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TOTGDK Ep 1 - Dawn of the Hunt (Part 1)

It was a bright spring morning that dawned on the Dancing Lilac Compound. It was still early so much of the compound was enveloped into a peaceful quiet. The air was cool and crisp with a small breeze which was most likely a prelude to a nice warm day. All in all, it would appear that today was going to be a good day...


"Naxio!"


Well at least for most people.


Lady Aijah stomps her way through the compound, her waist-long black hair whipping behind her. Her face is small and shaped like a heart with large dark-colored eyes narrowed in anger and a tight frown pulled to her painted lips. Her robes were long, expensive, and decorated with lilac flowers. The colors were mixes of deep purples and greens.


From hall to hall, she continued to call that name, her voice high pitched and growing louder as she stomped onward. Servants scrambled to get out of her way as she passed by.


Over the polished wooden floor of the compound to the warm rocks of the courtyard until finally, Lady Aijah stops before a section of the compound that appears quite unkempt. On this land stood a house with wood that is dark and grey with age. The exterior walls were split in some spots and had obvious patchwork. The window was dark and slightly clouded with dust. The grounds around the house were no better, pale brown grass and mismatched stonework leading up to the entrance.


Lady Aijah stood outside the house for a few moments. Then with a huff, proceeds to stomp up towards the front and without any permission or even acknowledgment, slams the door open.


"Hey, Naxio!"


The inside of the small house was slightly better, a more homey feeling. Stone floors with wood walls, the entry was small and opened to the rest of the house. Her voice echoes in the house as her eyes scan around. She stomps from the small living room to a kitchen and then finally arrives at a slightly ajar door. Then without warning and void of any ladylike manners, she kicks the door open.


"YAH NAXIO YI!"


The room is revealed to be a bedroom. It is slightly bigger than the kitchen with limited furniture. A desk in one corner before a window, papers scattered all over. A small dresser on another side with many books on top. A stand which holds a shamisen and next to that a bed which currently had a large lump of covers in the shape of a body situated in the middle of it.


Given the amount of yelling and the volume, it was only wondered how the person upon the bed continued to sleep. A fact that annoyed the young miss greatly.


"Hey, Naxio! How dare you keep sleeping?!"


Lady Aijah storms over to the bed and kicks the figure wrapped in the covers. The figure stumbled over with a groan. The voice was low and male-sounding.


"Yah! Naxio Yi, wake up!!"


The figure slowly rose, the cover flopping down onto the bed revealing the form of a young boy, a few years older in appearance to the young miss. Dark-colored hair much like the young miss and a notable trait for the Mizune Clan tumbles down to his shoulders; messy and untamed. His face was a bit rough and dirty but his eyes were unlike anything. A bright crystal-like blue that shines even in the dim light of the room. He blearily looks around before looking at his cousin who has her arms crossed, her robe crumpling under her tight grip. Upon fully waking and looking at her, a tight and forced smile pulls to the boy's face.


"Ah, Lady Aijah.."


His tone is formal and indifferent, the sound of his voice; soft and meek. He then bows to her in greeting.


"Did you forget?!"


Her question had an accusing undertone as she stares down at him. For a few moments, Naxio appeared to be in thought before jolting up. His eyes clearing with understanding and then he bows once again.


"Ah... sorry Aijah..."


"Hmph! Hurry up and get ready! We have been waiting for you!"


And with a turn of her heels, she leaves in a rush, slamming his door on her way out. Naxio lets out a sigh as his head dips ever so slightly.


Dread creeping up into his heart as he remembers back exactly what he will be doing in just a few moments. A small shudder goes down his spine.


Just get it over with Naxio... it will be over before you know it.


With that bitter thought, Naxio slowly gets up to begin his day.


----


"Hmm, too much color! I don't want to look like fruit!!"


"Oh what about this? It looks nice...?"


"Hmm, yeah I guess... but his form is so unsightly, it takes away from the dress! Turn Naxio!"


Naxio let out a sigh as he turns once again at the request of his cousins. He was currently playing as a doll for his cousins, given his smaller stature, it made it easy. It wasn't the first time he had suffered this particular humiliation and to be fair, he greatly prefers this as opposed to what his male younger family members would do. The girls were desperate to prepare for the upcoming "Dawn of the Hunt" ceremony.


Dawn of the Hunt is a formal ceremony just before the start of the new selection of Daemon hunter recruits. Many of the lesser-known families use this time to gain favor with one of the 8 Great families to secure a spot. For the Mizune Clan, this selection has already been made months ago but it is still a formal celebration. This is why the girls are in such a fuss about the dresses they will wear, for the Mizune clan, appearance and status are everything.


