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  1.  
  2.  
  3.  
  4. Fear and madness burned in Nessus’ eyes. Of course it recognized this power, he’d encountered it a thousand years ago during the Great War. It was the power of a great demon Elder. Now, somehow, it was under the command of this mortal worm.
  5.  
  6. Fires that raged so long as one’s will remained! So long as Cloudhawk didn’t let up, those fires would continue until there was nothing left of the Silverwing Monarch.
  7.  
  8. Nessus’ puppet roared and snapped off half of its wing before the fires could spread further. It was blacked in front by Cloudhawk and behind by the Khan and Abaddon. With each passing moment this body it’d worked so hard to perfect was being cut apart. Things had turned dire very quickly.
  9.  
  10. But it wouldn’t give up. A strange and monstrous scene followed as the king’s head split fully in half.
  11.  
  12. A hideous thing clawed out from the remains of the skull. It had nine tentacle arms, like some sort of devilish octopus, and one enormous eye. Smaller feelers writhed on the underside of these tentacles, groping at whatever was close. Half of this creature’s body heaved from the top of the king’s ruined head. The remainder of it was still lodged in the meat puppet, controlling it from within.
  13.  
  14. The body of the Silverwing Monarch jerks and flopped around like some sort of nightmarish toy. Cloudhawk openly gasped.
  15.  
  16. What the FUCK is this thing?!
  17.  
  18. THIS was the former Demon King’s unholy beast? As Nessus drilled out of the Legendary Demonhunter’s skull it released a hellish screech. The Highblood below started to react, twitching and jerking horrifically. Tentacles of various sizes burst from their bodies like a million wriggling worms.
  19.  
  20. What moments before were glorious, majestic people were now hideous corpses rife with groping feelers. They all dropped what they were doing and scrambled toward their king.
  21.  
  22. “Hngh hngh hng… interesting. Trying to call back its little splinters.” A dignified and imposing light shone in Abaddon’s eyes. “Stop it! If it gathers all its pieces back together, no one can stop it.”
  23.  
  24. Nessus was a strange, powerful and unique creature. The Silverwing Monarch was its main body and the Highblood were all offshoots. One of the beast’s tentacles were in each of the Highblood controlling them, growing over time. That was how Nessus devoured the power and talent from its host and siphoned it into himself. Once the tentacle wholly integrated into the host body, all of its power became a part of Nessus.
  25.  
  26. It was how the Silverwing Monarch had such incredible, limitless power. It was the reason why the puppet could use various types of relics with perfect control. However the absorption was not complete, not until these Highblood’s tentacles were returned to its master. At that point Nessus would be at full strength.
  27.  
  28. With just the body of the Silverwing Monarch, Nessus was already a formidable enemy. Indeed, if it were allowed to reform from these dozens of tentacles to what heights of power would it reach? At that point even someone as terrifying as Arcturus may be no match for this monster.
  29.  
  30. It took only a few seconds for the first couple of Highblood to reach the Silverwing Monarch.
  31.  
  32. A split second after contact, the Highbloods’ tentacles attached to Nessus’ body. The bodies of the Highblood themselves dissolved like melted wax and were drawn into the Silverwing Monarch’s body. The king’s form swelled and bulged grotesquely, becoming even more terrifying.
  33.  
  34. Woosh!
  35.  
  36. The king’s severed wing reformed as Nessus used the biological material of the Highblood to heal its host. Likewise its own strength surged and its wounds recovered.
  37.  
  38. The Silverwing Monarch belched forth another gout of flame, stronger than before. There was no deflecting it.
  39.  
  40. Cloudhawk dashed backwards several dozen meters. Even in retreat the heat nearly burned his arm off.
  41.  
  42. More and more Highblood converged around Nessus, fusing back into the form that birthed them. If it kept this pace, it would only be a few minutes before the beast’s true, hideous nature was reforged.
  43.  
  44. They could not allow this to happen.
  45.  
  46. Cloudhawk, the Khan and Abaddon might have had different motives, but right now they were allies. In an inspired moment of mutual understanding, they acted. Cloudhawk summoned his dimensional power once again, dragging the others into more useful positions.
  47.  
