at your stats and see what Rank you are. I’ve been authorized to look at it now and record it. I’ll print it out and give it to you and you can do what you want with it. In the future, you can make your stats known to the people around you, but I would recommend only showing people you trust.” He reached out and lightly touched the pearl on my temple with his finger. “Now think ‘Open System.’”
What if it didn’t work? What if it just said that I was a hack? Open System, I thought hard.
Immediately, a flat transparent blue screen appeared mid-air about level to my chest. It looked just like it did in the textbooks I read at school. Right now it was only five inches tall, and divided into three buttons. The top button was labeled Stats, under it read Items, and lastly was Guide.
I stared at it, with a sinking feeling. Only three options? No Skills or Magic? Granted, most people didn’t get those until a couple days after they got the Guide, but there was still a small hope that I would have one right off the bat. People that did were generally very strong. Ah, I shouldn’t be surprised there was no magic. The detector turned blue when I touched it, so I was a warrior, not a mage. There was no crossing over.
“Good, good.” Jonavan bobbed his head like he could see what I could. Then again, from the warmth I could feel from the pearl in my temple, I’m sure that he actually could. “These are pretty self-explanatory. On the bottom is the Guide. Everything we know about the Gate and all the How-To’s for various things are stored there. There are even basic battle moves, like the ones you learned in your school Hunter’s Course, that you can view until you join a Guild and learn the more advanced techniques. The Items button is tied to your Items Bag that I will give you in a minute. If you select it by thinking ‘Items,’ you can see everything inside it. If you have a Skill or Magic, it will be above the Items.”
“Did you start with a skill?” I cut in, trying to not feel so bad about myself.
He nodded and smiled with pride. “As an A Rank Healer, I started with Healing and Health Augmenting abilities. It wasn’t until several days later that my Null-Elemental abilities appeared.”
Yeah, that didn’t make me feel better about myself. Jeez, I didn’t even notice that I was sitting right next to a big-wig A Ranker. Then again, that made sense that he would be that strong, considering what he was doing right now.
He must have noticed my disappointment because his expression turned kind. “Give it a couple days, Miss Devhro. Besides, there are plenty of successful Hunters that don’t have skills. If it really matters to a Hunter, they can always save up and buy a Skill Stone to learn one.”
I had a feeling that they were as expensive as they were rare. It’s not like you could grab one off the Walmart shelves, they were only found inside the Gate. And most people who found the magical stones that imputed information in your mind, kept them for themselves.
I nodded anyway.
“Good. Now let’s look at your Stats. This is where you view your statistics such as Rank, Hit Point — or HP, Magic Points — or MP, and such. The Guide is tied to your body now. It checks your overall health and converts it into easy-to-read numbers. You don’t need to touch the buttons, simply think what you want opened. Please think ‘Stats,’” he instructed.
Stats, I thought, barely able to breathe. Please, be at least a C Rank.
The Stats button darkened for a split second then the screen lengthened until it was almost a foot wide. In it, I saw an outline of my body image at the standing position. To the right was a table full of numbers. I stared at them, almost not believing what I was seeing.
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I am an author, mother, wife, and jack of all trades. I mean, every mom is, but I’ve found that through my research for different stories, I’ve picked up a lot of random (and sometimes actually useful) knowledge and skills.
I’ve had a vivid imagination since I was a child. And as much as I wish I could actually live in the worlds in my head, the closest I can get is with the words I put on the page. These characters are like real people to me. The funny lines they say, their emotions that make my heart bleed, the amazing things they can do that I physically can’t, the adventures and sights that I can see in my head. I love sharing those things with my readers and hope that they can feel at least a part of what I do.
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