“We’ve confiscated everything the gods left behind on the moon,” Legion reported to Cloudhawk. “As a safety precaution, Belial is examining them and then the tech will be sent to Ark Base. Further study will ensure the gods haven’t left anything behind in their construction that will cause us trouble.”
So far Cloudhawk hadn’t felt anything unusual about the goods, but it was not unthinkable that the gods would tamper with it in some way. After all, these items were not explicitly used by Sumeru. Demons, even psychically awakened humans, could also utilize these tools.
While hardly a loss for the gods, this haul was an excellent addition to humanity’s arsenal. It was like being handed a nuclear weapon. Suddenly Greenland had an embarrassment of war riches at their disposal.
After examining their gains, Cloudhawk brought everything back to Greenland. Several days later, Ark Base received a shipment of resources to examine, which ultimately would serve to bolster humanity’s front lines and make them more prepared for the challenges to follow.
Next was a discussion on how to continue the fight.
Cloudhawk summoned his lieutenants for a meeting. It was a post-war debrief and a planning session for their next step. Joining him were hundreds of representatives from the human race, as well as three thousand demons.
“Such is the power of the gods. Our victory has given us motivation and momentum. With Gehenna at our side I believe we will stand a fair chance when the gods strike again.”
“Yes, so long as Greenland stands we can hold Sumeru at bay.”
“The front holds. Emerald Star, Gehenna and Ark Base are safe so long as we remain firm.”
Everyone was swept away by the joy of their triumph. Following their victory, morale was high. Despite their brave words, deep in every heart was doubt that they would survive. Victory had shown them otherwise, and it was a victory where they had lost little.
These were the gods! The almighty, illustrious gods! Immortal, mysterious, capable of walking across the surface of the sun. Although they wielded power to make mortals tremble and weapons from the depths of nightmare, still they had failed to take the southern wastes.
Two thousand godly soldiers, dead. How could such glorious success not make men excited? Yet in contrast to the blustering humans, a grim silence hung over the demons. They did not sing words of praise or celebrate the victory.
Legion spoke up. “Now is not the time to pat ourselves on the back. We have defeated their vanguard, yes, but this was merely a test by our enemies. Without Gehenna’s aid the Southern Capital would have fallen.”
Demons remembered the Great War. Their long lives and keen memories wouldn’t allow them to forget. It had left an indelible fear within them, of the gods and what they could do. No one knew the terror of divine genocide better than they did. Sumeru might have lost a Marshal, but this small defeat was insignificant.
They understood that their species would not escape destruction a second time.
Their enemy was led by the awesome and frightening God King. Though no one knew why the God King hadn’t shown itself before them yet, the moment it did there was no known way to defeat it. Overall the rebellion’s chances remained bleak.
“Focusing only on defense, we will fall. With only one planet at our back we can’t defeat the gods.” Cloudhawk’s voice rose over the others. He trained his eyes on Legion. “We have to switch our stance from defense to offense.”
That was not the plan others were expecting. Defense to offense? He had to be joking!
Greenland and its soldiers were safe because of Belial’s defense system. If they went out and faced the gods on neutral territory humanity was doomed. Everything from their demon forces, to human troops, to all their technology was inferior to Sumeru.
In total, there were roughly ten thousand demons still alive. If every single one of them took the field and fought, they would only equal a few thousand gods. Even if you added up every scrap of technology from Ark Base and Gehenna, maybe Cloudhawk’s army could match thirty thousand divine troops.
No doubt that sort of power was strong, enough to wipe out a moderate civilization. But to rely on that for an offensive against Sumeru… wasn’t that madness?
“My King’s idea has its merits, but with our current strength a direct confrontation carries little hope for success.” Legion carefully chose his words. “However, there is reward with certain risks. In the midst of darkness we may find a silver lining.”
This piqued Cloudhawk’s curiosity. “Where is this silver lining?”
“Where else? Sumeru.”
Humans and demons alike were not sure what the Elder was proposing. Sumeru? Silver lining? His enigmatic words seemed foolish. Sumeru was home to thousands of powerful enemies! It was their well-defended home and, so far, no one even knew where it was.
Cloudhawk’s face bore no expression. “Explain.”
Legion obliged. “From everything we know, the gods have laid the groundwork for this moment for a long time. Imagine the universe today; countless intelligent races, enslaved by the gods. Even the greatest civilizations brought low. The reach of the gods extends far out into the cosmos, beyond comprehension.”
“The Grand Elder’s meaning...” High Priest Pelagius paused for a moment in thought before proceeding. “You suggest we find and ally with the remnants of those civilizations. Picking up the pieces of thousands of races all across the universe to help us fight Sumeru?”
