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Match 96:
By: Thomas Singleton

Yellow sunlight washed over the wondrous landscape. Green fields flourished, providing rich herbs for eager hands to pick. Waterfalls rejuvenated massive rivers brimming with aquatic life. Mountains towered in the distance, paling in comparison to the great walls looming beyond them. The natives of this beautiful land had no clouds to look up to, no blue skies to find comfort in. An artificial sphere hovered above the mysterious paradise, brightening land that hadn't seen light since time began. Had the miniature star faded into oblivion, perpetual darkness would've flooded the earthly cavern. But its masters wouldn't let its life be extinguished so easily. Miles beneath its gleaming beauty, giant structures stood at the bay of a great lake. Had a surface dweller seen these structures, he might've described it as being both alien and Greek in terms of shape and style.

But Greece was nothing compared to Seatopia.

Surveying his city and its subjects outside his throne room, the King of Seatopia regarded his duties with a stern look. He looked much like a Man. He had a large build dressed in white robes. A silver crown rested above his head, glinting in the sunlight. He even had the mannerisms of one both blessed and cursed with the divine right to rule. But the look in his eye suggested he wasn't a Man, certainly not one among the living.

'Seatopia continues to flourish,' he thought with great pride. 'I find myself once again indebted to my people. They continue to show why I must guide them through this crisis. Long ago, when I was young and Seatopia was nothing more than an idea, our Lord Megalon sought to save us from ourselves. Back then our planet could no longer sustain us. Because of our folly, we killed it. But our sins couldn't kill our unbreakable resolve. Lord Megalon, the first and mightiest of the Space Hunter M Nebulans, took the finest of his stock, and ventured the stars. He brought us to this world. But the great journey greatly taxed his power. What was once the brightest, most innovative mind I had ever seen was reduced to a pale imitation of its former self. Making matters worse, the Earth was populated by a race of hairless mammals. Although their minds were primitive and their technological skills were in their infancy, we saw potential. So we tried mentoring these savages much like our Lord Megalon did for us. Man responded by hunting my kind down and butchering them like vermin.'

The King frowned. Hatred flowed through his dead veins. One of the many curses of having this body. But he had long learned to keep his emotions under control.

'But we were not helpless. Lord Megalon was still alive and loyal to our cause. He saved us and wiped out the human settlements that hated us so. Lord Megalon's glorious mind was lost. But his quest for perfect peace had never been stronger. So he lead us deep into the Earth, finding a great cavern for us to reshape in our image. Megalon worked tirelessly to provide us food and water. But we were still bereft of peace. We needed to establish the old laws to govern our people. At this point I stepped into the light and took power by force. I had learned from our Lord Megalon, studying him like an apprentice would under his master. I was the worthiest.'

He gaped at the great sphere and wondered what it would happen if its light extinguished. The King secretly thought his empire would look more beautiful at night.

'As our minds transcended their limitations, our bodies could no longer serve us. To transform this barren cave into a paradise, we needed the surface dwellers. So we searched for worthy vessels, humans who were our physical equals. Satisfied with our choices, we slew them with no ill will. Their bodies were ours for the taking. With these new hands, we built Seatopia. And for many centuries, it was good. But on the surface, Mankind thrived. They had spread to all corners of the globe, infecting great forests, deserts, and islands with their maliciousness. For a time I had no interest in them. They couldn't hurt us even if they wanted to. Of my few regrets, this is the one I am most offended by. It wasn't long before Mankind studied nuclear fission and the power of the atom. That's when our drinking water became contaminated. Like so many other organisms, we were plagued by radioactive sickness and death.

'Now I have every right to declare war. May our Lord Megalon finally bring peace once and for all. '

-

Ultraman floated aimlessly in space. The Sun appeared as a tiny glow in the blackness. Even from a great distance, it instilled enough energy to keep Ultraman alive and well. When this solar system was still in its infancy, the Nebula M78, also known as the Land of Light, knew no equal in the cosmos. It was Ultraman's home and he loved it very much. Believing it was their birthright to defend the cosmos from evil, Ultraman knew only war, honor, and righteousness. But when he was deployed to this planet to save it from destruction, Ultraman experienced other forms of glory. At first glance these humans were nothing like his people. They're a warlike, hate mongering society. Many of the most dangerous monsters in the cosmos owe their existence to these humans. However, they were not without a thriving sense of right and wrong. They're empathy for one another won them Ultraman's affections. Now he was one of their fiercest guardians. Ultraman's color timer on his chest pulsated with solar power. It served as a reminder to him not to forget about his duties. Although he cared for these people, he still had a job to do.

