Book 5, Chapter 42 - Setting the Stage

Squall dove forward with murderous drive. Dawn met him with an ice-cold expression on her beautiful face. Her power was gathered and ready to be released on this foolish man. Only, just then Squall juked to the side, revealing a dark figure behind him.

When this new foe leaped forward, he did so with a reaching black aura that choked the area in black smoke.

He was almost too fast to follow and Dawn struggled to keep up with him. It was Blackfiend the Undying, Squall’s sinister shadow. Upon returning to the wastelands, Inkspecter used his dark powers to strengthen the monster. Squall’s deadly puppet was growing more lethal by the day.

Blackfiend led with a punch. It came crashing down on Dawn’s defenses like a storm of lightning and flame. The shell from her aegis mirror shattered. She staggered back as Blackfiend’s crushing blow rumbled through her. But his sudden charge did nothing to dissuade her. On the contrary, Dawn’s resolve only hardened. A burning will to fight smoldered in her eyes. Never in her life had she been caught in such a pitched battle.

Terrangelica answered Blackfiend’s punch with a streaking arc. A keen line sliced through the fog.

The speed and power with which she lashed out was nothing short of incredible. Blackfiend was cut in half at the waist, while Dawn charged through his mangled body like a freight train.

But he wasn’t her target. Inkspecter was the life she was desperate to take.

I’ll kill him. Kill him! KILL HIM! Dawn’s mind was a cacophony of sounds. A hundred thousand demons whispered in her ears, telling her to do whatever it takes to cut down her grandfather’s killer. Skye Polaris demanded retribution!

“I’m not done!”

The dark mists gathered into tendrils of smoke that were sucked into Squall’s body. Dawn watched him swell to nearly twice his size. His left arm grew particularly threatening. It was now pitch black, and when he swung it the air around his arm rippled from the bloated power.

BANG!

Terrangelica hacked into the limb but left no wound. In that instant, Dawn felt a wave of exhaustion wash over her. Her mental powers were spent. She went for a second strike while Squall reached out to capture her weapon in his hand.

Dawn heaved her strength into the strike with the intent of cutting his hand clean off and then into the man who owned it.

Yet much to her dismay, her sword did less than nothing when it connected with Squall’s flesh, even though it could normally cleave through iron. Instead, the black arm devoured the power in the sword and left Dawn feeling weaker.

Squall’s demonic arm could drink energy! [1] No matter how much force she put into her attacks, they were rendered useless.

Once more, Inkspecter inserted himself in the conflict. He produced a strange relic in the shape of a long black thread which he threw into the air. Once released, it grew thick and long, then wrapped itself around Dawn’s body.

Before she could react, the Polaris descendant found herself held fast.

Inkspecter’s dark thread was unnaturally tenacious. No matter how Dawn struggled she couldn’t break free. As the seconds passed, the thread continued to wrap itself around her until she was nearly encased in it, like a silkworm’s chrysalis. Only her head was currently left unfettered.

“There’s no use wasting energy.” Squall’s body was entwined with tendrils of black smoke. He held Terrangelica in his left hand and threw it away like a child’s toy. He looked at Dawn with an expression of deep contempt. “It was stupid to think you could beat us all on your own. Your fate was sealed the moment you arrived here.”

The soldiers who arrived with Dawn were quickly overwhelmed and defeated. None remained to protect her. They were far enough away from Greenland that no help was forthcoming. Who knew how long it would take for them to learn what happened here, or how long it would take them to respond.

As Dawn faced the dire circumstance her mind went blank. All that remained was a blind fury which twisted her face. “Just kill me!”

“Kill you?” Ravenous Tiger regarded her with a toothy grin. “I don’t think I’ve ever come across a girl as pretty as you. You think we’ll let you off that easy?”

Ravenous Tiger reached out to stroke her face while the other fighters watched with glimmering eyes and foul smirks. 

Dawn Polaris was a storied beauty in among the citizens of Skycloud, and from a respected noble lineage. She was a former Templar, and an accomplished demonhunter. These despicable men had never seen a woman of her caliber before. Now that she was in their grasp… it was like their darkest dreams come true.

Perhaps today, they’d get a taste of a rare treat. One of Skycloud’s most precious flowers, prickly as a rose. Who’d have ever thought this would be her fate. The thought of what these wicked heathens would do…

Panic began to set in. Dawn thought about Cloudhawk, thought about her grandfather, and the sadness it summoned deflated her. There was nothing she could do. Never in her life had she imagined she would find herself in this situation. She would rather kill herself if she had the option.

But as Ravenous Tiger’s hand reached out, another hand grabbed it and held it tight in a vice-like grip.

The fat man scowled petulantly at Squall. “What the fuck are you doing?”

Squall pushed him away. He used hardly any effort, but Ravenous Tiger staggered several steps backward. He ignored the former Governor’s anger. “Touch her and I promise you will die a horrible death.”

A cold light flashed through Ravenous Tiger’s eyes. “What, are you going to take her from me?”

