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Book 6, Chapter 40 - Just Beginning

 Cloudhawk, Dawn, Wolfblade and Abaddon arrived at the scene. It was carpeted with the bodies of Cloude family elders.

"This weapon belongs to Frost!"

Signs from Rhimshard peppered body of Arcturus. The state of Taron's corpse confirmed it. Meanwhile other rotted remains bore the clear mark of Death and Decay.

Inkspecter! That was Inkspecter's weapon!

He, together with Frost and Clay, were the culprits responsible for Skye Polaris' death.

Dawn would never forget the deep-seated blood feud their treachery caused. Judging by the evidence around them, Inkspecter had played a role in this carnage. It was Frost's sneak-attack that ultimately sealed Arcturus' fate.

"Wolfblade!"

Dawn understood what was going on.

Wolfblade! It had to be him! All his inside information about the Governor's doings, his unwillingness to share his source - it all made sense, for he was protecting Arcturus' own disciple Frost! Furthermore it was Inkspecter and his cronies that had caused the battle of Sanctuary, and have been unseen ever since. Now it appeared instead of vanishing into the shadows, they were snapped up to be Wolfblade's flunkies.

Dawn was ready to give chase. "Bring Inkspecter here right now!!"

In the face of her rage Wolfblade spread his hands in feigned helplessness. "Lady Polaris, I have no idea what you're talking about."

His words served to enrage Dawn even further. Her grandfather's killer was being sheltered by this fiend! Allowed to live, right under her nose! How was she supposed to tolerate that? She couldn't. Dawn raised Terrangelica and charged!

Abaddon summoned a wall of sand in her path.

"Tut tut tut, why so upset lady? If you have something to say, say it! No need to resort to violence."

Cloudhawk stepped between them, shooting Dawn a chastising glance. She had no chance against Abaddon and Wolfblade combined. He turned to Wolfblade and asked the same. "Are Squall and the others here?"

"This is a misunderstanding." Wolfblade denied the accusation a second time. He'd made up his mind to play the fool.

Cloudhawk knew it, but what was he to do? Capture and torture him to release the information? Even though he wanted to help Dawn, even though he wanted vengeance for Skye, he had to consider the whole before the individual.

Dawn understood where he was coming from. They were coming off the tail end of a major battle. Both Skycloud and the wastes were in chaos. At this time Wolfblade and his genius was indispensable. What's more, a man as cunning as the Elder demon had ways to hide things from Cloudhawk he had no way to counter.

Time and experience had forced Dawn to mature. She might have lost her temper for a moment, but she knew that playing the mighty mistress wasn't going to get her anywhere. On the contrary, it was only causing Cloudhawk more trouble. She was forced to swallow her bitterness and sheath Terrangelica.

If Wolfblade wouldn't produce the assassin, she would find him herself. Eventually she'd smoke him out! He couldn't hide forever.

Wolfblade took none of these accusations to heart. The demon walked up to Arcturus' corpse and looked it over. There was no relief in his eyes, no joy. Rather there was pity and respect in the way he regarded the fallen Governor.

"Arcturus was as strong as a Supreme God, but more importantly he had a strength of vision far superior to the normal man. His death is a great loss."

The others looked at each other, speechless. Each expression was different.

"From Arcturus' perspective his strategy was the proper one. All he did was in service to humanity, for why else would he rise against the gods with the pitiful strength of a man? Like moths fighting fire."

Wolfblade turned back to Cloudhawk. "There is no turning back now. Not long in the future you will be facing enemies ten - a hundred times more powerful than Arcturus had been. Are you truly prepared? How confident are you that you can handle it?"

Cloudhawk didn't have an answer. Obviously Wolfblade was referring to the denizens of Sumeru.

He'd said Arcturus was comparable in strength to the Supremes. There were six known - or had been, before the Shepherd God's betrayal. That left five, and they were by no means the bulk of the gods' power. In fact they may not even be the strongest below the God King.

What's more, their technology compared to modern human advances was like trying to compare a bicycle to an airship. The gap was insurmountable.

Arcturus painstakingly supported the power of the gods over his many years. Countless people died for the crime of questioning their superiority. He did it all to avoid courting destruction. Now that he and the other great leaders of Skycloud were gone, the Elysian realm was destined to fall into chaos.

Sumeru's involvement was only a matter of time. Indeed, there was no going back.