There was a disturbance on Earth. One of Mankind's great cities was under siege. It was time to go to work.

Flying at hypersonic speeds, Ultraman pierced Earth's ozone layer. Earth's gravity accelerated his already great speed. Sweltering heat engulfed his silvery-armored skin. He looked like a burning arrow flinging through Earth's atmosphere. He knew he was getting closer when he saw the rooftops of one of Mankind's many great structures. Plumes of dark smoke obscured the heart of this great city. Dark skies whizzed past him as he descended even faster. Now he could hear the screams of hundreds. The cries of many broken, confused, and helpless people beckoned Ultraman to fly down faster. But if he flew too fast, he'd cause more damage to the city than the creature attacking it. Stopping thousands of feet above the skyline, Ultraman relaxed, and searched for the attacker.

Thousands of people clogged the streets. Not wanting to be trampled, a young girl pulled herself up the roof of a truck. Breathing heavily, she slowly regained her strength. That's when an ear piercing sound stirred her from her solace. A round, molten shaped ball burst through a building, and smashed its way into the populated streets. Many were instantly crushed by the smoldering object. Others were swept up in its wake. Before crushing the girl, it slowed down, and stopped only a few inches away. The girl felt the heat rolling off its molten surface. She breathed a sigh of relief. But then she heard a rumbling from within this strange object. It reminded her of a ticking time bomb. That's when she panicked. There was not enough time for her to jump off the truck and find safety elsewhere. Suddenly, a giant hand snatched her and a few lucky others up, saving them from a fiery fate. It was as if an uncaring enemy had dropped napalm into the heart of the street, incinerating thousands without shedding a tear. Ultraman placed the girl and a handful of other civilians on a rooftop far away, wishing he could've saved more.

Ultraman searched for the attacker. Megalon wasn't that hard to find. The humanoid, giant cockroach with drill for hands was wreaking havoc on a skyscraper that towered above him. Megalon slashed it apart with no specific purpose in mind. He just wanted to destroy it and everything it stood for. But as Megalon raised one of his drills to reduce the huge structure to rubble, Ultraman stopped it. Megalon faced his challenger with a pair of dull, bulbous eyes. Ultraman saw no emotion in them. There was only violence. Ultraman was more than happy to oblige with the only language Megalon understood. A quick jab to Megalon's throat left him at Ultraman's mercy. Ultraman showed no mercy by delivering a roundhouse kick to Megalon's neck. Seatopia's deity was sent flying back into an office building, leaving a giant imprint in its side. Megalon slumped to the ground, his neck aching from the pain. Ultraman took advantage of the situation by running over, gripping one of Megalon's feet, and flinging him through the air. It was a true test of his physical strength. Megalon saw rooftops fly past him before falling into a park. Ultraman sprinted over to give Megalon a good beating before putting him out of his misery. But as he knelt down to punch Megalon over and over, he felt a drill bouncing off his face. Ultraman stumbled back and would've crushed a hospital under his weight if he hadn't hopped away at the last second. A streetlight wobbled at his feet as Ultraman regained his equilibrium. It was all short lived. Megalon ran over and swatted Ultraman so hard, it sent him hurtling through a skyscraper. He hit the ground seconds before the skyscraper crumbled into a sea of smoke and debris. In the haze, Ultraman's dome shaped eyes glowed. He must do everything in his power to put an end to this.

