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TOTGDK EP 14: Trial of the Hunter: First Trial (End)

The chamber was deadly silent as the group of recruits stared at the newly arrived Lead Hunter with the two Night Hunters. Iakovos glared down at them, his question still weighing heavy in the air.

"...I said, what have you done?" He asks again, the edge in his voice dipping dangerously.

There is a sudden cracking sound, and a heavy pressure then forms over the room. The very ground and walls around the chamber appear to be shaking. The recruits are immediately brought to their knees under the heavyweight. Even the Night Hunters behind Iakovos are stuck, trembling slightly under unyielding strain. There was a transparent glow around Iakovos that almost seemed to wrap around him like a deadly snake. Laying in wait to strike at an unexpecting victim. But oddly just as soon as the pressure felt unbearable, it was suddenly gone, like a ghostly touch.

Naxio and his group looked up almost immediately in shock, confused at the sudden change. The lead hunter's expression looked similarly grim as it did before, but it had also taken on a slightly inquiring look.


Moushira was quick to respond, seeing this as an opportunity to explain.

"L-lead Hunter! W-we didn't know that anyone was coming to rescue us! We found ourselves trapped here and the barrier was too strong to get through! We understand that we have caused trouble, but how would we have known otherwise!?" She explained worriedly, her expression filled with a hefty mixture of fear and concern.

Moushira's delivery painted a rather believable picture of a group of recruits being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Even if that explanation in reality was missing very crucial information on how exactly they ended up in this situation. She just hoped deeply that the Lead Hunter wouldn't question too deeply. And to her credit, it did appear to it worked at the Lead Hunter's expression seemed to soften at least a small fraction.

"....Is that so?"

"Y-yes Lead Hunter! We only thought of how to get out of here! We didn't want to fail the exam!"

Again, another half-truth, but she put enough emotion behind it that it certainly felt believable. The Lead Hunter's expression finally softened enough to be a neutral look. The cold and subtle pressure that was still there, was easing in the air.

"I see... It is true that I cannot fault you for trying to escape this dire situation, it is within your training after all."

Almost immediately Naxio's group relaxes just a bit, relived by those words.

"It was the select Night hunters that were supposed to keep a close watch on all recruits here during the test. I will be punishing them according to later for this failure."

The night hunter that the Lead Hunter had brought with him bodily flinched from that rather cold and almost threatening statement. One could almost feel bad for whatever punishment that they would be subjected to under the Lead Hunter.


And in a whiplash of feeling, there was the uneasy pressure again. Weighing down on the recruits before the Lead Hunter. It was just one word, but the manner it was spoken practically screamed trouble. His gaze was stony as his eyes trailed through the group before him.

"How did you get through the barrier in the first place?"

Moushira curses in her mind as she was at a loss of what to say. Telling the full truth here didn't feel like it would be bold well. And given the fact that they truly didn't fully know or even understand themselves how didn't help as well. Her eyes couldn't help but dart to Naxio who had his head turned down in clear remorse. She knew that at the first chance given, he would tell the Lead Hunter the full truth so that the group wouldn't suffer any further consequences. Naxio was kind in the manner, she had just barely managed to get them to this point before he had tried to take on all the blame. She wasn't sure as to why, but her gut was yelling at her that him telling the Lead Hunter truly how they ended up in this situation wasn't good.

"It was Daemon corruption, sir!"

The lead Hunter eyes Moushira with an uncomfortable interest.

"..What do you mean?" He asks curiously

"One of our group members was corrupted! He was forced to wander into this area. We followed afterward, the barrier was hard to get through but we didn't want to leave him behind!"

She was careful to not state who it was. However, something was telling her that the Lead Hunter already knew who. She just was hoping that her reasoning sounded plausible enough. Given that it was within reason the truth, it made sense to her at least. However again it was excluding some key details. She was just praying he would buy it.

It was quiet for a while. Everyone was simply watching the expression on the Lead Hunter's face. His face didn't change at all since she spoke.

"...I see." Was his response to her tale.

Whether or not he believed it was unfortunately never realized as one other critical detail was brought back up.


