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Book 7, Chapter 83 - Extermination

 A thousand years ago a great catastrophe destroyed ninety-five percent of the planet. Since then, outside of the Elysian lands, it was practically unheard of to see a forest.

Emerald Star was quite the opposite. A sea of green stretched out as far as you could see in any direction. The air was warm and moist, perfect to nourish the plants and animals that called this place home. Food and water were abundant, easily enough to sustain the surging population. Once the dangerous creatures were gone this would be a fine place to call home.

The Green Alliance soldiers brought a cache of Source with them, as well as a fully functional psionic tower. Furthermore, they set up defensive towers on the camp's perimeter to prevent any attacks. Source was a variable resource that would power their efforts, even if they were cut off from the Southern Capital. Awakened could use it to make any tools or services they needed, so shortages were not a concern.

As Azura looked out at the scene she felt her heart grow heavy. What did it mean that her mentor was sending everyone here? The threat of the gods was too great, and although Cloudhawk was strong he had to prepare for the worst. She didn't know what the war to come would look like. There was a pang of regret that she wouldn't have a chance to find out.

"Form up! Let's go, ranks!" Azura called her troops to attention.

Pigblossom, being the chatterbox that he was, couldn't keep his mouth shut. "This place looks amazing. Look at the food! Delicious! So many trees, too. Whatever's out there won't be any problem for us."

"Will you shut your mouth," Azura said with a warning look. "We aren't here to play around. One mistake and you could get yourself killed. Since you agreed to help build a better Alliance I am not giving you permission to die."

Ironspike chimed in. "Boss Azura's right!"

There were cliques everywhere, and Greenland Institute was no different. Azura, Pigblossom, and Ironspike were part of a close-knit group. The latter two were mutants with exceeding talent who, after only two years, had shown great promise. They would be great companions for Azura in the future.

Their progress was incredible, no doubt, but compared to Azura they were miles behind. Her development was similar to Selene's when she was young, probably even faster. If she kept it up she would certainly be a Master Demonhunter of the next generation.

Thousands of Greenland troops were gathered and ready to go. Genetically modified, armed and armored, their equipment was the best of Elysian craftsmanship. They could charge into a hail of gunfire without concern.

In addition to the soldiers, several artillery cannons were deployed as well. Gabriel, Barb and a handful of other stronger fighters were there as backup. The academy students were support.

Eboncrys weapons were mighty in their own right. Under concentrated fire even a Master Demonhunter would be shot to pieces. However, it was important to remember that these soldiers were individuals, and if things got out of hand there was a risk of them breaking.

Not many Institute students had their own relics, but they did have the standard equipment; mornshield and mornarrow rings, for instance. The former protected them in combat and the latter gave them some punching power. Plenty good enough to act as support for the regular troops. Right now they were in range of the psionic tower, and with their new pendents they were significantly empowered.

As everyone was preparing to move out, a group of figures appeared before them. Azura looked the strangers over and was immediately struck by their power. She could feel it pouring off of them.

A handful of them were especially strong - not to the level of a Master Demonhunter, but comparable to the likes of Phain Mist. Peak-level fighters. Once they had all fought against Cloudhawk. One woman in particular caught Azura's eye.

"I am Natessa Windham, former commander of Hell's Army. I now lead Emerald Star's best." Natessa was standing above them in midair as though she weighed nothing. Over the last two years she had not been idle. Her mental abilities had made great strides. "From today forward you will answer to me."

Natessa Windham. She had led the former wasteland alliance against Cloudhawk. Now she worked with him? Although she was young, the Giant of Hell's Valley was rich in experience. No one was better equipped to lead a relatively small but powerful force like this.

"If Cloudhawk sent you here it is because he trusts in your abilities." Her eyes swept over the troops. "Our first mission is to take the underground residential district as quickly as we can, with as few casualties as possible. Do you understand?"

"Understood!"

"Good, then let's get to work."

Emerald Star's surface was not safe. There was no cover and dangerous creatures lurked in the jungle. Right beneath their feet was a nest of monsters looking for meals. The more people passed through the portal, the more attention they would get. These monsters had to be dealt with - better to be proactive than wait for the beasts to come to them.

With Natessa at the fore, she led her new army onward. They were brought to the entrance to the underground where she and her elite soldiers entered first. Fighting broke out immediately and Greenland's troops rushed in to engage.

The monsters had been waiting. Fire, acid and electricity assailed them from hidden positions. It was a deluge of mental attacks that was hard to defend against. Against such foes even a contingent of demonhunters would be at risk of defeat.

Boom-boom, boom!

A series of explosions ripped through the underground. Natessa and her core warriors acted. Gabby, under his former instructor's command, set up traps with his Shadethread relic. He weaved protections around the tunnel and the entrance to the surface. Monsters that tried to sweep around behind them were carved into bloody chunks.

"Attack!"

Greenland's soldiers aimed their weapons and began to fire. Waves of monsters came swarming in, only to be blasted back. From the back lines, academy students also fired off into the sea of monsters. Their empowered attacks blasted their targets apart.

"Steady!"

Natessa wasn't in a hurry to push in farther. Down here there were divine beasts left behind by the gods, slowly multiplying, growing in strength for thousands of years. They'd kicked an anthill. What was waiting for them here were the dregs, but soon the real threat would show itself. A darker, more powerful consciousness was fixed on them. The wise decision was to wait and see what it would do, and to make a quick escape if they got overwhelmed.

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