The Dark Atom’s Nirvana defense system was a man-made natural disaster – a mass volcanic eruption they could somehow unleash at will. The Blisterpeak mountain range was a massive swath of territory, pock-marked with volcanoes ready to burst. If any one of them blew, then dozens of kilometers would be covered in deadly lava. What’s more, the scale of even one volcano was monstrous. If just the mountain Nucleus was located under blew its top, the results were catastrophic.
At the very least, elysian soldiers caught in the cataclysm would become hard pressed to find safety. A single person’s strength in the face of nature’s fury meant nothing.
Once Nirvana was triggered, the area for kilometers around Nucleus would be buried beneath liquid stone and volcanic ash for a long time. Everything within range died, and for a long while the city would remain isolated from the outside world for it would be impossible to get close. In preparation for this, Nucleus had long ago established an enclosed ecosystem. They had food, water, and resources to keep itself going without outside help for the better part of a decade. It was their greatest trump card, only to be used in the most dire of circumstances.
At the site of their great battle, the mountain range had already become a sea of lava. Ash lay over tides of angry red stone, thick as mud but surging like the tide. Its fiery glare painted the mountain sides in dramatic hues as swells of lava came sweeping through the valleys. Those caught in the open were washed away, dead before they could drown.
In this moment, heaven and earth had no boundaries.
Beyond the reach of the lava tides, orbs of it spat from the volcanoes were still falling. They struck the ground like missiles, sometimes dozens of kilometers away, stealing the safety of the air. Elysian warships dodged and weaved, but to no avail. Pyroclasts slammed into their hulls, blasted them apart and setting ablaze everything it touched. There was no succor for the humans caught in the blast zone.
All of that bullshit he was spitting at Drake… Cloudhawk never thought he’d actually be right.
It really was a trap. They were hiding all these years, making people think they were afraid of Skycloud, so that when they were actually discovered the elysians would come running. Of course they would throw everything they had at the Dark Atom, as quickly as they could before the rats could scurry away back into their holes. Little did they know, bringing their full might was playing right into the rebels’ hands.
The Dark Atom had held back on activating Nirvana, too. Wolfblade wanted his net full to bursting before he pulled in the haul.
What a terrible cost the elysians had paid for their hatred!
Cloudhawk never had much trouble getting himself out of sticky situations. This time it was a much taller order to save a whole squad of soldiers, and it was a task he very nearly failed. But he gritted his teeth and drew on everything inside of himself, recklessly drawing on his potential.
Waves of stifling heat were closing in. He felt like his head might explode!
Brontes and Roc felt the scorching heat wash over them and had already lost hope. How were they supposed to get out of this?
Cloudhawk ignored their surroundings, focusing everything on the phase stone. There was an ocean of physic force within he, he’d seen it! Why couldn’t he call on that power for himself?
Why was he always restricted to calling on such a small token of this inheritance? Why wasn’t he given more? Cloudhawk wasn’t satisfied with boundaries. He needed what the stone could offer, it was the only way to save himself and the others from annihilation.
“Get out! Give it to me!”
Drake saw him struggling. “If you can’t do it then save yourself. Get out of here!”
“Shut the fuck up! ” Cloudhawk had been born with a stubborn spirit, and it was that he drew on. Veins bulged on his forehead and the vessels in his eyes became engorged. “Who says I can’t do it?! I’ll fuckin’ show you what I can do!”
Both will and body were pushed their highest limits when at last a blinding light burst from the phase stone.
In the recesses of his mind Cloudhawk saw the sea of mental energy. A large margin of it evaporated, but did not vanish. Instead it hung in the darkness like a cloud, while a portion of it was drawn into him.
To him it felt like a breath of fresh air. A cool gush of water flowing through his body and mind. His own mental energies were like a trickle, but now all of a sudden it was stream.
Got it! I fuckin’ got it!
His elation wasn’t because he succeeded in calling the stone’s power. Cloudhawk was happy because he managed to make that power his own. This wasn’t merely a surge of temporary strength, it was a breakthrough!
Since obtaining the phase stone, it became the source of much of Cloudhawk’s mental energies. Over time it gradually increased, but absorbing power from that dark sea was slow and laborious. The tremendous inheritance from the stone’s former master was not easily transferred. Instead, as Cloudhawk got stronger he was able to finally push through the bottleneck and increase his capabilities.
Over the last several years, improvement was exactly what Cloudhawk had been after. Step after step, hour after hour, finally he was reaping the benefits.
