The three altars were each pyramidal in construction. A shimmering pool in the center was where the chosen entered. Once within, offerings were made.
From the crystals seals emerged orbs of light, strange and illusory. They were like jellyfish, forced from their lair and rolling through the air. Each ephemeral orb seemed to possess a mind of its own. Time and again they tried to force their way back into the crystals but could not. After many failed attempts their light grew dim. Forced to search for new hosts, they were drawn to the people in the psychic pool.
Good, it was the moment of truth. Everyone held their breath.
They watched in silence. Would these mental orbs deliver their strength to the chosen? Could their power even be absorbed? The results of this trial had far-reaching implications and everyone was waiting to know what would happen.
A traction force caught the first orb. It moved in a straight line with purpose, right toward the center of Selene’s eyebrows. She felt a psychic pressure descend upon her and then slip into her body. It was a feeling she remembered well.
It was the same sensation she felt in Skycloud’s Temple when receiving the God King’s power. Selene had succumbed to the god because she had borne his power alone. That was how she was transformed into the Avatar.
Mental power was nothing more than one’s resolve, transformed into a higher order of energy. The process of transforming thought into power was predicated on the strength of the bearer’s will. Concentrated on a single target, a god’s mind could overwhelm them. However, spread across many the risks were minimal. Even ordinary folk with a strong sense of self could withstand it.
Selene had been able to shake off the yolk of the God King. What threat did fractions of a Supreme’s power hold to her? She quickly suppressed these frail attempts to control her and made this fragment of mental energy her own. Immediately she felt her strength increase.
It worked! Cloudhawk’s theory was right, the power of gods and demons could be transferred.
A thousand years ago, the Legendary Demonhunters were probably Avatars. That was how they became so strong so quickly – by being infused with the mental energy of one or several high-order gods.
Such an inheritance could be given at will and deprived just as quickly. Cloudhawk – with the help of Wolfblade, Belial and Hellflower – had derived a way to extract power from the gods to empower whoever he chose. It was a groundbreaking accomplishment that could fundamentally change the relationship between man and god.
As the war raged, every felled god would make humans stronger. Their future might be built on the cornerstone of this discovery. It was an exciting revelation for all who bore witness. While there was still fear of the encroaching divine army, seeing the Supreme gods being drained of their power filled them with confidence.
Crisis sometimes came with opportunity.
If they could stand their ground against the gods, this was their chance to win freedom. A forced evolution, even for those humans without strong mental talent. This conflict could make their whole species stronger.
Cloudhawk, Wolfblade and Belial felt the process more deeply than others. Cloudhawk saw that the twenty chosen all absorbed the power differently. Power from the different gods had a sort of affinity for specific people. There was some sort of rule or process.
For instance, Dawn absorbed the most power from the Dragon God – about half, with the rest coming equally from the other two. Selene primarily took from the Light God, Frost from the War God, Squall from the Dragon God…
He couldn’t see why this was the case. Obviously it had something to do with the quality of the person. Under the same conditions each person was more suitably aligned to one power or another. Furthermore, their affinity helped to determine how much power they absorbed. Dawn, Selene, Frost and Squall assimilated more overall than the others. Having already cultivated great power on their own, this process was sure to turn them into frightening warriors.
This was all comparative, of course. Everyone benefited greatly. There was enough power in these gods to promote everyone to whole new levels of strength. It was of particular worth to Hellflower, Phain, Carnage, and Coal. These evolved humans were now capable of using strong mental force.
Prior to this they had minimal or no mental abilities. Yet despite that, it was shown there was a chance that even those who showed no affinity in this realm could be given talent.
When the process was complete, Cloudhawk walked to the edge of the pool. “How do you all feel?”
Hellflower’s attractive face lit up with joy and understanding. “I can feel the flows of mental power. Based on the ranking system of the Elysians I would say I’m… about as strong as a proper demonhunter. Incredible, even I can use this power...”
Cloudhawk chuckled. “Throw a dog in there and we’ll have a demon-hunting canine.”
She scowled and shot him a glare. “Are you mocking me?”
“Of course not,” he said with a grin. “Never. I’m proud of you.”
“Hmph, never mind. I’ll let it slide since it is because of you all this is possible.” Hellflower adjusted her goggles, which reflected light from the glowing crystals nearby. “With this power I can begin to delve into the technology of gods and demons. A whole new subject is open to me.”
Indeed, it made sense why she would be so thrilled. Before today even the most basic relics were a mystery to her. She wasn’t a combatant, so she didn’t require tremendous mental power – just enough to continue her research.
Nor was this the end! Hellflower knew that so long as Cloudhawk lived, she could follow in his wake and harvest what was left behind. Benefits by the bushel. The more she curried favor with this man the more she would accomplish.
Cloudhawk moved on, addressing Carnage and Coal. The mutants had absorbed no small measure of mental power, about the same as Hellflower. With the addition of their already empowered bodies, their capabilities were doubled in the blink of an eye.
The Goshawks were an established crew who could already use relics. Aside from the Awakened, however, they couldn’t use these items without spirit orbs and specially constructed weapons.
Now everything was different. The final border between Elysians and wastelanders was shattered. Any mutant, even creatures, could use relics.
At last Cloudhawk checked up on Dawn and the others. Her, Selene, Frost, Squall, Atlas and the rest all had different talents and personalities. But what they shared was an innate excellence. The power of the gods recognized and was drawn to that. If that were not so, wouldn’t the Demon King have picked a big burly man as his successor?
It was proven that those without talent could be strengthened. However, those with talent – or, rather, specific talents – gained more from the process. After just one time they were already seeing surprising results.
Cloudhawk didn’t trouble them to show off. This power wasn’t theirs yet, they needed time to assimilate it completely. Side effects were still a concern, but Wolfblade and Belial surely had methods to deal with them.
With the experiment complete, Cloudhawk called all the leaders of the Elysian lands together for their meeting. It was a war council, where strategy was laid out for the coming conflict.
Cloudhawk’s strategy was two-pronged:
First, the evacuation plan. Despite his recent discovery humanity’s chances were still dismal. Humanity’s most vulnerable had to be protected. Second, resistance. Victory was slim but they couldn’t run forever. They didn’t have time to escape anyway.
The questions at hand were as follows:
How to evacuate people most effectively? How could they quickly integrate Elysian and wasteland armies? What methods could they use to defend against the divine army? How could they hold out for as long as possible? What was the best way to arrange a defensive front?
With no overt contestation, Cloudhawk’s meeting went well. He was pessimistic of their chances but that did not mean he was willing to give up.
He’d fought the God King once and recognized that he wasn’t even on the being’s level. Humans were not on the gods’ level. But if everyone worked together the will to survive could be a powerful tool. All of their latent potential could be brought to bear, maybe even enough to perform a miracle.
Cloudhawk was determined to fight to the bitter end.
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