Within the expansive hall eighteen people stood on a platform. Among them were Master Demonhunters, Generals, Temple leaders and other authorities. One could close their eyes and pick at random, their choice would be a man or woman whose name rang across the Elysian lands.
Arranged before them were a thousand more soldiers, the best of their forces. In short, half of all the Elysian strength had been brought together. Such a scene had not emerged since the Great War a thousand years ago.
“As all of you know, the Sword of Sumeru is nearly complete. Skycloud’s blasphemers run rampant, threatening the faithful. We have no choice but to eradicate them and ensure stability.” Master Anan’s voice proclaimed loudly across the gathering. “Here is our task, direct from the gods: Employ the Sword of Sumeru. Eliminate the heretics.”
Faces throughout the crowd changed. They were really going to use this terrible weapon. Expressions differed; eager, excited, solemn, conflicted… as varied as the soldiers themselves. After all, the Sword of Sumeru was a weapon of indiscriminate, absolute destruction.
Elysians were human, too, capable of compassion. They understood death. It was genocide, aimed against a former ally. But although it made them uncomfortable, no one would dare raise their voice in protest.
Master Anan went on to explain everyone’s responsibilities. “The names I read out will be tasked with activating the Sword. Everyone else will help in their defense. You will be on watch for any outside interference.”
The thousand soldiers were broken into two groups. Six hundred of the strongest were ordered to man the superweapon. By virtue of their strong mental faculties, they were chosen to rain destruction on the enemy. The remaining four hundred would be arranged around them as protection.
Most Elysian technology required mental power to activate. The Sword was special in that it took power from the Temple and needed a huge amount of power from its handler to use to full effect. Among Master Anan’s leadership crew, fourteen were Master Demonhunters. With the addition of six hundred more for support the Elysians had plenty of mental energy for the job. A frightening amount, in fact.
A thousand kilometers of mountains would be leveled. Nothing could survive a direct blast from something like this, especially no living creature. If Cloudhawk found himself caught in its line of fire, he would be atomized. It could be said that this was an absolute weapon of mass destruction. Sumeru spared no effort to eliminate Skycloud and cleanse it of demonic influence.
The soldiers reacted. Some spread out while others clambered over the mountain of instruments to their stations. Floods of mental energy hummed as it was poured into the weapon. Before long it began to rotate and the gathered energy at its center warped space.
As the enormous load of mental energy compressed to a single point, it all collapsed in on itself. An area resembling a black hole swallowed all the light in the center of the weapon. From the darkness surrounding the Temple came an intense pulse, followed by a golden torrent of light. Like a galloping stream it poured into the weapon and filled the shadowy void.
It went from an impossible black to a blaze to rival the sun. The energy gathered into a radiating orb.
Cloudhawk hadn’t been selected as one to power the weapon. As far as the enemy knew, his mental powers were on the weaker end of the scale. As such he was selected as a defender, even though it hardly seemed necessary. Even if the rebels sent a force to try and stop this, how many could there be? Sky Fortress hovered hundreds of kilometers over ground and rising.
Very few vessels in Skycloud were capable of making it to space, which meant any invasion would be small in scale. What’s more, half of all the warships from the four Elysian lands were stationed around the Fortress. As it rose, so too did the armada, ready to fight at any moment.
No army was getting through these defenses.
One percent. Two percent. Three percent…
With six hundred demonhunters working in tandem, the Sword of Sumeru was powering up at roughly one percent every twenty or thirty seconds. In other words, it took a little over half an hour for one full charge.
What a terrible amount of power!
Cloudhawk was keenly aware that time was running out. There were still a few minutes, but he couldn’t afford to wait to the last. There was no choice – he had to drop his charade and do something to stop the Sword from firing.
But just as he was preparing to act, shouts caught his attention.
“Hold! Stop! You can’t fire this weapon!”
A man with fiery red hair, dripping with chains, staggered into the area. He howled at the top of his lungs, eyes wild. His clothes were in tatters and stained with blood. It looked like he’d recently broken out of prison where he was treated less than kindly.
Kirin Igna? It was! The defenders looked at him in shock and disquiet.
Master Anan stood by the Sword of Sumeru device, casting a grim expression down toward the man. “You have repeatedly ignored orders. I have endured as much as I can, yet you continue to press. How can you continue to ignore what is proper? You dare oppose the will of the gods?”
