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  • Author: KeSean Johnson | Banner: Matthew Williams

    He had heard of this malicious creature and its reign of terror, reeking havoc wherever it crossed. The malevolent beast shedding its ruthless evil and destruction across the galaxy.

    The three-headed horror of the universe was on a path of chaos. He laid waste to anything, mobile or immobile. Cruelty, destruction, pain and death was all he knew. Nothing else mattered but the end of the universe.

    A small planet located behind Jupiter had recently just been caught in the evil monstrosity’s road to annihilation. Like a fiery god angered by its people, the horrid monster rained destructive, cosmic lightning bolts upon the defenseless planet. A barren wasteland it was turned, erased of all natural resources, its people on the brink of extinction. The demon wanted—no, needed—to exact his revenge. His next target was planet Earth.

    The intergalactic king of terror known as Grand King Ghidorah cackled with evil glee, glaring at his new adversary. A lone knight, donned in silver armor had come to stop his reign of terror. A praised god known by his ancient people, his heavenly powers toppling that of the Earth’s defenders. Their combined might was only enough to replenish the galactic monstrosity. He would send this devil into eternal damnation. With the shining light of the sun and the masculine power of a supernova, there was no possible way this dragon could come out on top. It was not in its destiny as so it was for the divine knight.

    The all powerful Sun God known as Utsuno Ikusagami clenched his fists. Utsuno could not allow this tyrannical dragon to cause anymore obliteration. He sought to kill this terrible creature once and for all. Stretching his arms out, the silver warrior summoned a vast amount of gold blades on his back. These acted as his wings, giving him the wonderful ability of flight. Utsuno charged Ghidorah, only for the golden dragon to spew a volley of gravity bolts his way, halting his approach. The heavely knight used his arms to shield his face, resulting in burn marks and electrocution. He was not prepared for that attack. This battle was going to be a lot more challenging than he thought.

    Grand King Ghidorah laughed at his foe before charging more cosmic energy into his maws and firing it at his opponent. Utsuno was ready this time, forming an oval-shaped shield made of unknown energies. The otherworldly beams of destruction were stopped in their tracks. Grand Ghidorah wouldn’t let up, still shooting his lightning blasts into the shield. Utsuno became worried, knowing his blockade would falter at any moment, and he was correct. The shield cracked, then twisted, and finally shattered like glass. Yet, he was already on the move, dodging the gravity beams and flying overhead.

    By the time Ghidorah looked upward, Utsuno Ikusagami descended upon him, slamming his right fist into his central head, releasing a shriek of agony. Ghidorah’s left head shot at Utsuno, only for the knight to grasp its throat in his right hand. The right head sprang to action, but Utsuno caught that one as well. Ikusagami tightened his grip, squeezing as hard as he could and zapping them with his special energy touch. Afterward, he drove his right knee into the dragon’s liver, forcing the monster to shriek in pain and gag at the same time.

    The central head brought itself upward, uppercutting thr guardian in his armored chin and forcing him to stagger. Charging up deadly volts of electricity into the tips of his wings, Grand King Ghidorah then let forth twelve shots of crimson lightning into Utsuno Ikusagami’s body. His metallic armor acted as a conductor, cranking up the power of the wing lightning. Utsuno cringed in anguish, the lightning bolts giving him a painful shock treatment.

    Ghidorah flapped his gargantuan wings, charging at his stunned opponent. When Utsuno stopped cringing in pain, he was treated with a massive dropkick which sent him hurtling into a tiny asteroid. The impact dazed him, but he still managed to hold himself together. Grand King Ghidorah flew at his enemy once again, but Utsuno managed to sidestep the speeding demon at the last second, driving all three of his heads into the asteroid. Faintly, Ghidorah shrieked in pain, nearly knocked into unconsciousness by the crash.

    While his adversary was dazed and confused, Utsuno wrapped his silver arms around Grand Ghidorah’s long necks and bent them backward. Simultaneously, the Sun God drove his right foot into the dragon’s back, cracking it in all the wrong ways. This galvanized the beast, widening its six red eyes and blasting his opponent point-blank in his featureless face. The sudden gravity beams sent the warrior hurtling backward.

    Like a swimmer accelerating off a wall inside a pool, Grand King Ghidorah pounced off of the damaged asteroid, giving him a head start to his top flight speed. Utsuno tricked his deadly opponent into believing he was down for the count. Ghidorah was getting ready to maul the knight, only for the warrior from the heavens to leap up and snatch all three of his muscular necks. The dreadful dragon panicked, having no way to escape from his tightening grip. Utsuno Ikusamagi spun in a complete circle before releasing his foe upward. The galactic demon catapulted into a rushing asteroid, knocking the air right out of him and sending him further into the vacuum of space.

    Utsuno Ikusagami knew for a fact his opponent was nowhere near defeated and decided to give chase. The silver knight dodged every oncoming rock, spinning, twirling, and still keeping his focus on the one asteroid with his enemy on the other side. After floating behind it, he waited for his enemy to arrive from either above him or on either side of the space rock. What he didn’t come to realize was that Grand King Ghidorah was flying under the asteroid.

    Ghidorah lifted his three demonic heads, spotting the warrior’s feet. Utsuno Ikusagami was ambushed, being blasted in his soles, causing him to clutch his feet and become frantic. Grand King Ghidorah cackled with evil glee, seeing his foe struggle to overcome his pain. Flying up toward his opponent, Grand Ghidorah then sank his large fangs into Utsuno’s feet and tossed him downward into yet another oncoming asteroid. The satanic dragon followed the rock he laid on, erupting cosmic lightning blasts into his fallen foe.

    Utsuno lay stiff as the devastating bolts of lightning electrifying his limbs. The silver knight spotted his adversary flying overhead, but it was already too late. Grand King Ghidorah dropped onto his enemy, driving his scaly feet into his torso. Like a joyful child on a trampoline, the three-headed dragon jumped up and down, denting the deity’s armor and crushing him underneath his gigantic weight. Ghidorah grew tired of this act, deciding to hop off of his downed opponent.

    Bright, yellow flashes formed in his maws, charging up his gravity beams. The yellow bolts of devastation spewed from his mouths, exploding around Utsuno Ikusagami and forcing him to roll over onto his stomach. The golden devil chuckled at his foe’s suffering. Knowing his opponent would continue his assault, Utsuno activated his wing blades, spinning rapidly like a giant buzzsaw. After using his arms to lift himself up, the divine warrior spun to the right, his wing saw cleaving Ghidorah’s right foot from his ankle.

    Grand King Ghidorah cried out in anguish, falling onto his back, his ankle becoming nothing more than a bloody stump. His opponent was extremely tough, but the god knew he would overcome the odds. Utsuno looked to finish this battle, the war between knight and dragon. The metallic warrior lifted his arms out and focused on his energy. Channeling a high quantity of divine power into the medallion on his forehead, Utsuno Ikusagami then fired an awesome blast of raw energy into Grand King Ghidorah.

    Something seemed to be wrong. The terrible dragon never erupted into a great ball of fire. There wasn’t even an explosion. Grand King Ghidorah used his golden scales to manipulate Utsuno’s Sun beam into a light barrier!

    Ghidorah thanked the nature of his own body for saving him from oblivion. Utsuno couldn’t believe what just happened. That same energy beam was enough to turn the devilish, eight-headed dragon, Orochi, into a living inferno. What did it do to Grand King Ghidorah? Absolutely nothing.

    Grand King Ghidorah flew off of the asteroid, finally rejuvenating his strength. The terrifying monster passed by Utsuno Ikusagami, bombarding the knight with deadly gravity bolts. He spun around while cackling with insanity. When Utsuno turned to face his enemy, he was met with a massive wing to the face, knocking him back. Ghidorah then hoisted his forked tail over his groin area which connected to the sides of his opponent’s head. Bringing his tail down, Utsuno was forced to fly downward.

    He halted his decent. The warrior barely dodged the oncoming lightning blasts which manipulated gravity. His reflexes came into play. Grand Ghidorah continued his spam of gravity beams, yet not one blast hit their target. Utsuno flew in continuous circles as he was trying his hardest to not get blasted. Finally coming up with another strategy, the silver knight twirled upward, almost like creating a giant DNA strand. This confused and infuriated the three-headed monstrosity because he couldn’t land any hits on his enemy.

    Utsuno stopped flying. Ghidorah seized firing. The hydra turned around only for his enemy to punch his central head, catching it off guard and releasing a shriek of agony. Utsuno backhanded his right head, then slapped the left one, zapping it at the same time. Becoming seriously aggravated, Ghidorah then constricted his middle neck around Utsuno’s throat. The ancient warrior was beginning to suffocate and so started to panic. He bashed his fists into King Ghidorah’s chest over and over, but nothing seemed to work. The outer heads then wrapped their necks around his arms, holding him still. His movements became slow and lazy. Now that his opponent was pained and slowed, Grand King Ghidorah relinquished his torture and vomited more destructive beams of galactic lightning into his stiff foe. He glared at his enemy who was now floating aimlessly in the vacuum of space. Curling his lips and snarling, Ghidorah then let forth a ferocious cry of triumphant victory. The demonic dragon added insult to injury by bouncing off of his unconscious opponent’s form and flying away.

    He decided to utilize the extracted life essences he had taken by will from every planet he had encountered beforehand. Grand King Ghidorah then began to form a meteor around his masculine body. This would definitely help him travel to Earth a lot faster.

    Images scattered inside Utsuno Ikusagami’s brain. Everything he saw were memories from his troubled past. He was once a rejected prince, being deceived as a child of the Devil himself. His kingdom believed that he himself had murdered his own sick mother after giving her his special amulet, its true power being nearly uncontrollable. Day and night, land-to-land, the dishonored prince searched for the three treasures of Yamato. After achieving the treasures, the prince and his new female companion journeyed to the moon. He did battle with the ruthless, almighty god known as Tsukuyomi. After being outmatched, the doombringer transformed into the humongous red hydra, Orochi. Yamato Takeru fused with the Sword of Snake Kerosign, a sacred mirror, and his partner; Oto Tachibana. He then morphed into a proud, heavenly God of the Sun: Utsuno Ikusagami. Using his amazing, divine powers, the warrior conquered the eight-headed dragon, his duty as a protector being successful.

    Now he had faced a new opponent. Another hydra, but more dangerous and more powerful. Even more powerful than the last. This dragon, despite having five less heads, was more cunning and possessed twice as much raw power in his arsenal. The dragon defeated the knight, but his mission of protection and balance was not over yet. No matter the circumstances, Utsuno had to beat the unbeatable! He had to conquer the unconquerable! Slay the unslayable! Utsuno clenched his fists. On this day, he would slay yet another hydra!

    The meteor was formed half way around Grand King Ghidorah’s body. All of a sudden, a massive, orange beam made of enhanced energies collided with the half-meteor. It was decimated in an instant, exploding all around its creator. Grand King Ghidorah roared furiously, fueled with inner rage. He was so close! The menacing monster charged his foe, but Utsuno stood his ground. The knight stuck his arms out and completely stopped the speeding dragon. Ghidorah’s left head shot out like a cobra, biting into Utsuno’s right bicep. Then came the right head, sinking its sharp fangs into his left bicep. Finally the central head bit down into his neck.

    Utsuno struggled to escape from his triple death grip, but with this new sudden power surge, there was no way he would be defeated again. Ghidorah’s fangs sunk deeper, yet he could not break the holy armor. The golden dragon’s bloodlust was still not quenched. Utsuno stuck his right arm out to the side while Grand Ghidorah charged up yellow, cosmic lightning into his three maws, and a sword made of holy energy materialized in the noble warrior’s right hand. Right as Ghidorah was about to end his life, the blade was plunged into his chest like a hot knife through butter, seizing his lightning bolts.

    All three of his heads lifted upward simultaneously and shrieked in absolute anguish. The holy blade was extremely close to piercing his black heart. Utsuno Ikusagami relinquished his sword from the dragon’s chest and swiped it down his right wing, ripping through the appendage like tissue paper. Ghidorah released a cry of agony, shooting off strands of purple lightning at his foe. Utsuno spun around and activated his wing blades, using them to bounce and deflect the oncoming bolts of electricity into the empty vastness.

    Ghidorah growled at his relentless opponent. The demon summoned more gravity-manipulating lightning into his maws while the silver knight channeled more particles of intense energy into his forehead. Grand King Ghidorah released the destructive gravity beams from his mouths, uniting them into one super gravity beam. The medallion ray ruptured from Utsuno Ikusagami’s forehead. The two awesome blasts of raw power smashed into one another, looking to overpower each other. Ghidorah spewed more cosmic energy into his combined blast, causing his opponent’s ray to be pushed back. Utsuno summoned more power into his beam, forcing his enemy’s blast to fall back. The runaway energy coming from both giants erupted, a massive explosion of astronomical proportions being created.

    Both Utsuno Ikusagami and Grand Ghidorah were sent hurtling backward as the galactic explosion was formed in between them. Upon stopping himself, Utsuno caught a glimpse of Ghidorah speeding toward him like a living bullet. That was all he needed. Before Ghidorah could tackle his foe, the silver knight turned ninety degrees to the left. Grand King Ghidorah’s eyes widened, panicking as he could not stop himself. It was at that moment when Ghidorah’s left wing was completely shredded in half by Ikusagami’s wing saw.

    The demonic dragon turned around, squealing in insane agony. Almost instantly, a zero gravity field formed around the hydra so that he could still possess the ability to fly. Out of nowhere, Utsuno Ikusagami slammed his bulk into Grand King Ghidorah. Pushing him backward, the hydra was forced through one side of an asteroid and straight out the other, forming a gaping hole in the space rock.

    Utsuno continued his forward rush, finally driving Ghidorah into an asteroid three times their own size. An impact crater was formed from the collision, holding the dragon in the rock as Ikusagami materialized another sword of enhanced power in his right hand. Ghidorah’s right head shrieked its last as it was severed from half way down its neck, vile blood spraying everywhere. Utsuno, with his free hand, grasped the severed limb and slapped the other two heads with it in utter disgust before casting it aside. Ghidorah roared in frustration, unable to overcome his enemy’s deadly assault.

    Grabbing the central head’s lower jaw, Ikusagami electricuted it and hoisted the neck upward. He plunged his heavenly sword into its throat, locking it with the asteroid and spewing nasty blood. Staring at his ruthless enemy made him angered, something a god should not feel in the sight of others for bad things would come. Bringing his right arm upward, Utsuno summoned a spear of static holy light and chucked it at Ghidorah. Unlike the holy beam, it managed to penetrate his light barrier, slicing straight through his left shoulder, restraining his joints and causing a huge explosion. Focusing more power into his left hand, Utsuno formed another deadly spear and threw it at the dragon’s other shoulder. A third spear was flung, piercing the demon’s left knee. One last spear connected with Ghidorah’s right knee. The satanic dragon was crucified on an asteroid, sapping him of his legendary power and siphoning all the evil that lurked inside of his body.

    Grand Ghidorah let forth a weakened cry of distress. Utsuno channeled holy energies into his medallion, seeking to end this monster’s reign of destruction. The blast was fired, but was halted by Ghidorah’s still active light barrier. Two more beams shot out, but were unsuccessful in damaging their target. Utsuno brought his arms up and slowly dropped them, focusing even more godly energy into his forehead. Another medallion ray erupted from his head, even more massive and powerful than all the rest. Instantly, Ghidorah’s light barrier shattered, letting the beam of holy energy collide with his body. Ghidorah cried one final roar of retribution upon his adversary. Some of his scales, along with some inner organs, evaporated at a rapid rate. His insides overheated and began to combust. Finally, the three-headed dragon exploded into a brilliant ball of flames, being completely set ablaze by Utsuno’s mega medallion ray.

    Utsuno seized his blast, giving his unlimited energy a chance to replenish itself. The once horrible beast, the galactic doombringer, the planet destroyer, the devilish obliterator, the King of Terror, Grand King Ghidorah…was no more. The divine knight, the Sun God, Utsuno Ikusagami, had conquered, and slain the dragon.

    The denizens of Earth would live to see another day, thanks to a god they never worshipped…

    Eternal damnation the dragon was sent into… The heavens above the knight ascended to.

    Between God and Devil, this is how it always should be and will be.

    Winner: Utsuno Ikusagami

    K.W.C. // February 28, 2021
  • Author: Connor Clennell | Banner: Dao Zang Moua

    For years, mankind had been plagued by monsters. No matter how hard they fought back, it seemed as if they had no hope to fully repel the larger-than-life beasts that shared the same soil as them. Had no choice but to watch them tear down their homes, steal away their loved ones, tear down everything they had worked hard to achieve.

    Yet in the carnage and chaos, one nation had managed to avoid the conflict between man and monster. Whilst the governments of Japan and the United States sent out their armies and arsenals against the likes of Godzilla and King Ghidorah, the United Kingdom hung back, leaving its military and civilians out of a conflict that didn’t involve them…at least, not yet. As the other nations of the world suffered from the heavy loss of life and the costs of repairing the damage and building new weaponry to take down their gargantuan neighbors, they flourished. Rebuilding their economy, improving their quality of life, strengthening their defenses. What was once a tiny, insignificant island was quickly growing into a new international superpower.

    The people of Great Britain had grown to believe they were safe from the terrors of kaiju. None had ever tried to set foot in their waters or on their soil before. Why would they now?

    Today, they would be proven wrong.

    In Blackpool, crowds of people carried on with their daily lives, not giving a care about the dangers that existed outside their waters. Atop the Blackpool Tower, a young boy was on the verge of crying as he watched his balloon float away from him into the sky above. He barely paid attention to the sudden shouts and screams around him, as people pushed and shoved each other aside in a desperate rush to get to the elevator. It wasn’t until his mother lifted him up to carry him and he could see over her shoulder that he saw what the cause for all the commotion was.

    Few people saw the object flying in over the ocean at an astounding speed. Even fewer survived its arrival.

    Hurricane level winds swept up helpless cars, trams, buses and people, scattering them across the town like garbage. Massive waves engulfed the beach and the promenade, wiping away treasured landmarks and memorials. Sonic booms shattered every window within Blackpool’s limits and reduced less structurally sound buildings to tons of concrete rubble. All this in the span of a single minute. Maybe even less.

    When the carnage had died down, the town was unrecognizable to the survivors. Mangled bodies of vehicles and people littered the ravaged streets, obscured by dust and debris. Across the city, the cries of people in agonizing pain and in mourning of their deceased filled the air. No one could have expected this. Blackpool had been torn apart by forces brought about by the advent of Rodan.

    The crimson pterosaur circled above the ruins of Blackpool, scanning for a place to roost after his long voyage. His sharp eyes found a suitable target, and he made his descent. Rodan came down atop the Blackpool Tower, crushing its observatory under his titanic weight. The rest of the structure wobbled and groaned in protest, but managed to support Rodan’s form. In the giant’s beak, a bottlenose dolphin flailed helplessly in its dying moments. Throwing his head back, Rodan opened his maw, allowing gravity to send the dolphin down his throat. He closed his beak with a loud clapping sound, only to open it again a second later, spreading his wings and releasing an echoing, challenging cackle. Blackpool was his domain now. Let any other creature challenge him at their peril.

    His moment was interrupted, however, as the tower began to tremble beneath him. Rodan looked down, tilting his head in confusion. The streets below shook violently, the tremors bringing down buildings not fully obliterated by Rodan’s sonic booms. Huge jagged cracks appeared in the concrete and tarmac, spewing violent flames. From his perch, Rodan watched the cracks grow larger and the flames engulf the ruins below. Suddenly, the tower itself began to sink, disappearing into the inferno. Screeching in surprise, Rodan escaped a fiery fate by taking to the skies. He and the pockets of survivors watched with anticipation as the Blackpool Tower was consumed by the Earth, vanishing into a hellish pit of fire and brimstone.

    Rodan looked down at where the tower had just stood, warily observing the gaping chasm that had appeared in its place. Unholy sounds escaped the sinkhole’s molten depths, filling the reptile’s soul with dread. Forms moved around within the flames, neither human nor monster, but creatures from another world. Thousands of tortured souls cried out, begging for freedom from their eternal prison. This gateway to the underworld was something beyond even Rodan’s intelligence and comprehension. He was sure of one thing, however: he was going nowhere near it.

    To further compliment the pit, a colossal, inhuman form began to rise from the depths. A large four-fingered hand composed of rock clamped down on the chasm’s edge, followed by another, pulling a demonic creature out of Hell itself and to the surface. Kumasogami reared his hideous visage back, letting loose a haunting, atrocious bellow that pierced the souls of those present with fear and dread, announcing his return to the mortal realm after centuries of slumber. The former God of the Kumaso Kingdom had returned to walk the Earth once more and burn civilization to ashes.

    Though as the molten beast scanned the broken shell of Blackpool, it seemed something had razed the town to the ground before him. Recently too, judging by the still setting smoke and burning fires. A screech from above caught Kumasogami’s attention. The demon’s single triangular eye regarded Rodan’s airborne form not with fear or anger, but boredom. While he enjoyed tearing apart his enemies and drinking the blood out of their still beating hearts, the pteranodon hardly looked to be a worthy foe. Still, if it wanted to die so badly, who was he to deny its final request? Kumasogami spread his arms wide and roared a terrible roar at Rodan, accepting the Lord of the Skies’ challenge.

    Pulling his wings close, Rodan dive-bombed the molten titan at incredible speed. Taken by surprise by his foe’s speed, Kumasogami was left with little time to defend himself, and raised his arms to grab Rodan’s own as he closed the distance. Gripping the aerial predator’s arms tightly, Kumasogami grinned in sadistic pleasure as his superheated touch burnt and seared Rodan’s flesh, earning several painful cries from the mutated pteranodon. In retaliation, he brought the tip of his beak down atop Kumasogami’s head with extreme force. Kumasogami relinquished his hold, clutching the top of his head and hollering painfully. Molten lava dripped from his cracked cranium, corroding the ground below. Rodan used his foe’s distraction to ascend into the air, his natural realm. With a single flap of his wings, he created a powerful sonic boom that knocked Kumasogami back onto the beach behind him. As the dark one’s feet disappeared under the waves he growled painfully. But while the cooling waters doused his flames, it was not enough to wound the beast from Hell.

    Rodan’s cackling cry echoed around the area, seeming to come from all directions. Kumasogami looked around frantically as he tried to locate the reptile, to no avail. Rodan cackled again, the sound closer this time, but before Kumasogami could react, the oversized pterosaur slammed his spiked chest into the back of the titan’s head, sending him crashing to the ground. Kumasogami quickly got back onto his feet, only for Rodan to slam his feet into his face, causing him to fall backward into the ocean. Both the demon and the waters hissed as his superheated form made contact, steam rising from all sides. Pulling himself out of the now boiling water, Kumasogami was knocked to the ground once more as Rodan swooped in low and sliced the demon’s leg with his wing.

    Kumasogami groaned as he pulled himself off the ground. Rodan was just too fast to face while in the air, and if Kumasogami wanted to win this bout he’d have to force the crimson terror out of his element. The dark one’s arms fell to his sides as his hands began to shift and change. His left hand took on the appearance of a bow, the other morphed its fingers into three deadly arrows. Kumasogami joined the arrows with his bow and took aim. Rodan issued a cackle and dive-bombed Kumasogami again, but this time the demon was ready, spinning on his heel to face the pteranodon and fired his arrows. Skillfully twisting his form, Rodan avoided the molten projectiles and continued his attack, striking Kumasogami in the face with his wing before retreating once more. Kumasogami snarled angrily and turned to face Rodan’s retreating form as his fingers formed into another set of arrows.

    He raised the bow and arrows to target Rodan, but did not fire, waiting for the pteranodon to get closer this time. Rodan began to pick up speed as he approached Kumasogami, cackling wildly, as he prepared to slam his beak into the molten titan’s cranium. Moments before he could, though, Kumasogami launched his arrows, striking the giant pteranodon’s armored chest. Crying out in pain as plumes of fire and smoke rose from his chest, Rodan swerved midair, abandoning his attack run. Kumasogami lowered his arms, letting out a low, sinister laugh at his foe’s pain.

    Suddenly, Rodan stopped mid-flight and turned to face Kumasogami. The demon’s laughter died in his throat once he noticed Rodan’s crown of horns glow a bright gold, as flashes and sparks of energy crackled across them. Rodan cackled angrily before opening his beak and unleashing a violet beam of atomic energy, striking Kumasogami dead center in the chest. The dark one howled as chunks of molten rock and lava blood fell to the ground and staggered back. Rodan was not finished, however, and fired another blast of his uranium ray. Kumasogami’s left hand exploded into chunks as the beam struck, causing more agonizing pain to course through Kumasogami’s body and earning another deafening cry from his molten throat as he clutched the stump of his hand. Rodan’s mocking cry filled the demon’s ears as his hand regenerated, vengeance clouding his mind. As Rodan dive-bombed him again, Kumasogami reverted his right hand back to its normal state and broke into a sprint toward the giant pterosaur. The demon bent his legs, leaping into the air toward the descending Rodan. The mutated pteranodon cried out in surprise as Kumasogami planted his foot atop his head and kicked down, sending him plummeting to the ground hard. Kumasogami landed mere meters away and turned to face Rodan, still dazed from the impact, growling cruelly as he prepared to deal the finishing blow…

    Pulling himself upright, Rodan spun around and blasted Kumasogami square in the chest with his uranium heat beam. Kumasogami stumbled backward from the blast and tripped on a pile of rubble, falling back and crushing Blackpool North Station under his bulk. As the demon flailed about trying to get back up, Rodan lifted himself into the air and approached Kumasogami. The molten titan lashed out in an attempt to grab Rodan, but the Lord of the Skies managed to stay just out of his reach and began pecking furiously at the dark one’s skull. Kumasogami roared in pain as each strike of Rodan’s beak worsened the damage already inflicted to his cranium, threatening to crack the demon’s head open like an egg. His hands desperately sought out a weapon to use against his crimson foe, eventually finding an abandoned DMU train. His right hand closed around the two vehicles, the heat from his body quickly turning them to molten slag, and he swung his arm upward, smashing the deteriorating train into Rodan’s face. The DMU exploded on contact, embedding shards of glass and twisted metal into the right side of Rodan’s head. Rodan ceased assaulting Kumasogami, rearing his head back and crying out in pain as shrapnel pierced his eye. He flew back and landed, trying to claw the debris out with his fingers.

    Kumasogami stood up, using the time Rodan spent removing the shrapnel well. His right arm fell to his side, the fingers of his hand fusing together and extending to form a deadly blade. Raising his new weapon, Kumasogami swung it at Rodan, striking the reptile on his armored chest and drawing a shower of sparks. Rodan cried out in shock and leapt back, but Kumasogami swung faster, his sword cutting through the membrane of Rodan’s left wing. The crimson pteranodon cackled in anger and pain as he ascended out of Kumasogami’s reach. He observed his torn wing, assessing the damage. His wing was still capable of granting flight, obviously, but he could no longer harness his true speed, lest he damage his wing further.

    Out of the corner of his good eye, Rodan watched Kumasogami’s hands morph into a bow and arrows once more. He quickly moved, avoiding the first trio of arrows. Kumasogami could tell Rodan was in distress, as he was moving a lot slower now. It made tracking him much easier. He raised his bow, firing another set of arrows at the mutated pterosaur. Two arrows struck Rodan’s underbelly, the other exploded against his neck. Rodan let out an angry cry and swerved toward Kumasogami, grasping the demon’s head in his talons and dragging him across the town. The Lord of the Skies released his grip, sending Kumasogami crashing down atop Bloomfield Road Stadium, partially burying him in several tons of concrete and steel.

    Furiously, Kumasogami pulled himself up and glared at Rodan. The pterosaur’s horns glowed once more as he fired his uranium beam, blowing off Kumasogami’s bow-hand, then repeated the action with the demon’s other hand. Kumasogami shook his arms wildly, his stumps spilling lava across the area, as Rodan swooped in and smashed him in the face with his chest. Kumasogami fell back, roaring in fury. Already his hands were regenerating and morphing into new shapes. His right hand grew in size, his fingers sinking into his rocky hide to form a large ball. Several spikes grew out of the ball, finishing the weapon’s completion. His left hand took on a similar shape, then detached from his wrist, dangling on a rock-formed chain. Kumasogami swung his new morning star and flail, testing their weight and air resistance, then spun around and slammed his morning star into Rodan’s face, who had been sneaking up on the molten titan.

    Wearily, Rodan opened his eyes. Kumasogami’s blow had been strong enough to not only knock him unconscious for a few moments, but send him flying halfway across Blackpool. Rodan felt the ground beneath him quake, and he looked up to see Kumasogami sprinting toward him, bellowing in rage. Flapping his wings, Rodan began to take off, firing a uranium ray at the charging demon. Kumasogami raised his morning star to take the blow, sacrificing the limb to continue his charge, and swung his left arm. His flail slammed into Rodan’s chest, breaking several ribs with an audible cracking sound. The crimson pterosaur’s cry of agony was literally drowned out as blood gurgled out of Rodan’s maw as one of his lungs was punctured. He blasted Kumasogami with his uranium beam, incinerating rocky armor and lava blood alike, as he clawed at the dark one’s face with his talons, ignoring the burning pain that shot through then with every strike.

    By now Kumasogami’s morning star had reformed, and he smashed the medieval tool into Rodan’s side, sending the oversized pteranodon crashing to the ground. He leapt atop the fallen reptile and began pounding his face with both morning star and flail. Rodan beat his wings and kicked out, cackling painfully as he was crushed and burnt underneath the demon. His efforts were futile, and only served to increase the severity of the dark one’s beating.

    After several minutes of non-stop smashing, Kumasogami finally relented. He stood up off Rodan to observe the Lord of the Skies’ broken form. His chest was singled completely black, raw red flesh poking out of several gaping wounds. The pteranodon’s head lay in a puddle of his own blood, his beak crackled and missing several pieces, which were scattered all around his head. Yet the slow but steading rise and fall of his chest proved Rodan was still alive. Kumasogami’s hands morphed into blades as he raised them above his head, ready to deal the killing blow. But then a much more sinister thought struck him. Why kill him and end his suffering, when he could make him suffer for all eternity?

    His blades morphed back into four-fingered hands, and he bent down to pick up Rodan. Carrying the mutant reptile above his head, Kumasogami marched over to where he had come into this world. As he stood at the edge of the opening, he glazed into its fiery depths, disturbed glee filling his tainted soul. The moans and cries of the underworld, along with Kumasogami’s vile laughter, was enough to rouse Rodan from unconsciousness. With a surprised screech, the Lord of the Skies was cast into the pit, vanishing into the cloud of fire and smoke. Kumasogami’s laughter rose to a horrifying, booming volume as he turned away from the gate to Hell and focused his attention—

    With a triumphant cackle, Rodan flew out of the pit, escaping the terrors of the underworld. Kumasogami spun around, his twisted visage frozen in shock. Rodan’s bruised and battered eyes narrowed as a furious cackle emanated from his throat moments before he expelled a beam of atomic hate on Kumasogami’s face. The dark one’s cries died in his throat as it was torn away by the force of Rodan’s heat ray, alongside most of his facial feature. As Kumasogami clutched at the remains of his face, Rodan blasted open the ground beneath him with two more uranium rays. The ledge Kumasogami resided on crumbled away, and he fell screaming as best he could into the pit, continuously being assaulting by uranium beams. Rodan never saw or heard him hit the bottom, if there even was one, and breathed a sigh of relief. With its only connection to the mortal realm severed, the hole to Hell closed up, leaving no trace that it was ever there.

    Exhausted but victorious, Rodan made his leave. His new territory now reeked of the underworld’s dark presence, and he wanted to be as far away from it as possible, taking to the air and heading toward much greener pastures.

    Winner: Rodan (Heisei)

    K.W.C. // February 20, 2021
  • Official Continuity Register

    Hello new user or long time fan of the K.W.C. and welcome to the Official K.W.C. Continuity Register. Essentially, you may have noticed certain storylines or plot threads carried over from one match to another. Well, the answer to how far a certain storyline reaches can be answered here! Storylines, arcs and different universes are broken down below: (more…)

    K.W.C. // February 16, 2021
  • Author: Harley Jameson | Banner: Matthew Freese

    Earth’s outer atmosphere, 1991.

    The space shuttle Jiraiya glided soundlessly away from Earth on its way to the moon. The blue planet the astronauts called home nothing more than a picturesque landscape of pillow-like clouds and crystal clear blue ocean. If they squinted a little through the viewport, they could just make-out Japan, hundreds of miles below them.

    The leader of this brief tour of the globe, Arakaki Jiro smiled over at his comrade as he drifted away from the view port and smiled at him. “Quite a sight, huh Funai? To think we won’t be seeing it up close like this for a few months.” Arakaki was an old veteran of these space missions, and had a relaxed ease about him that spoke of years of experience being up in the dark emptiness of space. (more…)

    K.W.C. // February 9, 2021
  • February 9th, 2021 update

    The results are in so without further ado, here are the winners for 2020!

    The 5 Best Writers of 2020:

    1. Andrew Sudomerski
    2. Tyler Trieschock
    3. Matthew Freese
    4. Dao Zang Moua
    5. Michael Allen

    The 5 Best K.W.C. Matches of 2020:

    1. Match 313: Bagan vs. King Ghidorah (Legendary)
    2. Match 300: Gamera (Heisei) vs. Everyone
    3. Match 281: Anguirus (Showa) vs. Anguirus (2001)
    4. Match 285: Godzilla (Legendary) vs. Zilla
    5. Match 318: Sanda & Gaira vs. Attack Titan & Armored Titan

    The 3 Most Original K.W.C. Matches of 2020:

    1. Match 313: Bagan vs. King Ghidorah (Legendary)
    2. Match 281: Anguirus (Showa) vs. Anguirus (2001)
    3. Match 311: King Ghidorah (Heisei) vs. Zone Fighter vs. Ganimes, Gezora & Kamoebas (Showa)

    The 3 Best Banner Creators of 2020:

    1. Andrew Sudomerski
    2. Landon Soto
    3. Dao Zang Moua

    The Best Custom Banner Artist/Creation of 2020:

    1. Christian Gonzalez / Match 299: Godzilla vs. Gamera: Round 2

    The 3 Best K.W.C. Banners of 2020:

    1. Match 313: Bagan vs. King Ghidorah (Legendary)
    2. Match 310: Bagorah vs. MUTO Prime
    3. Match 318: Sanda & Gaira vs. Attack Titan & Armored Titan

    The Best use of a New Monster/Form in 2020:

    1. Anguirus (2001) – Match 281

    The 3 Best uses of Kaiju in a K.W.C. Match in 2020:

    1. Match 313: Bagan vs. King Ghidorah (Legendary)
    2. Match 281: Anguirus (Showa) vs. Anguirus (2001)
    3. Match 300: Gamera (Heisei) vs. Everyone

    The 3 Best use of Human or Alien Character/s in a K.W.C. Match in 2020:

    1. Match 313: Bagan vs. King Ghidorah (Legendary)
    2. Match 318: Sanda & Gaira vs. Attack Titan & Armored Titan
    3. Match 311: King Ghidorah (Heisei) vs. Zone Fighter vs. Ganimes, Gezora & Kamoebas (Showa)

    The 3 Best Story/Narrative in a K.W.C. in 2020:

    1. Match 313: Bagan vs. King Ghidorah (Legendary)
    2. Match 318: Sanda & Gaira vs. Attack Titan & Armored Titan
    3. Match 300: Gamera (Heisei) vs. Everyone

    The Best New Writer of 2020:

    1. Joshua Strittmatter

    Best Writing Duo/Trio of 2020:

    • Dao Zang Moua & Matthew Freese – Match 313: Bagan vs. King Ghidorah (Legendary)

    So those are the winners of 2020! But I am also happy to announce the following:

    New K.W.C. Additions (The following have been approved to be added to the K.W.C. for the future. Feel free to submit a match with these fresh faces!):

    • Baragon (Millennium)
    • Godzilla (Showa)
    • Greater Rathalos
    • Kaishin Muba
    • King Cobra (GTS)
    • King Kong (Legendary)
    • Ts-Eh-Go

    New K.W.C. Retirees (These are monsters that will be soon be entering retirement. Please do not submit matches involving them):

    • Baragon (Showa)
    • C-Rex
    • Frankenstein

    K.W.C. Survey Match Request Winner:

    • Kiryu vs. Mechagodzilla (Heisei) vs. Mechagodzilla (Showa)
      • Release – Late 2020

    In any case, thank you to everyone who participated and gave us your feedback. There were a ton of great ideas submitted and the first I can announce to be added is a Continuity Page which should be up in Mid-February to help keep track of ongoing storylines! More is on the way, but until then, a massive thank you to the staff who do such a fantastic job, and the K.W.C. wouldn’t be where it is without them. So thank you again to every Writer, Banner Creator & Reader! See you all next year with the 2021 Awards! (more…)

    K.W.C. // February 9, 2021
  • Author: Matthew Williams  | Banner: Matthew Williams

    During the huge climate change of El Niño that warmed the waters of the western tropical Pacific Ocean, the city of San Francisco was in the middle of an invasion by the Xiliens. The people of the highly populated city ran in fear as the sphere-like mothership ascended above the damaged buildings while thousands of starships flew around, rapidly firing their laser turrets at the buildings and inhabitants. They were engulfed in explosions that incinerated the populace and caused the skyscrapers to topple to the ground, with countless civilians meeting their fates as they were crushed to death.

    The situation for the civilian’s survival from this invasion soon worsened as the Xilien Carrier Gamma detached from the mothership, hovering above the center of the burning city. The aircraft fired a beam straight down, bringing down a huge entity like a tractor beam before it ceased and returned to the mothership.

    The entity was a bipedal creature with features superficially identical to a human, though this thing was distant from any mere creature. Most of the monster’s exposed skin had the texture of muscle tissue, all of which was covered in thick bony armor from the chest, back, dorsal, arms, and legs. The creature had long, slender, black forked tail that swished around while the creature let out a sinister, draconic snarl. Two half skulls latched onto his shoulders, both glowed with sinister air. The head of this humanoid monster highly resembled a skull of a dragon with two long black horns latched on the head in a row, and like the two halved heads on the shoulders, the eyes of the main head were glowing a crimson red light.

    The entity let out another unsettling growl, instilling powerlessness and fear among the survivors; a cruel realization that they were unable to escape the wrath of the Xilien’s latest weapon, Monster X.

    Monster X gazed upon his surroundings, seeing the once populated city of San Francisco was now being terrorized by the starships that were invented by his masters. Given the order to demolish everything in this doomed city, Monster X was ready to satisfy his sadistic desires to give everyone, and everything, hell. Monster X levitated and spun in the air, whipping several burning skyscraper down to the ground with his forked tail. Every scream, every life taken brought unparalleled satisfaction to the fiend and with a world filled with such meager creatures, what was there to stop his pleasure?

    A grueling hour passed. The human fighter burst into an explosion of flame and with its destruction sealed, so too was the last means of defense to save the doomed city. The only thing that remained were the people of San Francisco, who could only hope that the Global Defense Force would deploy Kiryu, Mechagodzilla, Moguera, the Gotengo, or anything that could fight back these invaders and their draconic alien. With mobilization being troublesome, hectic, and spread thin across the globe, it would take awhile for even one of the GDF mechs to respond to the distress signal. The only thing that the survivors could do was to endure the hellhole they were stuck in.

    * * * * *

    Inside the Xilien mothership, the newfound leader of the Xilien race watched the chaos that ravaged California as he gave off a confident grin.

    “Excellent,” X spoke as he boasted to himself. “Once this city is reduced to rubble, I will be able to build a new base for my people. And if there are any survivors, they will become our slaves as well as our food source.”

    The Xilien cackled like a madman with the mind of an ignorant child as he enjoyed his plan falling into place, only to be interrupted when one of his communication officers alerted him. “My Leader! There is an unidentified lifeform detected!” they reported.

    “Could it be Godzilla? Mothra?” X questioned.

    “No. It’s nothing like the beasts we have on record! And worse, it has no traceable M-Base genes!” One bold officer within the group answered.

    Curious to know what this approaching unidentified organism was, X looked back at the screen and ordered the unidentified beast be brought onscreen Just as the monitor detected its location, the unidentified being sped past and left a trail of destruction behind it. “What the- What did I just see?!” X exclaimed.

    * * * * *

    The unknown kaiju was running on all fours at unbelievable speeds that outmatched hypersonic. Buildings exploded into rubble in front of its defiant charge, not even slowing down the creature as it continued to sprint toward Monster X. The alien warrior turned, only to feel the creature colliding with his chest at the force akin to a human being rammed by a Shanghai Maglev train. A concussive shockwave rippled across the city while the actual hit proved powerful enough to send the colossal fiend flying several kilometers away before crashing against a tall skyscraper. Before Monster X could even look up, the towering building collapsed on him, burying the skeletal alien underneath a huge pile of fresh rubble. The witnesses were speechless for what they just saw and looked back at Monster X’s attacker, hoping the GDF had finally arrived. Yet the terrified gaze of the populace discovered not any mech, but a being shrouded in a electrical shroud, growling to all in its presence of its arrival.

    Then the rays of the sun revealed its true form.

