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Book 8, Chapter 35 - Just a Tes

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"Is this the truth? Of everything?"

Cloudhawk had suspected a lot of this, but even when everything was laid out before him it was still hard to believe. It was incredible that the diminutive struggle of their small planet was being played out across all corners of every universe.

It turned out this was a true, existential disaster to all life. A desperate struggle for self-preservation on a super-cosmic scale. The emergence of gods and demons, their brutal war, was all a product of this eons-long search.

In all that time of wide-scale experimentation, Cloudhawk was the sole creature to exhibit true divine potential. They key component the Quintessence needed to avoid returning to the void.

So everything... everything was because of him? All the millions of lives lost and civilizations destroyed just to find him?

When Cloudhawk saw it for what it was he had to stop himself from laughing at how ridiculous it all seemed.

"So you see how important you are to us, to everything. All of those sacrifices were unnecessary. What has occurred cannot be reversed, but you can stop what will come."

The God King's voice continued to invade his thoughts. It bore a bewitching sort of allure.

"Offer your spirit. Contribute everything you are, a sacrifice so that all sacrifices might end. In exchange countless civilizations will rise, peace will reign across the multiverse, countless lost spirits will be absolved and order will be returned."

Cloudhawk was in a trance. For the first time in a long time he was at a loss.

Maybe the God King was right. All of this war and slavery and sacrifice could be avoided. If Cloudhawk gave himself up.

He was shaken to his roots. Cloudhawk didn't know what he was doing all of this for anymore. He had shouldered all the responsibility, led his men into battle. He witnessed the world in its sordid state and took in its devastation.

None of it was supposed to happen. He could make it all stop.

Cloudhawk wasn't some savior. He didn't think he had the power to save every civilization across space and time. But maybe he could bring it all grinding to a halt. Maybe that button had always been in his hand.

"One final sacrifice. In comparison to all the suffering that could be, is it not a small price? Do you not hear the cries of lament from every corner of every universe? Do you not feel the suffering you cause to your planet and all others? Why do you hesitate!"

This captivating power continued to tug at him. He slowly raised his weapon and stared at the dark, smooth blade.

Maybe he was right...

Maybe if he killed himself here it would all stop. Humans desires and values were so insignificant in the face of it all. If one death meant hundreds lived it might be controversial to some. But if that one life equaled thousands, millions, billions of others?

God King went on. "Your friends, companions and soldiers are all at war in Sumeru. With every passing second more lives are lost. The only one who can stop all of this, is you."

"I refuse!" Cloudhawk allowed his arm to drop. Scarlet eyes behind a hideous mask turned again to the Quintessence. The confusion was all gone. "Don't waste anymore effort, God King. I will not let your kind succeed."

As he spoke Cloudhawk felt a vast and invisible power grow. It filled the space and the flow of time froze solid. Was the God King finally going to make his move? An attack with the power of time?

Once the God King froze time in this area he could theoretically freeze everything. Energy, matter, or any change in space was affected because everything required the passage of time.

Was this it? The last act, to defeat the God King? Cloudhawk had been struggling toward this moment for so, so long. Light flashed from his left eye and the area around him rippled like water. Where this vortex touched time flowed anew.

Their conflict had become a war for time.

You could describe time around Cloudhawk like a frozen sheet of ice and Cloudhawk himself as an icebreaker vessel. By virtue of pure force he withstood the God King's grip, charging forward to launch his attack.

"Your mastery of time remains feeble."

"Maybe feeble, but obviously strong enough to fight back!"

Cloudhawk was drawing closer to the God King. The Quintessence continued to strengthen its dominion over time, forcing a sudden surge. Meanwhile Cloudhawk continued to wield his own power in opposition, forcing time to remain stable in his vicinity.

Godslayer lashed out.

Though still at a distance, Godslayer's bite traversed space and found purchase in the God King's form. The dark blade ran him through. But no defenses? No evasion? Cloudhawk was taken aback by the lack of resistance. He knew his opponent to be far stronger than this.

His opponent's form gradually began to fade. As it did, a thought wormed its way into Cloudhawk's mind.

"I wait in Sumeru."

The link they shared was severed. He retreated from this illusory space and when his senses returned, he was in a familiar place. The landing platform within the subspace cube.

Portals were opened to Sumeru. The invasion was in progress.

"Kill! Kill! Kill!"

Nerves ran high. They were about to go where no other soul had tread. The origins of the gods who had imprisoned them for so long. No one knew what awaited them on the other side.

"With me! Charge!"

Haborym's demonic voice growled over the din. He took the lead, both hands wrapped on the haft of his terrible battleaxe. He was first to cross the threshold, not a ripple to mark his passage.

Thousands of metallic bodies, clutching tight to their weapons, marched onto the second landing platform. Like a ravenous maw it swallowed them all up.

Cloudhawk looked at Selene. She looked back. With a smile and a small nod, she drew Sublime Transcendence from her back and dashed through the first portal.

He figured it out after a second. Cloudhawk's conflict with the God King hadn't been real, but it wasn't right to call it an illusion either. Their battle had happened. In the instant he tore open those portals the God King's power had poured through and into Cloudhawk's body. Everything he experienced after that had been a trick of time.

He felt as though ages had passed, but in reality it'd been less than a fraction of a second. No one nearby had any inkling anything had happened. And all the while the God King sat upon his throne in Sumeru, never moving. What Cloudhawk had battled was a projection through time.

Was there no limit to this monster's power?

Cloudhawk still somewhat underestimated his foe, but when the arrow was knocked it must fly. He had to pass through the portal. The real fight was ahead.