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Chapter 129 - Hellpyre

 Crokel's followers launched into an attack. They unleashed a myriad of powers at Cloudhawk and his allies.

Belial deflected their attempts with a defensive relic of his own. He and Abaddon then began to battle with the would-be assassins. They were frighteningly strong, so much that the two demons were only just able to keep them at bay. Meanwhile Crokel was only getting started. His earlier attempts were meant to feel out their powers.

More and more of the Elder demon's bodies were filling the space with a higher concentration in one area. The liquid bodies of Crokel's copies fused together, creating a monstrous form thirty meters tall. Yet even as they watched the Elder shrank from thirty meters down to five. Scores of angry red eyes covered it, burning and unblinking orbs that were unsettling to look upon.

Cloudhawk lashed out with two attacks in a cross-like offense.

Crokel extended a hand, and from the eyes within his palm was released a grayish energy. It stopped Cloudhawk's attack in place and negated the power of both Godslayer and Oblivion.

"I haven't used this trick in quite some time. Let's see how you fare."

All the eyes covering Crokel's body opened wide. A pulse of intense mental energy poured forth in a formless psychic assault against Cloudhawk and his protectors.

"Hellpyre!"[1]

Cloudhawk and the others were illuminated by an angry, crimson light. Its heat could not be avoided or suppressed, for it was not real fire. The burning light came from nothingness, the power of the mind levied against them. Crokel's power wouldn't harm their physical bodies but it did ignite their mental energies. So long as the Elder demon's will remained strong, his foes would boil from the inside.

"Hellpyre? Damn it!"

Belial was the demons' most talented artisan and knew most of their tools. Hellpyre was once the exclusive power of the Fourth Seal, who died during the Great War. Somehow its power was now in the hands of the Second Seal.

The leaping flames might make one assume it was a physical attack, but Hellpyre was a mental strike. But it also wasn't typical of its class, which often assailed the mind with illusion. The Cloud God had been a model example. With his enormous cache of mental power, he could immerse his enemies in worlds of dream or nightmare.

Crokel's Hellpyre directly injured a victim's mental energy, causing it to ignite. The pain it caused was excruciating, and once the process started it was fed by the mind of the target. As such those infected with the flames had their hands tied. Using relics added fuel to the dark fires and increased the pain. The longer a fight lasted the more intense this attack became.

Then, when their mental energies were exhausted, the target died.

However defeating Hellpyre was not hard, in theory. Stop fighting or using relics and the effect would end - in three days to half a month. Slowly over that time the mental infection would starve. But not entirely. Like a virus the spark would forever remain within its victim. A hundred years could pass - a thousand - and any time mental power was used the flames would reignite. The torturous experience would begin anew.

Hellpyre an eternal curse. That's how it earned its name. With this power, the relic's former owner had risen to the rank of Fourth Seal. Moloch had been a figure to be feared.[2]

Crokel's powers were rooted in the mental field, so having the power to wield this relic was not strange. Like any other psychic raid it transcended space, so anyone caught in his trap had no way to escape.

Abaddon, as the weakest, was immediately consumed by the fire. As his mental energies burned, the demon's strength quickly plummeted. The wall of sand collapsed as he was forced to cut his link with all relics. In the same instant one of Crokel's subordinates threw his spear which drove straight through the Caliph of the Sands and pinned him to a wall.

Belial was in a similar dire circumstance, but with the power of an Elder he was able to withstand a little longer. How long was the great question.

"So-called successor. With this insignificant power, that is all you are." Two pitch-black swords extended from Crokel's hands. They, too, were covered in eyes. "You had the nerve to come and lay claim to Gehenna. A foolish dream, better to die now than in eternal disappointment."

Two swords peppered with angry red eyes came racing toward Cloudhawk. In the process they all bulged and gleamed with power. The air warped and squealed in protest from their passage.

Cloudhawk, awash in flame, deflected them. As he did the flames grew more exuberant and swallowed him up entirely. As waves of pain roared through him, Cloudhawk could feel his mental power quickly draining.

Crokel's fighting style was vicious.

Gehenna's Second Seal and the newly-crowned Demon King crossed swords.

Each time they did the Elder's swords were broken apart. Crokel formed new ones moments later. Cloudhawk could see no weakness to this beast, and even with Legion's weapon all he could do was chip away at him. All the while his strength was being sapped by Hellpyre.

No wonder Crokel had become Second Seal. Powerful, cunning and hard to escape.

After falling prey to Hellpyre, Cloudhawk's combat abilities were beginning to fail. With every swing of his swords the infection grew stronger and drank more from him.

"You like psychic attacks eh? Well try this one!"

Flames sparked to life in the depths of Cloudhawk's eyes. He reached out with his mind toward the Second Seal, the assault forcing the Elder to pause. The stately and intense presence pushing its way into his consciousness was familiar. It was the will of the Demon King.

The former King was the one who gave rise to the Second Seal. This well-known presence struck him deeply - but only enough to distract him for an instant. Trying to defeat Crokel with his own sphere was mastery was a doomed endeavor.

The successor's mental ability did not equal the Elder's. With his enemy infected by Hellpyre, not even the hated Oblivion posed a threat anymore. But he would not hold back, fearing Cloudhawk would try to flee.

This fledgling king was a threat to Crokel. No matter the cost, he had to be eliminated.

Crokel was unperturbed. Any attempt by Cloudhawk to use his mental powers only fed Hellpyre. Surely his foe was already pushed to his limit. The human's death was assured.

But as the confident filled him Crokel witnessed something unexpected. The dark fires dancing across Cloudhawk's body began to weaken and eventually extinguished. Without cause Hellpyre withered into nothing.

"Impossible!"

Crokel couldn't understand what happened. He could no longer sense Hellpyre inside the successor. How had he done it? What power saved him from the infection?

The Second Seal then noticed the field of energy surrounding Cloudhawk. It was even more enigmatic than the flows of space that usually encircled him. When he looked again Crokel saw the glint of silver light in his foe's left eye.

Time... it was the power of time.

Hellpyre wasn't completely unavoidable. Through his Eye, Cloudhawk manioulated the flows of time until the fires died. Crokel's deadly curse disappeared.

Nothing could combat the powers of time.

Cloudhawk quickly followed up by thrusting Oblivion into the Elder's gut. Crokel was caught off guard, certain that he had the situation tightly under his control. Before he could engage his defenses, the Blade of Oblivion released its terrible power into him. Every inch of his liquid body hardened as the power spread through. Cracks appeared, spreading all over as the power inside threatened to burst free.

"I didn't know... I didn't think you could wield the powers of time."

Regret filled the Elder of the Second Seal. Knowing now the extent of his power, perhaps the successor really could fight the God King. But it was too late for regrets. His attempt to murder the Demon King had failed. He knew his life was forfeit.

All he could do was fight to the end - to rid his species of this frightening human!

1. 'Eternal Disaster Fires' in Chinese. The implication is a torturous existence that never ends - hell fits that description. Pyre is self-evident

2. Like the name of his relic, this demon is named 'Disastrous Fire'. Moloch is a complex demonic figure, but is associated with sacrifices via flame.