The Bloodsoaked Queen hadn’t completely lost all consciousness. Even though she had been nearly insensate, she had still been able to maintain a strand of conscious thought. She had felt as though she had fallen into an endless black hole of darkness, pain, and exhaustion. She was like someone who was drowning into a bottomless pool of water; no matter how she struggled, there was nothing she could do. This sense of despair had been dragging her further and further downwards, and that stifling sensation caused her will to suffer.
To fall into that endless slumber would be a form of escape. Why did she have to live while weighed down by so many burdens? But as soon as this thought appeared, a thought that was a thousand times more powerful instantly arose and overwhelmed it:
No. I cannot die! My mission is not yet complete. I cannot fall before I have done what I sought out to do! I must find him and kill him, not just for revenge, not just to cleanse my clan’s reputation, but because it is my responsibility as a child of the gods… and my mission as a demonhunter! If I have to die, I’ll die a glorious death in battle, not a shameful death in a place like this!
“Almighty gods, please give your devout follower the strength to uphold my convictions!”
It seemed as though the Bloodsoaked Queen’s resolute, pious prayer had been effective. Energy poured into her exhausted, enervated frame, allowing her to regain partial consciousness. Alas, her mind was still fogged and she wasn’t able to move in the slightest. She could only sense that she was now in a completely foreign environment.
Someone was walking back and forth in the area around her. The person actually used a moist cloth to wipe away at her face. This caused the Queen to feel both rage and terror. These were the gods-forsaken wastelands. If she ended up falling under the control of these ugly, vile, and brutish wastelanders while she was too weak to fight back… she didn’t even dare imagine what was going to happen to her!
The Bloodsoaked Queen was unable to control any part of her body; she couldn’t do so much as twitch her fingers. Gradually, her mind once more began to sink into that dazed fugue state, but the fiery pain in her throat caused her to feel extremely miserable. Water. She needed water…
A while later, she felt something cool and refreshing being poured into her mouth. She instinctively gulped at the water, feeling that fiery sensation in her throat slowly subside. Her body now felt much more comfortable than before, and as a result she once more fell into a deep slumber.
By the time she woke up once more, she had already regained part of her strength. When she suddenly opened her clear, jewel-bright eyes, the first thing she saw was a dilapidated ceiling that had cracks in it, allowing her to clearly see the light of the stars spilling in from outside.
It was night time? She had actually been passed out for nearly an entire day! But before she had a chance to think on what this meant, she suddenly saw a dirty hand begin to furtively stretch out towards her chest. This caused every slumbering cell within the Queen’s body to awaken and burst with furious power. She leapt to her feet with the agility of a female panther, then grabbed that offending, impudent hand with thunderbolt speed and pulled it backwards, hard.
As for her other hand, she used it to press down on the bastard’s head. The Queen poured all of her power into that right hand of hers… but the head did not instantly explode into countless pieces. Which was odd. Only now did the Queen realize, to her astonishment, that her right hand was now wrapped in dirty, crude bandages which smelled faintly of medicine. Her gloves had already been removed.
Cloudhawk could immediately and clearly sense those strange ripples emanating from the Queen’s body. There was no mistaking it; it was this power which allowed her to use her strange equipment!
If I hadn’t removed her gloves to treat her wounds, my fucking head would’ve been burnt to a cinder by now.
This woman really was a nasty character!
“Calm down, calm down! I’m just an ordinary mercenary of Blackflag Outpost.” Cloudhawk was in so much pain that large beads of sweat had formed on his forehead. “I saw you had passed out, so I brought you back to treat your wounds. I didn’t do anything else, honest!”
“Shut up!” The Queen was still gripped by shock and rage; clearly, she didn’t believe him. Her voice, however, was extremely pleasant to the ear; it sounded like the tinkling of fine jade or the singing of a bird. It carried an alluring, magnetic quality to it. Although her voice was quite cold, it also contained undisguisable hints of her youthfulness. The demonic mask definitely contained some sort of voice-altering mechanism.
The Bloodsoaked Queen could sense that her body was still very weak. She wasn’t sure how long she would be able to maintain her current state, and so she immediately began to study her surroundings.
She was in a small, crude, and dilapidated wooden room that was so small there was almost no place to stand. There was a battered wooden desk that had a damaged clay basin atop it, and a bloody towel which was soaking inside the basin. The surrounding area was strewn with ripped ribbons, and there was also a half-filled bottle of an unknown liquid that emanated a strange medicinal fragrance.
As for the person in her hands, he was a half-grown boy of fifteen years of age. He wasn’t very tall, but he was extremely thin. His black hair was tousled and his entire body was covered with filth as well as wounds. Some of the wounds were old, some were new. He looked the same as any of the other wastelanders she had seen, but there was an alert, honest look in his eyes that made him seem like a decent person.
“Who else saw me?” The Queen could sense her body growing weaker and weaker, and she couldn’t help but slightly loosen her grip over Cloudhawk. In the wastelands, only the law of survival of the fittest applied. If anyone else saw how weak and powerless she was right now, things would turn grim for her. “Speak!”
“N-no one! Everyone was busy divvying up the spoils from the sweepers. I found you in an alleyway and secretly brought you back. Nobody else saw you besides me.” Cloudhawk knew exactly what the Queen was worried about. “Don’t worry. I won’t tell a soul. No one will know that you’ve been injured.”
The Bloodsoaked Queen’s eyes narrowed into slits, but not out of anger; rather, she was just too tired and too weak, so weak that she no longer had the strength to keep him pressed down. Her vise-like grip loosened around his elbow, and Cloudhawk immediately scurried several steps backwards.
