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TOTGDK EP 7: Trial of the Hunter: First Trial (Part 1)

"Okay, Naxio. Just hold for a little bit longer..."

"I'm trying..."

Naxio's eyebrows were pressed tight with a deep and strained frown on his face. He was seated on the ground in a meditation position, legs crossed and arms resting on his legs. However, his hands were clenching at the cloth of his pants, and a small twitch frequently came to his face. There was also a faint and ghostlike glow around him. The glow was a pale blue that they seemed to dye into purple.

Sitting across from him a few feet away was Kaldov. His pose, however, was a direct contrast to Naxio's. His body was relaxed, his face was neutral yet focused. There was also a glow around him however it was completely different from Naxio's. The glow was strong and a fiery golden brown. It seemed to waver off him in waves and small tendrils inched and poke towards Naxio. Moushira was looking between the two with a slight look of concern. After a few minutes of silence, she then speaks up with a clap of her hands.

"...Okay, you both can relax."

At that statement, both boys relax and their respective auras fade. Naxio lets out a sigh of relief, his face failing to hide his clear exhaustion. Kaldov, however, didn't even appear winded, his cool expression had no changes.

"That was a very good Naxio! Your barrier was much stronger than before!"

Moushira has a wide smile on her face as she praises Naxio. Naxio, however, couldn't help but feel discouraged.

"Yeah but.-"

"Your stamina still sucks."

Kaldov's statement doesn't even miss a beat. He had already continued eating as the trio was in the middle of lunch before starting to train. Naxio's and Moushira's heads snap in the direction of Kaldov after his rather rude admission. Moushira's expression is similar to that of a mother scolding her child who is picking on their young sibling while Naxio's face looks close to a cat that had been left out in the rain.


Kaldov lets out a small grunt and continues eating without care. Moushira then turns back to Naxio, her face filled with a fire of determination.

"Don't listen to him Naxio! You are doing much better! Your stamina may not be overly strong but it is better!"

Naxio nods and gives her a weak smile. He already knows full well how weak his overall stamina and power is. Having basically bare minimal training as a Daemon Hunter and having an overall weak constitution was Naxio's downfall. While he is able to control and manipulate his Yang, his skill level is well below his peers, something he knows full well. Li-Ren warned him when she was training him before they arrived at the compound, he would have to work twice as hard as most to catch up. A small moody cloud seems to hang over Naxio's head as he lets out a big sigh. Moushira frowns and suddenly stands.

"Alright, finish up eating you two! I have something I want to show you."

Both Naxio and Kaldov look at her with mixed expressions of confusion. However they do follow after her. The compound was unusually busy, there were more Hunters around than ever before.

"Did something happen?"

Moushira whispers this, looking around and then back at Kaldov and Naxio who were trailing behind her. Naxio merely shook his head, just as equally confused while Kaldov had a stern expression on his face. His eyebrows were knitted tight and a deep frown on his face.


"Hmm.. I'm not sure.."

The trio continued down the hall until they finally stopped at the location of Moushira's choice. One of the training rooms from what it seems?

"A training room? Why are we here?"

Naxio asks as he peaks into the room and then turns to Moushira. She smiles and then nods her head to the people training. There were a surprisingly large amount of people training today. Some were doing more advanced techniques while others were drilling down the basic skills, much like Naxio's training. Some appeared frustrated while others were hyper-focused, somewhat lost in their training.

"See, you're not the only one who struggles with the basics. Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses."

Naxio even sees some apprentices doing the exact training that he was doing himself not too long ago. An almost invisible pressure suddenly lights and his heart feels a bit less heavy.

"...Hmm but aren't there a lot of people here all of a sudden?"

Both Naxio and Moushira look to Kaldav in question at his statement. However, looking back into the room, Moushira couldn't help but notice that his statement was true. Not to say that the training rooms weren't used on a daily basis but the rooms were completely filled and have been that way for the most of today.

"Maybe there's a mock fight coming up?"

Moushira said however even to herself the theory seemed weak. If there was such a thing, the compound would have informed the apprentices by now at least. Naxio couldn't help but feel that deep-seated feeling of nerves.

"Maybe it's an exam? You know, like the 'Trail of the Hunter'?"

Even the idea of remembering their collective time during that trial was enough to flatten Moushira and Naxio's mood. Kaldav, on the other hand, appeared lost in thought almost. His golden eyes studied the training recruits who appear hard at work.

"Hmph, clearly you guys are way too lax!"

The trio turns to the sudden voice that came from behind them. Standing with a stern look ever on his face was Ven from the Lorecia Clan along with his friends. He didn't really look at Kaldov, his sharp eyes were zeroed on Moshira and Naxio. His friends behind him were nervously eyeing Kaldov and shuffling around.

