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Though there were a few moments of the trip that the pair of them had thoroughly enjoyed on a personal level. Ellie had been caught off guard late one night during the trip though the mountains by Levin's She'd wandered off to keep him company one night during his turn at night watch he'd had to borrow a great sword since his was still damaged beyond reason; he had hopes of repairing it in Loc Lac, though neither of them were optimistic.

They'd talked for a while with each other over really nothing at all, just for the sake of enjoying each other's company; it was one of the few times they'd finally managed to get some privacy in a place where no one would tease them over it if they were caught, just nod in understanding. Eventually, a chilly wind had rolled down the mountain, catching the two of them off guard when the temperature dropped ten or so degrees, making the two Lost shiver a bit.

One moment Ellie was hugging her shoulders, rubbing her arms and muttering to Levin at how cold it had gotten; the next, she was pressed against a tree, Levin's hands clinging tightly to the back of her hair and pulling her deeper into a heart-pounding kiss. Ellie didn't even have time to think before getting caught up with the whole thing, grasping Levin just as tightly. It was several minutes later before the two of them pulled apart, gasping for breath.

Ellie couldn't tell if the heat from her face was from flushed embarrassment or just from her pounding heart. When she looked over at the great sword user, she found him laughing at the look on her face. She growled angrily, but Levin simply pulled her closer again and smirked at her. A hell of a sight awaited them once they'd finally passed the towering peaks of the mountains, though Ellie wasn't sure whether to describe in as good or not.

Endless sand stretched beyond the horizon, a bright white blaze that just barely was dimmer than the sun above them. But it wasn't just that the sand was there, it was the sight of the sand actually sifting and churning, as though it was water. It wasn't as quick, though, waving more like molasses than anything else, but knowing that the sand was fine enough to move like that had made Ellie uneasy, to say the least.

What if she fell in? A dock sat waiting at the edge of the sand, keeping itself steady due to beams and anchors wedged into the rocks leading down from the mountains. Several dozen ships sat rocking in the sand, waiting for passengers to board, each manned by a crew that were bound in full-body clothes, as opposed to the light clothes Ellie was used to seeing sailors wear. Most of the hunters she and Levin had traveled with purchased fare on board the first ship to Loc Lac, a long, sinewy vessel that was clearly made for speed. Only twelve passengers were allowed on board though, one of the shipmates telling her that too much weight would slow them down too much to properly skim the sands, or worse too slow to escape a monster attack.

Ellie asked what monster they were worried about most, and the majority of sailors seemed to agree on the creature called the Jhen Mohran, a 'moving mountain' if their descriptions were to be believed. Some mentioned a Diablos in full charge, but that was only a couple of them. Ellie had given Levin flak before the ship had taken off into the desert, teasing him about how he'd likely be spending yet another trip bent over the edge of the ship. However, somehow or another, when the ship finally took off, Ellie discovered that it was her, not the great sword user that started to buck and sway wildly in the awkward shaking of the ship.

Perhaps it was the slower churning of the sand, or maybe it was the way the ship itself skimmed across the sand, or maybe it was some other reason, but Levin seemed steadier on his feet than she'd ever seen him before on a ship of any kind. But the sand and dirt kicked up by the skiff left her coughing and sneezing wildly.

Jennifer Speanburgh (Author of Ellie and the Kitchenettes)

Ellie found that, while she didn't get seasick or anything of the like, she couldn't bear to stay on the deck of the ship and was forced into staying below deck for the day-long journey to the center of the desert where Loc Lac sat waiting. Levin had spent the entire trip smirking at her, whenever he'd left the deck of the ship. Levin seemed to savor being on the deck, enjoying the trip now that he wasn't adversely affected by the motion of the ship. But Ellie was on the deck now, if for no other reason than to see Loc Lac as it came into sight, only a few moments away according to the crewmembers.

So Ellie had willed herself out into the open, covering her face with a mask one of the sailors had generously offered. She remembered a little of Loc Lac, from before she'd headed to Boma Village, but she'd spent a majority of her time trying to learn how to join the Hunter's Guild rather than enjoying the sights, before getting tricked into traveling to the boondocks of society.

Levin was very much the same as her, though from the unease he'd had, Ellie suspected that it was most likely that whatever madness he had was an integral part of his lack of remembrance.

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Another coughing fit nearly made Ellie miss Loc Lac sliding into view around a line of rocky outcroppings that surrounded the hunting city. When she finally looked up, however, Levin was next to her, staring off into the distance and whistling in appreciation. Ellie looked up and did the same. Admittedly, very little of the city itself could be seen, but what could be was quite impressive. Standing tall over everything, however, was the one thing that could truly be considered as the pride of the city, the Guild Tower. Ellie had heard that, despite the name, the tower was used by pretty much every organization in the city for one thing or another, though certainly the primary uses belonged to the Hunter's Guild and the Loc Lac Council.

