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PostPosted: Wed Apr 4, '12, 1:41 am

The road back home was not an easy one for the hunter after her maiden hunting mission because she was so weak and battered that it took her many hours to cross the four miles that separated the scorpion-infested farm from her own home. Although walking alone in the countryside, at night, was not very safe for a girl, Anna was not worried about the dangers she could be facing. Not only she had nothing left to lose in the state she was, but also she felt confident enough to deal with the threats on her way.

Her biggest fear was of passing out again and be left to die. As the blonde hunter was used to deal with criminals, she did not consider the outlaws or the vagrants she could meet on her way home a threat. She feared a sudden attack by biomonsters, mainly if she lost her conscience and became unable to defend herself. And she almost passed out many times, forcing her to rest for some minutes every time it happened, making her way home longer and more dangerous.

Nevertheless, the providence hadn't planned any additional tragedies for her life that day. She arrived at Zema's outskirts shortly after midnight. The journey had taken her more than five hours between pauses and careful steps, but finally she had arrived at the safe retreat her room at the modest inn provided her. Despite her appearance, no one asked questions as she entered the inn, mostly because there was no one to see her arriving. As the rooms for monthly rent were detached from the main building, and she had free access to courtyard that led her to her apartment, there was no one to see her or ask her questions, only the other customers. The latter would not care about her state even if they had seen her, for no one really cared about the reclusive and antisocial teenager.

So, Anna, weak, dirty and bloodstained, finally arrived home. She felt an urge to let her body fall on her bed, hoping she would magically feel better when she woke up, but the blonde needed to, at least, wash herself from the dirty and blood, check her wounds, and eat something. Although she was feeling weak and tired, the feeling of the warm water gently touching on her shoulders made her feel assured that she had made the right decision by not skipping the shower. The water seemed to be not only washing the dirty and the blood from her body, but also washing away her suffering, part of her pains and some of her sins. Though it looked like she could stay there forever, her weakness and weariness made her finish her shower as soon as she felt clean enough to go to bed. She put on a light and short nightgown, leaving her main leg wounds exposed. It also left a lot of flesh exposed and that would be something the other customers would like to see, but Anna was feeling so mutilated by the injuries sustained that it would take a real pervert to desire her. If it was not difficult enough for her, now she would have permanent scars all over her body. Although she looked like a cold woman and acted according to her reputation, Anna was a teenager with boiling hormones and a kind heart, so she did care about her appearance and attractiveness. The short dresses she usually wore attracted unwanted attention from men she despised, but she wanted to look attractive to the men she would eventually date and marry. Better, to the only man, as her religion mandated. And it made all the sense. If love was a pure feeling meant to be forever, there would be no reasons for her to have more than one man in her life. But it was not the most important thing back then. At least she was alive. For what, she didn't know yet. But she was alive and it was enough. Enough to allow her to keep on dreaming with love, friendship, peace, a happy life. She didn't yearn for many things in her life. Moreover, she knew it would not be her scars the greatest obstacle to her happiness; her biggest obstacle was her own wicked personality. She was her greatest enemy and she was aware of that.

Anna grabbed some snacks and then lay on her bed, in order to inspect her wounded legs. Upon further scrutiny, they didn't look as bad as she imagined they were when she first inspected them while still in the barn. Certainly, there was some degree of infection because the wounds were swollen and hurt a lot when touched, but there were no traces of gangrene. The infection seemed to be just topic; removing the blood clot crust, cleaning, and dressing them properly probably would be enough. She had no need to hurry for now; she could get a well-deserved rest and then head to the local hospital in the morning. So, considering she had had enough for the last two days, Anna ate some snacks, closed her eyes and soon she was sleeping, trying to forget the real nightmare she had lived in the days before.

Her mind was forgiving to her after such an ordeal. She dreamed with Lizzie, but not with those images that used to torture her. It was just a routine dream, blessed by images of Lizzie's lovely smile. When she woke up, the morning had already advanced close to noon. For an instant, she hoped everything had been just a dream and she would find herself at the academy dormitory, but the pains in her leg brought her to the reality again. She was in her room, resting after the almost fatal first mission as a hunter. Being a hunter was a very dangerous business and Anna learned it by experience. Nevertheless, as she survived the first mission, she had to collect her bounty and get ready for the next mission, after all, hunting was now her job, and she had to hunt if she wanted to survive.

The first step would be going to the local agency to collect the money. Then, she would head to the hospital, to have her wounds treated. She expected to be out of business for a couple of days. She was also determined to be more prudent, getting a less-dangerous mission than the previous one, if there was something easier than hunting down a dozen of large scorpions. At least she was feeling less weak than the day before. So, the girl ate the first edible thing she found in her room, put on a clean dress and left. Anna was still ashamed of being severely injured by just a few scorpions, so she wore a long dress in order to hide her wounds from the other people, while making them easy to reach when she went to the hospital to treat them. Her walk to the local agency took much longer than she expected because of her pain and because she was not used to long dresses, making her walk slowly trying to keep her balance. To her relief, she was not on the verge of blackening out anymore. In her mind, that meant she was on the way to a full recovery.

Arriving at the government agency, the reality proved to be harsher than she had expected. She didn't pay much attention to the reward of the mission because she intended to take it as a training mission. After waiting thirty minutes to talk with one of the clerks and one hour while he confirmed she had accomplished her mission, the clerk came back with two fifty meseta bills.

"That is it, Anna Zirski, your well-deserved money." The clerk had a smile on his face.

"What?" Anna was shocked with the low amount. "Only a hundred meseta?"

The clerk shrugged. He was used to the complaints, but there wasn't anything he could do about it. He was not responsible for determining the reward for each mission; he only handed her the amount stipulated for the job. "Sorry, Ms Zirski, but you knew beforehand how much was the reward for this specific mission. I can't do anything about it."

