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Book 6 - Chapter 59 - Forming the Portal

 The Temples's light hung over Skycloud's central square. Such a stunning display the people could only attribute to the gods, so citizens came in droves to prostrate themselves before the miracle.

Cloudhawk's warnings had fallen on deaf ears. He looked on as the Temple spun ever faster.

It wasn't a building. It was some sort of airship, or enormous floating machine. With the Temple's central systems activated, huge amounts of energy were being released.

Was he too late?

Cloudhawk's dark eyes were fixed on the light-swathed Temple. With no time and no recourse, he made a decision. His body rose up into the air and once hanging over the crowd, he released as much mental energy as he could. The air warped from the strain.

It didn't take long for Skycloud's citizen to notice the change. People raised their faces toward the sky where clouds gathered into whirlpools. Only, the swirling was from the inside out, and from their depths spat forth a rain of meteors.

Enormous, burning hunks of rock descended from the heavens, each one the size of a house. Tumbling from a thousand meters overhead, there appeared a terrible screaming sound that shook the city. A dozen of the meteors roared toward Skycloud's central square.

"It's Cloudhawk!"

"That demon is here! He's attacking Skycloud!"

After witnessing such an apocalyptic scene there was no need to guess who the culprit was. Only the great evil of the wastelands, Cloudhawk, was capable of such a nightmare. The citizens and soldiers of Skycloud burned with rage.

This hateful fiend! He'd been lurking in the wastelands for so long that they'd nearly forgotten him. Now, suddenly he was again in their midst attacking the city! Trying to destroy the sanctity of this once-in-a-millennia miracle! Did he disregard the Elysians so much?

Cloudhawk knew the risks of such an action. He knew it would cause misunderstandings. But what else could he do? He couldn't stand by and watch the Boundary Portal open, dooming these people to destruction, without doing something. He couldn't just stand by while Selene was dragged into an abyss!

Destroy the Temple. He had to.

The meteors had a high risk of injuring innocents, but it was this or allow Skycloud to be razed to the ground. Every man, woman and child of the city would be cut down. Now wasn't the time to debate morality and losses.

More meteors fell. Twenty or thirty of them, released from swirling portals in the sky. He struggled to arrange the portals in such a way to control their trajectory. They shrieked across the sky toward his sole target, the Temple!

Leaving flaming trails in their wake, the meteors closed in with the impact force of a hundred missiles. Dozens striking all at once would be equivalent to thousands of ordinance. No matter how strong the Temple's construction was, it could not survive a direct strike.

That awful sound drew closer. Burning light from the meteors clashed with the pure white light from the Temple.

Suddenly a beam of energy shot forth from the holy structure. It struck the foremost meteor dead on and, with a shuddering blast, broke it apart. Chunks of flaming rock hung over the city like a star-spangled sky.

Flaming debris pelted various districts of the city. Trees were set alight and windows shattered in their passing.

Boom! Boom-boom! Boom!

Cloudhawk watched in horror and disbelief as one after the other his meteors were destroyed, their pieces flung across the city. They were intercepted in mid-air with incredible accuracy. The beams that were stopping them were, in fact, the city's Seraphs.

He'd dealt with Seraphs before. While they weren't weak, Seraphs weren't soldiers so much as builders and repairers. In the few times the city had been damaged, it was through their miraculous works that it was restored to glory.

They shouldn't have been fast enough. The Seraphs couldn't stop the whole attack any more than they could survive it, at least not on their own. Again and again they threw themselves at the stones and were obliterated. But Cloudhawk's meteor shower was deflected.

While in his daze Cloudhawk was taken aback by a thunderous cry nearby. A groping clawed appendage reached out with incredible speed, condensing the surrounding air to water.

Reflection shield!

Cloudhawk instinctively raised his left arm and the familiar pale light shone forth. The clawed hand raked across the shield leaving jagged marks, but was thrust back to where it came. Several of the claws themselves were broken.

The strike had come from a divine beast! Cloudhawk's eyes fixed on the source of the attack.

A winged half-lion, half-tiger creature with a body like carved jade floated majestically before him. Its appearance was not strange, for this creature was said to be the great protector of Skycloud, capable of sensing when danger was near.

They must have known. The Temple was prepared, its Seraphs arrayed to contend with the meteors. That's how they countered his attack!

Cloudhawk lashed out at his attacker with the Arbiter's Staff. As it swept through the air countless spark-like threads of lightning danced in the air. In the blink of an eye they filled their surroundings. Meanwhile the divine beast radiated light. Its broken claws regrew. Power from the Arbiter's Staff g;anced harmlessly off its defenses.

The creature was incredibly strong! Its protections were as strong as its offense! Cloudhawk was aware that defeating it would not be an easy feat, especially since he was in the heart of Skycloud. He didn't have much time.

