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These were my Stats? This ... this had to be a joke. Seriously, it was a joke. A normal human’s stats were eights all the way across. Maybe a body builder would have a nine in strength. But my Constitution, which defines defense and overall health, was an eight. And my Intelligence, which affects magic and skills, was an eight. And my strength — in other words, how easily I could kill monsters to survive — was also an eight! Eight was average, no better than a normal human.

The remaining Stats weren’t stellar either.  Even my Agility — how fast and nimble I was, and my Perception — hearing and sense of environment, wasn’t good in the slightest.

I swallowed hard. Then swallowed again. “Am I … really a Hunter? And not just a human in the wrong place?” How much of a joke was I?

Jonavan’s face was white as a sheet, his jaw a little unhinged. He cleared his throat. “No, you are definitely a Hunter.” His gaze slowly slid over to me. There was a new emotion in his eyes, one I’d seen too many times in my life. Pity.

The day the police came to our front door and informed us that my dad was dead. Every time I walked through the halls to my mom’s hospital room, to talk to a woman that would never wake up. When I’m at the register, counting pennies to pay for food that day. After all this time, I thought I was immune to the sting it left in my heart. 

I thought that being a Hunter would make that look go away. I hadn’t even been a Hunter for an hour, and I was seeing it already.

“Do Stats ever change?” I whispered. Please say yes. Tell me that people wake up all the time to stronger stats, that I wasn’t stuck with these my whole life.

Jonavan looked away and stood up. “There have been a handful of cases where a Hunter has Reawakened.” His voice was neutral as he forced a kind smile. But he obviously didn’t think that was going to happen to me.

A handful of cases out of millions of Hunters.

I silently watched Jonavan type on the computer. When he finished, he stood up and opened a different drawer under the doctor table. From inside, he pulled out a small red velvet bag and a short sword in a blue sheath. He set the short sword on the table then walked over to me with the red bag.

“This is your Items Bag. As a standard model, it holds ten items.” He reached out his finger and touched the pearl on my temple again. His finger was glowing red when he pulled it back. He then touched the Items Bag with the same glowing finger.

An orange exclamation mark appeared on the corner of my System’s window. Curious, I focused on it and my Items window opened up to see a message.

[An Items Bag has been attached.]

“Do you see it?” Jonavan asked. When I nodded, he smiled lightly and handed me the bag. “Tie this on your belt or you can stick it in your pocket. You’ll find that most armors and cloaks have special places for Item Bags built into them.”

“Thank you.” I tied the strings around the belt loop on my shorts and glanced over at the short sword. In theory, that was going to go into the Items Bag, but how was that going to fit into a piece of red velvet barely four inches tall? Magic was so cool. I just wished I had some too.

His smile was a little more natural as he followed my gaze. He reached out and picked up the short sword. “Given your strength and size, I thought this might be better suited to you than a longsword.” He held out the weapon. “You learned how to use it in your Hunter’s course?”

I took it and pulled the blade out of the sheath. The office lights gleamed off the pattern weld on the blade as the light and dark colored steel blended together. It was cool looking, but the window that popped up over the blade was a little off-putting. [Short Sword. A sword for beginners.] 

I slid the short sword back into the sheath. “They did teach us some stuff.”

At least I knew enough to not cut off my arm, even if I wasn’t completely comfortable with it. No, maybe that wasn’t it. The sword itself actually felt good in my hand, the handle seemed to fit perfectly in my palm and the weight — though enough to get my attention — wasn’t too much. The problem was, a short sword didn’t have the same reach as a normal sword, or inflict the same amount of damage on a large monster. Sure, I could swing it. But every swing would put me closer to danger than most other Hunters.

Jonavan taught me how to equip the short sword through the Stats window then how to take it in and out of the Items Bag. I spent a couple minutes practicing, until I could call out the short sword and have it appear in my hand instantly.

In the end, he nodded and stepped back. “Alright, that’s everything that I have to teach you.” He smiled at me and handed me a paper with my Stats on them. He motioned to a door. “On the other side of that door is the way to Eden. I wish you the best of luck.” He said that, but his gaze was thick with pity again.

I gripped the paper and smiled as bright as I could. “Thanks for all your help.”

His lips wrinkled with … guilt? “My pleasure.”

