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.
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, black, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 deeper within the forest.