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Book 6, Chapter 103 - The World Beneath the Fores

 When Phoenix and Bruno were teleported by Cloudhawk, they felt a wave of dimensional power envelop them. In the next instant they felt like they were being torn, their bodies ripped up into countless tiny atoms. As nothing more than a loose collection of particles, they slipped through dimensions.

When everything went back to normal, they were somewhere else.

"What happened?!"

The two looked around with wide eyes. Lush forests rose up all around them. Birds took to the sky, startled by their sudden appearance. Shrill chirping filled the air.

"Well, it appears Cloudhawk didn't kill us. He sent us here instead."

"Hmph, that was the biggest mistake in his life."

"I wouldn't be so intractable, Mistress Phoenix. Putting aside whether you think you can beat him, how are we supposed to leave this place?" Bruno regarded her with a look of helplessness. "Unless I'm mistaken, the power he used was the Demon King's interdimensional abilities. The world we're on now is not the world we came from."

This certainly was not what she expected. "What?!"

Bruno explained once again, "In other words, we're not going back."

"You're supposed to have the same talent, right? If Cloudhawk sent us out here then why can't you send us back?"

"I'm flattered you'd compare me to Cloudhawk. However his power comes directly from the Demon King. Throughout all of history there has never been another with this particular ability."

Phoenix wasn't finished arguing, but was cut short when the sound of rustling came from all directions. All at once they were surrounded by a group of strange creatures.

They were roughly the size of a fist and were the same milky green as jade. On the surface they looked like large praying mantises, with red forelimbs that ended in sickles. Despite their size, they looked threatening. This was especially true since all of a sudden they appeared to be everywhere. There had to be thousands - maybe tens of thousands of them.

"It seems we might be in a bit of a tough spot. We've been discovered by the natives."

"Hmph, boring little insects!" Phoenix dismissively snapped her finger and suddenly the world was chaos. Pillars of flame erupted around her, four or five meters in diameter and hot enough to melt steel.

The fires burst outward, sweeping through the forest. Shrubbery turned to ash, filling the air with an acrid scent. Logic would dictate that these creatures would be vaporized by such a display, but such was not the case. To Phoenix's shock, the emerald insects were unscathed. The fires turned their chitinous hides red like hot iron.

"These are not normal insects!" It didn't take a genius to figure that out. A normal creature - in fact any organic matter - would have been obliterated.

Angry red radiated off the insects as Phoenix's fire swept passed. Rather than kill them her attack just pissed them off, or maybe even made them stronger. They scrambled over one another with incredible speed and attacked the human invaders with surprising strength.


A tongue of fire burst from one of the critters as its shell split, releasing the contained energy. It whipped back and forth like a tail and it launched itself forward faster than a bullet.

Bruno swatted it away, knocking it to the ground. The creature struck a rock and the next second a torrent of power was released. Following a deafening blast, a small mushroom cloud curled dozens of meters into the air.

Trees two hundred meters in all directions were flattened.

It had set off a chain reaction. The explosion was too much for the insects to withstand and one after the other they began to detonate. Whatever survived skittered back into the forest to avoid destruction.

"Mistress Phoenix, you are too hasty. We don't know a thing about this new world. Aren't you afraid of attracting more trouble with such a display?"

"Hmph. I've never been afraid of trouble!" The moment the words left her lips, Phoenix sensed something. "Strange... the ground is hollow?"

Bruno noticed what she was looking at.

Her careless release of power had destroyed several thousand square meters of forest. It was normal for such an attack to leave a crater, but as the smoke and flames gradually cleared the two discovered the hole it created was too deep. So deep that they couldn't see the bottom.

She was right. The forest floor was somehow hollow. Bruno looked down and figured it had to be at least a couple hundred meters deep. "I think I can make out ruined buildings beneath. Did civilization used to exist on this planet, too?" No sooner did he share the thought than a sense of disquiet overtook him. "The ground is shaking. There's something alive down there and I'm afraid it's a lot bigger than those insects."

