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 glancing 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.
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 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 Li 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-"
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.
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.
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 Mizune 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 walked 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.."
"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 to 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.