That was really all she could see for the most part, until they managed to get closer. Then she began to be able to make out more. Though her memories of the city were vague from before she'd left for Boma, she did realize that what she saw next was different than the last time she'd seen the city. She recalled the massive rock wall that encircled the city being a plain, sheer wall, appearing as though the city was completely and totally impenetrable. Loc Lac did still look quite mighty, but the once-bare walls now were dotted with hanging houses and huts. Ellie gaped in astonishment at the sight, massive cables and poles descending from the top of the wall and supporting wide platforms that held up dozens of huts and other small buildings.

The collection of structures only seemed to be on one particular side of the city the south, she thought , but as far as she could tell, the boardwalks and bridges were expanding in all directions, the sight of work crews working on placing supports for more platforms and more houses.

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Ellie glanced over and the hunter saw her and shrugged. Seems the South District of Loc Lac is becoming overpopulated due to the Lost; not enough of them are traveling to other cities to reduce population density. From what I hear, the other districts have been trying to keep the Lost from entering other districts to keep overpopulation from hitting them too.

So to make room for themselves, the Lost are building farther up… and farther out, it seems. No room in the city, so climb the walls, I guess they think. Ellie frowned as she gazed up at the towering walls of the city. She had a hard time imagining living in such a place, considering the heat of the desert welling up from below. Why were the rest of the districts so adamant on keeping the Lost contained to only one of the districts, though? She knew the Lost weren't exactly the favorite people in the city, considering how they'd so suddenly poured in, but still….

They sailed ever closer and closer to the city, and Ellie managed to keep herself on deck the entire time, far more eager to see the city again than she wanted to avoid sand in her eyes and nose. As they approached the wall, Ellie began to be able to see large caverns in the walls around the city, where light came pouring through the loading docks on the other side.

As they approached, other boats began to slide up alongside them, vying to get into the city like their ship was. Luckily, their entryway was large enough for several ships to go through at the same time. Finally they emerged into the city, and all the hunters aboard the ship stared around in awe and amazement. Ellie and Levin had been there before, but still had to appreciate the size of the city compared to the size of villages and towns they'd been around in the last year or so.

Nothing like the cities that had existed back in their time, but that was to be expected. The city was like a giant bazaar in the area of town they entered into, shouters and shops desperate to grab buyers from any and all of the new hunters in the city, hoping that their wares were something odd and exciting enough to buy. Without the aid of wagons and carts, as they'd had on the trip through the mountains, the hunters were forced to carry their own storage boxes and chests from the ship, and then across town.

That was an effort that was worse than any other she'd undertaken before, Ellie had to admit.

She'd asked around in hopes of someone willing to help them cart their way through the town, but any and all Aptonoth-pulled cart were being used for material and shop transport, so the two of them were out of luck. During one of their visits, Marshall had informed the two hunters that he and Mel had set up the two of them to live in a particular place once they'd arrived in Loc Lac. Apparently he'd requested rooms for them in a housing development and bar, the hammer user had emphasized that was owned and operated by someone that Marshall had reluctantly referred to as a friend.

The place was called the Dual Horn Oasis, an inside joke of some kind, Marshall said. When the two hunters had pressed for more information, the older hunter had clamped up, though, leaving the two of them confused and a little worried about what to expect. The structure was in the South District, nearly on the complete opposite side of the city from where the two of them had docked, which meant a hell of a walk with their chests in tow, but what else where they to do? They needed to stop off and the Hunter's Guild's headquarters to register themselves in the city logs, before anything else, though.

Luckily for the two of them, the Guild HQ was located in a small structure just underneath the base of the Loc Lac Tower, not too far out of their way, so they would be able to stop by on their way to their housing. With a shrug of resignation between the two of them, the pair of Lost took off, making their way across town. Along the way, they were able to take in the sights and appreciate the layout of the city a little better. Very much like Boma Village, Loc Lac had designed itself to be prepared to immanent monster attacks, with several main thoroughfares running in circles around the entire city, and secondary roads cutting and connecting them.

After leaving the docks of the city, the two of them got to a more urban area of the town, with more homes and houses than anything else, but more for the permanent residents than the hunters. They walked near a wide river that sprouted from a wellspring in the northern side of the city, weaving its way in a serpentine pattern through nearly every section of Loc Lac; an odd thing to see here in the center of the desert, but then, that was probably the reason Loc Lac was built here. Children played and ran through the shallows of the river, and civilians gave them smiles as they passed, a few wishing good luck to the newly arrived hunters.

They crested a hill at one point, and Ellie glanced over into the direction of the South district, where their housing was said to be, as well as being the location of the Lost in general in the town. At the sight, she gaped in shock. Where the rest of the town consisted primarily of structures that reached maybe three or four stories in height, the Lost District had sprouted up buildings that towered over the rest, perhaps nine to twelve stories high. And just as the hunter on board the ship had said, including the towering structures, several buildings had been placed up along the inside of the wall around the city, just as they had been outside.

Though, the ones inside the wall were far more numerous and clustered than the ones outside, and from what Ellie could see from the distance she was at, there were easily more buildings scaling the wall than there were in all of Boma Village. As they approached the Loc Lac Tower, Ellie had the opportunity to get a better look at it. She'd heard rumor that the tower was actually the massive tusk of the most massive Jhen Mohran that ever swam the sand seas, and from what the Lost huntress could see as they approached, there might have been a crumb of truth to the idea.

