GDK 949: Ciao
Dhaka, Dagmar, and Asser had never imagined this trip of theirs to end with such heavy and swift losses. It was too quick and fierce for them to react.
The three mountains had mostly sunk into the ground before a minute had even passed as explosions rang loudly from their depths. It took only moments for thousands of lives to be claimed. This was possibly the worst loss anyone had suffered in the Fringe.
The rumbling echoed nonstop. Once the three mountains had sunk more than halfway through the ground, they cracked open in the middle. The power that had been brewing within the mountains were unleashed in an energetic burst, causing many godhunters within the mountains to howl in agony. One bloody figure after another burst out the mountains.
It was at this moment that the thick cloud of smoke began descending from the sky while carrying a most terrifying force. Many of the figures that were sent flying from the mountains were crushed by the immense pressure before they landed with audible splats and turned into meat paste.
It turned out that the black smoke hovering above the valley which had gathered corrosive gases on those mountains had been waiting for this moment.
The three mountains had turned into hell on earth. Even though the explosions had subsided, the howls of pain never stopped and grew louder and more bone-chillingly frequent.
Gradually, the dust and explosions settled. After the smoke that descended took another thousand lives, it dispersed into nothingness.
Ashes and dust kept falling from the sky instead of rocky shards. It seemed as if peace and quiet had returned.
The three mountains had sunk into the ground completely, though they hadn't been reduced to complete rubble. Gradually, figures covered in injuries walked out from the mountains with broken bones and blood at the corner of their mouths. There were only tens of them that were completely uninjured, and all of them were powerful highgods.
Dhaka, Dagmar, and Asser were the last three to come out of the mountains. Seeing their pitiful subordinates, their expressions darkened; they were like volcanoes that could erupt at any moment.
Salas had also managed to leave. Once more, he experienced first hand the terror of the House of Han.
By now, he had made his decision to never again fight the House of Han. It wasn't that he was a coward; they just far superseded his expectations based on the fact that Dhaka and the other two lost close to half of their men before even encountering their enemy directly.
Thinking back, Salas recalled how he was just like the three of them back then, filled with the ambition of eliminating Pandemonium. Yet, that had gotten him trapped in some weird barrier with none of his subordinates even spotting half a person from the House of Han. He had suffered a loss as heavy as this too.
Having seen that happen once again, Salas was humbled and accepted his defeat completely. He was not a match in a one-on-one fight against Han Shuo and the might of the House of Han guards were now unmatched by most. Coupled with the crazy defenses they employed, Salas wasn't sure anymore whether he could afford to fight against them.
He decided he would completely forget this notion of getting even with them. Initially, he had planned to settle debts with the House of Han once everything was over, but now he was certain that wasn't a path he wanted to go down.
"Let's assess our losses," Dhaka said after a long period of silence and heavy sighing.
His henchmen that didn't dare to speak up the whole time immediately carried out their orders. Dagmar and Asser also waved to get their subordinates to do the same.
The subordinates called their names one after another, but only half of them answered. Dhaka and the other two Hegemons seemed even grimmer.
Soon, the verdict was out. They had each come with more than a thousand subordinates, but only half survived. Only around two thousand godhunters in total made it out from the mountains alive with varying injuries right before they encountered even a single member from the House of Han.
"Salas!" Dagmar roared as he shot him a venomous glare.
"We were about to leave this place, yet you insisted on going in. What does this have to do with me?" Salas said dauntlessly. He glared coldly back at Asser and Dhaka. "So you want to push all the blame on me if something goes wrong, huh? Is that how you usually conduct yourselves?"
"How did the House of Han know we were coming? How did they manage to set a trap for us? Salas, how can you claim to know nothing about this?" Dagmar spat as he ran his throne rapidly close to Salas.
"I didn't know anything of course!" Salas pointed at Dagmar angrily and continued, "You think I'll betray you? Damn it, I've been chased out of the Fring by Bryan and the House of Han, and my mountain was razed to the ground by him! I don't even have a home to return to! And now you're saying that I'd sell you out to him? Have you gone mad because of the Quintessence Shard?!"
