Skye Polaris read through the report three times, then boomed with laughter like an enormous copper bell. “Good! You’ve done good. The Court and the governor were handily defeated – you brought honor to our house. Beautiful!”
Dawn Polaris achieved excellent results in the tunnels below the city, killing over a hundred escaped convicts and capturing a hundred more. Most impressively, the ones she did capture were violent offenders from the dungeon – the most dangerous of the lot.
This impetuous, moody niece of his had done very well.
Skye had noticed some maturity in her over the last few days. She hadn’t been going around stirring up trouble, and she did what she was told conscientiously. It was a welcome, if entirely unexpected change.
“What would you like as a reward?” Skye quickly added, “Not Cloudhawk. Don’t even suggest it.”
Dawn glared at him. “Who cares about your reward?”
Skye watched as she turned to leave. “Where are you going?”
“What are you headed there for?” He shouted after her, confused. “Make sure Cloudhawk is ready to go! He’s being sent off in only a few days, don’t procrastinate!”
Dawn Polaris frowned but did not reply.
Several dozen people stood at the transit station, laden with goods.
Cloudhawk looked over the Bloomnettle survivors. “Even with the general’s pardon, Skycloud city can no longer accept you. Go and find somewhere else in the domain to settle down. Live out your days in peace. Don’t say anything that’ll get you in trouble. You all are elysians so you know this better than I do. I don’t think you need any more nonsense from me.”
There were eighty or so Bloomnettle survivors left. They were fortunate after such a disaster!
But Lily and the others wore downcast expressions. Were they once more fated to wander without a home? It seemed to be the best choice!
“Hey, getting out of that hellhole alive was lucky. Why the long faces? Better days are on the horizon, right?” He saw their anxious and confused expressions. “Is something wrong?”
Lily was worried about the future. Everything happened so fast at the headquarters and they’d been thrown in prison with only the clothes on their backs. Now their home was shut and all their goods removed.
Making sure such a large group stayed healthy and together was not going to be easy!
Lily was a physician, but her skills weren’t exceptional. Other cities couldn’t offer as much as Skycloud city, either. How was she supposed to take care of everyone? How was she supposed to make sure the children grew up well? With a childhood like this none of them would get good jobs like being soldiers or demonhunters.
“Don’t worry, I’ve thought about all of this.” Cloudhawk handed over a heavy bag. “Take it! It’s the money I’ve saved up, I can’t spend it here anywhere. Use it to make sure you and the others live happily.”
She took it from him, and judging by the weight she figured there were about a hundred coins. When she pulled on the drawstring and looked inside her eyes immediately went wide. She was right about the number, but what she hadn’t guessed was that the pile was all gold. A hundred gold coins!
How many years would Bloomnettle Company have had to save to accumulate this much? Cloudhawk just handed it over, without so much as a blink!
Cloudhawk gave her a questioning look. “What is it? Not enough?”
“Oh it’s enough. More than enough.” Lily hurriedly pulled the bag closed. “I don’t know how to thank you.”
“’Thanks’ works, and let that be the end of it. Forget everything that’s happened and anything having to do with me. Just live your lives.”
Cloudhawk didn’t care about what he was giving up. To normal folk a hundred gold coins was a fortune, but for him it meant little. Dawn still owed him.
He didn’t want to see these people ever again. In fact it would have been better if he’d never met them at all. It seemed like tragedy followed him wherever he went. These sorts of common, good-hearted people were helpless once they became victims. Cloudhawk didn’t care what would become of them in the future –whether they’d make it or not. He just didn’t want them to suffer because of him.
“That’s all I can do. The ship’s coming, time to say goodbye.”
Cloudhawk waved and, saying all that needed to be said, quickly left them on the platform. He walked away unhurriedly and never looked back.
Lily and the others watched him go with conflicted hearts. If they hadn’t met this wanderer all the core members of the company would have died out in the borderlands. However after meeting him their leaders were gone, and their livelihood destroyed.
But then he risked his life for them, and if he hadn’t they would all have faced a bleak and uncertain future. Exile from the elysian lands, if they were lucky.
Cloudhawk’s relaxed posture was misleading. He’d risked everything for them.
They were banished from Skycloud city, but at least they’d been absolved of their crimes and had a chance for a normal life. A quiet and ordinary life somewhere was more than enough.
What would stay with them forever – what they lost and could not recover – was their faith.
Cloudhawk didn’t need to do all that he’d done, and in fact he wasn’t sure why he did. He wasn’t a very charitable man. Over the last half a year he’d killed many, and never hesitated.
What wastelander’s hands weren’t stained with blood?
There was no thought given to ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ in Cloudhawk’s green. There wasn’t such a thing as good or evil. Either he wanted to do it, or he didn’t – that was how he made his decisions. After sending Lily and the others to the platform his responsibilities were done. The matter, as far as he was concerned, was settled.
Cloudhawk whistled on his way back to the mansion. When he arrived he found that Dawn was not there. Bored, he decided to pass the time practicing.
Of the thirty-six postures Selene Cloude had taught him, Cloudhawk could now do twenty-seven or twenty-eight in a row. It showed that he had been improving. As he went through the motions he didn’t feel tired necessarily, but progressively hotter. By the end he was drenched in sweat. 
Time passed quickly and before he knew it night had fallen. A voice interrupted his training.
“Idiot, this isn’t the sort of practice you should do without guidance!” Cloudhawk didn’t need to look to know Dawn had returned. “I guess Selene never told you that straight training like this can damage the body?”
Cloudhawk slowly stopped and turned to face her. “What do you mean?”