A soft knock comes from the entrance door to Aijah's bedchambers where they were all situated in.


"Lady Aijah, may I enter?"


The voice that followed was deep, formal and familiar as all the girls grew big smiles and turned towards the door.


"Ah, Ryou! Please enter!"


The door opens and in walks a young man who appears to be in his 20s. The young man is tall, broad-shouldered, with dark-colored hair that follows behind him like a veil. Though his face was covered with a Hunter mask, it was obvious that he had a desirable appearance. His clothing was dark and heavily layered. He bows respectfully to all within the room.


"Forgive my intrusion. However, Clan Leader wishes to have an audience with Lord Naxio."


The room seems to grow cold at that announcement. The once blinding smiles on all the girls' faces fell. Naxio, who had only been half attentive suddenly perks up at hearing his name, much like a frightened rabbit before a predatory.


"A..ah...I see.."


Aijah's words were strained and nervous which was understandable given who the Mizune Clan leader is, even if she was her grandmother. The Clan Leader of Mizune was always known for her stern words and tone, she doesn't tolerate failure or losing face.


Naxio quickly goes to Aijah's change room to ready himself, dread weighing heavy in his stomach. He quickly reappeared, fully dressed and walked over to Ryou. The girls were all giving him sneering glances and heated whispers as he passed. Ryou then nodded once again to the girls and left, Naxio following slowly behind.


The walk through the large compound did nothing to curb the dread mounting for Naxio. As they walked, the hisses whisper and hot stares of many eyes seemed to follow Naxio. However, he is used to this treatment from his Clan since he was born.


"What has he done this time?"


"Hmph, what an unfortunate child.."


"Well you do know what his mother did, don't you?"


Naxio's face never changed nor did he even make any indication that he heard the harsh whispers behind him. Rumors and tales whispered about his mother have been all he's heard of her since birth. The shame and betrayal she brought, the crimes she committed, the list is never-ending. Every story is different and nastier as they come. Soon, fortunately, the pair arrived at the meeting chambers; Singing Springs.


Singing Springs is the center point of the Dancing Lilac compound. A large open-air structure with a high ceiling and bridges which border each direction side. A throne sits on the northernmost section of the floor. Seated at the throne was the Clan Leader, Mayu-Jan.


Mayu-Jan's cold dark-colored eyes glance over as the pair near. Her long coal-black hair was pulled into a tight bun, not even a hair out of place. Her robes were a mix of deep purples and gold, extravagant and rich in material.


"Madame Mizune."


Ryou motioned to Naxio who takes a small step forward and bows to her respectfully. Mayu-Jan doesn't even bat an eye or truly acknowledge Naxio.


"..Thank you, Ryou. You are dismissed."


With a bow, Ryou turns and leaves, quiet as the wind. She then turns her gaze on Naxio finally. It is silent at first, Naxio still hasn't risen his head up even under the piercing gaze.


"...The Dawn of the Hunt Ceremony is only two nights away. Since all young who is at the fitting age must attend, you will go. However.."


Her tone is cold and stern, like a cool winter early morning wind.


"You will be going as an escort only. I have not, and will not ever give you my blessing for the Daemon Hunts. Am I understood?"


Naxio's head dips ever bit lower as if the cruel words place a physical weight upon him.


"...I understand, Leader Mayu-Jan."


His tone was soft almost in a whisper. His eyes never leaving the pristine wooden floors.


"Good. I will make sure there is appropriate clothing set aside for you. I will not tolerate any form of disappointment. Your cousins will be watching you closely and making sure you do not bring shame to our clan...You are dismissed."


The expression on Naxio's face seems to clench ever so slightly as if he was hit or stabbed. His eyes close slowly and he bows once again. He then turns and leaves.


--------


The evening of the ceremony was a clear night. Stars danced in the sky and a cold but gentle breeze moved through the air. The Daemon Hunter compound is a large stone palace hidden deep within the mountains of the Whispering Highlands. For generations, this Holy place has served as a training ground and is the main location of operations with smaller Compounds throughout Shiofea.


Naxio, who has never been able to travel much, drank up this unforgettable sight. It was unlike anything he heard of or seen in books. It was intimidating but also filled Naxio with a sense of yearning.


"Hey, Naxio! Hurry up!"