"Ah, young master!" Moushira says with a slight smile and bows.

However this time it was obvious to everyone present that there was a more mocking tone to her greeting this time. Ven's glare only darkened more as he stared her down but didn't say anything outright.

"What do you mean? Is there something happening after all?" Naxio asks meekly.

Ven let out a huff before answering, his voice dips a bit lower and takes on an ominous tone.

"Obviously... it's the Three Paths of the Hunter."

His statement gets a mix of recognition and also a bit of confusion from the trio.

"Wait, the Three Paths? I thought that was just a metaphor or a play on words even!" Moushira says with clenched eyebrows.

Ven grunts and shakes his head. Naxio tilts his head a bit in confusion. He's heard of the Path of the Hunter as almost every recruit has. But in all the Daemon Hunter texts or scrolls, it was always described vaguely or with a lot of metaphors.

"So it-it's a test? Like the Trials of the Hunter?" Naxio said in a nervous whisper.

Ven let out a small scoff and sneered at him.

"If you thought that was a test then you are clearly not going to make the cut."

Naxio frowns and his head dips a bit. Moushira however gives Ven a calculation look.

"So what is the Path of the Hunter then?" She asks, crossing her arms.

"It's the true test to become a Daemon Hunter. The three paths refer to the founding points to defending against Ying energy. The mind, body, and soul. The first path is the mind which is a test of the mental barriers against Ying corruption." Ven's words came out in a hushed tone. His eyes seemed to dart around a bit as if in fear of being overheard.

However, his words were heard clear enough by the trio who each had a different reaction. It was common knowledge that Ying energy has the ability to corrupt the weak-willed. The stronger the Daemon, the stronger their aura and their Ying is. There have been countless horror stories told about the destruction and chaos caused by Ying corruption.

"I haven't heard much but my seniors say that this test is something of their greatest nightmares even after becoming Daemon Hunters."

A small chill goes up Naxio's spine as he nervously looks at Moushira and Kaldov however was shocked at the rather calm and almost eager expressions they had. Moushira had a rather wide smile as a strange twinkle in her eyes. While Kaldov looks as he usually does, a still statue with no visible expression.

"Sounds interesting!" Moushira says.

Ven looks at the two as if for the first time before scoffing and walking off. His friends scrambled behind him as quick and quiet as mice. Naxio let out a small sigh of relief before turning to his comrades.

"A-aren't you guys nervous at all? You heard what he said right?"

Moushira waves her hand in a nonchalant manner.

"Meh, if becoming a hunter was easy Naxio, everyone would be doing it. To truly prove oneself worthy is a great journey in itself!" Moushira says wisely with a small smile to him.

Naxio let out a weak laugh however he could help but feel both admirations and also a small ting of jealousy for the confidence that his friends display. Even faced with impossible odds, they will still give their all no matter what.

"Do worry so much Naxio, you will do fine! You are stronger than you think!" Moushira said with a clenched fist and a wide smile.

Kaldov just grunts and nods in agreement. What felt like a small bubble swelled up in Naxio as an unconscious smile came to his face. He then remembered the promise he made to himself before. He was going to make the clan proud, he swore on it. The remainder of the day passed by slowly however with information that the trio had gained, they had taken training to a new level. For the days to come, they trained hard and learned as much as they could about upcoming trials. However unfortunately there wasn't much more to be found about these Paths of the Hunter. It was however very obvious that all the new recruits knew what was coming. Tensions were coiling around and growing ever steadily. It got to the point where even some of the new recruits were resigning under the pressure.

It wasn't until three weeks had passed that finally everything was revealed. In the earliest cracks of dawn, a familiar and loud drum sounded. It didn't take long for the recruits to gather since this was something they had been anxiously waiting for.

They were herded into one of the meeting rooms. It was filled with countless whispers of the recruits who were both curious about what was happening and also nervously questioning what this new test was about. Naxio, Moushira, and Kaldov were fortunately seated close to each other and remained silent. However, Naxio couldn't help but feel a sinking feeling in his stomach. It wasn't until Lead Hunter Iakovos entered the room that finally everything died down to a hush. His steps were loud and could be felt through the room. His face was twisted into a stormy expression. Eyebrows pulled tight together, a deep frown on his face and his eyes seemed to glow with angry energy. He turned to the class once he had reached the head of the room. His intense eyes gleaming over each person, measuring and judging.

"Recruits!" He yells, his voice echoing through the room.

"As I'm sure you all figured by now, a new trial awaits you all. However, this is unlike any other test. This is when your true training to become a Hunter begins."

The room was deadly silent, everyone's eyes were peeled onto the Lead Hunter.

