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Chapter 50 - A Dubious Crisis

 Cloudhawk stumbled over and tried to rouse Dawn, but she was out cold. She had all the agility of a sack of mud, like all her bones had been removed. With one arm under her neck and the other under her legs, Cloudhawk lifted her up and laid her on the sofa.

Heat radiated from her face and her warm breath tickled his neck. Cloudhawk had a good vantage of her ample chest as it rose and fell, soaked from sweat and booze. Every inch of her tempted a man to sin, especially the corner of her lips which glistened. Once the booze robbed her of her vicious streak se looked charming, almost adorable.

"I'm nnnnot drunk. Le'ss keep goin'. Boooottums up!"

Dawn Polaris managed to slur out in more sentence and then went quiet.

Cloudhawk fumbled back to his chair and sat, looking over the table that lay in disarray. He fought through the sloshy feeling in his head and grabbed for the cigarettes provided by the pub. After several attempts he finally managed to light one, stuck it in his mouth, and took a drag. He didn't have much experience with smoking but these tasted different. The aromatic flavor of elysian tobacco penetrated through his lungs. Even this is different here, he mused. [1]

The trespasser virus in his blood continued to dissolve the excess alcohol, but it wasn't very aggressive. Cloudhawk was in much better shape than Dawn, so he wasn't in much of a hurry to get moving. He finished his cigarette and polished off another jug of warrior wine, this time sipping.

Being drunk was pretty awesome. He felt like he was floating and emotions were more intense.

All the feelings he kept bottled up came bubbling out through the power of booze and tobacco. He clenched his fists and an almost overwhelming urge to smash the table came over him, to scream and curse and let it all out. But in the end he held back. All the obsession he felt to flee the wastelands came back to him, then the joy of his first steps through the elysian lands and the confusion and despair that followed. All the passion that had roared through him for months surged through his brain. They crashed like terrible waves that threatened to drag him under, but eventually subsided.

Everyone had an idea of what paradise meant for them, but the world was always changing. Reality went on, destroying lives and dreams without a care. In the end when everything that could burn was gone, all that remained was clarity. Cloudhawk wasn't there, but he felt like he was beginning to understand.

Drink the wine you had today, enjoy the meat that was on your plate. That was enough.

Especially in times like now somewhere between drunk and sober. Real troubles melted from the mind, lost in the haze. Even persistent pain melted away in the face of contentment. The elysian lands weren't what Cloudhawk had expected, but he could still settle down here.

First thing was living. Living was more important than anything.

He knew the situation he was in. He understood that to Aethos Polaris he was nothing but a chess piece, and a chess piece was only worth as much as its purpose. He could be found lacking or just cast aside, and if that happened he would quickly be gobbled up by this frantic city.

Out here he didn't have any backing. With treasures like the gospel of the sands, and people like Frost de Winter and the Cloude family after him, he was a target. He was left with no way to protect himself or fight back.

As he pondered his fate Dawn Polaris sunk deeper into inebriated slumber.

Cloudhawk looked at her curled up on the couch. Asleep she really was something to behold. Her bright white skin was vibrant and soft like you could draw water right out from her. In truth, though, years of training had honed her body to perfection. She was as taut and resilient as a jaguar.

Cloudhawk reached out and ran a finger along her smooth cheek, ruddy from alcohol. It gave her a strange sort of charm he couldn't quite put his finger on. She seemed to feel it and her eyebrows furrowed slightly only to relax again after a moment.

Cloudhawk wasn't some kid anymore, wet behind the ears. With the booze taking his inhibitions and a beautiful woman defenseless before him it was impossible not to have reactions one would expect of a man. However Cloudhawk wasn't drunk to the point he'd lost all sense, and he was interested in living a little while longer. And so, he pretended like he'd never heard Dawn's earlier, salacious comments.

It was time to bring her home.

Cloudhawk carried her, her shield and her weapon back to the commander's mansion where he deposited her safely in her bed. He then returned to his own room and fell into a deep sleep.

Dawn slept like the dead until late into the night when the heat caused her to stir. She pitched and roll until she couldn't take it and started to tug at her clothes to get them off. She gave up halfway through and passed out again sprawled over her bed. [2]

The next day...

"Aaaahhh!" [3]

A piercing scream erupted from Dawn Polaris' room.

She'd come to and discovered herself mostly naked and the sheets all tangled. Piles of her clothing lay on the floor in tatters. The signs pointed to a scenario that frightened her out of her wits.

What happened? What happened! Why does my head hurt so much?!

Memories of the night before came crashing down on her like a tidal wave. Her desperate attempts to get Cloudhawk drunk stood out in her throbbing head. Did he actually... ?

She slowly turned her head, looking at the clothes thrown about, then down at her milky white legs. Suddenly she was filled with shock and anger as a single thought took over. SHIT! Kill me now!

She snatched up Terrangelica from nearby and ripped it from its sheath. Light reflected of the blade's smooth surface and into Dawn's eyes, red with unbridled fury.

Cloudhawk was still asleep in his room. He still wasn't accustomed to sleeping in a bed, but he'd passed out the second his head touched the pillow. When suddenly he felt the murderous intent sweep by him he awakened, startled. What was going on? He rolled out of bed just as the door to his room was kicked in.

Dawn Polaris stormed in, disheveled and furious. Her hair stuck out in all directions and flailed in the breeze caused by the door flying open. Her eyes, red as a rabbit's, glared as she clutched her sword tight. When she saw Cloudhawk she took a swipe at him without saying a word.