Given the whirlwind of even that happened it was only given that the issue of Vuqun was sidelined for a beat. She hadn't moved an inch from her spot from behind, however, her eyes seemed to have regained life to them. She was no longer staring aimlessly into the distance, seemingly lost in fond memory of some sort. She was looking over at them, her gaze filled with an almost child-like amusement. There was a small smile on her soft lips, an oddly genuine one given the circumstances.

There was an odd sequence of events that happened after that. Naxio and his group remember her presence slowly looks over back at the Lead Hunter as if like children caught in the act of doing something bad. While the Lead Hunter give Vuqun an almost unamused look as if he was neither surprised at her being completely freed, nor even concerned by that prospect.


"...I remember you..." She said.

There was a tense moment between the two. Gaze's clashing in an unspoken power struggle. For the others, they could help but feel that tension washing over them as well. Iakovos then started to take measured steps towards Vuqun. His pace was casual like there was no concern or danger in sight. Naxio and his group couldn't move, that pressure which they have thought had gone for good had returned in spades.

It felt as if the very ground below them was pulling them down.

Iakovos passed by them, his face as frigid as ice. He had the look of a killer in his eyes. He was going to kill Vuqun.

"L-Lead Hunter-!" Naxio tried to get out of a protest even under these direct conditions.

Iakovos doesn't address him back and continues on his way until he reaches Vuqun. She doesn't appear to be overly concerned even with this impending doom in front of her.

"Lead Hunter please!" Naxio forces out.

"Naxio, no. Leave it alone!" Moushira hissed out, trying to get Naxio to just let it go.

Naxio looks back at her, his expression was similar to that of a child who just didn't understand how to present his feelings on a matter. She understood his meaning, he wanted to protect Vuqun. Whether it was due to them being first-person witnesses to her torture or just having heard her talk, she wasn't sure. But she knew better, and Naxio would have to learn this same lesson. Daemon were their enemies, no matter what. Vuqun may have appeared human in some instances but there were more than enough tales of the bodies she had made in the past.

Fortunately, Iakovos didn't seem to have been even acknowledged Naxio's cries. Vuqun however does turn to him, that same soft smile on her face.

"...You are different young hunter...."

Naxio looks back to her, his face a mixture of sadness and a bit of regret. He knew at that moment she had not only expected her death. But she was ready to welcome it.

"...Thank you... Little Hunter..."

Iakovos, without any warning, raises a single hand and clean cuts straight across. Severing Vuqun's head clean from her body in an instant.

The chamber fell into a deathly silence. Naxio's eyes were widened in shock and horror, similarly were the member of his group. There was nothing spoken at this moment. Vuqun's blood pooled underneath her severed body, the head has rolled a bit of a distance away. Landing unfortunately not too far from Naxio, her face slightly turns towards him.

"....Daemons are nothing more than monsters."

Iakovos's words rang out like a bolt of lightning in the deadly quiet chamber.

"They are our enemies... we are the last line of defense against them. You all should know that."

There was still blood dripping from his hand, the one he used to kill Vuqun.

"...I will believe for now that you all had no choice. Given the circumstance, it makes the most probably sense."

He then suddenly turns to the recruits. The look in his eyes was the same one he had when he killed Vuqun. It was like staring at the hungry wolf or a bear, knowing that you were going to die and knowing it was going to be painful.

"However... if it is proven otherwise that you released a Daemon, know full well of their power, out of some hints of...compassion for them?"

There was a heavy pause in the air.

"..I will be the one to kill you."

And with that, everything was over. The first trial was cut short from there, anyone who was still taking the trial was failed and sent back. The ones who passed were immediately brought back to the compound until the end of the 1st trial. Without the hex in place keeping the Ying energy bottled up, over about a month, most of the Ying Energy was dispelled. Since there was no telling the damage all that Ying could cause the hunter core acted quickly to dispel a majority of it.

There were many obviously a lot of rumors among those who passed the exam about what actually happened. Everyone within the cave felt the dispelling of the hex, both Hunter and Daemon. It was then also wondered what would become of the caverns now that they couldn't be used for the unique environment.

And what of Naxio and his group?

They were given a pass considering the circumstances. The Lead Hunter stern told them he wanted to fail them however it would be too messy to explain his reason why. He did however leave then with a lasting warning. That he would be watching them closely, it matters not to him what clan they held from, if they had caused any more trouble, they would answer to him.