The tower was a pristine ivory, no doubt smoothed to a shine by the countless years of being pelted with the harsh sand of the desert. And it just looked so… organic, compared to the dirty brown and red rock of the barrier walls, like it really and truly belonged as an appendage on some creature. The Hunter's Guild HQ was a fairly impressive building in its own right, nearly as big as some of the warehouses Ellie remembered seeing in Orage Dell, but filled with people. In front of the building was a large bronze statue, elaborately adorned into the shape of a hunter fighting a Rathalos.

Along the exterior walls of the building near the entrance was planted dozens of monster's heads, mounted on plaques. Some seemed to be in pristine condition, but a majority still bore the wounds and scars from whatever battles they'd been defeated in. It was all very striking. Ellie's opinion of the Guild only rose as they entered the building they left their chests outside the door.

While the exterior of the building was showy and imposing, the interior was plain and efficient. Everyone she could see was working, passing information back and forth between each other, sending mission request papers this way and that to go to all ends of the city, or to all ends of the world. A couple dozen chairs sat near what was likely the receptionist, but even she seemed to be going all out at finishing whatever paperwork she had in front of her.

Ellie almost felt bad as she and Levin worked their way over to speak with her. But the woman seemed to sense them before Ellie had a chance to speak. At this, the receptionist visibly jumped in surprise, and snapped a shocked and confused look at the two Lost hunters. Ellie saw Levin frown. Is there something wrong with the place? More bar fights than any other bar in the entire city.

More alcohol sold than any other bar in the city. Seedy bar-goers; no proper, upstanding hunters in the lot of them. Even the owner of the place is insane! Perfectly willing to toss people out on their butts if they give a sour look. I hear there's even bribing of city officials going on there. Not to mention it's in the Lost District…". People thought there'd only be maybe a few hundred or so of them, you know?

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Like maybe a village or two. But they just kept coming and coming, and the South District kept getting more and more full. Food began becoming a problem by the time the third wave started coming into the city, and people began hoarding, so a lot of people in the South District started resorting to thievery and burglary. None of them had jobs, so they couldn't really buy anything themselves. But Ellie didn't like the sound of what the Guild woman was saying. Were things really so bad in Loc Lac for the Lost? By the flippant tone of her voice, Ellie suspected that she might be one of those people.

I mean, they built those tall buildings and the Hive… that's what people are calling all the houses and huts hanging on the wall. They built those, but they haven't really done much else. She knew the Lost were more advanced that other folks in the country, even if they didn't have the materials to make quite everything. Ellie frowned angrily and saw Levin scowling at the woman, though she wasn't paying any attention. A cold look glazed over the great sword users eyes, and Ellie felt a tinge of fear.

She recognized that look as the one that meant that anger was beginning to seep through him, and she could sense a cold, rage induced rant boiling up from inside of him. And as he opened his mouth to tear apart the woman…. Would you like me to try and get the two of you transferred to a different housing structure while you're here?

Our master wouldn't send us somewhere bad. Besides, he said he had friends in the area, so we should be alright. Ellie was thankful he'd kept his temper; the woman may not have been incredibly high in the Guild hierarchy, but Ellie didn't want to take any chances. If they were going to try and aid the Lost's reputations, they'd need to stay in good standing with the Guild. Acted like it was completely our fault that all these things happened to us, but… No, we shouldn't be dwelling on it. If she wants to thing that about the lost, then whatever. We'll just have to make an effort to prove her wrong.

I figure if we're going to be making a decent name for Lost hunters, we'll need all the help we can get. Isn't that kind of like a step in the other direction? Normally I try to dissuade people from assuming that the Lost are all mad in one way or another, but Harker kind of, er, sets the standard for crazy. She still recalled the look that used to come over the other bowgunner's face after the stern look of disapproval had vanished when Harker had done something excessive.

Full of compassion and caring, perhaps more. Ellie had little doubt that the woman was still hanging around the mad scientist, though she'd have to meet up with the woman eventually and ask how she could manage to put up with the guy. In the meantime, though…. With a grunt of dismay at having to haul the chest even further, the great sword user hauled his box up, and Ellie followed suit, and the pair began dragging their things through town yet again.

Nearly twenty minutes later, Levin was getting pretty tired, dragging his massive chest of hunting goods along the streets of the South District. Many of the civilians that passed him and Ellie by raised their eyebrows at the odd sight of him and her carrying such massive crates through the town, and there were more than a few looks at the two of them that made Levin wish he'd had his hunter's knife out in case someone tried to rob them. But at the same time there were a lot of hunters on the street as well, and the two Lost hunters received several grins and chuckles from those hunters that remembered what it was like dragging their own stuff down the street to their new homes in Loc Lac.

But it wasn't the looks from the random passerby that held Levin's attention, but rather, the standards of living that the people in general were living in. From a distance, it looked as though the Lost District was doing surprisingly well, with other buildings towering over any of the others throughout the city.

