Early evening. Night was approaching. Dusk’s gentle light hung over Byzantium, playing among the lamp-lit streets.
April Showers was one of the premiere entertainment locations in the city. Talented and beautiful women danced, the highest quality food was provided, and businessmen drank to their heart’s content nightly. A thousand gold was not enough to enjoy all the delights of this place, but even so rarely were nobles spied here.
In any Elysian land, nobility were an important part of theocratic rule. Rich but reasonable was a standard, for the rule of faith and the tenets of religion ran deep. Nobles who reached for power had to adhere to them. Those that chose instead to live in decadence were few.
But nothing was absolute. Anywhere where people gathered there would be outliers, and besides it was human nature to seek out comfort. As it was not explicitly denied by the gods, places like April Showers saw good business despite the stigma.
One of its most offensive regulars was the Governor’s third son, Lance.
The young noble spent his days drinking, which compounded his already vicious nature. He often lorded his position over others, bullied patrons and caused trouble. Despite this the Governor doted on his three sons like princes. So long as their antics didn’t go too far, troubles were ignored or paid off.
“Drink! Keep it coming!”
As was customary, the Young Master was resting against a pair of creamy thighs in a small room. A dozen beauties were sprawled among the couches, eating and drinking in a decadent display.
“Third Master has had enough!” A steward of the Governor wailed, “If the Governor knew of this he would be furious again!”
“We take the day by the balls and worry about tomorrow when it comes! I’m just having a little fun, what are you worried about? Fuck off if you have a problem, no one asked for your opinion!”
Lance spit a mouthful of alcohol into the steward’s face. The man, knowing Lance’s disposition, left with a glower.
“They’re about to send me to the capital. I say we have some fun before I go, yeah?” Lance swung his head around, staring at the women with wine-soaked eyes. He grabbed the nearest one and started to paw at her. “Son-in-law to the capital’s Governor, part of his grand family! Heh, think of the sort of man I’ll be then!”
“Third Master wants to go?”
“We don’t want to be without Third Master!”
The girls whined and cooed, closing in around him in a display of affection.
“I don’t want to leave you ladies either, but it’s not up to me.” He chortled and took another swig of wine. “Ever since I was small they all have looked down on me. It’ll be good to leave them all behind!”
“That’s not true, Young Master. You’re an honorable demonhunter! Who would dare look down on you?”
“You think demonhunters have any power? Maybe they do, but only to you common people. For someone like me, born into an important family, everyone is a demonhunter. What’s special about that?” Lance drunkenly shoved the girl away. “I’ve had too much, I need to piss.”
No one noticed the dark figure perched on the ceiling beam. Wrapped in black, it would be hard to see at a glance how he looked exactly like the Governor’s son – everything except for his expression.
Cloudhawk had watched the youth live his luxurious life with some interest. Stormford’s history was peaceful without any outside forces to cause problems. It was lax and comfortable here. Especially somewhere like Byzantium – a big city but not a very important one – these dens of decadence were as numerous as churches.
Women like this, songstresses and dancers who sold themselves for coin, were absent in Skycloud. At least on the surface. Under the Cloude family they made sure such filthy trade was not allowed to undermine the purity of their realm. The girls who worked here were either from poor families or were spoiled by crime and were forced into prostitution.
The Young Master drunkenly stumbled into the hall. He pushed open the door to the toilet, but before he stepped in he stopped dead in his tracks. Even in his drunken state he was startled, for in the doorway was a man who looked exactly like him. For a moment he wasn’t sure if he was dreaming.
Lance opened his mouth to scream, but to no avail. His mirror image snapped his fingers and a power spread through the area. Although Lance tried to scream and call out, no one came running. At the same time he felt a terrible power creep over him.
What incredible, frightening strength! What was this demon?!
He didn’t need to fight this copy to realize he was stronger than anyone he’d ever met in his life. All the best warriors in Byzantium together couldn’t match him. The stranger could snap Lance in two with the power of his little finger.
“Wh-… who are you?!”
Cloudhawk looked down at the young man, prostrate on the ground before him, and smiled. “Is that important? From now on I am you. And you...”
Lance quailed and tried to scramble backward. “No, no! Please don’t kill me!”
Cloudhawk didn’t move. An invisible hand grabbed the young man by the throat and lifted him off the ground. Lance had soiled his pants and kicked urine around the bathroom as he struggled. It was all in vain.
A novice demonhunter like this was nothing to Cloudhawk, like an ant before a dragon. The pitiful youth didn’t even have a chance to fight back. When Lance stopped struggling, Cloudhawk yanked off his coat and slipped it on. All at once there was no difference between them.
And the Young Master himself? Like Belial said, there was no reason to keep him around. Even if he was an ant, Lance was an enemy. There was no point in letting him continue to wander the world and try to bite his toes.
Cloudhawk got to where he was on the corpses of many. There were some who might call him a bloodthirsty demon. He hardly thought twice as a tongue of green fire spurted to life at the tip of a finger. “Give me one reason why I shouldn’t kill you.”
“Don’t! Don’t kill me! I don’t want to die! I’ll do whatever you ask, anything at all! I’m begging you, please! I don’t want to die!”
“Ugh. Better to have died then to become a demonhunter like this.” Cloudhawk shook his head in disgust. Stormford was in a sorry state. This idiot didn’t have half the courage of one of Skycloud’s freshest grunts. Even still Cloudhawk let his finger fall. “Killing a whelp like you would be shameful.”
Cloudhawk released his spatial powers. Formless, it wrapped around Lance and pulled him away into another world.
He’d changed his mind not from sudden compassion, but because he saw Lance as nothing of a threat. He wasn’t sure whether the idiot deserved to die, but he couldn’t afford to let him get in his way. Most would kill him and be done with it…
Of course, Cloudhawk had other options. Instead he sent him off to the penal colony on another world. Who knows, maybe the kid would be useful one day.
Once he’d changed into the Young Master’s cloths, Cloudhawk walked back to the room. There a dozen or so women were waiting for him. He was immediately enveloped in soft skin and fragrant smells. He’d stepped into the life of this young man, so he might as well play the part for now and enjoy the decadence Lance would never again know.Previous Chapter Next Chapter