There was absolutely nothing about the smelly, dirty, crippled drunkard that made him threatening. His rail-thin figure and tattered clothing was not what you’d expect from someone who knew how to take care of themselves. How could such a lewd degenerate invalid be any sort of a threat?
Five of the bandits ran over in the hopes of grabbing Barb – still injured from her fight with Red-Face – and using her to coerce Cloudhawk. The old man wasn’t going to stand in their way, and if he did he would be cut down.
Of course this would not be the case. The drunkard’s first action was slow, two ponderous steps forward. Only, the steps seemed to carry him a full ten meters forward through space. Suddenly he was standing in front of one of the bandits, and leisurely tapped his foe on his chest with the crutch. The bandit’s charge was immediately halted. He didn’t fly backward, just crumbled on the spot like the lights were turned off. When he hit the ground his body made a sound like shattered glass.
Every single bone in his torso was fragmented.
One of his fellows noticed, and came rushing at the old man with his battleaxe raised.
The drunkard leaned precariously to one side as though he were about to lose his footing, resulting in the bandits ax swinging wide. With a yellow-toothed grin, he lightly tapped the man with his cane. Like the first, he fell into a heap without so much as a whimper.
“Standing in our way? Die!”
The others didn’t see how powerful the drunkard was, not in their hurry to get Barb. One of the bandits had an elysian rapid-fire crossbow, pilfered from somewhere. In a single belch of compressed air he released a dozen bolts toward the old man. But in the manner of a man too drunk to stand, the lush wobbled from side to side, somehow miraculously avoiding most of the bolts. A couple of them managed to catch his person that he didn’t even try to deflect. As they came near, his whole body began to shudder, almost vibrate, and when they struck they were either splintered or knocked away. They didn’t even leave a hole in his clothing.
A third. Fourth. Fifth. The old man wobbled from one bandit to the next. By the time his feet seemed settled, the whole group was motionless on the ground.
The impact from his cane hadn’t sent them falling. There were no outward signs of injury, either. It’d only been a series of gentle taps, after all, but somehow it had laid them flat. Closer inspection would show cranial fluid leaking from their ears, though, or their bones powdered and organs turned to mush.
What was slow was actually fast. Weakness was actually great strength. It was an understatement to say he had the situation in hand.
The old man’s control was nothing short of perfection, sublime even. He deftly struck his targets while making the blows seem unimposing. In truth, the force behind them was lethal. All of his power was concentrated in precisely the right area, none of it wasted. Such strength and control was not possible for a common man.
When he was done, the old man wiped sweat from his brow, and said with a sigh, “I am getting old. This is getting tiring.”
Barb watched the whole thing with an expression of disbelief. Who the hell was this old pervert?!
Meanwhile, Cloudhawk was caught in a stalemate. The bandits who attacked him ranged in quality from useless scrubs to formidable adversaries. A few were even superior to Red-Face. Cloudhawk had caught them unprepared at first, but now that they had their wits about them they’d figured out his fighting style.
Hiding and striking from invisibility wasn’t going to be enough, but they also couldn’t fight what they couldn’t see.
A large bandit wielded dual axes roared. “Elysian dog! Show yourself! What sort of man slinks away. Did your mother give birth to a pussy bitch? Show yourself if you have any balls! I’m gonna chop you up and eat you for dinner!”
The large brute stomped his feet in challenge, but it wasn’t one Cloudhawk was eager to meet. He was tiring, and fast. He wasn’t going to be able to fight so many people all at once. He needed a plan.
“I got one more trick. If anyone blocks it and doesn’t run then I’m finished – I’ll give up any plans to go to Fishmonger’s Borough.”
Cloudhawk’s voice drifted among them from an uncertain source, or everywhere at once. His booming voice gave them pause. The wastelanders knew the demonhunter was strong, stronger than the girl even after her mightiest strike. There were enough of them to win the fight, but there was no trust among them. The best situation, they figured, was to get rid of as many as possible and be the last man standing.
Why continue fighting like this is there was no ill-will? The young demonhunter was offering to give up his shot to get into Fishmonger’s Borough, so let him give whatever plan he had a shot? They all saw he was getting weaker – he had to be nearly exhausted. It was a bluff, nothing more.
The old drunkard couldn’t help but smirk when he heard the challenge. “Force ‘em all to run with one trick, eh? The kid sure can talk himself up!”
Barb managed to stand. Gravely injured, her eyes still burned with vigor. “No, I have faith that his Excellency can do just what he says. I’ve never seen him lose.”
The old man rolled his eyes. He wouldn’t believe such praise if a veteran demonhunter was in the fight. Was this kid supposed to be a master? What a joke. Bravado had its limits, he was eager to see how far Cloudhawk’s boasts really got him.
The Warden slowly filtered back into view. “One condition. No interruptions.”