It would have been nice to say that was all that ended up being of the situation however in the background to all of this there were major discussions on the seriousness of the how debacle of what occurred.

It was about only a week or so after the abrupt end of the 1st trial. A meeting was called for all the Lead Hunters. By now a major of them had heard vaguely about what had happened.

"...So it is true that the hex has been dispelled?"

"..And by recruits no doubt!? I mean, is that possible?"

The whispers amount all the lead Hunter went back and forth, some getting certain detail wildly wrong or exaggerated.


The room quickly fell into silence at the command of Master Hunter Ranek. He looks briefly through the crowd before turning his gaze on the figure standing in the middle of the room.

"Iakovos, please explain."

Iakovos nods however his gaze never leaves the floor.

"It was about the three-month mark for the exam. A few of my night hunters came to me to inform me that they has spotted a few recruits at the barrier and that they had forced their way through."

There was a small murmur of whispers at that.

"It was my fault for not being more strict with the monitorization of the new recruits. From what I gathered from the recruits, one of their own had gotten Ying corrupted and was bewitched into coming into the hex chamber."

Again a few murmurs, some in agreement with this possibility, some in suspicion of the truth of this statement.

"I am unsure still if this is 100% an accurate retelling of the situation however it does make some moderation of sense in consideration with the whole tale."

"Hmm, I see. Looking into that detail, I want to know what truly happened for them to even enter into the area in the first place."

"Understood sir."

"Who were these recruits?"

Iakovos pauses only for a moment before starting to list the names.

"...Kaldov from the Ziraniel Clan.."

No word was spoken after that declaration. The gaze of Ranek narrowed slightly at the mention of his son. He clearly didn't expect this turn of events. And neither didn't anyone else given the outburst of whispers.

"W-what? The young master was involved?"

"That makes no sense!"

"Enough!" Ranek barks out over the crowd.

Silent once again, he turns his attention back to Iakovos with a frown.

"That is a bold statement to make, Lead Hunter."

"I swear to you master hunter, it was indeed young master Kaldov."

Ranek frowns a bit deeper but motions for Iakovos to continue.

"Moushira from the Naje-feh clan."

This time around there weren't quite as many whispers, some confused questions as to what clan the lead hunter was talking about.

"...The Naje-feh clan? Which clan is that?"

"Ah... it's the desert people! The ones that live in the Scorched Steps!"

"...Ohhh, there were ones which the big trading market if I remember correctly?"

The whispers, fortunately, died down quickly enough and Iakovos continued.

"Thakan form the Cendar clan." He said with a small frown on his face.

This one threw other lead hunters for a loop. Especially those from the Cendar Clan, it isn't a trade secret that the Cendar Clan doesn't play well with others. Given their battle-orientated culture, it doesn't really come as a surprise.

"..Even someone from the berserker clan?? Such an odd combination."

"Truly it is."

Iakovos then pauses again. As if weighing whether or not to say the last name. Ranek who knows there were at least four recruits in question, looks at him curiously as to why he was hesitating.

"And the fourth one, Iakovos?"

".....Naxio-Yi from the Mizune Clan."

The room lapses into silence only for a few moments before a storm of whispers echoed in the room.

"The Mizune clan? Isn't that where that famed traitor hailed from?"

"Hmm, not only that, I think that boy is her child?"

"So that's the famed cursed child of the Mizune clan? How dreadful! Why did they allow the boy to join the Daemon Hunter core?"

There were no Mizune clan representatives among the Lead Hunters. It was something that was never spoken aloud but was an obvious shadow that weighed on the clan. The Mizune clan was always known for its arrogance and pride. After what had happened, that pride and arrogance were dragged through the mud. They had lost a large portion of ranking among the other main clans and have for years been clawing their way back to the top again. If there is one thing that everyone knows about the Mizune clan is that they despised losing face. Their clan leader especially doesn't tolerate it.

"The Mizune clan..." Ranek said in a thoughtful tone.

He has had dealings with their leader before. She is as cold as ice and is not known to be easy especially to her own.

There were also a few Lead Hunter in the meeting chamber that had looks other than contempt. One, in particular, is Yan Feng who has a complex expression on his face. It is a mixture of both concern and also anger.