“This is a body forging method for demonhunters, but if you overdo it you can strain or damage your muscles and tendons. You’re supposed to supplement your practicing with medicinal herbs. Otherwise if you aren’t careful you could hurt yourself, even cause permanent damage.” Dawn stood in front of him with her arms crossed and a critical expression on her face. “I can see that Selene really didn’t have your safety in mind. She was trying to make you a cripple. You really shouldn’t have anything more to do with that vicious woman.”
How deep does the nastiness go between these two? What a clumsy attempt to drive a wedge between us.
Dawn’s warnings were really only half genuine. Improper practice was responsible for a lot of injuries, but saying it would cripple him was a baseless exaggeration.
Cloudhawk didn’t believe Selene would try to hurt him this way. There weren’t any sorts of medicine he could use out in the wastelands, but he recovered from wounds quickly. So far his development had been well-balanced and there wasn’t any danger.
Dawn beckoned him with a wave of his hand. “Come to my room. I have something I want to give you.”
She’d made a trip to the sanctuary and brought back some things for her new friend. Among them were a thousand or so jade-like pellets which she explained was feed for divine beasts. Were it not for her mother’s connections they never would have gotten their hands on it.
Cloudhawk picked one up and put it beside Oddball.
The strange little bird immediately perked up and gobbled it down. From the wave of happiness that coursed through their psychic connection Cloudhawk knew it was just what his companion needed.
“This batch of feed cost two thousands gold coins,” Dawn revealed. “I also prepared some medicines for you. Some are for healing, some are to make you stronger, and some are to improve your psychic power. All told they were also two thousand gold coins. Since I owe you let’s call it three thousand you need to repay, alright?”
Dawn Polaris laid out a bunch of jade bottles containing special elysian elixirs. There were three; Body-Quenching Elixir, Soul-Purifying Elixir, and Sacred-Healing Elixir. . The Body-Quenching formula was used to temper one’s physical abilities. Soul-Purifying Elixir bolstered physic energy. As the name implied the last one, Sacred-Healing Elixir, was a high-grade healing potion that restored both physical damage and exhaustion. These were special formulas made by the sanctuary that even wealthy citizens couldn’t buy. In addition there were several more liniments and balms, none of which looks typical.
Cloudhawk opened his mouth to protest. “How are they so expensive? You decided all this on your own, I never said I wanted any of it.”
“You ungrateful brat, you want to get whooped?!” She smacked him so hard with her fist it almost made Cloudhawk puke blood. She growled at him menacingly. “Let me tell you, this is the insider price. Medicine like this is only used for those with noble blood, it’s wasted on a wastelander scoundrel like you. Anyone else could beg to spend the money and still be denied! If it wasn’t for my mother you wouldn’t have gotten any of this. Do you have any idea what I had to sacrifice?
She thought about just what she’d had to promise in order to get Cloudhawk all of this. Her mother had made her swear to a year of seclusion in the Temple. She would spend twelve long months training, cultivating, and giving obeisance to the gods. She might as well have asked for Dawn to take her own life. A year without booze, meat or fun of any kind! It was the same as dying.
Then for him to be so ungrateful! Of course she’d be furious.
“I’m just saying, you play too rough. Luckily my bones are tough.” Cloudhawk gently rubbed his aching chest where she’d struck him. He didn’t like owing anyone anything. “Are we going to the Order of Demonhunters any time soon? Do you want me to go grab any treasures? I’ve gotta get rid of this debt while I’m still in the city.”
“Whatever, they don’t have auctions every day. Anyway, with your eye going every once in a while is good enough. If we kept screwing with their system the Order would quickly start to hate you. Stealing wasn’t a long-term plan, either.”
“What can I do then?”
“Pay with your body?”
Cloudhawk looked her up and down. “You sure?”
Dawn’s face immediately turned red. “What the hell are you thinking? Who’d want your body that way? I’m saying you be my servant. A thousand gold a year, what do you say? Pretty good, just to follow me around and have fun don’t you think?”
“You little moth-… fine, owe me then. So long as you owe me I know you aren’t going anywhere.” Dawn shook her head. “Ah right, you’ll be leaving in a few days. So don’t die before you pay me back!”
Outwardly she was obstinate and coarse, but Cloudhawk knew inside she was a sensitive woman. “I promise,” he replied.
“It’s still early.” To him Dawn looked a little uneasy. She waved her small hand. “Let’s go, time for a drink!”
Cloudhawk blinked at her. “You’re still in the mood for a drink?”
“Just drink,” she said. “I’m not interested in competing with a freak like you again. You coming or not?”
The two left the mansion together.
1. What he describes is likely meant to be very similar to Taiji or Qigong. While I was doing Taiji in the beginning, although the movements are slow it can be very tiring. It’s about control and stamina. Over time as your muscles get stronger you can do more postures – depending on the style one ‘round’ of Taiji is a hundred and eight postures, but the longest is over two hundred. While it gets physically less intensive that doesn’t stop you from sweating like crazy, which is true for Qigong standing meditation as well. The Chinese believe that these exercises activates and circulates qi throughout the body, which causes you to sweat. From a traditional medicine theory perspective ‘wei’ qi, or defensive qi, controls the action of the pores so manipulating it can cause sweating.
2. At the risk of making traditional Chinese medicine sound like a Hogwarts class, a lot of their medicinal formulae have similarly dramatic names. ‘Decoction of the Blue-Green Dragon’, ‘Three Immortals’, ‘Mysterious Decoction’ etc. Not all or even most, really, but they’re fun when you see them.
This is starting to seem like a beautiful friendship... which, with Cloudhawk's luck, means Dawn is probably going to die soon :P (that's a joke, not a spoiler)