Seraphs and demonhunters were alerted to his presence. With every passing moment more rushed into the air to try and stop him. They were a tough array of defenders, especially the Seraphs. So long as they were near the Temple they were unkillable and their power inexhaustible.

Cloudhawk was still trying to come up with a plan when a slender figure dashed a hundred meters into the air and settled on the Temple's exterior. She was clad in snow-white clothing and her dark hair whipped through the air. In her right hand was a blazing crystal sword. Her two eyes glowed with silver light.

"Selene?!"

Cloudhawk's eyes were wide in shock. He knew it was her... and not her.

Her face was an icy mask of indifference. The apathy she expressed showed without question that the Selene he knew had been replaced with an unfeeling stranger. Was this what happened when a human was baptized in divine power? An avatar?

Avatars and Seraphs were different. The latter were puppets, more like robots. They had no way to think on their own and thus were malleable. With the right methods they could be controlled as Arcturus had done. Avatars, on the other hand, were creatures of flesh and blood. They thought, they grew, but they did not feel.

Avatars were very rare indeed. Only gods of the highest order could create an avatar. The demands of becoming an avatar were heavy on the body of the host, but also robbed the god of some of its own power. As a result, few were the gods who chose to weaken themselves in exchange for an earthy representative.

Selene's 'Eyes of Time' were relics from the god of time. Tools of the master of Mount Sumeru, the most powerful of its race - the God King! It was the God King who controlled Selene. And she was its agent. Even as merely an avatar she had the qualifications to stand shoulder to shoulder with a Supreme!

Selene fixed her silver eyes upon Cloudhawk. In a voice that was both strange and familiar she spoke. "You are the descendant of the Demon King? With these eyes I can see your future. You have no hope for victory."

Fires burned in the depths of Cloudhawk's own eyes. They were a sign of the anger smoldering within. "You get the fuck out of her body."

The Avatar's response was tepid. "You still do not understand? My situation is different from the Shepherd God's. I am Selene, and Selene is me. We cannot be separated. So, how can I leave?"

"Bullshit!"

Cloudhawk teleported to Selene's location. Electric light crackled in his right hand as he stabbed Ruin toward her chest. Even someone as hardy as Selene would be destroyed by its power.

All the while the Avatar's face was an emotionless mask, as though everything occurring was a scene in some play and bore no relation to her. Just as Ruin was about to reach its target, the lightning blade stopped.

"You can't do it?" The Avatar asked the question, but knew the answer.

He couldn't. He couldn't tell whether the Avatar was telling the truth or merely bluffing. What he could feel was the burst of power she released from those silver eyes.

Time powers?

A thousand years ago the Demon King had been defeated at the hands of its godly counterpart. Was this the power that spelled its doom?

Time was an ability much more terrible and much more powerful than the spatial skills he wielded. If Selene could see the future it meant everything Cloudhawk did was known even before he realized it, so long as she maintained the power. She would also be prepared.

He stared into her eyes, at his reflection shimmering in their silvery depths.

Her confidence was carried on the knowledge of Cloudhawk's relationship with Selene. It was because she knew what was to come. She had seen the future. No matter the variables or what factors emerged, in none of the possibility threads of the future could Cloudhawk bring himself to murder Selene.

Anima screeched and lashed out at him again. In the same instant, the Avatar's crystal sword also blazed with light and thrust toward him.

He danced out of the way of the divine beast and used Ruin to deflect Selene's attack. Through it he judged the Avatar's strength to be at least equivalent to a Master Demonhunter, even stronger. However, in a one-on-one battle with Cloudhawk she would not win.

If he couldn't kill her, then he had to find a way to capture her alive!

He activated his powers to teleport to Selene, who was reeling from having her attack deflected. Yet even before he arrived she was retreating from him. Seven or eight Seraphs poured in to her defense from all directions.

He answered with the Arbiter's Staff. The shields around the Seraphs failed. With his other hand, Cloudhawk brandished Ruin. The holy creatures all detonated as bolts of lightning crashed into them.

"Where are you running?!"

Cloudhawk used his overwhelming power to punch right through the blockade.

Even if the Avatar could see the future, so what? When a mouse fought a cat, would it matter if the mouse could see the ending? Could it change the inevitable? In conflict against the powers of time he needed nothing fancy. Strength was enough to overcome.

Cloudhawk was prepared to capture her at all costs!

Yet as he closed in a loud rumble filled his ears. He saw the pyramid-shaped Temple spinning like an impossibly precise machine. From its smooth surface an enormous gateway appeared - connected directly to the Boundary Portal at the Temple's heart.

The Temple had become a door!

Cloudhawk scowled. The Boundary Portal had been formed. It was too late.

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