It was easier than you thought to find the door to "Chief"'s office.
Finding him was easier than you'd thought, as one of the doors you saw had exactly such a name inscribed on it. You knocked.
"So you're the infamous Rick," the man spoke from behind his desk. You noted there were two others in the room. Huge and Irene.
"Is this the part where you say 'we've been waiting for you'?" You spoke blandly, opting to ignore Major Huge for now.
"That would be too cliché." There was a hint of humour in his eyes as he spoke. "This is Major Huge from the Hunter's lodge, I believe you've met him already."
"Indeed I have," you replied, only now acknowledging him, noting that he'd not introduced Irene. "I do wonder why you're here now of all times, Major."
"I just came to give some papers to the chief of police, and it just so happened you were taking your examination so I opted to stay and chat," he replied with a neutral smile.
"So, Rick, I take it you came here to ask for the retroactive temporary tamer license as Irene informed me?" Chief cut off before anyone else could say anything.
"Indeed. I hope it isn't too much trouble," you stated neutrally, the only thing you gave Huge being a meaningfully raised eyebrow.
"It wouldn't, but it also would," the chief replied cryptically. "You see, the Major here came with a written recommendation for you to become a Hunter, claiming that your level of competence is above that of your average tamer. Irene corroborated that your mind-set alone would make you a great asset to our country given the proper training."
A long pause followed as he kept his eyes on you. You frowned slightly. "My taking Monica back would be the complication, wouldn't it?"
"Indeed," he nodded. "By Irene's estimates, were you to take Monica and become a hunter, even with a Rapha such as Dia, you would most likely be dead within the month."
Opening your mouth, you closed it, then considered. "I take it that the hunter position is harder than I originally anticipated?"
"It is, very much so. After all, it is usually reserved for Tamers who have proven themselves for at least a year or two," Major Huge said plainly. "And the problem with your Purrsian being the strongest member of your team is that she is poorly trained and poorly educated, she is feral born and doesn't know... well... much of anything, a complete lack of experience on protocol or working as a team and a lot of power."
"So... what? How did you expect me to become a hunter in the first place?" You countered.
"This." He took out a capture-sphere and placed it on the table. "She is an experienced Battle Angel who lost her tamer recently, and though I am certain that doesn't mean much to you, to give you a frame of reference, she could hold her own against four Monica's at the same time."
You weren't quite sure what he meant, but trusted his estimate to be accurate at least. Which was impressive. "So you want me to exchange Monica for this one?" You asked, making a gesture towards the capture-sphere.
"I would like to stress that this is entirely your choice," The chief stated.
"And what of the part you said that if I became a hunter you could pull some strings?" You asked dryly.
"Circumstances changed, she wasn't on the list of options then, nor had we the advice of this town's best psychic prescribing you to not take your purrsian as a starter were you to take the Hunter job." The major shrugged. "A misstep on my part, for that I apologize."
"If I may," Irene spoke with a tone of deference and respect, but still with that cold edge. "The decision is quite simple, Mr. Rick. Become a Hunter and take the battle angel but leave Monica behind. Or request the retroactive temporary license, take Monica, but don't become a Hunter."
"What if I want to be a Breeder?"
The chief barked a laugh. "Feel free to apply once you have your Tamer license completed, same would go for the other positions such as watcher."
"And I have to make the decision now?"
"I'd rather you've made your choice before leaving, but I understand if you feel there might be some questions on your part," the chief replied. "Feel free to ask."
You had to wonder- Irene could read your mind, could she also speak to the Chief's thoughts directly? Give him real-time information about your state of mind? "What if I want to come back for my Purrsian at a later date?" You asked. "If my understanding is correct, your caveat is that my life expectancy would be shortened were Monica my starter. So would it be possible for her to remain in stasis until I came back for her?"
"That's..." The chief and major looked at one another.
But it was Irene who spoke up. "Mister Rick, this offer you are receiving is already well outside the standard protocol. Hunters are required to be tamers that have proven themselves capable for over a year. While you have had none. Not to mention that Tamers are seldom allowed to have a starter that is of Rare rarity rating."