He didn’t know when he had the strength to refine some of the stone’s power, only that now was the moment. He had been lacking impetus, but the deadly environment and his will to save Drake had given him that last push. At last, when everything was in place, he was finally able to push through the block that was keeping him back.
“It’s no good! You need to go!”
Drake had no idea what was happening within Cloudhawk. All he knew was that lava was quickly going to be lapping at their heels. If Cloudhawk didn’t get away now, he would lose his chance.
He respected the guy’s intention. Drake just regretted not listening to him in the first place. If Cloudhawk died because of his stubbornness, his spirit would know no rest even once it was among the gods.
“Shut up!” Cloudhawk yelled back in frustration.
It had come down to the moment. His newly enhanced powers reached out for the stone, joining with it. The combined might diffused out into the air around them to form a bubble with Cloudhawk at its center. It swelled until it embraced everyone and then…
They were gone.
Drake saw it all like some kind of dream.
A moment before the lava tumbling off the mountain sides reach them, he felt a strange, intense driving force. The molten tide swept over them – but nothing. There was no burning, no heat of any kind. Before he knew it they were racing through the lava, faster than he could imagine and getting faster.
Everything fell away. Dust, lava, the mountains, boulders… all of it vanished behind them in faint streaks of light until finally they stopped.
It all happened in a split second.
Drake staggered and looked around. “Wh-what happened?”
By the looks on their faces, all the other soldiers had the same burning question.
Truth was, Cloudhawk didn’t know. He focused on the stone, asking it to get them far from danger. When he opened his eyes, they were ten thousand of meters from the mountains. At this distance they were relatively safe.
Teleportation! That had to be it, teleportation!
Well, more precisely it were instantaneous travel. The stone’s known powers were all related to space.
Cloudhawk knew that the power he just used was different from phasing. It wasn’t crossing dimensions, either. This time he was vanishing entirely from one place, and appearing somewhere else. All before he could even process it. Teleportation.
Phasing, dimensional travel… had he found another way this rock fucks with space? Was there anything it couldn’t do?
When Cloudhawk calmed down he decided to try it again. But when he tried a sharp pain wracked his body. It’d taken every ounce of mental energy in him to bring all these people to safety. And that was a surprise. After his breakthrough Cloudhawk felt like he had the mental acuity to take on even a veteran demonhunter without needing his berserker rage.
But even so, he’d only had a single teleportation in him.
The commander of the Talons of God stared at Cloudhawk in shock. “Some sort of dimensional power?”
Drake stared at him like he’d never seen him before. “How the hell have I never seen this?”
“Can we not flap our fucking gums over nonsense right now?!” He was spent, and he couldn’t save them again even under threat of death. So he grit his teeth, and growled at them. “We’re not out of the shit yet. We need to get out of here, because I refuse to die with you dumbasses.”
Falling chunks of lava began to fall around them, as though to punctuate their need to escape this lethal gorge. Everyone staggered forward as fast as they could, but all of them were exhausted.
“General! This way!” The hulking frame of a portly soldier lumbered into view. “I’ve scouted the area, there’s a canyon we can use to get out of here. Everything else is overrun by rivers of lava. The canyon is our only way out.”
Cloudhawk nodded in approval. “Well done, Hammy!”
This unit, which had been hiding in preparations for an ambush throughout the entire battle, was now proving its value. The soldiers, drained and wounded, quietly thanked Hammont’s foresight. Without him they probably wouldn’t have found shelter before the lava got to them.
Only, just then, the whistling sound of something piercing the air rang out.
A dozen figures fell from above. While they had arrived in resplendent white coats, the volcanic ash had turned them gray. The demonhunters’ noble faces were smeared with soot, but it didn’t detract from their majestic presence.
One of them stepped forward, apparently of higher rank. "Where is the canyon?! Lead us there immediately!”
Noble demonhunters! Hammont’s heart beat a hundred miles a minute. He hurriedly answered. “Don’t be impatient, your Excellencies. Sir Cloudhawk and the lieutenant general just arrived. Let's pool our resources, then move out together.”
“What did you say? Cloudhawk…!” The older demonhunter’s eyes gleamed like an angry hawk, and just as keen picked out a figure among the crowd. Cloudhawk, nearly collapsed and surrounded by generals. An openly hostile light burned in the depths of his eyes. “You!”
Cloudhawk recognized the man immediately. It was Augustus Cloude, one of Arcturus’ most trusted men!
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