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Chapter 78 - Twigs For Swords

 Chapter 78 - Twigs For Swords

Drake's body wasn't only the result of hard training and high potential. The Thanes were second only to the Polaris family in military circles, with any number of lauded soldiers and officers as numerous as the clouds. In contrast to Skye's brood, however, the Thanes did not have demonhunting in their blood. They relied on their own strength to get ahead.

What they did have was a secret method for body strengthening, past down from generation to generation. It was a system far more rigorous than the one used by demonhunters - more effective but also tremendously difficult. It involved more than a dozen secret family medicines, and back-breaking training that subjected the student to extreme torment. In this way they made themselves strong, from bone to organs, from skin to tendons.

It was this body refinement that made the Thanes such a powerhouse. They were a second-tier family in Skycloud, yet thanks to sheer might they far surpassed the Lunaes in influence. Their younger generation, to a man, dominated the battlefields with their incredible skills.

No rain of arrows nor hail of bullets gave them pause. So who gave a shit about a stick?

Forget the fact that this kid was a nobody, if a Cloude or Polaris threatened to beat him with a stick it was downright laughable!

Cloudhawk gingerly swung his feeble weapon through the air. Whoosh! Whoosh! The thin branch whistled as it cut the air. He pointed it at Drake Thane tauntingly. "What? Scared? Truth is all that muscular nonsense might as well be paper to my eyes. I don't need a fancy sword, a branch will work just fine."

Anger tinged Drake's laughter. "A branch, eh? You've got a big mouth! And if you can't back it up?"

"I'm here, aint I? If I lose you do what you want. A sitting duck."

"Alright!" Drake gripped the jagged hole in his clothes and ripped the cloth apart, revealing the upper half of his body. If one looked closely they might see that he didn't have a single visible pore. Every corded muscle was perfectly smooth, glossy as bronze or marble. His physique was etched as perfectly as though he'd been sculpted, all hard lines, like a statue come to life. "Show me what you got."

Drake wasn't interest in wasting time, but everyone had their pride. And when his pride was so thoroughly insulted, he couldn't help but let his anger show. This guy was an irritating little shit, but letting him take a swipe with his little stick would only waste a few seconds.

When he failed he could go about grinding all his bones to dust!

"What is he thinking?!"

A magnetic and attractive voice rose from beside Claudia that drew her eye. She saw the blonde haired young man standing near her, back to the way he had been before. The frightening madness that had consumed him was gone. The bashful charm was back. Presumably Naberius could only come out for a short time when emotions ran high. Once things calmed down, Gabriel replaced him.

Claudia was alert and wary.

How could she not be? Not a minute ago his face had been filled with murderous rage. He'd tried his damnedest to rip her throat open with his bare hands! Now, all of a sudden it was like nothing happened. He was standing beside her naturally, like they were old friends. A guy like him, who changed his mood as fast as turning a page, was someone she definitely had to keep an eye on.

This bastard turncoat hadn't only betrayed her when she was trying to help, he'd turned his back on the gods themselves. In more ways than one he was far worse than Cloudhawk. She was determined to keep her eyes open, if a chance presented itself she would break this psychopath in half.

But now wasn't the time. Claudia pretended she hadn't heard him.

She wasn't sure what in the world Cloudhawk was thinking, either. Somehow his psychic energy had advanced by leaps and bounds, but physically the two were about equal. Even with a powerful attack relic it wasn't guaranteed he could break Drake's defense.

And a stick? That was flat-out nonsense.

Claudia was familiar with Cloudhawk's cunning nature. It made him different from the standard mold. He liked to get under his opponent's skin, even in the middle of a fight, and manipulate them to his purposes. Was this part of the strategy he was using now? Accepting this farce of a challenge proved that Drake had taken the bait.

Was the plan to distract him and try to run?

No, that couldn't be it. Drake was no fool. He would notice right away if Cloudhawk tried. What's more, at a glance from their leader the other soldiers had begun to circle them. They had Cloudhawk surrounded, so even if he got past one the others were there to stop him. There was no running.

Drake Thane roared at him with a voice that could crack boulders. "What are you waiting for?!"

Cloudhawk took a deep breath. In truth, he didn't know. But he had to try something.

The vibrations of power from the phase stone grew stronger. A field of power rose up, filling him up and enveloping him on all sides. It separated him from the fabric of reality.

