One thought went through Tram’s mind. Fuck. I underestimated the kid. The kid looked skinny and weak, but he was very physically strong. He was quite possibly a strength-focused metahuman!
Cloudhawk had no actual combat experience. This was his first time actually dueling another person in a real fight, but he felt as though everything was flowing together perfectly. He could sense how all of his muscle groups were moving together in concert, and that he had exquisitely perfect control over them. There were certain high-accuracy movements which he never would’ve been able to carry out in the past, but now he was able to do so effortlessly.
Incredible agility, perfect harmony, overwhelming speed and strength… is this really my body?! Cloudhawk never imagined that he had become this strong. This month had been an absolutely transformative one for him.
Crack! Crack! Cloudhawk leapt into the air, using one leg to kick the man in his side while the other leg kicked him in the chest at high speed. This was a beautiful double-kick, and it sent Tram stumbling backwards once again. Tram felt dizzy, and blood was spurting out of his numb nose. The consecutive barrage of attacks had all but completely disoriented him for a moment.
Still… that brief moment of blankness was quickly replaced by a sense of humiliation! A punk kid like this had actually beaten him this badly?
Just when Cloudhawk thought that he had found his rhythm, Tram let out a grizzly roar and began to windmill wildly with his fists, with one lucky punch connecting with Cloudhawk’s chest. Cloudhawk felt as though he had just been hit with a sledgehammer, and he was knocked flying into the air before landing several meters away.
“Graaaah…” Cloudhawk rolled on the ground, clutching his chest in agony. Only now did he finally realize that the mercenaries had all been taking it easy on him during training. Otherwise, given how strong they were, how could he have possibly survived their beatings for so long?
Not good! Cloudhawk didn’t even have a chance to climb to his feet before a large, callused hand suddenly latched onto his leg. He was dragged upside down into the air, swung in an arc, then sent flying straight towards one of the wooden ring posts.
THUD! Cloudhawk slammed skull-first into the wooden ring post. Black spots appeared before his eyes, and he nearly passed out. A large amount of blood poured out of his scalp and into his eyes, causing the entire world to turn crimson.
This had been an extremely heavy blow! Cloudhawk felt as though the entire world was spinning, and for a moment he had no idea where he was. The punch he had taken to the chest had been a heavy strike as well, rendering him barely able to breathe. Several of his ribs were probably broken; even for a recovery metahuman, such heavy wounds would be difficult ot bear.
Clearly, Tram himself was a strength metahuman. Although he wasn’t a very high-class one, he had undergone years of training, and his abilities had many years to ripen and mature. For all these reasons, he was more than twice as strong as Cloudhawk was!
Tram no longer underestimated the kid; he now viewed Cloudhawk as a serious opponent. Laughing wildly, he glared at the kid as the latter rolled around the floor in agony. “What’s wrong? That all you got?”
The spectators began to chant in unison again. “STAND! STAND! STAND!”
A few moments later, Cloudhawk finally managed to just barely struggle to his feet. He shook his head a few times, allowing his vision to clear up once more. He once more regained his focus, and he locked his gaze upon the man in front of him.
Both of them had faces covered with blood, and they glowered at each other like vicious beasts that had run into each other within a narrow passageway in the wastelands.
The cries of the spectators were growing louder and louder. Not only was this kid a much better fighter than they had imagined, he was much sturdier as well. After taking two incredibly heavy blows, he was still able to climb up to his feet. This alone was quite impressive! Even Tram was slightly startled by this. Still, the startlement didn’t have any impact on his movements at all. This time, he launched the first attack and delivered a frontal punch!
Cloudhawk’s hands rose in a defensive position, but a strange smile flashed at the corners of Tram’s lips. His attack had been a feint. Just as Cloudhawk prepared his defensive stance, Tram suddenly cancelled his punch and stepped forwards, ramming his shoulder into Cloudhawk and knocking him off-balance.
Tram’s movements were incredibly fast. Next, he used his right arm to sweep Cloudhawk’s legs. Cloudhawk had already been knocked off-balance; now, he was sent flying into the air. Tram then used his left hand to grab Cloudhawk by the back, straightening him upside-down and then driving him downwards towards the ground in a head-first fashion. If Cloudhawk really did smash into the ground, his spine would definitely be completely shattered.
Not good! A sense of tremendous danger filled Cloudhawk’s mind, and a tendril of flaming heat suddenly burst out of Cloudhawk’s chest. His irises began to turn red as an enormous amount of power erupted from his body. He actually managed to break free of Tram’s grip, then used his elbow to deliver a vicious blow to Tram’s face, forcing Tram to jerk backwards and making it impossible for Tram to immediately act against him. Cloudhawk seized this moment to do a somersault in midair, using both legs to kick-off Tram’s chest. Tram fell to the ground, but not before he was able to send Cloudhawk flying as well.
