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TOTGDK Ep 2: Dawn of the Hunt (Part 2)

The following morning opens with a blare of a horn. Naxio, almost startled out of his skin and falls to the floor of the room he was given. The sky was still dark so morning had yet to arrive and the claws of sleep still hung on him. However, with another blare of the horn, it was clear, the sleeping period was over.


Naxio quickly readies himself, and then ventured out, wiping the last tendrils of sleep from his eyes. Outside his room, however, he is surprised to see others also in a similar state. There is a murmur of confused whispers and hushed words. No one understood what was going on.


"Attention!"


A voice booms over the murmurs, every head turns. At the end of the hall is a Hunter. Their mask depicted a fierce bear with colors mixed of browns, blacks, and greys, with their traditional robes, sport similar colors. A representative from the Oodan Clan if Naxio remembers correctly. He is broad-shouldered, standing tall as a tower, arms crossed over his chest. His hair which was an ink-black was wild and fell over his shoulders.


"To the courtyard."


His announcement is met with bewildered faces and more quick whispers which only aggravates the Hunter.


"NOW!"


In a quick hustle of feet, everyone filters out into the courtyard. Looking around, Naxio notices that all the participants of the ceremony are in attendance. Everyone is a mixture of confusion and concern as to why they have been called from their beds before daylight breaks over the mountains.


"ATTENTION!"


Every head turns to the entrance gate, whispers die in an instant. Standing there at the entrance is a group of the masked Daemon Hunters. One hunter, in particular, stands out in front, a young woman most likely, given her smaller stature and build. She bore the colors of the Lorecia Clan, bright yellows, with modest greens and blues mixed in. Her mask was a sort of bird with colors that mirrored her robes. She appeared graceful until she opened her mouth.


"Listen well, pups!"


Her voice commanded the room, no one spoke, not even a hushed whisper.


"I hope you all got a good night's rest since today starts the true 'Dawn of the Hunt!'"


Some heads turned to each other in confusion but no one spoke out.


"In a few moments, you all will be placed in the forest just below, you have until the sun dips just below the mountains to return! Failure to do so will forfeit your entry into the Daemon Hunter Core."


Almost in an instant, a rupture of complaints occurred. However, the area was certainly split. Given that many of the crowd were younger and most new to Dawn of Hunt, their complaints were loud and heated. But the older teenagers there were calm and seemingly eager to start. As if they knew something was going to happen.


"What?! That's nonsense!!"


"Yeah, I've never heard of such a test!"


"My family has already guaranteed my entry! This must be some mistake!"


The complaints mounted and grew louder and louder.


"ENOUGH!"


The young woman's yell booms over the complaints and cut any further whining. Even though no one could see her face, it was apparent that she was glaring at them.


"I care nothing for your complaints. Your Clan Leaders knew well of what you would be facing when sent here. If you can't handle something as simplistic and meaningless as this then how will any of you fare against a real threat?!"


Her words though harsh rang true.


"You will either complete this task or you will be failed here and now! Have I made myself clear?!"


No one spoke a word.


"Good. You will be divided into groups by clan, however, you do not need to work together. Remember pups, you have until the end of the day. Good luck"


Suddenly there was, again, a loud bang of a war drum that's sound vibrated through the air. The floor below the crowd lit up with a blinding white light of transportation arcane. A whirlwind of yells and shocked cries rang out all too late before in an instant, the crowd was teleported.


---


"..xio...Hey...Naxio Yi!"


A sudden force to his side roused Naxio abruptly. His head raises from the ground to see his three female cousins standing over him, each with varying expressions of annoyance. Aijah however the youngest of the group looks more concerned than anything, her eyes darting around ever so often. The one who has spoken before, his eldest cousin by 2 years, Li-Ren. Her face was sharp yet elegant, dark hair pulled back into a high ponytail and her even darker colored eyes were narrowed on Naxio.


"Get up already, we need to move!"


Naxio quickly stands and the group begins their walk back. Naxio judged by the look of the Daemon Compound in the distance if they kept a good pace reaching back before nightfall would be easily enough achieved. Which would have been the idea, however...


"Ahh... my feet hurt!"


