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Book 8, Chapter 36 - Second Time Around

 Cloudhawk's forces poured into Sumeru. Nothing stood in their way and - at least so far - the invasion was progressing without issue.

Selene was prepared for anything once she got to the other side, but what she did not expect was a lack of resistance. Nothing stood in the way of her soldiers, no danger was there to meet them. It felt less like the lair of the gods and more like an empty nest.

Of course it was anything but empty. When she looked closely she spied slight distortions in the area around them, just in time to watch enormous warships emerge. Below them scores of divine soldiers marched into view, lined up neatly in their divisions. And yet, for some reason, they did not attack.

"What are they doing?"

"They were ready for us. Why aren't they attacking?"

Selene, Phoenix, Frost and the others looked at the unsettling scene. It filled them with dread - and not just them, but every division of the invading army was treated to the same welcome. So it seemed the gods had accurately predicted their arrival, down to the smallest detail. For instance, the concentration of soldiers was stronger near where Gehenna's forces had entered by a large margin.

The God King knew they were coming and with what strength. He had laid out the red carpet and simply waited for his enemies to waltz in, like fish into the net. Although their total numbers were minimal, especially when compared with the whole of Sumeru's strength, however that was not to say it was weak by any measure. Each warrior was an agent of destruction and with their advanced gear there was certain to be a terrible cost in lives when fighting broke out.

But for now at least, they didn't move a muscle. They let a perfect opportunity to catch their visitors by surprise go to waste. Instead they floated in air, perfect figures encased in resplendent armor like statues, serving vigil. But whatever the situation, humanity had come with its allies for a purpose and there was no turning back.

"Attack! Kill the false gods!"

It was the second division that took hostile action first. Lights burst from ships, hundreds of hypersonic missiles that raced for the enemy's front lines. Their bombs tore across Sumeru at dozens of times the speed of sound to deliver their nuclear payload.

Boom! Boom-boom! Boom!

Explosions began to rock the divine city.

Sumeru was rife with structures ordinary mortals couldn't understand. But whatever they were made of or however they remained standing, whether they were military or civilian, they were all targets. The unknown was dangerous, so everything had to be torn down to its foundations.

Mushroom clouds choked the skies. A storm of light and heat blanketed Sumeru. All manner of buildings and strange devices were devoured by nuclear rage. The fierce energy plowed through the defenses of their enemies.

Was that it? Was it really so easy? By the look of things Sumeru was much more fragile than anticipated.

The results of this opening salvo were reported to first and second division. By now all their forces were through the portals. The bubble-dimension of Sumeru was a strange place, with distorted areas of space and upended gravity. But the soldiers hand-picked to fight this war were not ordinary grunts, they were skilled enough that the unfriendly environment would not impede their ability to fight.

Selene's voice roared over the sound of nuclear fallout. "Attack!"

Fervent roars answered, mixed with the sound of warship cannons and heavy artillery. The whole strength of the invading army was unleashed. The soldiers had all been ready for this instant and reacted to the enemy's exposed home. Sumeru was operating with limited defenses, with the bulk of its army on the warpath.

All three divisions went to work.

Although the first round of attacks didn't reach the divine army itself, it did clear away much of the obstacles in the way. Bloodlust infected humanity's forces and they prepared to advance. But before the order was given, some began to notice something unusual.

"Hold! Something isn't right! The buildings... they're repairing themselves!"

The message was quickly passed along. With shocked expressions the soldiers watched as twisted and blackened structures warped back to their original shape. It took only a handful of seconds for their opening salvo to be undone.

"What's going on?"

"Again! Fire again!"

Another round of missiles was sent across the city, but once again the damage was repaired. Nothing they did seemed to be permanent. Even if nothing remained of a target it popped back into being a few moments later. In no more than a minute the work of hundreds of nuclear warheads disappeared, like it had never happened.

Impossible!

They watched it happen. Volley after volley of missiles, striking objectives. How could all of that destruction just be reversed? It was strange, as though this place had a set total of mass that could not be altered. And not just quantity, but distribution. It all defied being changed.

In other words, Sumeru was impossible to destroy.

Surprise and alarm flit through the rebel ranks. If this was so then it was a sort of passive weapon to confound invaders. Once set, nothing could be changed. All the effort and materials they put into their attack was useless and made no permanent change.

It was at this time that Sumeru's armies began to act.

Warships opened firing ports and the black bore of psi-cannons emerged. Scores of terrible weapons sparked to life and laid into the invading force. Why choose now to attack, though? Had they just been waiting for all their prey to stumble into the net?

"Attack! Move forward!"

A fierce exchange between god and man commenced.

Sumeru's soldiers were few in number but individually powerful. Many were Supremes and could not be underestimated. Only Gehenna's soldiers could hold the line against such an enemy. The other two divisions immediately began to suffer heavy casualties.

The psi-cannons were fully charged. Each one contained tremendous mental power. Almost nothing could withstand a direct shot, unless it possessed equally potent strength.

Cloudhawk reacted at just the right moment.

Ominous distortion appeared before the barrels just as they released their payload. As though firing randomly through a refractor, their blasts lanced off in all directions. Some slammed into the divine forces themselves, evaporating anything they came into contact with. Hundreds of gods were eliminated in the blink of an eye.

"Close the distance! Our weapons can't match theirs, if we don't get in close they'll tear us to shreds!"

All three divisions tore into their foes, using everything in their arsenal to exact as much punishment as they could. The frightening exchange of energy enveloped Sumeru and all those within it.

Legion spoke directly into Cloudhawk's mind. "My King, we don't have the forces to keep up this fight for long."

Cloudhawk had already recognized a number of factors. For instance, the structures here could not be destroyed. Its buildings and defensive installations were unconquerable. Even their soldiers were being supported by some unseen force. In less than fifteen minutes, all the losses they'd suffered were brought back.

Yes, even the soldiers that were completely destroyed by the psi-cannons were resurrected, even if there was nothing left of them. It was like fighting an immortal army. Was that the reality? Were the defenders of Sumeru as immortal as the city they protected?

If that was the case then Cloudhawk could have brought a hundred - a thousand more troops than he had and they would still be useless.

"These gods can't be killed. They're surrounded by a region of distorted time that reverses when they've been attacked. The core of that power has to be the God King." Legion gave his assessment to Cloudhawk. "We have to push through to their leader, otherwise we're doomed."

"I'll deal with him."

"Go with the Elders. They will be of use."

Cloudhawk didn't waste time. Using his spatial powers he tore open a portal, gathered the demons and prepared to step through into the heart of Sumeru.

It was risky, but until the God King was dealt with there was no way to stop the divine army from regenerating. They were damned unless something changed. Whatever the cost, Cloudhawk had to put an end to his nemesis before his own forces were wiped out.