Cloudhawk left the pocket dimension. Hellflower was outside, waiting.
“You didn’t spend much time with her.”
He shook his head. “She just woke up, she’s pretty muddled. Let her rest for a little while.”
“You’re not worried? Suicide isn’t uncommon for people who’ve gone through things like what she’d experienced.”
“When people are swallowed up by darkness, sometimes the darkness becomes part of them. Sometimes they became a light in the shadow. She’s the latter.”
Hellflower watched Cloudhawk walk away, struck by his confidence. He seemed to understand something everyone else was struggling with.
Just like he assured, Selene was made of stronger stuff than most. She didn’t break down and cry and waste away in bed. Nothing she did showed she was thinking of taking her life. While no one could imagine the pain she must have been suffering, she never let it out. She didn’t even tell Cloudhawk – she just dealt with it.
Suffering was growth. This was especially true for Selene.
Things were deteriorating rapidly. Losses had been great. The Green Alliance had lost the Khan of Evernight as well as a fair portion of its armies. Skycloud was in complete disarray and looked on the verge of collapse.
Of course, there were two faces to every problem…
Sometimes what appeared beneficial on the surface was anything but. The arrival of the Avatar served to shatter Elysian preconceptions about the gods. Without her, everyone would still be ignorant of the dangers they faced from Sumeru.
Sometimes what appeared to be a tragedy was actually an opportunity. For instance, the war had brought the Green Alliance and Skycloud to the brink of destruction. But had it not been for this conflict it was likely that the Cloud God and Selene would never have joined the opposition. Selene would never have given up her dream of turning Skycloud into a utopia. The Cloud God wouldn’t have been so quick to stand behind the Green Alliance.
In other words the Avatar’s actions forced Selene and the Cloud God to fight alongside Cloudhawk. It pushed Elysians and wastelanders closer together. Neither side lacked capable people willing to fight for what they believed in.
With the two groups fighting shoulder to shoulder their combined strength would be unprecedented. It was an important step toward standing against the gods. Crisis had forced what otherwise had been impossible to accomplish.
Cloudhawk walked into a training area. Immediately he sensed power descend over him, like gravity had suddenly increased a hundred fold. It nearly forced him to the ground. Looking up, he saw Dawn pointing her sword at him.
“Hey there guy, just in time. Let’s spar. You and me!”
She wrapped both hands around the hilt of her weapon as the Dawnbreaker armor flared to life. Like some nightmarish fiend she charged straight for Cloudhawk. The Dawn of this instant was complately different from the girl who’d left Skycloud!
Constant hard work and self-improvement had paid off. Her growth had been phenomenal in every avenue. Dawn was an elite class of warrior who was empowered by excellent equipment, be it her gravity-empowered sword Terrangelica, or the indomitable Dawnbreaker armor. Both were exceptional tools.
Cloudhawk stood his ground and met Dawn’s onslaught. To his surprise Dawn actually picked up speed and suddenly changed course. Whipping around she dashed behind Cloudhawk, too fast to see with the naked eye and too quick for most humans to react.
Dawn condensed the power of her armor into her hands. It radiated out around her arms like halos of light and was poured into the strength of her sword strike.
“Eat my sword!”
As the flash of the blade fell over him Cloudhawk also felt the pressure of increased gravity. It was a strange combination of forces simultaneously dragging him toward her sword, and downward making it hard to move. It was designed to take him out in a single strike.
He raised his left arm, summoning a shield of pale light.
Dawn’s sword struck and was flung backward. His shield dimmed and the force shoved Cloudhawk ten meters to one side.
“Damn!” Cloudhawk was clearly impressed. “The sword, the armor and your martial skills all together in one strike. Not just fast and strong, but with impressive suppression force. Hell of a combo. If you caught me off guard with a blow like that I might not be able to escape it.”
His praise fueled her. The Dawnbreak armor flared to life once again, this time gathering in her feet. Dawn leaped into the air, leaving behind a sonic boom, then hacked her sword at Cloudhawk.
His evaluation was spot on. Dawn was able to use her equipment, martial skills and combat prowess in unison. Dawn had always been strong, but now she was learning to combine it with her equipment and the martial skills the old drunk had taught them. Combined it all made her strong, fast, and flexible.
Cloudhawk teleported to evade the attack.
As Terrangelica met the ground it flared. Although she struck nothing, the air around her rippled from the release of power. Sharp stalagmites burst upward and spread out in all directions. Soon the area for a hundred meters around her was a spiny deathtrap.
She’s summoned a rocky forest with one strike!