“A fine plan in theory, but nearly impossible to execute.” Legion shook his head. “Even just your Milky Way is vast beyond measure. Unless one has dominion over space and time, traversing these distances is impossible. Indeed, the combined mighty of all lesser species would be more than the gods could suppress. But to see it become reality we must traverse the stars – billions of light years – as well as overcome any inherent differences. It is too difficult, too dangerous to attempt.”
Unifying all the races of the galaxy… It would definitely turn the tables on the gods, but how were they supposed to make it happen? What reasons did any of these species have to trust humans even if they could communicate? The most difficult was also the most important; how were they supposed to even find them?
Mankind’s understanding of the universe only scratched the surface. When it came to the universe, space and time became insurmountable obstacles. Humanity’s capabilities weren’t up to the challenge.
Legion went on. “As was noted, the gods control a large number of civilizations. It is also naive to think ours is the only race at war. We can then surmise that most of Sumeru’s forces are, at any given time, away from Sumeru.”
People were finally beginning to understand. Here on earth the gods left six Supremes to watch over their crop. Say the gods had a thousand other planets to shepherd, all things being equal that would mean six thousand Supremes. Furthermore, if the gods feared other civilizations may rise in rebellion, they needed to have forces mobilized and ready.
Whether it was keeping watch, squashing a rebellion or outright war, it was all drawing on a relatively limited number of forces. Perhaps strangely, while the gods produced frightening creatures like chaos beasts they did not appear to use robots. All told they were few in number, compared to their flock.
The conflict on Earth had drawn a lot of attention from Sumeru. Its reaction would surely be to send a show of force, enough to wholly dominate and exterminate this troublesome race. Unless Legion was mistaken, Sumeru would not be heavily guarded. Why would it? The gods were incapable of imagining these insignificant humans invading their home.
“My King possesses incredible powers over space. He is the only living thing who can hope to enter the land of the gods. If we are quick, there is a chance we can take Sumeru.”
Incredulous words mixed with exclamations and thoughtful discussion. The entire council was a chorus of voices. Undoubtedly, Legion’s scheme was a bold one. Bold meant unexpected, and with a force equivalent to thirty thousands divine soldiers there was a real chance they could succeed.
“Two problems.” Selene interrupted. “First: Sumeru is the God King’s home. With its powers, why should we assume it can't foresee an attack on Sumeru? Second: We don’t even know where Sumeru is. How are we supposed to find it?”
Legion offered his response. “As you say, if the God King foresees our arrival then we are throwing ourselves into the fisher’s net. But its powers over time is not true clairvoyance. Every time you peer into the future it changes. Perhaps the God King did witness a future for Sumeru. At the time it would see eons of prosperity and dominance. However this future was not written in stone. Over a thousand years of playing with the threads of fate, it is invariable that things should change. Things like the invasion and conquest of Sumeru. So you see, there is a lot more unpredictability than the God King’s powers might portend.”
The explanation was not hard to understand, and it made sense. If, for instance, a man had access to a time machine that brought him anywhere in the future – two days forward, say, where his wife had a fatal car accident. Knowing this, surely the man would react to stop it? He would do anything to ensure it didn’t come to pass. From the very instant he witnessed that possible future it was forever altered.
Perhaps he saves his wife in this scenario, but in doing so carelessly throws himself before the vehicle and is instead killed. Were the flows of time left undisturbed the man would live, at the cost of his wife’s life. The actions he took to change fate brought on something new he had not foreseen.
Was they were discussing now was the same. The God King was able to fast-forward or rewind any period in time. With it’s power it can even peer a thousand years into the future and attack a target. But every time it did so the picture changed.
Indeed the God King had incredible foresight into the future of the universe. But perfect manipulation of fate was impossible. Even if there was only one percent chance that the God King missed something, it was worth the risk. For facing the God King head on, there was not even one percent chance of survival.
“As for where Sumeru is located…”
“I can upload my consciousness into the Divine Matrix. Through their network I can locate the home of the gods.” Cloudhawk completed the thought.
He’d performed the feat twice already with the help of the Cloud God. They hadn’t tried since the Supreme’s death, but the Cloudhawk of today was very different. If they could capture a god, perhaps they could force their way into the Matrix once more.
Selene frowned. “I still think it’s too risky.”
She had personally experienced a fragment of the God King’s power. Hoping for such a creature to maybe overlook such a glaring flaw seemed foolish and unlikely to succeed.
“We’re in a war for survival. It’s a risk worth taking.”
“Yes, we should attack Sumeru instead of waiting for the divine army to kill us little by little. We should take advantage of our momentum! Invade Sumeru and bring death to our foes!”
Better to pull off a band-aid in one quick move, rather than bit by bit. No long as Sumeru still stood, the gods would not be defeated. Legion’s plan was certainly risky, but there was glorious opportunity in burning one’s escape route.
1. This is the phrase 破釜沉舟 – break one’s kettles and sink the boats. If the story about Xiang Yu’s victory is true, then that is incredible.