"The Paths of the Hunter are a set of 3 trials that test the very fundamentals of what it takes to become a Daemon Hunter. Your mind, body, and soul!"

He pauses for a sec and looks again through the crowd. For some reason or another, he appears almost disappointed after his sweep of the room.

"The first path, the Path of the Mind is a test of your mental fortitude. Those who are weak-willed cowards will be weeded out first, as I can see some already have."

The temperature in the room seemed to almost dip at the end of his sentence. He let out a huff of disgust as his eyes seemed to just dig into every person seated before him. As if the idea of even allowing them to take such a sacred test was turning his stomach.

"You will be dropped into the Ashvel Caverns, and will have 5 months to escape. Failure will mean your immediate expulsion."

The silence was so deafening that one could hear a pin drop. But after hearing the ending section of his statement, everyone erupted in anger.


"Y-you can't be serious?! Sending us into the hell hole!!"

"Yeah! The Ying corruption hasn't been purified! Even after the Daemon King Ashvel's death!"

The complaints built up and continued. Iakovos was quiet for a while, however, it was obvious from his expression and body language that he was slowly growing annoyed. It was until the room was practically echoing with all the different voices of the recruits that he finally spoke.

"ENOUGH." He bellowed out, his voice easily overtaking the room.

The room fell to a hush quickly and all the young eyes turned back to the front of the room. Iakovos's face was twisted with disgust and anger, clearly, his patients had run out.

".. I neither care or have any desire to hear your whining and complaining. If it was up to me, I would just fail all of you here and now and start on the new batch of recruits."

Silence answered him, no one breathed or even blinked in those few moments.

"The Ashvel caverns are indeed a maze-like terrain filled with Ying energy. You all will be dropped into the cavern and your task is to escape before the 5 months cut-off. Everyone will be equipped with a signal flair which can be used to contact one of the observers. In doing so you forfeit your daemon hunter entry and will be removed from the cavern. Any questions?"

Silence answered him, no one dared even raise a hand. He then nodded to the group and then walked away.

Everyone was silent, whether due to shock or the fearful weight that weighs on their future. Slowly the crowd began to disperse until only a few remained. Naxio looks back to his friends, a deep and worried frown on his face.

"What do you guys think? A-are you worried?"

Kaldov and Moushira looked at each other for a second before turning back to him.

"Nah, not in the slightest." Moushira says almost in a bored tone.

Kaldov seemed to mirror Moushira's nonchalant tone with a small shrug. Naxio couldn't help but smile at his friends. Their confidence was definitely infectious.

"I envy you both. I'm afraid that I will be knocked out not even an hour in, let alone a full month." Naxio says in a gloomy tone.

Moushira frowns and walks closer to the boy, placing both hands on his cheeks and forcing him to keep eye level.

"Ow! Moushira, what are you?!-" He yells as he tries in vain to get her to release his face.

"I'll only say this once Naxio so you better listen good!"

Naxio stops struggling at her serious tone and facial expression. He isn't used to such a stern look on her usually friendly face.

"You will do better than anyone! You have a strong spirit. I can see it! So stop worrying already, okay?"

He meekly nods which clearly isn't enough for her as she pitches his cheeks a bit harder.

"I can't hear you~"

"Okay, okay!"


She then released his face. Naxio immediately rubs his swore cheeks and gives her a glare to which she grins widely and mischievously.

"You're a menace."

"And you better remember that! I don't want to ever hear you talking bad about yourself again, understand? That's what we are for!" She jokes casually throwing a look at Kaldov.

Kaldov nods which given his rather stony expression make the situation all the more weird and funny at the same time. However, Moushira's little stunt did the trick of breaking Naxio's negative spiral. While he still doesn't have that great of an option of himself, he believes in Moushira. He can do this, he made a promise after all.

After a few more minutes of just chatting around, the meeting room is completely cleared. All the recruits' minds are strung tight combing through all the possibilities of the test to come. The only question that couldn't be answered is when will it start?

The next morning arrives all too soon but it was strange.

Naxio couldn't hear the normal sounds of morning drums or the whipping of the winds against the compound walls. The air around him was cold and had a smell that made his heart clench tightly. It wasn't until he rolled over a bit in what he thought was his bed untilhe hit something sharp and sturdy. His eyes shot open, around him was nothing but damp darkness. What little bit of light was just peeking out from cracks in the ceiling. It didn't take a genius to guess where he had been transported. The air was thick with Ying energy, he could hear whispers, voices melding together in agonizing moans and sorrowful cries. He couldn't help but jump at some of the shadows as they appeared to reach out to touch him.

This was hell, this was the Ashvel caverns. The resting tomb of the fifth daemon King Ashvel, also known as the "Eternal Torment".

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