Aijah then sits down on a large tree root. The rest of the group stops for what could be the third time today. It had only been 2 hours or so since their trek began, morning has already peaked through the mountain range. Naxio knew this would probably be the issue eventually, being the youngest Aijah was spoiled, plain and simple. She was good with her Koto and binding spells, however, her physical capacity is very limited.


"Stop complaining Aijah!"


Li-Ren turns to her younger cousin with a frown.


"B-but Li..."


Li-Ren's frown doesn't lessen however her eyes do drift to Naxio suddenly.


"Naxio, carry her."


Naxio and Aijah were both shocked at that command. Aijah mostly because she wasn't expecting it while Naxio was wishing it wouldn't come up. However, from Li-Ren's face, this wasn't a suggestion. Naxio let out a small sigh but bends down, Aijah cheerfully situates herself on his back and with a huff, he picks her up. Comfortably happy on his back, the group once again continues to move. They didn't stop again until the urges for food became apparent. Fortunately where they set up camp was a nice sized area and had many trees as protection for the brisk wind.


"Go find food."


Naxio's head snaps up from the campfire they were situated around. His three cousins were all seated opposite to him and using their outer robes as a cover for warmth given the sudden dip in temperature. Naxio points to himself in confusion.


"Y-you mean me?"


The annoyance in Li-Ren's eyes was as expected.


"Yes, who else would I be talking to?"


"Ah... but b-by myself? I-"


She let out an undignified snort before glaring openly at him.


"I've seen you hunt before, you are adequate. Aijah and Su-lin wouldn't be much help and I will be here to watch over them."


Both Aijah and Su-lin at least had the decency to appeared guilty at Li-Ren's blunt assessment. A small sense of pride, however, fills Naxio at Li-Ren's not quite but almost compliments. Coming from his stern elder cousin, it was high enough praise for Naxio. He just nods and quickly gets up and starts to move out.


---


It didn't take long to find a small game like rabbits and other small animals. He wasn't the best hunter by far but he was good enough to get 4 small but healthy rabbits. Unfortunately, it would seem he ventured out a bit farther than it earlier. Looking around the unfamiliar woods, he could see that he was utterly lost.


He lets out a small sigh before shutting his eyes and focusing. There is a sudden purple glow that radiates off of him and in a blink, his Shamisen materializes in front of him. When he opens his eyes back, there is a faint but apparent glow in them. The instrument is floating lightly before him as if waiting for him to grab it. The wood of the instrument is dark with pure white strings which almost seem to glow. A small and tender smile forms on Naxio's lips as he looks to his Shamisen.


"Ah, good morning, Falan-shi."


Falan-shi, Naxio's Shamisen, gives a small sound as if to greet him back. He gently grabs the instrument with one hand and with his other, seemingly empty, hand motions to play. Light gathers in his playing hand in the form of a Bachi. With a flick of his wrist, sounds dance in the air, loud and clear. He plays an inquiring tune, passive but seeking. Around him, the forest is deadly silent outside of his sounds. When he finishes, he pauses and waits


The silence was his answer for a few moments until suddenly there was an answer. The tune that responded wasn't as gentle, more stern and confident, Lu-Ren's Komabue no doubt. Naxio's head then turned in the direction of the sounds, given her answer he was only about a short walk away from the camp. With a small smile, he goes to leave in that direction but all of a sudden a noise catches his ear.


He turns back in the opposite direction, it was very faint but he could hear a familiar voice which he knew. He glances back in the direction of the camp.


It won't take long, it will be alright! Lu-Ren may get angry but I just want to check!


With his mind made up, Naxio quickly moves in the directions of the noises.


---


At his pace, it didn't take long to get to where the voices could be heard. However, as he got closer, he found the voices were raised and angry. It would appear like a heated argument was brewing. He soon arrived at a clearing with a lake and waterfall with four figures. On the lake's edge stood three, and from the colors of their robes, each was a member of the Lorecia Clan. In the water, however, just down to her inner robes was Moushira. There was a frown on her face as she looked between the three.


"I'll ask again, where is the rest of your group?!"


One of the figures which seemed to be the leader shouted to her. He takes a few steps forward. His skin an olive gleam with deep purple eyes and shoulder-length sand-colored hair. Moushira let out a sigh, more than annoyed at this point.


"As I said before, I don't know, we parted ways about a half-hour ago."


That didn't seem to please the boy at all as his fist start to clench.