You frowned but understood her point, as what you were asking was basically to be given everything. For these people who thought of monstergirls as... "Mister Rick," Irene interrupted your thoughts. "For the government, a monstergirl is a tool, and that is because it has to handle thousands of monstergirls each day, and very rarely do any of the inexperienced and untrained ones show any trait that isn't present in nearly all others of the breed. Both in personality as well as capabilities."
Yes, you understood her point, and reminded yourself this world had seen three hundred years worth of monstergirls and ferals and slavery. You had not. "Would I receive aid to purchase Dia from the medical centre if I take either option?"
"I would make a personal loan with no interests for you to pay back at your leisure if you take the Hunter position," Huge stated.
"It would still be possible were you to opt to become a tamer, but it would be harder," Irene added. "You wouldn't have the Hunter's backing to convince the head of staff of the medical centre, and you would need to sell several common-tier ferals as well as add in the starting funds you'd receive to be able to reach the typical sale price of a Rapha like Dia t."
A sigh followed her words; it seemed things wouldn't be easy for you. "Just what advantages could I have as a hunter that I wouldn't as a tamer?" You asked scratching your head.
The chief was the one to speak up. "You would have access to information Tamers wouldn't usually get, or that they would receive with a delay, as well as contacts," he stated. "As a government official, you wouldn't be required to pay for the usage of public facilities such as-"
"Excuse my interruption, sir," Irene spoke, glancing at you. "I believe what you would find most useful is that Hunters are forbidden to participate in salvage battles while tamers aren't."
"Salvage battles." You frown, deadpan.
"If a tamer challenges another for a salvage battle, unless there are special circumstances at hand, the challenge cannot be refused," Irene explained. "Both challengers decide on the bet, usually a monstergirl, and the loser has to pay up."
The reaction that came out from inside you was quickly quelled and calmed down, the outrage reduce, you’d been explained this one already. But you found a new level of loathing at the idea. These people didn't make the rules, and they were also trying to clear out your doubts about this decision.
"Well, that's that," Irene spoke up, dusting off her lap. "Gentlemen, you owe my tamer dinner."
Then she was no longer there, and you had to blink for a second. She'd just... She’d vanished. What.
"Tamer it is, then," the chief nodded, Huge looked disappointed.
You felt like you needed to apologize. These people held important positions, had likely pulled favours, and... It could get complicated if you didn't try to at least explain. "I seem unreasonable, I just grew attached to-"
"Your cat, yes." Major Huge stood up. "I wish you the best, Rick, I truly do, that way maybe we will meet again." He offered a hand to shake, his grip firm and stern, and he left without further fanfare.
"You will have to excuse Major Huge, he's seen many prospect tamers lose their spark to the grinder that is the circuit."
You felt slightly worried about his words. "Is it that bad?"
"Odds are none of those you will begin with save perhaps the non-combatant will still be at your side by the end of the year," the chief shrugged. "Contrary to common belief, the starters are usually lost rather than stick around throughout the tamer's career, it's just one of those 'survivor bias' things going on."
"So... things aren't looking up."
"No, they are not. And Huge had tried to save you from that grinder... in his own way." Chief extended a hand to take up the papers you'd signed. "I don't really expect anything to go askew, so by tomorrow morning everything should be in order and in the right hands so to speak. I suggest you go take that check-up and get briefed on what responsibilities and rules you will be expected to follow." A pause as he checked that your signature was indeed on all the papers. "Unless you have something else you'd like to say?"
"Do you have anyone you'd recommend to give some tips?" You asked awkwardly.
Chief placed his hands on the table for a moment, and then let out a very long sigh, reaching into his belt and with a flash of light from the device on his belt, an older looking monstergirl materialized.
"Mary, dear, could you kindly guide mister Rick towards the medical centre?" the chief spoke. "He's going to get checked for his tamer's license."
"Oh, a tamer at such an age?" The woman spoke softly, looking at you with concern and sympathy in her eyes.
"He's an outlander," the chief explained.
There was a shared nod between them, a message you were not privy to. "Very well, Master." She bowed her head and motioned for you to follow. "I take it you know nothing, correct?"
"It would be best to consider it that way, ma'am, and thank you."
"Oh, you're such a sweetie." She waved at you as she covered her smile with her hand. "Ah, to be young again, I remember when I was a starter girl, all fresh and full of energy."
