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Book 7, Chapter 81 - Mustering Forces

 "The divine army knows we're gathering our defenses. They've sent their fastest ships first as a vanguard to try and slow us down or catch us unprepared."

In the subspace conference area Cloudhawk faced his Alliance's leaders. He announced their findings with a solemn expression. All of the biggest names from across the wastes and Elysian lands were gathered. Fear crept into their hearts for though they knew this time would come, they did not expect it so soon.

Cloudhawk went on. "We need to use this time to accomplish three things. First we have to speed up our exodus time table. Second, we have to gather all of our forces. Third, continue to strengthen our defenses. Everyone must be assured that they're safe. We can't afford a panic. I'll leave the specifics to Legion. Any objections?"

Phoenix rose to her feet. "How many enemies can we expect? How strong are they?"

"Right now, we don't know. The gods who will participate in the fighting are asleep and disconnected from the divine matrix. We can guess, but we don't have any accurate figures." Cloudhawk paused for a moment before going on. "What I can tell you is that the challenge we face is a big one. Every one of us - myself included - must understand that."

Silence descended on the chamber. They had all come to peace with this from the moment they agreed to fight the gods. Their enemy was a powerful race that spanned the galaxy. Humans were just sheep, raised in captivity. They had about as much chance of defeating their masters as a house cat.

But again, there was no other choice! No one here was an ordinary person. They were the most intelligent of their species, geniuses and schemers, but they felt like a rat in a trap. Escape was impossible.

Surrender? Hmph, like the gods would let them live.

Once they lost faith, their spirits and minds would not be transformed into Source for the gods to consume. They had no more worth in the eyes of those monsters. Destruction was their fate, unless they fought back. Victory was a long shot, but at least they would die on their own terms.

Cloudhawk had laid out the plan. It was Legion's responsibility to see to the details. The Elder demon's voice was transmitted directly into everyone's mind. "The gods are powerful, but in the grand scheme their numbers are limited. They can't afford to send enough people to encircle and overwhelm us. What's more, a rebellion on one distant planet is not something for them to fear."

The demon was trying to set their minds at ease. Indeed these beings ruled over the vast galaxy and had any number of issues to deal with. They didn't have the numbers or interest to deal with a handful of Supremes in some backwater speck of dust.

However, Cloudhawk had reason to believe that there were more than one group of gods. This world they lived on was different from the others. A thousand years ago gods and demons fought a terrible war on this soil and ever since then the God King has had his eyes on it.

"Our collective strength is nothing to scoff at. I have weighed our forces and there are five hundred and ten among us who fight at the level of a divine soldier. Nine of us are equal to Supremes." Legion looked over the sea of faces and continued. "In terms of numbers I do not think their vanguard will overpower us. They have no advantage over our large army."

His determination came as a shock. No one expected humans to wield that sort of power. Divine soldiers were the weakest of their species, but any one of them were equivalent to a Master Demonhunter. According to Legion, though, humanity had hundreds who were equal to these beings.

No one doubted the demon though, especially since there was no reason to fake such a thing. Now what they needed to do was get everyone working on the same page.

As for the humans who were as strong as Supremes, Legion said there were nine. They included Legion himself, Cloudhawk, the Cloud God, Belial, the Shepherd God and other leaders from the Elysian lands like Phoenix.

A surprising lineup, but still weak in the face of a full divine army.

Legion went on. "We have an estimated six thousand soldiers and Awakened of highest ability. Ten of them are equal to one divine soldier. In other words, they can handle six hundred gods."

High-level Awakened were the wasteland's version of veteran demonhunters. There were also mutants, Elysian soldiers and more who were also fierce warriors.

All together, between the core fighting force and the elite, humanity could face an army of one thousand one hundred gods. While still small in the face of the gods, it was still impressive. Indeed, there was a reason Cloudhawk had worked so hard to take control of the Elysian lands.

Those in attendance began to feel more confident about their chances.

Legion continued. "The Elysian lands have a million standard soldiers at the ready. The Wasteland Alliance sports similar numbers. Two million when put together, with twelve thousand airships and thirty or forty thousand vehicles. Most wasteland transport have now been upgraded with eboncrys cannons which match Elysian artillery power."

Two million soldiers! Forty or fifty thousand vessels!

"That sounds pretty good!" A few surprised mutters could be heard among the crowd. They were all operating under the assumption that this battle was a suicide mission. Legion's report cut through their pessimism. Perhaps there was hope after all.

"Humanity has called this broken land home for a thousand years. That's a thousand years of struggling up from the dirt. Tearing it all down won't be so easy." Legion's voice carried a compelling power. "As for our defenses, we have the help of the Source mountain powering our towers. With the current enchantments, several dozen Swords of Sumeru couldn't punch through and we're strengthening it even more every day. Soon we will turn the Southern Capital into a fortress. The gods' vanguard, flying here in a desperate attempt to stop these defenses, will arrive too late."

Everyone was nodding in excitement. The Source was a treasure that had come at just the right time.

It provided all the energy their city needed. Belial's Psionic Tower used it to strengthen all of their people as well. If the gods chose to make the Southern Capital their battleground, then they would be fighting where their enemy was strongest.

"In the final analysis, although we are much weaker than our foes, that does not mean that we are doomed." Legion had succeeded in boosting the morale of his allies. Now it was down to business. "It's time to discuss specific troop deployment."

The meeting continued for several more hours while orders were delivered, detailing where the front lines would be. Within the subspace cube, of course, several hours meant nothing. Cloudhawk dismissed the meeting and everyone summoned their own lieutenants to get things moving. In this pocket dimension they had plenty of time to plan.

"You were too optimistic," Cloudhawk said when he returned to Legion. "We're too weak. You shouldn't make them overconfident."

Gods were superior to humans in every way. Not just physical abilities, but wisdom, experience, technology and everything else. Legion's simplistic comparisons were misleading. Even when it came to simple numbers, humans didn't necessarily hold the advantage.

"My King must realize that my words won't convince most of them. However, it sends a clear message: we must be united as one. Together we are much stronger than when we are apart." Legion explained. "If they can believe that, it will be enough to carry them forward."

"What's your strategy for the fight to come?"

"There is no need for strategy. We will lose."

Legion's dire prognosis blindsided Cloudhawk. It was not at all what he was expecting.

Legion noted his expression and elaborated. "Our victory or defeat in this war will not be predicated on whether humans can band together. We can only succeed if my King dons the Demon King's Cuirass and truly assumes his role."

"You mean we need the support of Gehenna."

"When the gods arrive, without Gehenna's help we will fall."

Cloudhawk scowled. It wasn't that he opposed asking Gehenna for help. Until now, the Cuirass had denied him. Without it Cloudhawk had merely inherited the Demon King's power, not his name. So far he hadn't found a way to access Gehenna, much less ask its denizens for help in his war."

"Any suggestions?"

"I do not. In this task, you must rely on yourself."

He cursed inwardly. He didn't know what to do, or if he was even up to the task. What was preventing him from becoming the true Demon King?

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