Cloudhawk was conflicted. He felt a pressure more intense than he'd ever experienced. He felt genuine fear for the future. But there was also an excitement, rooted deep in the bowels of his spirit. Years ago he would have scoffed at the idea that he would be standing here, on the edge of a tempest and looking forward to it.

He recalled Adder's words.

Be an eagle, fight the storm. Churn the clouds.

He responded in solemn tones. "I'm here, I've fought, I'm not afraid. Whatever comes, comes."

Dawn could hear the resolve in his voice. Cloudhawk was making a promise to himself. Once he was a confused teenager drifting with the tides, but today he was a leader fighting against the current. Even against the gods, he had no fear.

If humanity won a future, they would remember him as a dauntless hero.

But for all Dawn witnessed she knew that no hero was perfect. He had been lost, had suffered, had his hopes dashed, imposed self-exile, nearly died on many occasions... in the end that was what turned him into the hero he was today.

There was no doubt that Cloudhawk was flawed. The real man was human, flesh and blood.

A smile crept across Wolfblade's face. "My king may not care for his own fate, but what of the fate of humanity? I hope that my king thinks clearly of what is to come. What you bear on your shoulders are the hopes of all men and women. The last chance for this world. You cannot fail."

Dawn hollered back. "Can you not fucking spout this bullshit?"

Cloudhawk's reaction was not as strong. He merely asked, "Is there a hope for victory?"

"With but the strength of man, the odds are practically nil. Arcturus knew this, that is why he did all of this." Wolfblade explained his thoughts. "For you, relying on the aid of demons gives you a small chance. Arcturus chose death so that you could pursue it."

Arcturus was invincible. He did not lose this war for lack of strength or even this battle. He lost because the world was changing.

First he discovered that all he had worked for, decades of strife, began spinning out of control. It became too difficult for him to stick to his original plan. Second, he recognized the faint glimmer of hope Cloudhawk provided. Perhaps the young man could do what he himself could not.

Arcturus wasn't going to wait until all the soldiers of the expeditionary force were slaughtered. Instead he faced his doom with a small contingent of his own. It wasn't suicide. He had tried to carve out a chance for himself, one final attempt to save the Conclave. But it was also a chance for Cloudhawk to prove himself. If he could not defeat Arcturus, then he was not equipped to guide humanity through the darkness to follow.

Cloudhawk could see no flaw in the plan.

When looking over the body he saw a small orb in the Governor's hand. Taking it and infusing it with his energy, there arose a deafening sound like a thousand squawking birds.

Thousands of lightning bolts snaked between Cloudhawk's fingers. They gathered together to form a sword. He gave it an inquisitive swing. The burst of energy it released blasted through half a dozen walls, obliterating everything in its path. No stone or steel could obstruct the power of the weapon. Such was the might of Ruin, the Blade of Thunder.

"No demonhunter in the Elysian realm can safely wield this relic. In the hands of my King, I see our situation being vastly different."

In the afterlife, Arcturus' spirit would be glad to know that some portion of him would live on to fight in the future. Each time Cloudhawk bore Ruin in his battles to come, he would be wielding the might of Arcturus against their shared enemy.

Cloudhawk then approached the body of Oracle Taron and retrieved the Arbiter's Staff. The black metal relic was capable of stretching to up to two meters long, or shrink to a one-meter rod. Stories claimed it was a weapon of incredible destructive power.

"The Arbiter's Staff, also known as the Rod of Judgment. As an artifact of the Temple, its power is similar to Selene's Sublime Transcendence. Among all of Skycloud's relics, it ranks among the top ten most devastating." Dawn muttered the weapon's story with a note of reverence. As a former member of the Temple she knew much about it. "Keep it, the staff will help you greatly!"

He did so. In his left hand was the Arbiter's Staff, and in his right crackled Ruin. He now bore two of Skycloud's most legendary relics, enhancing his destructive potential by several orders of magnitude!

From this moment forward there were practically no demonhunters who could stand in his way. Besides these incredible tools he was also capable of folding space. His attack, defense, support and recover were all top grade. The most well-rounded warrior in human history.

In the minutes that followed Selene, Aquaria, Phain and the others caught up. When they saw Arcturus' body their faces were a mess of emotion. Without his leadership the Cloude family was done for. Selene didn't know whether to be glad or concerned.

It was done.

It was all just beginning.

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