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Chapter 123 - Submission

 Most demons averaged two and a half to three meters tall, with homogeneous armors in shades of black or purple. Their appearances differed but were largely within the same framework. All were wrapped in auras of destruction and death.

"The betrayer Abaddon has some gall returning here!" One of them with the bearing of a leader hissed the words at Abaddon accusingly. Its words cut deeper than a scalpel. "And with strangers as well. The Elders are sure to see you destroyed for this."

This demon was different from the others. He was clearly in charge. His armor was unique in that it was covered in sharp black barbs, forcing everyone to keep their distance. A five-meter long halberd was its weapon, the blade wrapped black flame that twisted the air around it.

Abaddon's response came with his typical raspy laugh. "Your poor temper hasn't changed in the last two hundred years, Fifth Seal. Take a moment and look closely and you will see I don't bring just anyone. These are Elders Belial, Legion - and our King!"

Shock rippled among the demons.

The Tenth Seal was no great surprise. He was known for his fear of death, average strength and clever methods. Surviving for so long under the eyes of the gods could be expected. However, the news of Legion's survival was a bombshell revelation.

Gehenna's denizens assumed the Demon King and the Elder of the Grand Seal[1] both perished during the Great War. If either had survived, why not return to Gehenna at the first opportunity? For years they had floundered, leaderless. Legion was the only one with the authority to command.

Indeed, Legion's return was astonishing news. But it was Abaddon's final claim that gave them pause. That one among them was their King, returned. Legends abound that with the fall of their former king, a successor would one day emerge. After a thousand years, however, faith in this prophecy had waned.

The King was dead. Their Grand Elder was lost. For generations, their species was left stagnant. Over the last several hundred years not a single new demon had emerged. How could a new King reign when not a single addition to their race had come? No one could compare to the power and prestige of their fallen leader. And without his guidance, Gehenna would forever remain stalled.

"Nonsense!" The Elder of the Fifth Seal flatly denied the claim.

"I speak the truth, Elder. Surely you recall the presence of our King's armor. He who joins with the Demon King's Cuirass has shown his worth as our most high Master. You - as one of the Five - refuse this even as your King and Grand Elder stand before us?"

Calm came over the Fifth Elder after his initial shock. His temperament was famously volatile, but long millennia had honed his mind. He was not shaken by Abaddon's reproach.

"Do you think I am so easy to deceive? He may don the armor, but it is easy to know he is not one of us! He is no demon, so how can he be crowned Demon King?" Anger poured off the Elder. "Abaddon! You come seeking your own destruction!"

Roaring fires leaped from the halberd as a frightening presence filled the area. Murderous intent was levied on Abaddon.

"Do you really recognize me, Haborym[2]

Haborym's attention shifted from Abaddon to Legion. Although he wore the body of a god, he was by no means one of their hated enemies. The power and presence enveloping him, the sword in his hands, they all proved his identity.

"Grand... Grand Elder!"

"Abaddon speaks the truth. Gehenna's King returns. A thousand years of darkness and dormancy have come to an end. The time has come for us to avenge our fallen."

For a thousand years, Elder Legion had lived by the words of the prophecy. He appeared before his brethren now and they did not know how they should react. Before the Great War, Legion's strength and status were second only to the King himself. The only one of them who could hold a candle to their leader.

He was the King's closest confidante. Any major action he concocted was given to Legion to improve upon and implement. He was the voice,, hand and eyes of their King.

Things were different now. The Great War was a thousand years past. In all that time no one had heard from Legion and his influence had waned. Power among the Seals had also grown more complicated. With Legion's sudden return the Demon Elder of the Fifth Seal was not sure what to do.

In the end he came to a conclusion.

"Grand Elder has been gone for an age. We are commanded by the Second and Third Seal now. I am duty-bound to bring this human before them. I ask the Grand Elder not to interfere."

Legion's 'voice' was low and threatening. "It seems I have been gone too long. You have forgotten the respect I once commanded."

"Grand Elder, you..." A cold crept into Haborym's chest. He swallowed it down. "You have lost your old form. Much of your original strength is gone. Our species respects strength. Grand Elder, in your state you are not fit to lead. You will come with me to face the Second and Third Seal."