Levin had heard about the bad things that the Lost had been dealing with before, but it never really clicked with him until then. Living structures were packed to the brim with people, no occupancy at all, stuffing two or three families into each house or apartment for space in a few rare locations. Levin wasn't sure whether or not to be glad about the sight of dozens and dozens of signs denoting new housing developments being built.

A lot more of the Lost seemed to be working on jobs than people had let on outside the district. A lot of folks seemed to be working at jobs designing the new buildings that were going up to provide placed to live. But apparently some of the Lost had decided to wing it with whatever skill sets they had at their disposal, and various odds and ends jobs were offered, from clockmakers to mechanics to one man offering lessons in theoretical physics. What was weird was that several non-Lost folks were actually speaking to the man in curiosity, though admittedly most of them were older, scholarly-looking men.

Several of the Lost apparently found the two hunters interesting enough to approach and question, and were shocked to discover that the pair of them were Lost as well, despite being hunters. It was amazing at how quickly the word spread of the two, and by the time Levin and Ellie had turned the next few corners, it seemed every person around was talking about Lost being allowed to try to become hunters.

No small amount of people seemed to have contemplative looks on their faces, clearly wondering whether or not they had what it took to make a try and becoming hunters themselves. But finally, after several rests and a couple more stops to speak with curious passerby, the two of them came in sight of the Dual Horn Oasis, easily distinguishable by its namesake, two massive Diablos horns attached to the entryway. The place was very similar to a lot of the other housing developments, a large entry area a bar, Levin assumed connected closely to two stretches of apartments to the east and west.

The two hunters picked up their pace intent on getting inside and finding a place to rest. The two hunters both jumped out of the way as the front doors of the bar blasted open, and a raggedly dressed man veritably flew through the air, sailing between Levin and Ellie and tumbling messily to the ground. From the shadows of the interior strode another shape, a woman, Levin realized, before blinking in shock at her appearance. The woman, first and foremost, was easily the biggest woman he'd ever seen.

Not fat, just big , easily a head taller than Levin. Very tough-looking, with a highly toned body, piercing grey eyes, and a snarl on her face; and Levin had to admit, it was quite an attractive face, despite her being, what, thirty or forty? The woman looked as though she would be perfectly capable of ripping Levin's head off with her bare hands and using it as a tetherball if the great sword user dared to irritate her to that point.

Other than that, the woman had long brown hair, tied up into a long elaborate braid, and half a dozen brightly colored bangles decorating her wrists. The man she'd tossed out of the bar stumbled drunkenly to his feet and managed to blubber out some slurred, angry words, but the woman pointed a finger at the man as his mouth snapped shut instantly. I know hyu've been shneaking drinks by askink doze eediot friends of hyu's to buy dem for hyu!

Hyu not allowed in here for tree days as punishment, und hyu better not even tink of tryink to shneak in! Now geet out ov here before hy really lose my temper! Apparently the threat was enough to get the drunken man's attention, because his eyes bulged wide, and he abruptly turned around and began sprinting, well, more like hobbling, away as fast as his legs could carry him. The woman stood with her hands on her hips in the doorway, watching him go until he turned a corner, before snapping her eyes to the two Lost hunters, making them wince in fright. We're, uh, new Journeyman hunters. We just got here.

Then her eyes widened and brightened considerably, and a large smile spread wide across her face. Levin was, admittedly, slightly surprised she had normal teeth and not fangs. Without warning, the woman leapt forward, wrapping an arm around each of their necks and yanking them in for a tight hug. Levin gasped for breath and felt himself flush in embarrassment as he found himself held tight against the woman's ample cleavage. I vas zo excited ven I heard dot old coot vas sendink hyu two here, I tot a vas goink to flip ot! I svear, dot old fool, don't write or even tink ov visitink, den decidink to send hyu two out ov der blue?

Hyu two iz goink to have to be tellink me all hyu can ov how he iz! Levin sucked in a much-needed gasp of air, and tried to avoid the irritate look that Ellie was giving him. The woman didn't seem to notice though, and grinned excitedly between the two of them. Hyu two iz Ellie und Levin, yez? Come on now, let's get de two of hyu settled in, hey? Now gimme doze trunks of hyuze. I'm sure hyu is tired from carryink dem zo far. After all they are pretty…" Ellie's words caught in her throat and Levin's eyes widened in surprise as the big woman easily hoisted the two chests up, tossing one over her shoulder and the other hanging under an arm.

Notink veighs a chest down like havink a shpare Diablos horn or two lyink around. Hy know hyu could alvays sell dem, but hyu never know, hey? Now come inside, de both of hyu, and get hyu a place to shleep. And with that, the landlord turned and strode towards the door, forcing the two Lost to tail close behind to keep up with her long strides. With seemingly effortless motion, the woman swung a leg up and kicked the closed doors open, pushing through into the darkness.