"Was it the chief?" You wondered.
"Oh dear, no, I had thirty-one tamers before I landed on the chief's firm lap," she laughed softly. "I was quite fortunate, not many girls manage to land a stable Master." She looked at you kindly. "I take it you have many questions?"
"How... do you avoid the salvage battles?"
Understanding flashed across her face as she nodded. "It is a law that many oppose, but it has yet to be properly uprooted. Sadly, you can't really avoid salvage, it will happen sooner or later." She nodded slightly, waving at the officers as she moved to leave the precinct. "You can trick the inexperienced tamers into thinking a girl is not worth their attention, or you could willingly sacrifice an undesired member of your team. Your best bet is to make sure that your team is in top shape for the fight regardless. It's best to insist it happen at a certain time and date such as the morning after a long hunt rather than right away." A wary sigh followed. "But in the end, it is almost assured it will happen, and you must ready your heart for it."
Nodding, your mind kept throwing questions your way. "How does it work, exactly?"
"One tamer challenges another, and tells them what they want. The one challenged determines the kind of battle that will take place and what would be a fair equivalent prize; once agreed, they battle." A momentary pause. "The dexes record the whole conversation, and if an agreement isn't achieved then the recording will be reviewed and either a third party will deem a fair price, or it will be determined someone was sabotaging the negotiations and as such will be declared as the loser."
"That's how it is," she shrugged. "Fortunately salvage isn't the only form of battling, there're combat where the only thing waged is money, and many variants."
"What about food? Money?" You muttered. "Housing? Equipment?"
"You will receive about... 30 thousand Standard Credits to purchase your starter and the basic equipment. After that, you can earn money through quests, battles, or rank challenges."
"And I'll have to buy my own food."
"Or hunt and scavenge it," she nodded, her tail waving lazily behind her. You noticed many of the girls who looked your way while on the street would give both of you a very wide berth. "Lodging in the medical centre is free the first two nights whenever you reach a new city or town, after that you will be required to pay as well."
You held your inner grumbling in exchange for the next question. "What about training? Or making easy money?"
"Oh dear," she covered her mouth. "As a starting tamer, you are required to test your rank at least once a month and you cannot challenge the same one twice in a row, you also have a requirement to have sold at least fifteen ferals in that same span of time."
"So the system is meant to promote travelling... and keeping the roads clean of ferals."
"It is a very important job," she nodded. "Outside of training in the wilds, the best alternative for a starter tamer like you would be challenging tamers to standard fights."
"What if I applied to being something like a Watcher?" You asked.
"Then you'd be tasked with heading somewhere isolated and... watching. The naming was not very imaginative." She smiled ruefully. "Your harem wouldn't be allowed to be more than 3... or was it 4? No, 3 girls. And your only career path would be to carry on these observation missions until you've learnt enough to aim to become a researcher."
"Tamers have a standard of 6 plus a non-combatant, but those numbers can be extended with special licenses," she said. "Ones you can only apply to after a certain amount of time spent as a tamer, the first one being after six months."
"Of course," you begrudgingly acknowledged. "What if I just... tame some feral and don't catch her?"
A wariness to her expression. "If you got caught, the monstergirl would be taken from you and you would have to pay a very heavy fine."
"Wait, how would they know if a monstergirl belongs to me in the first place?"
"The capture spheres." She smiled impishly. "They register the information with the dex, and the dex updates the government databases whenever it connects with the system. Since you can only access your money through usage of your dex, then..."
"Oh." A long-winded sigh. "What about purchasing medical or other supplies?"
"Standard stores have a green roof." She pointed at the building in question. Her steps stopped as both of you reached the front of the medical center. "Anything else I could clear up for you?"
"Any tips on taming ferals?" You wondered. "Not just the... bonding, the... everything else."
"I understand your question, dear sir," she spoke softly, nodding. "Bonding a feral to break them out of the state is always a big risk." She said. "Tamers must always keep them restrained until they've fully awoken. Sex and feeding them tend to be the quickest ways to form the bond, but it always comes down to the individual monstergirl." A slight sigh. "Past that, training them to become civilized is always a big challenge. Feral born girls usually see sexual acts and food as pertaining to its own specific category. More often than not they will accept anything in the bedroom so long as they enjoy it, or feel that they should be enjoying it. But this does not mean she will apply it outside of it."