The two ended up being knocked to the ground at the same time by each other. However, Cloudhawk clearly suffered a heavier fall; all of his bones felt as though they were dislocated, and he very nearly fainted from the pain.
The inn was a cacophony of noise. This was simply a dazzling display for them! They were all able to see what a close call that had been. If the little devil had been just a half-second too slow, he probably would’ve died. By now, everyone could tell that although the kid wasn’t very experienced, he had superb combat awareness and was able to respond in an almost instinctive manner.
Tram’s face was beginning to puff up like a balloon. Thankfully for him, he was an extremely healthy and strong man; a few small injuries like this wouldn’t have much of an impact on him. As for Cloudhawk, his decent constitution and tough physique meant that he hadn’t been irrecoverably injured either.
The two rose to their feet at the same time, then charged towards each other once again. Bam! Cloudhawk landed a kick on Tram. Crack! Tram landed a punch on Cloudhawk!
The two were of completely different sizes, but both their faces were covered in blood as they furiously battled against each other. Cloudhawk was a bit lacking in technique and experience, and so just a few blows later his right arm was trapped once more. Tram gave his right arm a hard tug… and with a crunching sound, Cloudhawk’s right arm was dislocated!
This time, the pain Cloudhawk felt was truly, heart-piercingly agonizing. The sensation was so intense, Cloudhawk was instantly covered in cold sweat… and yet, instead of sapping him of his will and resolve, it actually stimulated the innate stubbornness inside of him. Ignoring the danger of his right arm being permanently maimed, he delivered a truly vicious knee-strike to Tram’s groin!
This time, his strike was right on the money, and Tram let out a miserable howl that was utterly inhuman. Cloudhawk seized this opportunity to rake two of his fingers over Tram’s eyes! Yet again, this strike caught Tram off-guard and he was unable to defend against it. Cloudhawk then gave him one more kick, sending him stumbling backwards towards the edges of the dueling ring.
Tram was temporarily blinded, unable to open his eyes. All he could do was to windmill his arms about blindly, hoping to be able to buy himself some extra time. Who would’ve thought that Cloudhawk would scamper forwards and trip his legs? Tram lost his balance and fell backwards, and his tough body ended up falling outside of the dueling ring.
The inn was completely silent for a few seconds… and then the cheers of the spectator burst forth once more! “NOOB! NOOB! NOOB!” This hadn’t exactly been exhilarating, as they had been hoping to see blood and brains flying everywhere. That hadn’t happened. And yet, this had truly been an unexpected surprise and pleasure. The half-grown kid, the one they had thought would be killed, had ended up winning!
Although luck had played a part in it, all the slightly more experienced spectators could tell that this kid wasn’t an ordinary one!
Cloudhawk panted raggedly. He never thought that he would actually be able to beat that dangerous fellow. His face was as swollen as a pig’s face, but it was covered with a look of gratification and joy. He had no idea that he had become this powerful!
Bruised, battered, and swollen-faced, Cloudhawk walked towards the red-nosed man. “Where’s my meat?”
“MEAT?!” The red-nosed innkeeper no longer had that friendly, amiable look on his face. His voice was now both shrill and cutting. “You wrecked my performance, and you want to ask for payment? Just fuck off!”
“I earned it!” Cloudhawk could feel a ball of fire blazing in his chest. This was no longer a matter of meat; he felt completely insulted, and a desire for blood was filling his thoughts. “How dare you refuse!”
“A stupid, arrogant kid like you wants to threaten and berate ME?” Rednose was enraged. “Waste the fucker!” The black bouncer immediately lifted up his machete and hacked downwards towards Cloudhawk.
In this day and age, ‘trust’ and ‘honor’ were jokes. However, Cloudhawk never would’ve imagined that this man would have reached such a level of depravity! The man had first lied to him to try and get him killed in a duel. Now, not only was he reneging on the payment he owed Cloudhawk, he was trying to kill him!
The black bouncer’s strike was fast and furious. Cloudhawk did his best to avoid it, but the blade still scraped past his back and left a huge, gaping wound there. Fiery pain filled every inch of his body, and blood spurted out of the wound and matted his clothes.
“Who the fuck do you think you are?” The red-nosed innkeeper’s gaze was filled with malice. “A punk-ass kid like you wants to try and take something away from me? You’ll be missing your two hands when you leave!”
The spectators in the inn began to whoop with excitement, as though a new, unexpected performance had just started.
“Chop his hands off!”
The black bouncer strode forwards, machete in hand. Everyone called out excitedly as they began to circle around the two of them. Seeing the situation, Cloudhawk had only a single thought in his mind – Flee! Fuck the rat jerky! Cloudhawk’s entire body was slippery with blood. He turned, pushed aside a burly man, then made a beeline towards the exit. However, right at this moment, one of the other patrons stuck out a leg and intentionally tripped him.
Thud! Cloudhawk instantly lost his balance and smashed into a wooden table, breaking it into tiny pieces. As he fell, he tore the wound on his back even wider. The agonizing pain was about to cause him to pass out.