    Words could not describe of what this new, never before seen kaiju was supposed to be. It resembled a mammalian-like reptile creature that lived long before the dinosaurs ever walked foot on the planet, but its appearance also gave it an otherworldly, celestial visage. A heavenly appearance that merely looking at him made everyone feel like an angel of hope had arrived to put an end to this horrendous destruction.

    The mammoth creature was covered in white smooth plates and spikes, adorned with purple hues, and two large, wing-like protrusions on its back. The monster was quadruped, standing on all fours in a similar fashion of a speedy animal like the cheetah with the grace of a wolf. In fact, the draconic face of the monster carried honor and nobility. The graceful creature had several horn-like spikes arching on the back of his head, as well as two yellow tusks on the sides of its jaws. The monster had a long whip-like tail with yellow spikes and an orange diamond shaped pattern on the end of the tail.

    Raising its head high up, the mythical monster let loose a howling roar that echoed through all of San Francisco. It was unknown of what this noble, yet beautiful creature was or where it came from. There weren’t many myths of its existence unlike most ancient guardian monsters, like Mothra, Gamera, or King Caesar. Rumors had it that there was an ancient Japanese legend recounting a celestial deity that had been the creation of the mythical Kirin and the Thunder God Raijin. Speculation as to what happened alluded to the idea that it flew into the skies and lurked in thunderclouds and hurricanes. Up until now, select few meteorologists speculated that the El Niño phenomenon may not have been as natural as once thought…

    If all of this was true, then this would be the first time that the world managed to lay their eyes on the legendary mythical kaiju known as Balkzardan. But the only question was why did he only now decide to show up? For that, the world would never know. What was important now was what he would do next.

    * * * * *

    X watched Balkzardan howling into the air, infuriated of its seemingly effortless disposal of his people’s greatest creation. He tried in vain to control the new beast by the slim chance it inherited M-Base, yet to no avail. Therefore, this made Balkzardan a threat.

    “Give the starship pilots a new order: kill this monster,” X commanded.

    “Yes master!” the Xilien members of his crew in his presence replied.

    * * * * *

    The Xilien starships ceased their assaults on humanity and brought their attention on Balkzardan. The celestial being gave off a glare, but the starships began firing crimson lasers upon him. Balkzardan took a few blasts on his armored body before he leapt in the air and took flight, surprising everyone of how the beast was capable of flying without a noticeable pair of wings. The pursuing pilots  ignored their wild thoughts and gave chase, even as Balkzardan ascended high into the atmosphere.

    A maneuver which ensured their very doom.

    Enormous, dark thunderclouds spontaneously appeared out of thin air over the ruins of San Francisco, blotting out the sun and darkening the land in palpable rage. Lightning crackled from the dark gray clouds followed by the deafening bellows of enraged thunder. Pilots panicked within their cockpits merely for lighting to engulf their vessels, illuminating the air with fiery wreckage and molten debris. Satisfied with destruction, Balkzardan descended upon the charred earth and glared at the remaining, larger Xilien crafts, his tusks twitching in anticipation of thei annihilation. With a burst of light, the tusks generated immense energy which morphed into the celestial monster’s primary weapon, the Tornado Bolts. Loud thunder cracked through the air as the tusks discharged powerful electricity that swirled through the starships, leaving only the Mothership to defy the god’s will.

    * * * * *

    Whisper like gasps echoed within the Mothership’s control center at the destruction with even X partially shaken at the display of power.

    “So this… thing, can manipulate the weather.” X’s eyes narrowed with curiosity. “Interesting but ultimately, useless,” X nonchalantly quipped, as he grinned and raised his hands. “Monster X! Rise, and show this monster no mercy!”

    * * * * *

    Crimson pupils alit beneath a grave undeserved of what lay beneath. Effortlessly, the pile of rubble exploded upward as Monster X let loose a spine chilling growl. Cracking his neck side to side, the warrior gradually turned his soul piercing red eyes directly at Balkzardan. The warrior proved un-impressed with the appearance of his attacker and decided to demonstrate its own immense power. The four red eyes instantly lit up a bright yellow light as they unleashed powerful Destroyed Thunder Beams at the weather monster, giving him little time to react. They pelted against Balkzardan’s white armor and brought the quadruped to his heels, bringing a slight smirk of pleasure upon the fiend’s face. Now confident the battle would be handedly won, Monster X casually strolled toward the downed kaiju and grabbed the beasts tusks, using all of his might to break them merely to snap the god out of his trance.

    Balkzardan swung his head straight into Monster X’s abdomen and propelled the alien abomination skyward, yet as the fiend extended its arms, gravity amplified around the armored warrior. Within seconds, Monster X  rapidly descended and extended his left foot down upon Balkzardan, but Monster X proved too slow, striking only human pavement. An annoyed scowl peered to where the god evaded to and shockingly discovered extended claws. One swipe chipped precious armor across the fiend’s central head while another slammed Monster X on the ground. The beast brought his right claws down upon the warrior once more to cave its head in merely for Monster X to grab the ancient creature from underneath and throw Balkzardan at full force using his immense strength. Balkzardan’s wingless body ascended into the storm filled skies before he reappeared and dove down toward his foe. Wishing not to succumb to another earthshattering ram, the skeletal fiend’s four eyes fired their Destroyed Thunder Beams, but this time Balkzardan’s soaring body evaded the explosive attack. To the alien’s dismay, the weather monster slammed into Monster X, knocking the wind from its lungs, and immediately grabbed onto him like a panther latching onto its prey.

    Monster X caught the quadruped beast and tossed him aside into a nearby damaged building. Balkzardan let out a howl of pain and frustration, gritting his teeth to ignore the agony he felt when he collided against the building. With his foe distracted, Monster X grabbed his challenger’s long tail and lifted Balkzardan in the air to slam him down on the debris. Balkzardan’s back protrusions suddenly emitted energy and generated an electrical shield, the Thunder S. The protective barrier caused a huge explosion that engulfed Monster X’s arms and forced him to release his grip with a hellish scream. His skeletal carapace that protected the arms was burnt to the bone which drove the skeleton into the feeling of pain and anger; he would make his wrath known!

    As Balkzardan’s thunder shield faded away, Monster X unleashed a barrage of Destroyed Thunder Beams to stun the weather monster. The Xilien’s powerful pawn jumped in the air and delivered a roundhouse kick at Balkzardan’s face, followed by his fork tail whipping the monster. Monster X landed on the celestial being’s back to crush him, quickly jumping off of Balkzardan before he could activate the Thunder S again. The draconic alien’s eyes fired more Destroyed Thunder Beams at the mild monster, but Balkzardan’s tusks quickly fired the Tornado Bolt at the fired eye rays. Both electrical beams collided and triggered a massive explosion, launching each combatant away from one another. Balkzardan skidded into a pile of rubble while Monster X crashed into a familiar pile of debris. Upon realization it was the same mound of rubble he escaped from earlier, Monster X’s four eyes twitched in subtle irritation.

    Shaking off the annoying scraps of mankind’s structures, both monsters recovered their footing and turned to face the other without showcasing a hint of weakness. Neither one of them were willing to lose this fight and each would ensure their victory no matter the cost.

    Balkzardan re-ignited the clash with a thunderous bellow and sprinted toward the skeleton with tremendous speed. Monster X snorted in excitement and hunched over like a defensive lineman. The impact ushered a shockwave which rattled the nearby Xilien Mothership, but instead of the alien warrior sailing through the air like their initial encounter, Monster X remained standing, sliding backward with Balkzardan furiously continuing its charge. A plume of dust followed Balkzardan’s mad dash. Dirt sped by under Monster X’s clawed toes until he felt solid material beneath his footing, causing the fiend to smile in anticipation. Shifting the momentum of the raging beast, Monster X pivoted his body and swung the weather god over his head down upon the suburbs of San Francisco. A cataclysmic eruption of debris followed. Building exploded from the shockwave, dirt burst into the air and those hiding from the rampaging creatures soared into the air from the immense wind pressure. To any human fortunate enough to survive the impact, they were treated to no sight of rampaging titans, but the grisly sounds of boney fists striking Balkzardan’s body.

    Monster X unleashed a torrent of mighty blows so intense the dust of his recent maneuver vacated the space around him. He could feel the stress of his burnt hands reaching their limit from his pummeling, but he would need to make due. He was used to injuries like this, no matter how severe they were. Besides, the fight was surely at an-

    Balkzardan’s taloned paws grabbed Monster X’s arm, allowing him to clamp his maw down on the limb like an angry feral cat. The skeletal fiend’s hands grabbed the mythical beast’s neck in response, hoping to strangle him to death. Balkzardan tried to roar, but the crushing grip of Monster X’s strangulation made it hard to emit a sound or even breathe. Balkzardan made an attempt to break free by swiping his claws at Monster X’s exposed neck, carving a nasty gash.

    Monster X covered his claw-marked slash on his neck, black blood squirting from the wound as the alien tried to cover it. Balkzardan swiftly recovered and scourged Monster X with his whip-like tail. The alien was down on the ground, taking the brunt of the punishment. Monster X’s four glow red eyes grew even brighter, letting out a frightening snarl. The enraged alien’s black blood-soaked hands let go of the bleeding wound on his neck. Monster X quickly got onto his feet and grabbed Balkzardan’s tail. The skeleton lifted his surprised opponent in the air as he levitated in the air, all before slamming the weather monster down on the ground.

    By the time Balkzardan landed on the ground, he quickly turned around and swiped his claws deep into Monster X’s injured stomach. Monster X clenched his rows of sharp teeth, trying to ignore the pain as he clung onto the tail. Balkzardan used all his might to swish his tail, forcing the demon to trip and fall to the ground. Before the alien could recover, Balkzardan rammed his head against Monster X’s chest like a bull, burying the fiend’s head under the dirt.

    Monster X regained his footing in a second, letting out a furious growl as he looked around to see where Balkzardan had gone to, but to his surprise he found no trace of the creature. Taking the moment to catch its breath, Monster X moaned in confusion. Had his opponent retreated? Surely not. But if it wasn’t nearby, it gained ground for some type of move. But what would require such dist…

    Monster X’s eyes widened in epiphany as Balkzardan’s howling cry echoed through him. Four eyes spun in time to discover Balkzardan shrouded in a torrent of energy mere meters away from him and approaching at speeds seemingly hypersonic. Electricity crackled across every fiber of the quadraped’s body while its light shined off his armor with such radiance the beast could easily be misidentified as another sun. With no time to react, Balkzardan’s glowing body tackled Monster X, transmitting currents of electricity into the skeletal alien as it felt his figure being electrocuted congruent to explosive bursts setting off. Monster X screamed a banshee’s wail, unable to feel anything as he soared into the horizon and plummeted upon a pile of rubble he knew all too well.

    * * * * *

    X clenched his fist in anger, sighing in frustration that his most powerful tool was… losing. Enough was enough. If Monster X could not win then it was time for himself to enter the battle, even if it was not physically. “That is it!” he shouted to all those within earshot, “I have had just about enough with this foolish monster’s meddling and everyone’s incompetence!”

    The leader of all Xiliens snapped his hands into the air and focused his diving power. Golden energy cascaded across his body with its destination not the meddlesome beast which interfered with his invasion, but the monster which demonstrated its inability to kill it.

    “Monster X! Take my power. Finish your enemy off as Keizer Ghidorah!”

    * * * * *

    Monster X instantly got up to his knees, firing his eye rays at Balkzardan. They struck and stunned the massive dragon, giving the skeletal warrior the chance to quickly transform into his true form. Monster X fell onto his hands as his body begin to shift. Large draconic wings unfolded, followed by the alien’s two half skull heads starting to form actual heads. Monster X’s bony carapace morphed into dark, golden scales while the feet morphed to turn the bipedal creature into a quadruped dragon. Balkzardan got up and quickly fired a bolt of lightning from his tusks but the transforming Monster X looked up and spewed an arc of lightning from his central head’s mouth, preventing his enemy’s attack from disrupting his metamorphosis that was almost complete. The main head, along with the now fully formed shoulder heads began to extend their necks, transitioning into demonic dragons. The thunderclouds crackled lightning from behind as Monster X finished its transformation into his unrivaled and terrifying original form, Keizer Ghidorah!

    The thunderclouds crackled as the Keizer hydra’s three heads let loose horrifying shrieks before he lifted himself into the air and smashed the pile of rubble which consistently annoyed him. Gazing through the dust of his destroyed grave, Keizer Ghidorah’s three heads all fired Antigravity Destroyed Keizer Beams that now took the form of arced lightning. The electric beams made contact with Balkzardan, caressing the white beast in their harsh glow. Keizer Ghidorah’s three heads guided the spewing electrical beams as they dragged Balkzardan’s body like a ragdoll. The golden dragon stopped spewing the gravity rays and watched the immobile creature fall on a building, easily crushing it.

    Balkzardan shrieked painful cries as he felt Keizer Ghidorah scorch him with another barrage of his telekinetic beams, this time throwing him all the way to the Golden Gate Bridge. A group of evacuees screamed as Balkzardan’s body was flung toward to the bridge and could only brace themselves for impact. But Balkzardan regained control and took off in the air, flying high into the skies. Keizer Ghidorah fired another round of their Antigravity Destroyed Keizer Beams again. One of the bolts caught the wingless creature during its flight, while the other two heads moved their telekinetic bolts at Balkzardan and brought him down on the Golden Gate Bridge. The sadistic dragon cackled as he watched the iconic bridge collapse when the mythical kaiju plummeted onto it, killing the fleeing people as they, along with the monster, fell into the ocean.

    Keizer Ghidorah stood and waited patiently, expecting for Balkzardan to emerge. Within a moment, Balkzardan burst out of the ocean, sprinting at mach speed. Keizer Ghidorah saw the charging creature firing its Tornado Bolt at him yet remained static, unimpressed by the tired tactic. The hydra’s two heads spewed their Antigravity Destroyed Keizer Beams to block the swirling lightning, while the middle head fired its gravitational bolt at the speeding Balkzardan and pulled the celestial creature to him. Keizer Ghidorah’s forelegs lifted his quadruped mass as he slammed his frontal feet down at Balkzardan, crushing his body down into the ground that pressed the holy beast due to sheer weight alone.

    Before Keizer Ghidorah could repeat stomping the electric dragon into the asphalt, Balkzardan unleashed his Thunder S barrier when Keizer Ghidorah was about to slam his feet down, which ignited a whirling blast upon contact. Keizer Ghidorah stepped back, cackling a chorus of frightening shrills of hatred and wrath instead of expressing emotion or reaction by the blast. The Keizer lowered his three necks, opening his many jaws. Balkzardan looked up as his tusks delivered more currents of swirling lightning at the hydra’s chest. Keizer Ghidorah’s three draconic heads all let loose horrifying shrieks before it kicked the celestial being’s neck, then proceeded to punish it with more Destroyed Thunder Beams. The Xilien’s Keizer dragged Balkzardan’s body against the ground before it stopped firing the telekinetic bolts. The sadistic fiend watched the screaming monster slide against the ground until it stopped between two ruined skyscrapers.

    Balkzardan groaned weakly as his injured body laid still on the cracked streets, covered in bruises. He spat some blood from his maw while the scraped wounds bled out. But before he could move a muscle from his tired legs, he heard a faint sound of screaming and crying.

    Balkzardan’s eyes rolled to see where the crying was coming from, until he noticed a small alleyway where he saw a woman holding a frightened little girl. The woman looked back at the staring monster, frightened by it being up close to her. The way how the human was bracing the crying child close to her and how old she was, it would have assumed that the child was hers. Looking at the scenario of the two frightened humans gave Balkzardan this odd, nostalgic feeling, something that he had never felt in a long time…

    Balkzardan’s low breathing turned to loud screams of pain when he felt another blast of lightning from the cruel hydra, frightening the woman and the child even more. Keizer Ghidorah’s spewing gravity rays pulled the shrieking mythical creature toward him until he was directly in front of the hydra. Ghidorah ceased fire, and the three heads clamped onto Balkzardan’s flesh with their serrated teeth. Balkzardan struggled to break free, but Keizer Ghidorah’s three draconic heads held on tightly as their vampiric teeth begin to drain the life force out of him, causing Balkzardan scream even louder.

    * * * * *

    X watched with a demented smile as Keizer Ghidorah drained the enemy monster’s life force away, with the back of the hydra’s three necks pulsating with blue light, circulating the life energy of the monster through Keizer Ghidorah’s veins.

    “It’s over now, how delightful,” X spoke with pleasure and satisfaction. “All it took was the power of a Keizer.”

    * * * * *

    Balkzardan let loose a dying groan, feeling his life force slowly dimming away the more Keizer Ghidorah sucked him dry. Finally, Balkzardan’s limbs went limp, unable to move and doomed to die. In his dying moments, the noble deity thought about what would become of this planet without him once these ungrateful aliens took over this planet. The thought was too grim for Balkzardan to think about as he tried to get it out of his mind. But then, he thought about the woman and the child. Balkzardan had no intentions on intermingling with humanity, but the moment he saw those two, he felt compassion for them. A feeling he had thought was long gone. In an odd way, he felt a sense of appreciation, even if it was during his last moments, one that invigorated his spirit.

    Balkzardan’s eyes flared up as he used the last of his energy to generate another Thunder S shield, giving the gnawing heads of Keizer Ghidorah a painful taste of a flaring detonation. Keizer Ghidorah’s three heads shrieked painfully as they let go, their mouths severely burnt from the explosive aftereffects, enraging it even more. Balkzardan let out a tiger-like growl, pouncing on the hydra’s necks to claw at them. He ignored his fatigue and focused on killing the three headed dragon.

    * * * * *

    X looked back as soon as he heard Keizer Ghidorah’s painful cries, annoyed that the white beast still had the diminished strength to fight back. “What is this? Come on, fight back Keizer Ghidorah! End him!”

    * * * * *

    Keizer Ghidorah’s middle head lunged for Balkzardan, but the weather monster quickly leapt backward from the alien, barely avoiding the rows of sharp teeth. The Keizer charged toward the mythical beast, attempting to bite down on him to sap the last bit of energy left. Balkzardan hunched his quadruped body down, giving the dragon a whip from his tail. Keizer Ghidorah flinched, but later responded by firing another ray of Antigravity Destroyed Keizer Beams, pulling Balkzardan toward him.

    In the midst of pain, the guardian beast yowled weakly to the skies above. The demon was eager to sap the last of his prey’s strength and put an end to this once and for all. Before Keizer Ghidorah could end its telekinetic stream, several bolts of lightning rained down from the thunderclouds, which reacted with the yellow casing that surrounded the white beast. A brilliant flash of light and electricity overcame Keizer Ghidorah, temporarily blinding the gargantuan hellspawn and ceased its gravity rays, which freed Balkzardan.

    With whatever strength he could muster, Balkzardan got himself to his feet and kept a hefty distance away from Keizer Ghidorah. He was tired from this fight, but he couldn’t let that get to him. With another call to the thunderstorm, lightning bolts struck the two protrusions on the mythical monster’s back, causing Balkzardan’s body to glow and crackled with electricity. The legendary kaiju let out a roar and burst into mach speeds, charging toward Keizer Ghidorah. The alien noticed and tried to fire his Antigravity Destroyed Keizer Beams, but Balkzardan quickly fired his Tornado Bolts at the dragon and cut off the attack, which yielded fine results as it detonated in the demon’s faces. Pressing his hind legs, Balkzardan leapt onto the middle head.

    Keizer Ghidorah felt his body electrocuted by Balkzardan’s touch and engulfed by miniature explosions. The heads tried to sink their teeth into the electrifying monster, but the pain was too great, even when he moved an inch. Keizer Ghidorah painfully charged into a damaged skyscraper, trying to get the electrocuting kaiju to let go. Balkzardan held on tightly, bracing the impact while frying the Keizer’s muddy, golden scales. Keizer Ghidorah’s screams grew louder as the electricity was burning him to crisp, causing him to collapse against the skyscraper. The towering building slowly toppled down upon Balkzardan and Keizer Ghidorah, burying the two titans underneath a giant pile of smashed concrete, steel, and rubble.

    The woman covered her child for protection as the the ground shook violently from the skyscraper’s impact, blotting everything in a cloud of ash and dust. With some fortunate luck, both the woman and the child were still in one piece. She turned around slowly, startled to see one of Keizer Ghidorah’s charred heads exposed from the rubble. It stared at them with its two crimson eyes that dimmed away. The woman, along with the frightened daughter, looked back at the head, noticing the draconic head wasn’t showing any signs of movements or breathing. The all-mighty Xilien trump card, an off-shoot of the infamous Ghidorah lineage, was now no more.

    The pile of debris shook as the injured Balkzardan slowly crawled out of the debris that buried most of Keizer Ghidorah’s body, which became the demon’s grave. Balkzardan let out a painful groan and stumbled onto the ground. He laid down and panted heavily. The whole fight had pushed him to his limits; Balkzardan couldn’t even lift his head. He noticed the woman and the girl, along with several other survivors coming out of the wreckage that they hid in. Balkzardan watched as the humans approached closer to him, not moving a single muscle so he wouldn’t frighten them. The little girl, along with the mother, got closer to the wounded savior of San Francisco. Balkzardan stared at the child, who walked up close to his face.

    Despite the massive damage on the city that Balkzardan had done, nigh equivalent to the Xilien invaders and Keizer Ghidorah, the child believed that it wasn’t Balkzardan’s fault. She believed that all it wanted to do was to end the invasion. The little girl hugged Balkzardan’s face and smiled a bit as she spoke to the mythical monster. “You saved us all.”

    Balkzardan heard those faint words spoken to him. He did not understand what she said, but felt the meaning to her words. Balkzardan let loose a low purr as the child let go of his face in a playful spark of static electricity that frizzled her hair. The mother walked to him.

    “Thank you, for saving my daughter,” said the woman as she warmly smiled at Balkzardan.

    The two backed away from the injured kaiju. Balkzardan’s reptilian nostrils blew as the celestial deity slowly got up on all four of his feet. The woman and her child, as well all of the survivors, cheered for the rising mammalian-like reptile that ended the invasion. Balkzardan looked around and saw all the damage that he, the Xiliens, and Keizer Ghidorah had brought upon San Francisco, as most of the buildings were crushed or ignited in flames. Wanting to repay humanity for most of the destruction that he had done, Balkzardan began to manipulate the weather once more.

    The thunderclouds were still lingering and from them birthed a soothing rain. The calm showering rain drops extinguished any traces of fire that burned. Balkzardan stood on the burnt carcass of Keizer Ghidorah. The ancient legendary kaiju, Balkzardan, let loose a loud howl of victory that could be heard throughout California. The survivors all watched their celestial savior leap in the air to take flight, disappearing in the clouds so he could recover his injuries. And like a cryptid of old, he vanished, nowhere to be seen.

    * * * * *

    X yelled in anger, slamming his fist on the wall in a fit of rage. Peeling his arm away, the Xilien leader discovered a massive dent, a physical representation of his failure.

    “That damn, uncontrollable monster managed to kill my best kaiju… How? How did it managed to kill Keizer Ghidorah?!”

    The leader tightened his shaking fist, wanting to send one of his controlled kaiju to torture Balkzardan in the most painful way that he could ever imagine. But with all of the starship fleets destroyed, the Xilien leader sighed in frustration as he had no other choice but to abort the mission, issuing the command to retreat. At least, for his vessel.

    “Send in Hedorah, I want him to find this weather controlling kaiju and give him hell!”

    * * * * *

    One of the special spacecrafts detached from the mothership, hovering a few miles away to release Hedorah from the tractor beam. The smog monster let out a gurgle cry when it materialized from the beam of light, quickly shifting into its flying form to pursue its newest target, the slayer of Keizer Ghidorah.

    Winner: Balkzardan

    K.W.C. // January 30, 2021
  • Authors: Landon Soto  | Banner: Andrew Sudomerski

    Deep in the unknown reaches of space, a lone entity lazily flew through the seemingly endless black void. Unaffected by the frigid vacuum and lack of oxygen, the being was crimson in color, resembling an Earthling bat, but far larger than any flying mammal.

    Bagorah flapped his black wings as he soared through the cosmos, listening closely to the sounds of the universe. Gifted with hearing like no other, Bagorah could hear the sounds that came from other planets if he tried hard enough. The bat-like extraterrestrial was feeling hungry and used his advanced echolocation to try and find a meal.

    Many sounds filled the creature’s large ears, stars burning, spacecraft engines roaring. The closest sound however was a wail, followed by a bellowing roar. The crimson bat opened his beady emerald eyes as he began to flap his wings faster, heading toward the source of the commotion.

    Closer and closer the giant space bat got to the greyish blue planet, drool pooled inside his toothy maw, the predator’s facial structure gave the bat an almost twisted smile, elated in having found sustenance. Bagorah was indeed becoming more anxious, having not eaten for nearly a week, it was time to replenish his energy.

    Bagorah broke through the atmosphere with little trouble, the rocky terrain coming into full view, as the bat monster slowed his descent. The crimson bat perched himself atop a tall mountain, his eyes scanning the dark surroundings as his ears twitched. The giant space bat turned his head, hearing the bellowing roar from before. Bagorah could feel the mountain tremble even from this distance. The bat spread his terrible wings and took to the dark cobalt blue sky.

    Carefully eyeing the grayish blue mountainous terrain, Bagorah could see something in the distance faintly illuminated by the planet’s moon. Flying higher to avoid detection, the vampiric monster stopped in the air, flapping his wings to stay aloft. Bagorah watched in awe at the sight before him.

    Now fully illuminated by the moon, the figure roared into the night sky, pinning a colossal worm-like creature against the side of a mountain. Bagorah immediately noticed the bizarre features of the entity; four spider-like limbs made from bone, protruded from the spine were the most notable. The monster was humanoid with ridged lavender and teal skin. The torso appeared to be completely composed of bone as well, with sharp bone-like protrusions on its knees, giving the native an almost armored appearance. Its tail, tipped with a sharp spike, swayed along the ground.

    Cries of pain filled the air as the olive-green worm struggled to break from the hunter’s clutches, but to no avail. Bagorah watched as the humanoid stabbed the writhing worm with its four hooked appendages, purple blood oozing from each wound. Bagorah mustered as much restraint as possible, knowing it was unwise to dive in head first without thinking. The humanoid repeatedly stabbed into the worm until it was motionless, releasing its grip. The armored being let the worm fall to the ground, lightly nudging the carcass with its pointed foot.

    Bagorah watched as the predator turned to the side, finally able to see the beings face. Bagorah’s eyes widened at the truly bizarre sight, the armored alien’s teal face was elongated; no eyes, nose, or ears, just a massive maw filled with razor sharp teeth. A single row of bone-like protrusions ran along the creature’s head, down the spine and up its swaying tail.

    The bipedal alien squatted and grabbed the tail of the massive worm and wrapped its grey lips on the carcass, shaking its head violently, ripping a large chunk of meat off the creature. Bagorah, unable to control his hunger any longer, propelled himself upward with a powerful thrust of his wings, before soaring down toward the unsuspecting alien.

    The Visitor ripped off another chunk of meat and stuffed it into its giant maw, cutting up the treat effortlessly. Bagorah’s jaws dripped saliva as he got closer, stretching his legs outward, the giant space bat swooped down and sunk his yellow talons into the worm’s skull. The wind toppled over the Visitor as Bagorah sprang upward into the air and stole its meal, the teal alien roared in confusion as it watched the crimson bat glide off with its kill.

    Bagorah twisted in the air to face the armored alien, who sprinted toward the bat, furiously roaring at the winged beast. Bagorah cackled as he mocked the alien, flapping his wings harder, kicking up dirt and rock that pelted the thick skin of the Visitor, Bagorah watched as the teal and lavender extraterrestrial was knocked onto its back, violently flailing its limbs as it tumbled over the uneven terrain.

    The Visitor screeched as it used its four hooked appendages to dig into the ground and anchor itself, breathing a sigh of relief as the hurricane winds died down. Bagorah chirped gleefully as he flew up toward another mountain, laying the carcass down on the elevated surface and tore into the flesh with his yellow fangs, savoring the earthy taste of the worm.

    Meanwhile, the vampiric monster was oblivious to the Visitor, who was already on the move. The alien ran up the mountainside, stabbing into the vertical wall with his four crab like appendages for extra grip. The large mouthed alien snarled as it quickly climbed to where Bagorah was, anxious to make this intruder pay for stealing from it.

    Bagorah moaned as his cheeks were stuffed with worm meat, drool dripping onto the grayish blue ground. The sound of chewing blocked out any other noise, that was until a familiar roar echoed through the giant space bat’s skull.

    Bagorah twisted around to face the call, swallowing his food. He was greeted by two giant clawed limbs that stabbed into the top of the mountain, followed by two hands grasping the ledge. The unforgettable maw of the Visitor became more and more visible, snarling at the space bat as the alien hoisted his body onto the mountain. Bagorah spread his wings out, standing at full height in a display of dominance, hoping to intimidate the bizarre alien. The Visitor wasn’t backing down, however, rising to his full height, stretching his four crab like appendages open, and snarling at the thief.

    The crimson bat stared at the Visitor, wary of the massive claws and wide-open jaws ready to lash out at any second. Bagorah opened his maw and emitted red rings of sonic energy that washed over the Visitor, at first the alien seemed unharmed, but soon began to cry out in pain as it felt its skeleton quake, as pain radiated throughout the Visitor’s entire body.

    Bagorah ceased the assault and watched as the Visitor’s arms and giant claws slumped to the sides of his body. With a powerful flap of his wings, the giant space bat barreled toward the Visitor, slamming into the bone plated chest and knocking the alien off the mountain.

    The Visitor howled in shock before it slammed into the ground, leaving a large crater in the rocky terrain. The bizarre extraterrestrial groaned as it clutched its head, the alien slowly came to as its body recovered. Rising up, it awaited the vampiric monster’s next attack. Bagorah, believing the giant mouthed alien to be worn down, swooped from above and prepared to sink his claws into the lavender alien.

    Bagorah sped toward the Visitor, who flexed its claws in anticipation. Once in range, the Visitor lashed out with its two upper appendages. The bat scoffed, raising his feet up and grabbing the claws in his clutches. The Visitor tried to strike the bat with its humanoid claws, but the vampiric space monster swiftly wrapped his tail around the Visitor’s arms, binding them together.

    Rising into the sky, Bagorah dragged the Visitor off the ground. The crimson bat flung the predator into the air, watching as he once again hit the rocky terrain with a thud. The feral creature rolled along the ground, attempting to rise. Bagorah, however, was already on the offensive, slamming his bulk onto the Visitor. The space bat pinned the lavender humanoid with his claws feet and clamped his jaws around the elongated skull.

    The Visitor howled as it felt its blood flowing from his cranium, Bagorah pinned down the upper crab like claws with his wing talons, preventing them from lashing out. The Visitor roared in rage as its normal claws did little to deter the bat. Bagorah savored the blue blood that poured down his slimy throat, the metallic taste of victory at last.

    Bagorah kept sucking away at the predator, noticing a faint glow coming from the Visitor’s head. Growing in intensity as sparks of energy began to crackle, Bagorah felt a sharp pain in his teeth that forced him to release his bite. The Visitor began to thrash about, shaking off the giant space bat, who landed a few meters away.

    The Visitor turned around, angrily huffing and puffing, his head glowing bright, illuminating the night. Bagorah cocked his head in wonder, spreading open his wings. The Visitor roared as it leaned over, its cranium pulsating with azure energies. Bagorah’s eyes widened as he flew away from the humanoid, having encountered many creatures in the past that had ranged attacks.

    The Visitor fired a thin bluish-white ray of energy that sped toward Bagorah, the giant bat screeched as he tried to outmaneuver the attack. Flying higher and higher, Bagorah sought to hide behind a mountain, but then shrieked in pain as his body was struck by the beam. Bagorah felt waves of energy assault his body, his muscles spasmed as he fell from the sky.

    Landing on the ground with a loud thud, Bagorah groaned as he struggled to rise, feeling an unbearable headache throbbing in his skull. The Visitor roared as he sprinted toward the fallen bat. Bagorah saw the humanoid rapidly approach and opened his wings, flying toward the Visitor at full speed.

    Bagorah stuck his claws out as he closed the gap, the Visitor leapt into the air to smack down the giant bat, but was still overpowered. Feeling Bagorah’s claws sink into his shoulders, the Visitor roared in rage as Bagorah slammed it down to the ground and ripped into its exposed pink skin with his talons.

    The Visitor clawed at Bagorah’s chest, small drops of blood and sparks fell from his crimson hide. Bagorah was oblivious to the giant claw that bludgeoned the side of his face, knocking him to the ground, Bagorah yelped as his head throbbed. The Visitor pounced on the bat, fueled by his ever-rising anger.

    Landing devastating blows into Bagorah’s chest, the Visitor roared happily as each strike knocked the air of the vampiric entity. The boney humanoid began to stab his giant spider-like claws into Bagorah. After a few jabs, the Visitor finally broke through Bagorah’s tough hide, black blood flowed from the fresh puncture wounds on Bagorah’s body. The Visitor struck the bat’s mug again, but received a painful surprise as Bagorah clamped his jaws on the predator’s left hand.

    Yellow fangs dug into the Visitor’s hand, who flung his head back and screeched in agony. The lavender and teal alien stabbed its two upper clawed limbs into the sides of Bagorah’s head, drawing more blood. Bagorah released his bite as he yelped in shock, the Visitor decked the giant back in the nose as a loud crack echoed throughout the canyon.

    Oily black blood flowed from the vampiric monster’s nose like a river, whimpering as he felt the pain from his broken nose radiate across his face. Bagorah quickly opened his maw and fired a round of sound blasts that struck the Visitor’s face, forcing the humanoid off the bat.

    A crimson spear-like tail whipped the Visitor in the face, forcing it to stumble back. Bagorah flew upward and stayed aloft. The Visitor roared at the bat, demanding he come down and fight, but the space bat was starting to have second thoughts. His wounds weren’t severe, they would heal eventually, but the giant space bat knew when to call it a day.

    Bagorah opened his maw and released another wave of supersonic energy, red rings bombarded the Visitor, forcing the living weapon to cry out in agony once more. Bagorah swooped down and stuck his spear tipped tail outward, stabbing into the gut of the predator. The Visitor grunted as it felt its blue blood flow from the wound. Ignoring the pain, the Visitor clutched the tail in its claws, spinning quickly and dragging Bagorah through the air like a kite.

    The bizarre alien let go of the bat and watched as he landed on the ground with a thud. Bagorah screeched as he propped himself up, snarling at the Visitor that was approaching ever closer. Both aliens stared at each other, their breath heavy, having managed to tear each other down.

    Bagorah’s eyes locked onto something in the distance, the worm he previously stole. It seemed as though he had accidentally knocked it off the mountain. Bagorah opened his maw again; however, the Visitor was ready, directing its cranium in response. The alien fired a smaller version of the ‘Brainspasm’ beam right into Bagorah’s face.

    Although the beam was considerably weaker, the following explosion blindsided the giant bat, who screeched in pain as he took to the air. Flying past the Visitor, the lavender alien sprinted after the bat. Bagorah sunk his claws into the dead worm and began to fly away, before feeling a sudden shift in weight. Looking down, Bagorah saw the Visitor’s jaws clamped down on the end of the worm, digging his claws into the fresh meat.

    The two space predators were locked in a giant game of ‘Tug of War.’ Bagorah wrapped his tail around the worm’s neck for extra grip, as the Visitor planted his feet into the rocky ground, stabbing his four giant claws into the carcass. The two continued to pull and pull, unaware of the gaping holes the Visitor had previously inflicted on the carcass, ripping themselves apart.

    Suddenly, the two aliens heard a loud rip as Bagorah barreled through the air and the Visitor landed flat on his posterior. Both monsters roared in shock before regaining their wits. Bagorah flapped his large wings in the air as he stared down the Visitor, the armored alien doing the same. Both had nearly half of the worm to themselves, each piece larger than themselves.

    The Visitor grunted as it hoisted the worm over its shoulders, staring back at the vampiric beast, for minutes on end, before finally walking away to find a place to finally eat in peace. Bagorah grunted as he too turned his back on the alien, flying far away from it. Bagorah landed atop the tallest mountain he could find, dropping his portion of the worm and began to ravenously feast upon it.

    Eventually Bagorah finished his meal and took to the stars, leaving the nameless planet behind. Perhaps one day he would return if he ever had a craving for the olive-green worms. However, Bagorah made a mental note to not cross the more… Aggressive inhabitants.

    The Visitor grunted as it sat atop a cliff, gazing at the stars. If it ever saw the bat again, it wouldn’t hesitate to beat it to a bloody pulp. Admittedly… It was nice to have good company for once.

    Draw: Bagorah, The Visitor

    K.W.C. // January 20, 2021
  • Authors: Dan Rogers | Banner: Matthew Williams

    A tense wind blew across the icy wastes of the North Pole. Moments ago, a strange object appeared in the sky, silently observing the barren terrain. It was uncertain how it got here. There was a bright flash of light, and once it cleared, it was there, gently bobbing in the air. The entity appeared to be a ship of some kind, yet it lacked the shape of any vehicle known to mankind. The body of the ship looked organic, while unnatural metal domes and spikes bulged from it like tumors.

    Miles below the ice, a gray haired man stared at an image of this ship on a large computer monitor, scrutinizing every single detail of its appearance. It was his first inclination to simply destroy this object, as no being, whether from Earth or not, should be allowed to approach his domain. However, his wrath was tempered at the thought of what knowledge he could gain from this new technology. His plans had been foiled in the past by a simple primate, and he relished the thought of upgrading his mechanical behemoth and extracting his revenge. Besides, regardless of how long he waited, these creatures that dared to approach him would suffer eventually.

    The entire room was silent. Once the ship had appeared on the monitor, every worker and assistant had frozen in place, with their eyes locked on the screen. Despite being in the employ of brilliant Dr. Who, none of them had seen anything like this. The scientist could feel the fear grip the entire room. He glanced over his shoulder, and saw his workers tremble. He felt only disgust.

    A gasp filled the room, causing the doctor to whip his head back toward the screen. A pair of green, soulless eyes stared at him. This creature’s skin was rough, its maw hung open, with a complete vacant expression adorning its face. The man’s eyes drifted downward, as he continued to study the creature. Its body was covered by armor, but still appeared to be bloated, almost like a corpse. Its arms split, bifurcated at the elbow. Who’s eyes quickly shifted, as he noticed another one of these creatures moving through the background, revealing the four insect-like legs propping up this grotesque vision. The scientist thought they were disgusting. A sick grin formed across his face.

    “Gentlemen,” Who spoke as confidently as ever. “My name is Dr. Who, and you are in my airspace. Identify yourselves immediately.”

    There was a brief, yet unbearably tense, moment of silence. The creature slowly turned to its left, and pressed a button on its console. “Human, we are the Leviathan.” The alien’s mouth remained motionless, somehow speaking without vocal cords.

    A worker swallowed hard, while another shifted uncomfortably in place. Despite the voice being completely monotone, it shook the doctor’s crew to their core. Who, however, remained completed unwavered. “And what do you want?” Who demanded, his voice becoming far more serious.

    The Leviathan once again was silent, for a moment. Who began to understand that this being was taking time to process what had been said to it. “We require what you humans refer to as ‘Element X’.”

    The man felt his eye twitch, as he gripped tightly onto the arm of his chair. He forced a smile onto his face. “Unfortunately, all the ‘Element X’ belongs to me, and I simply cannot part with it.”

    Much to Who’s surprise, the alien’s reply came much faster this time. “It was not a request.”

    The doctor felt a flame begin to rise in him. How dare this insect speak to him like this? He had killed people for less. Despite this, he had decided that he would make one more attempt to remain civil. “Perhaps, we can work out a trade.”

    “Yes, a trade,” the Leviathan responded. “We will take the Element X…” It fell silent for a moment, seemingly pondering the situation. “…And you may keep your lives.”

    That was the final straw for Dr. Who. He refused to be spoken to with such impudence, especially from some overgrown insect. He lifted his hand to his mouth, considering his options. “Your terms are fair.” He spoke, his voice completely flat. “We will load the Element X onto the lift, and send it up to you at once.” His hand hit a switch, turning off the audio to his microphone. He kept his hand to his mouth, as he turned to his subordinates. “Prepare Mechani-Kong.”

    *****

    The Leviathan’s ship silently hovered in the air, waiting for the human scientist to fulfill his agreement. Wind began to blow again, kicking up snow and ice into the air, clouding the area. The sound of the lift filled the air, and though the Leviathans could not see the area clearly, they willed their ship toward their prospective cargo. However, as they approached, a dark silhouette became visible.

    Suddenly, a large metal canister pelted the side of the ship, exploding on impact. Though there was no physical damage on the outside, the inside of the ship began to shake, knocking several of the creatures off balance. The figure stepped out of the shadows, revealing its full visage to the invaders. Its long arm reached to its belt once more ripping off another canister. Mechani-Kong lobbed the explosive, once again, meeting its target. Smoke began to emit from the aircraft, as it began to lose altitude.

    The robotic ape took a few steps forward, and opened its mouth. “It seems you had no clue who you were dealing with!” Dr. Who’s voice boomed from the speaker. “I am the world’s greatest scientist and future ruler.” The mech grabbed another explosive. “I will be treated with respect!”

