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Chapter 49 - Limits

 Everything Dawn knew about the world was shattered. The shock it caused her was intense. Not because she had a weak mental constitution, but because what Cloudhawk showed was incomprehensible.

She'd never heard of someone being able to sense a relic's power without even touching it. If everyone had access to such an ability, the Order of Demonhunters wouldn't make any money. It was also unheard of that someone could use so many different kinds of relics - Cloudhawk's talents seemed to be without limitation. He was able to call on the power of any relic he touched.

It didn't matter that he was low born. It didn't matter that he was not strong. These two facts were enough that no one in Skycloud City would be right in overlooking him. These skills made him special. He was as notable as any other talent in the city.

Once Cloudhawk's psychic energy was spent, the golem broke apart of its own accord, like snow on a sunny day. After only a few seconds the stone was back to being fist sized and, like it knew who its master was - returned to Cloudhawk's hand.

"Do you want to give it a try?"

Cloudhawk turned a blind eye to Dawn's shock. He tossed the rock to her.

She caught it in both hands and let the rock settle in her palms. As she looked it over thrill overtook her shock, and Dawn's powerful psychic power poured out. Once again the rock quickly began to transform.


This transformation was several times faster than when Cloudhawk had tried. Where it landed a sizeable dent was left in the floor. Beyond changing fast it also immediately swelled to the size of a baby elephant before taking on humanoid characteristics. Once it was finished a two hundred and forty centimeter tall man of stone occupied the center of the room. He towered over them imposingly.

If Cloudhawk's summoned golem was a chimp, than this was a mountain gorilla!

He also found it interesting that this golem was far thicker, like it was covered in a suit of stone armor. It also carried a two-meter long war hammer in its gravely grip.

Incredible! It made its own weapons, too!

Dawn called out in surprise and delight as she controlled with golem through their connection. It lumbered forward, raised its massive arms and brought the hammer down on a wooden dummy. The whole training area shook intensely from the impact. The floor cracked, and the dummy was smashed to splinters.

It was spectacular to behold.

Dawn Polaris ordered the golem to walk around as she practiced her control. Cloudhawk could see that the depth of her abilities was impressive, since she was able to maintain it for so long without any loss in the golem's strength.

"Let's test the third one together!"

Cloudhawk reached into the final box and pulled out the black gold sword. It looked thin and light, very old, and made entirely from one piece of metal. There weren't any visible places were pieces were joined, and in fact it was heavier than it looked.

The name was inscribed on its side: 'Quiet Carnage!'

Shit, what sort of name is that? The name alone proved it was a demonic relic!

There wasn't much different between demonic and godly relics, other than the fact that demonic relics were bleaker and more ferocious. Neither of them knew what to expect from it.

As Dawn had the stone golem wander around Cloudhawk grinned. He searched for the resonance of the blade, joined with it, and the relic began to vibrate.

Of course this vibration was imperceptible to others. As Dawn watched all she saw was Cloudhawk's arm spring up, blade in hand, and cut through the air. A half-moon slash of dark energy was flung out whose sharpness could be felt even from far away.

The golem went stiff. Then, without any foreshadowing, its large head rolled off its shoulders. Its neck, where the attack passed through, was shaved to a mirror sheen and the only sound was the golem's head striking the ground.

Absolutely no sound had come from the sword or the energy it spat forth. Even when it split rock, nothing.

From beginning to end only deathly stillness prevailed, so it seemed the weapon had a sound dampening ability. Every attack was brutal but absolutely silent, just as its name implied. It wasn't a large sword - three feet or so - making it convenient to carry around. It fit Cloudhawk's fighting style particularly well.

It wasn't anything to fawn over, but the relic was far better than something like an exorcist staff. Cloudhawk wasn't lacking in relics except none were for direct combat. Quiet carnage suited his needs just fine. Not too strong, but stronger than a staff. Faster too. And of course, totally silent.

Cloudhawk put the sword back down. "And there you go, test complete."

Perhaps for the first time in her life Dawn felt a deep admiration. The Home of the Demonhunters typically only had ten halfway decent relics pass through their auction in a year, but this time they'd gotten three. It was an unprecedented haul, made all the more surprising by the fact that Cloudhawk's accuracy was spot on for each one. If this unnaturally gifted guy kept visiting the auction they would have to go out of business.