"Oh," you muttered. That certainly explained some things.
"Usually it's best to use sex or treats to convince them to do things, until they become accustomed to obeying. Empathy is important, but it takes far longer. Buying an English T2 would also hasten the process of her learning the language, but they're very rare and very expensive." She paused, then sighed wistfully. "If worse comes to worst, you could also put her through a level 4. It wouldn't erase her mind nor any memories, just leave her dazed for a day or so. It would definitely teach her obedience if perhaps in a slightly more forceful way."
"You must always be wary with ferals," she stressed. "Even the ones that seem used to taming, the risk of being accidentally harmed in the heat of passion is very real. Many tamers lose their lives every year because they don't take the proper precautions. What to a monstergirl might be just a twitch, to a human it could very well mean a broken spine."
That made you grimace. "Yeah, I... know."
The woman nodded solemnly.
"Lastly, there's this nurse I wanted to..." A moment of silence.
"Trained and experienced nurses are much more expensive than just buying ones from a ranch, and well worth the tag," she said. "Though it will always come down to whoever owns her at what price she'd want to sell her to you." A wink followed. "If you do manage to get her, make sure to label her as a non-combatant, that way she won't be able to get taken through salvage battle." With a pause and a bow, she turned to leave. "I wish you best of luck."
You watched her walk away, hearing her hum a little tune. You wondered as you looked on, and sighed, turning to face the medical centre entrance. Entering the building, you headed to greet the receptionist. "I'm here for my mandatory checkup to become a Tamer?"
It, fortunately, wasn't the black-haired one you'd seen scowling at you yesterday; this one was a brunette. The look she gave you was one of incredulity, and you could sort of understand why considering the average tamer began at their late teens and you were... almost twice that. It took her a moment for her to work through the shock before she checked the system. And then checked three times more to make sure.
A little nod, she guided you through the process.
Half an hour later and a little bit of missing blood, you had been taken to sit down on the bed in your room and you were now holding the "dex", a black phone with a touchscreen and (at least according to the user manual) a battery charge that was well within the 80-year span "longer, if kept properly". Next to it was a "Taming for Dummys" booklet, the first half of which was 'how not to die while fucking...', followed by a list of monstergirl breeds and precautions. You'd also been given five empty capture spheres, and a bank account with 30,000 SLC to your name.
The brunette had told you that they had no readily available starters on hand- not that you wanted one what with Monica... And that as such you got the money instead. You were lacking gear, and Monica was meant to be given to you by tomorrow morning after passing a brief lie-detected interrogation back at the precinct.
A heavy sigh followed as you tried to decide what to do now that you had most of the day ahead of you and a promised date with Dia come night-time. Laying on the bed, you took a long minute to try and work yourself into doing something that wasn't just staying there and waiting for the hours to tick by.
So much had happened so quickly. It felt like just yesterday that you were teaching at a high-school, the forest and everything in it almost a strange dream... You shook your head.
First things first, the dex. You opened it up and began to fiddle with it for a bit before finding your user profile. It showed a very long string of numbers and letters as your "DNA: ID", an image of your fingerprint, your picture, name, and age. And a lot of empty boxes such as "Alpha monstergirl" or "Last Challenge".
Moving around the settings, you discovered that you could block others from reading your personal information... Well, you could block most things except for three key pieces of data: your name, the number of monstergirls assigned to you, and their breeds. But everything else you could hide from prying eyes so you set it up that way.
Still, the dex warned you that your account would be visible to any official who scanned you. There didn't seem to be anything you could do about it though, so you move on with your fiddling.
You noticed the dex was telling you you had five unused capture-spheres, and realized it had somehow detected and assigned them as yours. Curious, you wondered what the method to determine that was. The dex also appeared to have other functions such as scanning monstergirls to tell you their breed and if they were owned by anyone. There was also access to an encyclopedia-like database at any time to read up on monstergirl breeds.
There was a lot of information about individual breeds there, and you took a moment to check "Purrsian" out of curiosity.
