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Book 6, Chapter 54 - The Defeated Deity

 Danger swallowed Cloudhawk's senses. His form shimmered, then blinked from existence. Half a breath later all matter in the space he'd occupied - even air molecules - evaporated into nothing!

The sudden annihilation of that pocket of reality was so fast, the vacuum force caused an immediate explosion. A blinding expulsion of light and power followed, flattening trees a hundred meters in all directions. Every living thing in Oakstead felt it. Luckily Cloudhawk was quick enough to flee, otherwise even his empowered body would have been totally destroyed.

What a terrifying attack! How the hell had the Cloud God done it?

An indignant rage burned behind Cloudhawk's eyes as he watched a figure rise into the air. The Cloud God's perfect body was marred by the blow from Ruin, but there was no blood. In fact it seemed the god was not at all affected.

The gods were a race protected by mystical and fantastic armor. Light swirled around the Cloud God like a blanket. It was like electricity being pushed through a complex circuit, a masterwork product in full view. Cloudhawk stared in shock as the damage he'd caused was restored before his eyes.

This creature would be more difficult to deal with than he thought!

The Shepherd God's voice intruded on their conflict. "He is the new Demon King. Are you certain you want to raise your hand against him?"

Cloudhawk didn't know what she was doing, bringing this up right now. But her warning seemed to have some effect, for when she spoke the god's figure disappeared from view.

No, not disappeared! It was only a shadow!

Cloudhawk had never seen anything move so quickly before. The Cloud God moved at dozens of times the speed of sound in an instant. In a tenth of a second it was in front of the Shepherd God, with a blazing sword of light in its grip.

But the Shepherd God's reaction was also swift. She raised her flute, deflecting the attack.

Boom! The two met in an explosion of speed and power. The Shepherd God was flung off her feet.

Cloudhawk saw through the dust that Autumn's body was covered in wounds and dripping blood. Although she possessed incredible mental ability, her body was frail and human. How could she stand against a god?

The Cloud God continued its assault, coming down upon her with its blinding sword. It moved at twenty times the speed of sound and the blade of light stretched for two hundred meters. It carved a path through the air as though trying to cleave the entire world in two.

A blade of lightning appeared in its path! The Cloud God's attack was knocked aside! Cloudhawk had teleported into the path of danger at this critical moment to save the beleaguered mistress of Meadow. Man and God were flung away from one another.

Supremes were far more difficult to stand against than Cloudhawk had anticipated. Not only did it possess the strength of Arcturus, but was also a master of psychic attacks. What's worse, as a higher-order god the being's body was no less impenetrable than Skye Polaris' had been. Disregarding psychic power, just the god's speed and strength were beyond mortal comprehension.

A god's body was like an extremely sophisticated machine. Every cell was a nuclear engine. When the Cloud God moved it did not speed up, but instantly and immediately broke through the sound barrier. It was orders of magnitude faster than Cloudhawk, and the only way he could keep up was through teleportation. Combined with a sturdy body even Ruin couldn't obliterate, this god was a terrible foe!

Then there was its specialty, psychic attacks. It was a special power, unique and unobstructed by time or space. Such strikes moved at the speed of thought and were all but impossible to dodge!

Cloudhawk's spatial abilities, which had been the bane of many a foe, were useless now. Whether he was in this reality or in between, his mind was here. So long as he was present and seen by the Cloud God, he was subject to attack.

Psychic attack were nonmaterial. As such, no physical barriers stopped them. That did not mean that its power could do no damage to physical things, however. The power it produced could interfere with reality on a fundamental level. The explosive power leveled at Cloudhawk had been from the Cloud God's own mind.

The one advantage Cloudhawk possessed was the Mask of a Thousand Faces. It was a relic which - so long as one had the mental resources to activate it - deflected any mental attacks aimed at its bearer. The Cloud God's attacks could not be dodged, but would have to overcome this psychic shield before they could cause Cloudhawk any harm.

Cloudhawk was no ordinary human. If one looked solely at mental ability he was no less formidable than the god he faced!

Equipped as he was and with enough mental power to maintain his protection, Cloudhawk appeared to have the Cloud God's threat in check. However, this mode of thinking was all wrong. The Supreme God had lived through the Great War. What situation had it not experienced? What eventuality had it not planned for?

