Book 2, Chapter 106 - Instructing the Instructors

So how was Cloudhawk going to prove it?

The instructors were almost choked by the gall of this guy. Eckard, with his swagger and self-assurance, was especially annoyed.

And yet, much to his surprise and anger, Natessa agreed! Of the three of them, she was the one most steeped in self-importance. Was she off her meds or something? Eckard was at a loss, but since she agreed to the guy’s request fighting her on it wasn’t going to do any good.

Really, Cloudhawk made some good points. Frost was a man of great influence now, getting rid of a single trainee from Hell’s Valley would be as simple as lifting a finger.

Under normal circumstances, Hell’s Valley could shrug off the commands. However, the scars from their loss to the Dark Atom were still fresh. It left them ashamed. The risks and costs of standing up against someone like Frost at this point were not worth it.

They were practical people here in Hell’s Valley. Those with value stuck around, those without were cut loose. It’d always been that way. After all, these ‘students’ weren’t really soldiers in their troop. They were trainees, here to learn and then to leave. If Cloudhawk wanted to seek asylum under the wing of Hell’s Army, he was going to have to prove he was a worthy burden to bear.

Eckard got it, but he didn’t like it. He was especially rankled by the way the scrub held his head up high like he was worth a damn. The instructor itched to teach him a lesson. Ever since becoming captain, Cloudhawk had gradually lost his fear of them. Who knew where his overconfidence came from? Natessa and Dumont were senior demonhunters, while Eckard himself was a prime martial artist.

And who the fuck was Cloudhawk?

He wasn’t some lauded demonhunter, neither was he a martial artist far as he could tell. And here he was, with the gall to think he could show the instructors a thing or two. Was there anyone with a more inflated ego? He was a dipshit, and his actions were a clear provocation. There were a lot of a talented people in the training camp, and behavior like this could not be encouraged.

Eckard spoke up. “I won’t mince words. If you’re wasting our fuckin time, I’m gonna cut you into strips and eat you with a glass of wine.”

Cloudhawk irreverently rolled his eyes. He focused on Natessa. Yeah… she’s definitely easier on the eyes.

She could definitely be described as a bright light in the bleak landscape that was Hell’s Valley. Not only strong, she was very pretty too, and slow to anger. Those sorts who always ran their mouths were usually not worth the wasted air, but Cloudhawk was different. His performance during the tests had her looking at him with new eyes. That’s why she chose to give him a chance.

“I’d like to use your boots for a second.”

She offered no objection, removing her boots and handing them to Cloudhawk. He slipped them on, and after only a few steps he felt their power. Suddenly every movement was lithe and easy, quick and effortless.

Eckard raised a brow. Natessa actually lent him her relic?

Any elysian child knew that a demonhunter’s relic wasn’t just a weapon. It was their identity, their honor, their standing. They were gifts from the gods, not to be given away lightly. Even loaning them to someone was hard to accept. No matter where or under what circumstance, taking a relic from a demonhunter was a sign of disrespect.

Outwardly Natessa looked as calm as a summer breeze, but Eckard knew her better. When she was angered she was like a thunderstorm, ten times more ferocious than he ever was. For a woman like her to willingly give up a relic – and watch the other person put them on – it was unthinkable. Was she under some kind of spell?

Dumont remained as silent as a statue, but the light from his puzzled eyes glinted through the slit in his helmet.

As a demonhunter, Dumont’s concerns were different from Eckard’s. He wondered what Cloudhawk was up to. The psychic energy of every demonhunter was unique, meaning the relics they could resonate with were different. Most demonhunters were only attuned to one kind of relic. One in every ten might be able to use two, and even fewer a third kind.

Cloudhawk carried a few odd relics on his person. They weren’t the typical kind either – wind, water, fire, earth, light, dark or thunder. He wasn’t able to pin down precisely what attributes they were, actually, but they definitely weren’t wind. So what was he up to?

They were a little tight at first, but after a few strides Natessa’s windstepper boots resized to fit his feet. After testing them out for a moment he stopped, standing in place, and shut his eyes.

Every relic had its own unique rhythm.

Cloudhawk could feel it, like a song vibrating through his bones.

He’d always been able to differentiate the unique sounds of a relic, but not the secrets hidden in the rhythm. However, after inheriting the wisdom of his predecessor these secrets were unlocked. Things made more sense, he was beginning to understand.

