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Chapter 3 - Just the Beginning

 Natessa Windham continued to lead groups all across Emerald Star, clearing out beasts and making the area safe. She'd successfully eliminated their nest, but a huge number of bloodthirsty critters still wandered around. As more and more people made their way to the underground city, defenses were difficult to keep up with.

"There were thirty-six attacks today. Over two hundred killed or wounded."

"We don't have enough people to cover everything. There are also all sorts of surface creatures, with different sizes, shapes and ways of dealing with them. It makes crafting protections for the city difficult."

Gabriel, Barb, and even the young Azura were by Natessa's side. They were accompanied by a group of Elysian fighters.

Barb offered a suggestion. "Can we make a request to the front lines, have Autumn come and help again? She can control the monsters, maybe that'll solve our problem."

"Autumn's powers are excellent, but not necessarily the best course of action," Natessa said, shaking her head. "First, she is an important part of Greenland's war front. We can't cannibalize our forces to make things easier back here. Secondly, the scope of her abilities is limited. Right now we are facing many different creatures, all in different places and with different sorts of attacks."

Establishing a perfectly safe home for humans was not as easy as they'd hoped.

"Bad news! The southern seventh district is under attack! They're being overwhelmed!"

Before they could come up with a solution a soldier came stumbling by with their desperate report. Natessa scowled. "Azura, take your people and see what's going on."

"Right away." She hoped off her seat and quickly left the chamber. Her unit was called on for quick responses, so she had them galvanized in short order and in the middle of the fray.

"Sure enough, more monsters!" Azura arrived to find several different monsters attacking the southern section of the city in unison.

One sort were bird-like monsters attacking from above. They were able to split apart as though they were made of building blocks. Afterwards they could combine with others, meaning that even if they were shot apart they could attach themselves to allies and keep fighting.

There was another sort made of fluid, which was toxic and could slither into any opening no matter how small. No defenses kept them out, and without any evident weakness they were very difficult to deal with.

Generally speaking none of these monsters were frighteningly strong, but hesitation and chaos were lethal. It was hard to beat off these monsters without suffering some casualties. First to respond were the Greenland forces garrisoned in the area. All the defenses were engaged and they were firing into the hordes with their eboncrys weapons, but monsters were still getting through.

"Pigblossom, Ironspike. On me!"

Seeing the circumstance, Azura didn't take it lightly. She ordered her troops to move in. Luckily a psionic tower was nearby, providing limitless mental energy and increasing the strength of every Awakened in range.

The battlefield was alight with sparks of fire and shards of ice. Azura fished out a crimson fan and flit it toward one of the liquid-creatures. Several fierce torrents of fire belched forth and devoured the monster, turning its body to vapor.

Incredible that one so young should command such power!

Azura's support was timely, but there were too many of these monsters and their numbers kept growing. Other species started to appear, adding to the complexity of the situation. Even a small amount increased the threat to this section of the city.

Considering only strength, Undercity's defenses were very capable. The problem was the variety made it difficult to keep everything out. Defeating an army wasn't hard, it was fighting everything off without letting any through. There were thousands of them coming from the land and air, so keeping them outside was far easier said than done.

"Shit, we can't hold them."

As the saying went, those who rely only on defense were destined to lose. Several bat-like creatures wrapped in black mist managed to slip through the shields and made a beeline for the residential area. By the time people recognized the threat, it was already too late.

Suddenly a power erupted among the bats, blasting them to pieces.

"More backup?"

They thought Natessa had come to help, but for the time being they couldn't see clearly enough to know for certain. One after the other, powerful beams of energy were fired against the beasts. They had nowhere to hide and so as the attacks appeared from thin air, they were consumed in earth-quaking explosions.

At some unknown point figures in black armor with scarlet eyes had appeared in the streets and on rooftops. No one could see much detail, but there was one who bore an unmistakable and stifling presence.

The comparatively small figure hovered above the field. Azura looked up, her eyes filled with familiarity. "Teacher!"

"That's Leader Cloudhawk?"

Only Cloudhawk's mysterious spatial powers could bring reinforcements here so quickly. But who were these other dark figures with him?

"They're demons!"

Many defenders were Elysians, a number of them demonhunters. Only a handful of demonhunters had ever encountered a real demon, but they were very familiar with the features of their ancient foes. It was the most basic requirement of their order to be able to recognize evil.

So many of them. Where had this frightful legion come from?

Cloudhawk looked down from on high, delivering orders. "Clear the area. Nothing survives."

Legion relayed the order to the others through his mental link. Seconds later thousands of shadows descended like a wave on the monsters. How frightening was the might of several thousands demons? More than any ordinary human could fathom.

Had Cloudhawk brought them all here? That must mean he really was the Demon King now, able to call on the terrible power of the demons to do his bidding. With their help the threat was quickly eliminated.

When she looked at her teacher, Azura's heart filled with adoration. Who other than her teacher could command demons? Even these mighty creatures bent before him. Was there anything he couldn't do?

She wasn't alone in her joy. The demons' sudden arrival gave people hope. If Cloudhawk could call on the demons to aid them, maybe he really could defeat the gods.

After delivering the southern district from danger, Cloudhawk spent a brief moment with Azura, making sure she was doing well. He then left to speak with the one in charge of Undercity, Natessa.

"You've taken control of Gehenna?" When she heard the news, Natessa was somewhat surprised.

Cloudhawk had no reason to keep the truth from her. "Citizens of Gehenna will begin to arrive here in Undercity. You must keep them safe and maintain order. I will be leaving a contingent of demons here to help you."

Demons? That certainly solved their problem! According to old traditions, a human able to single-handed beat a demon earned the title of Master Demonhunter. Cloudhawk casually promised her a group of them as though they were ordinary guards.

Natessa was astonished at how far he'd come, how quickly his power had exploded. It really seemed like the battle was just beginning.

Cloudhawk suspected the gods would launch the next phase of their invasion soon. He had summoned the power of Gehenna just in time.