    *****

    Back under the ice, the mad scientist leaned back in his chair, extremely pleased with himself. It became evidently clear to him that not only would the people of Earth eventually bend their knee to him, but the entire galaxy would, as well. He turned back to the monitor on which he was communicating with the Leviathan. The alien struggled to lift itself back to its feet. Who took great pleasure in the creature’s pain.

    The scientist leaned into the microphone and spoke through his metallic beast again. “As you can see, I already have the upper hand. I could easily destroy you now.” He smiled. “However, since I am a fair man, if you admit defeat and leave behind some of your technology, I will spare your lives.”

    The creature finally gained its footing. “Foolish human,” its voice still monotone, “did you really think we did not expect this?”

    Who furrowed his brow. “What do you mean?”

    “Your species is all alike,” it judged. “You will throw away guaranteed survival for even the chance of what you perceive as freedom, yet your actions trap you all the same.” The creature moved its bifurcated limb across the console. “Your predictability allowed us to plan for this contingency.”

    *****

    The ground below the Kong of Steel began to shake, the ice cracking beneath its feet. Who struggled at the controls to keep his only means of defense on its feet, as the Leviathan’s ship slowly began to back away. More and more fractures began to appear in the ice sheet, but the doctor did not dare attempt to move Mechani-Kong, lest his creation plummet into the water below. Suddenly, the ground in front of the robotic ape shattered, as a figure rose from the abyss. The mystery creature let loose a metallic version of an all-to-familiar roar.

    SKREEEE-ONK!

    Dr. Who’s mouth was left agap, as he studied this new adversary. One arm was completely cybernetic, while the other was flesh. Armor adorned its body, reenforcing an already impressive physical structure. It was a morbid marriage of biology and technology, and in all honesty, Who wished he had thought of it himself. However, the doctor could not allow himself to be too impressed with this monstrosity. He had already decided that this alien race was pathetic and far beneath him.

    The robot Kong reared its arm back, about to throw another canister. In response, the Leviathan’s cyborg lowered its body, as four lights began to emanate from cybernetics grafted to its spines. Before the mechanical duplicate could react, a missile rocketed through the air, and collided with the canister in its hand. The explosion was massive, causing Who’s creation to stumble to the side. Seeing this as an opening, Cyber Godzilla rushed its opponent.

    Thinking quickly, the mad scientist turned on the high beams installed in the robot’s eyes. If it worked on the Eighth Wonder, it certainly would work on a reptile on life support. The lights flipped on, directly shining in the cyborg’s eyes. Somehow, though, it was completely unaffected. It continued its rush, without even letting out a groan of complaint. Without warning, it jumped into the air, tackling the Kong of Steel to the ground.

    The doctor was furious. “I don’t understand! How did it-” He stopped as he looked closer on the monitor displaying his robot’s point of view. The cyborg’s eyes were the same sickly, soulless green as those disgusting insects. It dawned on him. The creature wasn’t using its eyes. It was being controlled by the Leviathan completely.

    Cyber Godzilla perched itself upon the chest of the mechanical behemoth, as it attempted to bite into its armored plating. A chorus of gnashing teeth filled Mechani-Kong’s vision. This was exactly what Who wanted. While the alien’s beast had superior technology, nothing could match his creation in terms of sheer strength. The mech reached forward, and gripped the cyborg by its neck, causing it to let out a strangled yelp. In a single swift motion, Cyber Godzilla was flipped onto its back by its prone opponent. Mechani-Kong sluggishly stood up, and began to pummel the cyborg.

    As the strikes continued and pieces of machinery broke off, the mechanized reptile let out a wail of pain. A grin spread across Who’s face, absolutely delighted as he came to realize this creature still could feel pain. A well placed punch slammed the cyborg’s face into the ice, creating a crater in the ice sheet. Mechani-Kong then began to attack its opponent’s chest. After several blows dented the armored exterior, the mechanical primate placed its hands to the center of the cyborg’s chest and began to attempt to rip it open. The metal creaked in protest, as the cyborg attempted to squirm out of the behemoth’s grip. With a loud clank, the chest cavity opened, as a satellite dish-like device began to extend from it. A high pitched squeal emanated from it. The doctor hit a button on his control panel, commanding the Kong of Steel to continue his attack.

    Yet, his creation remained unresponsive. Who hit every button he could on the console, as he attempted to regain control of Mechani-Kong. The cyborg, still pinned under the robotic ape, managed to flip to its stomach, as it attempted to claw its way out. The creature roared, as it became clearer that its efforts were futile. The Leviathan’s ship, which up until this moment sat as a silent observer of the conflict, approached the two metallic beasts. A panel on the ship lit up, and immediately began to rain laser fire down on the two. The inactive Mechani-Kong was struck first, collapsing on its side. Cyber Godzilla, now free, attempted to distance itself from the attack, yet was struck in the crossfire. It fell forward, sliding along the ice, moving just far enough as to not be damaged further by the Leviathan’s onslaught.

    Who slammed his fist down on the console, as he cursed at himself. At this point, he had to admit, he was simply outgunned by the alien’s technology. As long as they were involved, his creation had no chance of winning. The cyborg didn’t even need to see on its own while it was being controlled remotely. The only strategy became evident. Who would have to take care of the insects first.

    The doctor placed his hand on the console, attempting to revive Mechani-Kong. His creation roared to life, as it stood up. Who decided that he would no longer waste time on the loathsome reptile, and he would simply attack his threat directly. The robotic ape ripped a canister off of its belt and lobbed it at the ship. Like before, it exploded on impact. Cyber Godzilla whipped around at the sound of the impact, as it let out a roar, directly challenging its opponent. It was ignored, as the Kong of Steel simply pulled another canister off of its belt. It reared its arm back to throw the explosive at the ship, but was met with thirty-seven thousand tons of flesh and metal colliding with its back. While the counterfeit Kong undoubtedly weighed more, the unexpected force traveling at such fast speeds caused it to lose its balance once more, as it fell to its chest.

    Mechani-Kong quickly turned to its back. It swung its arm, colliding immediately into the face of its attacker. Cyber Godzilla’s body flew to the side, its body scraping against the ice. Its sliding came to a halt, as it dug its claw into the ground. The robot Kong sat up, as it pitched the explosive canister at its opponent. The explosion enveloped the cyborg, dazing it. Dr. Who’s creation managed to get to its feet once more, hurling explosives at the Leviathan’s warcraft. The ship, once more, began to lose altitude. The outside of it smoked.

    The Kong of Steel opened its mouth, allowing Who to speak through it again. “It seems we are reaching the end of this little game. Normally, I would be grateful for the chance to field test my creation…” His voice trailed off, the mechanical beast growing incredibly silent, as it reached for its belt. “Unfortunately, I would hardly call this a challenge.”

    *****

    The Leviathan on the screen was nearly enveloped in smoke. The area behind it, once lit with thousands of monitors and lights, had grown dim. A member of its species lay unconscious behind it. Its face had remained just as expressionless as when Who first laid eyes on it, yet it had stopped communicating with him once the battle swung in his favor. A sick grin formed on Who’s face. He now struck fear into this creature.

    “If you think this is the end…” the creature, though completely monotone, spoke somberly. “You are a fool.”

    *****

    Cyber Godzilla emerged from the fiery smoke in which it had been concealed. The devices grafted to its spines began to glow once more. A barrage of missiles came forth, unleashing the remainder of its artillery on the seemingly unsuspecting opponent. Who’s eyes widened, as it realized what the aliens were doing. He quickly commanded his mechanical ape to fall to the ground. The missiles rocketed past the prone counterfeit Kong. Now, there was only one thing in the missiles’ path.

    The Leviathan ship.

    One after another, the missiles exploded on impact. The ship became enveloped in flame, as it fell to the ground. Who could hear the aliens wail in anguish as their bodies were immolated. He felt no pity. He felt only ecstasy. The ship erupted into a huge fireball, even dwarfing the ninety meter titans on this battlefield. As the flames subsided, the only thing left of this once proud airship was a dark black husk.

    The eyes of the cyborg faded from the sickly green to bright orange. It stepped back, confused, whipping its head around. It did not know where it was. The last thing this creature truly remembered was being caught in the cabling of a suspension bridge, pelted on all sides by missiles. Now, it was surrounded on all sides by ice and snow, struggling to get its bearings.

    Who laughed to himself. Despite reducing the ship to ash, he could still harvest the technology from their pet. The doctor cracked his knuckles, cocked his head to one side, and input the command for his creation to attack. Mechani-Kong slugged the unsuspecting Cyber Godzilla right in the jaw, before unleashing a fury of blows on its chest. The robotic ape took a single step forward and delivered a savage headbutt directly into the creature’s skull, causing it to yelp in pain. The cyborg reared back to attempt to hit its opponent in retaliation, but the counterfeit Kong turned on its high beams. Cyber Godzilla moved its arms to shield its face from the bright light, giving Mechani-Kong the opportunity to deliver an additional punch. The mechanized reptile collapsed to the ground.

    The robot Kong stood above the limp body of its enemy. It reached down, placing its large hands into the mouth of Cyber Godzilla, and started attempting to pry the mouth apart. The cyborg tried to fight back, but found itself far too weak to fight against the much more powerful mech. As its mouth began to open to a far more unnatural size, a white foam bubbled up from the back of Cyber Godzilla’s throat. The monster would soon meet its end.

    Suddenly, the cyborg’s eyes turned a bright blue, as a bright light flashed across its spines. A burst of blue atomic fire shot from its gullet, directly impacting the face of the counterfeit Kong. Who’s creation fell backward, while the doctor himself sat in disbelief. He leaned forward, closely observing the movements of Cyber Godzilla as it returned to its feet.

    “Incredible…” he muttered under his breath.

    Cyber Godzilla’s spikes started glowing once more, before he unleashed his atomic breath on its opponent. Who tried everything to get his creation to return to an upright position, but the assault proved to be too much for it. Though Cyber Godzilla lost the ability to use its cybernetic enhancements, its own latent abilities proved to be more enough for the Kong of Steel. The cyborg reared its head back, as its eyes glowed bright blue. When it brought its head back down, it aimed directly at the ice below Mechani-Kong. As the atomic fire made impact with terrain, it shattered, sending all eighty-four thousand pounds of Who’s greatest invention down into a watery abyss.

    The cyborg approached the ice, and watched its opponent fade out of view. As the mechanical behemoth faded from view, Cyber Godzilla lifted its head back, and roared triumphantly. Lowering its head, it inhaled deeply. Though it won its battle, the victory was hollow. The creature could not remember how or why it was there. It turned away from the battlezone, following its instinct to whatever could resemble its home now. The monster required answers, but it would not find them here.

    *****

    Who’s control room sat in complete silence, all members of his staff in complete shock at what had just occurred. “Get out,” the doctor demanded, his voice stern, yet emotionless. Without a word of protest, everyone filed out of the room as quickly as possible, leaving Who alone with his thoughts. Rage consumed him as he took stock of the situation. While it would be quite the undertaking to rebuild Mechani-Kong, he knew it would be resolved in due time. No, what angered him was the fact that he had been humiliated once more. First, a primate and now, a reptile. Would these injustices know no end? Who slammed his fist down on the console, as he made a promise to himself.

    That creature would be his.

    Winner: Cyber Godzilla

    K.W.C. // January 10, 2021
  • Authors: Andrew Sudomerski & Alex Williams | Banner: Landon Soto

    In the darkness of the night, there was no mercy to be found; only hunger.

    A sickening rip pleasured his senses. He felt the lower torso of his humanoid prey being pulverized between his gnashing teeth. It burned the roof of his mouth and stung his missing fang, but his healing factor ensured that it wasn’t much of an issue. Rather than consume the rest of it, he waited. So many of these creatures had already digested in his gullet, but it was only recently he noticed something strange with these ghoulish humans. He wanted to see if his hunch proved right or not.

    The deathly pale blue wraith squirmed in his massive links, but nothing it did could deter the giant’s beastly grip. Even if it didn’t want to, the fifteen-meter Titan emitted steam, reforming from the waist down. In less than three minutes, the humanoid had restored its lost parts. The umibozu grinned with excitement and immediately tore the Titan’s lower half off again, savoring the consumption of human meat.

    For the savage, nothing mattered more than food. His taste buds yearned for human flesh, and it seemed his life-long dreams finally came to fruition. Yet he knew now wasn’t the time to be greedy. His face winced with each chew, still feeling the residual pain from an earlier bout. As he swallowed, he waited for the writhing humanoid to rejuvenate its lost half.

    Upon completion, the viridescent beast decided to be audacious rather than eat half of it, he deliberately shoved the whole creature into his maw, with only the head exposed. His fangs sliced through its flesh, cleaving the head from the rest of it. As the wild creature chewed on the lifeless body, he gently caught the falling head. Surely, it would take more time to regenerate, but it would be time well spent.

    Curious eyes demanded the palm to show the fruits of his ingenuity. Once he brought it to eye-level, confusion settled in. Rather than regenerate, the Titan deteriorated. The flesh that encased its head evaporated in billowing steam, leaving only the skull; that, too, dissolved into hot vapor. He gritted his teeth in frustration. He hadn’t meant to deliberately kill the thing, but it seemed fate punished him for his gluttony. Rising to his feet, the ravenous man continued to trek inland. He had cleared the premises of the Titans and the humans that had tried in vain to fight them, although he sought after one that had given him trouble.

    With a swift twist of the head, vicious eyes scanned for his brother. He had no doubt he was close by; no doubt he would try to corral him back on track. The beast’s greed sought to consume, and that was he had fully intended to do, even if it proved detrimental for their well-being. Even if they were here for a reason, all the savage needed was to devour to the last drop. Only then would he be satisfied.

    ***

    65th expedition – Wall Maria, Japan – 861 A.D.

    Hazy memories recalled the events that had transpired. His discovery of his Titan powers, the mission to reclaim the wall. It was hard for Eren to believe it had been over a year since they took back the land from the Titans… And even the corrupt government that overruled them. With Kubal MIA (or deceased), the squad under Hange’s supervision enacted a coup d’etat with the cooperation of the Garrison, Military Police insiders, and what little remained of the Survey Corps, putting everything on the line. Though even with all their might, fortune was in their favor, and were successfully able to overthrow the tyranny that dominated them for the last century.

    Yet all that felt like a dream. Only one memory remained punctually vivid in Eren’s imagination: trapped in the bowels of a Titan, surrounded by the filth and stench of Titan fluids and the dead. The way he clutched Hiana close to him, his right arm missing, regret swallowing his heart. At the time, he blamed himself for not being there for Mikasa; and likewise, not being there for Hiana when she was devoured. Those he held were taken from him, and his body coursed with rage and the endgame to destroy all Titans…

    ‘Why this?’

    His initial transformation passed by like a quiet haze. Anger pumped through his Titan body, swinging and crunching all that stood in his path.

    ‘I’m worrying too much, that’s why…’

    During his rampage, all he could recall was screaming from within the nape. Flesh-bound straps kept him tied down, his arms wrapped with a warmth that he kept close to his chest. Then, he had lost consciousness…

    Eren’s mind was lost in thought at the surreal dream that would come to life, but was brought back to reality by the transport vehicle’s guttural startup. If it wasn’t that, then the Survey Corps’ Commander Hange Zoe’s ecstatic chatter would have done the trick as well. Eren peered over to the source of the noise and noticed Izuru, the treasurer of homeland security from the Military Police (who had also been involved in the coup d’etat), sitting across from her. The man’s palms were pressed against his face.

    “Let me get this straight,” the financer muttered from under his hands, “you need more?” Hange replied with a beaming face. Izuru sighed, letting his hands down. “We’re not a pool of infinite wealth. Do you know how many stares I get every time we fund the Survey Corps expeditions?”

    “You worry too much about that,” Hange playfully retorted. “Besides, didn’t you say that the ‘new’ government would finance everything because we successfully retook the walls? Sounds like a fair trade to me.”

    “That’s a gross oversimplification,” Izuru groaned.

    “Well, disaster prevention and management is part of homeland security’s obligations. And what we’re doing fulfills those requirements!” Hange remarked with a cheerful glee. If it meant studying Titans, then that was a train she was all aboard on.

    “Fine,” Izuru relented, “I’ll do as you request. Just please, I beg of you, let this be the last ridiculous thing for the time being. We need funds for the other reconstruction projects.” The Survey Corps commander nodded assuredly. Both of them rose from their seats and saluted, with their left hand behind them and their right hand clenched and pressed against their hearts. It was a casual salute as the commander and the blue-clad man made their way out of the bulky vehicle’s back door.

    “Eren? You here with us?” The familiar voice diverted Eren’s attention to his friend who sat next to him. Blonde bangs covered his forehead, complimenting his pale complexion. Eren locked with his sharp blue eyes, which held a certain affability that he was accustomed to.

    “Yeah,” Eren replied, half-dazed. “Are we finally getting a move on?”

    Armin nodded. “The commander requested extra supplies and resources for the mission, in the event we find more than just Titans out there.”

    ‘More than just Titans…’ The thought pinched a nerve as Eren clutched his forehead. Memories flashed before his mind’s eye, but he pushed them back. Now was not the time to succumb to fear. Armin’s expression shifted to one of concern, noting the oddity of Eren’s behavior.

    “Hey… Are you okay?” Armin asked. Eren shuffled his fingers through his dark brown hair, trying to recollect his composure.

    “Eren.” Another distinct voice called out, this one more feminine. Eren turned to face Mikasa, who wore her stoic countenance professionally. Her short, black hair draped over her face, reflecting how she felt. Around her neck was the carmine scarf she had since childhood, which she subconsciously held.

    “Tsk, suffering from memory loss again?” Jean Kirstein, the young taupe haired man who sat across from them, remarked. “Even the captain has a better time recalling yesterday’s breakfast.”

    Eren didn’t react to his comment. “I’m fine. We’re about to depart,” Eren stated.

    “Ah! Here they are!” Hange announced, her ecstatic voice ringing through the ears of the five scouts. Jean and Sasha covered their ears from their commander’s high pitched voice while the others were barely able to keep their composure.

    The group nonetheless stood firm as their commanding officer approached them and to their surprise a man with a stern expression on his face accompanying her.

    “So, these are your top five you talked about so much?” The soldier surmised, inspecting the group standing before him.

    “They certainly are! The best I currently have to offer under my command!” Hange proudly proclaimed, eliciting a wide grin to the soldier accompanying her.

    He turned his attention away from the group and back to Hange only giving her a simple mutter, “I see.”

    “Well, I have to make the final preparations before we head out. I want everyone at their best, so why don’t you introduce yourself, Captain,” Hange ordered, as she turned to make her way back to Izuru.

    The Captain turned his attention back to the five, his stern expression lingering. His stare pierced everyone but Mikasa, worrying each of them about the possibility of making a mistake. They remained motionless, waiting for their newly appointed captain to make the first move.

    The Captain’s mouth moved, as his voice evoked a calm, but commanding demeanor, “The name’s Levi, but you’ll call me captain or sir.”

    The five scouts remained motionless, carefully observing the information Levi conveyed to them, as their captain then spoke up, “Do I make myself clear?”

    “Sir, yes, sir!” The five scouts shouted in unison without any hesitation in their voices whatsoever.

    “Good,” Levi replied bluntly, showing no emotion in his voice. “Considering how we are given the luxury of formalities before we head out, I wish to ask each of you a question.”

    The captain stepped forward, observing each of his new subordinates, as he then clarified his stance, “Your answer and the way you answer will help me assess your skills and the type of soldier you are.”

    Levi directed his eyes over to Jean, as he espied the confidence he draped over himself. He placed himself in front of the scout, looking him directly in the eye. Jean felt the urge to gulp in fear, feeling apprehensive about how the new captain would judge him, but he fought those urges and stood tall. Jean himself to answer any question Levi would throw at him.

    “You nearly perished during the retaking of Wall Maria, did you not?” inquired Levi, keeping a blank expression.

    “I did and it’s going to take a lot more than being smashed by a Titan to put me down!” Jean proudly proclaimed, hoping he would inspire his comrades with his glowing confidence.

    “Your impudence is commendable, but do not think it’ll keep you alive forever,” Levi stated bluntly, causing Jean’s eyes to widen, with his mouth starting to quiver. The answer he provided backfired on him, something he never would have expected. “Your survival was completely circumstantial. Had that section of the wall been in better shape, you would have coated it with a brand new spray of paint.”

    “I…. I….” Jean stammered, completely dumbfounded by Levi’s assertion of his self-proclaimed impressive stunt. Now, it was reduced to dumb luck.

    “As a follow-up question, would you even attempt to pull the same act knowing full well it would just fall to chance?” asked Levi, as he examined his subordinate’s every body movement from his mannerisms to his facial reactions, with his eyes still wide as sweat started to drop.

    Jean was completely frozen, knowing he would do everything he can to ensure a mission would go as planned or to save a friend, but deep down he knew what Levi said had some truth in it. His lips pulsated rapidly, as a series of murmurs escaped his maw, creating an imperfect response.

    “No, sir. I….” Jean paused, slightly tilting his head down. “It’s not something I should leave to chance.”

    “I see,” Levi simply acknowledged, quicking taking his attention away from Jean and onto Sasha.

    “Your dossier says that you have a penchant for arrows, is that so?”

    “Absolutely!” Sasha cheerfully answered, as she then began to drone on excitedly. “I’ve been trained to use them since I was a child! My dog, Shiro, and I would often travel into the woods to hunt and we always brought in some delicious food! That makes me really hungry! We should all go there together! You’d all love the food it offers!”

    Levi held his hand up, immediately causing Sasha to close her mouth as her eyes widened, awaiting her captain’s response. “You use arrows to support your fellow teammates, gaining the Titan’s attention so they can come in for the killing blow when they least expect it. Tell me, what are you planning to do if that fails?”

    Sasha nervously gulped, fearful at the thought of having to be even near one of those monsters. She wanted to do everything she can for her fellow man and to even get some nice, warm meals out of it, but she dreaded the day when she would come face to face with a Titan. Sasha had to think of a response fast.

    “I…. I..” Sasha stammered out, searching for an answer that would satisfy Levi’s inquiry. “I think…. I…..”

    The gluttonous scout let out a defeated sigh, “I don’t know.”

    Levi looked at the recruit whose face was plagued with shame, as he shifted his eyes over toward Armin, not even dignifying her answer with a response. Sasha sniffed as her eyes started to water. Jean looked over at his teammate and gave her a small pat on the back, trying his best to provide her some sense of comfort.

    “I’m informed a good portion of our success is owed to you,” Levi stated as Armin looked back at him, anticipating his next words. “Keep it up.”

    Armin breathed a sigh of relief. While he felt sympathy for Jean and Sasha, he did not envy them. Somehow he managed to do a good enough job to avoid criticism, however, he was concerned for his friends. The strategist hoped the two of them would receive similar praise as he did.

    “Mikasa Ackerman. You’re a one of a kind Titan slayer. Trained by some of the best,” Levi stated, taking a second to inspect her stance, how she remained still during his evaluation, before moving on with his question. “Are you willing to do whatever it takes to complete the mission? How much are you willing to sacrifice to ensure we have a future?”

    Everyone turned to Mikasa, awaiting her response. She remained still as she retained her usual blank expression and did not hesitate to provide an answer. With a neutral toned voice, Mikasa answered, “Everything.”

    “Then we are more alike than what I originally thought,” Levi deduced, turning his attention away from her and toward Eren.

    Armin and Eren felt troubled by Mikasa’s answer. They knew her worldview was changed since the breach, but never knew it was to the point of self-destruction. Both of them wanted to talk to her, to tell her it will be “alright” and to make the past three years go away, but neither of them knew how to do it. The thought lingered on in Armin’s mind, but Eren had to snap out of it for the more pressing matter ahead of him.

    “How much of a liability are you?”

    “Excuse me?!” Eren nearly erupted out, but managed to restrain himself with a more leveled response, however, his glare remained painted on his face.

    “You’re a Titan, are you not? I’m not opposed to any weapon we have at our disposal, but I want to know if you’re more of an asset or a liability.”

    “Being a Titan means we’re able to not only match them, but surpass them. Thanks to my abilities we’ve been able to quell any resistance with little difficulty,” Eren said with determination, standing his ground.

    “I’m not talking about your abilities. I’m talking about keeping your emotions in check. You failed to defeat both the Armored and Colossal Titans.”

    Eren gritted his teeth while he clutched his hands in anger, being reminded of his past failures. Levi didn’t have the right to criticize him when he was still discovering his newfound abilities and learning the awful truth behind the Titans and the walls. Eren felt himself beginning to shake, agitated by the captain’s interrogation.

    “Can we really rely on you to help defeat any future anomalies or will you hinder us?”

    “I can defeat anyone I set my mind to!” Eren angrily yelled out, taking one step closer to Levi feeling fully confident he can crush any opposition in his way.

    “You may believe that, but that remains to be seen for the rest,” Levi bluntly declared, maintaining his stoic attitude. He turned to take his leave, feeling he gathered all the information he needed with his investigation with Hange’s elite. The results were mixed for him, it was something he expected, but he knew it was part of the job to teach them more discipline. Other leaders have failed to do so and if he didn’t do it, then they would surely perish.

    The Captain of the Survey Corps briefly turned his head to the side, getting a glimpse of Eren. “You have yet to convince me if you’re the right person for the task.”

    Eren snarled, but restrained himself as screaming at his new captain would do him no favors. The Titan shifter felt humiliation illuminating over his whole body, but before he could ponder it further, a voice called out to everyone.

    “Okay, everyone! We’re heading out!” Hange’s voice, as if it were a siren, blared out.

    On cue, the First Wall’s large metallic gates painstakingly opened and revealed the path to the outside world. The engine revved and quickly departed, grinding the dirt road with thick rubber. Several other support vehicles followed soon after, carrying the temporary resources they needed until backup arrived. Suddenly, the metal panel that separated the passengers in the rear from the driver slid open, revealing the commander and her right hand man, Captain Levi from the Scout division of Wall Rose’s west gate, who occupied the front seats.

    “Do I need to remind anyone here about speaking? Or do we need a demonstration of what happens?” the Survey Corps captain demanded. Not a soul uttered a word. “Good. Carry on, then.” He immediately slammed the panel shut, its resounding echo reverberating through the rear compartment of the armored vehicle.

    Any subject matter that was on their conscience was dropped. It wasn’t that the captain’s words were hollow threats to get everyone to shut it, but a curt reminder of the cruel world they lived in.

    They were going to be in Titan territory.

    However, the dreaded silence was cut short by an obnoxious crunch. Everyone within the box glued their eyes toward the source. The nimble figure held a potato in her hands, part of it already chewed off. Her teeth grinded the spud into paste and proceeded to swallow it. Before she could take another bite, her vibrant, amber eyes darted around at everyone who stared at her.

    ‘What?’ she would’ve said, ‘Just because we can’t talk, doesn’t mean we can’t eat!’ Without shame, Sasha Braus plunged into her partially-eaten spud.

    ***

    Beyond Wall Maria

    The eight-wheeled Stryker came to a grinding halt. Those that followed stopped dead in their tracks as well, with their personnel departing from the armored vehicles. Of the nine Strykers present, most carried extra blades, gas canisters, and a mobile refueling station for the Omni-Directional Mobility gear (ODM), while the others carried the Scouts and medical officers for the mission. Even more had a set of all-terrain open jeeps carried within for out of base travel. As the stations were being set up, Hange and Levi hopped out of their vehicle, the former with documents and a rolled map in hand. Eren, Mikasa, Armin, Jean, and Sasha, who were part of the Survey Corps’ elite squad, stepped out of the rear compartment and grouped with the figureheads.

    No one spoke. Rather, Hange related special hand signals and gestures to issue her orders. Without hesitation, the Scouts plunged their controller grips into the boxes attached to their thighs and pulled out their blades, the auxiliary switches kept them locked in the hilt. When they pulled the hammer switch and pressed the first trigger with their index finger, the sharp-tipped anchors and steel wires flew over everyone else’s heads as they embedded into the nearby trees. Their central fingers pressed on the second trigger, blasting compressed gas from the main housing located on their lower backs, which granted them flight. The acceleration from the gas and the reeling of the tense wires pulled in by the lever ensured the Scouts were lifted from the ground with relative grace. Pulled in by the lever, the cables were swiftly whipped back into their spools before being fired again to maintain airlift. The Scouts scanned the proximity for any hostiles. It was why they were here.

    Fifteen minutes passed without a word. Their silence was for their benefit. A resounding bang was heard from a distance as a green flare was shot high into the sky. More green flares followed suit around the outermost perimeter. Hange sighed in relief.

    “Whew, I don’t know how much longer I could have kept it in,” she joked as her body loosened up. The commander and the elites gathered around one of the stations under the veil of a tent. She slammed the documents and rolled up paper on the table as she unraveled her battle map.

    “Here’s what we have,” Hange pointed to the outer ring, indicating the predestined coordinates of the Scouts’ locations, “We have the Scouts keeping guard up for any potential Titans approaching.” Her finger traced beyond the perimeter to a red X marked on the map, westward from where they currently were. “A few days ago, a scouting team went missing around here during a survey mission. The last transmission we received indicated the presence of a Jaeger Titan.”

    “I thought the Jaeger Titans we had on record were the only ones developed before the war?” Armin questioned.

    “It would seem we were misinformed,” Hange stated. “But then again, what’s to be expected from the outside world?”

    ‘A human that can turn into a Titan…’ The thought terrified Armin. History showed that the world had been destroyed during the Great Titan War over 100 years ago. If there were more Jaeger Titans out there, then all the circumstantial evidence had to be thrown into question.

    “What’s wrong with being cattle?” Armin recalled Kubal’s last words before their fight against the man who became the Colossal Titan. For the longest time, the interior government had the power to disclose information that suited their needs. So who was to say that mankind perished beyond the Walls? Who was to say that the Titans were the only monsters they needed to worry about?

    “For the time being, we’re going to keep put until the extra resources arrive,” Hange ordered. “Until then, we keep eyes peeled out for this Jaeger Titan. That will be our top priority.”

    “If there’s any chance that any of the Scout teams are in danger,” Levi added, “rendezvous to that point and give them a hand. Split up if need be. Do I make myself clear?”

    The elite squad straightened up and saluted, ready to give their hearts to the cause. “Yes sir!” they proclaimed.

    “Good. At ease,” Levi issued. Eren and company relaxed. “Got anything else to add, four-eyes?” the captain solicited, wiping his hands from the filth of the vehicle.

    Hange shook her head. “Everyone’s dismissed until further notice.” The group departed. Armin and Mikasa tagged along with Eren, and the others went about their business.

    ***

    It had been over an hour since they fired their signal flare. Ormand Miller and Riku Adams waited patiently along the treetops for any incoming Titans. It wasn’t a particularly exhilarating station to be at, but one vital to ensure everyone’s well-being.

    “Do you think there’s really another human shifting Titan out there?” Riku asked his compatriot.

    “Part of me wants to doubt it, but this is the commander’s orders,” Ormand replied. “I think she knows what she’s talking about.”

    “And we’re still deep in Titan territory, and in broad daylight on top of that. But don’t you find it strange that we haven’t seen any Titans? Or why we’re not doing this at night?” Riku inquired. “If there’s supposed to be a shifter Titan nearby, then where are the others?”

    “I don’t know,” Ormand said bluntly, “but it makes it a lot easier for us, less to worry about. From what I’ve heard, the previous Scout teams were under assault during the night. Frankly, day or night, I’m not in the mood to be Titan chow, thanks.”

    “They can travel at night now? That’s lovely. And you just had to say chow,” Riku complained, with his hand over his grumbling stomach.

    “Ha, you can have some when we’re ordered to turn back, assuming Braus hasn’t eaten the entire stash,” Ormand chuckled to himself. Riku silently warned him by pointing to the transceiver on his chest, reminding Ormand of the one strapped to his own. “Shit.”

    “You should count yourself lucky that she’s not connected to our channel, otherwise we’d be in for it,” Riku snickered.

    “Right, right,” Ormand complied. “Well, let’s scan our surroundings first to make sure we’re not missing anything.” The Scouts observed their surroundings with their keen eyes. The two year torture in the Cadet Corps enhanced their physical fitness and spatial perception, which ensured the most efficient use of their ODM gear. For a solid minute, there was only silence. That was until Riku caught something in his line of sight.

    “Hey, look down there,” Riku quietly pointed out, “I think it’s one of the Scouts from the previous mission!”

    Ormand focused on the human figure below, embroidered with the Wings of Freedom insignia on their overcoat, pressed against the trunk along the dirt path surrounded by thickets. They were distinctly masculine and had their ODM gear strapped to their hips. Their face remained hidden under their cloak, unable to assess an identity. But it seemed that was all they had equipped; their signal gun and radio transceiver were missing and there were no blades in their holders or their control grip. More importantly, their body was billowing with steam, which could only suggest one of two things.

    A shifter, or a survivor.

    “Oy, Riku, go check out the guy down there. I’ll inform HQ and keep an eye out for Titans,” Ormand requested. Riku didn’t resist as he hopped off the sturdy branch and went down to meet with the survivor.

    Meanwhile, Ormand pulled out his pistol and loaded it with the ammo needed. He pointed the barrel directly above him and pressed the trigger. What followed was a loud bang as a purple smoke trail reached for the sky. He put the pistol back into its holster as he changed frequencies to contact HQ and made his way up to the top of the tree for clear communication.

    “This is Miller from the 16th division, do you copy?” Ormand spoke into the transceiver, awaiting a reply.

    “We read you loud and clear,” buzzed Commander Zoe, “what’s the problem?”

    “We found an unidentified person in the woods. In need of medical treatment from the looks of it. Requesting a medical team and one of the elite squad members to accompany them. No Titan activity to report as of now.”

    “Understood. The medics will be accompanied by Braus. ETA in 10 minutes. Keep on guard. Over and out.”

    “Over and out,” Ormand ceased the transmission. ‘Well, at least we don’t need to worry about the food running low,’ he joked to himself. His eyes returned to Riku and the survivor and noticed Riku trembling in his boots.

    “Wait, what in the world?” Ormand murmured. Steel wires were discharged into the nearby trees that allowed him to gently descend to ground level. He landed near the two as he saw Riku pull out his signal flare. He pointed the barrel to the sky and fired. Black smoke rose into the air from the tube as Ormand’s heart skipped a beat. This only meant one thing.

    An Abnormal Titan.

    ***

    “Have you even talked to him?” Armin asked Mikasa, as the two kept their eyes on Eren, who was leaning against the front of a Stryker. The two had observed him for nearly an hour and to their astonishment, he didn’t even move. He was entranced by the openness of the field that surrounded them.

    Mikasa exhaled, conflicted on her feelings toward Eren for the past year, “Just here and there. Not too much.”

    Armin groaned as he pinched between his eyes and shook his head slightly. “I mean, actually sitting down and talking. Not during briefings.”

    Mikasa readjusted her scarf as an attempt to make herself more comfortable, but in reality, it was just a guise to buy more time to think of an answer. She was always blunt and direct, but when it came to Eren this past year, she was dumbfounded. While her and Eren were able to operate in a professional manner, they never seemed to have made their peace.

    Neither of them wanted to admit it, but there was still enough bad blood between them, and Mikasa wasn’t sure whether or not she wanted that bridge to be rebuilt. Still, she had to give Armin an answer. She didn’t want to lose her only friend left, but knew it would happen.

    “Armin,” Mikasa stammered out, trying to find the words to convey her feelings toward her former friend, but sadly found herself defeated, giving him a straight answer. “No. Our wounds are still too fresh for us.”

    Mikasa paused, despite being distraught by the situation presented in front of her, found the strength to finish her answer, “And I doubt they’ll ever heal.”

    Armin was shattered by his friend’s reveal, he had expected something like this after they all reunited, but nothing as grim as this. He wanted her to be willing to talk to Eren, to have the two people he cared about the most make up, so the three of them could be together again. It was the one thing that would help him tolerate the war they were in, but alas, it seemed not to be.

    All the brilliant tactician could hope for was the two of them to make their peace. Not just for his sake, but for their own. Armin took a deep breath in, as he placed a hand on Mikasa’s shoulder, eliciting a small shiver from her. A reaction she normally didn’t give off, but Armin was the exception. He was someone she could be up front with.

    “I hate to admit it, and when I say this, I mean, I wish it never came to this,” Armin paused, composing himself for what he was about to convey. “The three of us are never going to be the same, but we still have the option of making peace with it.”

    “Armin…” stutered Mikasa, shocked beyond belief by what her closest friend articulated.

    “Look, I know,” Armin paused. “But we have to. I don’t like it and it’s going to be hard to live with it, but we can’t let this conflict between the two of you go on. We need to move on. You need to move on.”

    Armin’s words flooded Mikasa’s ears and drowned every other thought, replacing them with nothing but her coming talk with Eren. Eren, who was the most important person in her life. Now, as if he were replaced by a completely different person. She sighed, knowing that wasn’t fully true or fair of her to preemptively accuse him of changing, when she herself changed. Whether it was for the better was not the time to be discussed, but of making peace with the people they became.

    Mikasa tilted her head up to Armin, as she placed her hand on his shoulder and spoke up, “I know what I have to do.”

    She turned to Eren, still keeping a watchful eye on the plains, as she marched toward him. Mikasa did, however, shift her head back to her brilliant friend, and gave him a small smile. Both of them knew they didn’t need to convey another word, as the final pieces of the transition were set in motion.

    Mikasa swung her head back to the direction she was walking in, leaving Armin alone with his thoughts. Despite giving his dear friend, one of the two people he loved more than anything, the advice she needed to get past this, he felt himself broken. Eren and Mikasa were able to change and move on, but him? He was the same person as he was before the Titans took Wall Maria.

    The strategist’s eyes started to well, as he struggled to keep tears from dropping from his eyes. He knew he had to practice what he preached for not only his well-being, but for everyone’s. The mission was far more important than his own feelings.

    A single tear escaped from his right eye and collided on the hard earth. The tiny, wet spot cleared quickly, as he inhaled. The tears rolled back into his eyes, as he stood determined.

    “When the mission is over with, I promise….” Armin stutered, forcing himself to take a moment to recompose himself. “I promise to grieve properly and to move on. We were all we needed back then, but we have to evolve.”

    “Peace,” Eren muttered to himself, as he kept his gaze on the open field.

    “Is that what this is?”

    He felt entranced by the vista as if it were a gateway to a better life. A life he previously thought was attainable, but all that changed when he encountered the Titans. He lost everything. His home, his livelihood, and the woman who could have made that life possible.

    The Titans took away that reality from him. Peace was something he could never have. This view was something he couldn’t have. Not back then, not now, and not the future.

    All he could hope for was to ensure others could have it.

    He was a Titan.

    Nothing more.

    “Eren,” A voice called out, snapping his attention away from the landscape. Eren saw it was his old friend, Mikasa, standing a few feet away from him.

    ‘Mikasa? What…. What does she want?’ Eren questioned, perplexed as to why she would speak to him now of all times. The two kept their distance from each other this past year, and he didn’t know how to talk to her. He knew she didn’t want to forgive him, and he couldn’t fault her for that. He didn’t help her when she needed him the most.

    “Mikasa,” Eren mouthed, keeping himself pinned to the armored vehicle. “What’s going on? Did Hange send for me or are we moving out?”

    Mikasa tugged at her scarf as she struggled to keep her composure, answering the Titan shifter’s question, “No, I…. We really need to talk.”

    Eren’s body froze over, realizing the time had come when the two discussed how distant their relationship had become. He dreaded how the conversation would turn out, but knew it had to happen for the two, and for the better. He didn’t want either of them to purposely ignore each other, as it did nothing but harm them and the good of the team.

    “Right, it’s time we did talk,” Eren concurred, shifting himself upward from the Stryker, standing fully straight, mimicking his former friend’s posture.

    “We really can’t keep doing this. Avoiding each other as if nothing happened,” Mikasa said bluntly, keeping her usual stoic expression, but with a hint of sadness creeping through her voice.

    Eren rubbed his face, taking the lead, “I know, and I tried.” The Titan shifter paused, taking a moment to collect himself, as he felt himself starting to shake. His lips quivered while his voice stuttered as he finished his reply, “I tried to save you and the baby, but there were too many people between us. I fought with every fiber of my being to get past them, but they just wouldn’t move, and before I knew it, you were gone.”

    “I’m sorry. I’m…… so sorry!” Eren cracked as tears poured from his eyes, his voice huffing and puffing between each breath he took.

    In the back of her mind, Mikasa wanted to comfort Eren, to tell him it wasn’t his fault, but relented. Going back to her old behavior of being a safety net for him was no longer her. If the two were able to move on for the better, then she would have to approach it in a new, foreign way.

    Mikasa tightened her hands, feeling rage brewing in her, as she then shrieked, “You didn’t come back! You left me to die! How do you ever expect to start again when you failed to keep your promises!?”

    “Don’t you think I know that!?” Eren screeched, regaining his momentum as he glared at his former friend while tightening his hands.

    “I know, but it wasn’t enough, Eren!” Mikasa vocialized, her voice cracking, as she knew she was about to tear up.

