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TOTGDK EP 13: Trial of the Hunter: First Trial (Part 7)

"Lead Hunter! Lead Hunter Iakovos!"


The tall, muscled figure of Iakovos was standing in the direct center of a circular chamber. The dark and rocky interior was familiar in an eerily manner. It appeared to be similar to the Ashaval cavern in shape and size and appearance for sure. What set this particular area apart from the rest of the caverns, aside obviously the number of night hunters and also Iakovos's presence, was the lack of Ying energy. The area was large but the air was clear and clean. No tortured whispers or heavy pressure which are clear signs of Ying corrupted areas. Iakovos turns his head with the night hunter who had been calling to him, a deep frown on his stern face. The night hunter in question, faced with that look, almost immediately turned his head down even though he was still wearing a mask that obscured much of his face except his eyes.


"What?" Iakovos asked with a cold look in his eyes.


He could sense the nervousness rolling off the hunter before him which clearly stated to him something was wrong.


"It's a few of the recruit's sir, you may want to see this." The young hunter said in an uneasy tone.


The gaze that Iakovos leveled him with could easily peel back paint or even stun someone into a stupor. It was well known among all the hunters that one was never to get on his bad side. Of which this poor hunter had done already, he already knew it was going to get worse once the Lead Hunter saw what he did. Silently he led the Iakovos over to one of the many seated hunters. It was a young woman who appeared in a trance, her eyes staring almost unblinkly into the air before her.


"Lyonis. Can you hear me?"


The young woman seemed to tense a bit before her eyes started to blink and she seemed to come back to herself. She then turns and sees the Lead Hunter and pales almost immediately.


"Show me." Iakovos said with a glare.


She nodded silently and turned back and resumed her earlier position. Iakovos raises a hand out to her. There was suddenly a ting of glow as both their Yang energies seemed to form and bind together. At the same time, Iakovos closes his eyes, and in an instant, his vision returns but it is not of the central cavern that he is physically in. His vision almost appears like looking through the eyes of a bird, high above and then looking down. A quick zoom and then his vision clears again.


He then understands why the night hunters called to him and also their obvious nervousness.


He watches as a few recruits force their way through a thick, dark but oddly transparent wall. Then the vision clicks again to show inside that said room. A battle was taking place between a few of the recruits and a dark creature that was largely taking up the space. Well, to call it a battle was pushing it as the creature seemed to have no problems swatting the recruits around like flies. He broke the connection almost immediately and there was a fire in his eyes that spelled nothing but trouble for everyone else.


"Which one of you wants to tell me how this happened?"


His tone appears simple as if he were asking a general question. All the night hunter's presence has worked with or at least heard enough about the Lead Hunter to know that it was anything but that.


"How long ago did this occur?"


"About 20 minutes ago sir. Apparently, 1 of the recruits had made it through the barrier before which is why we believe it was weakened before." The night hunter who had originally talked to Iakovos.


Iakovos turns to him which in return causes the hunter to turn his head down again.


"You believe?"


Iakovos stalks close to the young hunter staring him down.


"You believe a recruit made it through the barrier and even managed to weaken?"


The way and manner Iakovos phrases the statement was clearly mocking. He was clearly annoyed that the suggestions were even brought up.


"..How unfortunate that this batch of Night Hunters has been babied too much. You and you, with me." Iakovos said as he motioned to the Hunter he was speaking to and also the one who showed him what had occurred.


"S-sir?"


"You both will be coming with me, the rest of you. Closely monitor the rest of the recruits. I will punish you all afterward."


And with that ominous statement, he proceeds to walk out of the central cavern. The two night hunters which he had chosen followed behind in silence. And off they went, disappearing from the central chamber like ghosts.


-----


The next day or whatever equals to a day was a bit on the rough side for Naxio and his group. Keeping to her word, Vuqun did relieve the pressure of the Ying energy which lasted through their rest. However as it came to the end of their rest, they were all awake to hearing an assortment of strange noises all around.