Megalon stomped towards him. Ultraman felt the ground beneath him rumble. His opponent was more massive than it looked. And as his aching face would attest, Megalon was stronger than he looked too. Ultraman stood out of the rubble to meet the giant anthropoid. Megalon stopped, his bulbous eyes lost in thought. Ultraman braced himself for what was to come. He couldn't just hop into the sky and fly away. Many lives were still at risk. All Ultraman could do was wait for his opponent to reveal its intentions. As if on cue, Megalon's horn crackled with electricity. Ultraman detected an electrical disturbance in the air. City lights flickered on and off. Megalon's mere presence was making every electronic device in the downtown area go haywire. Ultraman knew what to expect now. At the tip of Megalon's horn, a yellow-hued bolt of lightning scorched the air. It zapped into Ultraman's chest, blasting Earth's defender across several city blocks. When Ultraman came to he was lying in a pile of rubble. Megalon wasted no time to stay on the attack. Seatopia's deity dove into the street, tearing through the earth with ease. Cautiously, Ultraman stood up and remained on the alert. He scanned the city, searching for any signs of the grotesque creature. But he was looking in the wrong direction. From behind, one of Megalon's drills burst out of the ground, and jabbed into Ultraman's back. As fast as he had appeared, Megalon was gone. Ultraman collapsed to his knees, assessing the situation. He received a wakeup call when Megalon's drill shot out of the ground in front of him. Ultraman couldn't react fast enough to stop it from planting a shot to his face. Like before Megalon was nowhere to be seen. Ultraman rolled backwards, jumping to his feet. He was getting tired of this one sided battle. Time to fight smart. When Megalon popped back up for a third attack, Ultraman was ready. The great defender flew straight up, tricking Megalon to surface. Megalon probed the dark skies, trying in vain to detect Ultraman. What he did succeed in finding was a pair of energy discs. They slashed into his midsection, temporarily paralyzing him.

Ultraman floated down. Megalon's legs were still submerged beneath the street. But the rest of his body was exposed. Ultraman thought first about disabling Megalon's meddling drills. Taking aim, Ultraman brought his wrists together, and fired his trademark specium ray. Megalon spat one of his napalm balls just in time. It flung into Ultraman's energy attack, detonating prematurely. Ultraman shielded his face, resisting the sweltering temperatures. When the ball of fire dissipated, Megalon surprised him by firing his electrical ray. Ultraman rapidly descended to the streets, flying like a blur above abandoned cars and stranded people. Megalon's electrical beam followed very closely, scorching city streets and buildings alike. When it looked like it would hit a large gathering of people, Ultraman positioned himself just in time to fight Megalon's electrical beam back with his specium ray. Frightened onlookers watched on as the two beams fought for supremacy above them. They covered their eyes, troubled by the blinding lights and terrible heat. Realizing he was losing, Megalon shot globs of napalm balls. Unlike his opponent, Ultraman couldn't fire two energy attacks at once. So he dodged Megalon's electricity, flew between the helpless innocents and the oncoming napalm balls, and detonated them with his energy blasts. Flames hot enough to melt tanks rushed to consume the huddled masses. Ultraman shielded them with his body, saving their lives. To ensure their safety, Ultraman ascended to the skies above.

Megalon stared up at Ultraman. This time Ultraman wanted him to see him. He wanted to draw Megalon's attention away from the humans. Megalon submitted to Ultraman's intentions. The carapace on his back opened, unveiling a thin layer of wings. They buzzed to life, kicking up a wall of air and dirt. Megalon took to the skies faster than a fighter jet. Ultraman had only seconds to react. He repelled one of Megalon's swinging drills with his knee. This allowed him to plunge his fist deep into Megalon's mandibles. Any normal creature would've succumbed instantly. But not Megalon. He wasn't smart enough to realize what a bad position he was in. He kept on fighting. Had they not been enemies but allies, Ultraman would've considered this an admirable trait. But they were not allies. If anything, Megalon's struggles emboldened Ultraman's quest to defeat him. With his fist still stuck in Megalon's throat, Ultraman gathered energy into the palm of his other hand. Megalon's horn crackled to life, emitting electricity like before. This time it acted like a magnet for lightning. Bolts of lightning flashed from all around, electromagnetically drawn to Megalon's horn. Ultraman was once again in grave danger. Lightning bolts zapped into his glossy hide, forcing him to relinquish his hold. Megalon didn't take advantage of this. He continued to charge his horn, attracting more lightning bolts. Not wanting to be struck by lightning again, Ultraman put distance between them. Megalon mocked Ultraman with an ear twisting chuckle. He felt untouchable. He was dead wrong.

