"Now remember," Mito preached as she walked out of the house alongside Cerridwen, "you promised to take care of him. Make sure he eats. And sleeps. And bathes. And for god's sake, keep that clown away from him."
Cerridwen laughed, turning to Mito and placing a comforting hand on her shoulder. "Mito, relax. He'll be fine. He's Ging's son. And as for Hisoka, he has enough sense to know if he harms Gon I'll rain fire and brimstone on him. Literally."
Mito glanced sideways before looking at the ground, shifting uneasily. "Well, I guess you're right," she conceded. Looking back up, she added, "You be careful too, alright? I'm sure Ging wouldn't be too pleased if he found out anything happened to either of you two."
Cerridwen gave her a reassuring smile before pulling her into a warm hug. "Thank you, I will be." Breaking away, she crossed her arms and mused, "You know, I don't remember you going all protective mother hen like this when Kite punched Gon years ago."
Mito laughed, but then what Cerridwen had said finally sunk in, and her expression snapped to one of shock. "Wait, what?"
Cerridwen froze. "Oh, um, look at the time! I'll start heading down the path; tell Gon I'll be waiting for him!"
With that, she pivoted and started power walking down the dirt trail.
Mito whipped around and looked at Abe, who was standing in the doorway chuckling.
"Did you know about that?" she demanded.
Abe only laughed. "It was for his own good, dear. He wandered too close to a bear cub and the mother was about to attack; Kite was just protecting him... and teaching him a lesson at the same time. If you ask me, it's exactly what he needed."
Mito blinked a few times, then sighed, going back into the house to walk Gon out.
"... and after I caught the Lord of the Lake, Mito-san said I could take the Hunter Exam!" Gon exclaimed, concluding his tale of heroism as he and Cerridwen continued the long walk to the docks.
Cerridwen smirked, adjusting the strap of her bag on her shoulder. "Your dad would be proud of you," she commented with a chuckle. "He told me he caught the Lord when he was your age, too."
"You never told me how you know my dad, did you?" Gon queried, tilting his head like a confused puppy. "I just remember Mito-san calling you my Aunt Cerridwen when I was younger. You're not really my aunt, are you?"
Cerridwen giggled and ruffled the boy's dark hair. "Not really, no, not by blood or marriage. Your dad was the man who trained Kite and I to become Hunters. Well, mostly Kite. He taught me a little bit, and Kite taught me whatever he could, but Ging said that he felt there was someone else out in the world who would give me the final push to achieve my greatest power."
"But," Gon began, scratching his head, "you're already really powerful, and you passed the Hunter Exam on your first try with Kite, didn't you?"
"Then what could he have meant?"
"I honestly don't know," Cerridwen replied with a shrug. After a moment, she added, "Oh! And Gon?"
"Yeah?" he answered enthusiastically.
"Don't let anyone know that I'm already a licensed Hunter, okay? I need to keep a low profile in order to keep an eye on my charge without getting the others suspicious."
"Okay, no problem!" Gon said with a beaming grin. "I wouldn't want to make things hard on you."
Cerridwen gave a soft, wistful smile as Gon proceeded a few steps ahead of her. She hadn't thought about the day that she and Kite had first met Ging in a long time, and suddenly found herself vividly revisiting it in her mind.
Cerridwen couldn't have been more than twelve at the time, sitting alone on a wooden crate in a dusty cobblestone alley. She was clad in raggedy old clothes of varying sizes, her purple hair tied back in the most haphazard way. She watched the sky expectantly as a bandaged white dog approached her and nudged her leg.
"Any second now then, huh?" she asked, reaching down to pet the dog but not tearing her eyes from the sky.
The dog wagged its tail happily.
Suddenly, a raven appeared overhead carrying a loaf of bread in its talons. Cerridwen jumped off the crate and whistled to get the bird's attention. Seeing her, it dropped the bread and continued flying.
"Here we go, boy!" she exclaimed to the dog, catching the bread and beginning to dash down the alley, keeping an eye on the raven.