"Ugh what is all this noise?" Moushira said as she covered her ears.


It was whispers, clear as day. The words however were melding into one another, loud and louder and growing more frantic as it goes.


"This- this is it! This is what I've been hearing" Naxio said he too was covering his ears.


"This is what you've been hearing this whole time?!" Moushira yelled out in shock.


"Not as loud as this but yes, basically."


"...It's Vuqun.."


Both Moushira and Naxio turned to Kaldov, just barely hearing over the overlapping whispers but he was staring at something opposite to them, the same was with Thakan. Both of their facial expressions were grim with a bit of nervousness. Moushira and Naxio followed their line of sight and understood almost immediately why they had those looks on their faces. There in the center of the hex was Vuqun just as they last saw her. But this time there is a much deeper problem brewing. The hex was glowing brightly, dark energy coiling around the hex and also Vuqun. She was tossing and turning on the ground. The dark rods which were protruding from her back appear to have been… burning her?


"..Guys I think it's time we left." Moushira said as she started to back towards the barrier.


The rest of her group followed along, the sounds of Vuqun's struggling and stubble murmurs echoed at their back. However, as they reached the barrier, they found that the situation hadn't changed much from when Kaldov had mentioned the strength of this dark barrier.


"Shit!" Moushira flinches back as a spark of Ying energy lashes out at her from the barrier.


"Seriouosly, are we really trapped here."


Her tone of hopelessness wasn't only felt by her. They had all been trying to the last ten minutes to make even a small dent in the barrier but nothing. Not even their combines power could break through.


"If only I could remember!" Naxio hisses as he had also been trying to remember the night before where he had some how made it through.


However everytime he tries to think back on it, a heavy fog seems to come to his mind. Nothing but a sense of movement but that was all he felt or even remembered.


"It's fine, there must be some other way." Moushira said as she look back through the large chamber.


There wasn't much inside aside from rock, their group and Vuqun who are still seemingly writhing in pain.


"H-How long will this go on? Is- is this what she faces everyday?" Naxio said with a frown.


That particular detail didn't escape their minds. Vuqun was still hissing and the binding rods in her back were still burning her. The stench of burn flesh was fillting around the room with how long her torture had been on going. It left an awful taste in their mouth as they witness this seeming endless torture.


"The-there must be a reason for this. She's too dangerous! So that is why the Daemon compound kept her here. I mean you've seen what she is capable of!" Moushira said, even though the words felt like ash in her mouth.


While her train of thought would sound correct. In the event that a Daemon is too powerful, it is usually proper to bind them to a location so that they don't cause trouble elsewhere.


"...But that's not what is happening here, Moushira.." Kaldov's baritone voice sounds next to her.


His golden colored eyes were narrow as he too had a complicated look on his face. It was one thing to bind a dangerous Daemon but this wasn't that. Somehow the binding rods had been respelled to work alongside the hex which Vuqun is in. Everytime the hex resets, weather Vuqun is willing or not to continue the hex, the binding rods burn her and force her to exhale out her Ying energy. The binding rods would never kill her, just damage her enough to make her use her Ying. While the hex would reset her in a sense, consuming her rage, her memories or whatever it does to gain back power. And the cycle would continue on


Again and again.


She is denied her death, and forced to continue suffering over and over.


"...I… but they wouldn't do this if it wasn't for a reason!" Moushira tries again to rationalize.


She didn't even quite believe it herself. Just like all Daemon Hunters, they are taught and ingrained into their heads that Daemons are their enemies. Those monstrous creatures are violent and just want to kill mortals. That they must be stopped by all means. That they were evil, inmoral being that want nothing more to corrupt the whole world.


To see one tortured in this manner shouldn't bother them. It shouldn't… and yet… know that Vuqun had emotions, and could appear so close to human..


"It's wrong…" Naxio said in a mumble.