    “I did everything I could, and yet, I failed. Nothing will ever change that,” surmised Eren, knowing no matter what he did, his actions would result in failure one way or another. Had he been able to get to her in time, there was no doubt one or all three of them would have been devoured by that Titan. Only now, was Eren starting to realize their friendship was doomed from the very beginning.

    His heart dropped.

    Nothing in the world could prepare him for what was about to be said.

    “You did, and in a way, both of us died because of it,” Mikasa candidly murmured, desperately keeping her emotions in check, as they were slowly but surely breaking through her.

    “What?!” Eren bluttered, completely dumbfounded by what his distant friend revealed.

    “Neither of us were ever the same that day. You became a Titan and a symbol while I became one of the most disciplined Titan slayers,” Mikasa pointed out, illustrating just how much the two have changed since that horrendous day.

    “I…. I… just wish things stayed the same,” Eren sobbed, mourning the collapse of their relationship and everything they held dear during their time together. Seeing it as the life they built together crumbling to dust before his very eyes.

    “So do I, but we’re not who we were three years ago. Both of us have to let go,” Mikasa mumbled, as she opened up her hands and let them drop. A single tear rolled down her face, her stomach flooding with butterflies, as she stuttered with her breathing. “Eren….. I release you.”

    “As….. as do I,” choked Eren, tilting his head down as his teeth were chattering rapidly while his eyes were flooded. He didn’t know how to go on, but knew he had no other choice. Eren reluctantly picked himself off the ground and stood up, facing himself against his former friend, as he proceeded to bottle up his emotions to match Mikasa’s expression.

    The two stood still for a moment after saying their peace until both of them simultaneously knew it would be best to keep their distance. They turned in separate directions and marched, neither saying another word to each other nor turning back. Their conflict was finished and they were free.

    BANG!

    The two stopped in their tracks and turned to the open plains, noticing a black flare erupting from the forest nearby. Eren and Mikasa pulled out their gear and ran to their respective commanders, to inform them and the rest of their company of the emerging flare.

    A battle like none other was about to begin, and none of them knew it.

    ***

    “Hey! What the hell is the meaning of this?” Ormand demanded.

    The stranger disregarded Ormand’s words and backed away until he was a good distance away. He glared at Ormand dead in the eye.

    “We don’t have much time. If you can’t give me what I need, you two need to get out of here.” The man was adamant about what he said. “The Titans will be here any moment now.”

    “Titans?” Ormand said in disbelief, “You’re pulling my leg. We haven’t seen nor heard any such commotion since we got here.”

    “You don’t understand, you have to—” A sudden, violent burst cut him off from what he was about to say. They all howled as the scorching dirt and heat washed over them. Riku’s fingers slipped as he lost grip of his signal gun. It wasn’t long until they collectively heard the distinct thumping noises closing in on them, almost as if they came from the earth.

    When the air died down, they glanced over and saw the last survivor—expecting a body broken and broiled from the sizzling heat. Had they been anywhere near the blast, they too would’ve been killed. Yet unlike any human they had seen before, they were collectively shocked to see the wounded man still alive, his body glowing with violet embers.

    “GET. AWAY.” His commanding roar shook the green soldiers to their cores, temporarily speechless at the sight.

    “Is that…?” Ormand’s thoughts trailed to what was only a guess, but one that made reasonable sense from the classes on Titan identities. Only three such were known; Eren, Kubal, and…

    “Not good, not good!” Riku cried out, interrupting his thoughts. “Ormand, we need to do what he says!”

    “With you there!” Ormand retorted. Launching the wires from their spools, Ormand and Riku propelled themselves through the air with the aid of their gas supply. As they flew, Ormand pulled out his signal gun again, intending to warn the others of incoming Titans.

    Yet he never got the chance.

    Riku couldn’t even mutter a word to what he saw next. A pale blue body, nearly three meters long, whooshed by and tackled the airborne Ormand to the ground. In the brief moment he saw it, he noticed that its legs were freakishly disproportionate. They were elongated and angled like that of a frog, built for long distance jumping.

    Riku gulped as he scurried to find his pistol in its holster. Dread overcame him when he realized he was no longer in possession of it. ‘Son of a bitch, I must’ve lost it when the Titans came out!’ What would he do now? Turn back and save Ormand? Or continue forward and warn the team? He turned his head to weigh his options, and what he saw terrified him beyond belief.

    There were other Titans in hot pursuit, all ranging in various sizes from four to fifteen meters. Some ran in long strides, others hobbled along with quick steps, and still more crawled on all-fours, evading the dense foliage that stood in their path. Even in the distance, there were still more swarming where the mysterious man once stood.

    Regret welled up within Riku. There was no saving Ormand or the survivor; he had to live. He tried to contact HQ, but the trees blocked transmissions. ‘I have to get to the top,’ Riku thought. But if he stopped, then the Titans would certainly swarm him before he even had the chance to make the call. But it was a risk that he was more willing to take. He scaled the large tree with acrobatic wire pulling and gas propulsion until he reached the top. It swayed with the breeze, but he also felt the vibrations coming from under him, which rocked him even more.

    The Titans were directly beneath him.

    “Come in, this is Adams from the 16th division! This is a Code Red, we need—” At a glance, his eyes caught sight of purple lightning blistering down from the sky. An eruptive explosion shook the tree by its foundation, taken aback by the sudden blast. Steam and heat warped the nearby trees into cinders, with the realizing drawing on him as to the true nature of the survivor.

    He returned to speak into the transceiver, but by the time Riku noticed out of his peripheral vision, it was too late. Nearby trees had already been swayed abnormally and deliberately. When he realized why, it was already aimed straight for him. The frog-legged Titan had traversed the forest by leaping off the trunks and gave it the perfect vantage point. Its long, rugged fingers, flat teeth, and lips were stained with Ormand’s blood. It tore its mouth wide open and with a powerful bound, the freakish Titan closed the gap.

    Riku was cut off as his whole world became pain and darkness. The vile stench permeated his nostrils as he felt his abdominal region crushed under immense pressure. Immediately after, he was lighter in an instant as he fell into the abysmal depths. His life flashed before his eyes and lamented being unable to fulfill his dreams and wishes.

    Riku’s lower half lost footing as it plummeted below, eventually falling into the hands of the starved Titans. They tore it apart and scraped whatever morsel they could. Afterward, they continued their trek, to consume the humans who laid ahead.

    ***

    Large feet rummaged through the thicket. Ghastly breath sought more to consume. Voracious eyes took heed of the strange smoke off in the distance. Purple embers and a cauldron of heaping steam rose into the sky. The trees were set ablaze, charred and stripped of their leaves. With a guttural growl, savage recalled a similar sight from not long ago, yet of a much larger scale. However, he noticed movement within the trees. It was similar to when he was hunting the pale humanoids, much to his satisfaction. His eyes followed their path ahead and saw a distinct clearing within the forest; tents and armored vehicles were stationed and miniscule figures moved around.

    He snorted and grinned with his jagged teeth and yellow tusks, which had now fully healed. He knew walking there would be easier on his enormous form, as gravity’s pull became increasingly more intense the larger he got. But sometimes, to achieve one’s desires, one must be willing to brunt the pain that would accompany it. If fighting against the forces of gravity meant more for him to eat, it was something the green beast was more than glad to do as he anchored his feet into the ground.

    Or perhaps in this instance, payback time.

    ***

    The change in plans had everyone in a hurry.

    Jean forced himself into his uniform and equipped his ODM gear as quickly as he could. Without missing a beat, he rushed out of the tent and saw the other Scouts frantically scurrying about. His gut feeling told him something happened. Last he had heard, Sasha was supposed to accompany a medical truck to a survivor from the previous expedition. He sprinted toward the indistinguishable trio he’d recognize from a mile away.

    “Hey!” Jean shouted, “What in the hell is going on?”

    They stopped. Armin was the one to respond. “Someone fired a black flare. We have an Abnormal sighting… Or multiple of them, we’re not sure.”

    “What about Sasha? Is she all right?” Jean demanded, concerned for the well-being of his allies.

    “They left no more than five minutes ago, so they shouldn’t be too far out. But the driver was also speeding to get over there, so who knows how much ground they’ve covered,” Armin recalled.

    “…It’s Pike, isn’t it?” Jean stated. “That nut job will speed along, emergency or not. I don’t care how proficient of a driver he is.”

    “It doesn’t matter,” Mikasa abruptly cut in, “Lives are at risk. We don’t have time to stand around.”

    Eren nodded in agreement. “We have to get going. We’re going ahead to the site, while Captain Levi’s team will take a different path.”

    “Color me surprised,” Jean said rather blatantly, “With the captain, I think just us would do. Save on the manpower.”

    Eren didn’t disagree with him, but the chit-chat would have to be saved for when they got back. “Come on,” Eren said, “Let’s get moving.” Jean complied and tagged along with the formation. When they reached the open jeep, they saw Levi and their driver, Mark, standing close to their transport vehicle.

    “It’s about time you brats showed up,” the captain sarcastically remarked, “Could’ve had an entire buffet in the time I was waiting.” He coughed into his hand and issued his real orders. “You’re going to move ahead and my team will scout the perimeter for any other Titans. Avoid unneeded casualties. Understood?”

    “Yes sir,” Eren replied on behalf of his squad.

    The captain snapped his fingers. “Show them what for,” Levi ordered.

    They saluted, and then Eren and the elite squad hopped into the cart as Mark occupied the driver’s seat. The engine roared and its headlights beamed to life. Before they could even move, another discerning sign from the heavens took them aback.

    A searing purple bolt off in the distance.

    Eren’s face momentarily went pale, his memories flooding back to him back from Mozen. Armin likewise stood agape, just in as much disbelief as everyone else. Even Mikasa’s eyes widened at the sight.

    “Hey man,” Jean spoke up and addressed their driver, “No time to stand idle!” Mark gulped, not even given the chance to respond. Thick rubber grinded the dirt and tree roots beneath them as they sped into the dense forest that surrounded them.

    ‘Only five minutes,’ Jean thought, ‘God, I don’t know what to expect.’

    The bumpy ride was far from pleasant, but it was the least of their worries at the moment. Time slowed to a crawl the closer they approached their estimated arrival. They drew their blades when the ever so familiar thumping rang in their ears.

    Eren, Armin, Mikasa, and Jean launched themselves off the open jeep and latched onto the nearby trees. The elite Scouts flew past the towering trees and had more of a bird’s eye view. They saw the Titans fast approaching, their lips stained. Farther out were overturned vehicles, scattered medical equipment, wandering Titans, and severed limbs that painted the trunks with a splash of red. Two Titans were tugging at a screaming figure, being pulled by their large hands. There was also billowing steam of a dissolved 7-meter class Titan—but no Sasha in sight.

    Armin took it all in, bouncing ideas in his head.

    “Eren, Mikasa,” Armin called out, clearing any downcast from his voice, “You two go on ahead and deal with the Armored Titan. Jean and I will clear out the area.”

    Eren silently nodded and Mikasa simply complied. The pair angled down and prepared to meet the rushing Titans head-on. They zipped by the fifteen meter class Titans and prepared to anchor themselves. Eren shot a spear into the target’s nape and propelled with a burst of gas. Holding his blades parallel to each other, Eren dove in with a powerful swing. A hard and successful cut, the chunk flew from the nape as the Titan lost its motor functions.

    ‘Nineteenth one taken down by ODM gear.’ So few times Eren ever had the chance to use his equipment to kill Titans, it was frankly refreshing. But a quick glance to his side reminded him that, while he could wield the ODM gear efficiently, he was far outclassed by his squad mates. Masterfully and eloquently, Mikasa Ackerman had already slain the two zombies in immediate succession, marked with her stained swords as proof. Using the nearby tree and wire tension, Mikasa swung around and reeled her wires back. By use of the momentum and gas bursts, she caught up with Eren.

     

    The second team got into the open jeep, with Levi occupying the front passenger seat. Without a word, the Scout team took off into the forest. Their path would cover a wider range in the event of other Abnormals. The captain remained in his seat with a neutral face.

    “Sir, shouldn’t we assist them?” a squad member asked.

    “No need, I want them to have some fun of their own,” he curtly responded. “If that Jaeger Titan rears its ugly head, I can dismantle it with no problem. Besides, you all have nothing to worry about as long as I’m here.”

    They were slightly apprehensive, but none of them could disagree.

     

    Armin and Jean perched at a lofty height and kept a sharp eye on the disaster below them. Armin brainstormed many different possibilities and their potential outcomes… Some were grimmer than others. But he came to a conclusion with a plan of attack using just himself and Jean.

    “Jean, let’s aim at disarming those Titans over there,” Armin pointed to the two tugging Titans with his blade. “We need to sever their hands at the wrists. Then we can use the Titans for our anchors and follow up with a nape slice.”

    “You sure? I think both of us know you’re not the best with combat maneuverability,” Jean noted as he observed the aimless zombies.

    “I understand the risk, but saving lives, even if it’s one, should be our top priority. If it means we can get Pike out of his predicament, we follow through with it.”

    ‘And of all people, it had to be that damn idiot,’ Jean mentally cursed. “All right, Armin. You know I’m trusting you on this.” They nodded, blades in hand, and leapt off their safety branch. They fired their anchors into the trunk above the screaming Pike and prepped their utlrasteel swords. Propelled by the spooling wires and with a burst from the exhaust, the Scout elites zipped through the air and beelined for their respective targets.

    Pike’s screams grew louder the harder the grotesque humanoids tugged at the helpless soldier. Jean and Armin retracted their wires, letting the force of the gas do the rest. Jean twirled in the air with fluidity and grace and meticulously carved through both Titan hands effortlessly. Planting his boots firmly against the tree trunk, he saw the disfigured giant stumble back, its eyes beaming at the stumps that remained. Without wasting a beat, Jean’s eyes peered at how Armin was holding up… And frankly, wasn’t as well as he had hoped.

    Armin had swooped in with a standard slice, a novice maneuver that cleaved the hand, which only hung on by a thread. While it was enough for the hand to release its hold, slicing into the following arm wasn’t nearly as effective, only shredding off the outermost layer of its skin. This still left Pike in the fiend’s grip, to which the Titan raised to its filthy, gaping maw.

    “Damn it!” Jean swore aloud, acting on his fighting instinct as he leapt to finish the deed, swords ready in hand.

    “Jean! Look out!” The words of Armin reached his ears, whose eyes were transfixed to a figure in the distance. When Jean turned and saw, he was mortified. A three-meter class Titan with oblong, frog-like legs and bloodied teeth tracked him with bulbous, unflinching eyes. A powerful, single bound was all it needed to close the gap, mouth outstretched and ready to consume the vulnerable Jean.

    Suddenly, an anchor flew over the neck region of the airborne Titan, lodging itself into the nearby bark. The metal wire suspended the weight of its user as she flew by with lightning speed, lobbing off the chunk of Titan flesh along the nape. For a moment, Jean and Armin were in stunned disbelief, with the lifeless frog-legged Titan hitting the ground with a soft thud.

    Her face was bloody and steaming, splashed with evaporating Titan blood. Yet her brown hair, amber eyes, and distinct voice assured them that she was their ally. “Go! Do it now!” Sasha called out, prompting Jean to resume what he was about to do. With a hefty scream, Jean went in for the decisive strike and tore the arm off with ease. As Pike fell out of the clamping mouth’s reach, Armin followed up by anchoring to the safety branch and caught him mid-fall. Though even he wasn’t the strongest among them, it was enough to get the Scout to safety.

    Twisting around in the air, Jean thrust his anchors into the nape of the Titan and went in for the finishing blow. Blades in hand, Jean sliced off the nape as the Titan moaned its last cry, collapsing to the ground as he and Sasha retreated to the trees with Armin. Panting heavily, the three took a minute to recoup.

    “Sasha, you had me worried there for a moment,” Jean sighed, “I thought you were a goner.”

    Sasha chuckled to herself. “Don’t forget I was raised in the woods,” she reminded him, “And here I thought horse-face didn’t care!”

    “Shut up.”

    “You guys,” Armin interjected, “What…” his voice trailed off, mingling with the thousands of possibilities that entered his mind at once, trying to conjure the best course of action.

    Much to Armin’s surprise, Jean was the first to speak up. “We fall back.”

    “Shouldn’t we be helping Eren and Mikasa?” Sasha questioned, just as befuddled.

    “You guys are overthinking it, those two can take care of themselves. Hell, they even have Captain Levi with them,” Jean astutely continued, “Just because most of the Titans are over there doesn’t mean that there aren’t some that are heading to HQ as we speak. Besides,” his eyes fell upon Sasha and the unconscious Pike, “we have to bring everyone back.”

    Even for the briefest of moments, a heavy air drenched upon them.

    “Right,” Armin nodded, “I’ll carry Pike, you guys make sure to take care of any stragglers.” The others complied with the terms and helped Armin strap the unconscious Scout onto his back. Then they disappeared into the darkness of the trees, eyeing for Titans that threatened HQ or the operation as a whole.

     

    A swift and graceful cut brought an end to the horrific fiend. Propelled by the gas emission from her housing unit, Mikasa tracked the next Titan that felled her sight. Before she could, Eren’s hook barbed itself into the Titan’s neck, the young soldier following up with a decisive slice thereafter. As the Titan keeled over, their eyes were glued to what laid ahead, nearing their projected destination.

    Then, from deep within the forest, a booming, furious roar that rattled their nerves to the very core. A distinct bellow they, and perhaps everyone else, were all too familiar with.

    The cry of the Armored Titan.

    For only a brief moment, Eren and Mikasa glanced at each other; they knew what had to be done. Mikasa kept her distance by decelerating, ensuring her safety for what came next. Eren brought his hand up to his mouth, teeth ready to clamp down. Then, rather abruptly, an intrusive thought raced through his mind.

    ‘Can I really do it?’

    He shook his head, trying to remove it from his mind. Now wasn’t the time to hesitate; now was the time for action! Cutting his teeth through the layer of flesh, accompanied by a stinging pain and a spray of blood, his mind was resolved.

    ‘I must do this.’

    Eren’s body radiated in a golden light, surrounded by the swirls of electric torrents. Lightning crashed from the heavens above, encompassing the human figure in a brilliant illumination. Heat and wind erupted in its place, a whirlwind taking its place. From the light, a new body began to materialize; calcified bones forged as the foundation, muscles and organs sewn together on a subatomic level, all wrapped in a blanket of human flesh and hair.

    With a voracious howl, the Attack Titan made its presence known to all that could hear.

    Dropping from midair, the fifteen meter Attack Titan instantly sprinted into a mad dash upon crashing onto the ground. Each step fractured the broken, Titan-tilled earth, wavy hair flowing through the wind. Sharp, furious eyes were glued to what inevitably lied straight ahead.

    As Eren’s Titanized form burst through the thicket into a clearing, the image became immediately clear to him. Yet at the same time, it was the last thing he would have ever expected to see. Titans coalesced and crawled over each other to reach the center of the pile, where the bust of the sickly white Titan peered over the rest. The only resemblance to the fearsome form was the draping silver hair and bleach-white plating that encased its body; otherwise it lacked the strong musculature that defined the Armored Titan, instead replaced by a frail, anorexic frame. The only other defined trait retained in this weak body was the powerful bellow, one uncharacteristic to its newfound appearance.

    ‘Shikishima… What the hell happened? How are you alive?’

    The Attack Titan unleashed a blood curdling howl, which caught the many ears of the surrounding swarm. Those unable to reach the Armored Titan turned heel and darted for the muscular Titan. Precise, elegant maneuverability evaded the voracious jaws of the heathens, Eren countering with a decisive right hook square in a Titan’s face. Another blow from a heaving kick, launching another smaller Titan into a nearby tree trunk.

    A third one lunged for the imposing Jaeger Titan, only to fall quickly into the Attack Titan’s grasp. Boring his teeth into its nape, Eren tore the slab of human-like meat off its neck, leading to its untimely death. As he continued to mow through the lesser Titans, scattering their limbs or tearing at their vital weak point, Mikasa swerved through the skies like an angel of death. Lobbing napes off the frivolous Titans in quick succession, the renown Titan slayer cleared a path herself as she continued to vanguard the debilitated Titan.

    “Shikishima…” she whispered to herself, recalling the man that molded her into a killer of Titans. “You… Even if I assumed you lived, I thought you would be happier out there than here…” Mikasa continued her proficient onslaught, remorsing over past laments. “So what brings you back?”

    As if hearing her, the white Titan merely grunted in response. Its blank eyes tracked her movements, glinting an iota of pride within them. She landed atop his silvery dome, soles pressed against the Armored Titan’s skull.

    With a heavy exhale, Mikasa regained her cold, stoic demeanor. “I’m not doing this for you. There’s a lot you still have to answer for.” Replacing her dulled blades, Mikasa prepared herself for the slaughter that was seemingly inevitable. Before she could leap off, a sudden bang was heard from far off.

    Then more followed suit.

    Her eyes located the sources, and found a series of black flares arching the sky. They weren’t pointed straight up; rather, they all were aimed at one direction. Then as if immediately, the ground began to vibrate beneath them. Taking precaution, Mikasa shot her anchors into the cranium of the Armored Titan, keeping her footing as the gradually increasing quakes made themselves more apparent.

    Checking her surroundings, Mikasa saw the Attack Titan effortlessly man-handle the brutish humanoids. Yet she saw that his eyes, if ever so briefly, widened at the sight of what he saw from his vantage point. And she didn’t have to wait long for what that was, as a mighty shadow and hellish screech overwhelmed all that could hear it.

    Its rushing came to a gradual stop, dragging its massive feet into the landmass to halt its momentum. Drooling from its disgusting yellow fangs, this strange beast made itself known.

    And would consume all in its way.

     

    The ground rumbled.

    Everyone back at the camp struggled to retain their balance, as they all simultaneously tried to determine what could have caused the ground to quake.

    Commander Zoe pried the openings to her tent open, rushing out, with Izuru flanking her. The two barely stood their ground. She turned her attention to the nearest Survey Corp member and grabbed him, keeping him from falling.

    “What’s going on!?” Hange yelled, tightening her grip on the soldier.

    “I…. don’t know! One minute everything was okay and then the ground was shaking as if the world was about to burst!” The soldier answered, his voice quivering, but enough to keep it restrained to where he could reply clearly.

    “Could it be another Jaeger Titan?” Hange inquired, relinquishing her grip, as she then quickly shook her head. “No. It can’t be. The only one that can elicit such an effect would be the Colossal Titan, and he’s a year dead!”

    The ground stopped rumbling.

    Everyone took a minute to compose themselves. Izuru, with his hands on his knees, spoke between breaths, “I know….. this may sound like an….. outlandish idea, but….. could a Jaeger Titan survive a nuke?”

    “It’s never been seen, but I can’t say I fully doubt it!” Hange shot out, putting the pieces together on the theory of how the Colossal Titan can survive such a powerful weapon.

    “Section Commander, look!” A soldier from afar screeched out, prying Hange from her thought process and prompting her and her group to look at the woods.

    “What… what is that thing?’ A soldier asked, fear oozing from her voice, as she couldn’t believe what she saw.

    Everyone couldn’t take their eyes off of the creature walking around the woods. The beast observed every bit of the exterior as if it were hunting something. Its eyes shifted rapidly, sensing where every bit of noise was coming from.

    Every noise mattered to it. Every noise ensured a bite into something delicious.

    The beast licked its lips and let out an ear shrieking scream. One that could be heard for miles as everyone covered their ears, while Hange unleashed a huge grin.

    “What…. are you?” Hange asked with excitement in her voice, as she took a step forward, observing the new beast’s every detail. From its green colored hair, scaly body to its sharp teeth with fangs protruding from its mouth. Then, last but not least, its towering height. One that easily rivaled Jaeger Titans like the Attack and Armored.

    “You are a beauty,” Hange whispered, ensnared as if she were a kid inside a candy store.

    “Section commander!” Izuru shot out with disgust in his voice, shocked at how she could view that monstrosity lovingly.

    “Right, right,” Hange spoke up, collecting herself while patting herself. She continued to stare at the green giant until it hit her!

    “The Algae Titan!”

    “What?” Izuru asked, completely baffled at what his superior just blurted out.

    “That’ll be his designation!” The Section Commander answered gleefully, unleashing a new grin onto her face.

    “I suppose it needs a name to help everyone out, but please don’t tell me you’re going to do what I think you’re going to do,” Izuru complained, not wanting Hange to suggest one of her crazy schemes.

    “You betcha!” Hange cheered, as she glanced at Izuru, only to realize he had an angered look on his face. The smile on her face dropped, eliciting a more level response from the commander, “Right. Only if his capture is feasible.”

    “Thank you,” Izuru said plainly, breathing a sigh of relief.

    “Better make sure the others are up to speed! Can’t let them be devoured by our new friend, right?” Hange jokingly asked, nudging her second in command with her elbow, to which he sighed in annoyance.

    “That’s the second idea that made sense…. in a week!” Izuru screamed out, to which Hange let out a chuckle.

     

    The treacherous bumpy ride and the obtrusive Titans stalled their progress, even if ever so slightly. Though nothing more than a slight detour, the time consumed altered the nature of the target. Especially as the figure became more and more apparent with every step it took.

    “Algae Titan, huh?” Levi grumbled, arming himself for the inevitable heist ahead of him. Over the transceivers, he heard the branded name given to the beast. His sharp eyes scanned the 80-meter savage, which only became larger the closer it got. “Bastard’s a big one.”

    “Captain, what are your orders?” the driver inquired.

    “Keep driving, follow the original path to the Armored Titan and provide relief. I’m going to intercept this ugly son of a bitch and hopefully won’t smell its filthy breath while I’m up there.”

    A quick burst from his waist fired an anchor that latched near the treeline. A shift in gears pulled the nimble captain out of the open jeep effortlessly, tugging on the spooling wire until it retracted. Such repetition had long since become part of his routine, and in many ways he had mastered the ODM’s capabilities to maximum efficiency. Torrential winds aggressively pushed against him from the heightened acceleration, yet performed in such a seamless manner that the untrained eye would be none the wiser to his skill and technique.

    When Levi found the beast within range, he aimed his grapples at the shaggy fiend and fired. Anchors embedded into the creature’s skin, pulling forward until his soles were planted firmly against its green scales. Its towering height was a sight from a distance, but such scale could only be comprehended by those who were right on it. Yet that was the least of Levi’s concerns. For every move it made, every sudden and abrupt jerk, the overwhelming sensation ran through him.

    ‘If you’d sit still for a moment, you’ll make this a lot easier for yourself.’ Shifting gears, the appointed captain launched one of his hip-wires ahead and waited to see if it latched on. With a snug tug, he allowed his weight to be carried by the steel-enforced wire before firing the other one, alternating between the two while being propelled by the gas exhaust. Continuing this pattern, Levi was able to climb the brute’s massive frame in a matter of moments.

    Flinging himself to the open air, Captain Levi shot both anchors into the back of the neck of the alleged Algae Titan. Eyes razor focused on the target, a steamy burst signaled the strike. Twirling and rotating at rapid speeds, he went in for the kill.

    Upon impact, the echoing sound he heard–one that overpowered the wind that filled his ears–wasn’t what he had hoped for. Rather than the splurch of sliced flesh, it was the metallic ring of shattered blades, with only a measly scratch left in its path as a mark of his decisive strike.

    “Shit,” he cursed, grounding himself onto the Algae Titan’s nape and reorienting himself. He looked down and saw the drop. It was one thing to climb, but getting down was going to be a whole different issue altogether. Suddenly, he felt his whole body lurch as the giant ogre began to lean forward. Had it not for the anchors, he more than certainly would’ve flown off already.

    It didn’t take much to figure out the savage got a hold of something in its clutches. But when he heard the bellowing screams of two Titans he knew weren’t of the stupid variety, Levi winced and vented in frustration. “Goddamn it…”

     

    There was nothing she could do with what came after she saw it.

    Mikasa had already leapt off the Armored Titan to avoid the giant green hand that came swooping from the sky. Next thing she knew, the Armored Titan had been hoisted into the air. Yet that wasn’t even half of it. The seaweed covered brute gnashed its teeth in delight as the other hand got a hold of Eren’s Titan. The fifteen meter Attack Titan thrashed violently to set himself free, whilst the malformed Armored Titan did little to resist. This sea beast, the alleged Algae Titan, rose to its full and terrifying height, eyes burning with gluttonous desire.

    She couldn’t do anything. Words choked in the back of her throat, as for the first time she realized that she didn’t blurt out his name.

    “As… do I…”

    She fought back the surge of emotions, recalling Eren’s face at that moment. But now was not the time to succumb to such feelings. They all knew better, and in time the pain that accompanied that choice would disappear. Regaining her composure, Mikasa steeled her blades and began to dispatch the surviving Wraith Titans–with what few remained.

     

    Fleshy tendons kept him bound within the tight enclosure, his arms plunged into the thick tissue. Try as he might, Eren’s futility only urged the horrid savage’s greed, although the beast was indecisive who it would consume first. Eren commanded his beastial Titan to bark, hoping to turn its attention. Instead, Eren felt the Titan’s nerves shoot into the nape, feeling every ounce of pain that accompanied it. Bones cracked, flesh popped open with hazardous, burning steam, and boiling blood rushed out of the green giant’s tight grip.

    Eren grunted. “Damn. That could’ve gone better.” Looking through the translucent skin that permitted his Titanized state to see, he saw the gargantuan humanoid snort in satisfaction. Its eyes turned their hideous gaze at the malformed Armored Titan, who was barely putting up as much of a struggle.

    “I have to save Shikishima, or else…” he let his words trail off. Shikishima was the last man who held the keys to the nightmare that no doubt laid beyond the Walls. But he was far from a man he was ready to forgive for his transactions during the retake of Wall Maria. However, he had a mission to fulfill.

    “How much of a liability are you?” The stinging words of Captain Levi rang through his head like a migraine. If there was anyone he needed to prove, it was himself. Eren exhaled and let his body breathe, regaining his stamina for his next stunt. He felt the wall of flesh loosen around his right arm and lower body, allowing him to slip free easier.

    He took a glance at the situation. Rows of yellow, rotten fangs separated in eager anticipation as the fiend prepared to chow down on the frail white Titan. The once proud and powerful presence Shikishima had once carried was all gone, as his Titanized form slumped forward, the nape fully exposed.

    “All right, let’s do–” before he could finish, a flash zipped right out of his Titan’s peripheral, unable to register exactly what it was until he took a look at it.

    A glistening wire, with the anchor embedded in his Titan’s temple.

    When he traced the cable back to its source, Eren’s eyes widened in shock when he saw Captain Levi on the rugged neck of the Armored Titan. A swift, arguably beautifully executed, slash from his twin blades ovaled deep into the purple-pinkish flesh of the nape, which quickly extracted its host from the pathetic shell it had once resided in. A pop of sizzling steam and out came the body of the former Captain of the Survey Corps–whose arms and legs were sliced off in the process.

    ‘Is that a technique the Captain devised himself?’ Eren thought, admiring their new Captain’s advanced and refined skill. He saw Levi abandon his blades, and situated himself to ensure the limbless body of Shikishima was firm in his grasp. Firing the other anchor, Levi flew across the gap between them, leaving the empty vessel to be consumed by the ravenous sea beast. With Shikishima’s body in tow, Levi landed on Eren-Titan’s shoulder.

    “Got any plans on getting down from here?” the captain snarily remarked. A grunt escaped the Titan’s nostrils with a nod. “Good. Then do me a favor and kick the Algae Titan’s green hairy ass. That’s an order.”

    Eren relaxed, loosening his body and readied his next move. “Now!”

    Releasing his left arm from the fleshy socket, the back of the nape split open violently, jettisoning steam from the rupture point. No longer bound by his Titanized body, Eren was ejected out of the nape and was sent hurling into the air, steam dissipating from his frame as he entered freefall. Spreading his body out, Eren brought his right hand up to his mouth, his determination unbreakable.

    Without missing a beat, shredded flesh and gushing blood pumped out of the freshly made wound, engulfing him in a blinding light.

    ‘Hey you…’ Eren’s vicious eyes glared at the monstrosity that stood before him. ‘I’m going to show you the true power of humanity, and everything I have!’ Once again, his body became wrapped in muscle sinew and a coat of flesh, held together by gargantuan bones. Unlike his previous form, this new body constituted a far larger size, and therefore required greater mass and assembly. In a matter of moments, the first limb forged from the fiery sphere was his left fist, a blazing orange, as he swung it directly at the green fiend’s face!

    Before the Algae Titan even registered, a compact fist drove into his ugly mug. As the Titanization process commenced, Eren anchored his newly formed feet into the ground. He applied additional pressure, caving in the foul cretin’s disgusting visage. A loud, crepitate pop signaled the ruptured hand and fractured face as the green Titan was thrown back by Eren’s indomitable strength.

    Allowing his new body to complete its assembly, Eren waited it out to let his shattered fist recover. Eyes gleamed as he saw Levi scaling down his enormous Titan form with Shikishima in tow, vanishing amongst the trees. Inhaling through his nostrils, a booming roar flooded from the Titan’s maw. A resounding cry of determination that struck fear in the hearts of many. Even the Algae Titan shuddered, but not before striking an intimidation posture, raising both arms to the air. The wild savage burst into a sprint, eager to tear Eren asunder. However, he was ready for it.

     

    She had lost track of how many she killed. Their vast numbers dwindled down to no more than three–yet in spite of her skill, dull blades did her no good against a standard Wraith. All she could do now was keep her composure and evade their strikes.

    One lunged at her, but she slipped between its fingers with skillful maneuverability. Rather, she mentally ignored the Titan as her eyes transfixed to the far larger beasts that loomed over her. The savage closed the gap and the two met in a head-on collision. Fists and claws swung amidst their brawl, with the least Mikasa could do was make sure she wasn’t caught in the middle of it.

    Another tried to clasp her in their hands, only to avoid it. Carrying her weight by the momentum of her spooling wires, she circled around to the Titan’s backside and detached her dull blade with a swift and precise swing. The twirling sword found itself embedded in the Titan’s nape; while inefficient in killing them, it did induce a paralytic stun that rendered the foul zombie useless with the loss of its limited motor functions. Though she was only left with one worn blade at her side–she had to use it wisely.

    Too much of this was routine to her. She had spent the better of two years forged to be among the best Titan slayers, and one year on countless missions in clearing them out. Two sets of wide, greedy eyes sought to consume her, yet they were not on the forefront of her mind. Rather, her glances returned to the Attack Titan… Gleaming, powerful eyes she couldn’t register as him anymore.

    ‘This is the path you choose for yourself?’ She wasn’t sure if her question was meant for him or herself. She felt her heart harden even more than it usually did, her attention returning to those that were still demanding it from her.

    “Tch,” she audibly murmured, noticing the third one rising back to its feet. Their desperate fingers pounced at her…

    A sudden flash zipped by her, and instantly all of their fingers were lobbed off cleanly and effortlessly. The Titans shrieked at the karmic pain bestowed upon them, which drizzled with vaporous mist. Mikasa tracked where they had gone, only to find Captain Levi next to her; bloodied, steamy sword in one hand, and a body held in the other.

    “Here,” the captain said, pulling out a pair of spare blades, “don’t be wasteful.” Without a response, she took and armed herself, diving down to finish the job. Twirling and twisting around the malevolent humanoids, Mikasa quickly dispatched of the monstrous fiends with fluid elegance, sparing none in her path. As the Titans collapsed, hissing with evaporating steam, a pair of headlights beamed at them from a distance.

    “I thought I gave you all expressed orders to provide backup!” Levi shouted, ensuring that everyone in the open jeep heard him loud and clear. The driver was visibly anxious to see the captain ahead of them.

    “I-I’m sorry, Captain! We didn’t mean to, you just…” he stopped his train of thought right there, not wanting to dig himself into a verbal grave.

    “Nevermind that. Just get us back to camp. We have what we came here for.” Without missing a beat, Levi and Mikasa jumped into the back of the jeep, sprawling the limbless body of Shikishima onto the seats.

    “Now drive,” the captain issued. Stepping on the gas, the jeep rolled through the forest and swerved between the many trunks that surrounded them.

    Minutes passed without a word. That was until Mikasa spoke up. “What are you going to do to him?”

    “Get the information we need. Though it’s entirely up to him how willing he wants to cooperate,” Levi stated plainly. “Tell me something Chief, does he mean anything to you?”

    Mikasa’s eyes remained stoic, collecting her thoughts and choosing her words carefully. “At one time I considered him my savior. Though I don’t know if I can say that about a man I know barely anything about.”

    “I see.” For the remainder of their trip back, not another word was spoken.

     

    The scaly hominid swiped its claws at the enlarged Attack Titan, who evaded them with his greater dexterity. Even with the extra weight that dragged on his entire form, Eren chopped the flailing limbs and jabbed at pressure points across the Algae Titan’s body. The green gargantuan stumbled back, which gave Eren ample time to prepare a lethal uppercut.

    Swinging with all his might, the Attack Titan unleashed a destructive payload as his right fist collided with the savage’s chin. Another cacophonous burst and the fanged beast was hurled to the sky, promptly followed by carving the earth with its gigantic frame. Trees and foliage were grinded under its scaly body until it came to a gradual halt. Cracking its jaw back into place, the Algae Titan stirred from the brutal blow.

    Vicious eyes widened, the seaweed-covered giant glared at the well-built Titan that lumbered toward it. Scavenging for anything useful, a gargantuan hand gripped and uprooted a massive tree from the ground. Pushing itself up, the sea green ogre whipped its newfound weapon, prepared to fight.

    Striking a defensive stance, the Attack Titan kept his ground. All the while, the Algae Titan went in full charge once again.

    “You’re not the quick-to-learn type, are you?” Guarding his hands near his face, the Attack Titan braced himself for what came next. Thrusting the wooden, perennial spear, the beastly cretin lunged for the mighty Titan’s head. Swift and responsive reflexes batted the tree trunk aside, bark stripping miniscule flesh off the Titan’s hand. However, the algae fiend rushed its other hand and slashed the Attack Titan’s face open, pouring steam and boiling blood from the crevices marked on his face.

    Pulling his fist back, Eren prepared another slugger for the aquatic brute, ramming his clenched knuckles into the beast’s scaly chest. The Algae Titan lashed back with utmost ferocity and animalistic fury, carving tears with its nasty claws and beating the rebellious Titan with the tree in the other hand.

    The Attack Titan caught the tree-bearing hand and twisted it, the egregious crackle of bones and tendons popping out of place. The screeching banshee wail resounded from the hideous ogre, losing grip of its weapon as it fell to the ground with a thud. Feral eyes flashed with an astounding resolve, thrusting its claws to the Titan’s face before the opponent had the chance to throw another punch. Dagger-like nails pierced the frailer flesh that wrapped around the rogue Titan’s skull, the rest of the bulged fingers following suit. The Attack Titan tried to wrap his hands around the thick log of seaweed and scales, only to be hoisted and plunged into the earth without mercy or remorse.

    A billowing shockwave flattened the nearby foliage and swayed the resilient trees that stood their ground. Dirt plumage rose into the air, obscuring the vision of those in the heat of the battle. Even so, the Algae Titan grinned in self-assurance. This fight was for the taking! That was, until the fiend felt a vice grip like pythons wrap around its shoulder girdles, compressing until it felt its skin and bones crack. Dizziness and light-headed anxiety overcame the gargantuan brute as the beast struggled to catch its breath. Such a sudden assault took it aback, as the beast was certain its foes arms still gripped its own arm…

    …As the dust settled, the Algae Titan saw the truth of the matter right before its eyes. The defined and muscular humanoid indeed still kept a firm grip on its arm. What had constricted its body wasn’t the Titan’s arms, but the legs! Each limb bear-hugged the savage’s upper torso, all the while the ravenous humanoid was forced to watch as the chiseled man tore himself free. The beast felt the hand it had plunged being pulled out, suddenly staring into the blazing eyes of a bloodied demon.

    ‘I thought I told you,’ Eren winced, ‘this is the power of humans!’ The Attack Titan unleashed a tremendous bellow, followed by twisting the green giant’s arm. Before it knew what hit it, the Algae Titan felt the legs of the Titan tightened exponentially, then thrown to the ground in a similar manner to which it had employed not long ago. An eruption of dirt and shrubbery kicked up in its place, the Algae Titan having found itself under the whim of the ferocious Attack Titan.

    “Now let’s see who you really are,” Eren mouthed, his body high from the adrenaline rush. Spreading his legs out, his knees pinned the beast’s spastic arms. With one hand, he kept the head from struggling, the other firmly gripped on the shoulder for support.

    Leaning in, Eren opened his Titan’s maw wide and clamped along the Algae Titan’s nape. The tough skin only lasted for a moment before the incisors dug into the brute’s softer flesh. Then, with a feral tug, it was torn out.

     

    She did whatever it took to observe the big fight, much to Izuru’s dismay. One moment she was on the ground, the next she had climbed to the treetops with her ODM gear. Even the swaying trees from residual shockwaves did little to deter her obsessive passion for the study of Titans–be it in combat or otherwise. Izuru could tell she was getting a kick out of it. He brought his hand to his face, almost ashamed. “Commander…”

    Suddenly, her cheerful yowls came to a stop when she spotted something through her binoculars. In a split second, her jolly persona snapped into her professional attitude. “Call for a medic!”

