Cloudhawk’s sleep was not a restful one again. In his dreams, he once more returned to that tunnel which led to hell. The area around him was littered in body parts and severed limbs, and the blood-soaked bodies on the ground were all twitching. The massacred scavengers all began to rise to their feet. Some of them had acid-eaten faces that had been rendered unrecognizable, while others had their heads partially caved in from stone warhammer blows. Others had actually been bisected! All of them slowly began to gather together and swarm around Cloudhawk like angry, vengeful specters.
No. NO! Cloudhawk frantically tried to flee, but his legs seemed to be glued in place. It was as though he was stuck to the thick, congealed blood on the ground.
Right at this moment, a scavenger clutching a shortsword hobbled over in an extremely ungainly manner. His right leg had been cut off, while a terrifying, gaping wound was on his neck. The wound was so deep that his head was half falling off his neck, and his eyes were filled with viperous hate. “Why didn’t you save me!”
The scavenger’s voice was more dreadful than the wailing of all the wraiths of hell, and he lifted up his shortsword and delivered a hacking blow. Terrified, Cloudhawk leaned sideways to dodge… and right in that moment, a spear suddenly flew over from somewhere and pierced through his chest!
The second attacker was a mutant that looked fairly young. One of his eyes had been stabbed through, leaving only one good eye remaining on his smiling, savage, and terrifying face.
Cloudhawk fell onto the ground, completely unable to move as blood surged out of him like a geyser, draining his strength away with it.
The scavengers and the sweepers all disappeared. Moments later, a chubby white man and a muscular black man led a group of chatting and laughing mercenaries over. They didn’t seem to even see the youth who was fighting for his life on the ground.
Cloudhawk reached out towards them. “Save me!”
Their gazes were filled with disdain. “Useless piece of crap.”
A mercenary hawked and spat, a look of disdain on his face. It was as though he had stepped onto a pile of excrement and wanted to give vent to his annoyance. All of the mercenaries cursed as they moved to circle around Cloudhawk.
Cloudhawk just lay there on the ground, powerless. His eyes slowly began to turn blank as he felt his body growing colder and colder. He wanted to reach out and grab something, anything, but his determination and his will were both slipping away from him. It was a terrifying feeling, a feeling of utter despair.
His body became ice cold, then started to decay and emanate an aura of foulness. Countless bugs and worms began to bore through his corpse, which eventually became a feast for rats.
But even when nothing was left of Cloudhawk besides a skeleton, his will and his mind remained intact. Endless despair and grief filled every single bone, surrounding his corpse as it sank deeper and deeper into an endless darkness…
Cloudhawk was suddenly able to make out a vague sound. It was like a bucket of cold water had been poured over him, and he was instantly jolted awake from that terrifying nightmare.
His entire body was covered with cold sweat. He had died such a miserable, meaningless death. That feeling of utter despair, of slipping into that eternal darkness… that sorrowful feeling of utter powerlessness… even now, his heart was pounding. What a terrifying nightmare that had been!
It was not yet dawn. The night was so dark, everything seemed to blur together. The entire outpost had been securely locked down, and everything was so stiflingly silent that he felt as though he could barely breathe.
That sound rang out again. It was a tiny, almost unnoticeable sound that nonetheless stabbed against his psyche like a dagger. It was this very sound which had startled Cloudhawk awake, and at this moment goosebumps began to appear throughout his body once more. He could sense that danger was enveloping him!
Something had appeared in the cracks of the bolted door, something which sparkled with cold metallic light within the darkness. It was the thin edge of a knife!
The knife slowly, silently extended its way through the seams of the door, then slid upwards until it hit the wooden bolt. The knife stayed there for two brief seconds, then slowly began to rise upwards once more and lift the bolt up.
Was it one of the mercenaries? No way! Why would one of them come at a time like this and use such a stealthy method to open the door?
Cloudhawk’s heart was pounding so hard, he felt as though it was about to burst out of his chest. He hastily gripped the shortsword lying next to the bed, his hand still slick with cold sweat from the nightmare. He hid the shortsword underneath him, then curled around it.
He breathed deeply, forcing himself to relax. His muscles however remained taut, ready to spring into action at a moment’s notice.
