Twenty-Two, AKA Kuumi, is a cute, well-adjusted, hungry young woman who has decided that she doesn’t want to be detained any longer, and overpowers everyone with her speed and strength when she escapes. Her captors’ boss is a grinning jerk who takes drugs and refers to Kuumi as “the prototype” and “it”, so we know he’s not a good guy.
Kuumi ends up in a nearby town that subsists on the various products harvested from the carcasses of titular Giant Beasts, which have to be hunted or they’ll level said town. After getting new clothes from a kindly florist, Kuumi meets a little catgirl shopkeep who sells her a magic ring. It’s said whoever bears the ring will save the world. It fits itself around Kuumi’s finger like the One Ring.
Jiiro “The Already Dead” is a drunk fella who briefly met Kuumi as she fled, and takes up a job hunting the latest Giant Beast. While no one has high hopes for him, he shows he’s not dead weight when he shows off his quick thinking and agility rescuing one of his fellow hunters from certain death. The beast is felled and the hunting crew celebrates into the night.
The Imperial fella who had been holding Kuumi captive introduces himself to Jiiro. He can tell the guy’s a cut above the rest of the rabble in the tavern, and notes that in an imminent war that will split Ars into two sides, he needs all the good fighters he can get. Jiiro not-so-cordially declines and shuffles off, not interested in fighting fights that aren’t his.
That night, Kuumi does a terrible job staying hidden and is immediately spotted by guards. When cornered on a dock, their offensive attacks set off her latent magical powers, which include a black mist that atomizes some of the guards. When she starts to glow out of control she warns the others to stay back, which is when Jiiro swoops in, grabs her, and leaps into the ocean.
There, he connects with Kuumi on what seems to be some kind of shared telepathic plane, and asks her what a Cleric is doing without a Paladin escort. A prologue from 30 years back shows the potential of a Cleric-Paladin partnership—total badassdom and the ability to defeat Giant Beasts with ease.
Of course, Kuumi is unescorted because she’s some kind of overpowered prototype Cleric. That makes her extremely valuable to the Imperial dude. But now that she’s free, has that ring, and has met a washed-up but still serviceable Paladin, this all seems like destiny.
Giant Beasts of Ars offers a well-rendered, understated, efficient fantasy adventure premiere that builds just enough of its world to leave me interested in more, and notably isn’t an isekai. I definitely want to see that airship from the OP in action, not to mention Kuumi and Jiiro collaborating.