He knew how everyone thought of his former student. There was little to no point in trying to defend her as he didn't know the full weight of her crimes. But to remember seeing young Naxio-Yi looking at him with such wonder. He knew that his mother had been a heavy taboo in the Mizune clan, no one spoke of her in any good light. So he had nothing to learn about the woman who birthed him except for the crimes she had committed. Yan Feng couldn't help the bitter feelings as he remembers the young woman for her bright mind and unique and open deminer.

On the opposite side of the room was another Lead Hunter who had an odd curious look on his face. Llewellyn was as graceful in appearance as ever. His long golden hair curtained behind him, his eyes were closed in thought. His head tilted to the side with his hand at his chin.

"...The Mizune clan...How interesting." Was all he said on the matter.

The room didn't appear to be calming down any time soon so Master Hunter once again called for the attention of the room.

"Enough! It matters little to who the recruits are. I figure you will be keeping a close eye don't hem thus forward?"

"Yes sir."

"Good. Now on the more important matters. What becomes of Vuqun?"

The room was quiet as everyone's eyes were peeled on Iakovos.

"She is dead sir."

Ranek's eyes narrow slightly in thought.

"..Did she give you any issues?"

"No sir."

Ranek let out a hum and shrugs.

"Well, that good then. As long as Vuqun has been dealt with then the issue of the caverns is less of a concern. The hex wasn't going to last much longer anyway given how long it had already been up."

"Yes Sir."

Ranek then looked out over the crowd for a beat before looking back at Iakovos.

"Is there anything else to add?"

Iakovos was silent but only for a few seconds.

"No sir."

"Then this meeting is over. The matter of what we will use the cavern for will be discussed later. In regards to a substitute for the first trial, I will assign Lead Hunter Llewellyn to this task if that is fine with you?" Ranek said as he looks over in the man's direction.

Llewellyn smiles politely.

"Of course Master Hunter, that is no problem at all."

"Good, then you are all dismissed."

With that, the Ranek leaves, however one couldn't help noticing the stormy look on his face.

Things slowly returned back to normal after about a month and a half. For the most part, none of the recruits besides Naxio's group obviously knew what truly happened. There were numerous rumors floating around but none seem to ever be confirmed as truth. There were some small changes around the compound, more night hunters appeared to be patrolling around. Whether it was due to some incoming danger or something along those lines was unknown.

And for Naxio and his group? Things were awkward at best. After the 1st week of return. Naxio and Moushira couldn't help but notice Kaldov's avoidance of them. At first, they assumed it was just due to how busy everything had become after the first trial. But after a week of avoidance, it was starting to get on Moushira's nerves.

"Ahhh, he really avoiding us!" She yelled out animatedly.

Naxio looks over at her with a small smile but it doesn't fully reach his eyes. He is a sense was expecting this. He knew he had made a grave mistake back in the trial. He's sure that Kaldov's clan probably had something to do with it. It's happened to him before after all.

"Maybe he's just busy studying?" He tries to suggest.

"Bah, no way. He's avoiding us! And then the other one? Thakan? He likes a ghost too!" She continues, a pout on her lips.

Naxio does also note that as well. However, for Thakan, he isn't sure if it's due to avoiding them necessarily or something else.

"Okay, it's fine Moushira! I'm sure they will come around again soon." Naxio said even though deep in his heart he knew it to be a lie.

He just wanted to hold onto his last friend as much as he could. If Moushira left him too, he knew that things would only get more lonely for him. He enjoyed her company, she was his first friend and he didn't want to have to go away. She looks back at him, still with the childish pout on her face.

"Ugh fine! But as soon as we can, we hunt the both of them down and make them talk to us!" Moushira said with a determined smile on her face.

"Ah. sure!" Naxio responded in turn.

They then went back to studying in peace. Naxio however couldn't help feeling a looming sword above his head. He knew these comfortable days were numbered. It's always how it is with him. No one wanted to have a long association with the cursed child of the Mizune clan. Given that most people already knew about his mother and who he was is always a fear in the back of his mind.

With that determination to hold onto that single hope, their training continued onward. The first trial was over, and soon the next trial would begin.

But no one could have thought that this incident would be the catalyst for everything that would unfold in the future.

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