In the face of such an intense onslaught, Cloudhawk had no choice but to disengage and hide in the ancient ruins that served as their battleground. Crumbling buildings towered over them like a forest of petrified bamboo. He didn’t know why it was here, or what they were used for in those old days. But there were so many that the scope was staggering, randomly scattered all around.
The one demonhunter was trouble enough. If he’d stuck around to get surrounded by the Skycloud soldiers, Cloudhawk would be done for. Choosing to flee into this complicated mess of buildings was for nothing more than to buy some time.
Behind him, the sound of her exorcist rod blasting through the ruins never ceased.
After nimbly dodging his bullets, Claudia raced after him, cleaving whatever obstacles crossed her path. Like a crafty rat Cloudhawk slithered between the buildings. He changed directions at random to try and throw her off.
Her answer was to blast the stone buildings to dust with her staff.
Enraged, spewing curses, Claudia kept on the trail of this slippery bastard. She was fast as a cheetah, but every time she caught up to him Cloudhawk would dart to the side and pull ahead. She did not slow down to follow, though. She charged headlong into the building before her and began to run along the wall as easily as though she were walking on firm ground. Agile as a monkey she skittered up the building then kicked off.
She landed on sturdy feet, cracks gathering where she landed. Less than a second later she jumped off again.
From above Cloudhawk looked like a frightened rabbit darting off in random directions. He himself didn’t know where he was going, just that he had to keep moving. Where the demonhunter had been a cheetah, now she was a swallow hovering overhead. She deftly bound from building to building even faster than he could run.
Cloudhawk had hoped the cluster of buildings would keep her at bay. The girl ended up being more skilled than he thought.
Jumping along the buildings was certainly more tiring, but she was markedly faster than her prey. Cloudhawk could feel the noose tightening around his neck with each passing moment.
Claudia’s exorcist rod lashed out again.
She left Cloudhawk no option but to rely on his cloak again. He vanished, dodged, then reappeared. She came again, he dodged. Cloudhawk didn’t even have time to catch his breath. They danced around each other at a staggering pace.
Each time Cloudhawk was in danger of being overcome, he used his cloak to slip away. It went on this way for five minutes.
All of a sudden Claudia felt an intense dizziness assail her. She had to slow or risk falling over. Her feet hit the ground with a heavy thud but were stable, despite the fact that every muscle in her body was screaming in pain.
She’d begun to claw her way out of the madness that had gripped her. Covered in sweat, gasping for breath, she saw the masked traitor stop as well. They stood a hundred and fifty feet apart, just staring at one another. Claudia could feel the mirth coming off the masked man, even though she couldn’t see his face.
“Evidently your master never taught you to use energy sparingly in a fight.”
She was spent. Cloudhawk could see it. The demonhunter was stronger than he was, but not devastatingly so like the Bloodsoaked Queen. Killing him wouldn’t be easy for her. Exploiting her anger, forcing her to chase him and use her staff, improved his odds.
Seven or eight times. That’s how many strikes she tried with her staff.
Before their encounter she’d been hunting him with the help of her relic necklace. That had also cost her psychic energy. Now not only was she spent mentally, but physically as well.
Cloudhawk’s simple tactic was a success. The idiot had wasted her advantage. As the old saying went, every dog had its day. Now… it was time for the hunted to become the hunter.
Claudia knew she’d been tricked, but it was too late. They were surrounded by a maze of ruined buildings. No aid would come soon.
Cloudhawk reached out his left hand and pointed a revolver at her while he clutched a knife in his right. He attacked. Claudia tried to activate her staff, but this only earned her a tearing pain in her skull. It was too late. The bullets were coming at her.
“Fuck!” She sidestepped what she could, her wrath still alive in her heart and filling her with the energy to continue. But she only had strength enough to run. Behind her, that contemptible man shouted taunts.
“Didn’t the honorable demonhunter say she wanted a face to face fight? Does this mean running away is also the style of holy warriors like yourselves? You elysians. So virtuous.”
Shame and fury filled her. His words struck her so acutely that she stopped long enough for one of his bullets to catch her in the thigh. Her legs weren’t armored, so the bullet dug in deep. In this era, there was no one to teach wastelanders how to be gentle with the fairer sex. Cloudhawk didn’t hesitate at all, moving in to finish what he started. His dagger was aimed for the flesh of her throat.
Claudia was inexperienced in life or death struggles, but she was trained by the formidable demonhunters. She was weak and angry, but she still was not a helpless lamb before the butcher’s knife.
Just as Cloudhawk’s dagger was poised to tear open her throat, Claudia flung herself forward. The razor edge of his dagger slipped over her head, taking a large patch of hair with it. Claudia tumbled forward, planted her hands on the ground and pushed off. Spinning beautifully overhead, both staff and body came crashing toward Cloudhawk.
Even without the added danger of psychic energy, the exorcist rod was sharp and lethal. Cloudhawk thought she was spent, and was surprised to discover that she still had energy to fight back. He lifted his left hand, using the revolver to deflect her blow. The gun was knocked away so hard its barrel was irreparably bent.
Claudia gathered herself for a second attack, but when her right leg hit the ground the bullet wound was torn wider. The pain caused her to lose her balance. Cloudhawk, seizing the opportunity, whipped a kick at her. The demonhunter was knocked a dozen feet away.
Lesson learned. Cloudhawk approached her more cautiously this time. “You really don’t fuck around.”
Demonhunters were known for their abilities, especially in close quarters. The injury to her leg wasn’t severe, so she managed to quickly get back on her feet. It did, however, prevent her from being able to outrun her assailant. More troubling was the fact that Cloudhawk still had the energy to use his relics, if needed.
