Cloudhawk had spent more than a full month ‘training’ every day with the mercenaries. Although he wasn’t exactly strong, he wasn’t a weakling either. Despite that, just two knife-strikes had knocked him completely off his game. That meant this bastard had to be roughly on par with some of the top-ranked members of the Tartarus mercenaries!
The knife gleamed as it came howling towards him like a meteor. There was nowhere to run and no way to block. It seemed as though all hope was lost!
Cloudhawk could feel the threat of death breathing down his neck, and his heart was filled with a mixture of shock, anger, and confusion. The rage in his chest and the madness deep inside his bones once more broke free from their shackles, as they had so long ago when he had killed that mutated hound. The adrenaline rush swept through every single part of his body, infiltrating every single cell and infusing him with strength!
He slapped the ground with his left hand, righting himself and somersaulting to his feet. He then swung his right arm, lashing out with the staff. The tri-bladed staff swept out like a tornado, smashing directly into the knife and once more kicking up a storm of sparks.
The black-garbed man was shocked. The kid had to be moving nearly twice as fast as he was before! And that wasn’t the greatest transformation; the greatest transformation was in Cloudhawk’s demeanor. Moments ago, Cloudhawk was like a gentle sheep that was about to be slaughtered. Now, he seemed to have transformed into a savage and infuriated wolf.
Cloudhawk let out a furious roar… then actually charged towards his enemy! He delivered five high-speed stabbing blows with his staff. There was no technique, no artifice, no subterfuge to these strikes; this was pure speed and viciousness! Every single strike seemed to howl through the air as Cloudhawk unleashed his latent, berserk side. It was as though he was going to kill this enemy no matter what, even if it cost him his own life!
Clang! Clang! Clang! Clang!
The sound of metal on metal rang out as sparks continued to fly everywhere. The two exchanged multiple blows within a short period of time… and this time, it was Cloudhawk who was dominating the fight! The black-garbed man was forced onto the defensive, and he frantically blocked as he tried to deal with the shock he was feeling.
What the hell? The kid’s as mad as friggin’ Mad Dog. He’s gone totally berserk!
However, this wasn’t exactly the case. Whenever Mad Dog tasted blood, he would go into a completely berserk state where he had no control over himself at all. In contrast, Cloudhawk was able to maintain a modicum of clarity despite his berserk state. For example, he noticed that despite having launched a furious barrage of attacks his opponent was still able to defend as steady as a rock. Cloudhawk knew that this wasn’t a fight to prolong, and so he suppressed the berserk emotions coursing through him and immediately turned to flee.
Cloudhawk had always relied on two things to keep himself alive – his preternaturally sharp bestial instincts, and power born from rage. The first was something he had been born with, while the latter was an ability that had been enhanced by the stone around his neck. However, it was evident that neither of these two things were going to be enough for him to deal with this foe in front of him.
I need to get the hell out of here, as fast as I can! If I can make it back to the mercenary base, there’ll be nothing he can do to me! This was what Cloudhawk was counting on, but just moments after he started to flee, two more figures suddenly appeared out of nowhere and barred his path, their swords shooting towards him like a pair of thunderbolts descending from the night skies. He had seen no trace of them earlier, and he didn’t see where they came from; they were like gusts of wind that had just blown in from a world beyond.
The timing and aim of these two swords were both immaculately perfect. They struck like a pincer, giving him nowhere to run and nowhere to hide!
Cloudhawk frantically struck out with his tri-bladed staff, but was only able to block one of the two swords. Just as the staff clanked against the first sword, the second sword came piercing towards his throat. Cloudhawk frantically tried to dodge, but the sword still sliced a bloody wound in his shoulder as it flew past him. Cloudhawk delivered a furious backhanded blow with his staff, but his opponent leapt away quite agilely.
The two swordsmen were flanking Cloudhawk from the front while the saber-wielder was chasing after him from behind. His path forwards was blocked, while the path backwards was also sealed. Cloudhawk was now like an animal trapped in a cage. His bloodshot gaze swept across the three, and he then let out a bestial growl: “I don’t know any of you. Why do you want to kill me!”