Although everyone could still see him, Cloudhawk had stepped halfway between this dimension and the next. Although he didn't phase somewhere else entirely, he had become dislodged from the material plane. Like this he was safe, so long as an attack didn't overpower the stone's abilities. Anything less would pass harmlessly through him.

It was time to start. Cloudhawk held the stick high like a sword and flew forward.

And fly was right. He floated up off of the ground like nothing was holding him, while his coarse clothes fluttered. Gravity no longer existed for him. As gentle as a leaf on the wind, with his stick pointed straight ahead, Cloudhawk floated toward Drake. Without anything to stop him, Cloudhawk passed effortlessly through space toward his target.

Drake and his cronies looked on, shocked.

What was this? An attack this light would hardly tickle! But these men were experienced warriors, and they recognized when something wasn't right. It was an exceptionally strange scene to witness this guy rise like he did, with his clothes and his hair floating like gravity meant nothing.

Such a slow and easy strike was something even a child could avoid. He came at them like he was arriving from far away, from another world. Strange, certainly, but hardly dangerous. With a grunt, Drake stood stoic and steadfast as Cloudhawk approached.

The branch reached his chest.

Then, the unexpected happened.

Cloudhawk's branch slipped into Drake's body like he was made of air. They stared in shock, like looking at a ghost! It was more than abnormal, for beyond feeling anything it also left no wound. No blood was spilled.

Claudia's face froze. An illusion? A phantom?

Gabriel knew better. It had to be a relic that let him pass through things like this. That was the only way for Cloudhawk to pass through something so easily, while leaving no trace. But what was he thinking?

When Drake saw the branch slip through his body, he broke out in a cold sweat. It was short-lived, however, and disappeared when he saw there was no pain. He recovered fast and realized that it was all a trick. The bastard dared try to deceive him!

Cloudhawk's eyes were calm as a lake surface. It was the first time he was doing something like this. Whether or not he would succeed hinged on this moment!

The phase stone's power was suddenly interrupted. Cloudhawk was all at once returned to the material world, as was the branch he held. The branch that was still mostly inside Drake's chest... that's right!

This was Cloudhawk's innovative strategy!

A mere branch couldn't penetrate Drake's defenses, not even if it was Master Arcturus who wielded it. The branch was just too brittle. He'd have to stab it at Drake ten times the speed of sound to have a chance. Only, was there anyone in the world who could move that fast? Just the friction of it all would burn him to cinders.

But what did set Cloudhawk apart was the phase stone!

Under the stone's power he placed the branch where he wanted. Though Drake and the branch occupied the same location, they did not yet share the same place. The two were in separate dimensions and did not interact. But when he let the stone's field dissipate, suddenly the two were forced together. The branch reconnected to the material plane planted firmly in Drake's chest. This interdimensional attack was the only way to undermine the warrior's defenses.

Of course, Cloudhawk wasn't some planewalking master. He'd come up with it on the fly, and it was the only choice he had. If it didn't work, he and the others would be unlikely to escape.

Cloudhawk felt the branch fighting against the field. He sensed a fierce resistance that made him pause. It wasn't unlike the resistance he felt when he tried to pass through solid objects. The denser and more energy-rich the object he tried to penetrate, the higher it resisted. The force on the branch was increasing dramatically.

Not good!

Crackling came from the dead branch fixed in his grip. It shattered into more than ten pieces with splinters firing off like bullets. The bits that were inside Drake were violently forced out, much to Cloudhawk's shock and surprise. Was this right? Had he gambled and lost?

Drake screamed in agonized pain and hit the ground, clutching his chest.

The branch had indeed shattered but more than half a dozen pieces were still lodged in the soldier's body. The skin, muscle, bone and organs of his body all had different strengths. The stick hadn't damaged his skin or caused any issue to his muscle or bone, because the resistance force of his body spat the big chunks out.

But the body's internal tissues were complicated.

The splinters of petrified wood inside of him spread everywhere. Some were in his lungs, and some were in his blood vessels pumping through his heart. The results were unmistakably awful.

Blood poured from Drake's mouth and nose. This level of internal damage was unprecedented for him, more than he could bear.

A single hit had laid him out. Cloudhawk actually did it.

If he'd been using Quiet Carnage, or if his psychic energy were strong enough to combat the resistance, the stick would have been kept intact and ran Drake through. It would have killed him on the spot!

His first attempt was quite significant. Not only had he defeated Drake, Cloudhawk had discovered a whole new way to fight.

From now on the strongest defenses were meaningless before Cloudhawk and his phase stone!