Chapter 64: Finding the Hand of Gehenna
Cloudhawk teleported into the old mausoleum.
Selene wasn’t going to save herself. He had to help her. The Avatar was not weak and its hooks had dug deep into her. Worse still, a number of powerful Elysians had joined the Avatar in Skycloud.
The hard-won peace following Arcturus’ death was over. Skycloud’s circumstances had changed the most as a result, to the point where it could be argued this upheaval was worse than any event before it. The city teetered on the cusp of a terrible cleansing, performed at the hand of the Avatar. Eventually her armies would rally and threaten the wastes. It was precisely what Wolfblade hoped to see.
Turmoil would cause more Elysians to defect to the wastelands. Although the Avatar and her lieutenants from the four other realms were powerful, they were not invincible. They were a threat, a catalyst, that would force Cloudhawk and the Green Alliance to mature even faster.
In the end, conflict was a boon. As for the sacrifice of Selene and thousands of Elysians? Wolfblade paid them no mind. After all, he and Arcturus were cut from the same cloth. Such people never balked at sacrificing the lives of others to achieve their goals.
Upon entering the mausoleum, Cloudhawk immediately made his way to the altar. There a dark, ferocious cuirass lay encased in crystal.
He reached out almost unconsciously, but before he could lay his hands on the casing…
“You are denied!”
A cold voice invaded his thoughts followed by a force that fought his approach. Cloudhawk grit his teeth and attempted to push passed it. “How long do you plan to sit there!”
The Avatar knew Cloudhawk was the Demon King’s successor. Soon that news would spread throughout Mount Sumeru, if it hadn’t already. There was no longer any point in fearing whether the gods would sense his ascension. He needed the power of the Demon King.
The Demon King’s Cuirass was not merely its former master’s strongest relic. It represented authority. Up to this point Cloudhawk had only inherited the demon’s mental powers and memories. Once he put on this armor, all of the former King’s powers would be given to him. He would emerge as the true Demon King. That was how he could turn this dark situation around.
He’d been turning it over and over in his mind. The dangers were too great. He could only defeat his enemies with the help of the demons. Without them the conflict he faced was long, bloody and nearly impossible to win.
Once again Cloudhawk felt the armor push him away. He considered shattering the crystal with his power and simply forcing the cuirass to obey him.
But the will of the relic invaded his mind, causing him to lose control of his mental powers. Cloudhawk was flung away from the altar. Evidently the armor could do more than just fight his approach, it was capable of disrupting his powers.
Even if he managed to shatter the crystal housing, it was no use. What was he to do? He scowled and pondered his next move.
“It doesn’t matter how hard or how often you try, the result will always be the same. You have grown strong, but not strong enough to dominate the power of Gehenna.” Wolfblade appeared in the chamber, hands clasped behind his back. “Until you are ready to command the demons, you will never don the Demon King’s Cuirass.”
That hateful prick dared show his face again. But he was right. Cloudhawk sighed deeply, causing his irritation to subside.
He recognized that he was rushing things. Selene’s problems had robbed him of his composure. He wasn’t the impulse youth he once was and knew neither anger nor anxiety would make things better. He needed calm in order to find a solution.
The Demon King’s Cuirass wouldn’t submit to him because he wanted to save a human woman. Say he summoned the power of Gehenna, would those unruly demons follow him if that was his stated goal?
As Wolfblade watched Cloudhawk reign in his emotions, he was filled with quiet satisfaction. No one in this world or any other understood Cloudhawk as well as he did. Wolfblade – Legion – had watched him grow. He knew what he’d gone through, understood the many and varied periods of his life. Deep in the core of Cloudhawk was an adaptive and unpredictable nature.
Cloudhawk was already a wasteland leader, and well qualified. If he maintained this position he would grow to be one of history’s greatest. He could really change the world. However, unfortunately for him Cloudhawk was not destined to play in this small sandbox forever. His fate called for something much larger and to unlock this hidden potential, he would need to face hardships.
“What’s your plan,” Cloudhawk asked.
“We do not know how many fighters have come from the other realms. Nor do we know what sort of power they’ve brought to bear. Until we do, it would be unwise to foster conflict. Rather, we should discover what we can and continued to develop the wasteland’s fighting force.” Wolfblade paused for a moment before adding, “Furthermore, Skycloud will soon enter a period of turmoil. If we play our cards right, we can siphon power from the realm while they consolidate control.”
As always, Wolfblade had a scheme already devised. It was exactly what angered Cloudhawk so deeply.
“From this moment forward you better hope I never learn you’ve been hiding things from me.”
Wolfblade offered a slight, but formal bow. “The Avatar notwithstanding, I hide nothing from my King.”
“Yeah?” Cloudhawk narrowed his eyes, fixing them on the demon. A wave of oppressive majesty filled the chamber. “Tell me then, where are you hiding the Hand of Gehenna?”
Wolfblade’s expression stiffened ever so slightly. “I...”
Sensing hesitation, Cloudhawk cut in with a voice as cold as death. “Did your words a moment ago mean anything? Do you really see me as your King? Or maybe you’ve just been using me from the start. Using me against the God King – maybe that’s just part of your plan.”
Something flickered behind Wolfblade’s eye. Eventually, he heaved a sigh. “It is not that I mean to keep it from you. Rather I hoped not to trouble you with it. If it is your wish to meet them, then I can bring you there now.”
“I’m tired of your bullshit,” Cloudhawk growled. “Where are they?”
“They are here, in Woodland Vale,” Wolfblade replied.
He shared their location with Cloudhawk, and the wasteland leader vanished from sight. Wolfblade was left alone in the cold chamber.
Tens of kilometers meant nothing to Cloudhawk. He traversed them in an instant. He appeared in a section of the vast forest carpeting Woodland Vale. There he found a small compound occupied by a number of darkly clad figures. They were Black Knight elite, cultivated by the Hand of Gehenna.
“Who are you? This is a restricted area, leave at once!”
Rustling sounds arose from all directions and suddenly Cloudhawk was encircled by several more shadowy figures. Their faces were concealed with black masks and weapons were in their hands. Wary eyes were fixed on this sudden intruder.
Yet despite their alarm, Cloudhawk was too fast for them to react. His incredible speed paired with dimensional power brought him right in front of the group before they knew what was happening. A flurry of blows ensued, resulting in the guards being flung several meters away into the forest.
Before more defenders could be summoned Cloudhawk flickered out of existence, reappearing in the center of the compound. Right away he felt the familiar hum.
Wolfblade hadn’t lied to him this time. The Hand of Gehenna was here.Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Oh man he's pissed. But how interesting, this juxtaposition between Legion and Arcturus. Two creatures who are not afraid to sacrifice the lives of others for the 'greater good'. Does Legion have Cloudhawk's best interest at heart? What is 'best interest' anyway? I imagine Cloudhawk and the demon elder would answer that question very differently.