"I don't believe the House of Han can possibly know that much. If it wasn't for you guiding us here, we never would've arrived in the first place," said the usually quiet Asser. It seemed he began to suspect Salas as well.
Salas, shocked, suddenly backed off to a safe distance from the three of them. "You lot have gone insane! You're blaming me for the loss of your men. I guess there's nothing else to be said! I'm out of here and leave you to deal with this however you like!"
After that, before they could respond, Salas transformed into a lightning bolt and zoomed off to the distance.
Dhaka, Dagmar and Asser blanked out. They didn't think Salas would leave just like that.
All three of them had pushed the responsibility of this incident to Salas because of some lingering suspicion, but they were more concerned with finding a scapegoat for their horrible losses. If they didn't blame it on someone else, it would be hard to justify such incompetent leadership to their subordinates.
In truth, they had never believed Salas would join hands with Han Shuo. Like Salas himself said, he bore seething hate for the House of Han. They had clearly researched Salas's own experiences in Pandemonium before inviting him to join them, so while they wanted to blame him, they wouldn't actually act against him.
If they really felt that he had betrayed them, they wouldn't have let him know about it. Instead, they would attack him while he was unprepared for it. They wouldn't even give him a chance to explain himself.
Now, the three of them seemed even worse off. They didn't expect Salas to leave without any hesitation. Having lost their guide, things would be much harder for them especially with the losses they'd suffered.
"Darn it, he's really gone!" Dagmar roared. He was still filled with pent-up rage. He had wanted to vent it on Salas, though that only caused him to leave.
"There's no helping it. Given our current strength, we should be able to deal with Pandemonium just fine if we don't fall for more traps," remarked Dhaka. He knew that the three of them couldn't afford any more division. Even if he was still frustrated from what happened and wanted to vent it on Dagmar, he would have no choice but to endure it.
Dhaka had come filled with confidence and mouthed off on how he would utterly crush the House of Han, yet now, he didn't seem so assured about dealing with Pandemonium now.
"That's right! We can definitely crush Pandemonium," Dhaka emphasized, though it sounded more like self-consolation more than anything. Given how bad the losses they've suffered, nothing they said would really sound convincing.
"Let's tend to their injuries first. It's best we leave this dangerous place immediately," Asser said, feeling a little unwell at the sight of the three sunken mountains.
The other two agreed and gave the injured godhunters some preliminary treatment before leaving.
Soon after they left, Han Shuo and Han Hao came out of one of the large cracks underneath. Han Shuo observed the surroundings in mid-air and said a little forlornly, "What a shame we didn’t have more time to calibrate the formation. The implosion was asymmetrical, making the yield a fraction of what’s possible. Otherwise, the three mountains wouldn't just collapse - they'd explode instead. Had that happened, Dhaka, Dagmar, and Asser would have gotten hurt themselves, let alone their subordinates.”
"Father, this is already a good result. I doubt they'd be able to cause Pandemonium any more trouble after their loss here!" Han Hao looked at the cracks and said, " Would the collapse of the mountains and the cracks in the ground affect my underground palace?"
"It will somewhat. But don't worry. After this is over, Han Jin and Han Tu will be able to restore it. I'm sure the rocks that have gathered down there will make your palace even more secure," Han Shuo said smilingly.
As he spoke, he waved and gathered the godhunters' souls that had yet to dissipate into the Cauldron of Myriad Demons. "Let's go. We'll see them at Pandemonium soon."
"I doubt they'd dare to show up again," Han Hao said with a smile. He found messing with Dhaka rather interesting.
"That's fine as well. In fact, that would be ideal. Let them head to Omphalos. Logue and Tyre will be there as well, so it's best they duke it out with each other," Han Shuo said with a hearty laugh before he left with Little Skeleton's half-formed avatar.
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