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Golden Huntress

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"Welcome. I am commander Sawa Souda, pleased to meet you here in Seisho. It is my honor to finally meet you in person, Daiba-san." Souda ends her introduction with a polite bow. Nana gets a little weirded out.

Commander Sawa Souda might have retired from working on the front line, but her charisma and leadership are too valuable to be wasted. Her rough appearance shows that she spends most of her life on the grounds, yet the touch of a lady has never left her. Poised, elegant, and reserved. Yet for Sawa Souda, those are not enough. She has been a leader for a long time, leading people from small hunting groups to the powerful masses under the wings of the commission.

The commander then approaches her. "If you haven't heard about us, Seisho is an elite research commission. We receive hard to impossible quests, become the first responder when an anomaly occurs, and investigators for irregularities. We might be small in number, but our hunters and huntresses are experienced and well known."

The veteran huntress circles the blonde, her combat shoes are tapping against the wooden dock in a certain rhythm. "As you've heard before, I am the leader of this commission. We were given an important duty to explore more about the New World and its extraordinary environment. Because Seisho isn't a big commission, we work hand in hand with the other Research Commissions."

"Then," Nana cuts. The steady footstep comes to a halt. "What am I doing here?"

The commander hums. "To join our commission, the candidates need to fulfill certain categories and requirements. They can either be recommended by the hunter school or the commission they work for. But..."

Nana clenches her fists, feeling the gaze of the commander smoldering on her skull.

"But sometimes we find unique, talented people lurking in the dark. For people who work in the shadows, a different approach needs to be made depending on each individual. Some are easy to persuade, some needs proof of strength, some need to be-"

"Taken away by force?" Nana shots. Commander Souda shakes her head.

"... another form of persuasion," she says. Nana blinks in confusion. The veteran walks back to her big table.

"We have records about your achievements. Skilled in close-range combat, quick, nimble, has a sharp survival instinct, and passionate about cooking. Also records of past hunts you've done while you worked with them." The commander spreads out a stack of paper. Nana can't see anything but certain pictures. She spots an accurate drawing of her face. Whoever makes the drawing should get a raise.

"You've been doing your homework. As expected of the special force." Nana shrugs.

"It is necessary. We cannot afford to believe in some tales and gossips, however true it might be. For example," The commander takes a paper, puts on her glasses, and reads, "we do know that you're courageous and a risk-taker, to the point you will not hesitate to injure fellow comrades or leave them behind in the middle of a hunt."

"Bastards deserve a beating and slowpokes are dead meat." Nana shrugs. Of course, they will have a record of her beating people around or her leaving the injured behind to be the monster's snacks.

Souda hums, acknowledging the answer. "Then how are you going to do your job? I have to make sure that the people who work and live in Seisho will not bring harm to each other. How are you going to win my trust as a commander?"

"I don't know, you tell me." Nana gets irritated. "If your record is accurate, then there should be something like 'Daiba Nana hunts alone', 'she never goes on hunts with a partner except with a palico’, or 'other hunters can just suck on their thumb because Daiba Nana is not a baby sitter' written down somewhere there. The point is, I hunt alone. I work better that way."

She might understand all the reasons and get bombarded with sensitive questions, but that doesn't mean she's okay with it. Do they need a reminder that they themselves bring Nana to their tiny headquarter against her will?

"Leave me alone, and there will be no problem. It's not that hard to mind your own business," she hisses.

One might think that Nana looks scary and acts like she owns the place. But in reality? She's confused, can't believe that she's in Seisho, and doesn't know what to do. This is the place she's been wanting to go to, and somehow she gets herself in (by non-mainstream method).

Souda stays in silence as she lights up a pipe. Nana stares at the veteran anxiously. The silence stretches even after the commander inhales and puffs out the smoke.

When she decides to speak, a few minutes have already passed. "Right now, Seisho needs additional hands on the deck. I've heard the news that you have been looking for us. Taking your consideration and ours into account, I could say we have a deal."

Great, she gets herself in Seisho! Goodbye sad life, hello good time. Nana bites her inner cheek to suppress a blooming smile.

"Sounds good to me. Now can you do something about these?" Nana brings up her tied hands, the chains rattles together as she gives it a light shake. The commander nods and the redhead proceeds to unlock the cuffs.

Once the cuffs are off, she stretches. Two days, or maybe more, of sitting pays a big contribution to her back and shoulder pain. Stretching helps reduce the pain a little.

"While you're working as a part of us, do mind one thing," she adds, smoke seeping out of her nose and lips like a dragon. "The hunters and huntresses you're about to work together with our specially selected for their abilities and astounding capabilities. Do not take them lightly."

So much for some common knowledge. It sounds more like a fun fact about Seisho. Maybe the commander knows that she's a fan of fighting or something. She wants to punch whoever relays the information. Good for them, she has no intention to make trouble in her new home. She'd rather stay out of all the fights and drama and if she can, the community. The kitchen will be an exception.

"Now I will assign a handler to you." The commander knocks the burnt weed off her pipe. "I'm sure both of you are familiar with each other since this isn't your first meeting."

Wait, what? She doesn't recall meeting any handler besides her old handler. Only a huntress. There's no way that she's a handler-

She can hear someone approaching behind her. The steps are light with some momentum. Nana guesses that it's a teacher's pet kind of girl. It's her first impression of a certain archer huntress. Nana gets surprised when the person speaks though.

"Hoshimi Junna has arrived."

Nana freezes. There's no way that the huntress she hunted with is also a handler. That's just doesn't make any sense.