Their agreement was to split the goods fifty-fifty, but that wasn't going to be easy with three relics. Dawn wanted the concussion shield and the titan rock, but she also knew it was Cloudhawk who'd earned them. She couldn't really justify blindly profited at his expense.

It was almost incredible that this overbearing, bullying lady of the Polaris family was thinking about someone else. Today was certainly a day of firsts.

Cloudhawk saw the look on her face and graciously waved his hand. "Take 'em. Pay me the difference in coin."

Dawn was elated. She blurted out, "I don't like to take advantage of people."

Cloudhawk's annoyance began to show. "Fine, then I'll take two."

"Hmph! Fat chance!" Suddenly she had a change of heart. "I don't like to take advantage of others. But you, I have no problem."

Cloudhawk didn't have the same covetous feelings towards relics as others. Strictly speaking he'd just stumbled on most of the ones he owned; the phase stone, the invisibility cloak, the Gospel of the Sands, and the sword he might have sort of paid for (but it wasn't much different).

With the stone's phasing powers and his natural ability to hear relics, Cloudhawk didn't think he would ever have to worry about finding more. That was how he could be so generous. Now Dawn owed him even more and that, to him, was worth a few relics. Besides, the two she took weren't very helpful to him.

The concussive shield was strong and its function fair, but its style was better suited to someone who saw more wide-scale combat. The titan stone was an excellent piece, but Cloudhawk already had the Gospel of the Sands. He'd seen the demon use it to summon a similar golem, so the two relics overlapped. The Gospel was clearly much more powerful than the titan stone, so why bother having two of the same thing?

After some thought it was clear what he needed was cash and Dawn's help. Getting feed for Oddball from the Temple, for instance.

Dawn slipped the buckler onto her back and the stone in her pocket. "Your mistress is in a fine mood. I'm going to treat you to a drink. Come!"

With all the bearing of a fantasy heroine Dawn strode into a separate room of the pub. She regally flung herself onto a couch, loudly ordered a dozen jugs of warrior's wine, then selected a few things from the food menu.

"Take what you like, it's on me!"

Dawn really was in a good mood. The young guy was also starting to look less and less like a degenerate to her.

Cloudhawk ate in such a way that it looks slow but in reality was in large volume. He stuffed his mouth and carefully chewed every bite so it didn't look like he was half starved. As she watched Dawn realized that the guy didn't care much about the taste. He was just interested in any sustenance he could get.

A harsh life in the wastelands had taught Cloudhawk to appreciate every bite of food he got. It went double for every mouthful of water.

Dawn Polaris watched him with interest. "You aren't a big guy, how can you eat so much? One of your plates is enough to feed me for three days. If I ate like you my stomach would explode!"

"One plate means I don't have to eat for three days. I don't think you could say the same."

There were many reasons he ate so much, but that was indeed one of them.

"No one normal wanders out of the wastelands!" She sighed then continued her questioning. "So what's your story?"

"Nothing to tell."

"Boring. Turning down a pretty woman is rude, you know. Especially someone as smart and attractive as me!"

"Not a shred of modesty."

"It's the truth!" Dawn slapped the table and snatched a jug of alcohol. "Do you have any idea how hard it is to share a drink with a beautiful woman? Come on, drink me under the table if you think you can."

Cloudhawk gave her a glance over his plate of food. "Why would I want to do that?"

"Here I am, a beautiful woman with booze in hand, and you're asking a stupid question like this." Dawn stuck out her well-endowed chest. "If you can out-drink me you can do whatever you want with me. Up to you! What do you say, a rare opportunity eh?"

If you put aside Dawn's... unique personality, and judged her only from the outside, then she was the second prettiest girl Cloudhawk had ever met - besides Selene. She also had a very different presence than the otherworldly, exceptionally refined beauty of the Bloodsoaked Queen. If Dawn didn't move and didn't speak she would be like a statue of a goddess, pure and noble. Looks like that always aroused a man's lust for conquest, even before saying something so provocative.

Cloudhawk gave her deliberately advertised chest a good long look. "You sure?"