"Hn, he dares to leave one of his own alone? You must have proven useless."


His words were hissed in a sneer. Whatever anger that seemed to brew from his voice didn't seem like it originated from her but in fact from her group members. A fact that didn't seem lost to her as she shakes her head with a laugh.


"Ah, I see. Basa must have upset you?"


Given how the boy then grunted in displeasure at the name, she assumed correctly. She then puts on a smile and bows to the three.


"Forgive my clan members, my lords. They are still fresh to the world outside of Scorched Steppes. "


The boy merely scoffed and crossed his arms.


"You think a simple apology will suffice?!"


Moushira pauses for a second, assessing the boy in front of her. Given his stance and attitude, it was clear he was a firstborn. Extreme flaunting of pride and arrogance were usually dead giveaways of such an upbringing. Moushira then grabs the stick to which she using to fish. There was another stick, with fishes caught prior which were laid out on the shore.


"How about I supply a meal, my lord? Would that suffice?"


The cruel smile that pulls to his face didn't bold well at all. His eyes raked up and down her figure in a vulgar manner and he then stalks forwards a few more feet.


"Hmm, I have a better idea of how you can repay me."


His statement taints the air with vile intentions. The frown the pulls at Moushira's lips was icy as snow and her once warm eyes hardened.


"Moushira!"


Hearing the name called, everyone turns to see Naxio moving closer. His face was nervous but determined. He quickly moved to the shore, right before Moushira but facing the three young men who were still leering at the young woman behind him. The leader of the three looks to Naxio which an indifferent look.


"Mizune Clan? What do you want?"


For a few seconds, Naxio is lost for words, not fully thinking before leaping.


"....le-leave her alone..."


A pauses for seconds before laughter erupts from the three at Naxio tragically weak command.


"Haha... A-are you serious?! Are you truly apart of the legendary Mizune clan? What a meek little rabbit."


Naxio's frown deepens but his gaze doesn't waver. The leader of the group doesn't appreciate the defiant look in his eyes.


"You are seriously going to defend some no-name clan? This must be a joke!"


A crackle of bright almost white lightning dances around the boy's hands. Sensing a fight coming, Moushira seems to move slightly closer to Naxio.


"Ah, whatever. They never said anything about fighting, and I want to see if the Mizune clan is all the rumors have said."


Suddenly the boy flicks his wrist and a whip of yellow light forms from his hands. Fear crawls up Naxio spine quick and merciless. Lorecia Clan is known wide and far from their affinity for lightning and inhuman speed. Remember his lesson that a single touch of a whip from the Lorecia clan was enough to render a normal person paralyzed. However even with that knowledge neatly tucked in his mind, his body refused to move.


"Naxio-Li, please just leave. I'll be fine."


Moushira smiles softly at him. She knew her clan's place in the hierarchy and causing trouble wouldn't make much of a difference. However, she had to admit she was pleasantly surprised at the normally docile-looking boy who stood in front of her. She wasn't ever expecting this amount of backbone from the boy.


"...No.."


Everyone even Naxio seemed surprised at that clear and firm refusal. Though it was clear he was scared, he refused to leave her side. She was his first friend and he remembers the words of his late caretaker well.


'Always protect those you care about Naxio, that is one of the major founding points of the Mizune Clan, even when the others seem to have forgotten. The Mizune Clan is the highest flower which braves the roughest storm not because of our status or our success but because of our bond between family and friends around us.'


Her words rung clear even years after her death. He wouldn't leave Moushira. A fact that only angers the opposing Lorecia Clan boy more.


"H-hey, Ven maybe we shouldn't?"


"Yeah, we still have a ways to go until we get back."


The protest of Ven's clan members fell on deaf ears as he snaps back.


"Shut up! I'm going to teach them a lesson once and for all!"


He then brings his arm back and his whips raise, ready to crack down with all his fury. Suddenly however there is a flash of silver and a sword come crashing from the heaven between the two groups. The design of the sword is graceful and distinct. The ground below it splits slightly where the sword is embedded and the shock is enough to stun both parties back. And what follows is just as interesting.


