Book 2, Chapter 115 - Single Combat

Through their telepathic link, Cloudhawk ordered Oddball to keep looking around, and the bird reported Frost was nowhere in sight. He wasn’t in a rush to come for them? If he hadn’t joined the fight, there was still a chance for them. However, this did not ensure escape. After all, the Butcher was not a weak foe and there were several in his crew who were at least his equal. For the four rebels to fight their way through would be a difficult undertaking, to say the least. Doing that while protecting the villagers with them was practically impossible.

“Ah, I remember… it’s you, the one from before. I’m sorry, my memory’s pretty bad most of the time. I tend to forget the people whose asses I kick.” Cloudhawk played as though he was struggling to remember the man’s face. But Cloudhawk wasn’t nearly finished provoking the killer. “I have to say, you’re as tough to kill as a cockroach. Really, though, I figured if you were lucky enough to live you’d have the smarts to stay that way. Go find a hole somewhere, not come looking for more. If I can spank you once then I can spank you again. I killed you once, this time I’ll make sure it sticks.”

“You think you’re hot shit!” The Butcher’s eyes smoldered with anger, especially when he looked at the villagers behind Cloudhawk. The disgust in his eyes was born from disbelief. Veins bulged on his face and neck, but whether it was from anger or that’s just how he looked now, it was hard to determine. “There are probably terrorists hiding in that group. Saving them puts the whole domain at risk! You aren’t just disobeying orders, you spit in the face of the gods! Our divine keepers cannot suffer your insolence, so they have sent me.”

All this lip service, the Butcher sure was willing to be lapdog to these gods of his.

“Ugh, you make me fucking sick!” Gabriel’s face had begun to twitch. The other person buried inside him had begun to stir, the darker part of his soul wanted out. “Not killing you last time was my mistake. It’s not an error I’m going to repeat.”

The Butcher croaked a laugh. “Let’s see if you can.”

Ten other demonhunters dropped into combative postures. The three of them with exorcist bows draw back their strings. A palpable sense of mortal danger hung over the area. The rest of Butcher’s crew were still a mystery, who knew what sort of powers the demonhunters commanded? Fighting an enemy whose skills were unknown, especially demonhunters, was asking for trouble.

Most troublesome, of course, was making sure the villagers stayed safe.

Cloudhawk didn’t save these people out of pity. He did it because what the elysian soldiers was doing was wrong. He was irritated at how much trouble it was beginning to cause him.

In its ten years, Teal Ridge had never seen a demonhunter. There was no reason for the mighty agents of the gods to come through. Now there were a dozen, and they were here to kill them. Shock was to be expected. To these simple folk, demonhunters were superhuman. How could people such as them, who stood on the sidelines of their holy battles, protect themselves?

“Gabby! Back off!” Cloudhawk knew the others with the Butcher were not pushovers. Taking them all on at once was a recipe for disaster, so he had to take a gamble. Cloudhawk shoved his sword forward, stabbing the air and using it to point accusingly at his target. “Hey, ugly. You’re still pretty sore about losing to me, am I right? You probably wanna kill me so bad. Take your shot, then. Right here, right now, you and me. Single combat. You got the balls?”

Gabriel’s bloodthirst abated and Naberius was forced back down before he could surface. He understood Cloudhawk’s intention.

Single combat? Drake and Claudia had no idea what drugs Cloudhawk was on.

It was a race against time for them, how did they have time for a duel? What they should be doing is holding this men off while the villagers escape. If they were lucky most of them would escape. But the longer they delayed, the more likely Frost – or valley soldiers – would arrive and seal their fate.

The Butcher’s inhuman face twisted into a mask of ferocious anger. His defeat at Cloudhawk’s hands had been the greatest shame of his life. It was unbearable seeing him swagger around with such arrogance. Did this lowlife really think he stood a chance?

“Don’t tell me you don’t even have the guts to face the challenge?” Cloudhawk saw the anger, but the Butcher still didn’t accept. It was clear he was right that the guy was bothered by it, but still hadn’t let his emotions take control. He had to be wondering if this was some kind of trap. Cloudhawk just kept digging. “You lose to me, then don’t even have the courage for a rematch. And you have the fuckin’ gall to call yourself a soldier. If anything you’re an insult to the gods!”

Fine! I’ll give you what you want!” The Butcher heaved his ball and chain like a vengeful ghost. “I’ll smash you into paste!”

“Quit fuckin’ chatting then! Bring it on!”

Cloudhawk raised his sword and lunged at his foe, nothing fancy about it. As he rushed ahead, everywhere his feet touched left behind a trail of sand. The granules gathered and spread.