This midnight intruder was clearly quite practiced in his movements. His knife easily lifted the wooden bolt up without causing much sound at all. He pushed the door open by just a crack, but did not immediately charge inside.
This was an extremely experienced predator! Without a doubt, he was currently scanning the insides of the room to assess the situation.
Cloudhawk didn’t want to expose the fact that he was awake, and so he just lay there on the bed without moving, maintaining an even breathing pattern as though he was still asleep.
After four or five moments of silence, a long blade reached through the crack and pushed the door open, letting in the moonlight from the outside. This midnight trespasser was fairly tall and muscular, and he had a head full of tousled hair. He held a knife in his left hand while he gripped a long machete in his right. The blade of the machete seemed to be covered with many dark-red splotches, and it radiated a faint but sickening stench of blood. The machete’s edge was extremely sharp, and it flashed with a cold light that warned of impending danger and death.
He’s here to kill me! Cloudhawk’s mind was in a state of chaos right now. He was filled with horror, fear, rage, but mostly confusion. Oh, fuck. Who is this guy? This is my first day in the outpost. Why did someone choose to attack me like this?
Cloudhawk’s keen sense for danger was screaming to him that this midnight trespasser was a dangerous man. If he tried to battle the man head-on, he’d probably fail. He had to seize a chance to counter and kill the man.
Five meters. Four meters. Three meters…
The midnight trespasser walked as silently as a cat, causing no sound at all as he slowly, steadily inched his way forwards. He slowly, steadily raised his right arm up high, then brought his machete downwards in a vicious chop that flashed through the darkness of the night. This entire time, he didn’t display even the slightest hint of anger or hatred. It was as though he was chopping down at a wooden puppet rather than a human being.
Whoosh! Cloudhawk instantly rolled sideways, letting the machete nearly nick his face as it hacked into his bed. If he had been just a second slower, it would’ve been his head! Cloudhawk then launched himself off his bed with his two legs, bursting forth with all of his strength!
Faced with Cloudhawk’s sudden spring-assault, the man didn’t hesitate for even a second. He decisively let go of his machete, then managed to dodge Cloudhawk’s sudden attack with almost supernatural agility. In the exact same instant that he dodged, he sent the knife in his right hand towards Cloudhawk, flashing like a streak of cold light.
He was simply much too fast! Not only was he an experienced hunter, he was also an experienced killer. His strength, his speed, his agility, his response time, his combat experience, his mental toughness… all of these things had clearly been honed through long experience. How could a half-grown kid who grew up in the ruins on garbage possibly be a match for him? Cloudhawk knew from the minute he missed his attack that he was finished.
That cold streak of light moved straight towards Cloudhawk’s throat. There was no wasted motion, no flowery flourishes; it was a strike that was both fast and vicious, and also incredibly accurate. The knife was sharp enough to easily tear through skin and flesh alike, then saw through his arteries as easily as sawing through noodles.
Cloudhawk felt as though everything was beginning to move in slow motion!
Although he had faced death on numerous occasions in the past, each time he had been in a state of utter terror and panic. He had never faced death with such alertness and mental clarity as he was now. He could literally see death coming for him but was unable to do anything about it at all.
He had finally been able to escape his status as a lowly scavenger and the ruins. He hadn’t yet had the chance to grow strong, to gain freedom and independence, to take control over his own destiny. Was it going to be like the dream? Was he really going to die a meaningless and despair-filled death?
No. He couldn’t die! Not like this!
Cloudhawk let out a bestial growl, a growl filled with untamed wildness and rage. A powerful desire to stay alive burst forth from his breast, and as it did it seemed to form a resonance with something else in his chest. Instantly, a surge of fiery strength and frenzied determination filled his entire body, almost as though some invisible power was lending Cloudhawk a hand. With it, Cloudhawk dodged the incoming knife with preternatural agility, suffering just a slight nick in the skin that left only the tiniest of marks.
The trespasser was rendered speechless. How did his target, this kid, suddenly seem to transform into someone else entirely? However, he remained a calm, composed, and highly experienced hunter; he was able to compartmentalize his surprise and prevent it from affecting his movements. His knife didn’t pause at all, and in his hands it seemed like a living thing as it curved backwards and snaked out a beautiful but deadly butterfly-strike that flashed in the dark night.
