The S Ranked Hunter never once looked in my direction. As an S Rank, he had to know I was there. But why should he care? Besides, he was too busy walking around the dragon, probably checking on what he could salvage from it.
In the distance, I heard the sounds of Hunters approaching, excited to get a close up of the dragon.
Slowly I stood up and hugged my ribs while straightening out my spine as much I could so I didn’t put more pressure on them. I glanced at the dragon slayer one more time. I knew he didn’t do it for me. Hunters died weekly, even higher ranked ones. What was one more missing little E Rank?
Still, I found myself glancing at his back. “Thanks,” I whispered and wobbled away.
Out of all the times I’d been hurt in Gate Vale, this had to rank in my top ten most painful. Progress was slow, but thankfully I didn’t see any other monsters on my way out. They were probably scared off from the dragon and the S Rank’s aura. Monsters didn’t discriminate, really. They killed anything weaker than them — monsters and Hunters alike. I’d heard that monsters from the same Portal could cooperate with each other, if they were intelligent enough, but I’d luckily never seen it.
A slight pressure in the air compressed my body as I walked through the Gate. I grit my teeth. The air around me fizzled as red sparks zipped through the darkness. The pressure change only lasted a second before my feet landed on the paved ground in Eden and the sounds of the city washed over me.
Since there wasn’t a need to make the area around the Gate pretty, everything had been cleared from around it for a solid two hundred feet and the ground was paved with concrete. Not only did it keep maintenance down, it also kept the area open in case a monster surge happened and they made it out of the Gate into Earth. That had only happened twice, luckily before I became a Hunter, but it was enough of a risk, no one wanted to build too close to the Gate.
The closest building was a hospital. And it was the building I was most familiar with, outside of the E Hostel. I limped up to the tall white building and entered through the sliding glass door. My steps echoed off cream colored tile as I walked to the front desk. Pictures of graceful monsters and green plants decorated the foyer around the off-white walls and maroon plush chairs. In a way, this place didn’t feel like a true hospital. Probably because there were very few actual doctors in the building. The staff was mostly Healers, so there wasn’t a need for most medical equipment.
Such a sharp contrast from when I visited my mom.
An E Rank Healer at the front desk looked up and smiled at me. “Oh, good evening, Jyn. Back again?” She shook her graying head, tsking while she smiled.
Why did she have to ask me that every single day? I tried to hide my grimace with a smile. After a year of daily visits, I thought it would be a given by now. After all, who in this entire city had less HP than me? Even an E Rank Healer, a class known for it’s low HP, had more than me.
“Hey, Maria. I’m back.” I kept my voice as light as I could.
She tapped away on her computer, not even needing to ask me any of my personal information. By my second month as a Hunter, she — and the other two front desk ladies — had it memorized. “Okay, they know that you’re here. Why don’t you take a seat and we’ll call you back in a bit?” She smiled at me.
I glanced at the maroon chair. I was dying to sink into those fluffy cushions, but if I sat down I didn’t think I’d get back up. I was saved from having to make a decision when the swinging door to the back opened.
“Jyn Devhro,” a familiar voice echoed across the room.
I turned and tried to smile. “Hi, Mr. Jonovan.”
The only thing that had changed since I last saw him were his clothes. His long brown hair was still tied and falling over his shoulder and he still sported a mage’s robe over his business casual clothing. He frowned gently at me with a helpless wrinkle on his brow. “Come on, Miss Jyn.” He nodded over his shoulder and held the door open, habit making his movement smooth.
I limped through the door then waited for him to guide me to a room.
This exam room was almost an exact replica of the one I was in when he embedded the Guide in my temple. Dark oak cabinetry with a sink, several chairs on the sides of the room and a exam table on the right wall.
I slipped onto the exam table, so used to sitting on there that it didn’t feel awkward anymore.
“What happened to you? God, Miss Jyn, you’re a mess.” He shook his head and quietly closed the door.
My mouth hooked to the side. “It’s always the same thing, right? I was in the Gate.”
He sighed and reached out. Golden healing power radiated from his long fingers as he gently touched my shoulder. Instantly a warm, soothing feeling rippled through my body, washing away all the pain.
I sighed, my muscles relaxing. Out of all the Healers, Jonavon was my favorite. It wasn’t just that he was the second highest ranked Healer in Eden — only being beaten out by the solo S Rank Healer in America — but he was also the nicest and most efficient. He didn’t get frustrated by my frequent visits like the other Healers, rolling their eyes and complaining when they didn’t think I could hear. If anything, he seemed to keep an eye out for me. The only time he wasn’t the one who healed me was when he had a day off. I had a feeling it had to do with the guilt hiding in the back of his kind eyes. As if it was his fault that I became a Hunter in the first place.
