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Chapter 36 – Accounts Settled

 Chapter 36 - Accounts Settled

Water was the most precious commodity in the wastelands. Six years ago, this outpost was nothing more than a lifeless sea of sand. A group of excavators came to this place to dig through the ruins, only to find a large amount of underground water. Ever since then, Blackflag Outpost quickly began to grow in population before ultimately reaching its current size.

Water had created Blackflag Outpost. In the wastelands, those who controlled the water controlled the land.

The amount of water the Queen used to bathe in daily was enough to keep Cloudhawk alive for nearly a month. Such wasteful extravagance! But what really caused Cloudhawk's heart to clench was the fact that this clean, pure water was used just for bathing... because after the Queen finished her bath, she let it all go down the drain! To Cloudhawk, it wasn't water going down the pipes, it was blood, it was life itself!

Cloudhawk suddenly said something with the utmost of sincerity. "Your Majesty, would you be willing to give me all of your used bathwater?"

These words were meant sincerely and without any intention to offend at all. However, in the ears of the Bloodsoaked Queen these words were insulting or perhaps mocking. Her gaze turned ice-cold. "Say that one more time."

Cloudhawk had no idea how he had just enraged this fierce woman yet again, but he hurriedly changed the topic. He pulled out two jars of liquid from his pockets. "I brought you your medicine. There should be more than enough to treat your wounds here."

The Bloodsoaked Queen's gaze softened. She accepted them without a word of thanks, then turned and said coldly, "Follow me!"

The Queen's residence was simply enormous. It had a kitchen, a dining room, a bedroom, a bath, a washroom, and more. One floor was just a single giant room that was completely empty, with no objects within it save a prayer mat. This was where the Queen spent much of her time training, meditating, and praying every day.

"Watch carefully." The Bloodsoaked Queen walked to the center of the giant training room, then slowly closed her eyes. She took a deep breath, then her entire body went into motion as she began to perform a set of extremely strange movements. The entire set of movements contained a total of thirty-six different stances that were linked together as fluidly as water. The movements seemed very simple, but in reality contained many profound mysteries to them.

The Queen moved extremely slowly. It took her a total of twenty minutes before she finally finished displaying the entire set of movements.

"Is that it?" Cloudhawk had been watching intently this entire time. Although he had a very strange feeling when watching, he couldn't pinpoint the exact cause of it. "Don't tell me that's the only thing you are gonna teach me. Are you messing with me?"

The Bloodsoaked Queen let out a cold snort. "Try them out for yourself before you say anything!"

Cloudhawk muttered disdainfully, "What's so hard about them?"

Guided by the Bloodsoaked Queen, he began to train in those movements as well. The strange thing was, as he performed the fourth movement he began to feel extremely tired. By the time he finished the fifth movement, his forehead was already covered in sweat. Every single inch of his body was aching by the sixth movement, as though his arms and legs were weighed down with thousand-pound weights.

Finally, by the seventh movement, Cloudhawk could no longer hold back.

"Ow, ow, OW! That freaking hurts!" Cloudhawk felt as though every single muscle in his body was being ripped apart, with all the energy having been drained out of his cells. He felt such agonizing pain that he just plopped down onto the ground, moaning as he writhed in pain. The feeling was simply indescribable!

Those movements looked very ordinary, and the Bloodsoaked Queen had managed to complete all of them without even working up a sweat. Cloudhawk, however, was in such pain by the seventh exhausting movement that he could no longer take it.

Cloudhawk moaned and groaned for quite a few minutes before slowly starting to recover. He felt certain that he had been tricked, and he glared at the Queen accusingly. "Don't tell me you demonhunters spend all your time practicing those movements! Are you all masochists?"

The Bloodsoaked Queen said placidly, "This is a basic training exercise meant to temper the body. Only by training in it for extended periods of time can you unlock the potential within your body. It will stimulate every aspect of your body, accelerating your growth in every way as it helps you become more powerful through giving you metapower enhancements. This is nothing more than a basic training exercise for demonhunters."

Just a basic training exercise?

The Bloodsoaked Queen seemed to know exactly what Cloudhawk was thinking. "Although this is a basic technique, if you can fully complete all thirty-six movements and then gain some practical combat experience, you won't be weaker than any other person in this entire outpost."

Was this technique really that incredible? In the wastelands, metapowers were generally only activated over the course of multiple life-and-death situations. Cloudhawk had never thought that it would be possible to use a systemized training regime to increase his own strength and metapowers. It seemed as though demonhunters truly did have a few tricks up their sleeves. No wonder they were so strong!