His head snaps back to where his cousins were. All were dressed up beautifully in the traditional Mizune clan wears almost at the top of the steps which leads to the compound. He too was dressed in his traditional robes however, it was notable that this robe was ill-fitting, too small around the shoulders and tight at the waist. However, he continued without complaint.


The Mizune clan wasn't the only one to arrive at this time. Many of the other Clans were also venturing up the stone steps to reach the compound. Some of which Naxio could tell just by appearance while others remained a mystery.


Soon Naxio reached the top where his cousin stood and was amazed even more. From the steps of the compound, it was obvious that it was large however standing at the very gates was an experience. Beyond the gates was a large courtyard, most likely used for training purposes but now has decorations, lights, and such in regards to the ceremony. It was beautiful, even for a place so intimidating.


"Ah, finally you all have arrived!"


The Mizune group turned to the familiar voice and isn't too surprised by the figure who walked over.


"Ah, older brother!!"


Aijah's cry is loud with a bright smile on her face. Her older brother, Kalan bows to his sister with a smile. His black-colored hair is shorter than most of his family, barely brushing against his neck and dark-colored eyes. He is dressed in traditional Daemon Hunter garb, dark His eyes briefly glance through his family before stopping on Naxio to whom he frowns in confusion.


"What is he doing here?"


The icy tone is a shock from the soft words that he had spoken not even minutes ago. Naxio seems to flinch back as he turns his head away and down. Lady Aijah sneers with a pout.


"You know all children of age must attend brother, so, unfortunately, Clan Leader Mayu-Jan had to let him go."


Kalan hums coldly and drags his gaze back to his female cousins and sister.


"Well, either way, I'm happy to see you girls reach here alright."


"Brother, the ride over was so looong!!"


Aijah whines, before hugging up to her brother who returns her hug without a hint of hesitation.


"Ah, my poor little sister... It's okay, it's okay."


The other girls giggle at Aijah's antics however it isn't something odd or out of place for the siblings. Aijah has always been extremely close to her elder brother and him in return. Naxio stands off to the side, a bit awkwardly but still looking around.


It didn't take long for the remaining Clans to arrive and the courtyard to fill with music, laughter, and chatting. At the highest point of the celebration, Naxio was successfully able to escape from his family and was wandering around the courtyard. On the wall, Naxio notices were the weapons of past fallen Clan leaders. One from almost every clan even of his own. The feeling of yearning claws at him once again.


"Um, excuse me?"


Naxio almost jumps as he turns. A young girl around his age is standing next to him with a soft smile. Dark-colored skin with unique grey-colored eyes and dark brown hair which is pulled back into a high ponytail that stops at her shoulders. Her robe colors are a mix of browns and reds, not familiar clan colors to Naxio.


"... Are you okay, my lord?"


Her voice was light and kind, that soft smile still on her lips. A brief hint of panic gripped Naxio as this is the first time someone outside of his clan has spoken to him.


"A-ah, I'm okay"


He bows to her respectfully, his voice cracking slightly with nerves. For a second, a shocked look passes her face and then she suddenly lets out a laugh. Not mocking but just amused. Naxio was left in a daze, unable to fully know what to say.


"There's no need to be so respectful, my lord."


Naxio suddenly stops and realizes what she has said.


"My lord?"


His question seems to make her chuckle even more before she gives him a bow.


"Forgive me, my lord. I am Moushira from the Naje-feh Clan."


Naxio understands all at once why she called him "my lord" and why her clan colors were so unfamiliar. The Naje-feh Clan is one of the newer families who has joined the ranks of the Daemon Hunters after the war. The clan's home is in the winding and vast sands of Scorched Steppes, which is a desert in the eastern portion of Shiofea. He heard only tales but the Naje-feh people are a hardy sort and have somehow tamed the desert to establish not only a home but a bustling area of trade. The Great Clans, unfortunately, tend to look down on the small and newer clans, given their status and power.


"Ah, my name is Naxio Yi from the Mizune Clan."


Naxio then bows again to her. They both stand back straight, the smile on her face had never faltered.


"Hmm, I figured as much given the colors of your robes! It is a pleasure to meet you, my lord!"


Naxio frowns at the formality.


"...You...you don't have to call me 'my lord'. My name is fine..."


His words were soft, a bit nervous as if worried to offend her. Once again she looks at him shocked and in silence for a few moments. Immediately Naxio is nervous, sure that he has offended his new acquaintance.


"Ah, y-you don't have to if-"


"Okay..."


Naxio words cut out leaving his mouth open in shock. Moushira looks to him with a smile.