Levin and Ellie followed her in, blinking and squinting as their eyes had to adjust to the darkness of the room. Levin was caught off guard when he was finally able to see. The room was crowded, or at least more so than he'd expected it to be. Dozens of hunters, and even more non-hunters filled the chairs and booths of the dimly-lit room. Levin could even make out several well-dressed folk sitting around, though they weren't lingering with the hunters or locals. Tables were scattered everywhere and without rhyme or reason, making the room a veritable maze, but at the sight of Lynn marching through the room with two massive chests in tow, people scattered out of the way, pushing tables and chairs with them to get out of her way.

Levin wondered exactly what kind of reputation their new landlord had. Though Levin was still a little irked at what the woman at the Hunter's Guild had said to them, he had to admit that she had been right about one thing; the hunters in the bar were definitely a more rough-and-tumble looking group than a majority of the other hunters in the city.

These hunters had worn and tattered armor over them, dirty as all hell as well, compared to the other hunters in the city, who wore pristine, well-polished armor. Most of the hunters appeared older than a majority of the others as well, in their forties or more. Levin didn't recall seeing any hunters these men's and women's age anywhere else in the city.

A lot of them seemed to be quite rugged in comparison as well, reminding Levin a lot of Marshall, which was quite a comfort, he had to admit. Lynn led the two of them towards a massive bar at the other end of the room, where the familiar sight of a massive corkboard filled with hunting missions filled up a wide stretch of wall at one end of the bar. The board was filled with far, far more notes and bounties then Levin had ever seen in one place before, even at the inn he'd stayed at in Orage Dell.

Monsters of every shape and size were displayed, with dozens of Great Jaggi and Royal Ludroth missions easily in site, with bigger monster hunts showing less frequently. A small section off to the side was separated off, with a small sign scrawled with "Abroad" hovering over them; an area for the really far-off missions, Levin realized, noticing that most of the monsters represented were of things he'd never seen or heard of before. Two thumps brought his attention back to the bar, where Lynn had unceremoniously dropped their goods chests next to the bar, moving behind the bar herself.

She made her way past several absolutely massive barrels of what Levin assumed was beer or some other alcohol. She reached under the bar and pulled out a small booklet, flipping it open and scouring the pages for information. Then she grinned, pointing at a particular page. I vas tempted to boot ot von ov the odder pipple livink here to geet it dot vay, but lucky for hyu, zum hunter got promoted, und left for nizer housink, dot ungrateful bastard… But anyvay, hyu two gots rooms right next door, vich is goot.

Unless…" Levin shivered as the woman eyed the two hunters wickedly. Vouldn't be de first time hy've seen zum new arrivals like dot. No, that's not something we need, thank you. Seems de old fool remembered how much hy luf havink fun like dot. I vill leave hyu two alone abott dot from here on, don't hyu vorry. Levin growled in irritation. We got enough of that in Boma; I don't really need any more of it here. Now den, let's get de two of hyu to hyu rooms, hey? Dis time, mebbe I let the two of hyu carry hyu own chests?

De both of hyu is goink to be needink to be tougher if hyu is goink to be livink in Loc Lac. So with a sigh, the two hunters grabbed a hold of the handles on the sides of the boxes and hoisted the chests up, following behind as the housekeeper led them towards the right hallway. The hall stretched off for a good hundred yards or so back, with numbered doors every few yards. Luckily for the two Lost hunters, their rooms were only a quarter or so down the hallway, right next to each other, numbers twelve and fourteen.

Lynn unlocked the doors for them, giving the pair of them copies before she left. The two hunters quickly pushed their way into the rooms, desperate to drop off their things, as Lynn strode her way back to the bar room, the sound of fighting catching their ears. Levin didn't envy the poor fools that had started a fight here; he'd only known Lynn a few minutes and she already scared him a little. The room was simple, just the way Levin liked it. A bed lay in the middle, with a few dressers and drawers nearby, with a mirror on top of the bigger one.

A small restroom and shower were attached; one of the few technological advances that Levin was truly grateful lasted from the time of the Lost. A small kitchenette was shoved up against one of the walls, taking up a fair amount of space to make room for a furnace and stovetop. The design was definitely more urban, and lacked the more… tribal design that his hut in Boma had sported.

And there wasn't a deck behind the house, which saddened the great sword user a little; he was rather partial to being able to go out and fish on a moment's notice. With a grunt of weariness, Levin dropped his hunting chest to the ground, the impact shaking the floorboards and rattling the mirror.

Levin sighed, glancing around the room, half thinking about how he was going to arrange things once he finally got around to unpacking… then decided against it and simply flopped backwards onto the bed behind him. He hadn't realized just how tired he was until just now, as the feeling of exhaustion from the last few days of travelling and moving his things finally began to catch up with him.

As much as he wanted to continue to look around the city, at the same time, he really, really just wanted a little bit of rest. He realized idly that his arm was swinging around awkwardly, reaching for nothing but air, and was forced to smirk to himself in amusement. He and Ellie had dozed off next to each other so many times before they'd made their way here to Loc Lac, he was already used to reaching to pull her closer.

Knowing that he was already like that with the woman he loved admittedly made him feel… lonely. How odd, he thought to himself, to be like this already, though he had to admit he liked the feeling of belonging to someone and being belonged to, even if she wasn't here with him now. The sound of creaking caught his ears, and one of his eyes cracked open, glancing questioningly around the room.

