Cloudhawk could hear a low growl emanating from behind him. This caused his heart to sink even further. There was a scavenger below the dais, and his hideous, tumor-warped face was contorted into a mask of rage. The scavenger was gnashing its jagged black teeth as it glared viciously at him.
There was actually a sweeper here!
This sweeper was fairly small, roughly the same size as Cloudhawk. The vast majority of sweepers had gone off to fight the mercenaries, leaving only the smallest one behind. The junior sweeper picked up yet another javelin and was just about to throw it. Although the sweeper was young, he was able to throw javelins with enough speed and power to pierce a man’s body.
Cloudhawk furiously leapt down from the dais, throwing himself towards the sweeper and knocking him to the ground. Cloudhawk used the sharp metal shard in his right hand to furiously stab at the sweeper, but the sweeper’s body was simply too tough. Cloudhawk’s own hand was sliced open by the metal shard, but he wasn’t able to pierce the sweeper’s body.
Although the young sweeper was inexperienced, his body was still far tougher than Cloudhawk’s. A single kick from his two legs sent Cloudhawk into the air, and he landed on the ground over a meter away. Blood was leaking from Cloudhawk’s nose and mouth, and the world before his eyes had just turned blurry. He randomly tossed out the metal shard as hard as he could.
The sharp metal shard actually struck the young sweeper, but it wasn’t able to cause much damage at all. The young sweeper rose to his feet, then used his javelin to stab at the human on the ground.
Cloudhawk’s animalistic instincts warned him of the impending danger. He almost immediately rolled away to dodge the attack, and the javelin split apart as it stabbed into the ground.
Although this sweeper was very young, he was every bit as strong as a normal adult human. The sweeper let out a low growl, not having expected this scavenger to be so agile. He tossed away the shattered bits of javelin-wood in his hands, then turned and grabbed a long knife from one of the cabinets behind him.
Cloudhawk picked up the broken half of the javelin. Just as the sweeper was turning towards him, he used virtually all of his energy to jump to his feet, then delivered a two-handed blow with the javelin as he drove it towards the sweeper’s head.
This strike used up almost all of Cloudhawk’s energy.
Crunch! The tip of the broken javelin was driven straight through the sweeper’s left eye, going in by quite a few inches. A large amount of black blood and other viscous liquids spurted out from the injury.
The sweeper let out an agonized, maddened cry as he wildly lashed out with the long knife in his hands. As Cloudhawk dodged backwards, his shoulder was cut by one of the chops, resulting in a section of his flesh being sheared off.
Cloudhawk retreated back to the dais. The young sweeper wildly flailed about for a few moments, then finally fell to the ground, a look of agony and confusion in his remaining eye.
Cloudhawk panted heavily, completely exhausted and feeble. He stared silently at the corpse of the young sweeper for quite a few moments. If the young sweeper hadn’t suffered a mutation, he probably would’ve been a human of the same age as Cloudhawk himself. He was a sentient being who would’ve had parents, brothers, family…
A pained smile appeared on Cloudhawk’s face as he turned, dragging his weary body up the steps of the dais. He stretched out his blood-soaked right hand, then clenched it around the levitating jewel.
The entire world seemed to shake. A swirl of dust appeared above the dais, and both Cloudhawk and the strange jewel simultaneously vanished. It was as though they had evaporated into thin air, disappearing from the world!
In the instant that Cloudhawk’s hand closed around the jewel, a stream of blindingly bright light leaked out from between his fingers. It was as though he wasn’t holding a stone in his hands; rather, he was holding a miniature sun. In the same instant, a strange type of energy surged through his hands and into the rest of his body, seeming to infiltrate every single one of his cells.
The incredibly powerful surge of energy covered the entire area, causing space itself to twist and distort.
Cloudhawk had never seen such a horrifying sight before. Everything before him was twisting and distorting. It was as though the world around him was a bucket of water, and someone was using a stick to kick up a whirlpool. The invisible energy furiously tore at every cell in his body, ripping every single one into a million little pieces.
The entire world had disappeared. Cloudhawk had been brought into a new, strange world with no light, no dark, no matter, and no energy. It was a world filled with many rippling strings, some straight and some circular. Each time one of the strings was thrummed, a strange sound could be heard.
It was like hundreds of millions of guitar strings being played at the same time, forming an entire world unto themselves, with Cloudhawk being part of it. Cloudhawk was able to maintain his clarity of thought, and stared in absolute terror at the bizarre world around him. He wasn’t certain if he was alive or not.
The countless strings began to join together, forming all sorts of strange, chaotic lines of light which then blended and twisted together to form images. Cloudhawk had been ‘weightless’ this entire time, but he suddenly sensed a powerful force drag him downwards.
Bang! Cloudhawk landed against an extremely tough and coarse stone floor.
Cloudhawk pressed his hands against the stone floor, wanting to throw up. Unfortunately, there was nothing in his stomach. His head was in a complete daze right now, and his ears were ringing. He couldn’t even see clearly. All of his senses were in a state of complete chaos, and he wasn’t even able to tell if the world before him was a real one or a fake one. He had never experienced anything like this before.
Slowly, his senses began to stabilize. As it did, the first feeling he had was… hot! Odd. Isn’t it night time? Why is the area around me filled with blinding sunlight?
It was so hot. Where was he?
Cloudhawk’s nose was filled with a sulfurous smell. As his vision grew clearer and clearer, the look of astonishment on his face grew greater and greater as well. What appeared before him was something which completely surpassed his wildest imaginings.