Everyone was quiet. He wasn’t wrong – the order to use the Sword came directly from Mount Sumeru. As citizens of the Elysian realms, they were bound to follow the will of their gods. For them, obedience was as ingrained as instinct. How could Kirin so blatantly stand against the gods?
What made what he was doing different than the blasphemers in Skycloud? Left unchecked, the heretics were a glimpse into his future.
Mercury and Apollo were closest. They glanced at one another before approaching him with a handful of other demonhunters. They muscled him to the ground. Icarus was among them and hissed into Kirin’s ear. “Hey brother, keep your mouth shut! If you keep this up no one can protect you.”
“Where is our conscience?!” Kirin wrenched his head up from the ground and yelled at the top of his lungs. “You target innocent people who fight against the demons! People who pray every day, who still have hope! Aren’t you afraid of the nightmares you’ll have after killing millions of people?!”
His words were beginning to get under people’s skin. They had deliberately been avoiding the facts of what they’d been told to do. It was a sort of self-hypnosis to preserve their sanity. They allowed themselves to believe that all of Skycloud was corrupt beyond redemption. Of course it was a delusional belief.
“I don’t expect to live. I know I can’t change anything.” Kirin’s face was a twisted mask of fury. “I only came here to say one thing: This. Is. WRONG!”
Anger flashed in Master Anan’s eyes. How dare this man say such a thing!
Yet before he could speak an oppressive energy fell upon the crowd. The sky filled with lightning and two perfect figures appeared. They were towering and as breathtaking as an artist’s masterpieces.
“The gods of Light and Lightning!”
Gasps of astonishment rippled among the humans. Until now the gods had been slumbering behind their black curtain. Now, suddenly, two appeared in all their glory. The result was a group of dumbstruck mortals.
Without question, it was Kirin’s inflammatory words that had summoned them.
Beneath the gods, the Sword of Sumeru was still gathering power. From the enormous gathering of energy a sharp edge had appeared, like the top of a sword. It seemed solid as any weapon for none of the light of energy leaked from it.
“Mortal! You dare stand in defiance of the gods!”
Mercury, Apollo and Icarus immediately scrambled away from Kirin. He wasn’t going anywhere, not once he was the target of these mighty beings. Holding him down only put them in the line of fire.
Two figures emerged from the crowd and prostrated themselves by Kirin’s side. “Almighty deities, Kirin is seized by impulse! His loyalty to the gods has never before been questioned. I beg you, show him mercy!”
Evidently these two were friends of the doomed man. Kirin was on the verge of madness, like a rabid dog. He grit his teeth and dripped with sweat.
Few appreciated Kirin’s character, but many – including Master Anan – recognized his quality. They did not want to see him struck down for a momentary lapse in judgment.
“The gods will not tolerate such offense.”
There was a flash in the Light God’s eyes. All at once a mighty power rapped through the area, unseen but clearly felt. Kirin and the two men by his side began to radiate with blinding light. Starting from their extremities, the victims began to atomize and drift away.
“Stop! I commit these sins, the consequences are mine!” Kirin shouted his objection, but his voice was quickly silenced. He and his two allies vanished under the god’s power, leaving nothing behind.
What a nightmare scene. Fear crept through all who’d witnessed it. Idonea covered her mouth instinctively to choke her gasps. The gods had simply erased those three men. She hadn’t expected such callousness.
She yelled the question in the recesses of her mind over and over again. Were humans so disregarded in the eyes of their gods?
The Lightning God turned its electric eyes toward the crowd below. Its attention fixed on Idonea. She could not know that these mighty creatures could read her thoughts. They communicated through psychic means, looking directly into another’s mind. All of her thoughts and feelings were open to it, so Idonea needn’t utter a word for her blasphemous thoughts to be revealed.
The Lightning God extended a hand and a bolt of light shot forth.
Cloudhawk was caught off guard, but in a flash he pushed Idonea out of the way. However, he was not fast enough – a thin bolt managed to pierce her body.
She felt all of it. Every ounce of the destructive energy tearing through her, burning her up from within. Her weak frame was not strong enough to withstand even a fraction of godly power. As she felt herself succumb there was no surprise or anger. Only melancholy. She wanted so badly to find her father. But before she could even start she would die at the hands of a god.Previous Chapter Next Chapter