    The switch caught him off guard, but Izuru was quick to relay her order to the others. Without a moment’s notice, medics came prepared with a stretcher as several soldiers flew out of the trees. Jean, Sasha, and Armin, the latter of whom carried the unconscious body of Pike, touched down onto the grassy ground. Laying Pike onto the gurney, he was hoisted off for emergency treatment. Armin collapsed in exhaustion, though an assured thumbs up made it clear he’d be all right.

    With the safety harness of her ODM, Hange landed on her feet and walked up to the worn out triad. “You three all right?”

    “Dispatched four Titans on the way back,” Jean answered, “Close calls, but no casualties.”

    “Good.” Hange simply nodded. The earth trembled beneath their feet, feeling the residual effects of the epic clash that took place beyond their proximity.

    “Damn, Eren!” Jean complained, regaining his equilibrium from the shock,“Settle down over there, will you?”

    No more than a minute later, a jeep pulled in from the dense forestry, with the Scout Captain and Chief hopping out the trunk of the vehicle. If only for a moment, Mikasa and Armin glanced at each other before she lowered her head. Armin likewise averted his attention, drowning out the adverse feelings from earlier in the day.

    “How’d it go, captain?” Hange asked.

    “Target secure, lounging in the back,” Levi stated, “Though I wasn’t able to stop the Algae Titan. Skin is too thick to cut through.”

    “Understood.” The ground once again shook violently, another crash from the warring giants. Armin and Sasha were knocked down while everyone else struggled to maintain balance. When the rumbling settled, Armin picked himself up, only to notice Sasha was still firmly planted on the ground.

    “Sasha, do you–” Armin’s words were cut off when she raised a finger, stopping him in his tracks. Her ear rubbed against the soil, discerning the sounds vibrated from the earth. Seconds passed until she rocketed from the ground to standing in the blink of an eye.

    “Commander!” Sasha cried aloud, “We have another target inbound! Due west!”

    “West?” Armin noted, “Isn’t that where the Algae Titan came from?” Before anyone could give a response, Hange once again darted for the trees for the high ground. Pulling out her binoculars, she scanned the distant horizon, keeping an eye out.

    “How are you sure there’s another one inbound, Braus?” Levi inquired.

    “With due respect, captain, whatever Eren’s doing right now has restrained the movements of that scary Titan,” Sasha openly explained, “It makes it easier for me to discern distant noises. I grew up hunting, so I’m familiar when something is amiss or unusual. Really useful when in Titan territory with no ODM gear, sir.”

    “I see. Let’s see if your hunch proves true,” the captain said plainly. They waited in anticipation, an aura of tension pervading the atmosphere.

    Pulling her signal flare from her holster, Hange loaded it with ammo and fired it westward. From the barrel, a column of black smoke erupted and trailed through the air. That action alone triggered a chain reaction, with the stationed Scouts similarly firing their black flares in the same direction. It wasn’t just a warning for those in the area–it was one for Eren as well.

    She scanned one last time before leaping down from the treetop. “Sasha’s assumption proved correct, there is another Titan heading our way.”

    “What?!” Izuru screamed, verbally coinciding with everyone else’s shocked reactions.

    “You have to be kidding me!” Jean yelled in frustration, “Not one, but two?!”

    “I got a good look at it,” Hange said, “Almost 85-meters tall. Brown, shaggy hair and bumpier skin.”

    “So, what are you calling this one, four-eyes?” Levi sardonically retorted, realizing the grim nature of the situation.

    For a moment, Hange fell into a pause, but was quick to give her answer. “We’re designating this one as the Bigfoot Titan, after the elusive cryptid from American folklore.”

    Armin’s eyes widened. “What can we do to save Eren? I’m not sure he can handle two of them at once…”

    “If the Bigfoot Titan’s skin is anything similar to what Levi reported about Algae’s, then I’m afraid we can’t do much but hope things don’t turn out for the worse.” Hange paused, giving herself a moment to breathe. “However,” she pointed to the trunk of the jeep, “we have what we came for. Keep him restrained under all circumstances and protect him with your lives. He’s a prisoner for the taking.”

    With valiant salutes, the Scouts hauled the limbless body of Shikishima into the centermost of the camp, taking him into the tent for further questioning.

    ‘Eren,’ Armin said to himself, ‘Don’t do anything reckless, please.’

     

    Vicious, dark eyes tracked the torn nape, surprised to find nothing of note. “Maybe it’s just an Abnormal…” Then, his eyes widened with what came to pass. Shredded, fibrous muscles pulsated with disturbing life, the fleshy mesh twirled and contorted as the bite wound began to mend together. The nape was restored in a matter of moments, as if nothing had ever happened.

    “That’s impossible…” Eren muttered, fear-stricken by the preposterous event he bore witness to. “A Titan that can regenerate when the nape is destroyed? Let alone without emitting steam? What the hell!”

    Before he could contemplate the matter any further, loud bursts caught his attention. From the dense foliage, black flares rocketed from the treetops. Eren trailed the signals to where they stopped, realizing the warning they conveyed.

    Suddenly, the hideous ogre squirmed under the Titan’s body, throwing him off with its upper body strength. The Attack Titan crashed into the forest, splintering trees under his massive frame. Using every ounce of its strength, the beastial barbarian lunged from its resting spot and on top of the Titan, trying to pin him down. However, Eren was quick to curl his Titan’s legs and unload a fierce double front kick upon the beast’s chest, hurling the green savage off of him. The Algae Titan rolled and flattened the forestry under its tremendous body.

    Eren forced his body to stand, anchoring his feet for what was coming next. Off in the distance, he saw one similar in nature to the Algae Titan; layered with brown fur and skin that appeared to be rock-like. The hefty man-beast plowed through the endless woodlands, eventually coming to a grinding halt. This new creature resembled the savage Eren had been fighting, but its characteristics were far more… Human.

    ‘Damn it,’ Eren cursed, ‘The last thing I need to deal with right now.’ He shifted his Titanized form into a sharp battle stance, his arms guarding his head and prepared for what this brown creature would do next.

    The shaggy giant surveyed the battlefield, alternating its attention between the Attack Titan and the barbaric beast. The green one rose to its feet, baring its claws and fangs at the Jaeger Titan. Seeing this, the brown one likewise postured itself reluctantly for battle.

    ‘Shit!’ Eren grimaced at the thought, coming to grips that the worst was coming to pass.

    Suddenly, the fiendish troll fell to the ground, only supporting itself by its knees and hands. It panted heavily, trying to catch its breath. Eren noticed that the brute’s wounds had long disappeared, though it became clear that the ensuing battle had expended its stamina to continue the fight.

    ‘Good, this might turn out favorably for me,’ Eren thought, feeling more assured. Certainly, the battle against the Algae Titan took the wind out of him, but he was far from finished. ‘Just need to recoup, and I can finish this.’ However, when the hairy man began to move, it wasn’t quite what Eren had anticipated. Rather than engage, the other giant broke its eye contact and instead ran toward the exhausted beast.

    “What the…” Eren was left in stunned disbelief yet again. These creatures were certainly full of surprises. He kept his guard up, unsure just what to expect.

    Wrapping the green one’s arm around its shoulder, the brown giant hobbled along, carrying its compeer with it. The gentler eyes of the hominid turned to face the Attack Titan; behind the lenses were a mixture of many complex emotions, which contrasted the wild man’s simplistic nature.

    ‘If I fight now, I might have a chance. But…’ Eren paused, letting the situation sink in. ‘What good would come from it? There’s too much uncertainty here. I can’t tell just how much power this ‘Titan’ possesses. That, and…’ Images of a certain other flashed in his mind. The hairy man’s mournful face reminded him of someone very important to him…

    In the end, Eren couldn’t force himself to push the attack.

    As the Algae Titan and its companion disappeared beyond the horizon, Eren turned around and returned to HQ. When he was in proximity, he allowed his Titanized body to drop on its front, finally relinquishing his Attack Titan of duty. The nape split open, allowing him to freely unchain his arms and legs of the fleshy shackles that kept him bound. As the Titan evaporated into pure steam, Eren caught his breath and gradually climbed down the massive body.

    He wouldn’t even have a minute to himself before being swarmed by his fellow comrades and ranking officers. Eren explained and described all he had witnessed, recounting the fight in detail.

    “And that’s all I know, Commander,” Eren said, “I’m sorry.”

    “Don’t apologize,” Levi rebuked harshly, “Everything you do comes down to a choice. In the end, you must be certain to hold no regret and live with the consequences that come with it.”

    “Yes, Captain…”

    “It may have been for the better,” Hange added, “We don’t know what we’re up against. They certainly qualify as the strangest Abnormals we’ve seen to date.”

    The leading commander pondered, left in her thoughts with the newfound information. “Yeager, you’re dismissed,” Hange issued plainly. With a salute, Eren left to his quarters. “Same for the rest of you.” Not missing a beat, the Scout elites left the commander and captain to themselves.

    “Levi, what do you think of this?” she queried, curious as to his response.

    “They’re unusual, that’s for certain,” Levi noted, “Though I think we know someone who would know for sure, don’t we?”

    ***

    “You’re going to do what!?” Izuru screeched out angrily, his head as red as tomato.

    Levi held his hand up, replying nonchalantly, “Relax, we have him restrained in every way possible. He doesn’t even have any arms or legs.”

    “I know you’re new to this regiment, but you seem to forget that he is a Jaeger Titan!” Izuru countered, turning his attention to Hange. “I know you’re obsessed with Titan study, but this is not your usual Wraith Titan. This is Shikishima! The man who led us to die!”

    Hange rubbed her face, she felt and even shared Izuru’s concerns, but this was an opportunity that could not be passed. Shikishima held viable data to these new abnormals and potentially Jaeger Titans. Data that could be used to save lives. She couldn’t pass it up.

    The section commander placed her hand on Izuru’s shoulders and breathed, “I understand your concerns. I do too, but we can’t kill him. He holds way too much knowledge we can use to better understand the Titans and to prepare for them.”

    Izuru’s bright red face started to fade as he let out a deep breath. Hange continued to stare at him, as she grew a slight look of apprehension and spoke softly, “If I am wrong and it does get a lot of people killed, then I will pay any price it takes to mend that wound.”

    Izuru nodded. “I don’t like it, but I trust you to believe you’re making the right decision.”

    “Thank you. I understand this was hard for you to agree with,” Hange expressed, giving her subordinate a smile.

    Her and Levi went to make their way toward the tent where Shikishima was held captive, but Hange felt a hand placed on her shoulder. She turned to see it was Izuru with a frown on his face.

    “However, I will have the whole regiment on standby should he get any ideas,” Izuru announced.

    “As you should,” Hange concurred with her subordinate, relinquishing his grip on her, allowing the two higherups to traverse to the holding cell.

    “He’s not wrong, you know?” Levi spoke up, turning his gaze toward Hange.

    “He isn’t, but we can’t throw our ticket away,” Hange replied sternly.

    “I don’t disagree with your decision, I just don’t like it.”

    “You don’t have to. I just need you at your best,” Hange ordered.

    “No need to worry about that. We’ll get what we need,” Levi replied.

    The two arrived at the holding cell as the guard immediately saluted them. “Just in time. He’s awake,” the guard spoke up.

    Hange and Levi nodded, proceeding to make their way into the tent when they heard a shout. An all too familiar one. “Wait!”

    The two turned around to find Eren bolting toward them, they knew what he wanted and neither of them liked it. The Titan shifter stopped himself right in front of them as he stood at attention, trying to present himself as best as possible.

    “Section Commander, I request to be a part of the interrogation,” Eren announced.

    “No,” Hange answered plainly.

    Eren’s mouthed quivered, as he was shocked to hear his superior’s answer to his request. He couldn’t believe it. Surely he could get some answers out of their captive, he could get them what they need.

    “I know him best! I know what he’s capable of! I can get what we need!” Eren yelled out, determined to be a part of a vital moment.

    “I’m sorry, but my answer is still no. Your anger gets the better of you and we can’t have that compromising our key to answers,” Hange explained.

    “But…” Eren tried to speak up but was abruptly cut off by Levi. “She’s right. You do not need to be a part of everything. You performed your role admirably by bringing him in. You are dismissed.”

    Eren felt the rage boiling in his stomach, as he wanted to defy their orders and perform the interrogation, but couldn’t. He wanted to win this war, but he couldn’t do it by disobeying orders all the time.

    “Understood,” Eren replied bitterly, turning his attention away from them and walked off, feeling the need to blow off some steam.

    Hange and Levi entered the tent to find Shikishima, even with his severed limbs steaming through the bandages and restraints, grinning at them as they matched it with frowns on their face.

    “Hange, I looked forward to seeing your face again. It’s certainly a ray of sunshine in this cold, dark, de….” Shikishima’s greeting was interrupted by a blade pointed right in front of his face.

    “Save the formalities. We’re only here for answers,” Hange replied bluntly, currently in no mood to deal with her former leader’s hijinks.

    “A shame. I did miss the old gang. I was hoping to regale our campfire tales, but perhaps another time,” Shikishima playfully mourned.

    Levi rolled his eyes as he spoke up, “Don’t make them regret sparing you, because this is already turning into a shitshow.”

    The prisoner turned his attention to the captain and smiled. “Not a fan of how this is turning out?”

    “Yeah, and unlike the commander here, I have no qualms with killing you. In fact, your death makes things less complicated,” Levi spoke, as he unleashed a tight grip around the Titan shifter’s neck. Shikishima began to gasp for air, as his vision started to go hazy, starting to realize just how serious the captain was.

    Levi relinquished his grasp on the captive, as he then mouthed, “Answer our questions or your life will be cut short. Do I make myself clear?”

    Shikishima nodded. “I like you. I can see why they assigned you to the Survey Corps. You don’t play around, but you have a certain uncanny resemblance to someone. I just don’t know who,” Shikishima spoke, trying to put the pieces together for his own question.

    “Oh! That’s right! Me! They must have really taken my betrayal hard. They got someone who looks almost like me!” The captive answered gleefully, with a laugh following suit.

    Levi delivered a punch onto Shikishima, who elicited blood from his mouth.

    “Now, are you going to answer our questions or not?” Hange inquired angrily. “Or are we going to have to repeat ourselves?”

    “All you had to do was ask, my dear,” Shikishima coughed, turning his attention back to them. “What is it you wish to know?”

    “Wait, really?” Hange asked, completely blindsided by Shikishima’s willingness to answer any question they desired to know.

    “Of course. To be honest, all of you did me a favor by overthrowing the government. You fulfilled my mission, so yes, I will answer any question you desire to know. However, I may not know the answer you seek or you may not like it. That’s entirely up to you,” Shikishima explained, hoping it’ll satisfy his interrogators.

    “I don’t buy it,” Levi plainfully replied, with a frown on his face.

    “And why’s that? He’s willing to tell us whatever we want,” Hange replied, baffled at how the captain could not accept his offer.

    “When you’re telling the truth, you don’t need to say ‘to be honest.’ Just from that alone, everything he said before that implies he was lying, and even then him telling the truth doesn’t guarantee it,” Levi illustrated, hoping it’ll get Hange back to be skeptical of their prisoner.

    “And yet another reason to like you! You pay attention! Such a rare trait nowadays!” Shikishima congratulated, with a huge smile painted on his face.

    The two shot him a glare, but it didn’t deter him from keeping his present attitude. “Well, what are you waiting for? Ask away.”

    “Okay,” Levi spoke, as he then went into his first question. “What do you know about the Algae and Bigfoot Titans? Why do they not perish like other Titans?”

    “That’s because they’re not Titans,” Shikishima answered, causing the eyes of the two interrogaters to widen.

    “What do you mean?” Hange quivered, as her eyes narrowed in excitement over the possibility of a new discovery.

    “They behave way differently than the Titans. They think and act on their own and even have a sibling-like relationship. And, their regeneration is nothing like I’ve ever seen. Far surpasses any Titan ever,” Shikishima explained, with astonishment in his voice.

    “Amazing…” Hange mouthed, barely keeping her excitement contained over the wealth of knowledge pouring into her mind.

    Levi, who was more focused, stepped forward and asked, “If they’re not Titans, then what do we designate them as?”

    “Ah! Your Algae Titan is Gaira, and as I’m sure you’re well aware, he’s the more vicious of the two. His behavior is very similar to the Titans, wanting to devour anything he can, but he is one not to be trifled with. Then, as for your Bigfoot, that’s Sanda. He’s more or less benevolent, but push him or his brother enough, he becomes a true monster. Far more fearsome than anything I can ever dream of facing,” Shikishima answered, with a shiver following, showing some distress on his face.

    “Speaking from experience?” Levi asked, intrigued by the small amount of fear Shikishima exhibited.

    “Yeah,” Shikishima breathed, taking a moment to collect himself from a memory that haunted him. “Sometime after delivering Kubal the payload, I don’t know how long, but I found myself near a lake. As I gathered my bearings, I found this large, dripping wet, green monstrosity emerging out of it. It spotted me immediately and went in with every intent on devouring me. And this is coming from me, who values life very much, took the fight to it.”

    Shikishima took a deep breath in as he continued one with his interrogators listening in closely.

    “I can’t even begin to tell you how long the fight was, as I was still far too frail. Long story short, I was able to outsmart Gaira, but that didn’t last. I immediately felt the wrath of Sanda, even lost an arm to that bastard. Thankfully, with a headlock still on Gaira, I managed to negotiate my release if I let go of his brother.”

    “You negotiated? Incredible,” Hange breathed out, sparkles glistened in her eyes, with a smile forming on her face. “Tell me more.”

    “In a sense, yeah. They didn’t speak or anything like that, but Sanda understood my proposition. Of course that didn’t stop me from trying to hunt them down later on.”

    “I see,” Levi muttered. “And what have you been up to this past year?”

    “Well, unless you want to spend hours listening to me explaining how I prepared my every meal in the woods, which I know neither of you want, then nothing of note.”

    “Really?” Levi asked, expressing disbelief at their captive’s refusal to go into detail.

    “It is what happened. It’s just up to you whether or not you believe me, but if you really want, I can start with day one in the woods,” Shikishima proposed, preparing himself to tell his year long story to the two of them.

    “That won’t be necessary,” Hange cut in, as Levi retained his frown.

    “As you wish,” Levi simply mouthed.

    “Since you say you’ve been tracking them, do you know what their next move is?” Hange interrogated, desperate to know more of their behavior.

    “Likely resting, but with each attack inflicted on them, they strike back harder,” Shikishima answered.

    “How so?” Levi asked.

    “Usually by venturing further than where they’re normally at, and by the damage we dealt to them today, their retaliation could be greater than previously thought,”

    “Do you think they’ll go after the walls?”

    “Highly likely, yes,” Shikishima answered.

    “If everything you say is true,” Hange reported, to which Shikishima simply nodded. “It is.”

    “Then, we need to mobilize back to Wall Maria!” Hange announced.

    “We’ll need everyone at their best. I’ll relay the order,” Levi spoke, turning to give the command to the Survey Corp.

    “Wait!” Hange yelled out, placing her hand on the captain’s shoulder. “There’s one last question I need to ask.”

    “Oh?” Shikishima asked, interest in his voice greatly rising. “This ought to be good.”

    “If we release you from your shackles, will you assist us?” Hange asked, as she felt the dread creeping her voice at the possible regret she was about to make.

    “Section Commander!” Levi blurted out in shock as he couldn’t believe what she was proposing.

    “Of course. I have every intention of repaying you for completing my mission,” Shikishima answered, smiling at the proposal.

    “I don’t like it, but what choice do we have against the two? With Shikishima we stand a better chance at keeping Wall Maria intact. We can’t lose it again,” Hange explained to Levi.

    The Captain grunted, his eyes rolling as he then spoke up “Right. I’ll trust your judgement and relay the information to everyone else.”

    Levi turned to take his leave out of the holding cell, as he muttered, “Izuru is going to lose his shit when he hears about this.”

    Shikishima turned his gaze back on Hange. “So, you mind unlocking these shackles?”

    Hange unleashed a punch, a punch harder than any she had thrown before at his face, drawing blood from his mouth. The prisoner coughed and nearly choked, taking a few moments to recompose himself. Had it not been for his regeneration, the punch would have taken him down for the count, but instead a headache he now had to deal with.

    Shikishima looked back up at the glaring Hange. “I suppose that’s a fair response.”

    ***

    “Can you please not do that right now?” Jean asked, visibility disgusted at the display before him.

    “Do…. do what?” Sasha barely managed to get out, with the amount of meat in her mouth.

    “The eating!” screamed a furious Jean, his glaring eyes piercing down at her.

    “Why?” Sasha asked, after gulping down her food with satisfaction. “What’s wrong with eating? It’s a perfectly normal thing to do.”

    “I don’t give a shit if you eat, but can you not eat like that?” Jean asked, looking back down at his gluttonous friend sitting on dirt, her mouth covered with remains of earlier bites, as she sank her teeth into the meat she held with her bare hands.

    “It’s the best way for me to eat out here,” Sasha justified, her voice still muffled from all of the chewing. “The plates they give us are total crap. They fall apart instantly!”

    “It’s just……” Jean stammered, trying to find the right words to convey his argument. He tightened his hands while gritting his teeth. He let out a sigh, “It just reminds me of them and the way they eat. It really makes me lose my appetite, okay? I don’t need any more reminders of those monsters during our off time.”

    Sasha listened to his words carefully while she chewed her food, she felt sympathy for her friend. The gluttonous woman swallowed her food, giving herself the opportunity to reply to her friend’s grief.

    “Right, I just get carried away with a meal. It’s just my way of escaping my problems, like…. them,” Sasha explained, sorrow painted over her face.

    “I know, I know. Next time, can you at least not eat that way next to me?” Jean inquired, phrasing his question as nicely as he can for her.

    “I guess I can give it a try, and sorry,” Sasha concurred, giving her friend a soft smile.

    Jean returned the expression, feeling some relief wash over his body over settling his grievance without any conflict. He was glad to have Sasha as a friend despite her addiction to overeating. She was always there for her friends and would be the first one to offer words of encouragement, something that was needed in this world.

    “Thank you,” spoke Jean.

    Sasha’s soft smile morphed into a grin, as a lightbulb went off in her head. “Say, now that I did something for you, you think you can do a favor for little ol’ me?”

    Jean’s face lit up, questioning what the request from Sasha could be. He felt anxious over the crazy schemes she could make up and he did not look forward to any of them. He shivered over the last favor she asked of him, still reeling over getting caught by Drill Sergeant Yunohira when they attempted to raid the food reserves for midnight snacks.

    Their food privileges were revoked for five days.

    That wasn’t the worst part for Jean, however, it was hearing Sasha’s cries that nearly killed him.

    How he managed to survive those ear piercing sounds was beyond him.

    Jean, with great hesitation in his voice, quivered, “What do you need?”

    “Can I have your rations for today?” Sasha inquired, her voice filled with excitement as her eyes widened like a puppy.

    “Uh……..” Jean stammered while her stomach let out a monstrous growl. “Yeah, go ahead.”

    Sasha jumped up to her feet, screeching from the top of her lungs, “Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!” She lunged onto Jean, giving him a massive bear hug, sucking the air out of his body. Jean, using every ounce of strength he did his best to pry her off of him, but it was of no use. Her raw strength could not be trumped.

    “You’re the best!” The hungry woman excitedly shrieked out, relinquishing her grasp on her friend, as she then bolted over to the makeshift messhall to collect her second meal.

    Jean collapsed onto his knees, giving himself the much needed time to recover from the powerful grip that jailed him. His breaths were rapid, as he struggled to regain his strength.

    “Goddamn…..” the soldier struggled to breathe out. “We should just tell Sasha the Titans are laced with gravy. She’d get rid of them in seconds. Damn!”

    “If only,” Armin chuckled, his voice floating above the incapicitated Jean.

    The tired soldier looked up at Armin, his breathing still as rapid as before. The tactician offered Jean a hand, who immediately accepted the gesture and found himself standing back on his two feet; albeit with some stumbling.

    “Thanks,” Jean muttered.

    “It’s the least I can do,” replied Armin, rubbing his forehead. “How are you holding up?”

    “All things considered, I’m doing alright. Hell of a fight, though,” Jean breathed out, still recoiling from the intense battle.

    “It was far more than I can ever imagine,” replied an amazed Armin, removing his hand from his forehead. “Still, I’ve been thinking.”

    “Mhm, yet another observation?” Jean deduced, knowing his comrade all too well. He never minded Armin’s perceptions, but it wasn’t something he wanted to hear at the moment.

    “You can say that, it’s just something that….” Armin paused, finding himself recalling his discussion with Mikasa earlier today about moving on. He promised himself he’ll grieve when the time comes, as not was not the time. The strategist let out a large exhale, something Jean noticed all too quickly and realized his friend was troubled. “It just gets my mind off other things.”

    “Everything okay?” a concerned Jean asked.

    “No, but it’s not something I want to discuss at the moment,” Armin spoke up, his voice nearly cracking.

    Jean, despite not knowing exactly what was tugging on his comrade’s strings, felt he was going through great distress. As much as he didn’t want to hear any talk about Titans, he knew Armin needed to clear his mind off more than he did.

    “So, indulge me,” said Jean, opening himself to Armin’s observations about the previous battle.

    “The Algae Titan acts like a normal Titan, right? Eating whatever it can get is hands on,” Armin pointed out.

    Jean pinched his nose in annoyance at Armin stating the obvious, as he huffed, “Yeah, your point being?”

    “Well, whenever the Bigfoot Titan is in the vicinity, the Algae Titan tends to follow his lead and is willing to behave way differently than any other Titan,” Armin deduced.

    “Okay…. I fail to see where you’re going with this. They’re essentially Abnormals at this point,” Jean retorted, feeling his patience waning, even to the point of him rather wanting to deal with Sasha’s eating instead.

    “You guys talking about the hairy Titans?” Sasha asked, coming back with a full plate of food, shoving one-fourths of a potato in her mouth. “It’s like the brown one is some pacifist or something. You guys think he can get his little brother under control?”

    “First of all, Sasha, chew before you speak. You’re going to choke. Second, that’s what I was getting to,” Armin spoke, trying to convey his point to his two fellow soldiers. “I’ve been thinking what if we head straight toward the Bigfoot Titan? Maybe we can communicate with it, get it to ease up on the attacks.”

    “And be sitting ducks for the green one? Hell no!” Jean spat out, furious at what Armin is suggesting.

    “I have to agree with Jean,” Sasha spoke, swallowing her food. “We were barely able to fight off the green one, but having to do that while communicating with the brown one is suicide!”

    Armin’s hand shook, he gritted his teeth as he slowly started to shake. Rage unbridleding, a feeling he never felt before. He knew why he felt like this, why it was starting to get to him. The strategist struggled to combat it, he told himself he’ll do it when the time comes, but the urge was too much.

    “Goddamnit! Just let me speak for one fucking minute!” Armin roared out, taking Jean and Sasha by surprise, with the latter jumping a foot back and nearly dropping her plate. The two were frozen in place, their hearts racing as if they were hit by a jolt of lightning as Armin’s face was boiling red and shaking uncontrollably.

    Armin, after a minute, looked up at his friends, still with shock painted on their faces, only now realized what he just said. His mind nearly shattered, his knees turned to jelly as he collapsed onto them. His breathing stuttered while his eyes widened, feeling every urge to let it out.

    “Armin, you okay?” Sasha stuttered, slowly putting her plate down to the ground.

    “What’s wrong, buddy?” Jean asked lightly, approaching him, matching Sasha’s pace as they crouched down next to him, feeling remorse for getting carried away.

    “I…. I….” Armin stuttered, trying to find the right words to convey his answer. He wanted to tell them what was happening, or anyone for that matter, but his mind being a broken record told him not to. “It’s….. not important.”

    “What do you mean, not important? You haven’t been yourself in days!” Jean protested.

    “I know I haven’t, but I don’t have time to deal with it! What needs to be done is stopping the two Titans before they destroy everything in sight! If you’d just stop being pissed off at everyone or stuffing your face, you’d see that!” Armin shrieked out, letting another outburst get the best of him,

    “Armin….” Sasha choked, tears starting to well in her eyes. “We’re just worried about you.”

    “Look, I know I can be a hardass at times, but there’s something bothering you and we just want to help, bud,” Jean softly said, putting his hand on the tactician’s shoulder.

    Armin’s breathing halted in its stuttering as it was reverting back to normal, felt himself being able to feel more at ease, slowing his bodily movements. The strategist closed his eyes, giving himself a moment to think.

    He opened them back up and whispered to the two,“I know and I’m sorry for what I said. You’re right. Both of you are. I am going through some stuff. Stuff I thought would be with me forever, but it won’t.”

    “It’s okay. You can tell us,” Sasha murmured, putting her hand on his shoulder while tears started to pour, feeling a great sense of concern for her dear friend.

    Armin breathed. A sense of relief washed over him by hearing their words of comfort. He wanted to vent more than anything, but knew there were more pressing matters at stake.

    The strategist sniffed, looking up at his friends and spoke, “If we all make it through this, then I’ll tell you, but for now, just listen to what I have to say…” Armin paused, taking a deep breath followed by a slow exhale. “Please.”

    Sasha nodded her head. “Okay. Just don’t keep it bottled up for long. We care about you.”

    “Can’t have our best tactician falling apart now, can we?” Jean joked, trying his best to lighten up the situation.

    Armin smiled at their kind words and even let out a chuckle. “Okay, as I was saying. If we can find a way to parlay with the Bigfoot Titan, we can get him to halt their attacks. All the while a few of our scouts could intercept and distract the Algae Titan. Then, that’s where Eren can come in and restrain him. That way, if we pull this off, no one will be harmed. Even the two Titans.”

    “I suppose it’s worth a shot. I don’t see why we should spare the two, but it’s better than throwing more lives at them,” Jean spoke, not fully fond of the idea, but willing to hear him out, just in the off chance it can be reformed later on.

    “We can always ask Hange, see what she thinks,” Sasha suggested, not fully sure on where she personally stands on the plan. The gluttonous soldier never came up with the plans nor had any desire to, just enough to to keep her informed.

    “I guess we can get her thoughts on it,” Armin spoke quietly, he was getting himself up onto his feet, but felt two pair of hands on his shoulder. He then saw the culprits to be Sasha and Jean giving him reassuring smiles, letting him know that they’re for him. He felt comfort in that and a new sense of confidence.

    He didn’t know if it would last or for how long, but helt felt amenity in it. Armin wouldn’t let it go to waste.

    The three, without conveying another word to each other, marched toward the commander’s tent to communicate with her on their plan of attack. And, to their luck, they didn’t need to open it, as Hange burst right through the entrance.

    The three soldiers stood at attention, saluting her.

    “You really don’t need to do that, you know?” Hange stated, never liking the idea of everyone constantly saluting her, feeling her position to be informal at best.

    “Sorry, force of habit, mam,” Jean apologized, rubbing the back of his head.

    “We’ll be diverting our forces back to Wall Maria, so you better assist in loading up. We don’t have a lot of time,” Hange announced, taking the three by surprise.

    “We’re heading back, why? Aren’t we supposed to be pushing the attack?” Sasha inquired, not at all upset over by the change of plans, but was inquisitive over the sudden change of orders.

    “Our prisoner,” Hange said with venom in her voice over having to even speak of Shikishima. “Has informed me of the high possibility of Sanda and Gaira attacking the wall.”

    “Who are Sanda and Gaira?” Armin inquired, completely baffled by the foreign names.

    “Oh, right!” Hange blurted out, bopping herself on the forehead. “The Bigfoot and Algae Titans.”

    “I guess it’s easier to say it like that,” Sasha pointed out.

    “It’s their actual names, but that’s not important. What did you come to me for?” Hange inspected, knowing the three had something they wanted to discuss with her.

    “I think I have an idea on how to ensure their defeat,” Armin announced.

    “Really?” Hange asked, her eyes widening. “What did you have in mind?”

    “By placating their behavior. We go after Sanda by trying to negotiate with him to not attack us, and to even take his brother far away from here. All the while Eren and a garrison of scouts can restrain Gaira,” Armin explained.

    “Hmm…. it does give us the best chance to get a deeper look into them. We can discuss it with the others on the ride back,” Hange answered, as then followed her statement up with an order. “As for now, assist the others in packing everything up. I want us all to be at our best,”

    “Yes, ma’am!” The three scouts shouted in unison as Hange took her leave.

    “You did good, Armin!” Jean congratulated, patting him on the back.

    “Armin, just remember,” Sasha spoke, getting Armin to turn his attention to her. “You got this and we’ll be with you every step of the way.

    Armin gulped, feeling proud of getting the section commander interested in his plan and for having friends by his side. It wouldn’t be the solution to his problems, but it did put him on the path to finding it.

    And, he was truly thankful for it. For them.

    ***

    2 days after incident

    The proverbial winds whispered in the shadows of the ebbing twilight. Coarse sands drowned by the gentle caress of the ocean’s waters. Foliage that once stood tall and mighty crushed underfoot by the feet of giants. Fauna scattered from their monstrous footfalls, long before they even arrived.

    The Brown Gargantua heaved a deliberate sigh as he carried his slumped brother over his shoulder. No doubt they had escaped from the vicious grasp of the humans that lived in the walls. Even for beings as remarkably large as themselves, who could cross distances in short periods of time, it was a several hour long journey from the artificial constructs to the beauty of the evening ocean. As they breached the evergreen barrier onto the rough white sands, Sanda finally placed his barely conscious brother down, taking the opportunity to rest.

    Collapsing onto the soft beach, Sanda dropped back and molded a bodily imprint with his massive frame. His eyes gazed at the beauty of creation, leaving his troubled mind in dire complacency. He recalled their encounter with the white Titan, how Gaira became obsessed with hunting for the humanoid giants that pervaded Japan. None of this was going as it was meant to be, yet even so Sanda wasn’t sure which was more problematic.

    His left hand balled into a rocky fist, slamming it against the unstable terrain in a fit of frustration. Why did it have to be them? Why were they handpicked for this task? The humans had done nothing wrong since their disappearance a century ago. Humanity was capable of many things, including love and compassion. Sanda’s heart always remembered that, with a sudden rush of dopamine accompanying such thoughts. Yet the brief elation died as soon as it came. They couldn’t escape from the demons that chained them down. They would either die failing or return with their primary goal achieved. At least, that’s what it felt like.

    Guilt overcame him. Even if he was not responsible, he was still an associate by not turning against his orders. For bringing Gaira along, leading to untold deaths. Did he have a choice in the matter? Couldn’t there be some other way? The thought of killing humans always made him quesy. He despised the thought, but knew it was going to be a necessary evil to do what must be done.

    Shifting sands caught his attention, the Brown Gargantua observing his brother sitting up. Sanda rose up as well, keeping himself seated in the displaced grains of sand. Gaira meanwhile got back to his feet, and before Sanda could do anything, the Green Gargantua darted for the open water without a moment’s notice. The savage sea giant took decisive strides as the ocean openly embraced him into her depths. Soon enough, Gaira was out of view, leaving only churning foam bubbling on the surface.

    He was alone now, his mind burdened by the future that lied ahead. Nothing could be done to avoid it. He brought his knees in and curled up. Humans needed to die… It went against his very nature. But it was deemed a necessary evil to save the many lives that inhabited this planet; so said his captors.

    Which would perish? Humanity? Or the Earth?

    Whimpering and sobbing broke out, for he did not want this to happen. Certainly, the mistakes of humans had always been accounted for by history. But they could do so much more if given the chance to amend their wrongdoings. Then maybe there wouldn’t be a need to exterminate them…

    He didn’t know how long he had spent moping, nor realized the sun had long since dipped behind the oceanic horizon. When he peeped to determine his brother’s whereabouts, he was surprised to see Gaira’s shaggy hair and leering eyes poking above the watery surface, staring right at him. Displaced water rippled as the Green Gargantua returned to shore, cascading waterfalls rolling off his body as he did.

    Gaira snorted, venting hot air accumulated from his own frustration. His shadow draped over Sanda, then firmly grasped his rocky shoulders and shook him violent. Beastly screeches escaped Gaira’s nasty jaws, reinforcing his point. The world was cruel, for love and pacifism could never be eternally maintained. To be of the world, one must have the strength and the will to live. Even Gaira recalled his earliest memories, hunting in the merciless oceans for sustenance. No care, no guide, just pure survival to the fittest.

    Sanda’s dejected eyes veered away, but Gaira continued to scream and shake. There was no room for compassion here, lest they lose everything! Grisly steups expressed the savage’s seething rage perfectly; for his brother’s eschewed mentality prevented him from taking it all the way. How could they accomplish anything if all they did was sit and wait? Gaira would have none of it, and he’d prove to Sanda as to why.

    Releasing his grip, the scaly green giant shook the residual water off his body, spraying it within proximity and splattering against Sanda. Without a moment to waste, fully energized from the much needed rest, the sea green hominid gestured to his brother. The sooner they get this done, the sooner they could live their lives in peace.

    If there was nothing else Sanda wanted more than anything, it was peace of mind–and finally to be left alone…

    Shuffling from the sands, the great Gargantua rose to his feet and followed in his brother’s path. They’d charge into battle, almost knowing for certain what waited for them. But if they could accomplish their mission, then they would at last have what they sought for. Even so, Sanda was still of troubled mind, uncertain of what choices he would have to make…

    Was it for the humans? Was it for the planet? Was it for his brother?

    He would have to see for himself, and at last destroy his internal walls of what mattered most to him.

    ***

    5 days after incident

    The chipped stone rested on his palm as his thumb rubbed it, feeling some sense of comfort by the rough, jagged feel. However, Eren kept his eyes peeled on the horizon before him, as he remained seated at the edge of the wall, letting his feet dangle.

    ‘No matter how times I see it, I can never attain it.’

    The Titan shifter kept his focus on the horizon, the glowing orange light slowly rising up the pink faded sky. He admired the beauty of the prospect, something that helped keep him sane. If only it were that easy for him, as in reality, it only kept the looming thoughts of his many failures at bay.

    ‘Would anything I do ultimately matter? Or are my failures the only ones that live on?’

    Eren gripped the stone tighter in his hand, sealing his eyes closed. He gave himself an escape from the phenomenon before him. He felt disgust. He can look at the Titans without any sort of feeling of dread, but looking at something simple like the horizon gave him nothing by confliction.

    ‘Am I nothing more than a Titan? A weapon. One that may not even be reliable.’

    His mind shifted through every dream he shared with everyone he cared about. Their aspirations filled them with hope in this dreadful world, but now, those desires were gone. Only memories remained, and nothing could bring them back.

    ‘Where do I go from here?’

    “Hey kid,” A voice called to him, causing Eren to jump himself awake, as he started to find himself tilting toward the edge. His eyes widen in fear, feeling the inevitably of his fall, Eren grabbed the edges of the wall as an attempt to stabilize. However, it only impeded his loss of balance.

    From the corner of his eye, the stone fell out of his hand and down the wall. Eren, with the last of his fingers losing their grip on the surface, lost their grip. The Titan shifter lowered his mouth toward his thumb, preparing to transform to save his life, but as if a miracle washed over him, he was stopped.

    “Easy there,” The voice spoke again, as Eren turned his around to find the perpetrator to be Shikishima with a smile on his face. “We can’t have you doing that yet.”

    As bitter as he was with the former commander of his betrayal, he did not refuse his help, realizing he would only exhaust himself by transforming. Shikishima pulled Eren onto a more secure area of the wall.

    Shikishima allowed Eren a few seconds to collect himself, before pointing something out to him. “That’s three you owe me, junior.”

    Eren, between breaths, briefly looked up at the fellow shifter and huffed, “Piss off.”

    Shikishima chuckled at Eren’s stubbornness. “You’re welcome, by the way.”

    “And…. my reply….. is still….. piss off….” Eren breathed out, his breathing returning back to normal, as he was then standing back up to face Shikishima.

    “A shame, but…” Shikishima heaved, flicking his ear. “Understandable.”

    “What are you doing up here anyway? Shouldn’t you be in a cell?”

    “You’d think, but the Section Commander decided to be sweet on me by allowing me to walk freely on the top of the wall,” explained Shikishima, feeling proud of the situation he was in.

    “After the shit you pulled, I doubt that,” Eren called out, with a scowl growing on his face.

    “You called my bluff on the first half, but she’s just allowing me to stay here should the Gargantuas arrive sooner than expected,” clarified the former Section Commander.

    “The Gargantuas?” inquired Eren, confused by the foreign term he brought up.

    “Oh, just the name I coined for the two of them. No need to waste time by saying their individual names,” Shikishima explained.

    The two then went silent for a moment as if the horizon entranced them with its booming light and enchanting vista. It was something, without speaking a word to each other could agree on, to which it was a thing of beauty.

    Shikishima turned to Eren and asked, “What were you daydreaming about?”

    “Nothing,” Eren said dismissively, not wanting to talk to anyone about his recent views, much less the pestering nuisance standing before him.

    “Ah! The kind of nothing that gets you to fall off,” Shikishima mocked, resulting in Eren to turn around and greet him with a glare. “You may as well tell me. Neither of us have anything better to do.”