"Hoshimi-san, good afternoon," Sounds greets her. Nana can't see her because of their position, but judging from the soft rustles of fabrics, she must be bowing.

"Good afternoon Commander," she replies politely. Whoa. It has been a while since she sees any kind of politeness.

"From now on, you will be her handler. I understand your circumstances, but we don't have many choices for now. I will be waiting for great news."

That's nonsense. This Hoshimi is an archer. A huntress. She's the witness. She has once hunted with her, even if it's not planned. But her eyes aren't playing tricks. So how can she become a handler too? The confusion is painted on her face, with the furrowed eyebrows and the little frown.

"With pleasure." Junna bows slightly. Nana is bewildered, but she's not in the place to give them a piece of her mind.

The commander gives the archer a nod. "Daiba-san, I officially welcome you as a part of us here. And you are all dismissed. Hoshimi-san, take Daiba-san around the headquarter for a quick excursion. Isurugi-san, thank you for your assistance. Please send my regards to Hanayagi-san."

And just like that, people scatter away with their new business. Nana just stands there, trying to process everything that just happens. From Souda's introduction to the history of Seisho, and the reason why she's brought there.

"Daiba-san?"

Junna's voice catches her attention. She turns to her, angling her head down because the bespectacled girl is shorter than her. Taking the silence as permission to speak, Junna continues.

"I'm sorry that they treated you crudely... They're nice people actually," she frowns. Junna doesn't expect to ever see Nana again, and especially not like this. With Nana getting 'kidnapped', and her working as a handler. It's not something she's proud of.

Nana shrugs. "No kidding. Sitting and blacked out for days, getting provoked, and fighting someone with my legs tied to the chair was a fair fight apparently. I really want to take a bath and sleep."

The blonde immediately stretches her whole body, emitting clacky and snapping sounds as her joints pop and she feels instant relief. Too bad the fatigue remains.

"Then we should-"

"No," Nana cuts. "Let's just get this over with, a tour around Seisho. I don't want to talk to people, so at least my miserable appearance will make them think twice before opening their mouths."

She chews on her cheek after saying it, noting how Junna looks shocked and averts her eyes away. Nana's pissed tone is sharp enough to deal mental damage on the handler. Her rigid response teller the blonde that she's anxious. "O-okay then... Daiba-san."

Still, Junna does her job pretty well. Communications might be awkward between them, as Nana doesn't leave any openings for small talk. She doesn't greet people back, stares at people who are minding their business, and kills every conversation that is directed to her.

Junna brings Nana around to introduce the locations, locals, and facilities Seisho offers. Not only all of them are bigger in size, but the equipment used is way better than her old headquarters. Perhaps the most shocking thing will be the canteen. Because Seisho is operating mostly in the open air, the kitchen itself is a semi-open area. A big palico-head like carved boulder is sitting as the main giant griller. There's a thick, wide cooking island made from stone acting as another griller. A little bit further, a giant cauldron sits on top of the burning flames, brewing delicious stew for the hungry people. Nana will make sure to visit the canteen later after she gets her undisturbed rest.

Junna then guides her to their quarters. A small room with a humble interior and minimal decoration, since displayed weapons can't be counted as decorations. There is a tall stack of books lined on a wall, and a wooden standing cabinet filled with more books. A bunk bed is placed against a corner, with the bottom one giving signs of being used while the top one is seemingly fresh and untouched. She spots her bag on top of the top bed and takes it as a sign that she will sleep on the top bed.

Different kinds of bows are displayed and arranged neatly on a wall, and there's a box displaying many types of glasses in different sizes, colors, and shapes on the desk beside the bed.

"In Seisho, we shared bedrooms because of limited building space," Junna says, her footsteps light against the wooden floor as she approaches the bed. "I'm sorry that it's a little messy-"

"You're a huntress, right?" Nana grits her teeth. She doesn't mean to tell the girl, but the small room makes her voice sounds louder than it actually is.

Junna, seemingly to understand what the blonde asks, nods. "Yes. I am a huntress... But I am also a handler. It's... A long story."

Nana doesn't show any interest in the girl, let alone the background behind it. Though she will lie to herself if she says that she's not curious. "Explain."

Junna, perplexed by Nana's randomness, pulls the nearest chair before she sits on it.

"It's a boring story, really. I was recruited three months before your arrival, but I couldn't do much as a huntress because the number of hunters exceeds the handler. So for the meantime, I work as a handler. I have a background of a handler, but my main occupation is supposed to be a huntress."

The blonde girl feels like there should be more of it, but the bespectacled girl doesn't seem like sharing the details. Whatever, that's not important.

"You can only work as one of it. Being both at once... That's just pure absurd and not efficient." Nana approaches the bed and reached over to grab her bag. It's easy when she's almost as tall as the bunk itself. She pulls the tie open and inspects the bag. Her belongings are still there, nothing is missing. Good.

She knows that the air is still awkward at its best. She's also sleepy and her body still aching.

"That's all for today, right? Nothing else but the walk around the new base?" Without waiting for her new handler to answer, Nana keeps talking. "Then I'll go take a bath and sleep. I know where the bathhouse is. I'll ask if I get lost."

Her first day in Seisho is not pleasing and not awful. She can actually enjoy it if only her body isn't hurting, she's not sleep deprived, and hungry. That day, she even feel bad for a stranger. Which is weird. She rarely cares about other people, but her handler... Something is tickling the back of her mind about Hoshimi Junna.

She will eventually find the reason why later. Now's not the right time. Not when she stinks like a rotten Odogaron.