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Book 6, Chapter 55 - Mysterious Power

 Morning was in full swing. The sky was bright and calm.

Selene sat before a table chock full of documents. She doused the lantern she was reading by and walked to the window. Pulling open the shades, she looked out over Skycloud.

Bright morning light bloomed from the east, casting its warm glow upon Selene's face. It was her third day of continuous work and the exhaustion was starting to set in. But her mental acuity wasn't at all affected.

She dropped her head, looking at the latest intelligence report. When she lifted her eyes there was a hint of mirth in them. "Cloudhawk... he never ceases to surprise me."

She held a monitoring report of the wastelands. It contained a lot of what the Green Alliance had been up to since the battle at Fallowmoor several months ago. In the last sixty days Cloudhawk had managed impressive stunts, including the construction of a wasteland capitol.

Judging by the reports, this new city's population had already surpassed a million and a half people and was growing every day. It was hard to believe. The wastes were such a barren and unforgiving place. How could one city support so many citizens?

The report sounded too fantastical to take seriously, but Cloudhawk had managed it somehow. He had a penchant for making the impossible a reality. As she continued to read the report, this was proven by information of two things Cloudhawk had invented.

The first was a structure capable of creating fresh, clean water out of nowhere. They were calling it a Miracle Tower. His next accomplishment was something that transformed sand into arable soil. That one was called the Green Sword.

Where there was a Miracle Tower people never needed to fret over a lack of water. Where the Green Sword was placed the land came alive. Both items had begun to spread out through the wastes, directly benefiting millions of lives. It also transformed the way they looked at demonhunters and relics. Of note was that they did not call them demonhunters out in the wastes any longer.

Cloudhawk was the successor to the Demon King. Wolfblade and Abaddon - leaders of the wastes - were demonkin themselves. Continuing to call the mentally awakened demonhunters was inappropriate.

The wastelands had many names for the talented, such as Chosen, Black Knights, Godslayers and so forth. Now that the Green Alliance was established and in full control, they all came under the banner of a single name: Awakened.

Awakened were the wastelands most prized resource.

Miracle Towers and Green Swords required Awakened to use. Psychic power is what galvanized them, so what this meant was that Awakened were necessary to transform the wastes into a green paradise.

He really is changing the wastelands... Selene felt a faint stirring in her heart.

Cloudhawk's progress was slow but the implications were earth-shaking. Through his efforts the boundless deserts might one day become forests. The world could go back to the way it had been before the Great War. At least his vision was giving the downtrodden wastelanders hope.

He was giving his all to pursue his dream. How could Selene's pride allow her to fall behind? Her love for Skycloud ran deep and she was willing to do whatever was in her power to protect it. Perhaps with time the barriers between her world and Cloudhawk's could be swept away, and a single unified people would emerge.

To this end, Selene was more fervent and driven than Arcturus had been. It was all worth the effort, too. Skycloud was stable, peace and order had been restored. Little by little, her reputation with the people was improving.

Two people in vastly different places, working their best to have a vision become a reality. Perhaps it really was possible for the two of them to change the world!

After her five minutes of rest Selene was preparing to get back to work. She returned to the table and opened a report, but before she could read a word she felt a wracking spasm run through her body. A splitting headache nearly blinded her, a spiritual pain that bore down to her soul.

Gods damn it! Again!

The pain transcended all description. It completely dominated her senses.

It came in waves, ever since she accepted the inheritance from the Temple. With every wave her mental abilities swelled, but the price was excruciating pain that grew worse each time. Were it not for her iron will she would have died long ago.

This one was particularly intense. Why? What was happening to her?

The pain lasted for more than ten minutes before suddenly subsiding. Her eyes opened, revealing silver cornea - like a glorious moon hanging in the night sky

Gradually the pain melted from her face, receding in the face of an absolute indifference - almost detachment or contempt.

She looked around. The pain had caused her to fall from the chair so she picked herself up off the floor. All at once she seemed like a different person, underpinned by the glow of light from her eyes that made her seem all the more unnatural.

Selene looked down at the table and plucked up a report at random. It was the same wasteland report she'd read earlier. She gave it a cursory glance then tossed the paper to the side.

"Self-righteous mortal."

She leaped from the room, out into the courtyard below. Her head turned toward the horizon, at the Temple floating lazily above the city. Energy poured off of her - as though she were attempting to send some sort of message or signal toward the structure.

In this instant many citizens of Skycloud heard a booming roar.

Soon citizens nearby the Temple saw a massive, jade-like figure take flight. Though they'd never seen the creature before, there was no doubt that it was the legendary protector of the city Anima.

It was like a mix between a lion and a tiger, with a pair of enormous wings on its back. Its flesh was of a sort of porcelain quality like it was carved from a single piece of precious stone. It seemed to be a living work of art, hardly a creature of flesh and blood at all. The size of it was immense. On all fours it was over three and a half meters tall, cutting a majestic and domineering figure.

