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Book 7, Chapter 20 - Falling Short?

 Just as it seemed the power would consume her, Idonea felt an almost equally powerful warmth descend. All at once she felt wrapped in a protective embrace. A warm hand was pressed against the wound that seemed filled with vitality.

Its power vibrated through her, both restorative and magnetic. The god's power was sucked out of her body and appeared as a golden ball of light within her savior's palm. It had all happened in the blink of an eye.

The Lightning God had not ceased in his punitive aim. One after another he threw bolts of electricity at offenders who dared question their might. Victims were turned into blackened statues.

Strong! Terrifying! Heartless! In the eyes of the gods, the lives of these mortals weren't worth any more than an ant's.

Idonea stared wide eyed in shock and disbelief. Lance had been the one to jump forward and save her. He'd reacted so quickly, and that power... no, it was impossible. He wasn't that strong.

This wasn't Lance. With all she knew, he couldn't be!

The gods of Light and Lightning turned their attention back toward them. Cloudhawk knew his cover had been blown. He'd made the decision to act now anyway, saving Idonea was just his reaction to the circumstances. Whether or not she would survive was up to her.

No more time. He had to act!

Taking advantage of the suddenness of it all, Cloudhawk leaped toward the two gods.

"This guy is crazy!" A few people saw him jump into the air and could not believe it. He was going to attack the gods?! It was suicide!

Cloudhawk was fast and in a split second he reached his targets. A gauntlet radiating pale white energy appeared on his leg arm, and in his left was a simple black blade. He lashed out at the gods with a hack and a punch.

But gods reacted much quicker than humans. To others this was a shock, but these were Supremes who had lived through the Great War. A sneak attack would not lay them low. They reacted almost in tandem. A ray of light and a bolt of lightning screamed across the sky, striking Cloudhawk in a fraction of a second.

White energy from his gauntlet flared to life, strong enough to withstand the attacks. In the brief time it took Cloudhawk to reach the gods, energy had accumulated in his sword. With a wild sweep of the weapon he released it, birthing a streak of energy across a hundred meters. Not only did it contain a deluge of mental energy, but all the physical and vital power he could muster.

It sliced through the energies choking the sky. The resulting explosions rocked Sky Fortress, causing the ground to quake. Cracks appeared in the suspended hallways, eventually causing a portion of it to tumble away - including all who stood upon it.

All the while Cloudhawk never stopped his advance. A faint radiance enveloped his body as every cell within him was activated. Immense vital power propelled him toward the gods. When he was close enough, the deadly blade lashed out.

Cloudhawk's attack was too quick, and too strong. Although many in the crowd were mighty fighters, they were still recovering from the shock of Sky Fortress suddenly becoming a battlefield.

Blinding light sprang up around the gods. They burned as brightly as a pair of suns and Cloudhawk was about to collide with them when -

Whoosh! He vanished from sight. The gods rushed into an empty space. When the mortal reappeared he was two hundred meters or so away. This was teleportation! A feint! His real aim was to slip passed them!

Cloudhawk! It was the leader of Skycloud's rebels! He was the only one with powers like this.

He eluded the gods and raced for the Temple. No other options remained, Cloudhawk couldn't stand by and watch this superweapon erase his home. It was now or never - a direct rush!

The devices erected around Sky Fortress disrupted his spatial powers, making his more complex abilities impossible. He was limited to folding space by only two or three hundred meters. Luckily for him he'd grown more capable with time, and his speed was in no way inferior to the gods. Between his teleportation and speed, he could get to the Temple before anyone caught on and could intercept him.

In two seconds he teleported another half a dozen times. He was close to the inky black border that blocked off the Temple. Strangely, however, neither god seemed in much of a rush to get there and stop him. They simply watched, as though enjoying a play.

Bang!

Cloudhawk tried to press through but was met by a powerful resistance. In the next instant it became a crushing pressure that closed in around him. He felt in danger of being flattened. The plan had been to teleport across the border into the area beyond. Instead he found himself caught inside and being pressed all around.

A strong rebound force spat Cloudhawk back out. The black curtain wasn't just to hide the Temple. It also prevented teleportation.

