Cloudhawk hung around the school for a little while. He stepped in to teach Blue and her classmates some martial arts and combat techniques. Although he’d never undergone the sort of training they were doing, he at least had three years of experience in Hell’s Valley and a lifetime of fighting to draw from.
Near the end of the session Barb came running his way.
“Excellency, Hellflower has something urgent she wants to speak with you about.”
Most of Greenland’s leadership came from the Polaris family, with Hellflower being the biggest and most notable exception. She served as Cloudhawk’s secretary and personal assistant in addition to her research duties. She played a role that no one else in Greenland City could. Lately she’d busied herself with plans to continue Greenland’s development, which right now meant establishing a wireless communication system over the entire area. It was a phenomenal task that had implications for communication, safety and industry as a whole. There was the potential it could improve every aspect of life for the citizens of the city.
Busy was an understatement when it came to Hellflower. So what was she doing calling Cloudhawk over?
“Is she in her labs?” He asked.
“No she’s at the God Tree.”
Hellflower had something urgent at the God Tree? That was Autumn’s territory, and she was too aloof and proud to share it with anyone. That was to say nothing of her less than friendly temperament. What she hated most of all was being bothered by the lowly humans she was forced to domicile with. Even Cloudhawk didn’t dare trouble her unless it was very important.
Cloudhawk hurried to the God Tree. When he arrived he found Autumn seated on the back of her crystal dragon, which itself was perched on the tree’s lofty branches. With a condescending gaze she watched the mortal come, but said nothing.
At the foot of the tree a shrine had been erected.
It was about five meters tall and at first glance looked like a stump wrapped in various roots. Upon closer inspection, however, its primitive facade belied something far more intricate. The strange sensation of fluctuating energies within it caused Cloudhawk to pay close attention.
Hellflower was standing in front of the shrine. In a rare change of pace, she was not dressed in her typical scientific outfit. Instead she was clad in something more sporty and breathable. The tight-fitting clothing outlined her athletic body and didn’t help allay the criminal thoughts lurking in the back of men’s minds. Her silvery hair had been pulled back into a ponytail that extended to her mid back. Hellflower, at least for today, had forsaken her mature and erudite look for something a lot more valiant and heroic.
Cloudhawk was struck by the strange change in attire. “What’s our greatest scientist doing dressed like a sexy soldier?”
Hellflower’s eyes flicked toward Barb who was standing nearby. “I have something secret to discuss with the Governor. If you wouldn’t mind giving us some privacy?”
“What secret am I not supposed to know?” Barb was displeased with being kept out of the loop. “I’m one of His Excellency’s most trusted people!”
Barb was a curious person by nature, so she found Hellflower’s denial especially rankling. However Cloudhawk didn’t intervene on her behalf. Hellflower was strange, but her decisions always had a logical basis. She must have had a reason for asking Barb to give them space.
Cloudhawk nodded at her to comply. With no other options, she chose to sulk a short distance away.
He watched her go then returned his attention to Hellflower. “What’s up, why all the mystery? If you’re planning on bothering Her Majesty the goddess, then you can count me the fuck out.”
Autumn’s lips curled in a disdainful smirk. This foolish mortal didn’t think his false respects hid what he really thought. Humans are such hypocrites.
Hellflower leaped at him with a weapon in hand. “First, let’s see you eat my rod!” 
Eh? That wasn’t an ordinary cudgel, it was an exorcist rod. He recognized it right away as one of the dragon-iron rods they produced here. He was so focused on the weapon that when it started to spin, for a moment he didn’t understand the implications. With a fierce scream Hellflower swung it right at Cloudhawk’s face.
What the fuck? Since when could Hellflower use an exorcist staff? She isn’t a demonhunter, nor has she ever shown psychic talent.
He deflected it with his gauntlet and felt the considerable flows of power the strike delivered. Using the relic’s power he deflected the energy away from himself and Hellflower so as not to harm her. The blast of energy tore into the earth nearby, kicking up the rich soil beneath.
Hellflower still got some of the blow-back and staggered backward a few steps. It took her a moment, but she regained her footing.
“I use my rod pretty well, huh?” 
She flung the exorcist rod from one hand to the other in a showy display.
Cloudhawk had never been formally trained in how to use an exorcist staff, but he did know that training mental powers was no easy feat. Even the students in Claudia’s demonhunter class – aside from Blue – couldn’t effectively use one yet.