"PURRSIAN, the Frisky Feline"
You had to laugh at that, yeah, it seemed like Monica fit the breed's title to a T.
Putting that aside for now, you kept looking around. There appeared to also be a sort of email function to it, and, as the nice lady had mentioned, it also held your bank account in it. There were other functions to it, but they seemed less important for now so you moved on to the book "Taming for dummies".
What you gathered from the first half of the book was that you definitely needed some restraints (medium at least, priced at 5,000 SLC), to always have spare capture-spheres, and that you should definitely be open to raping a wholly unwilling monstergirl a couple of times or at least put her through a level 4 so as to ensure they didn't pose an immediate risk to your person or those around you.
Doubly so if it was a willful kind of feral.
The latter half of the book gave some general tips on things such as type-advantages between monstergirls, ways you could gift your monstergirl with various activities to promote obedience (most of which were variants of cuddling or eating), and how it was VERY illegal to teach any non "smart-breed" monstergirl anything besides how to read and write. And generally, what was left of it made you feel bad for these girls who were being toyed with to the point all tamers were expected to have such a book suggesting things such as "tell her you will make her the alpha if she behaves better" as a standard way of manipulation.
It also went out of its way to detail several money saving strategies, such as keeping the monstergirl inside her ball for as long as possible, as while within the ball their bodies remained in stasis, so they wouldn't become hungry that way. It was the kind of thing that made you almost toss the thing into the bin.
Alas, it still seemed to have a nugget or two hidden between its pages.
An example was its emphasis that harem dynamics would become very important once you had more than one monstergirl. They tried to sell it as monstergirls having powerful tendencies to desire status, especially status above those of their harem sisters. But it really didn't take a genius to put two and two together.
If the 'alpha' spent most of the time outside her sphere, and everyone else spent most of their time inside their sphere, no wonder they'd be desperately vying to try and gain a status that let them just freely exist outside the sphere throughout most of the day.
All of this made you sigh and shake your head in dejection.
You'd said you'd adapt to this world, but it still felt like bullshit.
The last tidbit that caught your attention was the description of the taming cycles. 5 levels in total.
- Level 1 was always on within all standard capture sphere, and was a tiny little nudge towards obedience.
- Level 2 was a light punishment... or reward, if the girl was submissive- it just reinforced level 1, no side-effects.
- Level 3 stunned the monstergirl for a handful of hours, and was suggested for a feral's first taming; their minds were left "open to learn".
- Level 4 was... It stunned them for a couple of days, and all but the staunchest of monstergirls couldn’t resist as it imprinted into them the need to obey their Master. The thing was powerful enough it could even shift their sexual orientation.
The fact that a level 4 could change one's orientation was clearly something put in to allow bonding to work faster. Didn't mean you liked that thought.
You looked at the last one, the level 5.
Impossible to resist, no survivors, mind-wipe. All memory and personality erased, in its place a blank slate that understood English and would obey anything and everything, only gaining a semblance of a personality after months of being practically catatonic whenever not following an order.
It made you shudder.
You could see the booklet for what it was, propaganda. It needed to sell the tools with which human tamers could and would dominate and keep monstergirls as property. You didn't feel like a champion of justice- you weren't Alice- but it still felt sickening to realise you could see the cold logic behind these taming cycles.
After all, the only thing you needed to do was imagine Monica suddenly opting to rampage in the middle of a city because something startled her. How many humans would she be able to kill before she was brought down? What if it wasn't a feral without a clue but a monstergirl fully intent on bringing as many humans down as she could before an end was put to her? Considering the dex barely described Monica's breed as "mid-tier", you could only shudder at the thought.
It made perfect sense.
Monstergirls were genetically engineered breathing living weapons of war.
In an almost visceral way, you could imagine how humanity moved towards where you were now. The war, the plague, survival, then ferals? Otherworlders? Desperate times necessitated desperate means.
You pushed those thoughts away.
You decide to look for Doctor Hale and start bargaining for Dia. You made up your mind, that you weren't going to leave town without her. Irene was right, and if you depended only on Monica, you'd die sooner than later. Monica didn't know about society, or humanity. Dia was the best option.
It didn't take you long to find Doctor Hale.