Had his ears played a trick on him? Was his bed unsteady? Then the sound of the door closing rattled around the room, and Levin smirked again. Looking for a little warmth, or are you…". Levin nearly jumped out of his skin at the unfamiliar, childish voice. He certainly did jump out of his bed, yelping as he tumbled across the mattress and down onto the floor of the room. He grunted in pain as his shoulder rammed into the wooden floor.

In a flash he'd pushed himself back to his feet and his eyes darted around the room in search of the source of the voice. He nearly jumped again as his eyes landed on a child, maybe four years old at the oldest, balanced precariously on the end frame of his bed, barefoot and dirty, eyeing him curiously.

Yeah, I am," Levin answered cautiously. Um… who are you? Or do you hunt only big ones? I know some hunters only go after the big ones. The boy seemed a little odd to Levin; most children he'd met that asked him about hunting were excited to meet and talk with him about his adventures. This boy seemed just curious, and admittedly, was asking odd questions.

Most of the time I go after big things, though, since that's where all the, uh, good things are at, you know? The boy nodded, and Levin could see him rolling the word around on his tongue, trying it out. Not very often, though. The only time I really deal with them is when I'm cave diving, or hunting down honey for the village… er, for people. They're pretty irritating, but not much of a threat. A dark look suddenly covered the boy's face, and he glowered at the great sword user, making Levin frown in confusion. The look was gone in a moment, though, replaced by the same curious look from before, making Levin wonder if he'd even seen Logan's face change at all.

The boy tilted back and forth on the bed frame for a moment, looking as though he was wondering what to ask next. Why would a child want monster parts? Okay, a Jaggi skull or something he could understand, maybe a well-carved horn or something. But a Bnahabra shell? He opened his mouth, trying to determine how to reply to the request, the sound of running from out in the hallway stopped him.

He glanced over to the door as the wooden frame burst open again, and Lynn stuck her head into the room, eyes darting around before landing on Logan. A look of worry on her face was replaced with one of relief, then one of anger and frustration. With a look of authority, she pushed into the room, eyes boring into the boy, who had the good grace to look afraid. I don't vant hyu goink around pesterink de new pipple abott tings. Especially in dey rooms, hey? Hyu ken't just valk in on pipple! Hyu ken tok to dem in de bar, buy hyu give dem privacy in dey rooms!

In a flash he'd sprinted out the door, slipping around Lynn's legs and into the hallway, sliding out of sight with the innkeepers head snapping around trying to keep up with the boy. But the boy was already gone. Lynn sighed in frustration. Not my keed by blood, by hy am, er, takink care ov him. Hy don know how to shay eet. Hyu ledy friend vas peekink ot ov her room vhen I run by. Been a vhile sinze I vas her age, but hy shtill recognized de look.

Hyu gon haff a visitor here in a leedle bit, hey? Iz nize to be young und in lurve, izn't eet? The innkeeper laughed as Levin's face reddened, turning around and striding out of the room, no doubt to chase after her… son, Levin supposed, even if adopted. Levin could hear Lynn talking at the next door over, before laughing and moving on. Levin sighed, but smiled contentedly as Lynn's footsteps faded off into the distance. As embarrassing as it was having Lynn messing with the two of them, he had to admit he kind of liked it; it reminded him of Boma Village, the only place in the hunting world that felt like home.

As he sat down on the bed again, he grinned as the sound of hesitant knocking rattled off the door. He pushed himself back up to his feet and strode quickly over to the door, opening it wide and grinning at Ellie, whose face was still a little flushed from Lynn's teasing. At least he wouldn't be lonely here.

So long as Ellie was with him, everything would be alright. It was late afternoon when the two Lost hunters left the Dual-Horn Oasis again. Lynn had smirked wickedly at the two of them as they'd left, but apparently Ellie had been feeling feisty, because she'd shot an equally wicked look back when she thought Levin wasn't looking. Levin had felt a shiver go down his spine when he saw a possessive, victorious, and downright… carnivorous look cross Ellie's face for a moment, making Lynn laugh when she saw it.

Levin shot a curious look over to Logan, who sat on the bar near Lynn, toying around with what looked like a Gobul-shaped stuffed animal. He looked almost like a completely different child now, less focused on hunting or monsters, and content with playing with his toys like a normal child. Levin wondered if he should ask Lynn about the boy's questions from earlier, but decided it would be better to do later. Once they'd made it out of the bar, though, they didn't even need to talk with each other to know where the both of them were going to go.

The both of them had satchels and backpacks filled to the brim with monster materials, ready to hit up the side of town that they'd been looking forward to since their arrival: They didn't even need directions to get to the right area of town; giant pillars of smoke and soot spiraled up into the sky a couple of districts over, in the West District or the Smith District , where countless furnaces sat burning almost around the clock every day of the week.

