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Book 5, Chapter 41 - Dawn's Fury

 They had been ambushed! It was a trap set to lure in Greenland. The Polaris soldiers were not weak, but they could not fend off so many deadly foes at once.

But as they struggled, the whole outpost began to tremble as though their conflict had awakened an earthquake. A surge of power raced through rising up from the ground.

Squall grit his teeth. "She's still alive!"

The earth split open, and a forest of stony spikes were spat toward the sky.

A number of the Hand's elite fighters were caught off guard. Too slow to react, they were impaled by a number of these spikes and died in gruesome fashion.

However these men were far superior to the piddling sweepers they'd sent ahead. By feeling the slight changes occurring beneath them, most were able to predict and avoid the attack. If Dawn hoped this alone would do them in, then she was mistaken.

A furious roar rang out from the choking smoke. A nearby wooden house was cleaved right in two.

Dawn's body ascended from the rubble and into the air. Her long platinum hair flowed behind her like a curtain of light. Though her clothes were tattered, her skin was still smooth and luminous as jade. No mark or wound marred its milky surface. Dawn exploded onto the scene wrapped in an imposing air, like a war goddess seeking vengeance.

Inkspecter had launched that assassination attempt with his foul relic, Death and Decay. This was the same weapon that took the life of Dawn's grandfather. After claiming the general's life the relic had weakened, but it was still a deadly tool. Dawn's aegis mirror was similarly powerful, but it had been unable to protect her from the bite of her grandfather's former adviser.

By all rights, even if that sneak attack hadn't killed her, it should have at least taken her out of the fight!

However the aegis mirror wasn't her only Temple-derived source of protection. She bore another relic, from another temple, gifted to her by Cloudhawk. Because it was from him, she wore the silver armor all the time and never took it off. Today it'd saved her life.

"We'll hold them off."

"Miss, get back to the city and warn Cloudhawk!"

Surprise and relief painted the face of the Polaris soldiers when they saw Dawn emerge. They cried out to her while fighting off the Hand's advance. They were smart enough to know that not everyone would be leaving the ravine. At least they could give their lives to make sure their mistress did! If they didn't, they would be dishonoring the General's memory.

Dawn did not reply. She cast her eyes over her men, then the encroaching members of the Hand of Gehenna. Finally, her gaze met Inkspecter's. The anger that bloomed on her pretty face was like a smoldering volcano on the cusp of eruption. If looks could kill, Inkspecter would be ash.

This black-hearted traitor had lived among their family for twenty years! He'd watched Dawn grow into a woman. He had been her grandfather's most trusted friend. Even to this day, she found it difficult to believe that this man would be responsible for betrayal and murdering Skye Polaris.

But the facts were there. There was the proof, standing right in front of her. She couldn't ignore the reality.

Mr. Ink - no, Inkspecter. He was one of the devils responsible for Skye's death. In fact, aside from Arcturus, he was the main culprit!

Dawn wasn't there on that day. She didn't know what happened. But it wasn't hard to guess. If Inkspecter hadn't used grandfather's trust to lure him into a trap, Frost and Clay would never have succeeded. As strong as Skye was those, two fools would have been pummeled to paste by his fists. Killing him without some underhanded trick was out of the question.

He was the one who murdered her grandfather. He was the reason the Polaris family fell apart. He was responsible for ruining Dawn's life!

"Despicable traitor!" Dawn no longer had control over her anger. She had to fight through the fury to form the words. "Why did you do it?! When had my family ever treated you unfairly?!"

Dawn's hysterical questions boomed across the ruined outpost. The faintest trace of regret flitted across Inkspecter's face.

"Day after day, I warned the General that he was getting old, that he had best step down. The world of the future wasn't one he could grasp. He was a hero, but one of a bygone age. Unfortunately your grandfather was a stubborn man. He never did learn when to back away. If he had only listened, we wouldn't be here now. His doom was one of his own making. It would have all ended the same, even if I never lifted my hand."

Twenty years meant a lot in the life of a man. It was impossible that he would have no affection for Skycloud and the Polaris family after so many years. No, he was not heartless. He felt for his former home. Even if he was completely cold-blooded, even if his ambitions ran deep, he was still human.

As for how he felt toward the old War-God?

He carried great guilt with him, deep inside his heart. Skye Polaris had been a forthright, honorable, transparent man. Unfortunately, in this day and age it was common for the stubborn and righteous to meet with grisly ends. The only reason Arcturus hadn't moved against him sooner was because there had been no need. The Master Demonhunter had any number of ways to eliminate the General, whenever it pleased him.

His regret passed quickly and the stony expression returned. "You call me a traitor? Then you miss the point. I have never been loyal to the Polaris family. My loyalties have always lain with Gehenna. The people of Skycloud are my sworn enemies. Once my identity was revealed, I performed the mission I was sent to achieve and killed the Elysian general!"

Dawn was quickly starting to lose control over her emotions.