A figure descends from the sky, graceful and poised, landing on the hilt of the sword with ease. The colors of their robes are shimmering gold with snow-white accents. The material is heavily layered and has armor pieces to tapper it down. It is a young man, maybe a year or so older than Naxio. His hair is a short brown with bangs that hang over his golden-colored eyes. His face is stern yet indisputably handsome. His form is board and tall, easily making him stare down at the parties below him. In an instant, everyone knows precisely who this young man is and from which clan he is from.


He is the youngest son from the current head of the Ziraniel Clan, the first Great Family. And his name is-


"K-Kaldav!"


Kaldav's head turns to the Lorecia Clan boys. His face showing no outward expression. In a flurry of words, everyone present quickly remembers their manners and greets the new arrival with the utmost respect. Even among the great families, the Ziraniel Clan is treated close to royalty. Countless achievements and their leading role in the Great War play a prominent part in that.


"Is there a problem?"


His voice is deep and monotonous.


"Ah- no! Of course not, my Lord! We uhh, we were actually about to leave."


Then with another quick bow, the Lorecia boys scrambled away. Kaldav let out a sigh before turning to both Naxio and Moushira who almost immediately bow once again.


"Are you alright?"


He addresses Moushira who blushes, clearly caught off guard and bows.


"A-no my lord. Thank you."


He nods once before his eyes turn to Naxio who hadn't spoken a word.


"And you?"


"Ah, we are both fine my lord."


Kaldav is silent for a moment, his eyes seem to scan Naxio as if he were an interesting puzzle piece. Naxio looks back confused, not sure what the issue was but also not sure what to say.


"M-my lord?"


"..Hn, you're not a girl.."


Silence and then without warning a small giggle escapes Moushira unconsciously. Kaldav doesn't appear bothered, just slightly disappointed with that discovery. Naxio, on the other hand, is a bit annoyed even though he is used to that. Mizune clan is known for having a lot of females and given his smaller stature and untamed hair, he is more often than not mistaken for a girl. He knows that, and it is not like it's the first time but for some reason from Kaldav, it irked him.


"Ahhhh... no my lord, I am not."


His smile is straining and his tone is polite but indifferent.


"Hn.."


Was the only answer Kaldav gave before quite abruptly leaving. He leaps from his sword into the tree in the distance and like a loyal dog, his sword follows soon after. Finally, Moushira and Naxio are alone and in an instant, the waves of laughter she had been holding back erupted from her mouth.


"Haha!"


Her laughs were light and playful which Naxio felt like he was being teased. He frowns almost in a pout at her.


"It's not that funny, Moushira!"


"Forgive me, Naxio Yi! Haha!"


It took a few moments for her laughter to die down however once it did, she did give him a soft smile.


"I'm sorry Naxio Yi. But also thank you for your help."


Naxio looks away bashfully, a healthy blush on his face.


"Ah, i-it was nothing. I mean I did not help much."


"Still you stayed by my side, even when you didn't have to and for that I thank you."


She goes to bow to him but Naxio interrupts her.


"Please don't bow. I'm neither your elder nor superior."


He then raised out a hand.


"Friends?"


His hand trembled a bit with nerves, the smile on his face was wide but weak and his eyes, full of uncertainty. Moushira's smile widens and she returns the motion.


"Friends!"


Unbeknownst to them at the time that this was the start of a friendship that would endure through both great misery and suffering but also happiness and joy. A bond that went beyond simple labels and titles. It would be a bond that may bend under the relenting pressure of the world but never break.


"...axio Yi! Hey, Naxio! Where are you?!"


The pair turn quickly at hearing Naxio's name being called. It was his cousins and judging by their tone, they must have gotten tired of waiting for him.


"Ah, do..do you want to come with us?"


Moushira shakes her head.


"Thank you, Naxio Yi, but no. It would be better for me to go on my own."


"B-but-"


"YAH, NAXIO, where the hell is you?!"


That would be Aijah's voice without a doubt. Naxio flinches as he knows if she is upset that means he is bound to get yelled at as soon as he reaches back.


"Go, Naxio. Trust me I will be fine."


He watches her for a second to see if her expression changed but it does not. With a nod, he runs back to his cousin would are more than disgruntled with him on how late he is. The day continues on and the sun dips ever so slightly. The sky changes to an orange hue and shadows are starting to get bigger. This signals that there is only a half-day remaining before the end of the true Dawn of the Hunt.

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