His eyes were clouded over in sadness. For what, he was quite sure. But there was a deep-seated sorrow in his heart. He wasn't formally taught, like practically everyone else. His thoughts on Daemons have always been more of curiosity than fear or even hatred. He knows of their strength, the brutality that the creature can have. But this…


This is wrong.


"We need to free her."


The rest of his group snapped their heads in his direction, looking at him like he had long lost his mind. Maybe he had?


"Naxio, are you crazy?" Moushira screeches at him.


"What else would you have us do, Moushira! We haven't even made a scratch in the barrier, we won't make it out this way in time!" Naxio argues back.


Moushira is taken back by his rather stubborn response. She's never quite seen Naxio with this look on his face.


"Naxio, we can't do that. She is being kept here for a reason! She is dangerous! Hell, she tried to kill us just a few hours ago!" Moushira argues back.


"And this is better?! She's being tortured? Is that what a Daemon Hunter does?!" Naxio yells back.


Moushira looks away at that, she knew even as she tried her hardest to somehow make sense of the situation, nothing about it made her feel good. The hunter's creed was something that all hunters took as oath. Never let your heart be darkened or your blade become dull. To most it refers to the idea of being virtuous even in battle, never to dirty your heart with dark thoughts or deeds. It was what caused Ying corruption to occur when one gave into those dark thoughts. Moushira couldn't say anything back, she knew deep within the answer.


"Guys, we've run out of time." Kaldov's voice sounded in the distance.


Both Naxio and Moushira turn back to where he and Thakan were. The pair had their weapons out and posed before them as they both looks back in the direction of Vuqun. By now, Vuqun had fully transformed back into her wyvern form. The dark scales gleam under the dark color light that the hex gives off. Her eyes were still tightly closed shut as she dragged her large form up.


"Shit!" Moushira curses as she pours her Yang energy into her wires.


Naxio also follows with his weapon though a complex look was still heavy on his face. Vuqun suddenly opens her eyes. The ruby-red orbs glow in the faint light. Her gaze then fell on them.


"....HUMAN…."


Her voice growls out in a loud rumble shaking each and every one of their ears.


"...KILL…."


Her gaze takes on a slightly wild look, like an animal who feels threatened.


"I WILL KILL YOU….!!!"


She then lashes out, her maw snapping down on their location. Quickly the group dodges in different directions. A large deposit of stone and rock came crumbling down over the barrier one Vuqun had drawn her mouth back. Their once exit was now sealed behind numerous rocks and rubble.


"You have got to be kidding me!?" Moushira hisses as she dodges Vuqun's tail which wipes around in her direction.


Though they had all fought her before, something felt different this time. Vuqun felt more vicious than before. Her strike didn't appear to have any concern for the area around. Her tail swung wildly, causing large cracks in the wall, craters in the floor. Kaldov and Thakan who were trying to get a sneak attack in from behind were suddenly targeted by a bursting of fire. The flames felt just as hot as they did when she first did it. The force behind them was unrelenting.


"Aim for the binding rods!" Naxio calls out to his team.


"Naxio! No, there is no way we are freeing her!"


"We will die if we don't at this rate! There's no other choice, Moushira!" Naxio said, his eyes staring over at her as if to plead with her on this plan.


She bites her lip as she once again barely misses being sliced by Vuqun claws. She then let out a sigh.


"Fine…" The look in her eyes turned determined.


"This better work, Naxio..."


She then sent out her wires. The hissing sound of the wiring cutting through air echoed in the chamber. She was about to grab hold of one of the rods but was instantly caught off guard as Vuqun suddenly turned around. Moushira is tossed through the air wildly, she tries her best to keep from being dashed against the stones around her. Naxio quickly lets out some notes, a wave of sound hits Vuqun directly but does little to nothing in stopping her.


"Kaldov now!" Naxio calls out.