It looked like if she didn’t have the mental prowess of a Master Demonhunter, then she was only off by a little bit. Her display was plenty impressive by itself, but then there were her other skills. If an enemy could avoid her sword and its effects of gravity, they better be fast or hardy enough to survive being impaled by rock spikes.
Cloudhawk changed tactics, no more being passive. He stopped in his retreat and immediately charged forward. Flashes of silvery light extended from his hands, like a thousand glimmering snakes slithering through the forest of stone.
“Welcome to the fight!”
Dawn tightened her grip on Terrangelica then furiously carved a circle through the air. The stalagmites shattered, and a blast of wind flung the jagged shards at her foe. “Check out my new move!”
The shards began to glow in midair, dissolving into shards of unstable energy. They caught up with the blast from her sword and caused it to shine every brighter. Soon the power of it consumed this section of subspace. It even shook from the impact!
Cloudhawk tumbled backward several meters with a few new tears in his clothing. The power behind that strike had caught him by surprise. It even posed a threat!
For a moment Dawn was drained. At her current strength, the attack she just released demanded a lot from her.
“Lucian’s Arbitralux? It changes matter to energy – not bad at all!”
She’d taken to the relic well. It was quite the tool, capable of switching matter to energy and energy to matter.
Dawn had used Terrangelica to release a blast of wind and gravity. Shards of stone were kicked up and followed the path of her attack, then she used Arbitralux to transform them into energy. Even shards as small as a fingernail struck like a bullet. Countless fragments were dragged along by the sword’s gravity. Together it was enough to fell a god or demon!
Under the assault, this entire section of subspace strained to hold together. What’s more, just the sword strike alone carried all of Dawn’s lethal strength! It spread out wide enough to swallow the whole space. Luckily for Cloudhawk, his sturdy constitution saved him. Place Frost or Selene in the path of Dawn’s attack instead, however, they would probably be killed. She sure had learned a lot in a short time.
Cloudhawk was about to call a stop to it, but Dawn had other plans. More shards were dragged up from the ground and cast toward him for a second blast.
Hadn’t this crazy woman had enough?!
Crazy was about right. Dawn had never been so happy in her life. Every day she’d felt herself getting stronger and wanted to push herself, just to see how far she could go. How far was she really from Cloudhawk?
As if in answer, a sword appeared in his hand.
It looked a little familiar to her, but it wasn’t a relic Dawn recognized. Paying it no mind, she continued her assault. Cloudhawk answered by waving his sword toward Dawn and in the moment of their collision, shock waves blasted through the area.
Up close, Dawn could feel the energy pouring off his sword. He deflected her attack with ease and in that same instant she could feel an unstoppable force flow through her. Tendrils of purple and black lightning quickly wrapped her up and flung her away. Slamming into one of the wall, it bowed from the force of the impact.
Cloudhawk had stumbled back maybe three steps. Without question, his new Godslayer Blade was better than the sum of its parts.
There was a notch in Terrangelica’s blade and a dent in her Dawnbreaker armor. The look on her face was one of disappointment. She quickly discovered that while she’d been getting stronger, so had Cloudhawk. When he put it all on the table there was nothing she could do to protect herself.
He walked over to her and extended his hand. She took it and got back on her feet. Opening the helm, drenched in sweat, face red, Dawn eyed Cloudhawk up and down. “Can’t you give me a little leeway?”
“Kicking your ass all the time is my way of pushing you. It’s how you get stronger.” Cloudhawk regarded the irritated woman before him and felt genuine satisfaction. “Come on, let’s go have a drink.”
“Then let’s go drink! You think I’m scared of you?!” Dawn was forever the sort to let go of the little stuff. But Cloudhawk knew that was just the surface. Her thorny exterior hid a sensitive heart. She knew that Frost was working with Wolfblade, and that he’d been a part of the assault on Skycloud. But she did not take up her sword and go after him as expected. Instead she buried her hatred and focus on her training.
Even someone like Dawn, who wore her emotions on her sleeve, had grown during these trying times. Even she was putting the bigger threat before herself.
Everyone was growing, maturing. It was hard not to lose things during the journey, and who could say what the gains and losses might be? In the face of destiny, people faced many things they weren’t exactly prepared for. Ignorance was bliss, the present was the real treasure. That was the truth Cloudhawk and Dawn understood.Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Hopefully you noticed an increase in edit quality of the last several dozen chapters. I've been trying to do better about small mistakes. Unfortunately these last three may be a little rough. I typically take the holidays off but I wanted to remain at least relatively consistent considering our history. My schedule will be pretty upended through this period so chapter releases and - alas - edit quality may suffer some. Please bear with me.