  48. When the Khan reappeared he attacked with superhuman speed. The air came alive with countless streaks of sizzling sword light.
  49.  
  50. One after the other, Highblood in his path were carved into bloody pieces. Yet this made no difference, for the pieces themselves could move under Nessus’ control.
  51.  
  52. That was when Abaddon acted. Through the power of the Gospel, he turned the chunks into globs of sand. Now entirely destroyed, they dissolved and fell apart.
  53.  
  54. “Why are you trying to stop me?!” Nessus’ enraged shouts filled the air. “Everything I do, I do for our kin! Traitors! Traitors! Die!”
  55.  
  56. Nothing remained of the dignified Silverwing Monarch. Now, it was a monstrosity, hellish and dreadful. Although only about a dozen Highblood had been absorb, its body was bloated, repulsive and deformed.
  57.  
  58. It was like a mass of half-melted wax smashed together, a patchwork horror that was nauseating to behold. From its split skull half of a demonic octopus emerged, its tentacles writhing menacingly. Those feelers gathered together and in their midst collected an orb of intense energy!
  59.  
  60. When it was released, the orb was only roughly the size of a fist. By the time it reached Cloudhawk it had swelled several times that size to a diameter of ten meters. The intensity of it felt like Nessus had chucked a mountain his way.
  61.  
  62. Cloudhawk teleported out of harm’s way.
  63.  
  64. The Silverwing Monarch never stopped its crazed yelling. “All of Imperia is my domain! I am the master of its people and they are my crop! You think destroying the heart tree will stop me?! Foolish!”
  65.  
  66. Sour expressions painted the invaders’ faces. Cloudhawk answered its shouts. “If that’s so, then let’s show all of your people your true face!”
  67.  
  68. He teleported behind the king and took it by its silvery wings. Before Nessus could react, Cloudhawk released the power he’d been storing and the two of them blinked from this dimension. They vanished from inside the Temple, to the sky over the city.
  69.  
  70. “Monster!”
  71.  
  72. “Some terrible creature, in the air!”
  73.  
  74. “What is that?!”
  75.  
  76. When the Silverwing Monarch was flung back into reality, its hideous form was revealed for all to see. Imperia’s citizens were surprised and disgusted by its terrible appearance. None could imagine that a fiend like this existed in their fair city!
  77.  
  78. Previous Chapter
  79. “Imperia is under attack from invaders! Your king demands for you to destroy them!”
  80.  
  81. The Silverwing Monarch’s strained, hideous voice screeched through the air. Imperia’s citizens looked at one another, stupefied. Those Enforcers who witnessed it looked either struck dumb or scowled, but none looked pleased.
  82.  
  83. What the hell was this monster? Why was it calling itself their king?
  84.  
  85. In the hearts of Imperia’s people, their Silverwing Monarch was a majestic and awe-inspiring leader. Immortal, perfect, and in command of limitless power – even capable of bestowing noble blood unto lowly citizens. But this fiend that appeared before them was nothing like that. To imagine it was somehow associated with their ruler was blasphemous!
  86.  
  87. Glawyn’s pupils shrunk as she stared up at it. She spotted something behind the hideous figure – a familiar form. The gray cloak, bandages, and mask were all clear markers. Wasn’t that Cloudhawk, from Redleaf?
  88.  
  89. Cloudhawk hovered in empty space, staring at the creature. In a calm voice he said, “Do you think your people will listen once they see your true face?”
  90.  
  91. The Silverwing Monarch answered with a low growl. “Hmph! They are nothing but a crop I grow for my own use. Material I use to form a more perfect body! Without me they would have been destroyed and scattered long ago. I built this kingdom. I am their king! And citizens must fight for their king!”
  92.  
  93. Cloudhawk vanished, but just for an instant. He reappeared with a fist planted in the monster’s body. His divine gauntlet unloaded with a burst of power, tearing off a chunk of its form and flinging it backward.
  94.  
  95. “Wake up!”
  96.  
  97. Cloudhawk swung his sword at Nessus, blazing with green fire. It came crashing down like a nightmarish meteor on the monster’s head.
  98.  
  99. The terrible energy it released could be felt by the people standing below. All who witnessed it shared a single thought. Who was this man? He was so strong! Why had he shown up here now, at the same time as this monster? Why had they appeared by the Temple?