She followed it for a few blocks until she came to an intersecting alley, to find a boy of about sixteen with long white hair waiting there. He wore a blue hat and an oversized navy blue coat. She tossed him the loaf of bread, and the dog ran to him.
"See you at home!" she called over her shoulder as they both continued to run in separate directions.
A few winding alleyways later, they met back up at the entrance to a system of sewers. The boy was already waiting there, looking perplexed until he saw Cerridwen round the corner.
"You took a while," he commented as she reached him, pulling her into a relieved embrace. "I was starting to think you got caught."
She gave a weak laugh. "I'm ok, Kite, you know no one can find me except you."
He smiled, pushing the gated entrance to the sewer open. "C'mon, let's get inside; I want to check on that horse we found the other day."
"Yeah," Cerridwen agreed, walking alongside Kite as the dog bolted past her to get inside. "She was scraped up pretty badly. I hope she's healing up ok."
As they made their way further into the tunnels, various bandaged-up dogs and cats that they had rescued joined them in procession. When they reached the pile of straw the horse was resting on, though, they received quite a surprise.
There, sitting cross-legged next to the horse, was a man neither of them had seen before. He had dark brown hair, and his chin was scruffy with stubble. His head was wrapped in a sort of turban, and he wore a huge trenchcoat. One of their dogs was standing in his lap, licking his face.
Instinctively, Kite reached over and pulled Cerridwen behind him, shielding her from the stranger.
"Did you know," the man began, smiling charismatically, "that good Hunters are well-liked by animals?"
"Stay behind me, Carrie," Kite whispered, not tearing his eyes away from him for even a moment.
Cerridwen gripped the back of Kite's coat tighter, shrinking behind him and peering nervously at the man from around his side.
"Relax," the man said, setting the dog to the side and slowly rising to his feet, one hand extended in an attempt at a reassuring gesture. "I'm not here to hurt either of you."
Kite didn't drop his guard. "She's had bad experiences with strange men her entire life, and I'm not going to do anything to make her feel endangered; forgive us if we take a while to trust you," he finished with a scowl.
"Yes, I know," he said, taking a few cautious steps closer to them. "I've been watching the two of you for weeks; you're very close. But clearly not siblings. How long have you known each other?"
The pair remained silent.
"My name is Ging Freecss," he greeted amicably. "I'm a Hunter. And I think the two of you have what it takes to be particularly good Hunters, too. Especially you, young man."
Kite stared at him defiantly. "What makes you so sure?"
Ging chuckled. "I've seen how much you both care for these animals, and how much they love you in return. And I don't think I need to mention how fiercely protective the two of you are toward each other."
Kite cocked his head, still not dropping his guard. "What's a Hunter?"
"A Hunter is someone who craves adventure above all else," he replied with a smile. "Some Hunters search for fame and fortune, others to help make the world a better place... they do anything they desire, really."
Kite remained silent, and the air grew tense.
Ging and Kite exchanged glances of bewilderment, before Kite felt Cerridwen let go of his coat.
"We've known each other for eight years," she repeated, stepping out from behind Kite and taking a couple steps closer to Ging. "He saved my life. We've been surviving together ever since."
A little shaken by Cerridwen's sudden change of attitude, Kite walked behind her and placed a protective hand on her shoulder.
Ging got down on one knee to bring himself a little lower than eye-level with the plum-haired girl. "What's your name? Carrie, I think he called you?"
"Cerridwen," she answered, bringing her hand up to rest on top of Kite's, as if telling him to relax.
Ging directed his gaze to the boy. "And you?"
"Kite," he responded uncertainly.
"Why the sudden change of heart, Kite?" Ging inquired, tilting his head like a confused puppy.
"If Cerridwen can trust you, then so can I. Her instincts have never steered us wrong before."
"Reliable instincts are a good skill to have," Ging said with a grin, turning back to Cerridwen. "So, are you interested in what I have to say?"
"Alright then!" he exclaimed happily, going back to the horse and sitting back down next to it. "So! Here's what you need to know to become a Hunter."