"Holy shit! You're insane!"

He wasn't very wrong. Dawn's mind was twisted over what she imagined had happened the night before. However, luckily she was too emotional to use her weapon's powers. The blade whistled as it came down toward his head.

This woman was the definition of volatile! Just last night she was all laughs and happy conversation, now she was trying to kill him!

She was still unbalanced and hungover, enough for Cloudhawk to get out of the way. His poor bed caught the blow, though, and was cleaved near in half.

"I'll hack you apart, you shameless rapist!"

As she was preparing for another strike Cloudhawk groped for quiet carnage. The instant his hand found the grip it came alive with energy and a cold light arose. Its keen power glimmered as he pulled it up, protecting himself from Dawn's wild onslaught. When the two weapons collided not a sound was heard.

Cloudhawk had enough presence of mind to use his relic's power, but Dawn did not. Without the power of hers word the two were evenly matched and the collision knocked both of them back several meters.

Cloudhawk understood what was happening. "Are you fuckin' crazy? I didn't do anything!"

She shouted back at him. "Rapist! You take advantage of a woman and you don't have the balls to admit it?!"

"Look, relax for a moment!" Cloudhawk was stilled dressed. Luckily he'd been smart enough to fight off last night's temptation otherwise she'd really chop him into minced meat. "Let me just ask you one question. Have you really checked?"

She froze. When she woke up she saw her clothes thrown all over the place and half her body exposed, and that was enough to throw her into a fit. She'd grabbed her weapon and charged after the supposed culprit, but had never stopped to make sure she was right.

Cloudhawk sighed. "Go next door, make sure, then come back and 'hack me apart' alright?"

She glared at him with his indignant expression but squeezed her legs together. She didn't feel anything different. Some of her anger subsided but she still fixed him with a deathly stare. "Don't. You. Move."

A few minutes later...

When Dawn came back from next door her sword was back in its sheath. Her awkward expression said it all, but she gave him an apologetic look and muttered a question with her head hung low. "You really didn't do anything? It hardly makes sense, a beautiful woman like me in that state... you're no man!"

She was going to find a reason to complain no matter what.

It was Cloudhawk's turn to be angry. "After all the help I've given you the past few days this is how you treat me? Wake me up with a sword aimed at my fucking head? If I was any slower I'd have been murdered for nothing! Shit, I need to get as far away from you as quick as possible for my own safety!"

She scratched her nest of platinum hair sheepishly. After a few awkward moments she spoke. "I was just scared. Chastity is very important for templars."

YOU were scared?! Bah!

Cloudhawk just glowered at her.

Dawn saw that he was really angry this time and it made her apprehensive. Maybe for the first time ever she tried to face up to her error. "I was confused because of the alcohol, it's an understandable mistake right? My reputation with the Temple was threatened. I promise it won't happen again."

Cloudhawk still didn't answer.

She started to feel flustered but she didn't know why. This guy was just another servant, and she a dignified lady of the Polaris family. What reason did she have to feel timid? Anyway what happened was just because she'd been scared. She wouldn't have really killed him if he hadn't moved, she wasn't an idiot. Killing him would have been bad for everyone.

Typically Dawn would have been dismissive of the whole matter. If she made a mistake than she made a mistake, and if he'd died than he surely deserved it. This time she was really worried Cloudhawk might decide to cut off all contact with her. She'd actually started to take a fondness to him after these last few days. After years of terrorizing Skycloud's populace, he was the closest thing she'd ever had to a friend.

Cloudhawk stared at this prideful noble woman looking at him anxiously. He thought he could almost see tears at their corners. With her hair in a mess and her clothes ruffled she could almost be confused for endearing. In the end he curtly waved his hand. "This is the last time."

"Ok ok ok! It won't happen again, last time." She hopped in place like a little kid.

One of her servants then entered the room. "Lady."

Dawn was in the middle of trying to think of some way to pay back her misconduct when they were interrupted. "What is it," she said impatiently.

"The general has an urgent matter he needs to speak with you about."

Suddenly her face fell. Any time her grandfather called her it was for something unpleasant. Especially at a time like this. She had no choice but to say goodbye to Cloudhawk, get her hair and clothes in order, pick up Terrangelica and head out.

The serving girl snuck a quick glance at Cloudhawk. A strange look was in her eyes.

More than a few people had witnessed Dawn tearing through the mansion half-dressed and ready to cut Cloudhawk in half. It wouldn't be long before the story spread, especially with how high-profile Dawn Polaris was.

The Lady Polaris was a noble lady, from an illustrious family, and the youngest ever templar. Was she sleeping with a wild vagabond boy in off the streets? Scandalous! What's more, maybe he'd scorned her after they slept together and that's why she went after him with the sword!

That's mostly the story that got out to the public, and the citizens had plenty of opinions about it. It created such a ruckus that word eventually got to the Temple and she was forced to subject herself to evaluation. People only stopped the gossip when word got out it was proven she was still pure.

1. Cigarette smoking in China is a massive industry. The town I lived in had several big cigarette factories, and you always knew them by the strangely sweet smell they emitted. Cigs in China are also phenomenally strong, going up to 15mg tar yield as opposed to Marlboros which are like 6. Not long ago smoking was encouraged to fight hunger and was even considered therapeutic for the throat. In lieu of giving workers raises one factory I heard about gave their workers free cigarette rations instead. Lung cancer and other respiratory diseases are a huge problem in that part of the world.

2. We know where this is going...

3. Yup.