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Book 6, Chapter 52 - You Are a Demon

 Dawn. Citizens of Oakstead left their homes, took the giant rocs to the valley below, and began the day's work.

The Shepherd God activated the latent power of the Elysian realm to fill it with oxygen. Temperatures stabilized and the nation had plenty of light and water. Here plants grew quickly, and local fauna thrived.

Life for citizens of Meadow was easier than ever before.

After six days Cloudhawk had found new inspiration. Although even the gods couldn't create life from nothing, how was it they were able to create fertile lands among the wasted landscape of a dead world?

It was because while unable to create life directly, they were able to foster an environment conducive to the creation of life. Where life could thrive it did so on its own, the gods merely helped that process along.

Once the idea of summoning a forest around Greenland was shot down, Cloudhawk changed focus. Instead he began to ponder how to transform the dry, barren landscape. If he could change the sand to fertile soil and Hellflower enriched it with helpful microorganisms, he believed the result he wanted could be achieved.

The more desolate the wastes had become, the more resilient were the creatures that called it home. If the environment was made even a little less hostile to life, he was certain vitality would thrive.

After Adder destroyed Skycloud's border wall, the realm's energies became unstable. Moisture and energies that promoted life seeped out, causing green to bloom throughout the borderlands and even portions of the wastes. That was proof that Cloudhawk's plans could be realized.

Now that he'd made up his mind, Cloudhawk would see it done. It was easier to make a place where life could reemerge than to make life out of nothing.

Cloudhawk remained in Oakstead in part so he could seek help from the Shepherd God when needed, but also so he could raid the Silverwing Monarch's old caches for materials to make relics. Surely there was a lot there he would find useful.

Autumn sat in the boughs of the God Tree as she was wont to do, staring down at the toiling people.

"Pathetic." She spat the words seemingly without cause.

"What is?" She spoke again, but her voice was different. Calm.

There were two wills locked in one body. From the outside, she must have looked like a madwoman talking to herself.

The Shepherd God's cruel voice answered. "These small humans and their insignificant lives. Like livestock, growing fat in their cages. They live like cattle but are not. Is this not pathetic?"

Autumn paused. Her eyes were drawn to the distant Temple where Cloudhawk was busily rummaging through old garbage. She understood what the Shepherd God was referring to. "You mean Cloudhawk. He is no normal man. Even gods and demons may not be his equal."

It was no exaggeration. Cloudhawk had grown stronger than average gods and demons by this point. He was no longer just a man.

Again, the Shepherd God answered. "If he wholly adopts the mantle of the Demon King - with all the power of the remaining demons that entails - he will only have a one in ten chance to win this war of his. Right now he still thinks of himself as a human being. A man who believes he can transform the wastelands. How can you imagine this isn't ignorance?"

In the eyes of the Shepherd God, humans were nothing more than animals to be raised and used to her benefit. A lower life form hardly worth her attention. It didn't matter whether they were wastelanders or Elysians, gods and demons saw no difference. They were only special in that, from time to time, a particularly curious beast might bubble to the surface.

Arcturus was such a human. Cloudhawk as well.

But the one who would be Demon King remains in the wastes, toiling away to the benefit of these hopeless humans as though it meant something. Did he expect to rely on these ants in his war against the gods? It was a laughable concept!

In fact, as far as she was concerned it was Arcturus who saw the facts clearer.

Autumn responded. "If humans are so insignificant why did the gods bother coming here at all? Why would they commit to such a brutal war? I believe in Cloudhawk, and I believe in humanity."

Gods and demons were born powerful. Humans were born powerless and weak. Yet humanity had produced a tremendous man like Arcturus! It was human who provided the Demon King with its next successor in Cloudhawk!

Did this not present a problem? The strength of a god or demon was determined at their creation. It was difficult, if not impossible, to ascend beyond their caste. But humans... humans could rise to prominence step by step. They were able to transcend weakness and rise to strength.

"Maybe you're right. Humans are frail, their lives are short, but these shortcomings are our strength. It is what pushes us toward perfection. Pursuit of something better drove us to consistent improvement over thousands of years. Even such paltry abilities birthed an incredible, world-spanning society."

The Shepherd God met Autumn's assertions with disdain.

Autumn followed up with a question. "What is the connection between gods, demons and humans? Why would your people waste your time with us common chattel if you're such advanced beings?"

