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Book 8, Chapter 38 - The Nature of the Universe

 The God King's temporal copies continued to expand through his domain. Each one attacked with the indomitable power of time behind them.

So long as the area was suffused with his power, the God King's dominance was absolute. He could tailor the flows of time to his whims. His swords, weapons made of time, could eliminate any living thing they touched and cause any hostile energy to wither. Where it passed the flows of time rippled like churning waters. It's static, forward flow was now chaotic and unpredictable.

Erratic changes in time caused space to ripple. The whole world was a twisted representation of reality.

Unless one's body was tough enough, their will strong, their spirit firm, they would succumb to these turbulent currents. Effects on the body were dramatic and intense, enough to throw every cell into upheaval. Even Cloudhawk had to focus all his effort on not being ripped apart.

The God King was invincible. He was master of time, plucking it the way a musician plucked a guitar string. He reversed it as it pleased it, stopped it to foil attacks, forced it to do what he wished. Myriad were his tools to diffuse the strength of his enemies. Time, when wielded in battle, was an insurmountable power.

Cloudhawk's first instinct was to try and buy them some time, strange as that sounded. Mighty though their foe was, commanding time came at a price even for the God King. Sumeru's leader battled the Demon King and Gehenna's elders, but also supported his armies battling on the outskirts of the city. By all rights he would become exhausted eventually and no longer maintain his dominant stance.

However...

Cloudhawk quickly discovered his assumptions were wrong. The God King was more dangerous than he knew. Here in Sumeru, his powers were greatly empowered. Not only were his attacks without flaw, they were also getting stronger. With the power of the Eye of Time Cloudhawk managed to peer through time just enough to keep himself alive. He couldn't find any opening to fight back.

Another demon Elder was felled by the temporal blade. The God King's doubles continued to increase.

Legion and the others were not the Quintessence's primary target, but they were still struggling to keep up. Two more demons were vanquished in an instant. Beyond the immediate challenges Cloudhawk also had to fear the erratic change in the rate of time here.

What if time in the domain was ten times faster than outside? A hundred times? While he was fighting the God King here, the war outside could be going on for days or more.

If that were true the rest of Sumeru's forces would have plenty of time to come back and offer reinforcements. Under the power of the God King, his soldiers were effectively immortal. No force in this universe or any other could defeat an army like this. Defeat was only a matter of time, and time was entirely under their foe's control.

Dozens of temporal blades cut through the void. Their target wasn't Cloudhawk, though. Instead they released a deluge of energy that churned time into a chaotic storm. Even different pockets of his mind were experiencing time differently. A normal man would have gone mad, but Cloudhawk was able to disassociate his mind from this and maintain a grip on sanity.

Yet the God King's power was ubiquitous. It flows into any opening and could not be avoided. If Cloudhawk didn't find some way to fight back, he and everyone fighting with him would die in this place. Here in this extreme circumstance, he sensed more clearly the power and opportunity of time.

Cloudhawk possessed a small talent for manipulating time, though it wasn't much to speak of. Without the medium of his Eye he could exert minimal control, but this was useless in the face of his enemy. The bottom line was he simply didn't understand the power well enough.

Time was one of the cosmos' most mysterious powers. There were three cardinal powers of the universe; time, space and matter. Three fundamental elements whose nature was closely related.

Time. Space. Matter. Each unique, yet irrevocably connected.

Without time, there was no change in space or matter - no growth, birth, evolution or decline. Without space, the mode within which time and matter operated would cease to be. And without matter time and space would lose all reference, and mean nothing.

Time. Space. Matter. Together they made the universe and its most basic laws. Ordinarily there were no living things with the power to tamper with these elements, for if they could they would be masters of the universe. They could bend the laws of reality as they wished. That was what the Quintessences were.

Indeed it was because that magnificent race could wield these elements that they were able to traverse whole realities. Laws of the universe were decoded directly at the source, adapted as needed.

Cloudhawk knew where the God King came from. A spirit of the nothingness between places, but incomplete. After his schism the perfect spirit became marred. That was the opening, their opportunity to break his supremacy.

He needed to command a power that overrode even time. The complete force of universal law that a true Quintessence brandished.

If Cloudhawk was really this child of destiny, if he was really supposed to become the new breed of Quintessence, then it wasn't impossible. He knew himself and the power he wielded, no relic was beyond his control and that meant he ruled matter. After absorbing the Demon King's experiences and memories, space was his to command.

Time. Space. Matter.

Of the three elements only his grasp of time was lacking. If Cloudhawk wanted to defeat the God King and crack his hold on reality, he would need to take a risk.

Dozens of temporal blades were tearing his way.

In a move that stunned all the demon Elders, he summoned all his strength into his Eye of Time and overloaded it. It was wholly ruined and without it as a medium, Cloudhawk's powers of time were harshly limited. Certainly not capable of protecting him from the God King's attacks.

The sword drew closer to the young Demon King.

Cloudhawk gave up everything to the hands of fate. A gamble built on sudden instinct.

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