“No. I know the man she runs with, and if you touch a hair on her head you will wish you were never born.” An image swam up to Squall from his memory. Though distant, faint, it was the silhouette of someone who had left a deep impression on him. “Do you think you’re stronger than Adder?”

The anger fled from Ravenous Tiger’s posture. He understood what Squall was saying, but he continued to itch from seeing that enticing figure helpless before him. He gritted his teeth. “Whether I live or die isn’t your concern. Mind your own fucking business!”

Other fighters were in quiet agreement. A woman like this was practically impossible to come across, much less capture. Now that the opportunity had fallen into their laps, who would be willing to pass it up?

How many chances like this came along in life? This went beyond just pleasures of the flesh. It was a profound spiritual victory. Dawn was a representation of Elysian nobility and superiority. If they could turn her into their whore, even for a night, then a gruesome death was well worth it.

Most everyone here came from the wastelands, and wastelanders lived in the present. Tomorrow was a luxury they couldn’t plan for. Their present had brought them here, where a delectable prize hung ripe for the plucking. Squall saw it in their eyes and scowled dangerously.

“Enough!” While they were so busy drooling over Dawn, no one noticed Inkspecter making his way through the crowd. His cold, unfeeling eyes swept over the soldiers. “I will not suffer your foolishness for a lack of self control. That includes you, Ravenous Tiger!”

They simply didn’t understand. Why was this woman so off limits?

Inkspecter turned to Dawn, still incapacitated. The look in his eyes was conflicted. No man could be as unmoving and unfeeling as the trees. When he took shelter with the Polaris family twenty years ago, this young woman was just learning how to talk. To say he watched her grow up was no exaggeration.

All his life, Inkspecter never had the comforts of a wife, children, or friends. In many ways, the man he helped kill was the closest think he’d ever had to a friend. He did not regret killing Skye, but he did feel a pang of self-pity.

Now here was Dawn, his only friend’s only granddaughter.

He responded to the crowd of puzzled expressions with a tepid voice. “Have you all forgotten our mission as the Hand of Gehenna? Have you lost sight of our real target, Cloudhawk? Without question, our actions here will upset him. Each step further down this path will make it worse, and what you ache to do cannot be undone.”

A thoughtful pause followed as the fighters thought of the implications.

“If indeed he is truly the Demon King’s successor, do you want to take that risk? Have you really given thought to the potential consequences?”

“How is that possible? How can a human be the chosen of the Demon King?”

Inkspecter’s voice was calm but cold. “I cannot pretend to understand the breadth of the Demon King’s power. However, I know a little of dimensional abilities, enough to know it is exceedingly rare. It was our monarch’s signature mark, and for Cloudhawk to display this skill means there is a high chance he is indeed our target.”

Ravenous Tiger couldn’t help but interrupt. “That can’t be right. As far as I can tell, Cloudhawk has all sorts of abilities. Dimensional travel is just one of them.”

“A thousand years ago, when our Lord was defeated, He began the search for a suitable successor to facilitate His return. If this scion did not possess His power, then all of His efforts would be for naught.” Inkspecter continued. “The new Demon King will undoubtedly be stronger than the last. That is the only way he could contend against the God King! The only way to overcome Sumeru!”

They stared at their leader in dumbfounded silence. Squall was similarly quiet as he mulled over the facts. Could Cloudhawk, a mere mortal, really rise as the ruler of the demonkin? For the time being, there appeared to be very few active demons; Abaddon was the only one he knew about. What Squall did know was that every one of those creatures commanded stupendous power.

As more awakened and banded together, what reason did they have to think such creatures would bend to a human?

“So what should we do with her then?” Three-Eyed Spider lent his voice to the discussion. “Keeping her would only bring us trouble. What will we do if Greenland shows up in full force?”

Inkspecter addressed his concerns. “Dawn is a traitor to the Elysian lands. We deliver her to the expeditionary force. I imagine they would be happy to have her.”

They pondered the idea. If they gave her to the expeditionary force, she would be immediately apprehended as a turncoat. Her trial would probably be immediate and her punishment swift. What would Greenland do then?

That would be one hell of a show to watch. It would also be an opportunity for them to see just what Cloudhawk was capable of.

Inkspecter was not certain that Cloudhawk was the one they were looking for. If he was not, then it didn’t matter if he died by Elysian hands. If he was the Demon King’s successor, then he wouldn’t hide in his hole like a rodent.

He would stand up. He would fight! This was destiny – unavoidable fate. No choice or action could change the inevitable. The life of the Demon King was one of strife and struggle.

Dawn had guessed correctly that these bastards were planning to use her to get to Cloudhawk. It made her even angrier. Being used this way to hurt the one she cared for was a fate worse than death.

All this about a Demon King? Nonsense! Cloudhawk was Cloudhawk! He was his own man! This piece of shit Inkspecter had already killed her grandfather and now was plotting to destroy Cloudhawk. The traitor had set his aims on the two most important people in her life.


1. Does this sound familiar?

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