Lightning bolts lanced into Megalon, setting his wings ablaze. As Megalon started to panic, Ultraman took aim, and sent a lone energy disc spiraling into Megalon's neck. Had it scored a direct hit, it would've decapitated Megalon. Instead it twirled down, grazing Megalon's shoulder. Hot green blood sprayed out of Megalon's new wound. Pain flooded Megalon's mind, urging him to retreat. That's precisely what he did. Megalon valued his life more than any victory. Without hesitating, he rapidly descended towards the city, and dove into the ground. He quickly tunneled straight down, oblivious to the damages his impact had on the nearby structures. Ultraman hovered above the still brightly lit metropolis he had saved. Thousands were dead and many more were injured. But tens of thousands were still alive because of him. Ultraman took what he could in stride. Even then it wasn't enough. He couldn't help but wonder what would happen if he pursued Megalon. Would he discover the creature's lair? And if so, could he put an end to Megalon's terror once and for all? It was a risk he had to take! He thought he had enough solar power to spare. So if he found himself stranded miles beneath the Earth's surface, he'd have enough light to find a way out. Wasting no more time, Ultraman chased after Megalon by flying straight down into the newly formed tunnel. Dust and burning smoke obscured Ultraman's vision. So the warrior of light relied mostly on his advanced intuition to travel further down into the Earth.

Ultraman couldn't believe how fast Megalon had tunneled this deep a hole. He was flying at his top speed and he still had a lot of catching up to do. Finally, he entered a large cavern. It had to be the size of a small city. It was also pitch black. Ultraman's color time on his chest pulsated with light. He was like a star drifting by its lonesome through the blackness of space. Hundreds of meters down, he saw the faint glow of ember. Megalon's wings must've still been on fire. Ultraman flew fast enough to catch up this time. The look on Megalon's face when he realized Ultraman had followed him this far underground was priceless. Ultraman relentlessly pummeled his face in with his fists. Screeching in the dark, Megalon retaliated with his drills. Together they fell into a great chasm. Ultraman's color timer started flashing red. It would appear his predictions were way off. Ultraman didn't have much energy left. There wasn't enough time to return to the surface. Finishing Megalon off will have to be the last thing he'd ever do. Ultraman thought they would fall forever until a great light greeted them below. It was unreal. Sunlight washed over them, reenergizing Ultraman's color timer. When the light softened its intensity, Seatopia stretched out before them.

Throughout his career, Ultraman had seen great, wondrous events. He had witnessed the birth of a star in a distant solar system. He was there to witness the birth of a new life form on a world much different than Earth. Interstellar travel allowed him to bypass the laws of physics, seeing events so tiny and fast it could hardly be said to have happened at all. All the times he revisited his home world never robbed it of its majesty and splendor. But this place truly was one of a kind. It was unique. Ultraman had never seen anything like it. Not in all the star systems he and his kind had visited and guarded.

Not wanting to bring devastation to this marvelous place, Ultraman angled their falling bodies just right, and gave Megalon a swift kick to the chest. The blow was enough to send Megalon flying into a nearby mountain, where he wasn't an immediate threat to the populace. Ultraman watched the foul creature make an unintended passage through the mountainside. If Megalon somehow survived such an impact, he wouldn't be conscious for an extremely long time. With the fight won for the time being, Ultraman thought he'd use his time wisely by investigating this mysterious paradise. The closer he flew to the city, the smaller he became. When he at last touched down in the heart of this underground kingdom, he was the size of a human. Much like how a human would if they suddenly found themselves in a dream come true, Ultraman couldn't wait to explore Seatopia. But as he roamed its streets of grandeur, he realized he was the only one there. Nobody, not a single living thing could be seen or heard. Ultraman decided it was because of his appearance. A civilization advanced enough to create and sustain an artificial Sun no doubt detected his presence. They probably perceived him as a threat. In a flash of light, Ultraman shed his true form, and revealed the Man within...

Shin Hayata, Captain of the world renowned Science Patrol. Breathing in the fresh air, Shin shared Ultraman's enthusiasm for this place. He felt like a kid who had just walked into a store with all the merchandise he could ever want. Shin knew his compatriots at the Science Patrol would've forfeited an arm and a leg just for the chance to study this place and its inhabitants. That's when Shin felt an unusual relaxation. At first he thought it was the air and the pressure. He had traveled a great distance to make it down here. The fact he hadn't burst into red paste heavily implied the hand of a technologically advanced society. But when his vision blurred, Shin realized he had walked into a trap. He blacked out before getting the chance to transform back into Ultraman.

When he came to, Shin found himself lying next to a pool. There were women dressed in peculiar gowns dancing several meters away beneath a temple. They looked like humans, even moved like them. But there was something unusual about them. Shin couldn't explain it at first. As he stood up, armored guards greeted him with spears. Shin felt his Beta Capsule dangling at his wrist. They didn't take it from him. If he was fast enough, he could transform, and put an end to this. Curiosity got the better of him. Who were these people? How could humans be living down here? How could they possibly be more advanced than their surface relatives? Something didn't smell right. Shin was determined to solve this conspiracy before having to rely on Ultraman again. He was one of the most brilliant Men on the planet. Surely that meant something.