"I keep my word!" She said the words with a crafty tone and opened up two jugs. "Let's go, I'm waiting. See what you got!"

What Cloudhawk didn't know was that Dawn Polaris' capacity for alcohol was famous in Skycloud City.

Even General Polaris couldn't drink his granddaughter under the table, so one could imagine her tolerance. She could drink against ten hardy men without a problem, so this whole deal with Cloudhawk was merely a setup.

"It's not strong, drink the whole thing down. Really quench your thirst."

She snatched one of the jugs, threw her head back and gulped it dry. Almost right away her porcelain white cheeks were tinged a rosy pink. It took away some of the pure and noble air and replaced it with coquettish undertones. This was no normal loquor either, it was a brew only demonhunters could handle called 'warrior.' As the name implied it took a warrior to stomach it, the stuff was too much for normal folks.

One glass was enough to knock out an everyday citizen of Skycloud City. She knocked back a whole jug no problem.

Dawn wiped her mouth with her arm then pushed a jug toward Cloudhawk. "Hahaha! You're up! Drink slow now, don't rush."

What, was he supposed to be afraid of a woman?!

The instant the stuff touched his lips Cloudhawk's face changed. This wasn't alcohol, it was straight fire. It was lava! He almost spit it all over Dawn's face.

She slapped the table and cackled. "What do you think? Strong, yeah?"

He winced and forced himself to swallow it. When the jug was empty he felt the fire spread out from his belly to every inch of him. His eyes were winced and watery, face red, and sweat had started to seep from his pores. Already a fuzzy feeling had started to invade his brain and he felt like he could fall over any second.

He'd been duped!

Dawn's face was barely pink, which proved she had a high tolerance. She was inhuman, what normal person could out-drink her?

"We're not done yet. Keep it up, another!"

Dawn wanted to Cloudhawk make a fool of himself, so she was determined to drink until he couldn't stand. Cloudhawk, as a man who didn't like losing, tried to keep up.

"That's two. Again!"

By the third jug Dawn had started to turn red and the booze had started to affect her thinking. Cloudhawk refused to give in and tossed back his third jug as well.

Still up? He was holding on by sheer perseverance alone! Dawn was convinced he was seconds away from passing out.

She didn't give him any chance to breathe, shoving another jug in front of him. Victory was near at hand, who could say how much either of them had drunk by now. Cloudhawk could hardly hold himself straight, and although he'd passed him limit a while ago he kept drinking.

Honestly, Cloudhawk wasn't much of a drinker. As a Tartarus mercenary all of his brothers could handle more than he. Drinking like this wasn't just about the amount but about one's constitution as well. He knew it right when he saw her take that first drink, Dawn could wipe him out even without relics.

Her strength and physique helped protect her against the ill effects of alcohol. Besides, she clearly had a talent for drinking beyond a normal person.

In reality one jug was Cloudhawk's limit, but somehow he managed to put down three in a short period of time and he was only slowly starting to get drunk. He recognized what it had to be - his blood. Once the alcohol content of his blood rose above a certain level, elements in his blood quickly worked to dissolve it.

Was it the trespasser virus?

Evidently the more he drank the more was being removed from his bloodstream. It kept him in a fuzzy haze but he never got to the point of passing out.

"I can't believe this. Again!"

The jugs strewn across the table steadily emptied.

Cloudhawk remained on the cusp, while Dawn just drank more and more. And with every jug the redness of her face intensified. Her eyes began to blur. It was her first time getting this far, meanwhile the guy just - kept - drinking! How was he still ok?

Impossible. He had to be on death's door. One more drink - one more drink and he'd fall of that damn stool!

Her face was pale and stricken. Someone like her with all her pride and talent couldn't accept a loss, even though she was almost at her limit. "AGAIN!" She hissed.

Another jug was emptied.

Cloudhawk swayed like a slight breeze would do him in, but he stayed up. The scene before Dawn's eyes started to bleed together and she couldn't keep her thoughts together.

She was done!

She put down the seventh jug, wobbled on the couch, then hit the table with a thud. Never would she have imagined she could lose to Cloudhawk. She'd dug this hole her own damn self.