Dozens, then hundreds of hunters began filling the streets the closer they got to the area, until all they could see were the distinct shapes of those that hunted monsters for a living, from large and chiseled muscles, to limber and quick-footed, to everything in between. But everyone had the same sharp, focused eyes of those that walked the edge of life and death. Levin felt himself grinning as they finally entered the Smith District proper. It was almost exactly like the one he'd seen in Orage Dell, but far, far bigger. Shouters stood at the corner of every store, calling out to passerby, proclaiming adamantly and with increasing vigor about how the store they were working for were far better than any of the others, their smiths far greater in skill than any of the others that had shops in the area.

The brightest, most impressive weapons were on display outside of the shops, trying to pull even more attention to the shops. The number of Wyvernians dramatically increased as they got further and further into the district as well. Levin had heard that most of them were smiths or other such things for the most part, though he'd heard rumor of a few of them that joined the Hunter's Guild and shot up through the ranks. It always made Levin curious to see one in a monster fight. He was tempted to make a trip to the arena sometime soon to see whether or not there were any that were actively hunting….

But for now, his eyes began flashing back and forth between the various shops, in search of something to catch his interest. The Lagiacrus he and Ellie had killed had provided quite a few materials, even despite the damage the creature had taken between the two battles that they'd had with it, scales and plates abounded, and they'd made an effort to recover the horns in as best of condition that they could, but they and several other parts of the creature were in less than good shape.

Still, they'd gotten quite a bit, and both of them wanted to make something nice with the leviathan's materials. Ellie was seeking out someone who'd be able to make her a set of good armor, or at least a few pieces of it, until she could gather the materials for the whole set. Levin didn't say it, but he supposed that the real reason she wanted new armor was to avoid the catcalls she'd no doubt be receiving if she continued to wear her altered Qurupeco armor.

Levin would miss the revealing armor, but ever since they'd started dating, he'd been a little more defensive about letting others see her body. He hoped she'd keep the armor though; he was sure they could find some use for it. Levin was hoping to find a weapon smith of some kind. His Ludroth armor was getting worn, but the battle with the Lagiacrus and the monsters on their trip from the shipwreck site had left his great sword bent and cracked. Silph had gaped in shock at the sight of the blade, pretty much telling Levin that he'd be better off just gathering materials for a new weapon.

That had hit Levin harder than he'd thought it would; that weapon had been his first ever, and now it was nothing but scrap metal as far as smiths were concerned. In truth, Levin had been contemplating buying something besides a great sword recently. As fond as he'd gotten towards the weapon type, he had been forced to agree with what Ellie had said to him during their rough journey the previous month. He needed to make himself more mobile, more able to keep moving, or at the very least a sword that could take a better beating than the one he'd had made of Gobul materials.

Defending seemed to be a challenge for him with the weight of the sword slowing him down so much. Ellie wouldn't be pleased, but he might have to try learning to use a weapon that gave up the ability to block. Or maybe he could try out a long sword like the one he'd seen Harker using. It soon became obvious that the district was sectioned off into two clear areas, one side dedicated to armor crafters, and the other to weapons and other such things.

Though the two hunters were hesitant to do so, they both were forced to agree that they'd be forced to split up if they even wanted a chance of getting back to their rooms by then. So, the both of them agreed to meet up at the entrance to the Smith District in a couple hours, so that they could have time to wander around the town in search of nice places to eat.

Levin enjoyed walking around through the weapon smiths. So many random and odd-looking things to look at, with dozens of strange-looking weapons. Levin had to laugh at a few of the things he saw; but he was left completely flabbergasted once, upon seeing a weapon that looked like… a shark? And he saw a long sword later that somehow seemed to grow larger once it was unsheathed. That had kept Levin's attention for a good fifteen minutes, him staring and gaping as the demonstrator continuously sheathed and unsheathed it for the crowd around him that oohed and aahed.

Eventually, Levin wandered into a small cluster of smiths that were close together. The area wasn't as crowded as the other sections of the weapon area, so he ended up glancing around a little more cautiously. He realized that the weapon smiths were a little different here, selling things that none of the other shops were selling. Foreign, less common weapons seemed to be popular here, walls and displays were coated with things like giant horns, small but nimble pairs of swords, normal arrow-flinging bows, and… was that a lance with a gun inside of it?

Levin shook his head in awe. There seemed to be no end to the oddities and absurdities the hunting world had to offer. But as he walked through the area, he began to feel as though he was being watched. Well, there weren't that many other customers in the area, so he was definitely getting attention from the shouters at the corners, but there seemed to be a more intense stare making the hair rise on the back of his neck. He glanced around uneasily, searching for the source, before his eyes finally landed on a small shop in the corner of the lot, where a wizened looking Wyvernian was grinning at him And to call a Wyvernian wizened was saying something.

They all looked ancient. Yep, definitely right at him. Levin frowned uncertainly as man motioned him over, but wandered over to him. The smith was the same size as the other Wyvernians, as far as Levin could tell. He had a small wooden pipe in one corner of his mouth, and was sitting on a small stool in front of the shop. The Wyvernian chuckled as Levin got close.

