Book 7, Chapter 47 - Establishing Prestige

Cloudhawk and Pelagius entered the ring.

The Governor addressed his opponent in a calm voice. “I recognize what this is all about. Skycloud is filled with strong and capable citizens. Stormford cannot compare. I know that I am no match for the master of such an alliance.”

His words caused the gathered Elysians to gape, dumbfounded. The fight hadn’t even started and he was giving up? Pelagius Audra was their Governor! His supplication was an embarrassment, better to fight and lose than give in and invite shame.

But nothing in the man’s bearing showed he felt disgrace. He knew exactly what sort of monster stood before him. “You managed to sneak into Sky Fortress, then single-handedly overcame four Supreme gods. One was destroyed, the others captured. In the face of such power, knowing your exploits, no man is your equal.”

Cloudhawk respectfully answered. “Nothing but good luck. Fortune was on my side.”

Dawn was watching their hosts’ expressions and saw them change. Shock and incredulity gave way to appreciation. Word of Cloudhawk’s deeds had gotten to them, and the most outrageous of it all was his defeat of the gods. But here he was, admitting that he’d only managed it because the circumstances were in his favor. 

Inwardly, Dawn acknowledged how laughable it was. These foolish people, like frogs in a well.

Cloudhawk waved his hand and the small jungle that encapsulated the ring began to change. It was like the seasons changed just for them, from high summer to late autumn. Vibrant greens withered to full yellow until at last the vines cracked and fell away. 

“Let’s begin.”

Pelagius watched the vines turn to ash. There was a trace of surprise in even his stoic face, for how Cloudhawk had done it was beyond his understanding.

The foliage Autumn had summoned was not real. They were a creation of mental energy, a palpable illusion. Like ice, it was a temporary change in state that vanished with time. Once Autumn stopped feeding it her mental power, the summoning failed. Robbed of its power the vines could be swept away like any ordinary plant.

Pelagius was anything but an ordinary man. He possessed keen insight and saw that Cloudhawk had used no relic just then. With only his mental power he caused those plants to die. It was all his own power, nothing else.

This meant that if Cloudhawk wanted to manipulate reality he needed only form the thought and it was so. He was a living relic. Could he still be called a man?

“Are we fighting?” Cloudhawk asked.

The governor turned his attention back to this monster. “Yes,” he replied, “of course. Some actions are taken even when the outcome is known. Some fights are necessary even when defeat is inevitable.”

His implications were not lost on Cloudhawk.

“It’s not about the result, it’s about the process. No ending is written, unless you never try.”

With a smile, thick black mist began to pour from the Governor’s magnificent robes. They billowed forth and clung to the ground like a sea. Soon the whole ring was wrapped up in it.

Cloudhawk found himself adrift in darkness. It was one of the Governor’s powers, a gift called ‘Dark Prison.’

Pelagius’ name evoked a sense of piety and light, but in fact his powers were rooted in the rarely seen realm of shadow. The clinging darkness confounded the eye and concealed the outside world. It was a power that portrayed corrosion, decay and consumption.

As such, an attack that entered Pelagius’ domain of darkness was swallowed up. It was how he gained advantage over enemies even markedly stronger than himself. When the darkness fell, it was hard to escape.

“Interesting.” Cloudhawk felt it wash over him. It wasn’t just physical and energetic, even the flows of space-time were hungrily eaten by the black. 

Those outside only saw a perfect orb of darkness, like a drop of ink. Inside, Cloudhawk felt like he was swimming in it. What’s more there was a subtle but constant change. The area was shrinking. This shadowy world collapsed in on itself until it was no more than a meter in diameter, too small for even one person.

Had the Wasteland King already been flattened?

 In fact that was not the case. Rather it was Pelagius’ power that shrunk reality within the orb, creating a discrepancy between what one saw outside and what occurred within. If the orb shrank until it vanished Cloudhawk would be caught within, forever locked in shadow.

Such was the Governor’s power. So far, none had found a way to defeat it.

The orb grew smaller still. Only a handful of centimeters remained. But just as victory loomed the space before Pelagius rippled. A hand shot forth and grabbed the Governor like a vice.

Cloudhawk was too fast. Pelagius had no time to react as the Wasteland King slipped from another dimension, forcing him to take his place. Space rippled like a pond surface, and Stormford’s leader found himself immersed in his own darkness. 

How?! Cloudhawk’s spatial powers were more incredible than Pelagius imagined. Bruno’s skills were childlike by comparison. It was a moment of negligence and Cloudhawk had capitalized on it perfectly.

“Fade!” He was forced to dispel his power lest he be devoured by it. Like boiling water the darkness started to bubble away, but in the process another voice issued a command.

“Return!”

Much to his shock an alarm, Pelagius watched the dispersing shadow freeze and then condense again. Somehow Cloudhawk was able to wrest control from him. What horror! How had this monster’s mind and will reached such a level?

Pelagius was forced to pour all of his strength into his relic. In response the darkness began to swell again, only it was as though something outside was fighting it. It expanded inch by agonizing inch. Just a little more and the Governor could break free…

A cold glint of steel flashed among the shadow, wreathed in purple lightning. With irresistible force the darkness split and the attack found purchase on Pelagius’ body. Even if he’d had the time to summon a defense it would do him no good. Fulmulta’s Governor was struck and thrown from the ring.

Cloudhawk had attacked only once. 

Confused looks were passed among the onlookers. Their exchange had lasted maybe five seconds. It ended so quickly! Pelagius couldn’t even bring his full power to bear against this creature, much less defeat him. Another loss, more absolute than either of the ones before. 

The people of Stormford were speechless. Their very best were brought low with naked ruthlessness. It was only conceivable because they’d witnessed it with their own eyes.

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