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Chapter 15 - Warnings

 Cloudhawk made up his mind. It was all or nothing, conquering Sumeru right under the gods' noses. Looking at the world aflame all around him, this was the best decision. It was time to take a gamble on all their lives. It was better than waiting around to die. Figuring that the scope of the gods was far greater than they originally thought, it was no longer an option to win freedom for their little planet and hope that was the end of it.

Destroying Earth - destroying the entire solar system - was not a difficult feat for this advanced species. All the gods together across all the galaxies likely outnumbered humans, too. If humanity wanted to survive it had to change the rules, otherwise the war would continue to intensify until everyone was dead.

But in order to attack Sumeru, they first had to know where it was.

That was why Cloudhawk came calling on the Shepherd God. He still had several living gods trapped in his pocket dimension who the Shepherd God could utilize. Using the Cloud God's immense mental powers that she inherited, perhaps she could create a channel through these gods into the divine matrix. There Cloudhawk would find his answers.

In theory the gods were a race without secrets. Once linked in with their hive mind the location of Sumeru shouldn't be hard to find. But finding their target was only the first step in their battle plan.

The second step was finding a way to get there.

Cloudhawk had a fair working knowledge about the gods by this point. Each pantheon worked like self-contained cells in a larger organism. Any one group of gods controlled a galaxy, but 'galaxy' wasn't specific. They could control several for all they knew.

There were hundreds of galaxies - more, maybe millions! Assume that each galaxy was ten thousand light years end to end and separated by a million light years of nothing. So Sumeru could be millions of light years from earth in any direction. It would explain why even the gods took so long to travel to earth form their home. It was impossible for any race like humans to ever find Sumeru, much less reach it.

For humans to accomplish a miraculous feat like that with their technology... well, it was like a single-celled organism composing an opera. It wasn't going to happen. But Cloudhawk knew that, that's why he was prepared. After speaking with Autumn his next stop was Belial.

After hearing his King's plan, the Elder artisan thought he'd gone insane. "What? How do you assume that's possible? If I had this power I would have escaped to another galaxy ages ago. There would be no reason for me to remain stuck here."

"It's not impossible." Cloudhawk wasn't irritated by Belial's thorny mood. "We use the Source to set up an energy field, then use the energy field to power teleportation. With my abilities we can open a portal directly connecting our world to Sumeru."

Belial could hardly believe what he was hearing. "This... there's no basis for this at all."

"The former Demon King used a similar method to connect earth with other places, like Emerald Star and Stony Plains. That's why I'm able to go back and forth among them. The Demon King knew he had stronger spatial abilities than any other creature, and my powers are even stronger today. If he was able to do it, why can't I?"

Belial had no answer. Emerald Star and Stony Plains were not in their current solar system but somewhere out in the vast reaches of space. How had the former Demon King been able to so easily traverse these huge distances?

Cloudhawk inherited all the memories and experiences of his predecessor. There was no reason he couldn't do everything the former King did and more. Only, when the Demon King had set up his teleportation beacons he'd done it as the God King. That meant a lot more resources. But Cloudhawk had Source and that should be enough.

In truth there wasn't much of a correlation between how difficult teleportation was and how far the destination happened to be. Certainly more effort was needed the farther away one traveled, but after a certain threshold the positive correlation no longer mattered. There was no difference between one light year and one thousand.

Belial weighed telling his King that he'd lost his mind, but withered under his gaze. He dared not refuse, so with a respectful nod he acquiesced to give it a try. Whether or not it would be successful was another matter entirely.

Autumn and Belial had their task. Cloudhawk's third destination was Emerald Star, where he gathered all the best warriors from the demons, humans, the races of Gehenna and representatives form Ark Base. These disparate flakes of iron would be forged into a weapon he would use to strike at the heart of Sumeru.

Emerald Star was about halfway through its rebuilding. After retreating from the front, Greenland's soldiers had been repurposed to help with the city's development. Huge quantities of Source were also transported to help transform this city into humanity's new utopia. Cloudhawk just didn't know if he would be around to see it.

Cloudhawk was preparing to get to work when he was interrupted by a familiar face.

Frost de Winter was wrapped in sorry gray robes. His handsome face was hidden beneath a scraggly beard, and those keen eyes were now still and inscrutable. Every time he looked at the man, he wasn't sure why but there was always a presence hovering just out of sight... Arcturus.

"What is it?" Cloudhawk demanded.

"This isn't the right place to talk."

Frost made the proclamation and then left. Cloudhawk followed.

They entered into another building where another acquaintance was waiting. Frost's younger brother, Squall. Squall looked even older than his brother. For a long time that youthful friend Cloudhawk knew in Skycloud was gone. He was an experienced middle-aged wastelander now, wrapped in an aura of cunning and grim stability.

"We want you to be careful around Legion."

Cloudhawk was a little surprised by Frost's candid words. It was the last thing he'd think these two would say to him. Weren't they both part of the Elder's 'Hand of Gehenna'? Frost especially. His current strength was all thanks to the Second Seal's efforts.

Legion was loyal to Cloudhawk. Nothing the demon had done, from the very first, had any reason to raise suspicion. Where these brothers trying to drive a wedge between him and the Elder? That didn't make sense, since they had nothing to gain from it.

Cloudhawk regarded them with a measured gaze. "Why?"

A grin spread across Squall's lips. "We can give you any number of theories but none that hold water. But think of it this way; Legion was loyal to the former King. And you wouldn't have gotten this far without his machinations."

"Legion has ulterior motives, but as to what they are we can't tell." Frost was more to the point.

Squall went on. "I've been following the demon around for a long time, and I know maybe ten percent of what goes on his mind. I'm telling you, he is extremely dangerous. More dangerous than any other god or demon. You carry the fate of several races on your shoulders now, so it would be wise to be careful don't you think?"

Their warning was useless. Cloudhawk was King now, and held more influence than the Grand Elder. Every day he grew stronger, already far beyond what Legion could muster. IF Legion was truly interested in power then let him command the demons.

Looking at it this way, any ambition Legion might have would be foolish.

But that would be naive. Any living thing had its own goals and desires. Was all of Legion's centuries of effort were just to promote war between demons and gods? Was that what he really wanted? If not, what was he thinking?

The brothers' warning held no value, but they weren't wrong. He was responsible for the future of many. A catastrophic war with the gods was on their doorstep and he had to tread carefully.

"Is there anything else?"

Frost and Squall exchanged a quiet look. Eventually Squall spoke up.

"The three of us have had our problems, but I'm sure you understand where we're coming from. Sometimes sacrifices are needed for the greater good. Let my brother and I fight in the final battle."