The Bloodsoaked Queen hurriedly tore off the bandages and put on her powerful gloves, but from start to finish her wary gaze had yet to leave Cloudhawk. She first moved to the doorway, scanning the outside area and making sure that there was no one else hidden nearby. She then inspected herself. Her clothes seemed to be in good shape, and there was no sign that anything inappropriate had happened. Had the kid been telling the truth?
Cloudhawk shrugged helplessly. “Now can you trust me?”
“Why were you following me?!” The Queen’s voice was still filled with cold hostility. There was no way someone would’ve found her ‘by coincidence’ immediately after she passed out. “What are you scheming? Who are you!”
Cloudhawk hesitated for a moment, but when he saw that murderous look in her eyes he hurriedly explained, “I d-d-didn’t! You got it all wrong. Your gloves and your cross were emanating a strange sound that I could hear from far away. I followed them and was able to find you.”
The Queen’s face turned dark. “Lying to me will result in a very painful death.”
“I’m telling the truth, I swear! I can hear sounds coming from the gloves and the cross.” Cloudhawk could sense that she really was at the very verge of killing him. A sudden thought crossed his panicked mind, and he immediately called out, “I know that there was someone else outside the outpost who also had powers like yours, and I was able to hear him coming as well!”
The Bloodsoaked Queen paused, startled. This didn’t seem plausible at all. She had never heard of anything like this before! Her face slowly turned calmer, but her wariness didn’t lessen one bit as she allowed Cloudhawk to continue to speak. “That person didn’t show himself, but I know that he was the one who summoned the sandstorm. I’m right, aren’t I? I’m really not lying to you!”
“Then tell me, what sort of sound can you hear?”
“It sounds like guitar strings being plucked. It has a very unique rhythm to it.” Cloudhawk closed his eyes, carefully attuning himself to those sounds. “Each piece of equipment has a different sound, a very strange song.”
“How could a heathen wastelander abandoned by the gods possibly hear the song of my sacred relics? Not even legendary demonhunters have such an ability! Are you truly a wastelander?” The Bloodsoaked Queen stared intently at him, searching for a weakness or a hint of deception in his young face. In truth, her desire to kill him had not lessened in the slightest. If she saw the slightest hint of artifice, she would immediately attack without any hesitation or remorse.
Cloudhawk nodded dumbly, a look of complete sincerity in his eyes. He didn’t look like he was lying or holding anything back at all. However, he suddenly seemed to think of something as a look of dazzling excitement appeared in his eyes. He asked in a rather urgent manner, “You called me a ‘heathen wastelander’. That means there’s more to this world than just the wastelands. Are there places outside the wastelands?”
The Bloodsoaked Queen said coldly, “That is none of your concern!”
“No. I must know. Please tell me, where did you come from?” Cloudhawk was so excited that he actually forgot his fear of her. “What is that place like?”
Does this kid not realize the situation he is in? The Bloodsoaked Queen truly was very fragile and weak right now, but if she wanted to get rid of this kid she would be able to do it with ease. However, when the kid stared at her she could see the hope and desire in his gaze. The emotions and dreams he held in his heart seemed to be pure and completely free of any doubt whatsoever, and his eyes were filled with the same resolute faith as that of the true believers when they bowed towards Sumeru, the mountain of the gods.
A foul, despicable heathen who had been abandoned by the gods shouldn’t be able to have a gaze like this… and yet, he was most surely destined to live and die within the wastelands!
“I come from a land which is blessed by the light of the gods. The gods have created countless miracles in our world, and the land they have blessed is both fertile and bountiful, allowing those who live off that land to want for nothing. The gods bestowed us with intelligence and wisdom, letting all live peaceful lives of joy and leisure. There is no pain there, no sickness, no murder…”
That’s it. That’s the place. That’s the place I’ve been dreaming of, ever since I was young! The place which Cloudhawk had fantasized about for so long really did exist! Cloudhawk felt dazed, but he also felt a ball of fire burning brightly within his chest. It was like he was a lost wanderer who had suddenly found his bearings again, as though a world of darkness had suddenly been cleft apart by a flicker of light. “Can I go there?”
“Hah! In your dreams!” The Queen’s response was like a bucket of ice water being poured over him, dousing his excitement. She glanced at the kid in front of her with a look of utter contempt. “This place is a thousand miles away from Elysium. What makes you think you are strong enough to even get there? Putting that aside, what makes you think a lowly heathen like yourself would ever be permitted to bathe in the glory of the gods?”
But her words had no effect. Cloudhawk had already decided that no matter how hard the journey was or how far he had to travel, he would still go to that distant place. “What of you?” Cloudhawk hesitated a short moment, then asked her the question. “You are from that place. Why did you abandon it to come to the…”
Cloudhawk could tell that the Queen was an extremely proud person. She was looking at Cloudhawk as though he was a rat she had just fished out of a sewer! If she hated the wastelands this much, if her world really was so perfect and pure, then what had driven her to abandon this ‘land of the faithful’ which she was so proud of? What had driven her to come here, to the dangerous, filthy, and barbaric wastelands, and stay here for over a year? Why had she chosen to live her life in this rat-infested outpost?
But Cloudhawk fell silent before he could finish his question. A bone-piercing chill had just filled the small room, and he felt certain that the actual temperature had just dropped by several degrees. He sensed an all-consuming hatred radiating from the Queen, an uncontrollable desire to kill that was mixed in with unspeakable grief. If Cloudhawk hadn’t personally experienced this feeling, he never would’ve believed that this beautiful woman, as perfect as a work of art, was capable of radiating an aura that was every bit as baleful and murderous as the most savage of wasteland beasts!
The Bloodsoaked Queen’s eyes had been completely filled with cold hatred. She ground her teeth, then said something which Cloudhawk did not comprehend whatsoever:
“I am hunting a demon!”