  100.  
  101. The power Cloudhawk displayed was enough to slay any Chosen in Imperia. Glawyn especially looked at him with eyes wide.
  102.  
  103. This unimpressive guy was really this strong? Her and an entire Enforcer squad probably couldn’t take him. Before she had believed him when he said it was the bird that defeated Desmond. A man this strong certainly wasn’t nobody. What was he doing in their country now? Why was he causing trouble in Imperia? What was his relationship with this silver-winged devil he fought?
  104.  
  105. All of these questions raced through her mind until she settled upon a single possibility. But she couldn’t believe it.
  106.  
  107. The monster’s enormous silver wings glowed brightly. Each feather shone like a relic as the energy it released formed into a protective shell. Cloudhawk’s sword of fire crashed into it and broke apart, spewing green fire everywhere. In response the Monarch’s wings lashed out, catching Cloudhawk in the abdomen and flinging him away.
  108.  
  109. “Aargh!” The monster yelled in frustration and anger. “My subjects! Fight for me!”
  110.  
  111. Tens of thousands of Imperian citizens looked pained all at once. Blue veins crept into their faces as some latent power hidden inside them stirred. It snaked up from their chest, through their throats, into their faces and up into their brain. Whatever it was took control of their thoughts.
  112.  
  113. Not good! Cloudhawk hadn’t expected Nessus to be so insane. It looked like every citizen of Imperia had a fragment of the creature in them!
  114.  
  115. These fragments of the beast didn’t have any special characteristics, remaining dormant most of the time. Only in a moment like this they were galvanized, awakened so that they could slither into the minds of these innocent people to deliver Nessus’ commands. Within a certain range he had control of them just as he did with his other puppets. They shambled toward Cloudhawk like zombies at his behest.
  116.  
  117. This monster was an absolute terror! It was capable of controlling tens of thousands of people at once! [1]
  118.  
  119. Abaddon and the Khan fought their way free of the Temple and raced into the fray. They couldn’t allow Nessus to prevail, otherwise it would mean tremendous danger.
  120.  
  121. Abaddon hefted his Gospel and summoned an ocean of sand which roiled through the air. The Silverwing Monster defended itself against the attacks that assailed him from within the sandstorm. Under its cover the Khan of Evernight moved in close. Once he was close enough, he hacked at the puppet’s arms and wings with his light weapons.
  122.  
  123. Once again, the Silverwing Monster was badly wounded. Nessus, as strong as it was, could not recover quick enough to ignore the raining blows.
  124.  
  125. Cloudhawk, the Khan and Abaddon all fought together as one. How long could the creature hold out? In the blink of an eye it suffered a devastating round of attacks.
  126.  
  127. Nessus did not continue to fight full-on. Soon his control would be absolute. Once wholly under his control the parasites would kill their hosts, but what did he care of these tiny mortal lives? In its twisted mind there was only a singular focus – kill these usurpers!
  128.  
  129. Imperia belonged to it, and it alone! Nessus still had a host of cards yet to play! It had an army of thralls, and the three-headed rocs at his beck and call. All it had to do was bide time, wait until its attackers were in a difficult place. There were only three of them after all – how could they defeat the king and his entire kingdom? That was the idea it held to as Nessus retreated.
  130.  
  131. Suddenly, the air was filled with delicate bubbles that appeared out of nowhere. They congregated in midair, forming together into one enormous orb. It appeared right where Nessus had fled to. The creature immediately felt the dire crisis enveloping it.
  132.  
  133. “Judas!”
  134.  
  135. Nessus reacted immediately. Judas’ orbs of annihilation?! It was already too late for it to escape!
  136.  
  137. Half of it managed to cross the border of the orb when Judas’ power activated. The bubble popped and everything inside of it was reduced to nothing – including half of the Silverwing Monster. All that remained was half of its body below the wound in its chest. The rest disappeared like smoke.
  138.  
  139. In the same instant an armada of airships descended from the clouds over Imperia. Countless Noxian soldiers leaped from their decks into the city below. It was now an invasion.
  140.  