Right now, Cloudhawk would rather die than try out the complete set of exercises a second time. Still, he was able to separate those thirty-six movements and train in them separately, which was less taxing. He went through all thirty-six movements, slowly but firmly engraving all of them deep into his mind. By now, he had fully memorized all of them. At the very least, he would have gained access to a technique which would help him grow stronger.

"Wait a second!" Cloudhawk was no fool. He wasn't going to let her off the hook that easily! After having spent a considerable period of time silently memorizing the techniques, he suddenly seemed to wake up. He turned to the Queen and said in a loud, 'righteous' voice, "I might be a kid, but I'm not an idiot. Don't even think you can fool me that easily. You know full well that this isn't what I want to learn! I want to learn real techniques that will let me have the same special powers as you!"

This set of training exercises could only be used to train, temper, and strengthen the body. What Cloudhawk really wanted to learn was how to use the same unfathomable, supernatural powers as the demonhunters had access to. Did the Bloodsoaked Queen really think she'd be able to fob him off with a set of basic training movements? Screw that!

"Hmph. You really don't know what's good for you." The Bloodsoaked Queen said coldly, "You haven't been blessed by the gods, and your mind has not been awoken to its psychic potential. Most importantly of all, you don't even have a divine relic. Do you really think that learning our techniques will give you access to our power? How laughable!"

"I insist on learning them!" Cloudhawk shook his head stubbornly. "And what the heck are 'divine relics'?"

What were divine relics? In truth, these 'divine relics' were magical artifacts which the gods had bestowed upon mankind. The principal qualification needed to become a demonhunter was the ability to control and wield divine relics.

There were many different relics with many different attributes. Some held sway over fire, wind, ice, earth, and other elemental powers. The vast majority of demonhunters could only become psychically resonate with one type of relic... and the relics were at the core of the true power which they were able to wield.

The Bloodsoaked Queen's gloves and the cross hanging around her neck were both heaven-sent relics which the gods had bestowed upon their demonhunters. It was thanks to these mighty artifacts that the Bloodsoaked Queen possessed such inconceivable, supernatural power!

But of course, having access to relics alone did not a demonhunter make. Demonhunters not only needed powerful relics, they also needed powerful reservoirs of psychic energy. Psychic energy, in and of itself, possessed no offensive power. However, once it was perfectly joined together with an attuned type of divine relic, it could create supernatural effects of unbelievable power.

The more psychic energy a demonhunter possessed, the more power the demonhunter would be able to unleash from his or her relics.

The Bloodsoaked Queen's sacred crossblade of light was a divine relic. It normally hung around her neck in the form of an ordinary-looking cross, but when she filled it with her attuned psychic energy its true form as a sacred crossblade would be awakened, resulting in it transforming into a sword of light that could cut through all things!

If the sacred crossblade of light fell into wastelander hands or into the hands of a demonhunter who had a different type of psychic energy, it would be of no use at all despite its tremendous power.

Demonhunters were partially honored for their power, and partially because they were so incredibly few in number. Even in the blessed lands loved by the gods, very few people had the talent needed to become a demonhunter. As for the wastelands and its foul heathens who had been forsaken by the gods? They were born with tainted, corrupt blood in their veins. How could a place like this possibly give birth to someone with the talent needed to become a demonhunter?

Thunk! The Bloodsoaked Queen tossed a pitch-black staff to the ground. This staff was made of an unknown material. It looked very slick, but didn't reflect any light at all. It was roughly three feet long, and it was topped with a tri-edged screw-blade that was incredibly sharp. This was a weapon that could be used to stab or to hack, and in both situations it would create huge, gaping wounds.

The 'hilt' of this tri-bladed staff was round, metallic, and covered in squiggly lines that helped ensure the wielder was able to maintain a solid grip around it. At the very base of the staff was a mysterious rune that looked like the runes on the Queen's gloves and cross.

A faint ripple of power emanated from the staff. Although the aura was very weak, there was no mistaking it at all. Completely surprised, Cloudhawk picked the staff up. "So this is a relic as well?"

Is this kid really able to hear a so-called 'song' from divine relics? A puzzled look appeared on the Bloodsoaked Queen's face. Still, she didn't spend too much time on this question as she began to give a fairly simple explanation. "Rookie demonhunters are unable to take control over powerful relics, and so the Temple has created a number of low-grade weapons and armaments for them to use. This weapon is known as an 'exorcist staff'. Although it isn't really a relic, it has the same properties as relics."