"What brings you to Seatopia, surface dweller?"

Shin faced his addresser. Based on appearances and stature alone, Shin correctly deduced he was in the presence of the King of Seatopia. Up to this point he thought Seatopia was nothing more than a myth. But in his line of work, Shin had found truth in all myths. Atlantis once ruled the seas before sealing its own doom by creating the dreaded Gyaos. Their legacy lived on in the Guardian of the Universe, Gamera. The Mu Empire was still alive and well, owing its existence mostly to Manda. There were alien sects hidden throughout the globe, slowly multiplying their numbers. So based on experience alone, Shin shouldn't have been surprised to find himself standing in Seatopia. He shouldn't have been surprised but surprised he was.

"My name is Shin Hayata," Shin introduced himself formally. He would've continued had the King of Seatopia not interupted him.

"Spare me the introductions," he snorted with contempt. "I care not. You are trespassing. Explain yourself now or you will be executed."

"I come from the surface world. I was engaged in a battle with a giant kaiju. It tunneled down here and I pursued it."

"So that was you who wounded our Lord Megalon?" The King frowned. This made the guards move closer, ever eager to baptize their spears with human blood.

Shin nodded. "I was defending a city your Lord Megalon attacked."

"You despicable mammal," the King grumbled. "First your kind pollutes our waters and poison my people, and now you injure our protector? This is an outrage!"

"Your highness," Shin replied calmly. "Megalon attacked us first. Believe me when I say, you should cease and desist. If you ever attack the surface world again, I will have no choice but to retaliate tenfold."

The King of Seatopia glared into Shin's eyes. Then he laughed like a barbarian.

"Your threats are as empty as your vessel," he sneered. "No mere human could venture down here without succumbing to our defenses. I know who you are, denizen of Nebula M78. But do you know who we are?"

Shin's eyes went blank. He could feel Ultraman's essence tingling from within. Every fiber of his being wanted him to transform and be done with this. But his human curiously once again got the better of him.

"You look human to me," Shin answered, knowing the King would take his response as an insult.

"We are the successors of Nebula Space Hunter M! We recognize your reputation, warrior of Nebula M78. And with that we have nothing more to discuss." The King turned to leave.\

Shin wouldn't allow it. With a push of the button, a sonic transmitter on his wrist activated. It brought the guards to their knees instantly. The dancing women writhed on the floor, clawing the pavement with their fingernails. All but the King of Seatopia and Shin Hayata were affected. Shin suspected the King was stronger than he looked to be able to resist his sonic transmitter.

"I know what you've done, your majesty," Shin revealed. "Your bodies were once people. Humans like me. Then you butchered them and dishonored their bodies by wearing them as a meat suit. Why? Did you have no choice or are you that evil?"

The ground trembled. Shin fought to stay on his feet long enough to see Megalon looming above him. The King of Seatopia bowed his head to Megalon, paying tribute. Then he faced Shin with burning hatred. He didn't answer Shin's question. Instead the floor beneath the King opened and he dropped down into an underground bunker. It closed before Shin could follow him. Megalon's bellowing screech were so loud it made Shin's ears bleed. Not wanting to be stomped on, Shin grabbed his Beta Capsule, and activated it. A shower of light enveloped him, replacing his human body with that of Ultraman. Ultraman grew to match Megalon's size and the two titans resumed their battle. Ultraman and Megalon slammed their bodies into one another, sounding like thunder. Ultraman chopped at Megalon's vital spots but it didn't stop Seatopia's deity from slapping him with his drills. Thinking quickly, Ultraman flipped backwards, and landed on his feet. He charged up his energy before firing rings of emerald light out of his right arm. This attack sent Megalon hurtling through several structures before finally crashing into rubble. Ultraman ventured over to deliver the killing blow if he hadn't already. Suddenly, Megalon blindsided him by tunneling out of the ground next to him. Megalon pounced Ultraman into the pavement, bashing his face repeatedly. Ultraman tried fighting back by punching and kicking Megalon everywhere he could. But it was futile. Megalon had gone berserk and Ultraman lacked the strength needed to stop him.

