“You have to get smashed to have a good time drinking. It ain’t a party ‘till you can’t walk straight!” Dawn threw back her glass and downed its contents. It was somewhere between drinking and a shower, because a fair bit of the booze trickled from her mouth and down her face. Red had already crept into her cheeks. Cloudhawk, meanwhile, looked stone sober. “But YOU… you can drink all you want and never get drunk. What a shame.”
It was true. Cloudhawk’s constitution prevented him from getting drunk. He didn’t mind though. Taking a small swallow he replied, “Well, since I can’t get drunk I might as well drink slow and enjoy it, right? It has its own pleasures.”
“Heh, as far as I’m concerned whether you’re binging or taking sips, the pleasure in drinking it not the alcohol. It’s the company! The worst booze can taste better than the rarest wines with the right drinking buddy. Drinking alone, the best beer tastes like water. Am I right or am I right?”
“It looks like someone’s taken on the old drunk’s mantle.”
“Meh… now you got me thinking about the old man. He’s not around to drink with me anymore, so you’re my only drinking buddy.” She trained her eyes on him. “Listen, you have to promise me this. Whatever happens you can’t die in front of me alright? Who else would I go drinking with? Life would be so fucking boring!”
“You think maybe you could think about happier things? Sounds like you expect me to die.”
“Heh heh, then it’s a deal! Drink up!” Dawn held up her glass, newly refilled, and drained it dry.
The two sat alone in an expanse of emptiness, one of the sections in Cloudhawk’s subspace reality. After several bottles they’d had their fill and Cloudhawk left back to Greenland to hear the latest reports. Dawn went back to training. She didn’t know how much time they had left to prepare, so it was a race against time to see how strong she could get.
She was joined after a little while by another, familiar face. Tall, cold and imperial she was dressed from head to toe in white. A crystal sword was strapped to her back. Her hair had been combed and framed glittering eyes – one silver, one black . When she recognized who it was, Dawn’s eyes tightened at the corners as though spotting an old foe.
“What are you doing here?”
“Looking for you.”
This took Dawn by surprise. Strange that Selene would come to her after waking, instead of looking for Cloudhawk. Why?
She couldn’t think of a time when the two weren’t at each others’ throats. Dawn could rattle off a list of reasons why she didn’t like Selene, with jealousy near the top. Ever since they were small, Selene had stolen the show form Dawn time and again. All that was in the past so it was no big deal, but what bothered her the most was what they fought over. Cloudhawk! She found herself grinding her teeth.
“Hmph, out with it then. I’m busy in case you haven’t noticed. I don’t have time to waste shooting shit with you.”
Selene Cloude didn’t look much different from any time before. She still seemed distant and a little imperious, though perhaps the lines between her eyebrows were a little deeper. “You hate me because of Cloudhawk, don’t you.”
“Well that’s a bullshit rhetorical question.” Her temper flared. “You met him before I did right? Am I just supposed to let you have him because you saw him first?”
Selene kept her tone measured. “It has nothing to do with that.”
“Bah! Look, I’m not inferior to you – either in skill or in looks. Cloudhawk and I are an obvious fit. You wanna throw down and prove this once and for all?!” Dawn leaned on her typical forthright character. “I’m telling you now I’m not giving up. Cloudhawk is the only one I’m interested in and one day we’ll be together. You wait and see!”
“Oh,” was Selene’s only answer.
OH?! That single syllable enraged Dawn! She was already feeling a little on the back foot and now this bitch was mocking her?! Who the fuck cares why she was here now after the mess she’d made! If Cloudhawk hadn’t been there to wipe her pampered ass who knew what would have happened!
Cloudhawk had risked his life for her. The Green Alliance had fought countless battles, because of her. Now she was awake and standing here like it was nothing. And for what! Dawn was barely holding it together.
But what Selene said next took all the wind out of her sails. All her anger turned to shock. “Suit yourself. If you think you have what it takes, then we can share him.”
WHAT?! SHARE him?! What does that even mean? Dawn wiggled a finger in her ear. She must have heard wrong.
Selene Cloude was known for being unapproachable and aloof. Saying something like that seemed completely out of character. Neither Selene, nor Dawn, or any self-respecting woman would seetle for this!