    Eren went to protest, but quickly withdrew as he realized he was right. The Titan shifter could have made the excuse of having to check up on Armin or Mikasa, but if he had to give credit to Shikishima, it was being good at reading people. He had no choice but to answer, and hoped his answer would be enough to get him to leave.

    “A life,” Eren answered plainfully, turning his gaze to the ascending horizon.

    “Yes, that’s something everyone dreams of, but what were you thinking of specifically?” Shikishima called out, hoping to delve deeper into Eren’s desires.

    “Why do you care?”

    “One of my ways of looking out for you, kiddo,” chuckled Shikishima, resisting the urge to pat him on the shoulder.

    “Did I ask for it?” barked Eren.

    “No, but it’s going to happen,” Shikishima declared, ignoring Eren’s protests.

    Eren huffed and puffed as his face turned red at the man’s dismissive and ruthless attitude. He hated him with every fiber of his being. To him, he was nothing more than a traitor and one he would gladly love to bludgeon, but unfortunately, yelling would have to do.

    “Like the time you killed Sannagi and almost everyone else!” roared Eren, reminding himself of their pointless deaths when they could have lived.

    “That was regrettable,” Shikishima murmured, lowering his head down as he looked down at the surface of the wall. “I did not lie about wanting all of you to join me. Once you all rejected my plan, I didn’t see any other way around it except to incapacitate you.”

    “There’s always another choice!” hollered Eren, taking a step toward him.

    “A lesson I tend to forget. Souda taught me that one, or at least tried to,” Shikishima mumbled, causing Eren to stop in place. His heart started to race over the mention of his old friend. He didn’t know the two knew each other, even a bit of disgust over him knowing someone as vile like the Titan shifter, but he had to know.

    “You knew Souda?”

    “I did,” Shikishima answered, with a small smile forming on his face. “He looked out for me in my days of youth and was even my source of inspiration to join the Regiments. Half-considered the Garrison at first.”

    “I wish he was still here,” Eren murmured sadly, with a deep sigh following.

    “I do too. I’m sorry for not saving him in time,” Shikishima apologized, turning his attention back to Eren. “Souda and Sannagi were dutiful soldiers, risking their lives for the people they cared about. The world is lesser with their losses. Even though I’m directly responsible for one of them dying.”

    “A life outside the walls,” Eren spoke, glancing back toward the nearly deceased horizon.

    “Hmm….” Shikishima murmured, confused by what his fellow Titan shifter just vocalized.

    “That’s the answer to your question. A life outside the walls where I can see the world from an air balloon, help build a settlement, one without walls to where everyone can see the beauty surrounding them, and……” Eren stammered, taking a minute to recompose how he wanted to say his final desire. “And to create a family of my own.”

    Shikishima studied Eren as he was talking, listening closely to every word that came out of his mouth. These were things that would give any person joy, but the way they came out of Yeager’s mouth were the opposite. Sorrow, despair and dread. He wanted Eren to have that kind of life, but knew with the way he was conveying it all, it would lead to an existence of nothing but misery.

    The former section commander opened his mouth, asking, “Is that what you truly value or is there something else?”

    “I don’t know.” Eren stammered, dumbfounded at the question before him. “I really don’t know.”

    “It might have been a while, but do you remember the song from the hidden bunker?” Shikishima inquired, hoping Eren would recall some semblance of the luxuries offered to him in the sanctuary.

    “No, I can’t say I can recall, and why ask that now of all times?” Eren asked, completely baffled by the random question about a song. A song that wasn’t important during his time there nor bore any significance now.

    “The End of the World, sung by Skeeter Davis. It’s about how the world keeps going, even as you’re suffering from losing someone important,” explained Shikishima, forming a smile over having a fondness of the song. It was one he played for the soldiers who joined his cause. Despite it being a depressing song, he felt it kept everyone at ease even with the looming threat of the Titans before them.

    “Mikasa mentioned you a couple of times when I trained her,” Shikishima announced, resulting in Eren to look at him with a hint of excitement, but was mostly masked by dejection hearing her name.

    “It doesn’t matter now,” Eren bluntly dismissed, his stomach turning to knots, with his mind playing back his last conversation with her.

    “She was that person to you, wasn’t she?” asked Shikishima.

    Eren kept his silence, as he didn’t want to continue this conversation. Unfortunately for him, life didn’t side with him, as Shikishima continued to push the conversation.

    “Was. That’s all there is to it,” inferred Eren. “Why does it matter to you anyway?”

    “I care for people and listen to what they say,” Shikishima answered, with Eren giving him an immediate glare. One in response because of the way he saw him dispatching certain people. The former commander raised his hands up defensively. “Right, right. To clarify. Despite being a glutton, Sasha is a very capable hunter. Your best friend Armin, is very timid, but a brilliant strategist. And, Hiana, not only did I know she alerted the Titans, but that you kept her secret.”

    Eren’s eyes widen at the mention of Hiana. His hands tightened as she was just another casualty of his failures. He nearly winced, as it was a memory more painful than most, as the two had gotten close in the short amount of time they knew each other. Like others, she was grabbed in an instant, but that didn’t free him from his guilt. He wished he could have done more for her.

    “So…. to reiterate,” Shikishima spoke, stirring Eren out of his pondering. “Is she that important of a person to you?

    “I believe…” stuttered Eren, not fully sure if he can answer that question truthfully or even at all. He just knew he couldn’t give Shikishima silence. “I can be happy with her.”

    “Because you spared her the chance to embrace the freedom from this cruel world?” examined Shikishima.

    “It’s not like that!” Eren roared out, taking a step toward Shikishima, his eyes piercing the Titan shifter as he took offence to the question. One that not only reminded him of Levi’s question about reliability, but of forming any meaningful connections. He let out a short breath before putting himself at ease. “I just… want peace for all mankind.”

    Shikishima snorted in amusement, but quickly pulled back, knowing humor was no longer an option to pacify Eren. “Depends on how far you’re willing to push to achieve those goals. If she brings you happiness, then that is your decision to make and I will support it. Just on one condition.”

    “And that is?” Eren asked, agitated at the audacity of Shikishima making demands of how he wants to live his life.

    “Treat her right. Not just for her sake, but for your own,” Shikishima noted before taking a sorrowed filled exhale. “Don’t make the same mistakes I did.”

    The words went through Eren like a volley of arrows, as he started to find a newfound sense of sympathy for the man. He didn’t like it, but he had to understand it. Understand him and why the way he is.

    “What do you mean by that?” vocalized Eren.

    With a large exhale, Shikishima lowered his head, his entire demeanor changed in an instant. “Look, if we survive this, and if I’m able to, let’s grab a drink. It’s a lot better for both of us to be shitfaced.”

    His eyes rolled at the pathetic excuse he gave, but decided nonetheless to drop it. Arguing and possibly fighting over it wouldn’t help the situation. He decided to ask a different question. One that may produce more fruitful results.

    “Okay, what about you, Shikishima? What makes you happy?”

    Shikishima let out another exhale, “The thrill of death is my only salvation. But ever since I was endowed with these powers, I find I can never truly die.” He glanced up at Eren, looking him directly in the eye and continued, but pain seemed to have made its way in his voice. “And neither will you. What will happen then, when you outlive everyone you care about? Can you really live with that, Eren?”

    Eren remained silent, contemplating how to respond. He knew the information Shikishima dumped on him was true and it was something he wanted to reject. To close the door on, but it would just barge its way in and take everyone he held dear away. It was inevitable and it scared him more than any Titan could.

    “I don’t know. But we have to make do with what we got,” replied Eren, sorrow now filling his voice as if he were infected by Shikishima’s current mood.

    “I see…” Shikishima muttered, flicking his ear once more, as he turned his attention to the bright blue sky before them.

    “What about you? What do you think will happen to you after this coming battle?” Eren asked, curious to see if Shikishima will flee or is up to something far more sinister.

    “At best, probation. At worst, I get a face full of lead from the firing squad,” The Titan shifter answered bluntly, sounding as if he were resigned to his fate.

    “You’re not concerned over the possibility of being executed?” Eren inquired, blown away by Shikishima’s tone of voice.

    “Humans live and die, Eren. Some are better off and others get the worst of it,” Shikishima sighed, glancing at him. “But some things change depending how hard you fight.”

    “Then we both know what we must do,” Eren surmised, walking toward the edge of the wall.

    “Easier said than done, Eren,” Shikishima pointed out, as Eren simply nodded his head knowing the truth to that statement.

    “We got movement!” A soldier hollered out, snapping Eren and Shikishima away from their discussion and toward the noise.

    The ground rumbled.

    Wall Maria shook as several of the standing soldiers fumbled around.

    “Confirmation on Gaira exiting the forest!” Another soldier cried out.

    The Green Gargantua let loose an ear shrieking roar, stomping past the forest. Gaira snarled, moving his eyes at his surroundings. He noticed everyone standing on top of the wall, a sight that immediately made him lick his lips. His stomach growled. Gaira’s instincts told him to destroy the wall before him, but a couple of snacks wouldn’t hurt while he did it.

    “He’s just standing there,” A soldier pointed out.

    “What is it doing?” Another asked.

    “Any pointers you want to give out?” Eren asked, turning over to Shikishima, who kept his focus on the still Gargantua.

    “Don’t think of him as just a brute. He’s smarter than you think,” The Titan shifter spoke.

    Without even looking down, Gaira placed his right hand on a tree and yanked it from the ground. The green giant brandished the weapon, inspecting its narrow like form. He grunted while nodding, as he slammed the tree onto his left palm, testing the sturdiness of it. Gaira let out a small roar, approving of the newly acquired weapon.

    “Approach Gaira with caution. His aim is a lot better than anything we encountered,” A soldier called out.

    Gaira raised the tree above his shoulder, shifting his hand down toward the middle of the branch. The gruesome beast closed his left eye, as he covered the area with his right eye. He kept the tree sturdy as his method of attack was about to begin.

    With everyone else the two Titan shifters observed Gaira and what he was about to do, trying to put together what he was planning. Shikishima, on the other hand, knew the beast all too well. His eyes widened, realizing what was about to happen.

    “Everyone get down!” Shikishima screamed, his lungs shaking rapidly. Not even a second past, as his first instinct was to tackle Eren to ground, keeping him from getting back on his feet.

    As if Gaira synchronized with Shikishima’s command, he threw the tree like a spear at the top of the wall. Several of Survey Corp stationed on the top of the wall heeded their former commander’s order, dropping to the ground as the tree soared over them.

    Everyone stationed on the wall breathed a sigh of relief as they were in one piece, but others behind the wall weren’t so lucky. The large tree crashed into a block of homes, as screams immediately filled both members of the Survey Corp and the Garrison’s ears. They collectively winced at the cries of horror from the attack, all realizing this was the least of their worries.

    The attack had just begun, and before they knew it, Gaira let out a thunderous shriek.

    Gaira charged at speeds never seen by anyone, his goal standing before him and nothing could stop him from doing it. He was ambushed by those pestering beings once before, but it would not happen again. The green giant was ready.

    The Green Gargantua turned his head away from the direction of the wall while moving his left shoulder up, bracing himself for the inevitable collision. Before anyone could prepare or even get a grasp on what he was doing, Gaira slammed himself into the wall.

    The crash erupted a booming sound. One that could be heard for miles as everyone’s ears rang. Others on the other hand couldn’t hold their balance on the wall, falling to their doom while screaming at the top of their lungs. Some were fortunate to activate their ODM gear in time, propelling them to safety. The rest were about to meet a gruesome fate.

    Gaira reeled himself from the wall, inspecting the large gaping hole he made in the center of it. The Gargantua growled in satisfaction at the destruction he caused so far as pieces of it crumbled away. He eyed the civilians behind the border, their fear upon seeing him. The green giant loved seeing them scurry in fright. As appetizing as the Titans were to him and being an unlimited food source provided an incentive to devour them, he couldn’t deny humanity’s special ingredient.

    Fear.

    It was it that made them a delicacy to the flesh eating creature. Gaira drooled over the screaming populace, but knew it would have to wait. He heard screams above him, immediately forcing him to tilt his head up and see several scouts descending toward them.

    He shot his hands up, capturing several of the scouts. Their screams were music to his ears as he opened his jaws right open. He lifted his right hand up and bit down on the captive scouts, savoring every bite. Gaira then felt a slight sting on his left hand, snarling at the cause of this inconvenience. The beast turned his attention to the scouts in his left hand slashing away, desperately trying to free themselves. Without any bit of hesitation, he bit down on the captive scouts, tearing them to pieces with his teeth.

    “Goddamn monster!” Eren hissed, observing the monstrosity devouring several of his comrades.
    “I know, I know,” Shikishima calmly said, trying to keep Eren and himself focused on the fight ahead of them. “Just remember what we’re doing.”

    “Yeah,” Eren mumbed, getting himself up to his feet.

    “Are you ready for this?” Shikishima asked, starely deeping at Eren.

    “I’ll do whatever it takes!” Eren chanted, taking a step toward the edge of the wall.

    “Just don’t get yourself killed!” Shikishima called out, as Eren glanced back at him. “It’ll look bad on me!”

    Eren chuckled, turning back to look down at Gaira, readying himself to make another charge into the wall. Not even giving it a second thought, he lunged off the wall. He felt the wind blow through him as he descended faster and faster. Compared to others in his company, he relished the idea of finishing the green giant.

    ‘It’s time we finish this! You and I!’

    Eren raised his right hand up to his mouth, as he opened his mouth, letting out a battle cry, “I will show you what humanity is made of!”

    He bit down on his thumb, eliciting a fountain of blood to pour out. Lighting struck down Eren as he felt his body transform into the ferocious Attack Titan. The newly transformed Titan let loose a defiant roar filling the heavens with its presence.

    CRASH!

    The Attack Titan landed in front of the wall, looking directly at the charging Gaira. Eren shifted his arm back, his hand transforming into a fist, readying himself to strike. Gaira, however, anticipated the Jager Titan’s plan of attack and stopped in his tracks. The Green Gargantua fumbled, but regained his equilibrium, staring directly at his troublesome foe.

    When he emerges victorious over the Attack Titan, he will devour every bit of flesh from his very body. It was the least he deserved for being a thorn at his side for far too long. He needed to end this to please the voice that had been plaguing both his and his brother’s mind. Gaira and his brother haven’t always seen eye to eye, but he would always find a way to make sure his brother didn’t suffer. An idea, seemingly out of nowhere, popped in his head. The Green Gargantua observed the Titan holding his stance and knew how to drop him where he stood.

    Gaira let out a battle cry, charging at the Titan once more, showing every intent to tackle him to the ground. The Attack Titan launched his fist outward, expecting to hear a large series of crackles from breaking the Gargantua’s face, but it did not occur as Eren predicted.

    ‘What….. What is going on?’ Eren mumbled, muddled at how the beast was able to drop to the ground in a flash. Before the Titan shifter could ponder any further, he felt his right leg break apart. He looked down and noticed Gaira’s foot retracting from his leg. The green giant immediately launched his foot into the damaged leg again, eliciting a scream from the Titan.

    The Attack Titan dropped to the ground, his appendage nearly shattered. It would take a few minutes before he could stand once more, but it would not take him out of the fight for the time being.

    “Son of a bitch! You want to play dirty, huh? I can play that game, too!” Eren growled, turning his head toward the snorting Gaira, satisfied with his plan of crippling the Titan.

    The Attack Titan let out a ferocious roar and dove his head into the beast’s right shoulder. His sharp teeth shredded through the outer skin, extracting a high pitched cry from Gaira. The green giant slammed his fists repeatedly on the Titan’s upper body in an attempt to get humanoid to forgo the imprisoning bite. Each punch hit harder than the last, but it was not enough, the Attack Titan continued sinking his teeth into his shoulder.

    Despite it all, blood seeped through the Attack Titan’s back from Gaira’s powerful strikes. Eren knew he couldn’t take much more and as much as he wanted to hear his cries of pain, he had to tear it off before it was too late. With a final clamp with his powerful choppers, he reached the shoulder blade.

    SNAP!

    The Attack Titan tore through the shoulder, pulling his head back out with Gaira’s entire shoulder in his mouth. Gaira let out a piercing shriek from the intense pain of his shoulder being ripped from his body. Blood spurted out like a sprinkler as the green giant clutched his wound with his intact arm, a pain he never once felt before.

    Eren smirked in satisfaction of reducing his adversary into a crying mess. The Attack Titan dropped the removed flesh from his teeth, keeping an eye on the wounded Gargantua, feeling satisfied at delivering a decisive blow to the creature.

    “Let me give you another reason as to why you should never mess with humanity!” Eren screamed, wanting to make this vile creature suffer every bit he can before it meets its untimely demise.

    The Attack Titan launched its powerful hands at the wounded arm of Gaira. The Green Gargantua could do nothing to defend himself as the Jaeger Titan grabbed a hold of his arm and pulled. Gaira let out another ear piercing screech as he heard his very own bones explode from the tension being put on it while liquid erupted from the shoulder wound, covering the right side of his face with blood.

    Then, with a final tug, Gaira’s arm snapped off, eliciting a huge explosive crack. The Attack Titan inspected the newly severed limb before throwing it off to the distance as Eren glanced up at the bawling Gaira. Red liquid poured out of his stump, staining his green fur with his own blood. The Attack Titan smiled in delight at seeing his gruesome foe mutilated, but it soon faded when he heard a familiar roar.

    The Titan looked over to see Sanda heading over to their direction and growled. He knew what Sanda was capable of, especially when it concerned Gaira. Eren did not look forward to what could potentially happen next.

    ‘I just hope Armin can get Sanda to stand down. I don’t need him interfering with my score.’

     

    Armin observed the arrival of Sanda and nodded with determination. His part of the plan was now up. Despite coming up with the plan, he was nervous at how it would play out. A part of him knew Sanda was capable of communicating with them, but another knew his beastial side could come in at any moment.

    The strategist gulped, as he felt a hand on his shoulder. He turned his head slightly to see it was Sasha giving him a reassuring smile. Armin appreciated the gesture, even though he knew Sasha was in the same boat as him.

    “Are you ready for this?” Jean spoke, garnering his attention.

    “Yeah…. Yeah,” Armin replied, snapping himself back into reality. “We got this.”

    “You’re damn right we got this!” cheered Jean, doing his best to keep his team’s spirits high.

    Armin smiled softly at his friend’s efforts as he believed it helped relieve some of the tension. All the while, out of the four, Mikasa didn’t utter a word nor show any emotion. Only stoicism. The strategist knew Mikasa would be on top of things, but he needed to hear it or at least hear his distant friend’s voice. At least once for this battle, that was all he needed to get him through it.

    “Mikasa,” said Armin softly, gaining her attention. “You got us covered should this go south?”

    “Always,” Mikasa answered plainly, confident in her abilities to ensure the safety of her team on this daring parley.

    “Let’s go,” Armin announced, with the four unleashing the cables from their ODM gear, immediately yanking them toward Sanda’s direction.

    “Shouldn’t Shikishima be helping Eren with the green meanie?!” Sasha hollered through the high winds, as they traversed to their destination.

    “That’s what I thought!” Jean called out.

    “Like I said before, Eren needs to let Gaira think he’s the only one he’s fighting! That way Shikishima can come in for the killing blow!” Armin explained.

    “Are you sure that’s a wise thing to do? Eren’s always been one to get carried away,” spoke Sasha, still concerned for the Titan shifter’s well-being.

    “Eren will be fine!” Mikasa interjected, her voice seemingly blunt and stoic, as if she was completely robotic. Her fellow teammates glanced back at her, shocked at how fast her behavior had changed in the past couple of days. No longer the quiet, but approachable young woman. She acted more like a machine than a person, as she then continued, “He has his mission and we have ours.”

    The others turned back, troubled by her complete disregard for the safety of their friend. Armin’s mouth quivered, as he thought ending her tension with Eren would resolve her struggles, but it seemed it only sent her spiraling downward.

    ‘I thought Mikasa would heal, but she’s…… I don’t know what she is,’ thought a terrified Armin, at the newfound revelation.

    “What have I done?” Armin mumbled, horrified at his choice of words from before. He failed at saving his friendships and now failed her. A couple of tears flew from his eyes, becoming one with the wind, as they glided closer and closer to the approaching Gargantua. Armin eyed Sanda, admiring its towering size, but also its gentle nature from the behavior alone.

    Armin glanced at Mikasa changing direction and landing on the branch of an obscured tree. She pulled out her blades, readying to strike the beast should Armin’s plea fail. Mikasa expected herself to jump in at any time, as they were nothing more than beasts. Ones, just like the Titans should be exterminated. Still, she would give Armin the benefit of doubt, however, it wouldn’t be one she would stake her life on.

    “We’re closing in,” spoke the strategist, turning his head over to Jean. “You have the flare?”

    “I sure do!” Jean called back, the three making their descent on the roof of a building. Jean immediately pulled out the flare and approached Armin with it. “Your plan, you have the honors of using it.”

    “Thanks,” spoke Armin, taking the flare from his comrade. The three looked up at Sanda approaching his destination, knowing it was now or never to parlay with the brown giant. It was the only way to see if it will work or at the very least buy everyone some time.

    “The moment of truth,” the tactician surmised, raising his hand up and with a pull of the trigger, the flare shot up. An echoing sound erupted from the gun, immediately forcing Armin to drop the device and cover his ear from the excruciating pain followed by his two companions.

    Sanda stopped in his tracks, hearing the loud noise exploding next to him. The Gargantua let out a small snort, curious as to what the foreign sound was. He turned to the source of the eruption and saw to his surprise, three humans standing on a roof, staring up at him. The humanoid stood there perplexed at what this group would want to garner his attention for. Sanda knew he had a mission to complete, but it was as if his heart was compelling him to stay. The beast simply growled softly, lowering himself down onto one knee, curious as to know why they have alerted him.

    The three stared up at Sanda, noticing his inquisitive like expression on his face, Armin took a step forward and spoke, “I…. I don’t know if you can understand…. well, at least not fully.”

    Armin paused, trying to find the right words to convey his negotiation with Sanda. A huge part of this plan was on him and he didn’t know if he’ll be able to achieve it. All he knew was to at least try.

    “We don’t want to fight you or your brother. Like you, we just want to be left in peace,” Armin spoke, announcing his intentions to the Gargantua.

    Sanda, as if the words flew into his ears, understood what the human was relaying. The Brown Gargantua agreed to the Scout’s wants and even desired them, but it was something he couldn’t forgo so easily. Whatever had been plaguing him and his brother’s minds driven them to complete madness, massacring anything that stood in their path. He felt disgusted with himself by the actions he committed, and hearing this child’s plea to a ceasefire brought warmth to his heart.

    The Gargantua murmured, shaking his head at the conflict brewing inside his mind. Armin took another step forward, “Please…. Tell us how to end this! Show us! How can we end this without further bloodshed?”

    Sanda murmured, gritting teeth, feeling the urge to smash the trio to pieces, but restrained himself. It was hard for him to keep that vile urge at bay, but it was worth it to keep at least one piece of himself from fading away.

     

    ‘Come on, Armin, get the big brother to relent! I don’t know how long I can distract him without having to switch to more drastic measures!’ Eren glared, gritting his teeth as he observed the negotiation.

    Gaira growled silently from the agonizing pain he was going through from the battle thus far. He glanced over to his stump, noticing the tissue repairing itself. It would take some time, but Gaira knew he would have to rely on one arm for now and he was going to make it count. The Green Gargantua noticed his attacker distracted by his brother from a distance away. He wanted to alert his brother to his position to come to his aid, but knew wherever the other Titan was, it would lunge at his brother.

    The green beast snarled, his blood pumping as he felt his rage coming full force. Gaira let out a powerful shriek as he launched his remaining arm onto the Attack Titan’s neck.

    ‘What the hell!?’ Eren snarled, turning his face back to his fore, but it was too late. Gaira dug his sharp nails into his throat, blood erupting from his mouth. One of his nails dug into Eren’s leg, eliciting a pained scream from Eren, with the Attack Titan following suit.

    With his foe finally reeling from agony, Gaira stood back up, digging his fingers deeper into his esophagus. Another rage filled roar erupted from the green beast’s maw as he moved forward, his feet gaining traction as he charged straight toward the damaged wall.

    The Jaeger Titan struck Gaira’s head multiple times in an attempt for him to relinquish his death grip on him. The monstrous goliath felt the pain surging through his head, as if he felt pieces of his skull beginning to crack, but couldn’t let pain bring him down. He would rip this nuisance’s head off if it meant it being the last thing he did.

    Nearing the wall, Gaira pulled the Attack Titan momentarily back and in an instant slammed his rival into it. The wall rumbled, followed shortly with a whole section of the wall collapsing from the harsh impact of the Titan’s body.

    ‘Shikshima, you better get your ass down here!’ Eren glared, his Titan body struggling to get up to resume the fight.

    Shikishima looked down at the resulting change of the battle, shaking his head. He knew he would have to come in regardless, but expected it to be under better circumstances. The former commander just hoped Hange and Levi were doing everything they could to evacuate the civilians.

    He cracked his knuckles and smirked.

    “Show time.”

    The Titan shifter jumped off the wall, readying himself to fulfill his part of the plan. With a reach in his pocket, he pulled out a small knife. Nothing he preferred personally, but it was the only thing the higher ups were willing to give him. Nonetheless, he made do with it and slit the palm of his hand, grinning as he did so.

    Lighting flashed down upon him, feeling himself fusing with a much larger body. Within seconds, he felt himself in control with the power of “The Strongest Man,” a title he proudly coined himself.

    The Armored Titan unleashed a powerful roar as he descended further down, marking his target for something he would never expect. The Titan shifter put his hands together and stretched them behind his back. He spotted Gaira pinning his fellow Titan shifter down to the ruined wall. Shikishima murmured angrily at the action performing in front of him as he would take a great deal of satisfaction on the inflicting strike.

    ‘Have fun with the last moment you’re conscious for.’

    The Armored Titan launched his hands forward, striking Gaira’s damaged head. The Titan landed on his two feet, his hands still on the Gargantua’s head, feeling them sinking slightly downward. He soon pulled his hands back, noticing Gaira stunned by the attack. Saliva poured out of the green beast’s mouth while blood flooded from the top of his head along with his eyes and ears. From the bruising impact, Gaira felt the entire top of his skull shatter and his brain flattening. Had it not been for his amazing healing factor, he would have been dead, but the attack left him nearly docile. Gaira couldn’t move nor form a coherent thought. With no control over his body, he felt himself collapse on his back, but not before having the strength to let out a childlike cry.

    The Armored Titan feeling satisfied with his finishing move turned to the downed Attack Titan. Shikishima smirked at his fellow Titan shifter and offered a hand up. Eren shook his head and reluctantly accepted his offer.

    ‘Yeah, yeah, I know. That’s four you owe me,’ Eren mocked, knowing full well Shikishima would say it to him if he could. The two then turned their attention back to their down foe, surrounding him.

    ‘One down, one to go. Let’s just hope blondey can convince the other one to stand down,’ Shikishima noted, feeling apprehensive about Armin’s plan, but put faith in it for Eren’s sake.

     

    Armin and Sanda continued to stare back at each other, with the strategist hoping he reached some common ground with the Gargantua. Sanda leaned in closer, as Sasha and Jean took a few steps backward , not wanting to risk any strikes he may dish out.

    “Please. If you just believe you can end this for one minute, this whole war could be over with! You have a choice,” Armin pleaded, as his words once again embedded themselves in Sanda’s brain. The strategist would never know it, but Sanda did believe it. He wanted to break off from the commands he’d been receiving, but knew it was futile. All he could do was to delay the inevitable.

    A pained cry was heard from the whole area as the four of them turned around to see who could elicit such a scream. The four saw it belonging to Gaira, as they watched him collapse on his back with the two Titans standing above him.

    “Oh no,” Armin murmured, knowing full well all hell was about to break loose. He yanked his head over to face Sanda, who now tightened his fists. The Gargantua shook uncontrollably at his brother’s pain and any pleas the Scout conveyed to him were off the table.

    Sanda unleashed a rage filled cry from his maw, showing every intent to killing the two Titans. He took one last look at Armin, glaring at the trio as they felt the fear shrouding their whole body. They got ready to perform evasive measures, but Sanda simply snarled at them and bolted toward his brother.

    A sudden, destructive sprint broke the ground under Sanda’s feet, his humanity replaced by a fearsome fighting spirit. Hesitation wiped from his eyes. This feud, this mission, was going to meet its finality, all in the name of peace on Earth.

    ‘Looks like someone’s finally getting the memo,’ Shikishima noted. The Armored Titan leapt back out of the berserk Gargantua’s line of sight, grunting at Eren to do the same. The Attack Titan released his hold and likewise leapt away, just in time as Sanda barreled through with a hefty shoulder ram. Had Eren been a mere second slower, he would have felt the full fury of the Brown Gargantua. Sanda came to a stop, eyeing the individual Titans while guarding his dazed brother.

    The downed Gaira stirred from near-unconsciousness, rubbing his disheveled hair while he sat up. The barbarian’s feral eyes noticed his shaggy brother standing guard, and for an instant grinned in genuine pride. By his own power, the Green Gargantua rose to his feet and widened his arms in an intimidation display. Vicious eyes obsessed at the chance to handle a rematch with the Attack Titan, this time hoping to tear him to shreds. Respecting his brother’s wishes, Sanda locked eyes with the Armored Titan. It was time to settle the score, and Sanda no longer held doubts of his own capabilities.

    ‘You’re on your own, kid. Good luck.’ Shikishima grinned, eager at the chance to fight these brutes once again. His white Titan unleashed a bellowing roar, accepting Sanda’s offer.

    ‘Looks like it’s you and me again,’ Eren thought, bringing his Titan’s fists to his face. He could see the impatient beast drooling from his disgusting fangs. ‘You got away last time because of Sanda, but things won’t play the same twice!’

    Sanda and Gaira kept their eyes on their targets, prepared to end this… And with a unified hellacious battle cry, the Gargantuas and Jaeger Titans charged for the fate of their futures!

    Eren collided with Gaira head on, releasing all his restraints. His Titan form was illuminated by the erratic orange glow of his internal combustion, steam flowing out of his mouth and natural vents in greater excess than before. Clenching his fists, Eren went in for a decisive right hook to the Gargantua’s face. Gaira swerved his head aside, the burning fist just grazing his disgusting mug. The beast-man pressed his assault by hacking and slashing with his bare claws, snipping the flesh off the Attack Titan.

    Eren pulled the weight of his Titan’s arms as he countered them with a parry, deflecting the savage’s vicious swipes. Yet in doing so, he left himself open to the full brunt of Gaira’s next attack. Reaching his scaly arms out, the Green Gargantua dug his claws into the Titan’s shoulders and pressed his mass against the light-weight Titan. Carrying the humanoid fighter, Gaira slammed the Attack Titan against the reinforced barrier nearby, Wall Maria cracking under the tremendous force. The heinous ogre heaved and again rammed the Titan into the damaged wall, further fracturing the border.

    “Damn it!” Eren cursed, trying to force his Titan to act. Reaching his hands up from between Gaira’s arms, the Attack Titan wrapped his hands around the beast’s parietal and thrusted his head down. Focusing his next attack, Eren charged his kneecaps as he brought them to meet the Gargantua head on! A violent crack of contorted bone and imploded flesh indicated Eren had found his mark. Gaira clumsily stumbled back and released his grip without a second thought, tending to his facial wound by covering his face with his hands. As Eren prioritized regenerating the damaged kneecap, he kept his guard up and eyed for what the Gargantua was going to do next.

    Gaira uncupped his hands, revealing his stained face marked by his own blood. Yet at the same time, the barbarian’s own regeneration had already taken effect, the once broken nose breaking itself back into place. Gaira stretched his mouth open, popping his joints and scrunching his face, adjusting to the new sensation of a repaired nose. Baring his fangs and claws, Gaira found himself quick back on the offensive, prepared to slice the rebellious Titan to pieces.

    Eren, the Attack Titan, anchored his feet and threw out a mighty fist in response.

     

    Wall Maria swayed with movement thought impossible for a barrier as expansive as it was, rumbling a deep, inorganic growl uncanny to the ear.

    Mass panic flooded the compact streets, the denizens of Mozen fleeing en masse. Members of the Scout Regiment and the Military Police guided evacuation efforts, trying to quell the chaotic stampede. All the while, the Garrison’s efforts were kept to vehicular transportation and guarding the gate for potential trespassers.

    “You’re not very good at evacuations are you, four-eyes?” Levi snarked, pushing a civilian away from him, sending her on her way in the passing horde.

    “None of them are very interesting to study!” retorted Hange, annoyed she put herself in this position, despite it being where she was needed the most. The skin on the Gargantuas was too thick to cut and her observations wouldn’t be much help, so she decided to help with evacuations.

    “You only find things interesting if they blow your head off!” Izuru pointed out, loading people one by one in a Stryker.

    “There’s no reward without a little risk!” countered Hange with a bit of excitement in her voice. “And if my favorite test subject and the traitor succeed, we’ll be swimming with specimens!”

    “Evacuations first, then you can splurge on the spoils of war!” Levi reminded his commander, giving her a stern look.

    “You two aren’t any fun!” Hange called out, rolling her eyes as she helped a child up in a Stryker.

    Armin, Sasha and Jean zipped through the air, desperately trying to reconvene onto Wall Maria as fast as they could. They failed in their mission to end this peacefully, but they could at least assist in saving more lives. It was the least they could do.

    Sasha glanced over at Armin, seeing his pensive face, knowing how hard he is taking it with the plan going down the drain and everything else on top of it. “You did the best you could,” Sasha spoke softly, comforting her friend.

    “It wasn’t enough, but we can at least get the others out safely,” Armin countered, keeping his eyes peeled on the destination before them.

    “If we make it through this, drinks are on me!” Jean announced, attempting to mitigate the conversation.

    “Count me in!” exclaimed an excited Sasha, nearly drooling over the coming celebration.

    As if on cue, Mikasa came into formation with her fellow comrades, soaring with them. She kept her distance from them, not even uttering a word nor conveying any sort of worry for the situation they were in. Jean, on the other hand, was not fond of the recent demeanor she had been displaying.

    “We’re okay; thanks for asking!” Jean sarcastically remarked.

    Mikasa glanced over at him and simply replied emotionlessly, “Glad to hear it.”

    Sasha’s eyes widened, sweat started to pour down from her forehead as she was one who never liked conflict. She wanted to speak up, to tell Jean it wasn’t worth it, but couldn’t find the strength to do it.

    Instead, it was Armin who spoke.

    “All of us did what we could!” Armin barked, taking a moment for his words to take into effect before returning, “Getting into a fight amongst ourselves isn’t going to solve anything. Let’s just do what we can do and hope Eren and Shikishima will fulfil their part of the plan.”

    Jean simply nodded in his head, listening to his friend’s advice as Mikasa on the other hand provided her voice with a softer tone than before. “Acknowledged, Armin.”

    The slight change in her demeanor was enough to give Armin a tiny smile, knowing some part of the Mikasa he knew was in the hardened soldier. He’d just hope she would come back soon and at least find some sort of happiness.

    She at least deserved that much.

    All three of them did.

    Torrential hollars caught their attention, as the war-cries of Sanda and the Armored Titan reverberated from beyond the wall…

     

    Carved trenches tilled the ruined cityscape as rugged feet tore through the environment, each vying for supremacy. Clenched in a gridlock, Sanda and the Armored Titan pushed against each other, wrestling with their heavyweight frames. Shifting his weight, the Brown Gargantua overcame the white-plated Titan and plowed him into their makeshift burrows, trying to keep his weight atop the ruthless fighter.

    The Armored Titan rummaged one of his arms through the concrete, pressing his arm to keep himself anchored, while his other balled into a tight fist. Sanda’s mass kept the white Titan pinned, but it also left his torso vulnerable. Jabbing his closed hand into the Gargantua’s side, the Armored Titan forced repetitive blows into his ribcage. Almost as if responding in kind, Sanda boomed a mighty yell and brought a fortified nieve down on the downed Titan.

    Thick layered armor did withhold against the powerful strikes, though it became evident it wouldn’t hold out for much longer. To accommodate, Shikishima forced his Titan to shift its body and legs, throwing the brown hominid aside as the man-beast rolled over the dense foliage, flattening them in his wake. Pushing himself out the dirt, the Armored Titan rose to his feet and began to steam. He vented compressed condensation, spilling out of his mouth like fire, as the rest of his Titanized body released it through his natural pores. Bursting into a gigantic sprint, Shikishima knew he couldn’t waste this chance to gain the upper hand.

    ‘Come on, big fella,’ Shikishima grinned in oversaturated confidence, ‘Let’s see just how well you can handle me by yourself!’

    He had only gotten to his hands and knees when Sanda saw the charging Armored Titan. Knowing full well he wasn’t going to get up in time, Sanda resorted to tightening his muscles and braced for impact. The Armored Titan drove his right foot into the Gargantua’s core, the momentum of the force punting Sanda across the former metropolis. A painful shriek elicited from the Brown Gargantua as the timber-like snap of bones could be heard to all those within the perimeter.

    His large body crashed against the artificial jungle, erupting with a cloud of dust and scattered brick. Slumped over and reeling in agony, Sanda clutched his stomach and violently ejected bile. Even so, he tried to push himself. To fight, to stand strong in the face of utter destruction. But the world cruelly reminded him of the punishment it would take to achieve their mission, the Armored Titan buried his soles into the Gargantua’s rugged skin, stomping them repeatedly. Bruises warped his flesh, even as Sanda’s regenerative properties kicked in to repair the damages. Yet for each passing moment, the Armored Titan maintained the high ground, grunting in satisfaction.

    ‘Let’s finish this once and for all, shall we?’ Such thoughts elated Shikishima to no end. At long last, a conflict he would resolve by his own hand!

     

    Heavy panting crawled from their mouths, this struggle wearing on them with each second. The Attack Titan’s maimed and bloodied body steamed from the heat it took to restore the wounds sustained in battle. Gaira, likewise, mirrored the Titan’s ravaged state; cracked skin, torn hair, chipped fangs, the Green Gargantua was bruised and worse for wear. His equally mangled body patched itself together, though even he felt the residual pain after the wounds were sewn close.

    An eliciting shriek perked his ears, twitching in distress. Gaira’s twisted eyes shifted, locating the source of the anguished cries of his brother. His gluttonous eyes sought to consume the Titans for himself, yet his gut screamed at him with something he never thought twice about. Snarling at his foe, Gaira turned face and began to march to the Armored Titan.

    “Oh no you don’t!” Eren screamed, commanding his Titan to lunge at the fleeing foe. Before Gaira knew it, the Attack Titan wrapped his right arm around his side from behind, constricting it with tremendous pressure. The other gripped on Gaira’s left arm, leaving Eren to rely on his Titan’s raw strength to pull off the rest.

    United with monstrous bellows, the Attack Titan flung the Green Gargantua onto his shoulder, burdened by the weight it carried. His skin burst at the seams, spitting the steam and flames that churned within his Titanized form. Then, he performed a belly-to-back suplex and dropped their bodies onto the ground with an explosive boom.

    A cavalcade of macadam destruction rained from the sky, leaving a plumage of dust in its wake. The shockwave that ensued crumbled the rusted buildings that surrounded them. When the cloud settled, both the Green Gargantua and the rogue Titan laid in beaten tatters. Eren barely held out, his right arm eviscerated under the beast’s crushing weight. Gaira himself stirred, yet remained unmoving.

    “Ha…. Ha… Got.. Him…” Eren mumbled, content with having stopped one of these Gargantuas. Even if he was only unconscious, such a technique would certainly keep him down for the time being. Commanding his Titan to rise, the one-armed Titan pushed itself upright, curling its legs as to–

    Violent claws shot from behind, clutching his frail skull and crushing it instantly.

    “What the–!” Eren tried to dart his eyes to confirm what he just felt, only to feel the savagery of the wrathful beast shred his Titanized skull apart. Without his Titan’s vision, Eren couldn’t see, but he most certainly felt everything. “I can’t see!” he cried out, “Then that…” He cut himself off, ripping his arms out of the fleshy wall sockets.

    Rivers of blood, bone fragments, and brain matter rushed between the Gargantua’s fingertips, completely dismantling the head of the Attack Titan. Using the headless body as leverage, Gaira pulled himself up and rose to his knees. Exhaustion overwhelmed him, but his instincts still urged him to save his brother. Before he did, a curious memory sparked in his primitive consciousness. He glanced at the limp Titan and saw the nape.

    A devious scheme hatched in his mind, pulling the Titan to his fangs. Mouth agape, Gaira closed in on the back of the Titan’s neck, intending to shred it apart. Yet before he could, a hissing burst of steam popped from the nape, startling the brutish ogre. Yet that only affirmed his assumptions even moreso, driving his disgusting maw into the back of the neck. Slicing the clump of Titanized meat, Gaira tore the entire nape out of the Attack Titan’s neck, savoring each moment as he chewed it within his maw.

    His eyes saw as the Titan’s body dissolved at an accelerated rate, the skin vanishing under embers and dissipating steam. Content with the results, Gaira knew how to dismantle the armored one, and proceeded to charge into battle–ready to end this feud with the humans once and for all.