  141. Judas and his army had been waiting at the border of this place, waiting for its protective enchantments to fade. The moment it did Nox’s army was deployed. As an Elder of his race, Judas was far more powerful than Abaddon. His sneak attack was the final nail in the coffin. That perfect body which Nessus had worked on for a millennia was completely ruined.
  142.  
  143. Nessus gazed upon the mighty demon Elder. It saw the wound in its chest that still was not healed after the battle at Sanctuary. But his wounds didn’t matter, for if Judas was here it meant the fight was already over. Nessus did not have the power to turn back time.
  144.  
  145. Nessus slithered out of the Silverwing Monster’s head. It attempted to escape, but before getting more than a hundred meters it rushed headlong into another bubble.
  146.  
  147. “Judas! Answer me!” Nessus was wholly in its original form, a hideous one-eyed octopus. The voice that came from it was filled with hatred and refusal, but it knew there was no escaping its fate. “Is this weak, worthless human really the chosen of the Demon King? Is this ignorant worm really strong enough to defeat the demon king?! Can he – this wretched, insignificant human – really wear the crown of our master?! Answer me!”
  148.  
  149. For a moment Judas was lost in thought. A cruel light flashed in his eyes and he replied: “Who knows?”
  150.  
  151. That was the moment Judas’ bubble burst. A terrible, ear-splitting scream filled with unmitigated rage began, and then stopped abruptly. Not a single trace of the monster that had controlled this city remained.
  152.  
  153. Nessus, the Parasite, was dead. The barbs that it had in the city’s population all failed. The citizens of Imperia were saved.
  154.  
  155. Before long Nox’s warships had filled the sky, and its forces occupied all the major districts. It was a change as sudden as it was earth-shaking for the people of the city. No one could believe that the king who had rules over them for a thousand years was actually a puppet for some despicable monster. Worse, it had infected all of them as well.
  156.  
  157. Be it in the heart of its citizens or the strength of its enchantments, this ancient and glorious city had collapsed. From now on, it was under the control of Nox and its army.
  158.  
  159. What would become of it?
  160.  
  161. Cloudhawk scowled at the thought. “What about my blood crystal?”
  162.  
  163. The Khan of Evernight answered his query. “It is being prepared for you. But now is not the time.”
  164.  
  165. His scowl deepened. “So when’s the fuckin’ time?”
  166.  
  167. A loud, booming voice answered. “Your time has arrived!”
  168.  
  169. Cloudhawk turned his head toward the sound.
  170.  
  171. Judas had appeared behind him. He stretched out a hand and from it poured a thick black fog. The instant it touched him Cloudhawk could feel his body going stiff as stone. Before he could react, Abaddon wrapped him up in a cocoon of sand that left him no room to move.
  172.  
  173. What the fuck?!
  174.  
  175. Cloudhawk’s face went pale. Were they stabbing him in the back? But why? He felt like he could still be of use.
  176.  
  177. He struggled valiantly but achieved nothing. Helpless and angry, he growled, “This is what you call help?”
  178.  
  179. Judas met Cloudhawk’s hateful glare with a smirk. “Don’t worry, I said I would save you and that’s exactly what I shall do. But did you really think we would accept a human as a Demon King?”
  180.  
  181. “If you won’t accept me as the Demon King then what was the meaning of all of this?”
  182.  
  183. “Heh heh... simple. I intend to keep my word and help you assimilate all the Demon King has promised to you. The power of my former king’s blood will restore you to perfect health. Of course there is a very important caveat, the final step that I did not share that will happen afterwards.” Judas grinned at Cloudhawk, stressing every syllable. “I will erase your memories, and you will become my Archfiend. A thoughtless puppet, always serving at my side.”
  184.  
  185. Previous Chapter
  186. Judas would not kneel before Cloudhawk. No demon would supplicate themselves before a human.
  187.  
  188. But if he was not prepared to accept Cloudhawk as his king, why did the Elder save him from Sanctuary? Why spirit the injured Cloudhawk to safety, stave off death while he was in a coma and then point him toward the blood crystal?
  189.  
  190. It was because Judas was clever. He knew that no matter how he struggled or denied the fact, he could not change the reality that Cloudhawk was chosen as the Demon King’s successor. He had already assimilated much of his predecessor’s power, and there was no denying the human had incredible potential. Without a doubt, he had come to inherit the power of the former Demon King.