"Fifty thousand." She didn't even look up at you the moment you'd found her walking down the corridor. She was currently reading something that seemed very technical.
"I appreciate you being forthright at least," you replied.
"I appreciate you aren't a manipulative sleazeball," she replied, noting something down on the paper before looking up at you. "She has four years worth of experience in this rinky-dink place, she's had to assist operations with the worst types of tools we had on hand, and she's the best part of my day, any day. I appreciated that you were giving her some attention that went past just sticking your cock into her, but I don't like the thought that I will have to train someone else when she leaves." A heavy sigh. "But I respect that you're making an honest attempt and weren't just all talk. So fifty thousand."
"I only have thirty."
"I know, and I wouldn't give her to you if you claimed everything you had on hand right now was fifty."
"Because then I'd be a stupid tamer who bought a monstergirl and didn't have any of the gear essential for everything else," you nodded.
"We're needing loans, not open for giving them," she replied, placing her hand on her hip.
"I could offer a chunk of my liver," you said with a snicker.
"Don't really need it." She had an amused grin.
"Sperm and blood from someone with no monstergirl ancestry?" You jokingly put forth.
The amused look died then and there, and her lips thinned. "The sort of place you'd be getting into where they'd buy such a thing wouldn't be a safe one."
A heartbeat, hesitation. "Tell me more," you dared to say.
Frowning, she sighed, nodding. "There are people who are... very enthusiastic about the idea of having progeny that doesn't have monstergirl blood in them." She stopped for a second, becoming tense. "Powerful people who'd make you disappear and milk you dry for the remainder of your life so they could sell the 'service' to others with the same interests."
"...not someone to mess with," you muttered.
"Not at all." She shook her head. "And they wouldn't hesitate to off everyone who knew you existed just to save themselves the hassle of anyone looking for you."
"..." You remained quiet, considering the implications.
"I don't think I like the sound of that," you said, aware that maybe one day you would be tempted to make such a deal- but that day wasn't today.
"Then that is all I have to offer." Despite her words, she nodded. "Better off if you didn't take that route anyway."
"So what now?"
The doctor shrugged. "Catch ferals, salvage girls from other tamers, do some quests, or don't do it and leave Dia here with a sweet memory of what could have been and not the bitter ones of what would be." She shook her head. "Up to you, really."
"I still want her," you speak honestly, trying to consider some angle to use. "But maybe it's best if she stays, maybe when I've saved enough I come back to-"
"Don't." The Doctor looked at you sternly. "If you're half the tamer she believes you to be, you will have found a decent enough healer by the time you've saved up enough to come back and buy her. Only two outcomes come out of that. Either you've grown so fond of the 'other' healer you won't get rid of her, and thus Dia becomes second fiddle in a position that only needs one. Or you do get rid of the 'other', in which case I would have to question your morals considering you'd have known them for far longer than Dia."
"So what I'm saying, Rick, is that you don't tell that girl you will come back for her," the doctor stated flatly. "She would be holding that candle for you for God only knows how long before filling that hole with bitterness. And if a good partner showed up she'd likely turn them down out of the illusion you sold her. And I would be there to watch her crumble a little bit every day." Her glare was serious. "Don't you dare tell her 'maybe one day'." She crossed her arms firmly. "If you come back you come back, and if she's here then she's here. But don't fill that girl with empty hopes and dreams."
"What if I get the money before leaving?"
"Then you got the money before leaving, buy her, and there'd be nothing further to discuss," she spoke flatly. "Just remember that you probably have about four nights left before the centre starts charging you a premium for your stay. A price I can assure you is not cheap."
"I won't give her false hopes, but I won't give up," you replied.
"Then make sure she doesn't hear a word," the doctor stated. "Break her heart when you leave, because if you die or you end up finding 'something better', then it's better you don't leave her tortured waiting for something that won't come."
You nodded in agreement. "Thank you," you say, giving your honest opinion before turning around to let her carry on with her work.
As you did, your head started to churn through options regarding what to do between now and your date tonight. You still had maybe eight hours or so, so plenty of time for anything. But what? Besides food, of course. You checked your pocket and confirmed you still had three vouchers left.
Time to gather everyone.
It was time to start thinking up ways to earn some money.