The crowd’s bloodthirsty eyes fixed on Cloudhawk, then on each other as they weighed his offer. Two in the crowd lurched forward to attack now that he’d shown himself, but their companions stopped them.
“Fine!” It was the one with the axes again. “Let’s hope you elysian scum know how to keep a promise.”
Cloudhawk took a deep breath, then slowly crouched before them. He placed both hands on the sand and a moment later the earth quivered. A strange, invisible force rippled through the area, bending to his will, resonating with every grain of sand.
As the bandits watched in shock, an area ten square meters around Cloudhawk began to rise. Sand floated into the air like an enormous screen, proving that the demonhunter also had the power to command the very desert. Was this how he planned to beat them? A small sandstorm?
The old drunkard was also watching earnestly, waiting to see what the young man had planned. He could tell Cloudhawk’s powers were spent, proven by the fact he could only affect ten meters. How was this supposed to be intimidating?
“Eh? The wind’s picking up…”
They felt the gusts wipping around, and the screen of sand around Cloudhawk started to rotate with it. A sand cocoon became a sand tornado. 
The whipping winds quickly devoured all the sand ten meters around him. Ten meters became twenty, then thirty, then forty. The tornado itself was a few meters wide and maybe ten meters high, and while it was still weak the sight was enough to frighten the crowd. However, nothing about it seemed capable of knocking everyone down.
A wave of dizziness came over Cloudhawk. This was the limit of what he could accomplish using his power alone. Using the tornado to make good on his boast was impossible. But Cloudhawk had a trump card, one final trick to be used in critical moments. That was the phase stone resting against his chest.
It started to glow. He felt a vigorous power flood his body.
Another several meters of sand around him rose into the air like gravity had been turned off. In an angry surge they were caught up in the tornado, and immediately the impressive if weak phenomena swelled. In the space of half a minute the tornado was a roaring threat, hissing like the sound of ten thousand angry vipers. It was a one-in-lifetime, unforgettable scene for the dumbstruck bandits.
Was this man even human? How was he doing this?!
Fear lived in their wide eyes as the tornado continued to grow. They could feel the winds tugging at them now, kicking up the sand beneath their feet. Dust and sand began to fill the air and blot out the sun, not dissimilar to the ominous skies that warned on an incoming sandstorm.
“It’s coming! Run, get out of here!”
No one knew how the enormous tornado was summoned, only that the sand and wind were deadly. Sand choked the sky and covered everyone in ominous darkness.
Besides his abilities of stealth and cunning, the demonhunter was also hiding somewhere in the heart of this storm, pushing it forward. If they decided to fight in the middle of this storm, it was the bandits who would suffer.
No, there was only one choice. Run. Staying alive was more important.
Even these rugged, dangerous men felt the cold grip of fear as the engulfing storm kicked up around them. This dangerous and terrifying event stole the breath from their lungs. In a few minutes they would suffocate to death, if the demonhunter didn’t get them first.
The tornado continued to rage. Meter by meter it pressed ahead. The twenty-so bandits were forced back to the hotel’s walls.
Bonobo watched the whole thing. As the tornado bore down on his establishment, his face darkened. If Cloudhawk drove that thing into the hotel he’d be left with nothing but rubble.
Even Autumn sucked in a gasp of fear and surprise. Barb stood in awe of her companion’s skills. Despite her wounds, she shouted in triumph. Incredible!
Once his foes had fled Cloudhawk stepped out from the tornado. He floated out from the swirling wall of sand before the old drunkard. Eddies of golden sand swirled around him, for all the world like the god of the desert walking his domain.
“All bark and no bite. Useless.” The old man’s bearing hadn’t changed, and he turned his nose up at the young demonhunter. “What a waste for you to use such a treasure of the demonkin like this.”
The old man’s words were cutting and incisive. He must have known about the Gospel of the Sands. It seemed like this wrinkled invalid was from the elysian lands.
The Gospel of the Sands was a treasure of the demons. A terrible relic of great renown and infamy.
Cloudhawk knew that very well. Normal folk however, even demonhunters, didn’t encounter items from the demons often, if at all. Those who could recognize the power had to be people of status in Skycloud.
“You’ve got a good eye and plenty of experience, old man. You know what it was and I didn’t even need to take it out.” Cloudhawk’s mistrust of the drunkard grew. “I almost think you’ve seen the book before. Maybe even had to fight against it.”
The older man rolled his eyes but did not answer.
“Whatever the case, thank you for protecting Barb.”
“I can’t do shit with your ‘thanks.’ Buy me a few bottles and we’ll call it even.”
“Some fruit wine? No problem, consider it done.”
The old man sniffed. “Better make me happy. I’m going to Fishmonger’s Borough no matter what. In a couple days when we have to fight, maybe I’ll spare your life.”
What a stuck-up old shit.
Barb was surprised that he could keep up this self-confident and snarky bearing after seeing his Excellency summon a damn tornado. What gave him so much confidence?