    Wild bare feet ploughed through the concrete forest, kicking up trees on the way. Gaira huffed and puffed, keeping a steady pace as he closed in on his brother’s attacker. Though the Armored Titan revelled in the suffering, it didn’t take long for him to notice the greenish brute’s fast approach. The white-plated Titan backpedaled out of the rampaging ogre’s path, prepared to deliver a decisive blow. Much to Shikishima’s surprise, however, Gaira instead changed course and beelined straight for Sanda. Leaning over, Gaira supported his trembling brother back to his feet, whose regeneration mended the vicious wounds he had sustained.

    “Hold on,” Shikishima murmured, taking a glance at the trail Gaira left behind. Off in the distance, he saw the charred remains of the Attack Titan’s evaporating body–just moments before it vanished entirely. He winced, realizing what this blatantly indicated. Uttering a curse under his breath, he turned to face the Gargantuas who stood before him.

    “Wait… What are they…?” Shikishima trailed off, noticing small oddities with their behavior. The two exchanged grunts and moans, conversing in a language Shikishima could only contextualize through their actions. He had fought them enough to know when something new developed, and it seemed now was no different. It wasn’t until he saw Gaira pinch Sanda by the nape did he realize the true nature of their discussion–their weakness.

    Sanda nodded in approval before both sets of eyes glared at the Armored Titan. Icy fear glazed over Shikishima, yet a part of him felt excited at the prospect. “So you finally figured it out, huh?” he said, casting aside his doubts with a sardonic tone. “Let’s see what good it’ll do you!”

    Charging into battle, the Armored Titan sought to deliver a lethal front kick to the first Gargantua in his reach. But the two were quick to split, rolling aside and evading the heavy strike. All the Armored Titan found was a rough crash into the paved terrain. Shikishima grimaced, observing the pair coming at him from both sides.

    The initial collision sandwiched the great Titan between their bodies, though the Armored Titan was quick to launch a counterattack. Moving his arms independent of one another, a swift and brutal elbow strike shoved the green brute off him; whilst the other swatted the Brown Gargantua away. Even so, for every time he repelled them, they would come back twice as fierce.

    Pinned against the terrible claws and fearsome fists of the Gargantuas, the Armored Titan cupped his nape under the safety of his plated hands, now using his bony protection to tank the abuse thrown at him. The Gargantuas desperately tried to smash his armor and claw away to the nape.

    “Shit, didn’t turn out well for me after all,” Shikishima remarked, even if he was his only audience. “Back up to the wall, then I might be able to take them.” Each hefty step crunched broken pavement as the Armored Titan stepped back to Wall Maria, all the while he continually took the brunt of the Gargantuas’ dual assault. Even so, the beastly hominids continued to pressure the armored giant, who could only retaliate with brutal kicks to keep them at bay.

    “Come on, you chumps,” he said, pressing his Titan’s back against the stern wall, “Bring it.”

     

    Eren hung from the treetop just outside the abandoned city, his mind lost in a world of his own anxieties. His body steamed from the residual effects of his little stunt; had he not launched out of there when he did, his demise would’ve been most certain.

    “Shi..ki…shi..ma…” Eren unconsciously muttered, his dazed eyes only capturing a blurry glimpse of the mayhem that happened in the distance. Yet he couldn’t find himself the urgency to move, to act, as he laid slumped in the caressing arms of the branches. “Hi…a…na…”

    ‘Why am I now thinking about her?’

    Memories flashed through his mind, if only for a split second. He recalled saving her life from the belly of the beast, only to become one himself.

    ‘Is that… you?’

    Again, he mumbled under his breath. He said her name repeatedly, as if trying to remember something.

    ‘Am I a failure, for not doing what’s needed of me? Am I really that much of a bastard for never stopping by?’

    Eren unwillingly leaned back, sliding out from the embrace of the thorny branches.

    ‘I lost Mikasa for your sake. I don’t know how to feel anymore.’

    Then, he began to fall.

    ‘Are you really the one I want to be with? Or is it the one I have stuck in my head that I want to be with?’

    Snapping spindly limbs, Eren’s descent was a quick one. In a matter of moments, he landed flat on his back, the shock from the impact heightening his senses exponentially. His head rang into a flurry of light-headed nausea, but his heart compressed with stress and anxiety.

    ‘I’m sorry. Please forgive me.’

    Alone and with no one around, he broke into a sob. Emotional pressure flowed through his eyes, to which he was opened to the responsibility he had to bear.

    ‘I’ve been running away long enough. I need to make this decision on my own.’

    Wiping the tears from his eyes, they were replaced by a brimming resolve. His eyes lit up in a fiery might, a rekindled passion he had thought lost to him.

    ‘And when this is done… Just know I’m doing this…’

    There was uncertainty in the air, but deep down he had to find the answer for himself. If he had to lie to himself for the time being, then it had to be so.

    ‘For you.’

    Bringing his arm up, he tore his flesh–and was engulfed in a furious light.

     

    With Wall Maria hugging his back, Shikishima confidently uncupped his nape, bringing his arms back in front of him. With no feasible way for the Gargantuas to rush him from behind, the Armored Titan at least held the vantage point, perpetually keeping the two in front at all times. Gaira lunged for the white Titan, chipping at his plated armor with his claws. The Armored Titan responded in kind with a lethal kick to the belly, sending the Gargantua reeling back. Sanda closed the gap, clobbering the cornsilk Jaeger Titan with his powerful fists. Tough and resilient armor held out against the blows, giving the Armored Titan ample time to swat the Brown Gargantua off his side.

    In doing so, inadvertently, Gaira took the chance and blindsided the Armored Titan with a full body thrust. Slamming his scaly hide against white plates, Gaira successfully toppled the ruthless giant–scraping the Titan’s back against the wall before pinning him to the asphalt of the ghost city. With his posterior embedded in the cracked pavement and soft earth, the Armored Titan doubled-down and pressed his nape against the ground, ensuring they wouldn’t get to it.

    No matter how much Gaira hacked and slashed, he couldn’t brute force his way through the fortified armor that made up his body. However, Sanda had other plans. Looming over the two, the shaggy brother pressed his foot against the Titan’s throat, building pressure with each passing moment. While it wasn’t immediate at first, Sanda’s ploy bore fruit when the calcified structures on the Titan’s neck began to crack, hissing with steam. The Armored Titan screamed, feeling that in any moment, his life would finally come to a brutal end for a Jaeger Titan such as he.

    Then, there was rumbling.

    Everyone stopped, shifting their eyes to the source of the explosive blast. A massive plum of superheated cloud lingered in the distance, but the trail led to the fount of all this steam. Draped under the superheated blisters of misty fury, what lurked beneath the shroud was no man, but a demon of justice. Barreling through the evergreen landscape and into the deathly still city with ravenous intent, the Attack Titan exuded tremendous heat and vapor that split at the seams of his flesh. Each step destroyed and charred the once living earth and melted the dead stone that accompanied it, his eyes glowing in furious rage.

    A demonic hollar resounded across the battlefield, alerting all who could hear him.

    Long, enraged strides closed the distance in a matter of moments, his seething eyes locked onto the Gargantua that was standing on his feet. The berserk Titan stressed his right hand, glowing in an orange blaze, before delivering a fatal punch to the Brown Gargantua. The shaggy bigfoot’s skin cracked and blistered under the intense pressure and heat, the Titan’s arm exploding into a mess of superheated gore and vapor. Yet the centrifugal force of the attack was more than enough to hurl Sanda away, rolling over the ravaged buildings that once stood proudly near the wall.

    Witnessing the destructive fury of this demon, Gaira shuffled and tried to get up in order to take down the berserker. However, he found his arm clenched by a set of armored hands. With a sudden, forceful twist, the crunching snap elicited a pained cry from the Green Gargantua. Followed by a firm kick to the gut, Gaira was thrown off the Armored Titan and landed on his posterior. Using this time, the Armored Titan gradually rose to his feet, ready to finish the fight.

    “Hey Eren,” Shikishima spoke, “Thanks for not getting yourself eaten back there. Let’s put an end to this little play, shall we?” The Attack Titan didn’t respond to the gestures of his armored counterpart, his teeming red eyes fixated on Sanda through and through. “Fine, suit yourself.”

    Taking their first steps, the Attack and Armored Titans marched to their respective Gargantua, neither motioning nor vocalizing. They felt it, even their enemies did; the conclusion was nigh.

    Gaira jerked his arm back into place, sickening cracks indicative of his regenerating bones, flexing his claws to circulate the flow of nerves and blood. Charging in full sprint, Gaira clashed with the Titan’s resilient armor. The two goliaths grappled, thrusting their whole bodies against each other. Though it didn’t take much for the Armored Titan to figure out the gnashing ogre’s predictable techniques. Tossing the Green Gargantua aside, away from the towering wall, Shikishima posed cautiously and armed a kick, ready for whatever Gaira threw out next.

    The vicious hominid grunted with anxious fury, settling into a crouch. Propelled by a spring of his leg muscles, Gaira leapt to the air and sought to tackle the Armored Titan once more. However, Shikishima was quick to respond, hurling a heavyweight kick directly into the Gargantua’s face! Teeming with a pinkish glow, the intense force tossed Gaira aside like a ragdoll, careening into the landscape nearby.

    The Armored Titan took steady, careful steps, in no rush to end it. He saw Gaira pouting like a spoiled child, slamming his fists into the ground repeatedly. Shikishima smirked, as did his Titan correspondingly. “How amusing,” Shikishima scorned with a playful demeanor, “Did you think you could really stop me?”

    Ceasing his anger-induced tantrum, Gaira picked himself up back to his feet. Swinging around, Gaira swiped at the Armored Titan, only to result in the same futility as before. Swatting the Gargantua’s claws, the Armored Titan retaliated with a flurry of chops and punches that countered Gaira’s fruitless efforts. Then, with a sudden burst propelled by his legs, the Titan shoulder-rammed directly into the Green Gargantua, knocking the wind out of his lungs.

    “Pathetic.” Crunching the asphalt under his feet, Shikishima guided his Titan as he witnessed Gaira’s airborne figure colliding with the ground, a trail carved by his sliding body. Ruined buildings collapsed from the excessive force, partially burying the man-eater. The prone Gaira twitched as he tried to regain his constitution, but the shadow of the white Titan loomed over him.

    Shikishima promised himself he would have fun, and that he intended to keep.

    Things weren’t going to bode well for Sanda.

    He recalled when he encountered this unusual Titan that challenged his brother. While he was ready to fight to the bitter end, a part of him felt grateful that the Titan stood down and chose not to fight. Had things been any different, Sanda would have preferred another way out of this.

    But in the face of a demon, he realized there was no mercy to be spared here.

    Sanda rubbed his burning wound with a clump of dirt and asphalt, trying to subdue the pain. He saw the raging Titan approach him, heating the dead stone by his mere presence. The arm the Titan had lost began to regrow; flesh, bone, and muscle reconstituted in a matter of moments. Prolific steam jutted out of the vents of the Titan’s body, which was even more noticeable on the regenerating hand. The eyes of a hesitant man were washed over by an indomitable fury that struck terror into the hearts of those who lacked the vitality against such evil.

    And Sanda was going to see for himself where he lied on that spectrum.

    “For you, I will fight.” The Attack Titan snorted a puff of smoke, releasing heat from his nostrils. “And I will kill them all! Every last one!” A powerful roar boomed from the maw of the Titan, releasing heat through the airwaves. The mad Titan dashed for the shaggy bigfoot, if only to satiate his bloodlust.

    Pulling his left arm back, the Attack Titan lunged in an attempt to drive it into the Gargantua’s sternum. With maneuverability that belied his size, Sanda swerved and dodged the fiery fist, countering with a clenched fist of his own. Sanda’s punch collided with the Titan’s lower mandible, displacing the jaw in an eruption of steam and blood. Yet the savage Titan was not fazed, immediately throwing the regenerating fist at the brown giant.

    The sizzling arm splintered against Sanda’s chest, splattering bone fragments and iron-rich blood. Quick to seize at the opportunity, Sanda gripped the stubbed arm with his burly hands, hoisting the Attack Titan and whirling him around like a ragdoll. Fingers firmly tightened, Sanda threw the ravenous Titan against the concrete asphalt, the impact shattering the pavement. With another upheave, Sanda flung the Attack Titan over his shoulder, smashing his lightweight body into the ground once again. The tremendous force not only tore the stub from its socket, but imploded the Titan’s innards in the process.

    Sanda loomed over the fallen demon, unnerved by the disgusting sight of a mangled body. But it didn’t take much to convince the Gargantua that the vile human was still very much alive. Raising his right foot, he intended to smash the Titan’s neck in, crushing the nape in the process. But then, the Titan’s eyes lit up in crimson fury, swiftly swerving aside before the foot came down and crunched the concrete-paved road. In a burst of sudden speed, the Attack Titan unhinged his jaws and clamped onto Sanda’s shin, embedding his incisors into the Brown Gargantua’s thick skin. Sanda winced and moaned in agony, trying his damndest to pry the beastial Titan off his leg. But the more he tried, the more he found the mouth of the demon pressing harder and harder, digging into his flesh and bone.

    Rather than force its mouth open, Sanda pushed against the heathen’s face and dislodged it manually. Teeth tore out by the gums, still wedged within his leg, but at the very least Sanda was able to force the toothless Titan off of him. He limped back, keeping his distance from the rabid human. Inspecting the wounds, he found the teeth dissolving into steam, shrinking until they naturally fell out or his regenerating skin forced them out. The moment he redirected from his leg wound to the Titan, his eyes widened in utmost fear at what he saw.

    The Attack Titan, which was previously slumped on the ground, stood upright. His jaw hung loose, busted tongue hanging out of his toothless mouth, crimson eyes rolled to the back of his head. His missing arm showed no signs of regenerating, rather it seemed the body itself was prioritized. Torn skin was sewn back together; bones visibly shifted from beneath the fleshy wrap; heat and steam gushing from the wounds and vents. As the Titan’s inner mouth glowed a hellish blaze, a demonic scream erupted from the deepest recesses of its throat.

    Sanda braced himself as the Attack Titan charged, the vicious Titan throwing his right leg out to strike the man-beast’s left side. The Brown Gargantua reacted by deflecting the attack with a counter strike with his left leg, successfully parrying the blow. Going in for the next hit, Sanda opened with a barrage of pummeling fists, only a select few of which were countered by precise chops from the Titan’s remaining left hand.

    For each blow the Titan had to take, he lost more of his body in the process. To accommodate, the rebellious Titan took several steps back. Then, stiffening his spine, he lunged for the shaggy-haired giant and leaned over. Sanda crossed his hands over his torso, prepared to take whatever the Attack Titan threw at him. Carried by the momentum, the Attack Titan launched into the air with twirling feet, performing a decisive butterfly kick against the Gargantua. Slapping the titanic humanoid with both feet, Sanda stumbled back as Eren landed on his Titan’s feet without much complication.

    Without a moment’s notice, the Titan once again sprung into action. Closing the gap between them, Eren brought up his right foot and aimed for Sanda’s gut. Seeing this, Sanda swiftly brought his arms down and caught the burning foot in between his hands, mitigating the impact tenfold. Though it was far from pleasant, his palms in pain from having to cushion a blow built up from momentum, Sanda at least was able to neutralize and readied himself to counterattack.

    But before he did, he saw the Titan’s remaining hand clamp on his disheveled hair.

    Using the caught foot as support, the Attack Titan sprung the left leg up, focusing all his power into the knee. An orange blaze coated the kneecap as it lunged directly for the Gargantua’s face, with enough force to crack his skull and send him reeling back. Spurting blood, Sanda lost balance and tumbled clumsily until he crashed onto his posterior, temporarily losing his senses until he reoriented himself. Sanda’s eyes widened with fear, tears rolling down his face. Only for a moment did it seem the Titan hesitated, but alas it was only for that moment. When the Titan’s knee had healed, Sanda squirmed back in a panic. Because he knew the longer he fought, the closer death’s door would get him.

    Soaring wind caught Sanda’s attention, only for a second diverting his attention to see what it was, nor did it take long for him to identify who it was. Recognizing his brother’s green scaly hide, Gaira had been hurled from a distance, violently crashing onto the downed hominid with tremendous force. Seeing this, Eren tracked the source of it and found the Armored Titan nearby, having dominated Gaira in battle. The two glanced at each other before turning back to the fallen Gargantuas.

    The dust cleared, only one of them stirred from the crash. Scaly and savage, Gaira pulled himself together and eyed the fearsome Titans. He tried to shake his brother, only to find that Sanda had lost consciousness. The Green Gargantua grimaced, trying in vain to get his brother to continue the fight. Then, the Titans came to a stop and glared at the conscious Gargantua.

    Blistering with hellish light, the Attack Titan unleashed an unsettling cry of rage and fury, asserting his dominance. The Armored Titan likewise joined in the chorus of booming cacophony. Terror struck in Gaira’s heart, knowing that staying here guaranteed death. Not just for him, but for his brother as well. Gaira’s eyes looked down, disheartened at what this meant.

    They failed.

    But with the indomitable will to live, Gaira slumped his unconscious brother over his shoulder, turning around and began to limp in the other direction. There was nothing that could be done, lest they perish by their hands.

    Shikishima took a pause, surprised at the turn of events occurring before his very eyes. “That’s certainly a first,” he noted. In all his encounters with the Gargantua brothers, he had never once seen Gaira on the retreat. True, he had always beaten him to submission, but it was either his brother that bailed him out or circumstances where he had lost consciousness or was exhausted; but in every case, he never ran away from a fight, especially with the promise of food.

    ‘If they go back to where they came from, there’s a strong possibility there’s more out there than we thought,’ Shikishima thought, ‘But at the same time, if we let them go, there’s also the chance…’ His hypothetical thoughts trailed off when he saw Eren resume activity out of his peripheral.

    “I will… Kill them all…” Eren muttered, his mind lost in a berserk rage. His mangled Titan carried on, charging at the retreating Gargantuas, fully intending on finishing the fight. The Armored Titan also broke into a sprint, trying to catch up with Eren. Gaira turned his head, eyes widened with genuine fright with the two pursuing Titans behind him. For an instant, he had thought of dropping Sanda and resuming the fight, but his panicked mind didn’t know which instinct to act on.

    The Attack Titan rushed in for the eager kill, his left hand blazing in orange light. He’d tear them apart, into chunks and devour them! Yet before he could claw away at the fleeing Gargantuas, a large white body rammed him from the side. The damaged body splintered beyond compare, skin shredding by the seams while bones jutted out from the other side. Hurled by the tremendous force it packed, the Attack Titan was flung from the ruined city to the nearby port, crashing headfirst into the watery bay. Gaira stopped, though kept his brother on his back, now unsure what to make of what he just saw.

    The Armored Titan came to a skidding halt, pouring steam from his body. He stood completely upright and turned his attention to Gaira. The blank white eyes of the Armored Titan glared in frustration. With a swat of his hand and an accompanying bellow, he conveyed the message he needed to.

    Get. Away.

    Without missing a beat, Gaira hurried with his brother in tow, seeking an alternate path to the ocean and far away from the Titans. Shikishima kept an eye on them until they were out of sight, leaving only their large footprints in their wake.

    “You may be creatures out to harm, or even exterminate us,” Shikishima said, turning his head to where Eren’s Titan body laid, “At least you’re not the monsters we are.” He took a slow and steady stride to the bay, retrieving Eren’s unmoving Titanized form from the shallow waters and hauled him onto land. Opening his mouth wide, Shikishima tore the nape safely and collected Eren in his mouth, leaving his husk to dissipate.

    As he made his trek back to Wall Maria, Shikishima saw Garrison units outside the wall, trying to collect and retrieve the scattered pieces of the Gargantuas. Some of the smaller pieces were probably put into containers, while larger specimens–such as Gaira’s lost arm–were being cart-lifted onto the back of a larger vehicle for transportation. Undoubtedly all at Hange’s insistence, considering as he recalled that she used to be part of the Garrison before taking over for the Survey Corps.

    In a show of good intentions, Shikishima forced the Armored Titan to spit Eren out and placed him in his hand, carefully cradling the other Titan shifter. He smirked, knowing full well he had a lot of explaining to do.

    ***

    Several hours later…

    Darkness fell over, draping the land under the moonlight’s gaze. The sun had long since vanished beneath the horizon, viewing the world from a different perspective. On both sides of Wall Maria, floodlights illuminated nearby, giving clearance for the Garrison members still exploring the wilderness of the abandoned metropolis. From atop, Shikishima peeked over one side and saw the last remaining Garrison transport vehicles return to the safety of the wall. A goddess that guided them to a safe haven; that was always the superstition they believed.

    Keeping his attention to the carriers, Shikishima kept his eye on them until they stopped by the makeshift Scout HQ stationed in Mozen, gaining the approval of Commander Hange. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw an ascending scaffold creeping up to the top, loaded with two Garrison agents and a stretcher.

    “Shikishima, you are to report to Commander Zoe at once,” one of them said.

    “Oh, now she finally wants us?” Shikishima playfully scoffed.

    “No, just you,” he clarified, “Yeager is to be sent elsewhere to recover. Has he shown any signs of consciousness?” Shikishima shook his head. Without a word, the Garrison soldiers placed the unconscious Eren onto the stretcher and loaded him onto the scaffold. Keeping silent, Shikishima followed suit and joined in the slow descent to the base.

    Upon touching down, Eren was carried off into an armored ambulance, taken elsewhere. In the meantime, Shikishima had to sit in an open jeep, taking in the night sky. He toyed with the idea of making small chat, but more than likely they were already ordered to keep silent and stonewall him.

    The jeep pulled up next to the tent, Shikishima hopping down. As they rode off, he parted the curtains and invited himself in. Under the lamp stood Captain Levi, Izuru of the Military Police, the commanding Garrison officer Kunugi, and the commander of the Survey Corps, Hange Zoe.

    “And just how long are we going to keep them in Omote City?” Kunugi asked, his sallow cheeks and sunken eyes heavy from sleep depravity.

    “They shouldn’t be there for anymore than two days,” Izuru noted, “It’ll give us enough time to inspect Mozen for any potential oddities. And we can probably start on the reconstruction efforts to the damages of Wall Maria, provided the bill is passed by all the regiments and the appointed higher-ups.”

    “To imagine how much worse it could have been,” Kunugi yawned, exhausted from the excitement that he only got a measly taste of, “Had your Titans or those, er, Gargantuas destroyed the wall, we would have had to evacuate everyone behind Wall Maria to Wall Rose again. Though I’m grateful this isn’t a repeat of what Kubal did three years ago.”

    “Consider yourself lucky that we didn’t,” Shikishima interrupted. All eyes turned to face him, while Kunugi abruptly sucked in air during his second yawn, hiccuping in the process. “Commander,” he smirked.

    “Shikishima,” Hange answered. “Kunugi, please, a moment.” The man nodded in mild fright, still hiccuping. “Izuru, fill me in when we get back.”

    The treasurer reluctantly nodded. “Never a fan of talking to him, so I’ll stay out of it.”

    “What’s wrong?” the Titan shifter gleefully scorned, “Am I too much for you?” Hange glared at him, her stern eyes conveying her authority.

    “Levi, you come with me,” Hange ordered.

    “Good, I was getting bored,” Levi retorted, following his commander and the traitor outside to the deserted town of Mozen. When they had him next to the stone wall that fortified a residential house, Shikishima turned around and faced them both.

    “So, who’s up first?” Shikishima spat sarcastically.

    Hange breathed in, collecting her thoughts. “Reports on the field say that you knocked Yeager unconscious and allowed the Gargantuas to flee.” She paused, keeping her composure behind an uncharacteristically stoic persona. “While a small part of me would be glad to encounter the Gargantuas again, I need to know why you did it.”

    Levi chimed in. “If you don’t, then I wouldn’t mind forcing the answer out of you.”

    Shikishima smirked. “No need for such hostility! I can tell you exactly what I was thinking when I did it.” He paused, and they waited for his answer. “I bet it all on a hunch.”

    “You’re betting the fate of humanity… Everyone who lives in these walls… On a hunch?” Upon saying this, Hange’s facade broke. “Do you realize what you’re doing?! Pinning the lives of innocents on something that isn’t guaranteed? What in the flying hell are you thinking, Shikishima?!” Hange shouted at the top of her lungs, trying to recollect what little of her composure she had left.

    Levi drew his blades out, earnestly unsure if he was going to have to restrain him or her. “Make yourself clear right now, or you won’t like where this goes next,” the captain threatened.

    “I’d like to see you try!” The shifter’s eyes lit up in excitement.

    “Then again, if all it took to take you down was Ackerman and four rookies, then you’re not really much of a threat, are you?” Levi scoffed. “For that matter, you would have been Gaira chow already had it not been for me or the rest of us. So your threats hold no meaning. Even if you did transform, regardless of size, you’d only be a giant target for me to swing around.” He brought his sword closer to Shikishima’s neck. “Go ahead. Try it. I won’t hesitate to kill you this time around.”

    Shikishima couldn’t help but break out into laughter, clapping his hands in amusement. “You really are a suiting replacement! Worthy of bearing the title of Captain of the Survey Corps! Bravo!”

    “Just shut up and tell us,” Hange commanded in a teething rage, “Or I might have you be a juicy experiment strapped to a table!”

    “Sounds like a fun time,” Shikishima riposted, grinning gleefully. “Fine then! Here’s my hunch!” He coughed, recalling the moment vividly. “Has it ever occurred that maybe, just maybe, the Gargantuas are serving under some greater authority? That they’re not here of their own volition?”

    “Sounds like bullshit to me,” Levi countered, “You said they’ve been here for the better part of a year.”

    “And they have!” Shikishima asserted, “But unlike you lot, I’ve been around them. I know them better than any of you ever could!”

    “What’s your evidence?” Hange demanded sharply. “How can you prove yourself that the Gargantuas are just following orders?”

    “The answer lies… With Gaira.” The answer caught the Scout officials off guard, but they listened intently to what Shikishima had to say. “For the first time ever since I encountered him, he’s never retreated by his own will. It was always exhaustion, negotiations with Sanda, or just Sanda straight up rescuing his green hairy ass. Nevertheless, Gaira is never one to back down,” Shikishima paused and briefly chortled to himself, “Especially with the promise of big game.”

    “So what you’re saying is him leaving is some sort of sign?” Levi noted. Shikishima nodded in agreement.

    “Provide your hypothesis proves true, Shikishima, then that means they’re likely going to return with reinforcements,” Hange poignantly stated, “Further adding to the threat we now face.”

    “I can’t say that you’re wrong, it’s a reasonable conclusion to come to,” Shikishima said.

    “Drop the act and get to the point already,” Levi commanded bluntly, inching his blade closer to the Titan shifter’s throat.

    “Fine,” Shikishima sighed, “Consider this. If Eren and I had killed the Gargantuas as intended, wouldn’t that have been an alert for them? To move in their forces and exterminate everyone living here? By allowing them to live, we send them a message.”

    “What kind of message?” The Scout commander queried.

    “‘We don’t want war, but we will fight when threatened. Leave us be.’”

    “You’re hinging all this on an assumption that already leaves a high probability of retaliation,” Levi scorned, “I fail to see how this serves as the best outcome.”

    “Well, as I say, luck plays a part of it,” Shikishima smirked, confident in his assessment.

    “You’re impossible,” Hange sighed, venting through her nostrils. “Levi.”

    The captain’s sharp eyes gleamed. “Yes?”

    “Accompany Shikishima to his cell in Iruma, behind Wall Rose in the West District. Kill on sight if he acts out of line.”

    For once, a small smirk danced on Levi’s countenance. “Understood. Come on, asshole, hope you like prison food.” Levi drew his blade back, and much to their delight, Shikishima held his arms out up front.

    “Take me home,” Shikishima sarcastically retorted. “Though I guess I can’t live up to my promise.”

    “And what’s that?” Hange questioned.

    “Taking Eren out for a drink.”

    Slapping the cuffs on the Titan shifter, Levi hauled their traitorous prisoner over to another of the available jeeps and drove off into the distance. When they were out of sight, Hange returned to the tent and found the two men under the table, hands over their heads.

    “You two all right? Everything’s fine now!” Hange switched to her cheery persona, especially at the thought of studying Gargantua parts. “See? We’re all still here.”

    “Seriously? Commander, you’re going to get all of us killed one day!” Izuru protested bluntly, pulling himself from under the table. The Garrison officer nodded in panicked agreement, still trembling at the thought of the situation turning for the worse.

    “Well, he didn’t transform, and no one was killed, so consider that a sign!” she beamed a radiant smile. Izuru sighed, at the very least relieved to have Shikishima out of sight.

    “In that case, let’s overview the bill again before we pass it along to the authorities,” Izuru calmly addressed. In a moment, Hange joined him in finalizing the proposal, and Kunugi finally pulled himself together and resumed their previous discussion.

    ***

    Eren began to awaken from a daze, reality slowly becoming more and more familiar to him. His eyes blurry, trying to recognize where he was, as all he could see were wooden walls before him. Eren’s eyes shifted downward noticing he was currently laying on a bed. From the looks of it, the room reminded him of the cabins he and his fellow trainees stayed in during their training in the winters. He didn’t have time to dwell on it, as he needed to know what happened during the fight, if they even won it.

    The Titan shifter rubbed his eyes and turned his upright, now sitting. His feet touched the floor, feeling himself stumbling like a zombie, still reeling from the intense beating he received from the course of the battle. Eren, feeling more awake, felt noise coming from outside the door, he couldn’t tell what it was, but prepared himself despite not being at his best. He placed his hand on the doorknob and turned it, expecting the worst.

    With a slow pull, the door opened to reveal several of his comrades celebrating in a recreational room. Eren breathed a sigh of relief, knowing he could let his guard down, but still, he needed to know what happened. The Titan shifter scanned the room, noticing several Scouts he normally didn’t talk to celebrating in their own ways. From drinking each other under the table to playing cards, he recognized a table containing his friends. Without any further delay, he wandered over to the table to greet them, feeling relieved they made it out alive from the mission.

    “Jesus Christ, Sasha! That’s four in a row! You’re going to drain my month’s stipend!” screamed Jean, his eyes scorching with fear at his friend pouring the drinks down her throat.

    Armin, for the first time in years, busted out laughing at Sasha’s behavior, raising his own glass up. “Shouldn’t have promised to buy us drinks.”

    “Hey Armin,” spoke Jean, turning to face him across the table, “Now’s not the time for your observations. My wallet is at stake here.”

    “Then you shouldn’t have put it at risk!” Armin pointed out, followed by another laugh.

    Sasha gulped, slamming her mug down, hollered out “Another one please!”

    “Kill me,” Jean groaned, dropping his head down on the table in frustration.

    “It’s good to hear you laugh for once, though,” Sasha pointed out, patting her friend on the back.

    “It is. Haven’t felt like this since….” Armin said, but was interrupted by the sight of his old friend approaching them. “Eren….”

    Sasha and Jean immediately turned their heads over to the approaching Titan shifter. Eren didn’t take a seat, as he remained standing beside the table. “It’s good to see you guys. You too, Armin.”

    “It’s good to see you Eren,” Armin spoke softly, smiling at him.

    “Are you going to join us?” inquired Sasha, feeling the rush of the booming party in the room and wanting more company for the excitement.

    “If you are, then I’m not paying for your drinks. I don’t need another person leaching from my wallet,” Jean vocalized, glaring back at Sasha, who grabbed the recently delivered drink.

    “Don’t worry about it,” spoke Eren, turning back to Armin, “I know this isn’t the best time, but what exactly happened? All I remember was chasing the Gargantuas and next thing I know I woke up in the other room.”

    “Long story short, Shikishima knocked you out and allowed the Gargantuas to get away,” explained Armin, feeling troubled by his decision and how Eren was going to react.

    “He what!?” Eren nearly shouted, but restrained himself just enough to where it would not cause a scene. He also didn’t want to ruin his friends’ celebration by losing his temper. They’ve been through a lot, particularly Armin, and stressing them out would only make things worse.

    “He thought it would send the message, and that’s as far as we know of for now,” breathed Armin.

    “Oh, and he’s being imprisoned!” Sasha blurted out, followed by a monstrous burp, with her three friends giving her disgusted looks. “Sorry.”

    The thought of Shikishima being carted off to the cell should have made Eren happy. To him, it was the least the bastard deserved, but the thought of it made him feel apathetic to it. He didn’t know what to think of that news, and in a flash, neither did the Gargantuas escaping. At first it made him angry, but was it because of the initial shock?

    ‘Why am I not feeling anything about all of this? I’m glad we saved the day, but am I really happy about any of this?’

    “So, we managed to get a few days to ourselves, what do you guys want to do?” inquired Sasha, interest in her eyes widening.

    Armin and Jean proceeded to give their answers, but their replies fell on deaf ears to Eren. They were just murmurs to him, as Sasha’s question rang deep with him. There was a plan for him, nothing important to anyone, but to him.

    ‘That plan…. I’ve put it off for far too long.’

    Eren was afraid of it. He put it off for nearly a year, not knowing how it would go if and when he went. A simple breath escaped his lips, tilting his head slightly down.

    “Hiana……” mouthed Eren.

    “Eren, you okay?” Armin asked concerned for the well-being of his old friend.

    The Titan shifter snapped out of his trance, shaking his head ever so slightly and looking at the three seated at the table. The group gave him looks of confusion on his dazed like state, realizing he was lost in thought for far too long.

    “Yeah…. I…” stammered Eren, with a deep breath following, only now finding his resolution. “There’s something I’ve been putting off for far too long.”

    “Right, right,” spoke Armin, feeling disappointed by his friend’s plan to leave.

    Eren took a few steps away from the table, taking his leave, but stopping himself for a moment, turning his head around, “You guys have fun and take care of each other, okay?”

    The Titan shifter turned back and marched out of the building, leaving Armin stunned by his old friend’s parting words as Sasha and Jean turned back to him. The gluttonous scout rubbed her friend on the shoulder, feeling her friend’s distress.

    Jean, on the other hand, rolled his eyes, muttering, “I’m going to regret this later, but I won’t know it right now.”

    With a snap from his fingers, he got the attention of a barkeep and yelled out “Three of your strongest drinks for my friends and I! We’re drinking our troubles away!”

    Eren stepped outside and found himself greeted by the brisk night air. He took a moment to admire the sky, feeling the peacefulness of it, but even then it wasn’t enough for him.

    “You’re finally awake,” a monotone voice spoke, one Eren knew all too well. He turned around to see Mikasa leaning against the outerwall of the building, with a frown still painted on her face.

    Eren wanted to smile at seeing his friend, the woman he once loved dearly, but he couldn’t. All he could do was give her a simple answer, “Yeah.”

    “I suppose that’s a relief,” replied Mikasa.

    “I suppose it is,” surmised Eren, briefly turning his attention back to the sky.

    “Not enjoying the celebration?” inquired Mikasa.

    “It’s not what I need right now,” sighed Eren, disappointed he couldn’t find the joy in celebrating over their victory. He decided to return the favor by asking her a question, “I take it you’re not into the festivities?”

    “No. They’re not my thing,” answered Mikasa, bringing her arms up to her chest.

    “I suppose that’s something we have in common,” pointed Eren, turning his attention back to Mikasa.

    Feeling how strange and foreign this conversation with Mikasa was, he decided it was time to cut it off before one or even both of them got hurt. “I should get to it. There’s something I have to take care of.”

    Eren went down the meager amount of stairs, stepping onto the stones below, ready to make his way toward his destination. Readying to be with his thoughts, he heard Mikasa call out to him.

    “Eren.”

    He turned his head around to Mikasa, surprised to see her face no longer of stoicism, but of concern. “Just do me one favor, okay.”

    “Sure,” Eren spoke softly, curious as to what the request was.

    “Just make sure you do better with her,” Mikasa quietly pleaded.

    “Okay,” Eren spoke, as he noticed the pain she was still in from the past three years, decided to bring some comfort to her. “Mikasa, just find someone that makes you happy. Even if it takes a while, just find that person. You deserve that much.”

    Mikasa’s breathing stuttered, every word that came from his mouth contributed to her no longer being stable. She wanted to follow his advice, but knew it was not possible. Not by the person she became.

    She let out a deep breath.

    “I can’t promise that, Eren,” Mikasa spoke before pausing, allowing herself to exhale once more. “Can you?”

    Eren shook his head slightly, dismayed at her words, but like hearing about what Shikishima did, reacting negatively wasn’t going to do anything. It would only cause more misery.

    “No, but I have to try,” answered Eren, feeling exhausted from the constant fighting he had to partake in whether it be physically or emotionally. The Titan shifter glanced back up at Mikasa and continued, “Even if it means I fail and I have to live with it.”

    Without uttering another word, Eren departed, leaving Mikasa all by her lonesome. She watched him until he disappeared into the darkness, as she then let out another breath. Mikasa considered the words spoken to her, knowing full well he was right. Unfortunately, she didn’t believe it for herself. Unlike Eren and Armin, to where they could still live relatively normal lives, she died and was replaced by a machine.

    All she could do was shed a single tear, as she looked on into the dark abyss.

    ***

    A year. One full year. That’s how much time she had lost. Most of that time was spent being in a coma while the rest was spent in physical therapy. Her scars, her deformities, and her injuries were treatable, but they would never fully heal. The monstrous teeth of the horrific Titan tore through her left leg, leaving it mangled beyond healing, forcing her to not only walk with a limp, but with the aid of a crutch. Even then, that was a journey in it of itself as she’d find herself nearly collapsing to the ground.

    The bedridden woman, plagued with depression, looked down at her arms, both of them badly burnt, due to the stomach acids of the Titan who devoured her. Her arms shook rapidly as she raised them slightly to each other, rubbing them gently.

    A small sigh escaped her lips, as her hope faded away once more. No matter how much time she gave it or what was treated to her, she was no longer able to feel what she touched. Soft, hard, nothing. She would never be able to feel anything or anyone she held dear.

    Not her daughter, nor the person she’d fallen in love with in the short amount of time she knew him. She was once a woman with a bright future ahead her, now an empty, broken shell of a person. One who would shortly be cast aside and be looked down on as a leech to what remained of humanity.

    She shifted her eyes from her arms and at the blank, white hospital walls. The walls, strangely enough, provided her a sense of solace as it took her away from everything. Nothing to enact harm onto her and to be alone with her thoughts. Her only wish was for someone to be there with her.

    She gazed deeper at the walls, withdrawing all of her attention away from the outside walls. Seemingly hypnotized by the blankness of the walls, as they were a window into any life she could think of. A therapeutic technique she relied on to heal her mind, as she jourined through several scenarios. One where she was still able to serve in the Scout Regiment, another being able to realize her true passion by running a clinic, and finally, being able to live beyond the walls with a family. There were others that swam around in her mind, but those three were the most important to her.

    A smile crept on the hypnotized patient, as she failed to register the voice calling out to her. The voices banged at her eardrums, but she refused to acknowledge them, digging deeper into the rabbit hole of fantasies. It wasn’t until she felt a light rub on her head to where she returned to the real world.

    She slowly turned to the right, noticing it was a nurse trying to gain her attention. The patient took a short breath before apologizing. “I’m… sorry. Is something wrong?”

    The nurse gave the patient a small smile, as she then answered, “You have a visitor.”

    The bed ridden woman eyes widened at the news. She couldn’t believe it. She didn’t receive any visitors before. Her mind went ballistic, going through the line of suspects, searching through each one piece by piece.

    ‘Could it be?’

    The woman finally spoke up, “Who is it?”

    “A mister Eren Yeager,” The nurse answered.

    The patient’s eyes widened, as her heart started to beat heavily. A smile grew on her face, as she nearly blurted out, “Send…. Send him!”

    Noticing how her patient was smiling for the first time in months, she shared her sentiments by returning a smile to her. “I’ll fetch for him.”

    The nurse exited the room, as the woman sat up, wanting to present herself as best as she could for her guest. However, she grunted in pain, as she felt a burning sensation in her back, no thanks to the stomach acid melting the skin off her back. The resulting treatment at the moment was a very uncomfortable brace holstering her entire backside together. The pain nearly made her scream in pain, as she wanted to slump down to ease her suffering, but refused to back down.

    Being with him would make the pain worth it.

    Footsteps were heard beyond the walls, eliciting a response in the form of her head turning to the door. Within seconds, Eren made himself known under the doorway, staring at the patient sitting on the bed. The two stared at each other, neither knowing how much time had passed, both of them struggling to find the words to enact the conversation. Eren took another step forward, as his mouth trembled, slowly finding the strength to pry his lips open.

    “Hiana.”

    “Eren,” Hiana replied softly, watching her former comrade approach her.

    Eren immediately sat on the chair place next to Hiana’s bed, not once ever taking his eyes off her. The Titan shifter was at a loss for words and felt his jaw weighing several pounds. He felt guilty for not being able to save her, as she looked broken. Eren saw the right of the face still plagued with scars and burns. The flesh nearly popped out of what remained of her skin while her nose was permanently stuck in a crooked position. Her face once a bright beacon of hope that would command a smile from everyone, now nothing more than a casualty.

    He wanted to bolt out of the room, to get away as far away from her as possible, as seeing Hiana in her current state was just a reminder of one of his many failures. Eren’s hands began to shake, as he weighed down his options, desperately wanting this fight to end. It was the one he had no hope of winning.