Kaldov, who had gotten through the whirlwind of flames, suddenly leaps onto Vuqun's back, just shy of where the binding rods were. He quickly grabs the wires to pull Moushira also onto Vuqun's back. She tries to head to the intruder on her back but her attention is brought back forward by Thakan who was just swung his axe at Vuqun. It bounces off the darn scales, not leaving even a scratch but it was enough to get her attention. Vuqun then proceeds to snap wildly at Thakan. Behind her, Moushira and Kaldov were trying to deal with the binding rods. The magic on them was powerful, physical attack didn't seem to be doing much.


"Damn it, how are we supposed to get these out!" Moushira mumbles as she tries once again to pull the rods out with her wires wrapped tightly.


It doesn't budge even a bit and she lets out a frustrated sigh. Kaldov on the other hand had been carefully examining the spell work with the binding rods. It took him some time but then suddenly his eyes widened in realization.


"It's the hex…"


"What?" Moushira said, looking at him.


"We have to destroy the hex. If we stop the hex the binding rods will cease as well. Someone managed to intertwine the two spells. Make it so while the hex is ongoing the binding rods will be invincible and immovable."


"You have got to be- wait… the markings!" Moushira says as she looks down at the ground below.


There below Vuqun were dark marking, words possibly? But the language wasn't one that either of them understood or knew.


"You think that would be enough?" Kaldov ask also looking down at the marking.


"It will have to be! We are not dying here!" She says. "Can you do it?"


"....I can."


Moushira then gave him a grin.


"Then let's get out of here!"


Both moved at the exact same time. Moushira dashes on the sides of Vuqun, using her body to swing around and wires to try to further bind the beast. Kaldov instead went down, falling gracefully through the air to the rocky surface below. His blade forms in his hand with a whisper of words. The blade itself takes on a familiar blue glow.


Thakan and Naxio being the diversion upfront only saw a flash of blue light before suddenly a loud crack sounded around them. The ground under them grew large cracks, letting out a hissing mist of black. Naxio could only barely see Kaldov in the distance. His blade was half sunk into the ground, the crack originating from where his blade pierced. The blue light from his blade slowly filled the cracks as more and more splinters appeared on the ground.


"It's-it's working!" Naxio said in awe of what he was seeing before him.


It was true that something was happening. The markings that were scared into the ground around Vuqun were fading slowly. Everywhere the blue light touch almost appeared to be purified.


Kaldov could barely feel the tips of his finger as his full focus was on pouring as much energy as he could into the mark. It was working, at least he assumed, but the tole on his body felt endless. Like he was merely feeding a bottomless pit.


"Kaldov!"


He couldn't even turn to address whoever was calling to him. He suddenly felt a hand on his back, a warm waver of warmth filtered from that spot.


"Woah.. this is-!"


It was Moushira who could see his struggle with trying to break the hex. She also poured in her Yang energy, putting every hope that this works!


It does eventually.


With an almost comedic pop, they both feel rather than see that hex break. It was almost like a relief of pressure, a sense of calm.


That was until a large, forceful shock wave rippled through the area. Knocking everyone away from where the hex once was. Both Moushira and Kaldov are knocked back quite a few feet away, landing none too gracefully on the rocky floor below. Naxio and Tharkan unfortunately are slammed against the stone walls of the chamber. A few more loose stones fell from the ceiling as a result.


The chamber is suddenly quiet, if only for a few moments.


The group slowly recovers and looks back to where Vuqun once stood. However instead of the Wyvern that once stood there, instead was Vuqun back in her humanoid form. Her eyes staring almost absently into the air above her.


"Is-is she ..?" Moushira.


"..I'm ..not sure.." Kaldov says with a suspicious look on her face.


However before they could further wonder about the state of Vuqun, there was suddenly a loud booming noise which came from what they remember the barrier was. Everyone turned to see once the covered area blasted open, the barrier was ripped open and there stood three hunters. One, in particular, made a shiver run down the recruits' spines.


"Le-Lead Hunter.." Naxio said with a huff of breath.


Lead Hunter Iakovos stood still like a statue. His dark-colored eyes were narrow in rage, a deep scowl on his face as he looked over all of them.


"...What have you all done.."

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