Share? He wasn’t a piece of cake! What, were they supposed to go along just because she said so?
“Y-you… really?” She was so stunned she could hardly form words. After a moment she regained her composure. “Don’t think I’m about to fall for your bullshit!”
“Let’s get to the point.” Selene’s face was calm. She spoke her mind as though she didn’t seem very interested in their predicament. “As I understand it, a lot of what turned Greenland and the Green Alliance into what it is today is because of your work. I want you to teach me.”
“I’m a part of this Alliance now. You and I may have our problems, but I still trust you more than the others. I hope we can work together to help Cloudhawk manage the Alliance. So I can be of use.”
This is why she came looking for her? Dawn had to admire Selene. When her grandfather was killed, she’d spent days feeling sorry for herself. Selene had suffered some of the worst things that could happen to a person, and she was looking for ways to make things right the day she woke up.
After thinking about it for a moment, Dawn figured maybe it wasn’t such a bad thing…
A big reason for Dawn’s animosity was Selene’s natural talent. In a way, the more Dawn disliked her, the more she appreciated her. Selene had gone through fire, searching through the wastes and then coming back to Skycloud. She was a powerful person in many ways.
Cloudhawk, as leader of the Alliance, had a high position. But the Green Alliance wasn’t a monolith. Wolfblade’s people were deeply embedded in any facet, a fact that always had Dawn’s hackles raised. But now they had the Cloud God, the Shepherd God and others from Skycloud. Elysians were taking a more prominent role. Sooner rather than later they would be a real faction with real power.
As a part of Cloudhawk’s inner circle, Dawn was being steadily pushed out. Maybe someone like Selene could help balance things out. Most importantly, Selene’s request inspired her. Very well – she’d let go of the past and put aside her prejudice.
After roughly ten seconds, weighing the pros and cons, Dawn replied. “Well you came looking for the right person. I am Cloudhawk’s number one confidante. But before I answer, I want to ask you one thing.”
“You talk about sharing him… who’s the lover and who’s the mistress?”
At last a dangerous look crossed Selene’s face. “Keep it up and I’ll retract my offer.”
“Fine, fine. Let’s cut to the chase then.”
These two women – as compatible as fire and water – took an important step toward cooperation. Dawn hid nothing, explaining to Selene everything she needed to know about the Green Alliance. They were partners now, so there was no point in holding back. Right now, the immediate task was to improve cooperation. With the danger that they faced little else mattered.
“Alright, I’ve got it.” After a long back and forth Selene was ready to go find Cloudhawk.
“Wait a second. Since you’re here, how about a little spar? I’m curious how much you’ve improved.”
Selene looked her up and down. A glint of light danced in her silver eye. “Are you sure?”
Dawn’s hands were already on her sword. “No more talk. Bring it on.”
Selene answered by drawing her flawless crystal sword. Its brilliant light immediately filled the space as suddenly she thrust it toward Dawn. The burst of power she released proved her mental strength to nearly rival her father’s. Maybe even stronger.
“Not bad!” Dawn joyfully knocked it aside.
The two then danced back and forth, exchanging blows.
Dawn’s style was overbearing and in your face. Some attacks even Selene didn’t dare try to block head on. But in their first official fight Dawn discovered that everything she threw at Selene – from her gravitational power, to the shifts of Arbitralux, and even her common sword strikes – were seen right away. As though she was somehow telegraphing her every move.
Maybe she could still use her Eye of Time?
After a series of powerful but ultimately failed attacks, Dawn started to run out of steam. Selene, seeing the opening, swung her sword and stopped it an inch from Dawn’s throat – she’d won!
“Goddamnit! Using that eye of yours is fuckin’ cheating!”
“Even without the eye you are no match for me.”
With their normal relics and in a neutral environment, Selene had the advantage. Her Holy Vestments meant she could keep up the fight ten times longer than Dawn. The angry blonde’s attacks might hit harder, but Selene could easily win the battle by attrition.
Dawn refused to accept this so she made her swear to a rematch. Selene did not refuse. They both had very different characters, but in some ways they were much the same. Whatever Selene said, they were good competition for one another.
For as long as either remembered they’d been at odds. Now, for many reasons, they were working together. It was high time they tried cooperation.