“Waste him! Waste him!”
The entire inn was filled with those mocking, malicious calls. The spectators only cared about further fanning the flames, and not a single person stepped forward to intervene or have the matter be brought to an end. Their faces were all distorted with savagery. This was a savage era, and the hearts of men were even more savage!
The black bouncer lifted his machete up high, then chopped downwards once more. Cloudhawk’s injuries were so heavy that he couldn’t even rise to his feet. He never would’ve imagined that he would die in a place like this, and die in such a pathetic fashion. But just as he was about to close his eyes and wait for death…
A metallic clanging sound rang out with explosive power. It was another blade that clashed against the former, causing sparks to fly everywhere!
The bloody scene which everyone had been eagerly anticipating failed to materialize. A snow-white machete suddenly appeared out of nowhere, stopping the black bouncer’s machete in its tracks. What completely flabbergasted everyone was that this machete had easily and single-handed stopped the heavy, two-handed hacking blow from the black bouncer.
The machete which saved Cloudhawk’s life was roughly two feet long and shaped like a dog’s leg. It had a straight back but a curved blade, and was heavy at the back but narrow at the front. It gleamed with a cold, almost snowy light… and Cloudhawk recognized it. Wasn’t this Mad Dog’s machete?
The black bouncer’s hand had turned numb, and a large notch had appeared on the edge of his blade. Before the bouncer even had a chance to assess the situation, his opponent struck out with his other hand and sent a dazzling streak of cold light flashing downwards. The black bouncer felt his arm suddenly become lighter as his hand suddenly fell to the ground, still clutching that machete.
“AHHHH!” The bouncer clutched his severed arm, screaming miserably as blood continued to spurt out of it nonstop, almost like a faucet that had been permanently turned ‘on’.
Mad Dog lifted his leg up, then delivered a kick. The bouncer’s chest was completely caved in as all of his ribs shattered apart. He flew backwards into the cabinets behind him as though he had been shot out of a cannon, causing all types of wine bottles to fall down to the ground and making the inn reek even more heavily of alcohol.
This had all happened in just the blink of an eye. Everyone was dazed for a few seconds… and then they began to scream with even more excitement.
“Mad Dog?! What the hell!” Rednose revealed a look of rage and terror. He obviously recognized the hideous black man standing in front of him. “I done nothing to you! Why are you going crazy on me?”
“Heh. Heh heh. Heh heh heh…” The scar on Mad Dog’s hideously ugly face was twisting and contorting like a centipede as he grinned, and his voice was both deep and hoarse. “Bullyin’ a member of the Tartarus mercenaries? Are you that fuckin' tired of livin’?”
“Tartarus?” An ugly look appeared on Rednose’s face. “Are you talking about the kid? Shit, I didn’t know he belonged to you guys! This is all over five strings of rat jerky, right? Take it! I’ll give it to’m, alright?”
“TOO LATE!” The machete flashed once again. This time, it landed on the bodyguard in front of the innkeeper, and it cut straight through the man’s shoulder and all the way down to his waist, tearing through flesh and bone alike. It was a terrifyingly wet sound, and the man was virtually split in half by this blow.
Mad Dog’s strength was utterly terrifying! It didn’t even look like he was hacking a man in half; it was as though he was just cutting through a piece of melted butter!
Blood sprayed everywhere as the man’s organs burst out, drenching Mad Dog in blood. The thick, nauseating scent of blood seemed to intoxicate him, causing his face to become increasingly savage and terrifying. In fact, he looked almost maddened and intoxicated.
“Move, move! All of you, g-” Rednose didn’t manage to finish the final word, because an unbelievably fast streak of cold light swept right through his neck, cutting open his skin, chopping through his flesh, slicing open his veins, and splitting apart his bones with a ripping sound. There was nothing and no one who was able to stop this from happening. The cold machete cut through him as easily as tofu!
The entire world seemed to spin before Rednose’s bulging eyes. There was a look of surprise in those eyes, as though he didn’t understand why his field of vision had just completely changed. Only when his gaze fell upon his own headless corpse did a look of endless horror and amazement appear in his eyes.
The disco lights in the inn continued to spin about, and the hard rock music continued to blare. As for the blood spurting out of that headless corpse, it was like a newly popped bottle of champagne that helped everyone present celebrate this special event.
“Mad Dog’s gone mad!”
The bouncers in the inn all knew Mad Dog’s reputation. Once the man went mad, the only way to stop him was to kill him. Otherwise, he wouldn’t stop until he wiped everyone out! These bouncers were, by nature, exceedingly vile men; this was true for almost everyone capable of rising to positions of importance in Blackflag Outpost. None of them were fools! Machetes, staves, daggers… all sorts of weapons were drawn out as everyone charged straight towards Mad Dog!
The disco ball spun even faster, and the heavy rock music seemed to pound even louder. This party was about to go completely out of control!