Psychic pearls were items only the gods could create. However, during the four years Cloudhawk lived in the Elysian lands he’d never heard of them.
He supposed it made sense. If everyone knew there was something out there that allowed any average person to use relics, why should they respect demonhunters the way they did?
Autumn may have taken over a mortal body, but she kept the wisdom she had as a god. She used that secret knowledge to extract the energies of the spirits they captured to make these pearls.
Godly society was so strange and unique. The technologies they employed were completely different from those ancient humans used. Relics, for example, were an extension of their strange techniques. Everything they built was constructed on a foundation of psychic power.
Humanity only developed their mental talents after being enlightened by the gods. But they didn’t understand that it was a power inherent within themselves – most human believed these psychic abilities were conveyed upon them by the gods themselves.
By creating the pearl, the Shepherd revealed at least one thing: Psychic power wasn’t some ethereal, intractable enigma. It was more like lightning or electricity – mysterious at first to the uninitiated, but with the right methods it became controllable.
What if they’d been making these pearls all along? Every society needed fuel to power itself. Was this the energy source the gods used to perform their miraculous feats?
He had to wonder… Elysians had a saying that the spirits of the strongest, smartest and most devout humans went to Mount Sumeru when they died. Back in the day Cloudhawk wouldn’t have cared much about the implications. Until recently, he viewed the idea of spirits as superstition. After all, a spirit wasn’t something you could see or touch. But now he could see and touch these psychic pearls, which were powered by the residual energies of those who died. By spirits.
Cloudhawk’s mind began to race with conspiracies.
When the gods helped human defeat the demons, they ostensibly did it for free. Supposedly, out of a spirit of profound benevolence, they built marvelous Elysian lands for the humans to reside in, gifting them with power and civilization. Predictably, the tens of millions of people who were chosen to live in these Utopias began to worship these great and selfless deities.
But was their selflessness genuine?
Cloudhawk had learned that gods were not the omnipotent creators they were purported to be. Really, they were just a more advanced species than the humans they’d come to support. A higher grade of being, much like humans were a more evolved version of apes. When humans gave them warmth and shelter, food and safety, apes looked at men like gods.
But how could they know if these gods were selfless, or instead simply served their own secret agendas?
The temple they found in the mushroom world was the most convincing evidence of his dark theory. When they explored the place, he and Hellflower learned that a huge number of demonhunters and clergy had banded together to charge into their temple and slay their gods. The arm they found showed that they were at least partially successful.
What would make these former believers so furious? What would make them attack their own god? What did that long-dead civilization discover?
Hellflower shuffled close and poke him. “Did you hear what she said? Why are you just standing there like an idiot?”
He brought his thoughts back to the moment at hand. “So you’re telling me that they are more than just external energy sources for relics? What other incredible things can they do?”
Autumn knew many secrets, most of which she was loathe to disclose. The other uses for the pearls were no exception. Cloudhawk didn’t know what she was so afraid of, but if she wasn’t going to share it, he wasn’t going to risk her angry by pressing the issue. He had his theories, and he would seek out the truth when the opportunity presented itself.
Right now he would use them to make his young society stronger. He wouldn’t turn down anything that made him or his people more powerful.
Autumn turned their attention to the small shrine. “Inside this shrine is seventy-five more psychic pearls. Their energies travel through the godly connections and aggregate her. It is comparable to the total psychic output of seventy-five demonhunters.”
Cloudhawk and Hellflower had made several trips to the mushroom world lately, but in total they’d brought back only a handful of spirits. Not all of them had been used for this altar and the beads either, as far as he knew. If what she said was true and one pearl equaled one demonhunter, then seventy five of them together was as strong as a Master Demonhunter.
Cloudhawk pondered over the implications. “Can this much power even be controlled?”
“Indeed, so long as the power remains focused by the shrine,” Autumn explained. “In other words, if you fought from atop the altar you would wield the same destructive power as a Master Demonhunter!”
If that was true, it would be incredible! Here in the center of Greenland City, this altar strengthened their defenses immensely!
“Right now, the power you wield is less than one percent of what the Demon King once commanded. But atop this altar you will fight as he did. You could establish a permanent and stable Dimensional Portal, instead of just leaping between dimensions.