Hellflower had never received any sort of demonhunter training, in fact had never even shown any measure of demonhunting talent. There was no conceivable way she could use an exorcist rod.
So how was she? What sorcery had she employed to get it to respond to her?
“Don’t look at me like that, I’m not a magician. It’s all thanks to our great Shepherd God and her wisdom.” She opened her left hand, revealing an orb about the size of an eyeball. “Look, our latest and greatest discovery. A treasure produced by the combination of godly wisdom and human technology – the psychic pearl!”
Psychic pearl? Cloudhawk understood without needing Hellflower’s explanation.
The first thing he sensed when he saw it was the energy coming off the orb. It wasn’t a relic, but instead pure psychic energy. In a way it was a lot like the sea of psychic energy that had been locked inside the phase stone.
Of course, if the energy within the phase stone was described as a sea, then the pearl in Hellflower’s hand was a puddle.
When he thought about the mental energies of his predecessor and the stone it’d been housed in, he understood. It meant that psychic energy was a resource that could be stored, even transferred. And if demons could do it, why not gods? The gods had overcome the demons in their terrible war, after all. That meant they were better at least in some ways.
So the Shepherd God had found some way to create these psychic beads. What an interesting thought! Cloudhawk had to ask. “How did you make it?”
“Do you remember the spirit creatures we found in that other dimension?” She meant the strange ethereal things that they’d encountered around the ruins in the mushroom world. “Those are the spirits of ancient demonhunters, even some gods. In the moment of their deaths, their mental energies and willpower fused to create a new form of existence. Incredible, right? I don’t know exactly how it happened – I still need to do more research – but I suspect it has something to do with the combination of spirit essence and quantum science. These are areas of godly knowledge we mortals haven’t come to master yet.”
“Well don’t bother explaining cuz I have no idea what the hell you’re saying.” Cloudhawk took the pearl from her hand and gave it the once over. “What I can see is that this thing allows you to use psychic energy, right? So you found a way to turn those spirits into these psychic pearls, and the energy of the pearls can turn someone into a demonhunter?”
The reason Cloudhawk had advanced so far so quickly was largely because of the inheritance locked in the Demon King’s phase stone. Although the power in the pearl was a fraction of what had been in the stone, what if they could funnel it directly into a normal person? Why would anyone have to train bitterly to be a demonhunter anymore if they could be infused with power?
“It’s not that easy!” Autumn interjected. She jumped off her crystal mount, her emerald gowns flowing in the wind like a falling leaf. She landed gently on the ground. “The Demon King’s inheritance is complicated, and the choice of object as its vessel more demanding. Only a very specific sort of person could accept what was locked inside. A very precise series of events, and if it is not done exactly then ten thousand years could pass before another Demon King arises.”
These psychic pearls were not an inheritance. Rather they were the extracted and condensed essences of those spirits given physical form. Once their mental energies were coalesced, some mysterious method was used to force it into the pearl for common use.
To put it more simply, psychic pearls could only be used to awaken relics. They couldn’t be combined with a person to strengthen or create demonhunting talent. They were limited in uses and scope, and once their power was exhausted it would not return.
So it wasn’t Hellflower that used the exorcist rod. Actually, she had just found a way to have the pearl resonate with the relic and awaken it for her. Unless one knew otherwise, it looked like she had suddenly evolved the ability to use relics out of the blue.
Cloudhawk had to admit, he was a little disappointed. However, that did not take away from how incredible this discovery was. If Hellflower could use an exorcist rod with the help of a pearl, why not others? Cloudhawk could manufacture enough of this to build a fake demonhunter army and vastly strengthen Greenland’s power.
He pressed for more answers. “How many have you made?”
Autumn answered. “The number we can make is contingent upon how many of those spirits you can bring back. On average, one ordinary spirit can be processed into five to ten pearls. Each pearl contains roughly the equivalent of an average demonhunter’s psychic energy.”
Cloudhawk’s eyes sparkled. That was good enough.
What was stopping him from making a whole battalion of demonhunter-like soldiers, equipped with psychic pearls and exorcist rods or bows? Imitation demonhunters, sure, but he could make in half the time what the Cloude family had taken generations to produce.
He would love to pull out a fighting force like that and watch Elysian heads explode in confusion.
Autumn went on. “The uses of these psychic pearls go far beyond what you can imagine.”
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