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Book 6, Chapter 15 – Escape

 Arcturus' reaction time was shockingly fast. He was enveloped in a strange power as well, which somehow helped him to locate Cloudhawk and Selene. Clearly the powers of the Master Demonhunter were more wide-reaching and complex than anticipated. There was no question why he was considered the apex power in Skycloud.

"Surprised? I was as well, you managed to escape when I thought it would be impossible." Arcturus floated toward Cloudhawk. His scholarly robes fluttered incessantly in an ominous breeze and in his right he bore the hiltless blade of Ruin. He looked like a god of thunder come down to earth, replete with oppressive mien. "Cloudhawk, you have made a grave error. One that will spell the end of your Green Alliance."

Things were dangerous for Cloudhawk. He had no time for idle chatter. Stretching out a finger, a flaming bird composed of Castigation Fire burst into being. Its wingspan stretched a dozen meters and burgeoned with enough power to level a small army.

"You have spent much of your mental energy."

Wrapped in lightning, Arcturus appeared before Cloudhawk at the speed of light. Ruin crackled as it lashed at out him and the Temple's Acolyte. With no space to dodge, Cloudhawk could only try to deflect the weapon with his hand.

The Governor's weapon was one of Skycloud's most baleful relics, Ruin. Only a few creatures in the earth's history were capable of wielding its power. Fewer still of flesh and blood could withstand its deadly kiss. Standing against Ruin, unprotected, was akin to suicide. However as Cloudhawk's hand raised against the weapon a repulsive force was expelled from his palm. Arcturus' attack stopped centimeters from his flesh.

Bolts of lightning arced through the area. Cloudhawk stood against the fury of a god, burning through the air and ground in all directions. All across the world there were only a handful of people capable of doing what Cloudhawk had achieved.

It was not the first time the two crossed swords. Last time Cloudhawk suffered one of the most painful defeats in his lifetime, one which nearly destroyed him completely. For more than a year he lived under the consequences of that meeting.

Today, Cloudhawk's power was akin to Arcturus' own. The repulsive force he commanded was capable of deflecting the Master Demonhunter's attack, a fact that was unthinkable for nearly everyone. This act alone proved his superiority over the likes of the old drunk and others.

But Arcturus' mental prowess was vast and powerful, while Cloudhawk's was waning.

Threads of power jabbed at Cloudhawk like a hundred thousand burning needles. Even these seemingly innocuous bolts were enough to slay a normal demonhunter, but Cloudhawk's superior constitution protected him. Trickles of blood emerged where they landed, but otherwise the damage was not severe. However, the small field of power protecting him was growing weaker. If he didn't do something soon, Arcturus' next attack would cleave him in half.

Suddenly the electric blue light was drowned out by the blazing power of Sublime Transcendence! It coalesced into a beam of frightening power, aimed right at the Governor!

Arcturus' brow furrowed. With his right hand he kept pressure on Cloudhawk. With his left he summoned a shell of electromagnetism as a defense. It held fast against the sneak attack.

Selene's attack did not harm the Master Demonhunter, but it had split his attention. Cloudhawk abused the chance by grabbing Selene and teleporting once again, this time ten thousand meters away.

"Your spatial powers are troublesome, but resisting is useless. There is no escape."

Arcturus flung his arm, and from the long sleeve of his robes was ejected several dozen needles. Each one crackled with electric energy, streaking through the air at thirty times the speed of sound. It seemed nearly instantaneous that they appeared in Cloudhawk's vicinity.

He knocked several away, but three managed to find purchase in Selene's flesh. She grunted in pain as Arcturus' power was unleashed within her. Cloudhawk's face darkened for he knew how terrible the Governor's attacks were. He and the old drunk had experienced it first hand and only barely survived. Arcturus assaulted not only the body, but the essence of power so that even the most miraculous means of healing had no effect. Even a glancing blow from the Governor was a dire circumstance, even despite Cloudhawk's interference.

Employing the winding power of his electricity, Arcturus gave chase. He moved nearly as quick as Cloudhawk's teleportation and appeared close by in a flash. With Ruin held aloft, Arcturus launched into a flurry of attacks. Employing martial skill and his own relic, Cloudhawk fended off the blows.

He couldn't hold out for long!

