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Chapter 23 - Reacquainted

 Sumeru existed in a state beyond human comprehension. It even existed beyond the boundaries of what gods and demons understood. It involved a civilization that could travel between and among multiple universes.

If Sumeru was indeed created instead of naturally forming, then the species responsible had to be greater than any other in this universe. Really, such beings were no different from the human concept of a god.

Even with the former Demon King's memories and experiences, Cloudhawk couldn't completely understand what he was looking at. The buildings and their distribution all seemed to have a function, but what that function was remained a mystery. When he raised his head he saw hundreds of prismatic crystals floating among the cosmic dust clouds. They looked like flawless diamonds scattered across a velvet cloth, frozen in place.

When Cloudhawk looked closer he saw that all of them had a honeycomb sort of structure. Laying within every segment, bathed in rainbow light, was the body of a god.

Were these sleeping chambers of some sort? It sure seemed as though the gods liked to sleep.

In the eyes of humans, gods were an enigmatic species. They lived infinite lives, wielded immense psychic power and an inexhaustible trove of knowledge to draw from. Yet they had no personal desires or emotion of any kind. Their natural apathy made desire difficult, or impossible.

A race where every member lived the life of a monk would never prosper. All other races had madmen, entrepreneurs, war hawks and more. Otherwise life was just a pool of stagnant water from which nothing grew.

The evolution of society, arts, and science all came from a single root; the marriage of desire and ambition. A change to the status quo only came when members of a civilization felt strong enough to change things. Feeling was the engine of change. Without it, everything remained the same.

Gods were just... executors. They were devout, meticulous and indifferent to their own life or death. Change wasn't of any interest at all to them, they couldn't change themselves so how could they enact any change in their world? Demons were the opposite extreme.

Gods and demons were one species, once. As such there was much that was similar between them; infinite lifespans, incredible power and so forth. But demons treasured freedom and self-determination. They strove to improve their technology, create art, strive toward their own pursuits and cherish their lives. They were an ordinary species.

Cloudhawk was certain that with time and opportunity, the demons could create the greatest civilization this universe had ever seen. The gods - although they were greater in number - would never propel their society forward. For them the only way to progress was to follow orders.

Without direct instruction the gods just slept. A hundred years, a thousand, it didn't matter. Only when they were told to did they awaken, and only until their purpose was served. It was an existence completely against biological instinct.

Gods had independent minds, of course. They could understand and react as ordinary. But peering deeper into themselves - thinking on a deeper level - was forbidden. Where other species had the fundamental ability to explore oneself, this was sealed for the gods. They were no different from the robots of Ark Base and their advanced artificial brains. Unless a mandate was passed down to create a society, nothing would change in divine civilization even over millions of years.

"As expected. Most gods aren't in Sumeru."

Cloudhawk confirmed his earlier suspicions after looking around for a time. Mount Sumeru was wrapped in an eerie stillness. Ninety percent of the gods here were asleep and many of the crystal structures were empty. To Cloudhawk this was proof that most gods were out traveling the universe.

It was a priceless discovery, as far as he was concerned. By judging the number and distribution of these crystals he was able to get a rough estimate of Sumeru's defenses. When they did attack, they could use this data to find the weakest spot to break through.

Cloudhawk continued his journey, closer to the heart of the divine realm. He discovered that even those gods who were awake paid him no mind.

He wasn't there physically, of course, only as a projection of his mind. It seemed these gods had no means of detecting his consciousness in this form. Without fear of being detected, he continued toward the central spire.

An enormous, magnificent column of light rose before him.

Cloudhawk could feel that this was more than just this vehicle's power source. It also contained a staggering amount of information - all of the combined intelligence of the gods was likely inside. This was the tower he saw in the middle of the Divine Matrix.

Every second, trillions of motes of light shot through the column. It was what created and maintained the Divine Matrix. This was where it was all stored, where all the gods across the vast reaches of space connected together.

If it was destroyed, the entire Divine Matrix fell with it.

If he could get here, he could remove the seal from every god's mind.

Of course he knew that destroying this thing was easier said than done. The gods wouldn't leave their greatest weakness exposed. In his current form he couldn't use any of his powers and thus couldn't test their defenses. All he could do was take this information back to his people, plan their attack, and figure it out then.

But it was strange... why didn't he feel the God King's presence?

Since entering Sumeru, the God King did not appear to be aware of his presence. Likewise, he couldn't feel his nemesis, either. Perhaps the God King wasn't here?

Cloudhawk extended his perception further in the hopes of learning more. Suddenly a very active mental signature caught his attention, one he recognized.

He urged his consciousness forward toward the source of the fluctuations. It led him to one of the crystals, where inside was sleeping a form unlike all the others. She was human, with snow-white skin and long golden hair that floated like wisps behind the crystal facets.


Disbelief flooded his mind. Dawn... wasn't dead? Cloudhawk had doomed her with his own hand, cast out into the depths of space to die with the chaos beast. By all rights there should be nothing left of her. So what was she doing here?

Furthermore, why was she sleeping like the gods, locked in these crystals? And something else... there was something inside of her, a power he didn't recognize.

What was going on?

He was weighing how to learn more when Dawn seemed to feel his presence. Her eyes fluttered open and light poured from her pupils. When he looked into them, Cloudhawk lost control of his will.

The projection of his consciousness couldn't be sustained. He disappeared from Sumeru, reeling backward through the cosmos until he fell back into his own body.