"Some kind of monster?" Fires danced on the ends of Phoenix's fingertips. "I'll turn it to coal!"


She was about to throw a plume of fire into the hole when figures dashed out of the forest nearby. There were about a dozen, and they made no effort to hide their approach. Bruno and Phoenix were stunned to discover there were other humans here.

"You are... from Skycloud?"

They were indeed human but clearly not from this place. Demonhunter armor adorned their bodies and based on the style, they were from Skycloud. Not that it was a surprising discovery.

Cloudhawk was the only person capable of teleporting people to other worlds. Since his rise the man had fought in any number of battles and that meant many other captives. Whoever these people were they must have come from Skycloud, and they must have fought Cloudhawk at some point. For whatever reason Cloudhawk elected to send them all here instead of kill them.

"It'll come to the surface soon," one of them, an older man, said. "We must leave immediately."

When Phoenix heard the order her brows knit tight. She did not like the idea of running away. No matter the enemy, she preferred to face them head on.

Bruno recognized the look on her face. "We don't know what's going on in this place. Best not to stir things up too much all at once. You want to find a way back, don't you?"

Phoenix paused. Her fighting spirit diminished.

With that the group fled, and not a moment too soon. From below the ruined forests a massive creature drilled its way to the surface. It looked like a titanic snake, easily several hundred meters long and wide around as a bus. Sharp horns poked from its head. Just the presence of it made a shudder creep up one's spine.

What was that thing! Definitely not an ordinary creature!

When Bruno saw it he was struck with a keen sense of peril. That spoke volumes, for whatever the case may be he was a Master Demonhunter. Normal critters did not pose a threat, so to keep the danger from the snake meant it was more than it appeared.

The humans vanished into the forest and kept out of view. Without a way to find them, the snake searched the area for a little while until it lost interest and went back underground. Evidently that was its home. What secrets was it protecting?

Phoenix and Bruno were led to a sizable camp nestled deep in the forest. Smoke curled up the chimneys of several stone buildings. At least a thousand people were nestled in this small settlement.

"We heard the explosion and went to investigate." The old man approached when they were safely back at camp. He was accompanied by a woman with long hair. "Let me introduce myself. I am Dumont Cenhelm. This is Natessa Windham. You two are..."

"Master Bruno. Mistress Phoenix. How did you come to be here?"

A group of familiar faces appeared before they had time to answer. Phoenix and Bruno recognized some of the soldiers they'd brought with them. More proof that Cloudhawk preferred to sequester his enemies rather than destroy them.

Natessa and Dumont knew that something was happening in Skycloud. Cloudhawk had defeated Arcturus at the very least - a fact which shook them to the core. But it paled in comparison to what they learned.

The Cloud God was a betrayer! It was like some kind of nightmare!

What's more, Selene Cloude was given a fraction of the God King's power and opened the Boundary Portal. That's where Bruno and Phoenix had come from, as reinforcements. Even against all these odds, however, Cloudhawk had still won.

It was almost unthinkable. Cloudhawk, the boy they'd known so long ago, had become an agent of fate.

Bruno interjected. "What is the situation in this world? Why are the critters so strange? And what was that monster that came up from the ground?"

"We're still trying to learn the truth ourselves," Dumont said with a shake of his head. "As you saw, the ground beneath our feet is actually hollow. Below us nothing but empty space."

Phoenix pressed him. "How is this possible?"

"Our theory is that this is no natural forest. It was created somehow, though we haven't found anything that points to why yet. At any rate, we suspect it was for cover. To hide the secrets beneath. The creature you say was the protector of the world below."

Phoenix and Bruno exchanged a look. It'd only been a short time but they were already learning much.

It was one of the worlds that the Demon King could teleport to. In other words, that ancient fiend had to have been here at some point. Secrets were likely hidden here, ready to be uncovered. Secrets even Cloudhawk didn't know about.

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