An inadequate example was to compare the resonance of relics to a sort of language. While he might have been able to hear the words before – their cadence, how they were different - he could not grasp their meaning. The phase stone’s fallen master taught Cloudhawk how to listen for their substance, and he was beginning to understand. It was a great help in guiding him to the true power of the relics he encountered.

Something inside him was convinced that if he could go beyond understanding the language… if he could learn to ‘speak’ it… then like the gods and demons of old he could create relics of his own. Or, as his predecessor hoped, become like a relic himself.

Focus. One problem at a time.

He had to convince these three. Not just to make his time here easier, but to avoid that bastard Frost’s schemes. He felt he understood the relic’s nature now, and with a leap soared three meters into the air. At the peak of his trajectory, he poured his psychic energy into the boots and pushed. The boots bore down, glowing with light, then released a burst of teal energy.

It was like stepping on a spring.

With a whoosh he rocketed another eight or nine meters, fast and hard to control. He almost smashed into the ground, but luckily he managed to push off with his hands and flip back into the air. He ultimately landed nimbly on his feet.

The three instructors stared in shock. He’d channeled the boots!

He had the ability to use wind-type relics!

What was even harder to understand was that even if he did have the talent for wind relics, he’d only just put those boots on. How could he have mastered them right away? Demonhunters needed time to become familiar with their tools, to break them in. That process could be as quick as a week or as long as six months, then they were confident enough to use a relic properly. Before that point their power was unstable. Cloudhawk, however, simply slipped the windstep boots onto his feet and could use them naturally. 

For his part, Cloudhawk didn’t know he was doing something so extraordinary. He stamped his feet illustratively and sighed with satisfaction. “Nice boots. Just walking across the breeze, they deserve their reputation. With these you can rush right through the enemy like a gust of wind. Only…”

Natessa saw him hesitate and pressed for more. “Only what?”

“The windstep boots aren’t just about windbursts to get you up in the air.” He looked down at the teal boots as he spoke. “I’m pretty sure they’re also a nasty weapon!”

Natessa was speechless.

Like most demonhunters from aristocratic families, the windstep boots were a family heirloom. Never once had anyone in her family suggested these boots could be used offensively. It was natural for her to doubt Cloudhawk’s assertion.

He knew that merely saying so wasn’t going to convince them, but he wasn’t intending to deceive anyone. “Well, talking about it isn’t going to prove anything. You’ll see when we try. Look closely.”

Practice dummies were arrayed around the training areas. They were the same sort he’d seen at the House of Demonhunters, designed to test relics.

With a deep breath Cloudhawk focused his intention on his feet. The pair of boots began to radiated with a teal hue and air concentrated around them, rippling. Violent gusts centered on the relic, and under Cloudhawk’s guidance started to coalesce. Bit by bit it started to form an orb of power.

“Watch!”

Cloudhawk lifted a foot. The teal orb rose with it.

He swung his leg, and the orb shot out. It struck the wooden dummy and abruptly released all its stored energy at once. The flood of power blew a chunk off the model, like a truck plowed through it. The impact sent it spiraling through the air where it hit the ground with a thud, ten meters away.

“What do you think? Now do you believe me?” Cloudhawk turned back to the instructors. “Your boots are able to condense air, allowing you to walk on it but also throw it out like a bomb. I’m sure Instructor Windham’s combat effectively will double once she masters this.”

Each of them openly gaped at the young man.

Natessa was amazed to find that, with a minor adjustment, the boots she used to traipse across the sky could also be used as an attack relic.

“Here, let me give these back.” Cloudhawk removed the windstep boots and handed them back to Natessa. Over the last several days he’d paid close attention to the instructors – Natessa and Dumont particularly – so he was well prepared. “As for the specifics, I’d be happy to explain them once the mission is complete.”

So that was how he planned to deal with this problem, she realized. He was worth something now, he had to come back alive.

What about Frost? It didn’t matter! Hell’s Valley was an independent organization, elysian rules didn’t apply to them. At worst some of the families might kick up a fuss, but that wasn’t worth losing sleep over.

But Eckard had a bad feeling about this.

Instructors weren’t afraid of training a bunch of idiots. What troubled them most was finding a student with talent. There was a chance they could surpass their teachers. How could they have any peace then? The way things were looking with Cloudhawk, he’d already reached that point and more. Nothing good was going to come of this!

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RWX's Thoughts

One convinced, two to go...