“Always the same,” Jonavon muttered. “You didn’t see anything new today?”
As a full-time Healer in the hospital, it was a given that Jonavon didn’t go into the Gate much. He could have very easily joined a Guild party, but when I asked why he hadn’t, he’d simply smiled and said that he didn’t want his skills to be restricted to only a few members. A blessing like his should be shared with everyone. It was easy to see why he’d been voted as the second most eligible bachelor in Eden. He even had his own fangirl club. Not that I ever teased him about it ... usually.
My own ventures into the Gate were pretty average because of the strength restrictions I had. It wasn’t safe to go too far from the Gate, so I saw the same things over and over again. But I had to admit, today was different.
“I saw an S Rank Hunter today,” I said. Now that my ribs didn’t hurt so much my voice was stronger.
“Hm. Which one?”
I shook my head. “I don’t know. His back was to me, I couldn’t see the symbol on his chestplate. But his armor was silver and blue.”
Jonavon smiled and shook his head. “Ah, you just described about half of the S Ranked Hunters.”
My head cocked to the side. “Have you met a lot of them?”
He nodded to the side. “Quite a few. Most of them have egos as big as their talent, but some are good people.”
“I bet. I’ve met some lower leveled Hunters with big enough egos as is. I can’t imagine what some of those S Ranked gods think of themselves.” I looked down and watched the cut on my arm start to close up, as if the skin was being zipped together by an invisible hand.
Out of all the injuries, it was cuts like these that I liked to watch be healed the most. There was something so interesting about watching the skin close over the muscle as if it had never torn open to begin with. Although, I had to admit, it was pretty cool watching Jonavon regrow my pinkie last month. And pretty gross.
He hummed in acknowledgement. “Oh, I heard there was a Portal Burst today. Did you know? They said that a dragon came out and an S Ranker killed it…” His voice faded and he looked at me closely, his brows wrinkled in concern.
I grinned like an idiot and made a peace sign like I almost didn't die an hour ago. “Yep, that happened. Got to see the whole thing up close and personal.”
My light words didn’t make him laugh like I was hoping. If anything, his face wrinkled more. Such a waste of a pretty face, even if he was at least double my age. The higher a Hunter’s rank was, the slower they tended to age. Jonavan might look like a very fit man in his mid-thirties, but he could also easily be over fifty and I wouldn’t know the difference. But that was his business, so I never asked.
With all my injuries healed, he turned off his power and leaned back. He looked at me and opened his mouth, paused and turned to pull a small flashlight from the drawer behind him. “Jyn, have you ever thought about not being a Hunter?”
Only every time I’m lying on the ground, bleeding for a dime sized crystal. Only every night in my hard little bed, listening to my empty stomach. Only…
Only it didn’t matter. I smiled and waved a hand. “No one can just stop being a Hunter. Since I tested positive, this is where I belong. I’ve tried to get a job in a store or something. But they don’t pay as much and are in such high demand for E’s like me or simply people who can’t stomach fighting at all. It’s impossible to get one without connections.”
I couldn’t even make a real friend, what connections could I access? And as kind as Jonavan was, I wouldn’t call him a close friend either. Simply a shoulder to complain to for pity, just like the rest of his patients.
He leaned forward with a flashlight in his hand and flashed the light in my eyes, looking closely for who knows what. “No, I mean, apply to go back to the human world.” He must have liked what he saw because he set the light aside and started to test my reflexes.
My smile turned bitter. “Something like that doesn’t exist, Jonavon. We both know that.”
He stopped and looked at me. “But it could. In a case like yours, it should.”
Why, because I was so pathetic? I didn’t belong in the human world since I tested as a Hunter, but I was too damn weak to survive in the Hunter world as well.
Unfortunately, it all came down to money. There wasn’t any job in the human world that I could get that paid as good as a Hunter job. Even the scrap crystals that I picked up daily was enough to pay for my mother’s hospital stay. And as a Hunter, I was guaranteed three meals a day and a bed in the E Hostel, as long as I brought back something every day. The quality of the meal depended on what I brought back, but It was still considered free room and board. And it was one less mouth my aunt had to worry about feeding. In fact, me being a Hunter was one of the reasons my family could eat at all.
But no one needed to know about that.
I smiled. “Thanks for the concern, but it’s okay. Really.”
His mouth wrinkled into a frown. He shook his head and continued my quick physical check in silence. In the end, he stood up and gave me a gentle smile. “All better. Try to keep it that way tomorrow, right?”
I smiled and hopped off the table. There was no way I was going to promise something like that so I simply said, “Thank you for your help, Healer Jonavon.”
He smiled and held the door open for me. “Miss Jyn, if you change your mind about leaving Eden, let me know. I’ll see what I can do.”
I waved and walked away.
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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.
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.