"I will call you Naxio-Yi as long as you call me by my first name as well!"


"Ah.. okay... M-Moushira."


Her name stumbled out of his mouth in a stutter but the smile he gets is enough to warm his heart. For a while, the pair spoke. Naxio was filled with questions about her home and clan. Some she could answer while others she couldn't but she never lost interest and continued to humor him. However, this peaceful moment couldn't last forever.


"Hey, Naxio!!"


The pair turned to whom called Naxio. Cold claws of anxiety grip Naxio as three figures come into view. While he did know that he would be reunited with his other family members who are already Daemon Hunters at the ceremony, he hoped that these three, in particular, would never see him. Who approached was Naxio's elder cousins who have already become Daemon Hunters, the twin brothers Najalen and Malajen lead by the eldest cousin, Su-len. Each boy was tall, wearing the Daemon Hunter uniform with splashes of the traditional Mizune purples.


Moushira almost immediately noticed Naxio shrink back. The three young men soon stopped before the pair, the twin's eyes were cruelly mischievous and darting between Naxio and Moushira. Su-Len, however, had his eyes trained on Naxio with a deep frown. He stood like a tower over Naxio.


"What are you doing here?"


His tone was cruel and unkind, deep hate in his eyes. Naxio stumbles to answer however suddenly Moushira steps before him. Moushira then bows with a smile, respectful and poise.


"Good evening Lord Mizune. I am Moushira from the Naje-feh Clan. It truly is an honor."


Su-Len's gaze shifts to her. The frown still on his face however it tilts a bit in confusion; as if questioning why this girl even dares to stand before him.


"Naje-feh Clan? I've seen your people every so often. They grew that wastelands into something useful."


Though his words are a compliment, his tone is uninterested and dry like he couldn't even be bothered to show a fraction of interest. Moushira, however, didn't appear disturbed by the clear disrespect, her smile never faltered or even dipped.


"I thank you for the high praise, my Lord."


Su-Len's eyes however then drifted back to Naxio.


"You should be careful not to associate with that one."


The twins suddenly speak, glints of cruel intentions still within their eyes.


"Yes, that one is nothing but cursed, like unfortunate mother~.."


"Same as her son~"


The twins mocking words stung Naxio's ears however he didn't show it on his face. Moushira's smile, however, did fall from her face.


"Hmm, I thank you for your kind warning my lord. However, I must decline."


Her words were unlike before, her tone stern. The three looked to her as if for the first time. Su-Len's frown deepens and his face morphs into one of a great offense.


"Excuse me-?"


"Su-Len Shi!"


The group turns at the voice which calls out. An older female Daemon Hunter is standing off to the side, arms folded behind her back. Her robes were different than the boys, darker-colored with flashes of muted purple. Her face was even covered with a mask however the mask alone is enough to recognize her. The elusive Lilac Fox, Yulen Li, the second eldest daughter of the Clan Leader. Yulen Li is every bit similar to the Mizune Clan leader, from her intimidating figure to her stern tone. The group quickly bows and gives their greetings.


"Night Hunter Yulen Yi!"


Night Hunters, the name that has been only a whisper among the Daemon Hunter Core. Night Hunters are elite Daemon Hunters, only the best who have proven themselves can join.


"Come, we are being summoned by Lead Hunter, Rhashen."


Lead Hunters are essentially the teachers of Daemon Hunter Core. It is one of the greatest honors and highest positions, aside from Master Hunter. And Lead Hunter, Rhashen Ziraniel is without a doubt one to be feared. Rhashen is from the First Great Family, the Ziraniel Clan. The power and reach of the Ziraniel Clan are known by all, even the lower class clans. Also considering that the Ziraniel Clan lands are just a few miles from the mountain's peaks it would make sense that one of their own is a Lead Hunter.


The boys nod to her and walk to her side, not without a parting sneer at Naxio of course. Finally alone again Naxio lets out a sigh and turns to Moushira who was still watching the trio who was slowly disappearing into the crowd.


"Um.. sorry about that.."


Moushira turns.


"Hmm? Oh, you don't have to apologize for anything, Naxio Yi! I'm well used to this kind of attitude."


Her smile returns with a mischievous twist which brings out a laugh from Naxio. It's small but enough.


The ceremony continues onward for a few hours longer before ending just as the night is half over. All the attendees are urged to stay the night given how dangerous night travel is. And just as the moon dips below the mountains, the Dawn of the Hunt ends and ushers in a new day.

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