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Book 6, Chapter 48 - The Means

 Over the wastelands' thousand year history, cities with tens of thousands of residents were as rare as fresh spring water. A million or more didn't exist and until recently weren't ever likely to.

Elysian suppression and cleansing missions were a major reason for this, but it wasn't the main one.

Resources out in the wastelands were limited. With water in such short supply and only one real means of gathering food, it was impossible to support populations so large.

Where resources were limited, the number of people had a hard cap. Once numbers grew beyond what a region could support survival became difficult. When famine and starvation struck, violence and crime increased. Victims either died or were run off. It was a natural mechanism for rooting out the weak and keeping the scales in balance.

Cloudhawk's actions were against this natural order. He was undermining the way the wastelands had always worked by taking its spread-out population and gathering them into large groups. He was building cities, unifying language and creating a national army.

In the future, the population of the capitol would easily rise above a million. Probably several million. However, Greenland was only equipped to handle numbers in the thousands. With a population so large the city would certainly experience severe shortages. The more people there were, the more serious the problem would be. They couldn't let that happen! If they didn't do something, the green world they were trying to revive would wither back into a barren desert.

The sense of crisis was immense and immediate. With the rate at which people were arriving, there was only enough water to last another few weeks. Food stores could be stretched to a month at best. If they didn't come up with a solution, building the southern wilds' capitol would be permanently put on hold.

Hellflower's ideas revolved around austerity; reducing output and increasing input. First they would need to put limits on the population and population growth. Second, they needed to find ways to increase crop yield and water availability.

As for implementation, the first step was to stop letting just anyone in. They had to keep their numbers at a manageable level until the crisis was averted. Meanwhile they could send out groups to explore Greenland's surrounding areas for food and groundwater. Engineers could build systems of wells and water lines, collect what they could and then bring it into the city by tanker trucks.

These were immediate and practical ways to lessen the burden, but they didn't solve the root of the problem.

Furthermore, there were countless immigrants on the road to Greenland right now. Where they supposed to wait outside? Did they need to be turned away? The wastelands were dangerous and every other day, travelers died for the dream of coming to Greenland. If Cloudhawk just left them outside to starve it would destroy the hope he was trying to foster.

Water caravans? Unreliable. Greenland didn't have many vehicles for the job, even if they used them all it wouldn't put a dent in the demand. Anyway, water trucks out in the desert had giant targets painted on them. Every raider clan and sweeper group in a hundred kilometers would be licking their chops. Whether the tankers were full of fuel or water it didn't matter. Both were worth more than a few lives out in the wastes.

And digging wells? The deterioration of the world hadn't happened overnight but was a process of over a thousand years. These days, outside of a few special places like Greenland, water was exceedingly hard to come by. Trying to find water underground wasn't any easier. Exploration and extraction was difficult, and wasn't sure to produce results.

There was another method, and that was to rely on Cloudhawk's teleportation abilities. By folding space, he could theoretically take water from other planets. It was a good way to deal with this emergency, but it wasn't a long-term solution. Ultimately, it didn't solve their lack of infrastructure. Cloudhawk was leader of the alliance, he couldn't spend his days shuttling back and forth delivering food. Besides, strong as he was Cloudhawk was only one man. He couldn't single-handedly provide for a million people.

This wouldn't work. That wouldn't work. The southern capitol was beset with difficulties.

Cloudhawk ended the meeting and stepped out on his own, wandering down one of the city's alleys. He needed some time alone to think.

Suddenly he heard a sharp, familiar noise. "Tweet tweet! Tweet tweet!"

What's this little guy doing here?

Lately Cloudhawk hadn't been bringing Oddball along with him during excursions. When it was not hunting for itself, he'd left the divine beast in the care of Azura and the other students. Discounting the critter because of its unimpressive size was a mistake. After years with Cloudhawk it had become one hell of a monster when it wanted to be.

It could take out a veteran demonhunter all by itself. With Cloudhawk's mental energies to assist it, even someone like Dawn would probably not be a threat. Oddball was by its nature a special sort of weapon. Weapons had their own qualities, but in the end it was the hand that wielded them that had the largest influence.

Cloudhawk made his way toward the sound. There he saw Oddball perched beside a small girl.

She was in her early teens and was wearing demonhunter trainee armor. On her waist was an exorcist rod. She was carrying empty buckets out into a patch of uncultivated land. It was a few meters of useless land that had been overlooked during development.