  191.  
  192. So what to do? In fact, the simplest method was also the most effective. Through his own abilities and the power of demon blood, Judas would transform Cloudhawk into an archfiend! More specifically, the new Demon King would become his puppet!
  193.  
  194. It was a stark display of Judas’ ambition and desire. He rescued Cloudhawk, saved his life and pointed him toward the blood crystal for this reason alone. So that Cloudhawk would become a powerful, unwitting servant.
  195.  
  196. Gods and demons had the special ability to manufacture attendants. For the gods they were called seraphs. To demons, they were labeled fiends. At the heart of each was blood from their creator.
  197.  
  198. The first step in the process was injecting demon blood into a human receptacle. Once host and blood had acclimated a series of methods were used to induce catalysis. From there the human underwent dramatic changes to adopt a portion of the god or demon’s power but in turn became a tool.
  199.  
  200. Neither god, nor demon, nor human any longer.
  201.  
  202. Fiends and seraphs were possessed of inexhaustible energy. They neither aged nor died. Blackfiend was a perfect representation of a fully formed archfiend. Conversely, Autumn’s Dryad was an example of a godly seraph. What they had in common was an utter lack of independent thought. Whatever had existed inside of them prior to the transformation was gone, leaving only a husk filled with otherworldly power.
  203.  
  204. There was no difference between Judas and Nessus. Nessus wanted to become the Demon King and ascend. Judas was even more insane. In turning Cloudhawk into an archfiend he would make him immortal – an undying Demon King who answered explicitly to Judas. In this way he, too, would come to possess the power of the Demon King.
  205.  
  206. And he who commanded the Demon King, commanded all demons. This was Judas’ plan.
  207.  
  208. There were certain conditions necessary for the creation of a fiend. Not everyone could survive such a transformation. In fact there was a very high rate of failure for both seraphs and fiends, often during the first step. If a host body could not withstand the power of godly or demonic blood then they were destroyed outright.
  209.  
  210. But Judas’ idea was inspired. Cloudhawk needed the Demon King’s blood, they were already attuned. As the Demon King’s successor his body had already assimilated his predecessor’s power and memories. The Demon King’s blood was the final step which would transform him into the perfect vessel.
  211.  
  212. It appeared Judas had all but succeeded! Cloudhawk was captured, and the Demon King’s blood was in hand. Everything was prepared!
  213.  
  214. The Elder demon could think of no more suitable plan. For the future of his race, they needed a Demon King that would live for eternity. For his own ambitious soul, he needed to control that power.
  215.  
  216. Those old fools of Gehenna, calling Judas the radical minority? Hadn’t Gehenna’as old guard been waiting for the return of the Demon King before making their next move? Well, from now on Judas may not be the Demon King, but the Demon King would answer to him!
  217.  
  218. Cloudhawk was bound and caught in Judas’ domain of annihilation. In this field of terrible power there was no way for him to teleport to safety. He had no means of escape. The Khan of Evernight and Judas escorted their future puppet back to Nox, for the demon Elder could not wait to revel in his victory.
  219.  
  220. All the while Cloudhawk was wracking his brain for any way to save himself. All it earned him was a headache. He hadn’t thought Judas was so interested in his body! Every time Judas looked at his prize the madness in those crimson eyes grew more fierce.
  221.  
  222. Three powerful men and a coterie of Black Knights. It was quite the escort. Even if Cloudhawk could move enough to fight, it wouldn’t have helped him. From the instant he was captured and all the way to Nox, Cloudhawk was locked away from his power. All he could do was be led along like a lamb to the slaughter.
  223.  
  224. The blood crystal’s essence was extracted, liquefied and put in an IV bag. The Khan of Evernight personally saw to affixing a number of tubes to Cloudhawk’s body for the blood to pass through.
  225.  
  226. “There is no point in struggling.” The Khan’s digitized red eyes glowed against Cloudhawk’s skin. “This is your fate. One cannot change fate.”
  227.  
  228. Cloudhawk sensed his doom was near, but was not afraid. In fact he stared at the Khan with perfect calm. He saw this and asked in that robotic voice, “Do you not fear death?”
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