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Book 5, Chapter 69 - The Lost Realm

 As the Demon King's successor, Cloudhawk had a special connection to his benefactor's blood. Through it he could develop the same exuberant life force as the demons themselves, resulting in improved healing and the capability to meld with all of the Demon King's inheritance.

Clodhawk didn't believe every word out of the demon Elder's mouth, but if he was hiding something then, what was he trying to accomplish?

He didn't want to die. There was still so much to do. He wanted to return to Greenland and live with his friends. He wanted to help Selene and Dawn exact vengeance on Arcturus.

So many things he was worried about that needed to be accomplished. He wasn't going to just curl up and die. Whatever dark motives spurred Judas, this was the only path available to Cloudhawk.

"The place you are going is special," the Khan began to explain as he led Cloudhawk from the temple. "During the time of the Great War it was one of the godly domains. Now it is a twisted ruin that is difficult to navigate. However, this is a small issue in the face of Nox's capabilities."

Judas had just explained this. The news was surprising to Cloudhawk.

"So that means there are other Elysian lands in our world?"

"There once were six, in fact. Each one was lorded over by a patron deity. You have met the guardian of Skycloud, the Cloud God. Where you will travel was a similar place, only its patron suffered some ill circumstance and the realm fell."

Cloudhawk scowled. "What I'm hearing is there are potentially four other Elysian realms out there somewhere besides Skycloud."

"Correct."

"Where are they?"

"I don't know, this is not something Judas has disclosed to me. I know little of them except that they possibly exist, somewhere."

The fallen Elysian city was located in the south-west portion of the ancient battlefield. By Comparison, Skycloud was in its northern quadrant. The distance between these two locations was vast and many difficulties lined the path so that even Skycloud could not reach what remained of its sister city. They had no relevant information on Cloudhawk's destination either.

Why would the gods separate their cities like that? Wouldn't it make sense to work together?

The other Elysian lands had to be spread far and wide, far enough that communication was impossible. It almost seemed deliberate, but what would be the motivation for establishing six realms so far apart from one another?

What Cloudhawk knew for sure was that Gehenna and Mount Sumeru were not somewhere here on his world. Anyone looking for them would search the earth and come up empty handed. Gods and demons were an independent, highly evolved species far beyond humanity, and both were using their own methods to try and control this world.

However, it seemed neither side expected the other to appear on this planet at the same time. As a result, war broke out between the two powerful races. A dead and blasted landscape was what they left behind.

Six Elysian realms. Six patron gods. The Cloud God was merely one of them. That meant a god could only lord over one domain.

If he had to guess, it seemed more than likely this fallen realm belonged to Sylvana, the Shepherd God. That would make sense - by falling in with the Demon King and betraying her people, the realm she was meant to lord over fell apart.

The Khan of Evernight provided Cloudhawk with a few things to prepare for his trip.

Among them was his gauntlet, rescued from the strange mushroom world; Skye Polaris' gift, Ardent Wrath; and his invisibility cloak which was mostly in tatters. Oddball was brought to him as well. Much to Cloudhawk surprise he'd lost nothing since falling unconscious.

"Chirp, chirp!"

Oddball looked like it'd gained even more weight in the last stretch of time. The Khan had been making sure he was well fed. Seeing its master once again the bird tittered happily and flapped its stubby wings.

Cloudhawk was ready to go.

"Remember, your mission is to find a way into the city." The Khan's voice was robotic and frank. "Nox where help how it can from a distance. This is your one chance to survive, so unless you want to end up like me you'd better succeed."

Cloudhawk looked at the cyborg. He struck him as strange.

The Khan of Evernight was Nox's Governor, responsible for the city while Judas slept. But where did he come from? He was strong, that was obvious from his showing in Sanctuary. At least as strong as the old drunk. Not really human, though - he'd lost most of his body and had had it replaced with circuits and wires.

Why would he give up so much and pledge himself to demons? He seemed to know a whole lot about Skycloud.

Cloudhawk shook his head and put the thoughts aside. He fumbled a bit with the engine of a flying machine. Everyone had their secrets, and Cloudhawk didn't have the tools or smarts to figure out what those secrets were. The engine sputtered to life, and with flames sputtering from the airplane's exhaust, he took off toward his destination.

