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Chapter 101 - War

 Darkness fell upon the Southern Capital once again.

Cloudhawk's mission into the Elysian lands was complete. He hadn't managed to save any lives, but he had dealt a blow to the gods, even capturing a few. When word of the deed circulated through the city it bolstered his Alliance's faltering morale.

If only they knew how insignificant it was...

Even in the depths of night the blue lights hung over everything, an ever-present reminder of Last Judgment. Anywhere outside of Southern Capital was a dead zone where relics failed, suppressed by this foul power of the gods. So far, no one knew any way to get around it.

A thousand years ago, during the Great War, nothing like this had been used. It had to be something the gods concocted fairly recently. A tool specifically crafted against rebels and betrayers. That's why they called it 'Last Judgment.'

And there was nothing to be done about it. What the gods gave, they took away. Legion and Belial were as much at a loss. After all, they had never encountered Last Judgment before.

Cloudhawk sat on the roof of Greenland's central fort with a wine pot in his hand from the old drunk's stash. It was empty but Cloudhawk felt nothing. It was a strong vintage, but it could be ten times stronger and Trespasser would still negate the alcohol.

He stood with his head raised, looking out across the sky. The moon was a hazy orb behind the mist, like the eye of a demon. It was not lost on him that somewhere on that distant globe was a powerful entity looking back. Maybe somewhere in the vast expanse between them their eyes were meeting, and they didn't even know.

The lesson of it all, Cloudhawk determined, was how laughably inadequate humans were.

Mortal imagination couldn't grasp what Last Judgment was, or how it worked. Cloudhawk was blindsided by it. He was on the ropes, caught in a reactionary state. If they left the capital humanity's relics stopped working. Without any gear they were sitting ducks.

Humans were no match for the gods.

Demons needed relics, too. Even if Cloudhawk managed to convince them to help, it didn't matter with Last Judgment looming overhead. An inevitable march toward destruction. Man and demon together couldn't change fate.

Overhead, a green crystal dragon was tracing circles. A lithe figure in an emerald dress dropped down to the fort's roof.

"Cloudhawk!"

He could tell by her tonality that Autumn was the one in control.

"What's wrong?"

"The Shepherd God absorbed the Cloud God's consciousness. She couldn't absorb everything at once, so she's asleep for the process. I came to see you." Autumn stood in front of him. "And to talk about Last Judgment. It might not be as intractable as we thought. With the Cloud God's powers came his memories. She thinks there might be a way forward."

"How?" He asked.

"Last Judgment covers the whole planet. It must require a huge amount of energy to keep it going. Obviously the energy isn't coming from Sumeru, thousands of light-years away. There's only one possibility, the power source is close."

She explained her thinking. "We saw the two Supremes ask a superior to activate Last Judgment. It's under something's control. Through the Cloud God's link you were able to get a glimpse of their moon base. More than likely, whatever powers Last Judgment is there."

Cloudhawk paused in thought. Speculation or not, it was a good guess. But the question remained - how to break through Last Judgment?

The Abyssal God was powerful, likely more powerful than Cloudhawk. What's more he was surrounded by a cadre of divine soldiers - thousands of them. It was a direct threat to their survival. On top of all that, his target was the moon. If Cloudhawk wanted to dispatch his armies he didn't even have a way to get them to the battlefield. Supposing he could, the lack of atmosphere would kill everyone anyway.

Autumn seemed to sense his concern. "No need to worry. The gods are strong, but they can't reach us either. Belial's defenses protect us."

She wasn't wrong. Cloudhawk was only able to make his stand here because of the demon artisan. Without him they would all have evacuated to Emerald Star. Not that it was a permanent solution, eventually the gods would find him and their hideout.

"We don't have any experience in fighting the gods. With the Cloud God fallen, we can't learn anything else about them. There is no other option than to focus on our own defense." Cloudhawk had made up his mind, he had to preserve the soldiers they had.

The two entered the subspace cube, where the injured were being treated. Thanks to the way time was distorted, half a day in the real world was enough for most to recover. Dawn was able to move around by now and was gritting her teeth in frustration at her inadequacy. Abaddon and the remaining injured were almost back to normal.

Cloudhawk went to find Legion. He was responsible for the costly lesson they'd learned yesterday. If he had followed the Elder's advice the Cloud God would still be alive. They wouldn't be ignorant of the gods' moves and would still have their link to the Matrix.

But it was never too late to fix things.

The two discussed plans; strengthen defenses, seek outside help, and most importantly master the Demon King's Cuirass. With the mantle restored he could command Gehenna to aid them. Father was another one they had to convince, for New Earth's forces would make them stronger.

Meanwhile the gods and their methods were inscrutable. No one could know what their next move would be. The more prepared humans were, the better.

**

The Abyssal God hung in the vacuum of space. Behind him, a blazing light slowly faded away from within a lunar crater. Red slowly changed to blue across the earth's northern hemisphere.

Information from the gods below filtered into their commander's mind. It'd watched the entire exchange and now possessed a deep understanding of Cloudhawk and his allies. Strong though the Marshall was, it did not take this task lightly. Cloudhawk was a formidable enemy.

The plan to capture him had failed, but it didn't matter. An expected result. It would have been foolish to think such a tactless attempt would succeed. After all, this human was the Demon King's chosen successor. Where they had prevailed was in destroying the betrayer god. The humans were blind.

"Continue executing the plan." The order was passed among the gods across the moon. Meanwhile the Abyssal God's attention remained fixed on earth. At the slowly spinning spot where the Southern Capital lay. That was where humanity's best were holed up, and where they would all die.