Book 6, Chapter 65 - De Winter Reunion

This section of the compound was where the Hand of Gehenna’s senior members gathered. 

Since Inkspecter’s run-in with Wolfblade, the ‘Hand of Gehenna’ had become Legion’s personal ghost squad. The number and strength of the unit had grown significantly in recent months. Under Inkspecter’s guidance the group’s leadership had advanced. Wolfblade and Abaddon had filed out their ranks with outside troops.

Ravenous Tiger chewed on a bit jerky which he washed down with a mouthful of wine. “When I was Governor of Fishmonger’s Borough I had nothing to worry about – every day was about comfort. Then I fell in with you lot.”

“Stop complaining, you lard-ass. If not for us you’d be rotting underneath the ruins of your city. Life might not have been comfortable these last few years, but you’ve got a bunch of new relics to show for it. We’re ten times stronger than we ever have been. Is that not enough for you? In this world strength speaks. Without strength to back it up, no one lasts long.”

It was a young man half-slumped on a nearby stool that challenged him. A single piece of straw jutted from between his lips, giving him a lackadaisical appearance. His hair was a dirty flaxen color and looked like it’d been cut by a butcher. The back had been pulled into a haphazard braid. His left arm was covered in soiled bandages but where it met his shoulder and chest, one could see tattoos snaking across the skin. But tattoos wasn’t right, rather they looked like runes embossed on his flesh.

Squall Rover raised his head. He looked the same as he always had, except for a short beard that peppered his jaw. What had changed was his presence, which had hardened from the vicissitudes of life. The carefree, optimistic youth from years ago had long-since perished.

Ravenous Tiger opened his mouth to respond when he was stopped by a ruckus from outside. The room’s occupants all looked at one another in silence, but what they were thinking was clear behind their eyes. They shot to their feet and went outside to see what was going on.

A handful of their best lay on the ground in a heap. In the center of them was a handsome young man with jet black hair, dressed in dark colors.

Three-Eyed Spider and Raven moved forward to confront him. They didn’t get half a step before Cloudhawk waved at them as though shooing flies. The two went careening a dozen meters away.

Instinct took over and Ravenous Tiger tried to flee. But the instant he turned his head, Cloudhawk was there. Fear gripped him and all at once his defensive relics sprang to life. Cloudhawk paid them no mind and struck again. His fist ripped through the shells of mental energy as easily as though they were made of paper and penetrated Ravenous Tiger’s body. A violent torrent of power was released. 

Dozens of the fat man’s bones shattered. He crumpled to the ground, too wounded to move.

Squall’s face darkened. “Aren’t you going too far?”

As he spoke, the runes etched in his skin flickered to life. Their power seethed from his pours as a black mist, then formed into a hulking black figure – Blackfiend, the Undying.

The two had somehow merged. Squall’s special puppet had become part of his Hellion Arm.

Once Blackfiend formed, both it and Squall rushed toward Cloudhawk. They were fast, and together had destructive power to match a veteran demonhunter of the highest order. Although Squall had grown strong in the intervening years, he was no match for what Cloudhawk had become.

To prove this, Cloudhawk flicked his finger. Squall and Blackfiend crashed into a force field of pale white light.

The strength of their attacks were reflected back toward them and both were flung off like a pair of rag dolls. Squall hit the ground in a heap and stopped moving. Blackfiend evaporated into mist.

Only a very brief period of time had passed since Cloudhawk had entered the compound and already all of the Hand’s members were dealt with. While confident in their abilities and capable in most circumstances, the Hand of Gehenna was no threat to the young wasteland leader. Not one of them had withstood more than a single blow.

Clutching his chest, Squall growled in anger. “We’re helping you. Why are you shooting yourself in the foot? Are you crazy?”

“Helping me? Don’t you dare spew that bullshit to my face!” Cloudhawk’s anger congealed into a dangerously cold grin. “Fuck, useless as you lot are what can you do?”

Squall scowled in anger and shame. “You...”

Humiliated, he had no choice but to hang his head. The difference between him and Cloudhawk was too great – as distant as heaven was to earth.

Two more figures appeared. When Cloudhawk saw him his pupils contracted into dark points. “Well, what a surprise to find you here.”

Among the two newcomers one was an insidious-looking older man. Cloudhawk recognized him immediately as the Polaris family’s former custodian, and Skye Polaris’ killer. Inkspecter.

The second was younger and much more handsome. Half his face was covered in a beard that made him look a little more haggard. The simple clothes he wore were more fitting of a laborer than the many titles he used to carry.

Frost de Winter.

He’d been part of the plot that killed Skye Polaris. He had ended Arcturus Cloude with his own hand. Rather than disappear as Cloudhawk had expected, Frost had fallen in with the Hand of Gehenna.

Without an ounce of emotion in his voice, he regarded the two. “Give me a reason to let you keep breathing.”

In the past Frost and Inkspecter had conspired to murder Cloudhawk’s former patron, General Skye. That old man had taken Cloudhawk in when no one else would. Skye had his own ulterior motives, but he’d been good to him.

The Polaris family’s ruin was a direct result of the crimes these two had committed. For Dawn, he couldn’t let them off easy.

And Squall, Ravenous Tiger, Three-Eyed Spider and the others? Maybe they’d been allies once – for some even friends – but that didn’t matter anymore. As far as Cloudhawk was concerned there was no reason for the Hand of Gehenna to exist.

For vengeance, to rectify old wrongs, he was determined to come here and set things right.

“We have no quarrel. Anyway, do you think that old fool Skye would have survived for long against Arcturus, even if we weren’t the ones to kill him?” Inkspecter’s face bore a dark scowl. “Besides, we belong to the Elder Legion and work on behalf of Gehenna. You have no right nor reason to dispose of us.”

A wave of psychic force blasted through the area. Inkspecter felt as though his brain was being torn apart. He hit the ground, convulsing in agony.

Fires blazed in the depths of Cloudhawk’s eyes. Inkspecter couldn’t withstand the might of his mental assault and was paying for it. Those burning eyes then slid toward Frost.

Wordlessly, Arcturus’ former protege pulled Rhimeshard from his hip. A cold mist hung around its crystalline blade.

Frost thrust the tip of the weapon into the ground. In an instant a rolling cloud of fog spread out in all directions. Everything it touched froze solid.

Cloudhawk teleported away from the attack. From a safe distance he looked back to see everything – from buildings to trees to grass – covered in a glittering sheen of ice.

It took only an instant for everything within a hundred meters to freeze. The members of the Hand, however, were spared.

Cloudhawk was somewhat taken aback by the scene. Frost had impressive mental power and control.

In the months since his disappearance, Frost had been transformed. Judging by this attack, he wielded power comparable to the likes of the Khan of Evernight and Abaddon.

Only several months and his power had increased three or four-fold! Frost was also still young with room to grow. His potential seemed limitless!

Frost waved his right arm. Rhimeshard flashed. An arc of icy power streaked toward Cloudhawk.

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Xiao Lai's Thoughts

Does this mean Frost is comparable to a Master Demonhunter? A man like him would certainly be helpful in the fight to come.

But can the two men put their animosity aside and work together?