The Butcher growled at the others to stand their ground. The other demonhunters weren’t happy with the arrangement, but they were still certain the Butcher would win. Even if he didn’t the results would be the same. These three young demonhunters and the martial artist couldn’t stop all of them.

Two different vibrations from two different relics tickled Cloudhawk’s senses. One was, of course, the enormous ball and chain the Butcher used as his weapon. The second one he still hadn’t been able to pick out, his opponent was holding it until the right moment. But Cloudhawk wasn’t worried. He was sure nothing this guy could do was a danger to him.

Clatter-clank!

The sound of iron chains rattled across the battlefield. It was the Butcher’s weapon, fateful anvil!

It was a metal-type relic. Just as ice-type relics were an extension of water, metal was a branch of earth. Demonhunters with the talent for metal were rare, and the Butcher was one of them. Frost kept him close in part because of his uncommon talent.

The fateful anvil’s area of attack, as well as its attack strength, was in direct proportion to the amount of psychic energy put into it. The length of its chain and the weight of the spiked ball were controlled by the bearer’s will.

“Die!”

As the Butcher screamed his relic fired at Cloudhawk like a cannonball. It missed him and struck the ground, leaving a crater. Nevermind the skinny wastelander, someone with Drake’s constitution would be smashed flat by such a blow. Shockwaves were visibly radiating from where the ball landed.

Cloudhawk disappeared from view.

“Such insignificant skill!”

The Butcher scowled darkly and heaved on the chain, wrenching fateful anvil from the ground. He whipped it through the air like a lethal metal whirlwind. He couldn’t tell where Cloudhawk had disappeared to, so the easiest method was to strike everywhere at once and try to flush him out.

Drake watched the Butcher and his tactics, sure of Cloudhawk’s superiority. There was no denying this psychopath was strong, and even Drake would be gravely wounded with even one hit from his relic, but Cloudhawk was different. It was like trying to beat water by repeatedly slapping its surface. However strong he was the force wasn’t going to find its target.

Cloudhawk most unique abilities were invisibility and phasing.

His phasing ability wasn’t invincible, of course. If the blow was strong enough, the material dense enough, the energy high enough, then he was helpless. All of the fateful anvil’s most threatening power was concentrated in the spiked ball, and if that caught Cloudhawk then he was done for.

Yet the Butcher was left with no way to tell where his opponent was hiding, so his only recourse was to swing his weapon all around and hope. Ultimately, the danger from his relic was a straight line. If Cloudhawk avoided it, and let the chain slip through him – he would be unharmed.

And that’s just what he did.

The fateful anvil swept by, but didn’t even ruffle Cloudhawk’s clothes. Even the most intrepid attacks were eventually exhausted, so after a few swings the Butcher was visibly beginning to slow. That was when Cloudhawk struck. Quiet carnage carved a deathly silent arc through the air, right for the Butcher’s head.

Two months of training hadn’t been wasted on Cloudhawk. He’d made impressive strides in both speed and strength. Compared to their chase through deadwood forest, he put more behind this single strike that that whole fight combined. The Butcher was swinging his ball and chain, and although it had tremendous power is severely hampered his movement and defense.

The dark weapon slashed downward. A deadly waterfall of steel.

As Cloudhawk and his attack reappeared, the Butcher’s companions looked on in shock. They saw that he was caught, there was no way Frost’s newest pet could avoid the blow. But as Cloudhawk’s slash was about to cut the Butcher’s head in two, a strange smirk spread across the ugly man’s face. In that same instant, Cloudhawk felt the second relic resonate. At the last moment he held back, just enough to be prepared for whatever was coming. But he still followed through with the attack.

The onlookers did not see the Butcher’s head get split like a ripe melon. The sword struck him and bounced off like he’d tried to chop a copper bell. No sound was made.

In the instant before Cloudhawk’s sword landed, the Butcher’s skin was covered in a metallic luster. All of a sudden his skin was a hundred times tougher. All Cloudhawk managed was the tiniest gash across his foe’s head, not even deep enough to reveal bone.

Was he made out of metal?

From one moment to another, it was as though the Butcher had turned into a bronze statue. His skin was iron and his bones were steel, so even Cloudhawk couldn’t cut his way through. A metal-type demonhunter indeed! In addition to his infinitely dangerous fateful anvil, the Butcher also was protected by a doughty defensive relic. 

“That was your plan? Absolutely pitiful!” Where the Butcher was frightening before, now he dominated the battlefield like a pit demon. Once his body turned to metal, his voice was like a thousand frogs croaking through an iron megaphone. 

“My turn!”

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RWX's Thoughts

The iron butcher?  Tougher than expected, but no doubt Cloudhawk still gonna waste him.