I waved and hurried out the door. There were still a lot of things I had to do. First of all, where was I going to sleep tonight? I had a little bit of money to pay for food, but two hundred dollars wouldn’t last long.

I exited to a hallway formed with room dividers. As I walked the make-shift hallway I couldn’t resist staring at my stat sheet. It was as if I stared at them long enough, zeros would appear on the ends. But no matter how hard I stared, they stayed the same pathetic numbers.

Something shifted in my periphery and I glanced up. Ahead of me was a huge iron gate. Several Hunters wearing dark green police uniforms stood on either side. The entrance to Eden. I paused and gripped my stupid paper in my hands, staring at the gate. 

No, I wasn’t going to let my Rank get me down. My family needed me to be a successful Hunter. E Rank or not, I could do this. When I joined a Guild, buying more powerful equipment and making money would be easier. I wouldn’t have to stress about taking out monsters by myself and there would be a Healer around if I got hurt.

I reached the huge iron gate and it swung open automatically. The Hunter police didn’t even acknowledge me as I walked through.

My first thought was that Eden looked more peaceful than I thought it would be. There were no cars and no litter on the ground. Green trees lined the sidewalk and colorful signs hung from red brick buildings on both sides of the road. One of the most noticeable things was that it was quiet. The only people on the entire road was a crowd of thirty or so that stood together but eyed each other like they were the enemies.

As soon as I’d stepped through the gate and onto an Eden sidewalk, every head in the crowd jerked around to focus on me. I froze, clutching my paper tighter. That was when I noticed the symbols on their clothes. It took me a couple seconds to realize that these people were Guild recruiters.

I took a deep breath and started to walk toward them. I needed to get into a Guild. It didn’t even have to be a big one, just any Guild would work for now.

The recruiters looked me over, their sharp eyes cutting through my skin into my shaking bones. None of them made a single move towards me, most looked away disinterested.The shaking in my stomach formed a pit that grew bigger with every step I took.

One of the men nudged another middle-aged man in red. “You lost the bet.”

The guy in red scowled at him then sighed and walked over to me. “Hey there, kid.” His square face nearly cracked as he plastered on a smile. “I see that you’re an E Rank.” He motioned over my head.

He could see my rank? For a second, I stared in shock. Then I remembered how I saw Jonavon’s name above his head. Wait, didn’t I read once that Hunters could see the ranks of people who were equal to or weaker than them? That meant that they could all see my rank, and I couldn’t see any of theirs.

“Why don’t you show me your stats and we might be able to work something out, okay?” The man’s charity was offered begrudgingly.

I glanced at the symbol on his shirt. The dark red phoenix was familiar, it was the same symbol that my dad used to wear. This man was a recruiter for the FireBird Guild. After my dad died, they did a good job settling his affairs for us quickly and efficiently. It wouldn’t be a bad thing to commit to them. I passed my paper slowly to him.

He took it and glanced at the numbers. Then he choked. “Seriously? What is this?”

I couldn’t say that made me feel any better. Any thoughts of joining my dad’s old guild vanished with the crude laughter that came from his mouth.

“What? Let me see.” The man who egged him on before hurried over and snatched the paper from the FireBird recruiter before I could take it back. “Is this even real?” He stared at the paper then looked me up and down. “I’ve never seen anything like this before.” He shoved the paper into my hands. “Look girly, there’s a place for people like you. None of us have the resources to waste on a dead person.” 

He motioned to the side where a short, old man stood under a tree farther down the walk. The old man smiled gently and waved a hand.

My insides froze over as I gripped my wrinkled paper. Before I could finish processing what had just happened, the gate opened up behind me and another new Hunter walked in.

The recruiters looked over. Instantly all of their faces lit up and they rushed past me to the young man as if they’d just seen a piece of prime steak. The old man started to walk to me as I turned and watched the recruiters fawn over the beaming young man, promising all sorts of amenities if he joined their Guild.

This was my first taste of the descrimanation that would color my life. I was a Hunter, but that didn’t mean I was equal to everyone else here. Eden was a place where the strong lived and the weak died. 

And I was the weakest.

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About the author

MichelleRReid

Bio: 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.
I do have other works that are published through Amazon. They are not LitPRG, but I'm still really proud of them. Check them out if you have the chance.

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