Megalon stopped. He positioned himself above Ultraman, casting his demented shadow over humanity's savior. That's when Megalon imbued his horn with electricity. Before Ultraman could react, Megalon fired its blazing essence into his chest. Ultraman's body shook uncontrollably, convulsing from the sudden surge. All he could do was concentrate and summon enough energy to one of his hands. Before being shocked to death, Ultraman threw an energy disc into Megalon's midsection, cutting it open. Megalon powered down his energy attack, panicking once more at the sight of his own blood. Not wanting to stick around, Ultraman flew hundreds of feet into the air. He remained close enough to the ground to use nearby structures as cover. Seatopia was a beautiful place and he knew he'd regret using it as a shield. But these people were dangerous, and he had to stop them from exterminating the humans he cherished. Megalon fired his electrical blast and napalm balls at the fleeing warrior of light. Ultraman evaded attack after attack. Seatopia's great city, however, wasn't as lucky. Explosions danced across its enchanted surface, consuming entire city streets. Ultraman decided the best way to win this was by depriving Megalon of his primary weapon. Exceeding supersonic speeds, Ultraman flew in close enough to charge up and slash Megalon's horn apart with his energy cutters. Megalon fell to the ground, writhing in agony. Driven by pain and madness, Megalon repeatedly bashed his face into the earth. Ultraman thought this would've been the perfect time to end this. He flew at Megalon at his top flying speed, intending to bury his foot into the Seatopian beast.

It was foolish to underestimate Megalon. Ultraman learned this the hard way when Megalon sporadically raised his head and lobbed a napalm ball his way. Ultraman watched helplessly as it flew next to him and detonated. The explosion was strong enough to throw him off his trajectory. That's when Megalon caught the descending Ultraman with a furious swipe to the face. Ultraman must've been knocked really hard into a large tower, because when he came to he found himself buried under thousands of tons of rubble and debris. When he broke free, Megalon greeted him with a salvo of napalm balls. Ultraman disappeared in a gigantic explosion. The napalm balls had combined into one massive conflagration, one meant to incinerate Ultraman. Megalon roared at the towering inferno, mocking Ultraman and everything he stood for. But a silhouette stood amongst the flames, resembling that of a Man born of fire. Megalon cursed his enemy with a sickening hiss. Wanting to add more fuel to fire, Megalon opened his mandibles to fire more napalm balls. But Ultraman shot at him two energy rays, designed to telekinetically lift Megalon off the ground and hold him in the air. Megalon fought against his invisible shackles but to no avail. Ultraman marched out of the flames, his body singed in multiple spots. He ignored the pain and concentrated on what had to be done. Like a gunslinger, Ultraman discharged his specium ray, blowing off one of Megalon's drills. Megalon's painful cries could be heard and felt throughout all of Seatopia. He looked at his stump of an arm where his drill once gleamed in the sunlight. Scorched flesh and putrid smoke replaced it now. Ultraman blew off Megalon's second and last drill. Now Megalon was deprived of his most valuable assets. One more shot to the heart and Megalon would trouble the Earth no longer.

"Stay your hand, trespasser," the King of Seatopia shouted. Ultraman looked down at the ravaged streets below. The King was standing there by himself, looking defiant as any determined ruler would. "You have no right to kill our Lord and defender!"

"And you had no right invading this planet," Ultraman retorted. "You wear the skins of the people you have sworn an oath to destroy. Your shame brought you this day of ruin, not me."

"Fool!" the King cried back. "We need these bodies to survive. Much like how Megalon lost his brilliant mind, we lost control over our bodies! They could not live and thrive on this dust ball for long. We had no choice."

"Then I have no choice, either."

"They were dead when we took their bodies! We honored them by giving them what they always wanted: immortality."

Ultraman's glowing eyes considered the King of Seatopia for a full minute before casting judgment.

"You're lying," Ultraman's voice boomed.

"Are we so different?" The King pleaded. It disgusted him how he was being forced to plead for his kingdom. He was no beggar. "Had Lord Megalon not lost his wits, he would've easily been your better in combat."

Ultraman ignored the King's condescending remarks. "Are we so different? Yes, we are. When I depart this world, my human host will still be here, alive and well. I wish I could restore the people you murdered to life. But they are long gone and it will do no good. No, King of Seatopia," Ultraman declared. "Your pursuit of war shall end now and forever."

The King of Seatopia grinned. His pale face glared at Ultraman with unfathomable hatred. But he had a trick up his sleeve.