It didn’t matter how agile or nimble his prey was. In the end, it was nothing more than a weak little kid! These few brief exchanges had immediately let the trespasser know just how weak Cloudhawk was, and he held the kid in no regard at all. He decided to finish things with his next attack by just cutting the kid’s throat, and his movements grew faster and faster.
Just as the sharp knife was about to kiss the kid’s throat… whap! A clear sound rang out, and the dancing light of the knife suddenly vanished. A deceivingly delicate hand had reached out with lightning speed, then clamped itself around the trespasser’s wrist with far more speed and power than it had a right to have. The trespasser felt as though his wrist had been caught in a metal vise. He was actually unable to shake free of that skinny little hand’s grip.
“You want to kill me?” The kid’s irises were completely bloodshot, making them look like the eyes of a demon. He looked completely possessed, and not a hint of anything which could be described as rational thought was apparent in his gaze!
The trespasser suddenly began to feel a hint of fear. This was no weak youth. This was a berserk animal!
“You want to KILL ME!?” The first time the youth had said these words, it had been in the form of a question. This time, it came in the form of a furious, declarative shout. The youth’s handsome face was already twisted into a mask of terrifying rage, and he suddenly tightened his grip. CRACK! The youth broke the visitor’s wrist.
The trespasser let out an agonized howl, but it only lasted for half a second. In the same instant that Cloudhawk broke the trespasser’s wrist, he stabbed out with his shortsword at several times his previous speed and with ten times his previous savagery. The blade of the shortsword tore into the trespasser’s skin then dug into his lungs. It felt as though a block of ice had penetrated the trespasser’s body, causing it to instantly turn as cold as ice.
Cloudhawk immediately pulled the shortsword out, and as he did so he tore through a beating, pulsating organ. When the sword came out, with it came the hunter’s blood, vitality, and strength. Cloudhawk's face was bathed in the trespasser’s spurting blood, and the blood was both warm and foul-smelling. And yet, Cloudhawk wasn’t nauseated at all; in fact, he actually felt more excitement than anything else. A single wild, frenzied thought filled every corner of his mind.
Kill him! Kill him! KILL HIM!
The shortsword was of fairly low quality. As a result, on Cloudhawk’s fifth stab it was no longer able to endure the violent force its master was applying to it, and it snapped off inside the target’s body. As for the hilt, it fell straight to the ground.
Cloudhawk’s entire body felt so hot, it was like he was being burned alive. It was like the eruption of a volcano that had been slumbering for a million years. His mind was filled with nothing save the desire to kill and destroy. He was completely unable to suppress those feelings in his heart. He wanted to bellow, to howl, to ruin and destroy everything he could see!
What is going on? What the hell is wrong with me? Cloudhawk knew that he was at the very brink of madness. With the last bit of clarity left to him, he tore off the strange stone and tossed it to one side. As soon as the stone left him, he immediately regained his normal faculties.
There really was something wrong with that rock!
By now, Cloudhawk had a rough idea as to what was going on. Within the rock, there seemed to reside an ancient mind or an ancient will, one which had most likely been left behind by its previous master. Through methods which Cloudhawk could not understand or even imagine, the stone’s former master had imprinted his own will, mind, and possibly even energy inside of that stone. The reason he had done so was to ensure that, in certain special circumstances, the stone would have a major impact on Cloudhawk’s life.
This was what had happened during the previous night. That was what had happened just now as well.
The seemingly ordinary rock once more returned to its ordinary, dull appearance. It seemed to possess no extraordinary attributes at all and looked as plain as plain could be. Cloudhawk picked the stone up, focusing on it several times but still gaining no idea as to how he was supposed to use it.
Where exactly did it come from? What exactly was it? And what sort of a person had left that brutal, terrifying, and powerful will behind within the stone?
This stone was definitely an extraordinary one. Perhaps, in the future, it would once more be of assistance to him. In the end, Cloudhawk decided to keep it in his possession but also decided that he couldn’t let anyone learn about it at all.