The higher he went, the farther he could see into the distance. A panoramic view of the devastation left behind by the Great War. The battlefield was... massive. A boundless darkness hung over it all. Alone in this frigid, gloomy environment he flew for a full day.

From up here he couldn't make out any details below. It was all an endless expanse of ruins like a field of discarded bone. From time to time he'd spy craters, massive holes left behind as a consequence of a terrible war. Lights flickered in isolated pockets to indicate where humans had come together in settlements, to try and survive in this dangerous place.

Life was a tenacious thing. No matter how terrible the consequences, human potential rose to the occasion. They adapted because they had to.

Cloudahawk peered into the horizon and spotted light. The unrelenting darkness was beginning to subside but the air had a heavy feeling like he was flying into a fog.

"Fuckin' finally, I'm getting out of this hellhole."

Suddenly, a figure streaked across his vision.

He looked closer and discovered that it was a huge beast. The bird-like thing was at least as large as the Vale's dragons, but bore no feathers or scales. Instead it had leathery, bat-like flesh with bony spines protruding from its wings. Its head culminated in a pointed peak with a pair of angry red eyes set above it. The creature's long, thin tail had three drill-like spikes jutting from the end. A glance was enough to know it wasn't friendly.

It noticed Cloudhawk and headed right for his flying machine. It opened its maw wide and a burst of fire was vomited toward him.

Cloudhawk jerked the wheel to try and avoid the worst of it. He felt his hair singe as the plume of fire streaked passed the cockpit. What the fuck was this thing?! It sure as shit wasn't a normal wasteland mutant because he could hear a relic resonance coming from it.

Oddball dashed off, a streak of golden light in the darkness. It broke the sound barrier and appeared in front of the creature in an instant. Oddball struck it like a golden bullet, but the beast only jerked slightly.

Oddball could punch through a steel plate twenty centimeters thick by this point. However the bird's attack hardly phased the monster at all. It took an angry swipe at the audacious golden bird.

Oddball was batted away with a squeak, several golden feathers left in its wake. In anger and frustration, Oddball opened its peak in the process of retreat and spat out a beam of golden energy at its foe. It crackled through the air like lightning, striking the beast and leaving a nasty black mark.

The monster descended into fury. It slowly extended its leathery wings.

Cloudhawk could see that all across those wings were glowing lines, kike some sort of ancient pattern. The resonance he sensed earlier grew louder until from the wings arced a host of purplish-black bolts. They came toward Cloudhawk and Oddball both.

"Son of a bitch!"

He glowered at the violet lightning storm closing in. No time to dodge, he had to try and fly through it.

Right away his cockpit began to shake violently as the attack hit. The instruments beeped and squealed in protest, belching sparks into his face. Cloudhawk took Ardent Wrath into his grip and bailed.

A second later the airplane exploded.

Cloudhawk jerked himself around, allowing the wind to carry him toward the creature. The further his traveled the brighter Ardent Wrath seethed until the two collided. He brought his weapon down hard on the beast's skull, carving a wound from head to belly.

The monster screamed, a terrible sound. It reacted with a sharp flick of its tail.

Cloudhawk managed to put his sword between himself and the barbs. Clumsy attacks like this were no threat to him, especially after learning the drunk's martial weapon techniques. However, he was weak and crippled from his previous fights and couldn't ward off the impact completely. He crashed into the ground, hard enough to make his vision go dark.

The giant bird was also wounded by the exchange. It flew away, unsteady and dripping blood.

Oddball plummeted from the sky as fast as it could to find Cloudhawk, limp in a small crater. It alighted on its master chest and used its wings to slap him in the face. He had to wake up, who knew what other dangers were hiding in the ruins of this battlefield.

It wasn't working. Oddball took back to the air, scouting the area for threats. Not far away it spotted several figures picking their way through the ruins. Oddball approached

One of them, a younger boy, yelped in surprise. "Ay? What's this!"

His older companion quickly dragged him back so that he was behind him. "Careful! It looks like a divine beast!"

Oddball flew in circuits above them for a moment before coming to a stop. It beat its wings frantically and chirped, darting back at forth to indicate a direction.

"It doesn't seem dangerous." The boy peered at Oddball curiously. "Does it need help?"

Curious to see what it wanted, the two followed Oddball's lead back to Cloudhawk. When they saw him unconscious, they knew what Oddball had been trying to do. The two spoke for a moment and eventually decided to gather Cloudhawk up and take him away.

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