"Divine beast!"

"It's a divine beast!"

The people of Skycloud gasped, their eyes wide with shock as they watched Anima streak across the sky. This creature was the city's mysterious protector and little was known about it.

It was said that the actions of Anima were wholly autonomous. Even the High Priest had no means of controlling what it did. For over a thousand years the beast never left the confines of the Temple until this moment. But why?

Anima flew a wide circle above Skycloud. Eventually it spotted its target and landed. People were whispering about it when several minutes later, they spied the beast take off from the area near the Governor's Mansion. A figure sat upon its back, clad in snow-white vestments and beautiful beyond compare.

Her long, raven-black hair contrasted sharply with her shimmering silver eyes. Up above the city she was like a goddess surveying the mortal world. If it was not the city's new Governor, who was she?

What had possessed Anima - great protector of their city - to quit its post at the Temple and serve as mount to Selene? Such a thing was unheard of, even historical, beyond what anyone could imagine! No one in the history of the city had ever taken control of the divine beast, yet under Selene's hand it was as meek as a powerful but loyal hound.

The two - woman and beast - returned to the Temple together in view of the public. When she arrived the denizens of the Temple were still reeling from the shock. Oracles and Templars were stumbling over one another as Selene and Anima returned before the grand gates. She did not dismount, instead the divine beast made to convey her through the doors into the Temple proper.

"Governor! You musn't-"

A group of clerics moved to block her path. Anima responded by opening its maw and consuming them in white-blue fire. Everyone looked on in horror. What had possessed this docile protector to suddenly act so hostile?! Selene was the Temple's Apostle before, but was no longer. What made her assume she could simply come in at her leisure?

Skycloud's three primary organizations - the Temple, the Governor's Mansion and the Army - were meant to be autonomous. They were forbidden from interfering with one another directly. This was especially true for the lauded Temple. Without the High Priest's invitation, those who were not of the organization were not permitted to enter.

Another group approached to stop her. Selene swept her silvery eyes across them and each froze as though struck by lightning. They'd never seen such callousness in a person's eyes before - total disregard, as though their lives were less than meaningless. Fear and a need to submit flooded their bodies. Even these hardened martial warriors found themselves robbed of morale.

Hearing the commotion, High Priest Aquaria rushed to the scene. By now Selene had pushed through the doors and was quickly approaching the forbidden area.

The Temple was an ancient place, present here even before the Elysian land was founded. Its interior was vast, complex, and there were places that even the High Priest did not fathom a use for. It was one of these mysterious rooms that Selene approached.

Immediately, Aquaria recognized something different about Selene. Whoever this person was, she was not the Governor. Rather she appeared to be in the grip of someone's else's control. The power came from her eyes.

Aquaria had been a member of the Temple for decades, and now held post as the High Priest. She knew many of the organization's secrets. Her predecessor, Ramiel, had employed one of those secrets to counteract Arcturus' growing power.

His intention had been to empower her with the Temple's latent powers, inheriting what was left by the gods. What Selene had accepted was the implantation of a relic into her own body. Her eyes.

She'd employed this relic during the battle at Fallowmoor. Everyone saw the result. Her eyes allowed her to see the flows of time!

Ramiel's death had been too sudden. At one time he'd revealed that accepting divine ability would lead to power. But he tempered that with the assurance that it would also come with a cost. What he meant by that was never disclosed to anyone. As such Aquaria remained in the dark, her knowledge limited.

Now it seemed the answer was clearer. Something was in control of Selene! Everything she did was not a product of her own will, but from another mysterious power.

Mount Sumeru!

A crowd of people followed Selene and Anima as they pressed toward the forbidden area. It was one of the most sacred parts of the Temple but was entirely empty. All that was there was a singular doorway set in the center of the room. It was cast in bronze from top to bottom. No one knew its purpose.

Selene slowly dismounted from the divine beast. Anima turned and bared its great teeth at the others. A clear warning not to approach or interfere.

One of the clerics called out. "High Priest! What should we do?"

Aquaria's brow was furrowed as she struggled with the problem. "The Cloud God has not returned since leaving the Temple. We... can do nothing but watch."

Selene stretched her hands out toward the doorway. Onlookers felt a surge of mental energy fill the chamber and begin to resonate with the portal. Runes etched into the door's frame came to life and began to glow. It began to open at a glacial pace.

Selene was trying to open the door? It was becoming clear, but the question remained: What was this door? What purpose did it serve? Aquaria did not know anymore than the others, but something about it filled her with unease.

She did not know where this door led, but one thing was certain.

Nothing good was going to come from it.

1. This is directly compared to her name in Chinese, 'Silvermoon'

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