The Mask of a Thousand Faces was not insurmountable!

"Successor to the Demon King? Accept your inevitable destruction!"

The Cloud God did not launch into an attack. Instead a light grew from the space between its brows, spreading across its perfect body. The crystalline silhouette blazed bright as a sun. Using its own body as a relic, the Cloud God unleashed a torrential wave of psychic force.

Countless tendrils reached for Cloudhawk, reaching from an invisible abyss.

He felt the tentacles wrap around him, faster than he could react. A deluge of power submerged him in a world of illusions.

Everything vanished and was replaced with a colorful, bizarre reality. Cloudhawk, Ruin in hand, floated among the twisting vistas. Even with the mask reducing the Cloud God's power, it was still able to drag him into this world of illusion.

Although he knew everything appearing before him wasn't real, he had no way to escape from it. As he puzzled out his next move he heard a booming voice from behind.

"Did you presume what fraction of the Demon King's power you wield was enough to defeat me?"

Without even looking, Cloudhawk lashed out behind him with Ruin. The crackling blade carved the Cloud God's body in twain, but what he struck at was merely a shadow. The two pieces split apart and formed into two identical gods. More appeared, until there was a veritable army of deities.

"You cannot resist me while locked in this world of mine! Here, my powers are a hundred times stronger!"

Cloudhawk dashed among the gods as fast as he could, cutting apart anthing in reach. Despite his fervor, it did him no good.

The Supreme's attack had only just begun. Cloudhawk felt a mountain of pressure descend on him, as though several Cloud Gods were attacking at once. So much power overlayed one upon the other was more than even Cloudhawk could suffer. If this continued for long, he would be destroyed.

"A mental attack eh? No big deal, two can play this game!"

Crimson fires sprang to life behind Cloudhawk's eyes. The fires quickly spread until they filled his ocular cavities. Before long both eyes were blazing coals - gemstones smoldering with the essence of flame. Incredible amounts of energy poured from them.

Mental attacks were unperceivable in the real world, but in this fantastical space they were given form. Cloudhawk's eyes burned and all he gazed upon burst into flame. It spread until the world of illusion was a sea of fire.

A single spark could create a forest fire! When a flame became an inferno, it was impossible to stop!

Cloudhawk could hear the Cloud God's rage as a bellowing scream inside his skull. The twisted world collapsed. Reality reasserted itself. With his eyes still aflame Cloudhawk looked around and saw the fires reflected in the face of the Cloud God. The deity, for the first time in its existence, felt an assault on its mind. It was faced with the same terrible power it commanded.

"Hateful successor!" The creature that had lived for thousands of years was shaken and angry.

Cloudhawk was about to press for a decisive blow when the Cloud God's body once again blazed with light. An intense repelling force flung the god into the distance at a rate of thousands of meters per second. Soon it was gone from Cloudhawk's vision.

Panting, he looked around for any sign of threat. "It escaped?"

Much to even his own shock, Cloudhawk had won!

The latent power of the Demon King locked inside him caught the Cloud God off guard. Likely the deity was badly wounded by the assault, and unless Cloudhawk was mistaken the god would need some time to recover before trying anything further.

However, Cloudhawk did not rejoice at fighting off a Supreme. It was but one of an army of powerful foes! Its brethren numbered in the tens of thousands at least. As for higher order creatures like the Cloud God, there were likely hundreds. If war came for him now there was no hope for victory.

"Hey now, take it easy!"

Cloudhawk rushed to the injured Shepherd God's side.

Formerly the matron of Meadow was no less capable than the Cloud God. However, with her exile from the gods and the loss of her divine body, Autumn's frail human form meant she was too weak to wield what power she once had.

Cloudhawk saw that Autumn's internal organs were badly damaged. He quickly retrieved the Rekindling Lens from his storehouse and attempted to heal her. Under the relic's impressive power her body knitted itself back together.

The Shepherd God had very nearly died but it did not seem to bother her. In a calm voice she spoke. "Your peaceful days are numbered... With the power you wield, incapable of killing even just the Cloud God, you have no hope of standing against Sumeru."

What did she mean, 'even just the Cloud God'? It was an incredibly powerful being!

If the Cloud God and Cloudhawk were destined to fight for survival, it was unclear who would emerge victorious.

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