There was no response!
Cloudhawk was now surrounded by all three assassins. They immediately moved to attack, not hesitating or pausing in the slightest or wasting a single breath on conversation. They moved in perfect harmony with precision and speed. They were true warriors, true elites, true assassins.
In terms of speed, timing, strength, and everything else, they worked together with perfect cohesion. By now, Cloudhawk could tell that there was nowhere for him to flee. He was surrounded by what felt like a ‘web’ of cold, metallic light. No matter where he moved or where he dodged, he would still be trapped within the web of attacks. The web of metallic death quickly began to shrink around him. In just another moment, his body would be torn asunder.
Damn, damn, damn! Cloudhawk was boiling with rage and resentment. Why the hell were these people attacking him? None of this made no sense! Was he about to die without even knowing who was behind it or why? No matter what, he refused to accept that this would be how his destiny ended!
“FUCK OFF!” If he couldn’t tell where the attacks were coming from, he wouldn’t even look at them. His mind was completely blank as he swept out with his staff… but as he did so, he could suddenly sense a strange sort of dormant energy in his body flow out into the staff.
The runes on the exorcist rod instantly lit up. The tri-blades on the top of the staff suddenly began to spin so quickly that they seemed to transform into a cylindrical shape. This high speed, high friction movement caused sparks to appear that could be seen with the naked eye. As the exorcist rod swept outwards, it suddenly let out an indescribable shriek as it tore through the air.
This wasn’t a staff-strike. This was the summoning of a windstorm! The three warriors had never seen anything like this before. Despite their talent and experience, they were all stunned… and in that brief instant, the exorcist rod slammed towards them, shattering the two swords and the saber as if they were made out of fragile glass and reducing them into tiny fragments.
Even Cloudhawk was amazed to discover how powerful this strike from his exorcist rod was. It was actually beyond his ability to control. Right now, it wasn’t Cloudhawk swinging the staff; it was the staff flying out with Cloudhawk attached to it! After completing the circular swing, the staff smashed directly into the ground.
The psychic energy burst out from the exorcist rod, striking out like a thunderbolt! The psychic storm kicked up by this explosion caused the metal fragments of the destroyed weapons to fly into the air, while the three attackers were blasted several meters backwards. Terrified, they scuttled backwards hurriedly before finally clambering to their feet.
“Let’s get the hell outta here!” The three warriors were absolutely terrified, and they immediately moved to flee. They couldn’t be blamed for their fear; Cloudhawk himself was about to piss his pants!
What the hell had just happened? How was it that the power of the exorcist rod had suddenly been unleashed? The Bloodsoaked Queen had told him that demonhunters needed to be able to wield psychic energy, which required natural talent, painstaking training, and the blessings of the gods. Cloudhawk was a wastelander who had lived in the wastelands his entire life. Even if he did have the natural talent, he had never had a chance to train in it. The blessings of the gods? He didn’t even know what the gods were!
Could it be…? Cloudhawk suddenly thought back to the brief coma he had been in after that fight in the inn house. He had experienced a strange dream where he had met a strange man who spoke of giving Cloudhawk some power. When Cloudhawk had woken up he didn’t really notice anything strange, and so he had believed it to be naught more than a dream. Could the dream have been real?
Cloudhawk lifted up the exorcist rod, then closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He could clearly sense the ripples emanating from inside the staff. Suddenly, it felt as though a guitar string had just been plucked within his mind, causing an indescribably marvelous sound to cry out.
The tri-blades on the staff once more began to rotate at high speeds. Cloudhawk struck at a nearby rock with the staff. A tremendous surge of resonant power instantly swept out from the staff, and the rock was instantly shattered into countless pieces.
Badass. This is freaking badass! Even Mad Dog would find it hard to resist such a heavy strike! Although Cloudhawk was fairly weak in many aspects, if he could use relics he would have a chance to be catapulted to the general level of the Bloodsoaked Queen.