“Hey, did you hear that?” Hellflower’s face shone with excitement. “She’s saying that on this altar, your dimensional powers would be a hundred times stronger. You wouldn’t be restricted to taking just me, you could bring whole expeditions into faraway worlds!”
A gateway through the void? Cloudhawk listened with equal parts understanding and doubt. He grasped the main idea from its name. At present, Cloudhawk could only transport himself and one other across space, but with more mental power he could bring more people with him. It sounded like he could even burrow a more semi-permanent tunnel, these Dimensional Portals.
Before, he’d only slit an opening in the fabric of space-time. Autumn’s efforts meant he could drill a wormhole. That’s the gist of what they were telling him.
He was finding it hard to believe, since no one but him understood the sheer amount of effort it took to leap across dimensions. Bringing Hellflower with him was already an incredibly difficult task. Bringing a whole crew sounded about as likely as making the sun rise backwards.
Autumn had grown weary of explanations and didn’t bother trying to convince him. “Try it and you will see.”
Cloudhawk walked up to the altar. As he did the structure reached out with tentacle-like vines. When they touched an immediately connection was made, like they were a part of him.
A strange sensation came over him. His mind reached through a network of dozens of energetic lines that weren’t his, but which he could manipulate. He felt like a general whose army was waiting for his command.
Cloudhawk reached out his hands in front of him, palms facing each other, and called for the power of the phase stone hiding within him.
There was a flash of light! When it receded a pitch black rock hovered between his hands. It hung in midair, shining brightly.
Cloudhawk watched threads of energy reaching through the air. At his call, they swirled toward the stone like rivers toward the ocean. Ripples of power radiated out from it. It was a familiar reaction to when he pierced the dimensional barrier.
He felt that he could easily rip open a path and slip into a new world, but Cloudhawk held back. Instead, he poured more energy into the fissure until he felt his head begin to pound. It was his old wound acting up, the pain which arose when he used too much mental energy.
In that instant, he began to absorb the energy of the altar. At the same moment, the others who watched heard a sharp sound, like a mirror shattering.
The area right in front of Cloudhawk fell in on itself. Cracks appeared, stretching from the center outwards. In an instant, each crack grew exponentially, as though some unseen power was pressing on reality and trying to break through.
Then, an explosion. Cloudhawk was flung back several steps.
He couldn’t believe his eyes as before him appeared a spiral portal. On the other side he could barely see the distorted scene of a vast and familiar mushroom forest.
“You did it!” Even the stoic Hellflower was as giddy as a child when she saw what he’d accomplished. And why shouldn't she? This was a tremendous leap of progress! Cloudhawk wasn’t the Demon King, not yet, but he could create a dimensional portal already!
Cloudhawk waved his hand and the phase stone retracted back into his palm, but the portal left behind remained unchanged. It didn’t weaken at all, because the power that created it had yet to be expended.
Only when someone passed through the portal would it draw on his energies. So long as the psychic energies that sustained it remained, this dimensional portal would remain open.
He’d done it! He’d opened a full dimensional portal!
Cloudhawk remembered when he first got the phase stone, as well as the scene that followed with the fallen Demon King. He’d called it a ‘key’, and now Cloudhawk finally understood why. It was the tool that he’d used to open the dimensional portals.
“With power like this, it is no wonder the demons could be defeated but not eradicated. Could it be the Demon King sent his kin to other places after the war was lost?”
Cloudhawk thought for a moment and was struck with a revelation. “Mount Sumeru, Gehenna... these places aren’t in our world.”
Those names weren’t literal. Mount Sumeru wasn’t a mountain somewhere and the Abyss of Gehenna wasn’t a literal abyss.
He looked into the swirling portal. “So with this thing open we can send a bunch of people through."
“That’s right!” Hellflower approached him. “With just the two of us shuttling back and forth, we’re wasting time and energy. It’s very inefficient. Instead, we can establish a task force specifically for exploring these dimensions and bring back resources. We could grow a hundred times faster than we already are!”
Cloudhawk fully understood just how incredible his dimensional powers were. With these secrets revealed, Greenland would quickly become as powerful as the most influential groups in the wasteland.