It was a question that had perplexed Autumn for some time now. She figured Cloudhawk was also curious what the answer could be. Even though Autumn and the Shepherd God shared a body they did not wholly share a consciousness. Some things were locked away by the fallen deity so that Autumn could not see. But lately her relationship with the divine will that took her form had been improving.

When the Shepherd God first assumed control of the body she was hostile of the surplus presence in the back of her mind. However, over time and as the Shepherd God realized there was no recourse, she allowed the human to emerge from time to time. It was a sort of compromise.

While the Shepard God slept, Autumn would be allowed to assume control. In exchange, the human would not act in opposition to the god's plans or actions. Autumn agreed, with the additional caveat that Cloudhawk would never come to harm by the Shepherd God or the people of Meadow. If she did, Autumn would make the fallen god's life a nightmare.

So it was agreed. Two creatures of explicitly different orders shared one body. Forced to work in unison, Autumn gradually came to understand better the mind of a god. So too did the god come to grasp some of the way humans thought. Both learned a lot that they otherwise never would have.

Why were gods and demons so interested in humans? In fact it was not the proper question. The gods had inserted themselves in the destinies of countless races throughout the galaxy.

These disparate species - humans among them - numbered in the billions and were all the product of evolution. Though they came from different worlds, what they all shared was the mental energies to directly affect the quantum world. Such abilities were the root of superstring technology and was a rare skill for a species to develop.

Gods and demons were not populous races. A place like Skycloud had millions of citizens, among them were tens of thousands who presented with mental ability. The population of Skycloud alone was likely greater than all the gods. Perhaps that was what interested them.

Why perhaps? Because truthfully, the Shepherd God did not know.

It was a strange revelation. There was nothing in the god's memories concerning any other races, as though all she'd ever known were humans. When she pondered the technology, history and culture of her former race... there was nothing.

It was almost like the gods didn't exist. Like they'd merely sprang up one day out of the blue with a fully realized society and scientific system. Why the gods were here... she couldn't remember.

Godly society was completely different from that of humans. There was no such thing as lies or deception among the divine because their minds were all inexorably linked. If one god did not know something it meant none of the gods did. But no god ever really gave it any thought.

As she mulled it over, the Shepherd God sensed something. She raised her head, staring off into the distance. "You might as well show yourself."

In response to her invitation, a towering and perfect figure emerged in the air nearby. An intense and all-consuming will flooded the treetop.

The Shepherd God felt her frail human form grow heavy. There was no question that the Cloud God's immense mental abilities were suppressing her powers in case she chose to try and use them. "What are you doing here?"

The Cloud God's voice spoke directly to her mind. "I seek answers. Answers about the truth of gods and demons."

Where did gods come from? What about demons? How were they connected? It was a burning question the Cloud God needed answers to. Far more pressing than sitting back and watching wastelanders toil.

The Shepherd God turned to face the overbearing deity. "What does this information mean to you?"

A flood of mental energy continued to pour off the creature. "I will use this truth to rejoin the others."

She laughed suddenly. "Rejoin the others? You honestly think there's any going back?"

The Cloud God was silent, so the Shepherd God went on.

"Don't you think it strange? Ever since Cloudhawk tainted your mind, your thinking has changed."

This was a fact of which the Cloud God was painfully aware. Gods were a species of emotional stoicism. A near infinite lifespan and technology that provided everything they could want... there was little to concern them. However, when Cloudhawk touched its mind the god saw much it should never have glimpsed. Indeed, its thinking had changed.

With each passing moment its hunger for answers grew. Problems that before had never concerned it were now all it could think about.

The tiny woman in green spoke slowly, purposefully. "There is a seal on the mind of every god in the moment of its creation. It limits what we can explore, what we think. Our faith is infallible, the taboo is unthinkable. To even attempt it is worthless for this seal isolates them from our reality."

The two Supremes faced one another. They did not speak, but communicated mind to mind. Such a spiritual connected was a hundred times more efficient than the base sounds humans muttered at one another.

"Demons do not possess this seal. Nor are they connected as we once were. This is the main difference between our people. If you truly wish to know the connection between gods and demons, then I shall tell you."

"You are a demon."

There was no change in the Cloud God's demeanor, but its mental field was immediately thrown into flux. Impossible!

"In the past no demons appeared in this world. They did not exist, for they were gods." The Shepherd God relayed the information almost aggressively. "You have now become one of them and there is no changing that. You will never return to the gods and their connection. The God King would never allow you - a perversion of its race - to be restored."

Rage bloomed in the field of mental energy. The people of Oakstead fell to their knees as suddenly a wracking pain overcame their minds.

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