Cloudhawk already had a speed disadvantage on top of trying to protect Selene. He couldn't fully concentrate on Arcturus. Each strike eroded some of Cloudhawk's mental energy and like an umbrella in a hail storm, at any moment it could be blown away.

It was a dour realization to find that even after tremendous growth, Cloudhawk was still inferior to Arcturus' strength. In fairness, of course, he was exhausted from dragging Selene from the Governor's trap using mental abilities he was not yet adept at. That led directly to his weakened position here. At full strength, perhaps he wouldn't able to beat Arcturus but at least - like Judas - he would able to fight back instead of being immediately suppressed.

In short and without question, Arcturus' strength far outstripped any typical demonhunter. Even a Master Demonhunter.

Sounds in the distance told Cloudhawk Cloude family agents were closing in. Soon they would be completely surrounded and Arcturus had him too locked down to make an escape. Alone he would have been fine, the problem was trying to abscond with an injured ally.

"Give in," Arcturus urged, fixing Cloudhawk with a stare. "I can protect you."

But it was foolish to even ask. Selene knew that if they capitulated, neither she nor Cloudhawk would ever regain the power they gave up. Arcturus would rule the wilds, command Skycloud and keep the Temple under his thumb. The world whole would bow to his will and none would be able to stand against him. That dire future was precisely why they couldn't stop fighting.

Cloudhawk was at the point of collapse, when suddenly a streak of light blasted toward the heavens like the first rays of the morning sun. The darkness of night turned to day.

Cloudhawk and Arcturus both stared in shock for they felt the intensity of this power. Both men couldn't believe it as they stared at Selene, her hand extended. Somehow she was moving and her power had swelled to five times the strength. It surged through her body and blazed from her eyes as two points of intense golden light, radiating from her like a divine corona.

"This power, it's..."

Cloudhawk could feel that something in the quality of Selene's power had changed. Whatever it was she wielded, it wasn't hers. Rather it was similar to what he felt from the Shepherd and Cloud Gods. Her strength had come from those divine creatures, but how were they manifesting in a human's body?

No matter! As Selene's powers rushed forth her features became ice cold - a truly glacial callousness.

In the center of her eyebrows appeared a complex symbol composed of light. The rays of radiant light retracted back into Sublime Transcendence, which she waved haphazardly toward Arcturus. Though ordinary in appearance, the strength behind it hit like that of a Master Demonhunter.

Arcturus could not neglect the threat of her strike. He pulled Ruin back to defend himself and the moment those two intense powers connected, time seemed to pause. Surrounding matter dissolved into the energy and was no more.

Selene had Arcturus held fast. Finally Cloudhawk had some space to breathe, but he did not remain idle. He embraced Selene and opened up a tear to another world. Arcturus' prey vanished to safety before his eyes.

Freed from the torrent of power, Arcturus stood alone in a ruined field. A rare scowl touched his face. What Selene had struck him with was not her own power. Where had it come from?

His ambush was a failure, an experience the Governor was not accustomed to. He looked up into the sky to see a vast, starry expanse. The intensity of their clash had blown away all the clouds, leaving the beautiful vista to cast its starlight down upon him.

**

Cloudhawk transferred himself and Selene to the Spore Planet, but she could not appreciate it. During the trip Selene had slipped into unconsciousness. The power she'd wielded was incredibly strong, but transient and too much for her. Her lack of mastery and her injuries had taxed her past her limit, leaving her in a precarious condition.

Cloudhawk immediately extracted the Rekindling Lens from his storehouse and tried healing her. Unfortunately it did little good. Despite being among Skycloud's most legendary healing relics, the Rekindling Lens could do nothing for Selene's injuries. Some special method would be needed to bring her back to health. Recovery would not be as simple as healing surface wounds.

He needed to go back to his world and find a way.

He took up Selene and teleported them hundreds of kilometers away. Thus returning to their own world, Arcturus would have no way to track them down. When they reappeared they were still in Skycloud territory. Cloudhawk looked around and spied a lake with a small village perched on its banks.

As good a place to hide out for a while as any.

The Temple's agents would soon begin their search for Selene. Nowhere in the wastelands seemed appropriate to find a way to heal her, so he had to find a way to get her back to the Temple safely without revealing himself. Until the Temple's people came looking, he would have to take care of her himself.

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