"Foolish mortal."

"Did you think your paltry tricks would allow you entry?"

By now the two gods had caught up. One was a mass of flickering electric energy, the other a radiant figure of sunlight. Beneath were suits of imposing armor that made the beings all the more domineering.

A trap. Cloudhawk understood now. The Temple was surrounded by a powerful and condensed enchantment. Energy was tightly packed so as to ward of attacks, but also teleportation. Even Cloudhawk couldn't slip through.

"You've walked into our net."

The Light God's mental energies vibrated so that all mortals could hear. Their followers raced to catch up. Meanwhile motes of light gathered in the deity's hands, forming into a pair of broadswords. Each was composed of blinding white flame.

At a glance they seemed weightless - errant fires that could be defeated by a strong gust of wind. In fact their destructive powers were beyond mortal comprehension. One swipe could level a city.

The Lightning God also summoned his weapon. Snaking threads of electricity wormed from his form until he dissolved completely. They then reformed into an enormous beast - like a snake, but not. Like a bird, but not. With two cracklings ending in deadly claws, the Lightning God's weapon was the form of an elder monstrosity.

Frightening though they were, this was not the full strength of these Supremes. They closed in, ready to strike.

Things were bad, Cloudhawk felt the danger keenly like a knife to his throat. He was so close, only to fall short. After succeeding in finding Sky Fortress and infiltrating the inner circle, he was locked out from his goal. Although the outer forces couldn't come in to stop him, that didn't relieve his troubles at all. There was a thousand soldiers and four gods who all knew he was here.

Only a handful were strong enough to be a threat on their own and they were occupied with charging the Sword of Sumeru. Still, all the rest added together were deadly. Among them were soldiers he could compare to Skye Polaris, Ash Farran or the old drunk. Cloudhawk wasn't sure how to deal with so much strength directed toward him.

Then there were the gods of Light and Lightning. They were like two Arcturus Cloudes, bent on his destruction!

Cloudhawk had surpassed the fallen Governor in strength, but even so he had his limits. Gods had an infinite lifespan and a perfect body. What's more, rich combat experience and advanced weapons made them all the more of a threat.

One of them was difficult enough to deal with, but two? And what of the Dragon and War gods? They were certainly waiting in the Temple, crafting their plans. Even if Cloudhawk could get in, now that he was exposed the danger was great.

He looked around frantically. Below, the Sword of Sumeru had charged to twenty percent. Terrible power had formed the body of the blade and was showing no sign of slowing as the Masters and their men continued to focus their strength. An enormous, blazing sword of judgment as powerful as a nuclear bomb was taking shape.

Fuck! Cloudhawk hadn't faced a dilemma like this since defeating Arcturus. Even against the Avatar and her allies Cloudhawk could have escaped if needed. Now he was stuck - his foes too strong to fight, and no way to run. His anxiety was only matched by his embarrassment.

Idonea lay amid the rubble of a cracking hallway. She was weak and on the cusp of death, but stared with wide eyes at the scene above. That ordinary-looking man she'd spent the last few days with stood face to face against the gods.

He is...

Hiding was no longer necessary, so Cloudhawk released a storm of green fire around himself. The camouflage around him burned away to reveal a handsome man with long black hair and dark clothing.

His face and body were perfect. Every inch of him looked like it'd been carved from jade and radiated with vitality. The only blemish was his left eye, which appeared to be covered by a foggy film.

"That's him! Cloudhawk, from Skycloud!"

"The most terrible defiler and blasphemer of all time!"

"I heard he is the successor of the Demon King!"

"He is the one who murdered the four Masters; Phoenix, Bruno, Lucian and Ash."

A sea of stricken faces looked up at the sky. The most terrifying human to have lived actually snuck into the heart of their fortress and no one had been the wiser! A chill ran through everyone's spine.

Master Anan, Mercury Merlo, Apollo Haven, Icarus Swallow and all the others were caught in a shocked stupor. Hearing everyone around her, Idonea was especially dumbfounded. This man, who she called husband, was the despicable Cloudhawk. A name she'd cursed for many long nights!

How dare he show his face here!

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