What's Blue doing out here?

When Azura walked out into the plot of land she put the buckets down and slipped a pair of gloves onto her hands. Judging by the look and material the gloves were relics. She reached out to them with her mind when they were snug on her hands.

Water particles formed in the air, gathering by her hands. They formed a tiny trickle which tumbled like a miniature waterfall into the buckets at her feet. After about a minute of this the buckets were full.

She took the water and used it to irrigate the patch of land. When the buckets were empty she repeated the process, using the gloves to gather water and then spreading that water through the dirt. Oddball was the first to realize they were being watched. Recognizing Cloudhawk it fluttered its wings and chirped happily.

"Ah, t-teacher... What are you doing here?"

Azura was startled by Oddball's call then saw that Cloudhawk was standing nearby, watching. She was at a loss, like someone had uncovered her secret.

Cloudhawk was wrapped in dark clothing to hide his identity, which made him all the more mysterious. With his hands clasped behind his back he stepped closer and looked over the plot of land she'd been tending. He then regarded the small girl, who stood before him out of breath from the effort. Small beads of sweat traveled down her face and tumbled off her chin.

"What are you doing here?"

Azura shook her head sheepishly. "I was trying to bring this piece of land back to life."

Cloudhawk lifted a brow. "Hm? Bring it back to life?"

She nodded with resolve. "The teachers at the Institute said the wastelands are barren from lack of water. With enough water it might revive... so I borrowed these gloves and figured I could train and water this plot of land."

Indeed for Azura it was a tiresome activity. She was training by exhausting her mental powers and then letting them recover.

At first he didn't pay much attention to her thought process. He was still thinking about the desert as a whole, and her small efforts weren't making any difference. Water was draining too fast and evaporating before it could accomplish anything. It was naive to think such a small amount of water would do what she wanted.

But as he thought about it he was struck with a flash of inspiration. Azura's words had shook something loose. That's right! Why hadn't he thought of it before?

Cloudhawk had been focused on a scientific answer to their resource shortage. He'd been relying on Hellflower, but he was no scientist himself. If science wasn't giving them the answer they wanted, why didn't he think outside of that box?

The Green Alliance had its own demonhunters. They could also create spirit beads. Some things were beyond their science to tackle. But with the help of demonhunters and mental power, they could produce miracles.

For instance, it was shown how difficult it was for science to think of ways to collect water out in the barren wilderness. If on the other hand Cloudhawk could design a relic that made water - like Azura's gloves - than anyone with the power to manipulate mental energy could produce water. If a relic produced water from nothing, they wouldn't have to fear a shortage.

So long as they kept training demonhunters, the water would flow forever!

It went beyond demonhunter application and was present in many facets. Relics were the result of demonic and divine technology. Humans didn't understand how they worked, but they could accomplish things human science failed at.

"Teacher, what's going on?" Azura regarded Cloudhawk with curiosity.

Cloudhawk stretched out his porcelain hand, with skin so clear and white it would make a woman jealous. One couldn't even see his pores. As he reached out Azura felt a power spread out across the area.

The ground beneath their feet roiled, growing moist and fertile. The molecules in the air shifted and in a matter of seconds drops of water were all around them. Finally a halting rainstorm was birthed, whose moisture made the small patch of land rich with color and fragrance.

Was this her teacher's power? It was a minimal scene, but Azura knew that with the right artifact Cloudhawk could do unthinkable things! He just didn't have the right tool!

Over a year ago, Cloudhawk had discovered he could manipulate reality with his strength of will alone. It had started small, but over time his power in this area had strengthened. He let his hand drop and looked around at their surroundings, which had taken on new character.

As tenacious as the mushrooms they grew were, they would grow much better in treated soil than they did in sand. If Cloudhawk was able to terraform a larger swath into arable land, the fertile area around the Greenland created by its oasis would expand quickly.

If there was more fertile land, there was more resources. So long as there was a permanent population cap this could be a solution... of course thinking it was one thing. Making it a reality was something else entirely.

For one thing, in all the world only Cloudhawk was able to change matter without the help of a relic. One man alone couldn't change the earth on the scale he was thinking. Then, what if he succeeded? How would they maintain it? After all the environment was cruel and largely hostile to life. Even if he revived the land, without protection it would soon revert to the barren desert that surrounded it.

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