Cloudhawk was impatient. He had no more interest in pointless talk. The Demon King created Gehenna, it had been his to rule. Now that the old King had died, all that was his was passed on to his successor. Gehenna was Cloudhawk's domain now. He had come to claim what was his, not to waste time arguing.

He was home. He made the rules.

Demons respected strength, he said? Then he would show him strength!

Haborym felt a sudden and intense outpouring of power. It appeared from the ether all around him, locking him in a cage of pressure that seeped into the depths of his soul. It had been untold years since this strange, familiar feeling had filled him.

For an instant he saw the Demon King standing before him.

Cloudhawk took a step forward and in a flash appeared before the Fifth Elder. Reaching out, he plucked Godslayer from thin air and hacked it toward Haborym. There was enough power behind it to cleave this pocket universe in half. Everyone who watched was frozen in fear and awe.

He was no demon, they sensed it from his aura. He was closer to humans, but how could a human wield such terrible strength?

Haborym was different from Belial. The artisan earned his position as the Tenth Seal because of his crafting abilities. Were only his fighting skills considered, he would not be counted among the Elders. Haborym, however, was one of the strongest of his species. He was a master of all means of combat and thus lesser fiends like Belial could not compare.

"Spatial power!" The words rasped from Haborym's throat.

Some among the demons were able to command spatial energy, but none so freely as this human. None but the old Demon King. In the light of the sword coming his way, the Elder felt a lethal and inexhaustible energy, one that even he dare not ignore.

Could it be that he also commanded other powers, this new King?

He held his ground, blocking Godslayer his with halberd. As their two weapons connected, Haborym felt himself enveloped in spatial power. He noted it for just a second, but when he looked around again at his surroundings the city was gone. In its stead was a vast range of bubbling volcanoes of lakes of lava.

"This is the edge of Gehenna..."

For a thousand years Haborym had called this place home. He knew every inch of it. The continent was not limitless, marked by a ring of ever rumbling volcanoes. It was far, far from the city. He would need to fly for half a day to get back.

How? Had the human sent him all the way out here with a mere thought?

The demon was a storied warrior, so with only a moment's hesitation he brandished his weapon and countered. Power flowed through the halberd, causing the flames upon it to roar higher. He swooped down upon Cloudhawk with astonishing power, causing several calderas below to break apart.

Cloudhawk swung Godslayer through the air in a circle as though casually painting a picture. It encircled the roaring dragon of black flame that came his way, and like a bottomless well all of Haborym's fury was swallowed up. However much is wriggled and writhed, it could not escape.

Shock once more took Haborym's senses. Cleaoudhawk, meanwhile, carved another circle.

A second opening was created into the pocket space. The Elder's torrent of black energy was released in a column of pain and anger toward the one who bore it. Cloudhawk was using Haborym's own attack against him.

He tried to dodge but everything around him was unstable. Flows of spatial energy created turbulence, which would rip through even the Elder's sturdy form. Unless he got a better sense of the battlefield, he dare not move lest the turbulence maim him permanently.

He had no choice but to grit his teeth and bear it!

Haborym held his halberd before him to block the incoming strike. This was his own power, after all, so he was strong enough to withstand it. But at this moment Cloudhawk flung his own attack at him from long range.

Godslayer's light pierced right through the space barrier. It disappeared from in front of Cloudhawk and emerged right in front of the Elder. There was no way to see it coming, for there was nothing to see. It ripped into him, leaving a nasty gaping wound. Haborym tried to fall back but the angry flows of space were closing in, keeping him contained.

The demon felt an intense, indomitable power closing in on him. It wasn't just pressure, but space compressing all around. Every atom was squeezed and on the verge of breaking apart. Haborym felt the risk to his life.

"I yield!"

Haborym had no choice. He had lost. This human's abilities displayed incredible power and mastery. No further test was necessary.

Cloudhawk regarded his foe with cold, emotionless eyes. Since joining with the armor, his mental energies had soared. But the greatest gains had come in his mastery of spatial power. Before he had wielded but a portion of what was possible. Now, with the same energy he could perform feats ten times as magnificent. Cloudhawk's mental power was not much greater than Haborym's, but the Elder of the Fifth Seal was no match for him.