Claudia saw her plight clearly. If she didn’t run, the traitor could get behind her using his speed and invisibility for a blind attack. That could be deadly. The other soldiers had to be close. If she could stall for a minute or two, they would surround the area and he would be trapped. That was her best chance at turning the tables.
“Before I kill you, I want to ask you something.” Cloudhawk had to satisfy his curiosity before finishing it. “Why do you want me dead?”
Claudia was guarded. She answered with a voice full of venom and loathing. “You’re a traitor. Do we need any other reason?”
Behind the mask Cloudhawk scowled. Did she think he was a demonhunter, too? What a disastrous misunderstanding! But it didn’t matter. Either she died, or he did. He had no intention of dying today, so it would have to be her.
Cloudhawk grew up in the wastelands. He was a wastelander, through and through. Aggression and viciousness was in his bones. Yes, he was far kinder than most of his kin, but towards those who wanted to kill him he held no pity at all. It didn’t matter that she was pretty or anything else. He lunged forward, flinging a dagger at her with his left hand with lightning speed!
Clang! Her exorcist rod knocked it away.
Cloudhawk spun the dagger in his right hand so he held it in a reverse grip. Several vicious swipes followed, aimed at crucial targets. Claudia danced out of harm’s way, protecting herself with her staff.
Sparks flew with each collision. They clashed four or five times in the space of just a few seconds. Their weapons rang out in protest at they met again and again in midair.
Her technique was better than his, allowing her to even go so far as to gain the upper hand. She knocked Cloudhawk’s attacks aside, then brought her staff down toward his skull. Yet much to her surprise the traitor flung his hand out, causing an arrow made from sand to appear. The mystical attack easily split her armor and buried itself in her chest.
She gasped in shock and fell to the floor.
Claudia looked down at the shaft of the arrow jutting from her chest. Her face betrayed her shock. She couldn’t believe it. She simply couldn’t believe it! The bastard had other relics! He was just a defector. How could he be so well equipped? And with relics of much higher quality than the likes of her exorcist rod!
Claudia’s tracking torque and Raith’s Lifedrinker arrow were both family heirlooms, true treasures that had been passed down from accomplished demonhunters. Yet this traitor had at least two relics that rivaled theirs?!
Cloudhawk felt exhaustion creeping up on him. This battle had been long and taxing, there wasn’t much left of his already minimal psychic energy. Suddenly he heard the sounds of footsteps coming from several directions. The owner of one set shouted. “Mistress Claudia!”
Claudia and Cloudhawk’s faces changed, but in very different ways.
She cried out. “Here!”
Cloudhawk rushed at the injured demonhunter. They’d heard her, but he still had a few moments before they arrived. It was his last chance. She would stop at nothing to kill him. How could he allow her to live? If she were allowed to return to the elysian lands, who knew what sort of danger she would cause?
Claudia faced Cloudhawk directly as he came her way. She knew he was going to kill her, but the wound to her chest was too severe. If she tried to fight back, it would only make it worse. Running wasn’t an option either, and she could no longer compete with his speed.
What choice was there? She watched the masked man get closer. So this was how she died…
A bitter unwillingness filled her heart. She was a demonhunter! She wore that mantle with pride. She also bore hatred for this despicable traitor, a hatred that refused to abate. How could she allow herself to be killed by this scum?
The light of his dagger came closer, inch by inch!
Claudia gripped her weapon tightly in her hands.
He would die, even if it meant they died together! She would not die in disgrace!
With this determination flooding through her all fear was dispelled. Giving up was not an option. She mustered energy that she did not have, fought through the tearing pain in her skull, driven by the will to survive…
…And a surge of power answered her. Her exorcist rod stirred one last time, power warping the air around it.
It would never have occurred to Cloudhawk that, on her deathbed, this girl could tap into her latent potential . He had already fully extended himself into this attack to back away. All he could do was try to shift his body and direct the blow toward the Gospel of Sand hidden beneath his clothes.
Cloudhawk was knocked several feet away.
Claudia’s face was a twisted mix of hatred and pain. The counterattack had cost her dearly, making her injuries worse and causing them to bleed profusely. She’d drawn more than her body could muster and she could feel her consciousness begin to slip as she collapsed to the ground.
It was unclear whether she was alive or dead.
Cloudhawk coughed up several mouthfuls of blood and struggled to get back on his feet. The Gospel of Sand had managed to block much of the staff’s power, but it was still a potent weapon. He could feel several ribs had been broken, and there was some damage to his organs. It made it difficult to move.
Just then, several soldiers appeared, approaching from different directions. Cloudhawk had to rely on his cloak’s power to hide him as he fled.
“Mistress!” Seven of the soldiers she’d brought with her appeared and gathered round. Four of them surrounded Claudia on four sides, bows drawn and alert for danger. The remaining three fished medicine from their emergency packs and set about trying to save her life.
Claudia’s injuries were severe, but for now they were not yet fatal. Two demonhunters were sent on a mission; one was dead, the other wounded. No one could have imagined this was how it would end. One of the soldiers lifted her up onto his shoulders when Claudia’s eyes suddenly fluttered open. “He’s hurt bad,” she managed to croak out. “Call the others, get them here to track him down. He has to be killed!”
With her bitter command delivered, she slumped into unconsciousness.
Elsewhere, Cloudhawk pulled off his mask. He stooped over and coughed, spitting blood all over the ground. He hadn’t expected to fall on such hard times, or to be so badly injured in their skirmish. If the Skycloud soldiers caught up chances were he’d be a dead man, so he had to get as far away from here as possible.
1 out of 2 isn't that bad, I suppose...
Changed Luna to Lunae