"As if it was your right to pass judgment," the King shouted with defiance. "My high priests are at my disposal. By my command, they will turn off Seatopia's Sun, rob you of your precious light, and leave you here to rot in the dark with the rest of us. Or you can spare Megalon and return to the surface world where you belong."

Ultraman couldn't believe what he was hearing. "Not even your people have the power to turn a star on and off."

"This is true."

"Doing this would seal Seatopia's fate," Ultraman argued. "You'd kill your own people just to spare Megalon's life and see me leave?"

"I'd kill my people and many more to save Lord Megalon!"

It was unreal. Either way, Seatopia was going to die. Be it a swift death or a long, painful one. Ultraman was at a lost for words. At first he couldn't bear the thought of playing a hand in genocide. So he released Megalon, allowing the wounded creature to seek refuge on its stomach. Megalon was in too much pain to move. He was no longer a threat. Ultraman flew upwards, still taken aback by Seatopia's beauty. There was so much potential here. In the right hands, Seatopia could have become a safe haven for all beings seeking peace and equality. Such a dream wasn't meant to be. Ultraman ascended higher and higher, soaking up the artificial sunlight. The King of Seatopia smiled in triumph. After Ultraman leaves, he will command his people to repair Megalon, and make him stronger than before. Then he will assemble an army and invade the surface dwellers with all the power of Seatopia at his disposal. They will pay for what they did to his kingdom. All of them shall pay with their lives. And there's nothing anyone can do to stop him.

Ultraman's specium ray stabbed into Megalon, blinding all of Seatopia. Megalon howled in disbelief as his body blew up into a thousand smoldering chunks. Structures nearby were instantly leveled. Sonic booms reverberated off distant mountains, carrying with them Megalon's final cries. A sizzling crater marked the site of Megalon's grave. The King of Seatopia fell to his knees, screaming to the heavens. Ultraman hovered in midair, watching the cockroach-in-disguise despair. There was no regret in his glowing eyes. Ultraman is no pacifist, he's a warrior. None shall ever forget that. In his mourning, the King ordered his people to disable Seatopia's Sun once and for all. They hesitated, knowing they would die without it. But they would surely die by their King's hands if they disobeyed him. With nothing else but their blind loyalty, they followed his last order. The Sun shrunk down radically. Before imploding into nothingness, Ultraman watched the light being driven out of the land by shadows. Soon Ultraman found himself hovering in the bowels of the Earth, alone and with no light to sustain himself but his own.

The warrior of light spoke to the darkness. "Your efforts were all for naught. I have enough power to return to the surface. I'm sorry this had to happen. But you and your people will never hurt the human race again. May your end be quick and painless."

Using his color timer as a guide, Ultraman flew beyond the darkness. His fading light was the last light Seatopia would ever see. Flying through the stratum of the earth, Ultraman rose out of the heart of the human city he had previously saved, and ascended higher into the night sky. Faintly, he could hear the scattered prayers of the human survivors, thanking him for all he had done. From Ultraman's vantage, glimmering stars and the endless void greeted him with neither malice nor praise. All it did was stare at him in silence. What was it waiting for? Joining both mind and body with Shin Hayata helped Ultraman determine an answer. The universe was so vast no sentient race in all the cosmos could ever comprehend it. Even if all life joined into one, perhaps returning to its original state, not even a singularity intelligence could understand its scope. That is why time and space operated differently throughout its cosmic network. In a strange way, space was the grandest of highways. Time was the messenger that braved the abyss. Ultraman's great deeds had not yet reached the outer edges of the known universe. Billions of years would pass before he'd be remembered, before he'd truly be a legend. Then and only then would Ultraman live again. Such a fate was not his alone. Ultraman knew everyone would get a second chance, even the human race. That's what the universe was waiting for. It was waiting for life to share its light and give it meaning.

-

Somewhere in the Earth's womb, where darkness reigned, the King pleaded for Ultraman to return. He demanded for the star to reactivate, knowing full well his people didn't have the time or the means to do it. Dropping to his knees, the King prayed for Megalon to return to life, and lead them to salvation like he did eons before. But these prayers were fruitless, hollow. He will die here in the abyss be it from the body crushing pressure or by the hands of his own people. Neither fate befitted a ruler. He felt his dead body shrivel. Soon he will die and join Megalon in oblivion. Before surrendering to death, the King of Seatopia recognized his folly in the most detached of ways.

It would seem he had been mistaken. Seatopia really wasn't beautiful at night.

Winner
Ultraman