"Hey, hey. Don't you think we've talked enough?" Ravenous Tiger muttered from the sidelines. "We aren't far from Greenland City. We need to wrap this up quickly, otherwise we'll have their whole army on our heads. Cloudhawk isn't an easy sort to deal with, to say nothing of the people he's surrounded himself with."

"Then get to work!"

"I'll deal with her!"

Ravenous Tiger hefted his ax and ran toward Dawn to do as he promised. A faint shell of light sprang up around his body.

Meanwhile Dawn released the unbridled fury of Terrangelica. One after the other, deadly awls of stone sprang up under Ravenous Tiger's feet. But when they reached their target, the spikes were deflected by the shell of light, causing only ripples before exploding into dust.

The former Governor of Fishmonger's Borough laughed tauntingly. He was strong in his own right, and recently he had been strengthened even more. Mystical secrets helped him empower his psychic energies, to the point where here he was now half again as strong as he had been a year ago. He was eager to test himself against a formidable enemy like Dawn.

Three-Eyed Spider muttered. "Raven. Go as well."

A faint red light glowed from behind Raven's dark goggles before he leaped into the fray. Raven was a powerful and high-tech cyborg, with as much fighting prowess as a veteran demonhunter.

Before Dawn could face off against Ravenous Tiger, Raven's heavy machine gun fire was already screaming her way. Scalding lead was sprayed in a wide swath around her leaving her nowhere to run. But running wasn't on her mind. Instead she charged forward, her eyes fixed with a light of determination. She paid Raven no heed, aside from casting her left hand in his direction.

A translucent shield formed around her hand. Raven's gunfire struck it but did not break through.

Dawn's face had turned as cold as a winter storm. With her left hand continually deflecting bullets, she used her right to bring Terrangelica to bear. Finally, she hacked it towards her target and released a ribbon of martial and psychic energy. That streak of power roared toward Ravenous Tiger like a thunderhead.

In the same moment, Ravenous Tiger lashed out with his ax. He cleaved it toward Dawn with the force of an avalanche.

The opposing powers collided, and for an instant it felt like gravity increased a hundredfold.

Deafening cracks sounded as the earth split. In the end it was Dawn's attack that triumphed, piercing through Ravenous Tiger's and ramming into his body. In her fury the woman's attack was twice as strong as average.

A sound like something ripping filled the air. Ravenous Tiger's shell of light warped.

What an incredible woman! Deflecting Raven with one hand and attacking Ravenous Tiger with the other?! She split her mental energies between two relics simultaneously, and still managed to win the upper hand in their conflict. Not only did she possess incredible mental talent, she was a better martial artist than most Templars. It was no wonder she was lauded as the greatest hope for the future of the Polaris family.

Jealousy tugged at Ravenous Tiger's heart. It wasn't fair. They were both human. Yet, after years of grueling training, he still couldn't best someone with superior talent. Why was it that some were born and were cursed with mediocrity, while others were given everything from the beginning? For some, the pursuit of their life's goals was a constant struggle. For others, it was handed to them on a silver platter!

Dawn gave him no space to retaliate, and now that they were in close combat, Raven could no longer rely on his guns. Dawn allowed the aegis mirror's protection to fade. Her left hand reached back and returned bearing a small shield.

It was the shield Cloudhawk helped her buy at auction. Although not a wonderous tool, even the most basic relics were incredible in Dawn's hands.

Dawn dug her heels into the dirt. Her mental and psychical energy exploded into action, launching her forward. She smashed into Ravenous Tiger's shell, shield first.

With a scream the man was knocked off his feet. The impact alone had shattered at least ten bones.

Dawn brandished Terrangelica and prepared to continue her assault, when Raven took the opportunity to assail her with an explosive round. The barrel-fired grenade landed in between Dawn and Ravenous Tiger, and the explosion forced the two apart.

He is deadly! Raven leveled his heavy machine gun for another salvo. Even Dawn's sturdy form couldn't survive a direct shot. If she were exposed to this storm of metal, it would churn her body into paste.

But her martial abilities were revealed in a remarkable display. She raised her shield and sword defensively before her. The tip of Terrangelica was shoved into the dirt, which again forced the ground to tremble violently.

A surge of power raced through the earth and into Raven, flinging him away. Dawn released her grip on the sword and fished out a small stone which she threw after him.

It was no ordinary stone, of course. From the moment it left her hand it began to grow, first the size of her fist. By the time it struck the ground it was already eight or nine meters across. Raven had got his feet back under him and fired, but as much as he chipped away at the rock just as much reformed a moment later.

He couldn't blow it up, but at least his assault had slowed it down.

Dawn's body continued its miraculous change. In a few moments it rose up to a full ten meters, becoming a gigantic humanoid that rose from the ground like a living mountain. Indomitable, unreal, with a single kick it flung Raven several dozen meters away.

It trundled forward. All the while, the chips and flakes Raven had shot off regenerated. What terrifying power! What terrible strength!

Inkspecter watched with a dour frown. "Worthless."

"This woman is strong but she's a spent bullet." Squall knew that while Dawn's attacks were mighty, she couldn't keep them up for long. She was likely already at her limit. He stepped forward. "Now it's my turn."

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