This was a world where the black stone ground was filled with so many crevices, it looked as though countless termites had bored through it. This entire world was like a piece of glass that someone had viciously stomped down on but had been unable to completely destroy. The chasms in the world were unfathomably deep, but flickers of flames could be vaguely seen, as though the fires of hell might erupt from within the chasms at any moment.
Far away in front of him was a series of egg-shaped mountain ranges, shrouded in a layer of gauze-like dust storms. The mountains seemed to have been sculpted by human hands in the past, and there had to be tens of thousands of those sculptures carved into the mountains. They were like chess pieces scattered across a board in a neat, orderly, and awe-inspiring manner.
Where the hell was he? Was he dreaming?
The air here was so hot that Cloudhawk could barely breathe. He immediately raised his head to stare towards the distant skies… and what he saw caused his eyes to nearly pop out of their sockets.
There were two dazzling, light-emitting entities in the skies; a large sun and a small sun. They hung in the skies at the same time, emanating blinding halos of light that baked this cracked, parched earth. Aside from the two suns, there was also an utterly enormous red gas giant that filled nearly half of the skies. Two enormous windstorms could be seen on the gas giant in the form of two giant yellow ‘spots’, and a slanted ring of yellow light could be seen circling around this gas giant. This truly was an absolutely stunning sight!
How could his weak little heart possibly withstand such an incredible, unbelievable transformation in the world?
“AH!!!!” Cloudhawk felt as though the blood in his body was flowing backwards, and he couldn’t help but let out an uncontrollable, shrill scream. The jewel in his hands once more lit up, and that strange surge of energy once more twisted the world around him. There was no way Cloudhawk could endure this transfer process a second time, and he immediately fell completely unconscious.
The spatial ripples around him vanished, as did he himself. The world around him remained as deathly silent and forlorn as ever, as though no living creatures had ever appeared on its surface before.
Slyfox and Mad Dog had completed their bloody battle. They had suffered a few wounds, but the mutants had been completely destroyed and almost every last one of them had been wiped out.
“Man, late-stage strength metas like you really are almost unstoppable in close combat.” The fat man roared with laughter, then lit a cigarette for Mad Dog. “These were a rare breed of mutants; intelligent yet highly mutated, and with the ability to stably propagate future generations. Every single one of these corpses will earn us a ton of money. This deal will keep us fed for half a year!”
Mad Dog took a deep puff of his cigarette. He was also quite happy with his performance in this battle. “You always end up spending all of your money on women, you randy bastard. How long do you really think this money will last you? I’m warning you upfront; you are NOT allowed to touch my share of the money!”
“The hell?! Man, you really don’t know how to talk to others!”
The reason why they had been so successful was all thanks to the fat man first releasing so much bait into the tunnels. It had allowed the two of them to home in on the mutant camp. If it hadn’t been for that… given how complicated the layout of the tunnels was, they probably wouldn’t have been able to locate it that quickly. These mutants were smart ones, after all.
“Hey, boss!” A mercenary up ahead suddenly called out to them. “One of the scavs is still alive!”
A living scav? No way!
An emaciated youth was lying there on the ground, his face as pale as a sheet of paper and devoid of all blood. The kid had completely passed out.
“Oho! The kid actually made it?”
“You gonna take’m back with us, boss?”
“Fuck that. You gonna be the one responsible for feeding him if I do?” Clearly, none of the scavengers knew what Slyfox was like and how he acted. He didn’t even view scavengers as being members of the same race as him; why would he ever fulfill his promises to them? He was, however, quite puzzled. “The kid ran around here for hours but managed to avoid suffering any injuries at all. He really does have some bullshit luck.”
“Look at his chest.” An intrigued, clever look flashed through Mad Dog’s eyes. “Judging from the blood patterns, there should’ve been a wound there. A deep one, at that.”
The fat man hesitated for a moment. “You tellin’ me…”
“Give’m a try and we’ll know for sure.” Mad Dog pulled out a knife from his waistband. The knife flashed so incredibly quickly that it could barely be seen, and in the next instant it was already back in its sheath. A bloody wound had appeared on the boy’s left arm, and fresh blood began to leak out of it. Roughly ten or so seconds later, the bloody wound slowly began to close as the flesh and skin started to stitch itself together at a visible pace.
“Fuck my eyes. He’s a meta!”
The fat man’s face tightened while Mad Dog frowned. From the looks of things, the kid was actually a metahuman, but he only had first-stage regenerative abilities. It didn’t make sense for him to have been able to heal such a deep wound on his chest. What the hell was going on?
“Take’m back with us, rookies!” Although there was no time for a detailed examination and no way to figure out what his specific power was, his healing speed alone proved that he had first-stage regenerative abilities. Anyone with a superpower was considered a metahuman, and any metahuman was worth training.
And so, the unconscious boy’s fate was completely changed!
Cloudhawk was dreaming. The contents of his dream were quite similar to that of the paintings he had seen. A group of hideous, evil, yet incredibly strong creatures were leading tens of thousands of mutants in a war against the human race. They were brutal, savage, and unspeakably cruel, and the human race suffered repeated losses against them, to the point where humanity was nearly wiped out.
And yet… right at this moment, those radiant, sacred beings suddenly appeared. They gifted mankind with all sorts of miraculous weapons, and in the end they joined forces with humanity to fight back against the tide, turning defeat into victory.
The dream was a scattered one which came and went in fits and starts. The exact details were unclear, but the dream itself felt strangely real, almost as though he had personally taken part in it before.