Levin blinked in surprise at the statement. That's a pretty bold statement. How can you be so sure? And it's not untrue, is it? You would really like me to assemble one of my weapons for you, don't you? Levin glanced up, realizing that he'd been so taken in by the Wyvernian that he hadn't taken the time to determine exactly what it was the man produce. But his breath caught in his throat as he glanced up at the display, and he felt a smirk slide across his face.

This old man made and sold switch axes. Five or six of the weapons were hung out across the front of the shop, from simplistic-looking ones, to more complex, powerful looking weapons that Levin didn't dare to even guess at what monster had been used to provide the materials for. A small hand-painted sign labeled the shop as Umbre's Switch Axes. I won't lie, the weapon isn't quite as popular as some of the others, the bowguns or the hammers or the swords and shields, and I'll never make quite the money that they do, but there's a nice collection of young hunters that like them, and I'm perfectly content making the weapons for them.

He glanced down, and realized that there was another, smaller display case sitting next to Umbre, holding a collection of various vials. Levin leaned forward, studying the little things as Umbre watched on. The little tubes seemed to be filled with bright, constantly swirling fluids of some kind. They came in various colors, too, from yellow to red to some eerie black-and-red swirling concoction that seemed to glow. Levin nodded slightly but wobbled his hand in a 'kinda' sort of motion, and the smith shrugged.

The phial sends the energy through to the blade of the weapon, expelling it out upon impact when you swing the weapon, causing extra damage to whatever it hits. You're also able to expel large amounts of energy from your weapon all at once; makes a big bang that'll leave a wound on any monster. Once the energy in the phial wears out, though, you'll have to switch over to the axe mode, but the fluid inside the phial is able to recharge itself somehow as well, so you'll be able to use the sword again after a minute or two.

Quite an ingenious design, I must say.

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Levin frowned, tapping one of the tubes with his finger cautiously. That sounds a little, um, dangerous. Some special glass made by mixing the regular glass with Dragonite and Firestone ore. Quite something, I'm told, and safe. He really didn't like the look of that black fluid. Umbre paused in thought, tapping his chin. An explosion of some sort, I imagine. You'd be dead far, far too quickly to ever feel any sort of pain. But the question is, is knowing the weapon's flaws enough to make you not want to get one of my weapons? Levin blinked and frowned in thought.

After that one single show he'd seen in Orage Dell, he'd constantly wondered what it would be like to give the switch axe a go. The knowledge that there was a phial inside boosting its power only made him want to try it all the more. But the knowledge that if the phial were to break, he'd die?

Not quite so pleasant, he admitted. One of the first ones I made, so it doesn't look too pretty. It's got some wear on it; the same one I've let other passerby try out when the switch axe caught their eye. It's got a pretty old power phial in it, gives you a taste of the kick the blade gives you. Care for a run of it, lad? Levin's agreement was almost out of his mouth before he realized it, and momentarily he was out behind the smithy, Umbre sitting nearby with his pipe in his mouth. Levin had what was referred to a Bone Axe in his hands, swinging it against a large tree stump covered in some dark monster hide.

The blade was surprisingly easy to swing, though that was probably due to the months and months he'd spent swinging around a great sword, which had easily been twice the weight of this particular weapon. The shift in weight balance when the blade swapped from one mode to the other was a pinch tricky for him to get used to, admittedly, but once he'd gotten a feel for it, he had to admit he was having a lot of fun swinging it around.

It just seemed to fly around like a blur to him after so long tossing the great sword around. Ten minutes later, Levin was gasping for breath, still holding the switch axe tightly. He grinned at the Wyvernian. Umbre smirked and tapped out his pipe again. You should know the way things work, lad; you bring me materials and some money, and I work my magic making you something nice. What kind of materials were you hoping to make a weapon out of? Hoy, and here I thought the Guild was going easier on hunters these days.

I don't know if they would've given us something like that under normal conditions. The smithing of a blade with electricity in it is a fickle sort of work at best. You'll need to make a less powerful weapon first, then I'll be able to use what you've got to improve it into what the Guild calls the Bolt Axe. But to get the materials for the materials for that, you're gonna need to get some things from the desert.

This was becoming more complicated than he'd wanted it to be. That means I'm going to need to get a new weapon anyway. My great sword got all busted to hell during the Lagiacrus fight. Take your sword with you and tell the owner I sent you, and he'll fix your sword up right as rain. Unless your blades in more than a dozen pieces, he'll fix it up for you good and cheap.

He's always been a generous kind of guy when it comes to weapon repairs. Soon Levin was out the door of the shop, walking happily through the streets with a small slip of paper in his pocket with a laundry list of hunting materials that he'd need for the switch axe. He'd left the Lagi materials that would be used for the blade with the smith, and he had a lot of the things he needed already, but apparently there were some bugs in the desert that produced a viscous fluid that was required to hold the machine together without tearing apart the gears, so Umbre said.

Levin had to admit he was excited; not just for having a new weapon, but also for going to a new area. The forests around Boma Village and the few islands in the surrounding area were all very much the same in topographic terms. That's right, before you sits an artifact from the very civilization that built the pride of Loc Lac, the Guild Tower, if not an even earlier one!

Levin glanced over in curiosity at the voice.

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