Cloudhawk was incredibly excited. How could he not be? He had been indescribably weak, but he now realized that he was capable of tremendous power. Naturally, his first instinct was to test it out even further. But just as he was about to strike a third time, he felt his vision grow dark. Pain flooded his mind, causing him to nearly lose his balance.
It seemed as though these attacks would exhaust his psionic energy. There was no way to use those abilities nonstop!
Can’t stay here. Those three were so confident in being able to kill me, they didn’t bring any bows or guns. If they come back fully armed, I’m going to be completely screwed.
Even though Cloudhawk now possessed tremendous destructive power, he was still very weak in many aspects. Sure, he might be able to beat back Mad Dog in a head-on clash, but if the two were in a real battle Mad Dog would never give him a chance to do that. Hell, Mad Dog would probably chop me into mincemeat before I even had a chance to strike!
The wastelands remained a dangerous place. He couldn’t be too brash. This bit of power he had just gained was far from being enough!
Still, Cloudhawk remembered how the Bloodsoaked Queen had said that exorcist staffs were merely the lowest-level relics, relics that were mass-produced. Only newly trained rookie demonhunters would use these relics… which meant that this tri-bladed staff really wasn’t all that powerful, at least by the standards of the elysian lands.
In other words… if he could find more powerful relics, he’d be able to unleash even more powerful attacks! Cloudhawk smiled at the thought, then put away the staff and quickly disappeared into the darkness of the night.
The night was only growing darker. The cold light of the moon shone down from the skies, casting its pristine light upon the endless desolation of the wastelands.
Cloudhawk was squatting within his own room, his hands clasped together and his face red with excitement. Even the veins on his body were popping out! He looked like he was suffering from some sort of strange, incurable disease, or as though he was trying to do something incredibly difficult with nothing to show for it.
“AAAAAH!” Cloudhawk let out a frustrated cry, then fell to the ground like a deflated balloon. He panted loudly, a look of frustration and defeat on his face. A stone lay quietly within his hands, not having changed one bit this entire time.
Why wasn’t the blasted thing doing anything!? Cloudhawk was clearly capable of using divine relics, but no matter how hard he tried or how hard he focused on the stone, he was unable to have any effect on it at all. The stone was still nothing more than a stone; it didn’t seem to have any special effects at all!
Cloudhawk felt incredibly, incredibly disappointed! Still, he felt certain that this stone contained some sort of inconceivable power within it. To this very day, he could clearly remember what had happened to him when he had found this stone within that dark underground passageway. He had been teleported straight into a completely foreign land.
The memories of that experience had been engraved into his very bones! In that instant, Cloudhawk felt as though he had gained a brief glimpse into the true nature of all things. It seemed as though all things were in reality nothing more than a collection of strings. When these strings thrummed at different frequencies they resulted in different types of matter being formed, resulting in the world around them.
Actually, come to think of it, the ‘divine relics’ really didn’t seem to be that strange or mysterious. Cloudhawk could sense that these relics were capable of changing the frequency at which those ‘strings’ vibrated, causing matter to change and transform on a fundamental level. This was why they were able to unleash inconceivable amounts of power out of seemingly nowhere! This was also the reason why Cloudhawk continued to hear a ‘song’ from them.
Cloudhawk had grown up alongside the old-timer. Ever since he was young, he had heard the old-timer speak of the things which had existed during the Old Times. In Cloudhawk’s eyes, those things were full of mysteries and marvels. Perhaps divine relics were just products of an even higher-level technology?
If he had mentioned this to the Bloodsoaked Queen, she would almost certainly have executed him for his blasphemous claim. To a pious devotee like her, divine relics were the products of the miracles which the almighty gods had bestowed upon their faithful. How could they be compared to artificial items created by mortal hands?
Cloudhawk himself didn’t really believe in or care about these so-called ‘gods’. If they truly were all-powerful and benevolent, why wouldn’t they save all of mankind?
Why wouldn’t they save the wastelands?