"Yes, I know. It is just that it is not enough." The blonde hunter tried to hide her frustration from the clerk. "Thanks anyway."

Anna turned back, completely frustrated, holding the meseta bills in rage. She knew that amount was not enough to pay for a treatment at the local hospital. That meant she would have to open her wounds, clean them and dress them properly by herself. Although she had had some first aid training during her military years, she was no specialist. Besides, it is a completely different matter to take care of other people's wounds and take care of your own wounds. However, she had no alternative; that money was not only what she had to treat herself, but it would be almost all the money she would have until she was fit again to take another mission, so she had to save it. It would mean she would also have to ask her proprietor to give her more time to pay the monthly fee. Her situation looked bleak.

But the hunter didn't lose her spirits. She accepted stoically the downturns in her life. Economic problems were just a minor problem compared to what she had already faced in the past. Besides, she had been hardened by the last turn of events; not even the images of Lizzie being murdered scared her that much. She was even able to forget them for short periods. It was the beginning of a new trend in her life, where she would start suffering less than before. Or she would stop caring about the suffering she would still have to face, but it meant life would look less harsh to her eyes than before.

After buying some food and medicine, Anna returned home and tentatively tried to take care of her wounds. As she had correctly guessed, her leg wounds were infected, so she had to open, clean and make a new bandage for them. It was very painful to do it without the proper skills and the nerve required being a doctor, but, after many hours of trials and hesitation, she finally managed to do it. However, the whole process meant more blood loss, making her feel weaker than she already was. That meant she was trapped at home for two weeks, much longer than she had expected. It furthered her problems, as she ran out of food meanwhile, so she had to starve for some days and anticipate her return to hunting before she was completely recovered.

This time, trying to avoid another pathetic outcome, she chose the easiest job, which was to stay on guard somewhere, slaying any eventual biomonster who crossed her path. By doing so, she could place herself in a spot where almost no biomonsters appeared. The only problem of this approach was that she would receive only one meseta for each monster killed. However, she believed she had no choice, as she lacked the medical conditions and the confidence to take part in a more profitable mission. Her restart was very slow and provided her almost no money, as she hardly killed more than five biomonsters each day, but at least she was avoiding the risks she wanted to avoid and had money to buy the cheapest food to fool her stomach while she was too weak to work harder.

In a few weeks, she had recovered completely from her wounds and she grew a bit more confident. Anna started taking what hunters called Will Hunt for Food missions, which paid between twenty and fifty meseta because she needed the money to pay the rent of her room and to buy proper food to keep her healthy. She hesitantly feared a bad outcome in her first missions, but her fears gradually disappeared as she got experience in the job. She grew used to hunting down the less threatening biomonsters, like fire ants, mosquitoes and bees, and soon she moved to somewhat larger biomonsters.

After some months using this careful approach, the blonde hunter had acquired lots of experience in hunting monsters. The unique properties of each biomonster made Anna improve very much her combat skills and develop different strategies to deal with the different groups of biomonsters she had to face. When she was confident enough, she started trying different strategies and even hunting some groups for free, just for the thrill of chasing them and hunting them down successfully. Sometimes she was even a bit reckless while chasing large groups of biomonsters, but she managed to dispatch them without serious injuries. Mostly, she hunted for the sake of hunting, not for the money hunting provided because naturally the money she earned was already enough to her needs. She didn't care about luxuries or superfluous things; almost all the money she earned was spent in food, housing, hunting apparel and a few books to read while she was not hunting, as reading was the only thing she liked to do while not working or practicing her combat skills.

Reading was the only Anna's diversion during her lonely nights. She had no one to talk and she didn't really care about it, as she avoided people on purpose, trying to protect herself from other potential tragedies in her life. People who had to deal with Anna constantly, like the proprietor of the inn she lived in and some of the central agency officers considered her either autistic or a psychopath. But they were wrong, Anna was emphatic to other people and she had a perfect perception of the world. The way she seemed to be absorbed in killing biomonsters and improving her fighting skills seemed to be a bit autistic, but she had reasons for acting that way. First, she knew that, by killing dangerous biomonsters, she was indirectly protecting people from harm, without the need of developing any emotional link to them. Moreover, that was the main purpose of her life: to help people. She considered that helping people was the only way she could redeem herself from her wrongdoings. Even her obsession for improving her fighting skills had a reason; she didn't want to be powerless to prevent new tragedies like the ones she couldn't in the past. The thing she regretted most in her life was being paralyzed with fear while her friends were mercilessly murdered.

Anna was getting used to this solitary life of killing monsters and spending the rest of her time alone that she hardly perceived what was happening in the outside world. She had created a hard shell in her mind where she could hide when anybody tried to interfere in her life. It was not so rare to people try to interfere in her life because men naturally felt attracted to the beautiful blonde teenager. However, her reaction to men's advances was so harsh and cold that hardly anyone insisted. The few ones who dared to try again would later regret insisting because the blonde hunter didn't rule out using violence to stop the harassment. Because of her antics, many people, especially her fellow hunters, shunned her.

This process helped shaping the Anna who Rolf and his companions would meet some years later. By this time, the young hunter had already acquired the remarkable characteristics of her personality that everybody would instantly recognize. She had become a cold and vicious fighter who seemed to care very little about the others, the future or material things. She only wanted to perform her duty, accomplish her missions, and bring justice to people and creatures that were harming the others by her own means, which didn't always mean the legal or ethical means. Arguably, she was living a stable life, day by day, never caring about the future, never dreaming or making great plans. She seemed to be in peace. However, she knew there was a large dormant volcano of love and kindness buried inside her heart and her biggest fear was that a sudden explosive eruption would cause her a great damage, maybe even the complete extinction of her own self.
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