"Are you giving this to me?" Cloudhawk felt shocked by this sudden display of favor. He lifted up the metal staff and gave it a few experimental twirls, then used his knuckles to rap it. Even if it was nothing more than an ordinary weapon, it was still quite a sturdy and powerful one; there was no way it would be as easily hacked through as an ordinary iron sword.

"It's been a long time since low-grade relics like this were of any use to me." No trace of emotion could be heard from the Bloodsoaked Queen's hoarse voice. "Consider it my gift to you. Now, our accounts are settled. From this day forth, neither of us owe each other anything. You can leave now. Never come here again."

Damn, she's pretty heartless. Was it really necessary for her to draw such a clear line between the two of them? Wastelanders were human beings, same as her. Why were their lives supposedly worthless?

Cloudhawk heaved a sigh. After having lived with each other for several days, he had thought that the Queen was beginning to view him a bit differently. Apparently, she felt just as disdainful towards him as she had from the start.

Cloudhawk silently put away the exorcist staff, then said a single word solemnly: "Thanks."

"Don't thank me." The Queen turned and left the room, her hoarse and raspy voice ringing out behind her. "Sooner or later, Blackflag Outpost is going to be embroiled into a huge battle. If you want to stay alive, you need to leave this place immediately. This is my final warning to you. From this day forth, it'll be as though we've never met. You're on your own."

Cloudhawk slowly left the Queen's private residence. He stood in front of the entrance for a few moments, a blank look on his face and a rather uncomfortable feeling in his heart.

The Bloodsoaked Queen was very young, but possessed of incredible power. Even in the elysian lands, she had to be an incredible figure, right? Cloudhawk was nothing more than a scavenger who had struggled for most of his life to stay alive in the ruins. The gulf between the two was as vast as the empyrean moat which separated the heavens from the earth. There was no way to bridge that gap.

For them to have met each other was nothing more than a complete accident, a twist of fate. Now, the lines of their destiny were about to untangle as they continued on their separate paths. In the end, it was guaranteed that they would never meet again.

Cloudhawk shook his head vigorously. What the hell was he even thinking about? This was nothing more than a brief, chance meeting. Cloudhawk had helped the Queen survive the most dangerous period of her life, and the Queen had repaid him by giving him what he desired most. Now, their accounts were settled. Neither owed the other. This was an excellent ending... right?

The light of the moon bathed the quiet outpost in its glow. In truth, the outpost was almost terrifying silent tonight. Exorcist staff in hand, Cloudhawk began the trip back to the mercenary outpost. Halfway there, his heart rate suddenly began to speed up as a feeling of incredible uneasy began to fill his entire body, making him feel as though he had suddenly been dunked into a pool of cold water. He had a premonition of intense danger!

"Who is it?!" Cloudhawk barked towards the dark alleyway up ahead of him, "Stop hiding! Come out!"

These words seemed to part the darkness as a black silhouette suddenly charged out, hurtling a knife straight towards Cloudhawk. This strike had been aimed with perfect timing and from the perfect angle. The knife seemed to be filled with all the power and skill the knife thrower could muster, with no wasted motion and no flowery flourishes. Without question, this came from a seasoned warrior, a veteran of a hundred battles.

An expert combatant was after his life!

Cloudhawk instinctively lashed out with his exorcist staff, knocking the knife aside. As the tri-blade staff clanged against the knife, the knife was split in half while just the slightest of scratches appeared on the tri-blade.

Although Cloudhawk had an absolute advantage in terms of weaponry, the difference in strength between was noticeable. His wrist blazed with pain, and the staff nearly flew out of his grasp.

Cloudhawk hurriedly scampered backwards a few steps. Before he even had a chance to catch his footing ,the black-garbed man came charging towards him with a second strike. The second knife cut out in a powerful yet beautiful arc, filled with highly focused power. The trajectory of the strike ensured that there was nowhere for Cloudhawk to dodge at all. Fortunately, Cloudhawk's reaction time was fast enough that he was able to block this second attack as well.

Clang! Sparks erupted in midair, briefly lighting up the darkness of the night. Cloudhawk was finally knocked off-balance and sent tumbling to the ground from the power of this blow. He was sent rolling backwards on the ground in a clumsy fashion. The black-garbed man seemed hell-bent on his death, sending out yet another knife-strike slicing through the dark night towards Cloudhawk with meteoric speed.