    He had to run.

    Eren proceeded to stand up, but felt a hand placed on his lap. The Titan shifter gasped, looking down to see the hand belonging to Hiana, as she displayed a look of concern. Eren returned his gaze at Hiana, staring at each other worriedly, but at the same time, a sense of comfort. One neither felt since they’re time alone together in the ruins.

    The long period of silence was broken by Hiana as she rubbed her hand softly across his leg, whispering, “It’s okay.”

    Tears dropped down from his eyes, exploding upon impact on Hiana’s hand, as he couldn’t hold it in any longer.

    “How is it okay!?” Eren screamed out, nearly jumping out of his seat, making Hiana wince, as she moved her hand away from him. “I let you get eaten by that Titan! I destroyed any chance of you having a normal life! I didn’t save you!”

    Eren broke down as his face collided with his hands, letting out a wail of cries. Hiana stared at the grieving Titan shifter dumbfoundedly. She knew Eren felt guilty for her grave injuries, but would have never guessed it broke him like this.

    Hiana reached out once again, as she whispered, “Eren, you did everything you could for me.”

    He looked up at Hiana trying to provide him comfort, but it failed to reach him as he still felt truly responsible for her life going downhill. Eren, without even giving himself a moment to compose himself retaliated with a scream. “I ruined your life! You’ve been discharged! You lost your only chance to provide for your daughter!”

    Eren’s words stunned Hiana, as the harsh reality was setting in for her. Her daughter, Riko, would no longer be supported. It was the thing that terrified her the most. Her stomach turned into knots, as her mind raced, with her breathing starting to become more and more rapid. She feared the future her daughter would have as being nothing more than a street urchin. Constantly begging for food, wearing nothing but scraps and lying on the cold, diseased covered streets, wondering if she’ll make it to the next day.

    Hiana’s thoughts were interrupted as Eren’s voice came back to her. “Have you ever seen your daughter? Where is she? How would she be taken care of because of my failure?”

    Eren’s volley of questions brought up a feeling of rage brewing inside her. An emotion she rarely felt in her life, one she hated to have, as she wanted to look at the best of life as opposed to the harshness of it. However, the rage couldn’t be contained. Hiana began to shake as her right hand struggled to make a fist, as she was slowly finding the strength to raise her fist.

    The Titan shifter continued to voice his anger, but found Hiana’s fist colliding with his face, neary knocking him out of his chair. Eren was taken back by the punch, as he raised his hand against his cheek and turned his attention to Hiana, who brandished a scowl on her face.

    Hiana’s breathing became more rapid, as she spoke up. “I know! You say you think about it? While you’re busy killing Titans, I’ve been stuck here thinking about her every waking moment in here! You at least get to have something that’ll take your mind off of all of your worries! I…..” Hiana yelled out, as she went on to continue her argument, but found her lungs starting to collapse. Air struggled to make it down her throat as she choked.

    “Oh my god! Hiana!” Eren screeched, his eyes widened as he launched himself from his chair. He searched his surroundings, trying to find anything that could save her life. “What’s going on? Hiana, what do I do? Tell me! Please.”

    Hiana continued to gasp for air as she weakly pointed at the oxygen mask, strapped to the side of her bed. Eren, with his whole body shaking, nearly pried it off, but kept his composure just enough to keep it intact. He placed the mask onto Hiana’s face, allowing a wave of air to pour down her mouth, restoring her to a more stable state.

    She stopped shaking, as feelings of relief washed over her. The two remained quiet for several minutes as if the argument never took place. Soon, Hiana removed the mask from her face and turned to Eren.

    The two stared at each other until Hiana broke the silence. “I haven’t seen her, Eren. I don’t know where she is, who’s custody she’s in, or if I’ll even get… to..” Hiana found herself struggling to find the words to continue as her voice cracked, but managed to get out the last of the sentence. “…Even see her again.”

    Hiana broke down as her cries were the only noise in the room, with tears pouring out of her eyes as all Eren could do was watch. Eren still blamed himself for the state Hiana was in, but just then, as if a bolt of lightning flashed in front of him, he had an epiphany.

    ‘Why didn’t I see it before? Why do I always think I should be at the center of attention, when someone else is clearly suffering? Even though I was responsible, it doesn’t mean I deserve sympathy or a pity party. It’s not about me. It was never about me. It’s about her, and that’s all that matters. That’s all that truly mattered.’

    Without giving it a second thought, he wrapped his arms around Hiana, as she poured her tears onto his shoulder. She didn’t expect the sudden shift with Eren, but it was one she appreciated. Eren rubbed his hands across her back gently, as he made sure he didn’t deliver any physical pain to her mutilated back.

    Knowing she was not in the state to continue the conversation, Eren spoke softly, bringing words of comfort to Hiana. “You’re right. You’re completely right. I’ve been so focused on my own failings that I couldn’t even see the real problem in front of me.”

    Hiana halted her bawling as she slowly titled her head up, gazing at Eren. “Hiana,” Eren whispered, as he looked down at her. “I want to do everything I can to help you.”

    Tears were still discharged from her eyes, as she struggled to speak, “I…. I…”

    Eren placed his hand on her shoulder, as he felt his heart raced at what he was about to say. His mind drifted back to the intimate moment he shared with her a year ago. Eren felt the awkwardness of the situation thrusted upon him, but at the same time he felt the peace it brought him. It was the same as that moment. Neither of them were filled with rage and vengeance.

    He felt a sense of solace.

    A feeling he wished he could feel forever.

    And, it made him smile knowing it was possible.

    “Hiana,” Eren soliloquized, gaining her attention once again. “You asked me once if I was okay with you being a single mother?”

    Her eyes widened. Not in excitement, but in embarrassment as she looked back on the memory as one in the heat of the moment. She didn’t know what compelled her to say it to him, when they had only known each other for a few days. Hiana knew it felt right for some reason, a reason she couldn’t be able to explain to anyone. Not even to Eren.

    Riko was the most important person in her life, but her connection to Eren was something truly special to her. When her question came out of Eren’s voice, she felt a sense of dread, knowing full well he didn’t reciprocate her feelings. She wouldn’t blame him for rejecting her, as she brought the question out of nowhere.

    Her heart raced as she saw Eren’s mouth open up.

    “I’m okay with you being a mother,” Eren answered, as a smile crept up on his face.

    Hiana’s heart raced with excitement as she felt an overwhelming sense of joy flood her whole body. Her body shook with joy, as she felt a resurgence of strength coming back to life. Hiana tightened her grasp around Eren, creating a smile of her own.

    “I do want to say a few things, though,” Eren announced, as Hiana relinquished her hold on the scout. She looked up at him as he continued, “I want to take things a bit slower than last time.”

    Hiana chuckled at Eren’s first request. “You sure?”

    Eren laughed at her question, remembering how she moved his hand onto her body. “It was nice, very nice, but I think it’s best to move at a more steady pace.”

    “Harsh, but I can live with that,” Hiana snickered, agreeing with his request.

    “And, the other thing,” Eren paused, trying to find the right words to convey what he was about to say to her. “I want to do everything I can to help you find Riko.”

    Hiana smiled brightly at Eren’s intention, as she yanked him in for another hug. She felt a stabbing pain throughout her body from the intense movement, but the news was worth it. The whole day of suffering was worth it.

    “When you’re feeling up to it, I’ll take some time off from the Scouts,” Eren declared.

    “Can you even do that?” Hiana inquired, knowing humanity needed every able body to fend off the constant looming threat.

    “I did help save the world twice, so I think I’m owed a few days off,”

    Hiana chuckled at Eren’s smugness at his own achievements. “I look forward to it. Thank you.”

    “You don’t need to thank me. I’m the last person you should be thanking,” Eren replied, feeling unworthy of anyone’s appreciation regardless of his standing with each person he knew.

    “I know, but I want to,” Hiana answered, as she took another look at Eren, placing her hand onto his cheek. “You deserve a thank you, even if you don’t want one. Everyone does.”

    “Regardless of what comes, I think for once, we’ll be alright,” Eren breathed out, as the sense of peace he long yearned for remained.

    The two continued to hold each other, both of them finding a newfound sense of hope in their lives.

    They were truly alive.

    Winner: Attack Titan, Armored Titan

    K.W.C. // December 28, 2020
  • Author: Vincent Rodger | Banner: Matthew Freese

    [Continued from Match 301]

     -24 hours after the Battle of Osaka-

    “Is it one of our experiments?” A man in a business suit asked the group of military personal and fellow politicians that were sitting in the Prime Minister’s office. Each wearing either a military uniform or a business suit. In the back stood three individuals, two men and one woman. One man was older, American, and a bigger build than the other two. He carried a sword and a pistol on his sides. The second had a much smaller build, he was younger than his comrade, Japanese and wore a futuristic-looking uniform. The third stood silently before stepping forward.

    “No, sir,” a woman answered in the back. She wore a lieutenant’s uniform and had a sharp, yet very beautiful face. “It appears that none of the Titans have escaped.”

     “Then what is it? A Gargantua?” He queried, turning toward the large monitor that recycled footage of the Titan’s first appearance.

    “Perhaps Mr. Prime Minister, but we don’t know for sure.”

     The Prime Minister turned back to the young lieutenant. “Lieutenant Akane correct?” Akane straightened and saluted.

    “Yes, sir.”

    The Prime Minister smiled. “I knew I had recognized you. You’re the pilot of Kiryu, correct?”

     “Yes, sir.” The Prime Minister walked over to the young woman and placed his hand on her shoulder.

    “As of right now, you have a mission, you will either capture this… Rogue Titan, and bring the creature to Monster Island, or… Kill it. Is that clear?” Akane nodded, which made the Prime Minister smile. “It was last seen around Mount Fuji in the woods before disappearing. I would start there for your search.”

    “Yes, sir,” she answered before leaving the room. Finally, she could prove herself after her failure all those years ago. The two men stepped forward as the door closed, both growing annoyed at this development. “Sir…why her? Why not send one of us?”

    The Prime Minister turned around and placed his hand on the American’s shoulder. “Patience, Captain Gordon, you will have your chance to fight soon. She needs to prove herself as useful after her failure against Godzilla years ago.” Gordon began to relax, understanding what his superior meant. The Prime Minister’s smile disappeared as he turned toward away from the two captains, turning his attention towards the military personnel. “Now… Would someone like to explain to me how a Titan got to the public?”

      

    -Mount Fuji-

    The woods were peaceful. At least compared to the ones he was used to. He didn’t have to worry about Titans coming and eating him, for there were no Titans here… Wherever here was. Eren sat near a stream of water before putting water in his palm and drinking from it.

    “It’s… Clean?” Eren dunked his hands into the water, again and again, drinking more water. He never had any water that tasted this good, every time he had water, it tasted as if something died in it. But this… this was different.

    A bush behind the young man began to shake, making the adolescent soldier jump. Eren grabbed one of his blades before thrusting it into the bush, a squeal from an animal was heard. Eren pulled his sword up, revealing a dead rabbit at the end of the blade.

    “I can eat this while I wait for Emmy.” Eren grabbed shrubbery and placed it between stones, before grabbing two more stones and striking it, creating a spark, catching the shrubbery on fire. The young man had grabbed his kill before placing it above the fire.

    Hours had passed, the young man had eaten his meal and grew even more impatient as time passed. “Where the hell is she!? You would think that a time traveler would be on time…”

    Suddenly an ear-piercing sound echoed throughout the land… Something was coming. Eren quickly got to his feet, searching for the source of the strange noise, only to see something approach the forest from the sky.

    Akane followed Kiryu in her small aircraft while searching for her target, but unfortunately, all she saw were trees. Unbeknownst to her, someone saw her and Kiryu.

    From below the tree line, Eren watched the mechanical dragon and a small squadron of aircraft following it. His first instinct was to run, but then he had thought of the potential innocents that were in danger. For all, he knew this metal monster was an ally of the three-headed mechanical hydra that he fought. Seeing no other choice, he raised his hand and bit into it.

    A golden lightning bolt struck the young soldier as the sky turned into a dark green, which was followed by an ear-piercing thundercrack–

    Akane looked down, looking for the source of the sound when she saw steam rise from a large creature. A hideous roar erupted from the steam, pushing it away as it revealed the Attack Titan. Akane sensed an unsettling aura of pure rage from the beast… as if it was rage incarnate.

    Kiryu turned his head and saw the target beneath him. It was staring right at him as if they had encountered each other before. Had he encountered this beast in the distant past? Something about it looked familiar but he couldn’t remember why. No matter. All that mattered, in the end, was protecting Akane and her home. Kiryu unleashed a digital roar, while he lowered himself toward his opponent.

    As the Mechagodzilla landed, the ground beneath him exploded and Kiryu once again roared at his smaller opponent. The Attack Titan got into a fighting stance and taunted his opponent.

    The two locked eyes for a moment before they each roared and charged at one another. With each step, destroying the ground beneath them as they picked up speed. In mid-run, Eren jumped into the air and swung down toward the approaching cyborg. Kiryu dodged the attack and in mid-turn, grabbed ahold of the Titan’s leg and slammed him into the ground with an enormous shockwave. The ground beneath collapsed under the weight of the Attack Titan. Kiryu’s mouth began to glow yellow with electrical energy, when Eren kicked his opponent’s maw, grabbed his arm and wrapped his legs around the Mechagodzilla’s throat. The Maser blast shot into the sky and was followed by Kiryu’s roaring in anger. Parts of Kiryu’s arm began to crack, as Eren applied more pressure.

    “How is this possible?” Akane asked herself, “Kiryu can take a blast from Godzilla, but somehow this thing can hurt him?”

    Kiryu reached out and grabbed Eren with his free hand, and threw the fearsome Titan further into the forest. Electrical energy burst from Kiryu’s maw as he unleashed a Maser blast straight into Eren’s chest, pushing him further into the forest. The Attack Titan screeched in a mixture of anger and pain as his skin burned away. Kiryu unleashed a digital copy of Godzilla’s roar as missiles erupted from his sides.

    The Attack Titan made it back to his feet, covered in steam and blood as he healed the damage he received from Kiryu. Looking straight at his enemy, he watched the missiles come straight toward him. Knowing no other way to avoid the bombardment of blasts, the grisly beast charged toward the incoming missiles. One by one, he avoided the flying explosives, having them explode behind him. All but one, he reached out and caught the missile in mid-air and redirected it toward Kiryu.

    Kiryu only moments before the missile had a direct hit, jumped out of the way and shot another Maser blast. Thankfully, the Attack Titan dodged the attack and pushed onward toward his metal opponent. He raised his fist and swung at Kiryu’s jaw, scoring a direct hit and knocking the Mechagodzilla to the ground. Twin blades erupted from Kiryu’s sides as he rose to his feet and swung, cutting into the gigantic human-like beast across the chest. Eren screamed as blood poured from the wound and steam rose. But he pushed through the pain and once again, punched Kiryu across the jaw, knocking him to his knees. Followed up by a decisive front kick, Kiryu had fallen onto his back as Eren leapt atop the mechanical threat and repeatedly pummeled it into the ground.

    Over and over, Eren slammed his fists into Kiryu, denting and warping the resurrected Godzilla’s armor. Flesh and skin ripped away from the Titan’s fists as he pummeled his opponent further into the ground. Steam rose from the wounds as blood poured down his knuckles.

    “NOW!” Kiryu grabbed ahold of Eren’s fist in mid punch, twisted it, forcing the bone to exit the skin. Blood oozed from the wound and onto the land. Eren roared with pure rage before he was thrown onto the ground. Kiryu seized the opportunity and grabbed Eren by the throat and stabbed him in the chest, where a heart should be located. But alas, the abomination to nature pushed on and wrapped his hands around Kiryu’s neck as he roared and squeezed, trying to crush his neck.

    Akane was surprised to be sure. “This creature has no heart! Is it immortal?” she asked herself before turning her attention toward Mount Fuji. “Is that…” Magma poured from the top of the mountain. The ground below covered in flames as the magma made its way down the mountain. “How in the hell did I not hear…the missiles…”

    She thought back to early in the battle. The missiles that launched from Kiryu’s sides hit the ground behind his opponent but it seems that one of them hit the mountain, causing it to erupt. She didn’t hear the blast due to the sound of battle. Now not only would millions be killed be the aftermath, but many would lose their homes. “How could I not think of the possibility… You idiot.” Akane looked down in shame as the battle raged on.

    From the magma covered volcano, something had emerged. An ancient Titan covered in molten lava from head to toe. An ancient creature of a bygone era forgotten to time. The gigantic bird roared into the heavens and revealed itself to the world for the first time in eons. Rodan, the Fire Demon, had returned at last.

    As Rodan emerged from the molten liquid, Akane looked up. Her eyes widened, it was worse than she thought it would be. Now billions were in danger. She wiped away her sweat, grabbed the steering wheel and charged at the lord of the skies.

    “Kiryu, I don’t care how but you got to postpone your battle for right now. There is an even bigger threat on the horizon.” Without even a second thought, Kiryu grabbed the Attack Titan by the face and tossed him behind him, further down the forest. Kiryu’s thrusters started and he followed Akane.

    Eren quickly got back onto his feet and saw what was sitting at the top of the mountain. His enemy left to deal with this new opponent… Maybe this was a misunderstanding. Eren quickly chased after the Mechagodzilla, hopefully, he was right and his opponent wasn’t the monster he believed it to be.

    Akane locked onto Rodan and unleashed a series of blasts at the gigantic bird. Rodan screeched in anger. Raising his wings before taking to the skies toward his adversary. He looked behind the small aircraft and spotted Kiryu approaching. So this new Titan would dare challenge the lord of the skies? It would surely regret the challenge. Rodan picked up speed, destroying the ground beneath him due to the high winds produced by him. Kiryu let loose another set of missiles from his back at the Fire Demon. Rodan smiled and flew upward, destroying the missiles in what seemed like an instant. The lord of the skies, then charged forward, reaching out for Kiryu with his massive talons. However, the Mechagodzilla had different plans. As Rodan reached for him, he spun his thrusters to avoid the attack and unload a series of blasts from his mouth and wrist gauntlets, making the ancient Titan roar in pain.

    Rodan, however, pushed through the pain and grabbed Kiryu by the neck and face. Breaking the glass in Kiryu’s right eye. The Mechagodzilla reached up and grabbed the avian’s leg and pulled, forcing the pair to fall to the Earth. To ensure success, Kiryu activated his thrusters and forced himself toward the Earth. Rodan screeched in defiance before he spun around in a complete 360 degrees and threw his mechanical enemy at the ground. Kiryu crashed into the ground with an enormous thud.

     Rodan began to fly toward the fallen warrior when a series of bullets brushed his lava rock-like hide. He quickly turned his eye behind him and once again saw the small aircraft approaching him. He grinned and quickly spun behind the aircraft. Panic rushed through Akane’s head as Rodan grabbed onto her aircraft and threw her to the Earth.

     Akane’s life flashed before her as she approached the ground beneath her. She remembered when she graduated from her flight academy, she remembered her defeat at the hands of Godzilla, the kindness of a father and daughter… Some of the only friends she ever had… A tear ran down her face. “Is this it?” She thought to herself. She smiled. “Well… I’ve had a good run. Kiryu… avenge me, old friend.”

     The aircraft smashed into the ground, flames burst from the aircraft. Rodan landed next to the burning aircraft and let out a cackle. He had defeated one enemy but it was now time to finish off the other one. Kiryu laid in the ground, motionless. The prehistoric pterosaur chirped as he walked toward the fallen artificial titan. Rodan opened his beak….

     A hideous screech turned Rodan away from his kill. He saw another Titan approach him, it had no armor or fur. Only flesh.

     Rodan smiled. He opened his wings and began to himself up into the air

     The gigantic humanoid jumped while in mid charge, hoping to strike the magma Titan to the ground. As the fist came closer, Rodan quickly ducked and grabbed ahold of Eren’s wrist with his beak before spinning and sending the feral human flying. With a loud thud, the Attack Titan crashed into the ground.

     The Attack Titan quickly got to his feet but was just quickly knocked down by a charging Rodan. Eren rolled across the ground before managing to stop himself. The Titan locked onto the flying Titan. He stood waiting for his enemy to attack.

     Rodan smirked before turning around once again. He reached out with his talons, stabbing through Eren’s shoulders and lifting him into the air. Eren roared as flames burned his flesh revealing bone, his blood began to boil and muscle began to cook. Pushing through the pain, the ferocious avenger of the future wrapped his hands around Rodan’s legs and pulled with all his might. Rodan struggled to keep them both in the air.

     The lava Titan let go of Eren, but the wild Titan held on. Steam rose from his wounds as his healing factor made quick work of damage. Rodan roared with fury before spinning, once again sending Eren to the ground.

     Before Eren could return to his feet, Rodan clapped his wings together sending a sonic shockwave. The forest around them blew apart, trees were cutting into nothing but splinters, boulders were sent flying before crashing into the ground, breaking them apart. Eren screeched as he was sent flying into the air. He spun in circles before crashing into a gigantic boulder, forcing many bones from the skin. Blood fell from his body, steam rose from his wounds, bones were forced back in place. Rodan roared as he charged at the downed Titan.

     

    -Moments ago-

    Blood poured from the wound across her head. Her vision was blurry, a loud ring echoed in her ears, her breathing became heavy. Akane has survived the crash. She removed her helmet from her head, throwing it on the aircraft’s floor. She quickly unbuckled herself from her seat before lifting her leg and kicking what remained of the cockpit’s window. The glass broke apart as if it was nothing.

    “Okay, now comes the hard part…” Akane forced herself up. Her bones felt as if they were about to shatter, her organs felt as if they were to burst, but she had to push forward. Akane crawled out of the cockpit and onto the forest floor. She turned to see if there was a place to rest when she saw Kiryu laying face first in a crater.

     She slowly crawled to her friend before placing her bloody hand on Kiryu’s face. “Hey, big guy… I’m going to ask you a favor… I need you to get up. To fight in my place…” Kiryu’s silence made her uneasy. She gritted her teeth together and made her hand into a fist. “GET UP!”

     Kiryu’s eye lit up, turning into a crimson red, seething with rage.

    -Now-

    Kiryu roared at Rodan as he rose from the crater. The avian turned his head…making a grave mistake. Eren reached out, grabbing Rodan’s leg and with his free hand, he struck the leg, breaking it. Rodan screeched in agonizing pain before staring with fury at the Attack Titan. He reached out with his beak before being struck by Eren’s knee, forcing the beak shut. Eren let go of his enemy’s leg before kicking the beast on the chest, forcing the ancient titan back. Rodan struggled to keep in place before Kiryu rammed himself into Rodan, forcing him into the ground. The forest burned around the pair of kaiju.

     Rodan screeched as he quickly got back to the air before once again being knocked to the ground by a leaping Attack Titan. Molten lava coughed out from the ancient titan’s maw, as Rodan tried to catch his breath. Kiryu screeched before reaching over to the downed titan’s neck, wrapping his metallic hand around Rodan’s throat from the back.

    Rodan screeched and flailed, trying to free himself from Kiryu’s grasp. The blade on Kiryu’s free wrist was plunged into Rodan’s wing, having lava poured from the wound, Rodan screeched in pain, he had never felt something so agonizing in his entire existence.

    Eren charged at Rodan, slamming both fists into the monster’s chest, pushing him further into the blade, Kiryu staggered back from the force. Rodan screamed in pain as tears fell from the gigantic bird’s eyes from the pain. Eren raised his fist once again but Rodan caught it in mid-swing before twisting. Eren screeched in pain before raising his free elbow and striking Rodan’s other leg, breaking it.

    Rodan screeched as he began to lose consciousness, this pain was too much, he could no longer fight back…there is no hope for him to win.

    From inside the Attack Titan’s nape, Eren smiled. “Now you die bastard!” Eren grabbed both of Rodan’s legs, pulling him from Kiryu’s blade and onto the ground. Rodan’s body fell limp, the avian titan struggled to breathe. Both Kiryu and Eren raised their legs before bringing them down like anchors onto Rodan’s neck, breaking it and killing the Titan instantly.

    Eren stepped back from the corpse before meeting the eye of Kiryu. Would they resume their fight? Or had their combined might stopped their conflict?

    A moment of silence passed before Eren turned away and began to walk away. He wished for no more conflict today. Kiryu’s hands began to twitch, rage had consumed the resurrected Godzilla. Kiryu screeched before swinging his twin blades to the Attack Titan.

    Eren ducked under Kiryu’s blades before head butting Kiryu, staggering the titan back. Akane watched from under a tree as the two resumed their battle. She sat confused, pondering why the gigantic humanoid attempted to walk away from the conflict before passing out from the blood loss.

    Once again Kiryu swung his blades at Eren but to no avail. His enemy had caught his arms in mid-swing before placing both legs on Kiryu’s chest and pulled on Kiryu’s arms. Sparks flew as Kiryu’s arms began to break, Kiryu roared at Eren before unleashing a maser blast onto the titan’s chest, pushing his opponent to the ground. Eren roared in anger and pain as he fell onto the ground. Thinking quickly on his feet, the downed titan lunged at Kiryu’s leg, pulling and knocking the Mechagodzilla onto the ground. Eren stood above Kiryu before grabbing his tail and throwing him across the forest and onto the approaching lava.

    Armor melted away as Kiryu got back to his feet. Jet boosters lifted Kiryu out from the molten lava before charging at Eren. Eren dodged the attack and smacked Kiryu with the side of his hand, knocking him to the ground.

    He had completely forgotten about the lava… He had to escape and fast or be consumed by the heat.

    Kiryu lifted his head up, sending a Maser blast upward striking the Attack Titan across the face, ripping apart his flesh. Eren fell onto the ground.

    Akane struggled to stay awake, she took in a deep breath before yelling at the top of her lungs. “Kiryu! Finish it now!”

    The Mechagodzilla got onto his feet, making his way toward the fallen avenger of the future.  A firm foot was planted onto the Titan’s chest, pushing it in and breaking ribs and sternum. Eren roared in pain before being silenced by a Maser blast, his cranium erupting. His body fell limp, finally the conflict had been resolved. Wires wrapped around the Attack Titan, holding the downed warrior in place before making his way to Akane. Leaning in, the mechanical giant picked her up with his hand and allowed her to hide in his built-in compartments, then took off into the air.

     

    -Land of Light-

    It had been months since Dan had been home. He had been chasing the monster Kilazee from planet to planet before eventually meeting the creature in combat and defeating it.

    Ultraseven landed onto the glass-like planet before walking to a gigantic tower. “Seven!” The Ultra Warrior turned, seeing Ace, Zoffy and Jack standing behind him. “It has been too long, friends. Tell me, what has happened while I was away?” The three Ultra Warriors looked at each other before once again turning to Seven. Zoffy stepped forward.

    “Hayata is dead. He faced a cyborg duplicate of the Golden Demise on Earth, only to fall to the demon,” Seven clenched his hand into a fist. If he wasn’t away on a mission, he could have helped his friend battle the mechanical monster… “Another thing you should know… Hayata wasn’t alone. He faced Mecha-King Ghidorah with another gigantic humanoid. This one resembles a disfigured human.”

     “Thank you Zoffy for the information.” Ultraseven took to the stars, beginning his long search for this being that Zoffy spoke of.

     “Hayata, I will avenge your death. I promise.”

     

     -Planet X-

     Sirens blared in the halls of the Xiliens facility. Two men stood surrounded by a small squadron of Xilien soldiers. “So…how did two cattle make their way into my home.” A young Xilien male stepped forward, waiting for the pair to answer his question.

     “I am Chuck and this is my colleague, Glen. We have come with an offer…how would you like to finally have the Earth?”

    The Xilien leader smiled. “I’m listening.”

     Chuck smiled. “We have acquired monsters for you to send an assault onto the planet. All we ask is that you slay the one known as the Attack Titan.” As the Xilien leader stepped forward, he made a motion with his hand, ordering the squadron to lower their weapons, before offering his hand.

    “You have got yourself a deal.”

    Winner: Kiryu

    K.W.C. // December 21, 2020
  • Author: Dao Zang Moua | Banner: Dao Zang Moua

    University of Baghdad – Baghdad, Iraq

    “It’s finally done!”

    Slamming his hands onto the wooden desk, the Germanic individual, draped in a disheveled brown overcoat, shot out of his seat. In front of him, chemical formulas bubbled inside various tubes and beakers. Behind him was a middle aged woman with her three young children, two boys and a girl, who slept contently. She groggily rose from the bed, careful not to disturb their peaceful sleep.

    “Darling, it’s 5 in the morning,” the woman mumbled as she wiped her eyes, staring at a clock that read 5:26 AM.

    “Carla, I’ve finally perfected it!” he declared with ecstatic glee, grabbing the vials. Mixing cautiously, they conjoined as a glowing red liquid. He poured them out into several phials, two of which he left uncapped.

    “Wake the children for me,” he said, pulling out a syringe. The man carefully filled the hollow cylinder with the formula before going over to the boys, who were now awake. “This will only hurt a bit, you two will save our future,” he said, injecting the serum into the brown haired child’s arm. He then did the same for the blonde child when a loud commotion outside his lab caught his attention. The door burst open as an armed soldier rushed into the room.

    “Doctor Jaeger, you need to evacuate now,” he stated, lifting up the woman forcibly, getting them to their feet. “Grab your research and let’s go before they arrive.”

    “Before who arrives?” Grisha asked cautiously, grabbing the remaining vials of his formula before following the soldier out of the lab. Before he left however, he pressed a small button hidden underneath the desk near the drawer. Outside, several other soldiers were guiding his family through the once bustling university as the soldier guided him forth.

    “They’ve found your location sir; we believe they are trying to get your Super Serum for themselves,” he said, causing Grisha to stop in his tracks. The soldier then turned to the scientist, rushing him to hurry along. “Hurry Doctor, we don’t have time to waste!”

    “The Captain and I never told anyone other than Ensign Ozaki and the Lieutenant General about the serum,” Grisha remarked as realization came to him. “Carla, run!” he shouted, watching as the soldiers lifted their weapons. The others quickly caught hold of the now panicked woman and held onto her and the children as the leader seemed to smirk.

    “You should have just followed along, Doctor,” he declared with a crazed smirk, “Now I’ll have to kill them and just take the finished formula for myself!” He signaled the others, armed and ready to fire. Before they could shoot, a black and grey blur crashed through one of the windows, slamming a leg into the soldier’s face while pulling out a pistol. Without hesitation, the man aimed at the remaining soldiers and opened fire, each bullet hitting their mark. Red liquide ruptured from their heads and chests, dropping dead like flies. Screaming, Carla Jaeger quickly reached for her children and pulled them in close.

    “Doctor,” spoke the newcomer, turning to face the scientist.

    “Good to see you Ozaki,” Grisha greeted as the superhuman soldier took aim.

    A scream tore out behind the two as Ozaki turned to find Carla being tossed away by the leader, now holding onto the young girl as his face slowly morphed into a diamond shape with red chitinous skin. His body began slimming down while his shoulders became more angular like shoulder armor, combining with the rest of his body into a large piece of brown armored flesh leading to a mass of tentacles for legs.

    “Give me the serum and the girl lives!” The being shouted, his arms having reverted into tentacles as they wrapped around the girl’s neck. Ozaki took aim only for the tentacled alien to hold a weapon to the other two.

    “Drop the weapon!” Obeying for the moment, Ozaki dropped his gun to the ground and held his arms up. His superhuman vision saw the little girl slowly unsheath a small knife hidden in her coat, her eyes dilating. He quietly stood by, waiting for things to play out.

    “The Cryog won’t get away with this!” Ozaki said as he kept his arms up in the air. The mutant human nudged his head forward, informing Grisha to use his own devices.

    “Shut it Xilien scum!” The Cryog soldier exclaimed as Grisha trotted forth, fingering at the syringe hidden in his sleeve. “Now, come with me Doctor Jaeger,” the Cryog insisted, clutching harder on the girl as he reached for the Doctor with his long tentacle.

    “You said you only wanted the serum!” Grisha shouted, stopping just out of reach.

    “It would be much better to get the creator than just a single vial.”

    Seeing her father close enough, the young girl quickly slashed the Cryog’s tentacle that held her hostage, cutting through it as adrenaline pumped through her body. Free from the alien’s grasp, she twisted around and sliced at his tentacled legs before making a mad dash. The sudden pain caused the alien to sporadically fire his weapon, some beams which found themselves embedded into the floors and walls near Carla and the others.

    The bolt of energy traveled fast across the hallway, only to stop mere inches from her face, Ozaki’s arm now held out with noticeable strain. With his daughter free, Grisha grabbed ahold of the injured tentacle and injected the syringe into the Cryog’s open flesh. Within seconds of doing so, Ozaki had redirected the misaimed bolt back at the alien, blasting off the other tentacle that held the gun. The Cryog screamed in pain at the loss of his tentacles, who promptly lashed out at the doctor. One found its way into Grisha’s chest, eliciting a desperate plea from his wife and children. Without remorse, the Cryog tossed the man’s bloodied body aside, clutching at the injection point.

    “What did you do to me?” The Cryog hissed as Ozaki gathered the Jaeger family behind him.

    “You wanted the serum, now you have it!” Grisha shouted as the alien’s body began bursting with steam and heat, cooking the creature from the inside out.

    “You think this will stop us? The human race will soon be slaves to Karkaro’s reign!” The Cryog winced and coughed, eventually bursting into a mess of superheated flesh.

    “That was close,” Ozaki sighed with relief. He peered his gaze over to the weeping Carla, who held her husband close. “It’s a good thing the Captain had you install that alarm system in your lab.”

    “Ozaki, get them to the Land Rover, I’ll help the doctor.”

    The mutant turned to the voice, keeping his guard as another man approached them. The man was well built with a bushy mustache and wielded an alien forged katana. Lifting his arm, he quickly tossed the sword at the four, zipping by with precise accuracy, sailing over their heads. Ozaki turned around, only to find the sword embedded into a Cryog soldier’s chest, pinning him to a wall, one tentacle outstretched and pressing a button.

    “I thought you would have learned by now to watch your back,” he added, dusting his hands. Ozaki slowly lowered his arms as he stood in front of the four.

    “Sorry sir, had to be sure,” Ozaki said before a loud explosion knocked out the remaining glass windows on the building. A loud, unearthly screech echoed through the morning air, a sensation that alerted the mutant human of the oncoming danger.

    “Get them to the rover now!” Gordon sternly ordered, Ozaki guiding the family out of the building. Walking past them, Captain Gordon leaned over to the bleeding Grisha, kneeling down next to the German scientist. “That’s one hell of a formula you got there,” he whispered as more explosions echoed outside the building.

    “Had to make sure nothing other than pure humans can use it,” Grisha muttered, coughing in pain as he looked over to his bag. “We are being invaded by another alien empire wearing our skin after all.” Inside, all but one vial remained uncrushed along with his syringe. “It’s a good thing Mikasa’s Mutant DNA allowed me to make the strain very aggressive, targeting anything “alien” in the human body and burning it away”.

    “Good,” Gordon said, lifting the man up as they began making their way to the door, “We don’t want any of those shapeshifters to become even stronger.” The two quickly made their way through the building with Grisha turning to see Ozaki and his family already outside.

    “The world’s really gone to hell hasn’t it?” Grisha remarked, holding the vial and syringe close to his chest. “First the Xilien invade the Earth and wipe out all our major cities. Then the Cryog arrived directly after you defeated the Xilians and managed to harvest Godzilla.”

    “We did all the hard work,” Gordon replied, “They just swooped in at the last minute and took advantage of our exhaustion, the cowards.”

    Making their way outside, they were greeted by the sight of tanks and soldiers firing upon a large armored figure in the distance. Its flesh was a dark grey and it was covered in a dark blue armor. Along its back was a row of bluish dorsal plates with grey edges that glowed bright blue as a ray of atomic fury left its arthropodic maw. Radioactive fire tore through the military’s assault easily as the Godzilla Trilopod screeched into the air.

    “I hate those things,” Gordon grunted with disdain. Grisha coughed violently, falling to the floor. Leaning over the man, he noticed the vial and needle fall to the ground. Picking it up, he looked at the red fluid closely. In his ear, he could hear Ozaki calling for him to hurry back to the Land Rover.

    “So Doc, can this serum of yours fight the Trilopods?” Gordon asked as he filled the needle with the serum. Coughing up blood, the Doctor looked up at Gordon and watched as the captain held the needle.

    “I made the Titan Serum to allow Human Subjects to gain immense strength and regenerative abilities by increasing their body mass, sustained by tremendous heat to maintain such a transformation,” he answered as Gordon readied his arm. “There are malleable properties, so the side-effects vary from person to person,” he continued, coughing blood into his hands. “I already injected the boys with it, so don’t worry about needing to save that one.”

    “As long as I can kick this thing’s ass,” Captain Gordon replied as he injected himself. He felt a rush of energy flow through his body, feeling as though he had just finished an intense workout alongside a marathon.  The ground shook, causing him to stare up at the massive crustacean looming over them. “How does it work?” he demanded as the Trilopod came closer.

    “Fatal injuries that should kill you, or an injury with a focused goal in mind is needed to jumpstart the regenerative process,” the Doctor responded, holding his bleeding side. More shouting came over the earpiece as Captain Gordon stared up at the massive creature coming closer.

    “Ozaki, get out of here. Keep those kids safe so they finish this war,” Captain Gordon ordered as the Trilopod lifted its foot up high. “I’ll take care of this Godzilla wannabe.”

    The anomalocarid monster slammed its foot down upon the building, smashing the two under rubble as it did so. The Trilopod screeched out in glee as it fired off another atomic ray into the surrounding area. Its orders were to annihilate everything if the soldiers failed. Swiping its tail, it launched rubble into the city. A large rectangular machine launched into the air, readying to escape the carnage. The spines in the Trilopod began to glow blue as it prepared to fire its atomic breath at the vehicle. Before it could, a massive burst of heat and steam knocked it over from below, an ear shattering roar tore through the air.

    Captain Douglas Gordon roared with pure power as he felt his body snapping back together. Power filled his being as heat and steam radiated off his body. Slowly, he lifted his arms to find them covered in white, bonelike armor plates. Between each showcased the pure muscle of his new body, a purple glow flowing through it. Reaching up, he found that his mustache had seemingly disappeared, his face also covered in the armor.

    A roar to his side returned his attention to the situation at hand as he watched the Godzilla-based Trilopod getting back to its feet. He remembered how these insects had attacked the weakened Monster King all at once, some having absorbed the DNA of the monsters he had defeated along the way to the Xilian Mothership. The Cryogs were patient as they waited for their hated enemy to fall before coming in for the kill. Now their armies had the DNA of the Earth’s strongest monsters at their disposal. With a foe in front of him, Captain Gordon turned his mind to focus solely on the battle at hand. Taking a boxing stance, he only had one thought in his mind now, the only strategy he had ever needed.

    Attack, attack, and attack!

    By the time the Trilopod had managed to regain its wits, the newly formed Armored Titan was already in front of it, fist clenched and soaring toward its face. The punch slammed into the monster’s face, being followed quickly by several body blows, knocking the monster backward. Relentlessly, the Titan strode forth, continuing to slam powerful strikes against the mutated arthropod, his armored fists preventing much damage to himself. With a sudden burst of rage, the Trilopod screeched out, firing a chest beam from the gem on its chest. Combined with the power of what had once been six individual ports, the crimson beam seared into the hard armor of the Jaeger Titan, which pushed him off the Trilopod.

    Captain Gordon scowled at the pain, before noticing the burns and torn flesh that weren’t covered in armor quickly repairing itself with purple embers. Realizing that his new form had some form of super regeneration as well, he turned back to the Trilopod just in time for an atomic ray to torch him in the face.

    Trilopods were hunters. They sought out their prey and wore them down before assimilating their strongest traits into their own. This was how their species functioned. As such, the rage that filled the Trilopod fueled its anger to new heights, stemming from its hunter-esque nature and the Godzilla cells mutating its being. Dorsal spines flashed with azure energy as the Trilopod unleashed another atomic breath, scorching the Titan’s face even further. White armor blackened and flesh boiled before the Titan fell to the ground, its shattered face carved off by its awesome power.

    The Trilopod peered over, confused over how weak this creature was. As it got close, it failed to notice the Titan’s hands twitching. It did, however, take note that the entire head was quickly reforming, muscle and bone reshaping with steam and purple embers scorching the air. Though unable to see, the fallen Titan could still feel the vibrations coming closer, getting stronger with each footfall.

    With a sudden lurch, the Armored Titan lunged forth, grabbing ahold of the Trilopod’s arms and lifting it above his shoulders. Half his face was already reformed, with bones and flesh sizzling back together. Letting loose a loud scream, the Titan leapt backward, slamming the Trilopod back first onto the university. Spines snapped off from the impact causing the monster hunter to screech out in pain.

    Getting back to his feet, the Jaeger Titan wiped his regenerating face, feeling muscle as vision returned. He then lifted up the alien freak and held it close in a crushing bear hug, feeling the tough exoskeleton beginning to crack. Before the anamalocarid could retaliate, he quickly flipped backward, slamming the Trilopod head first into the ground. Straddling the monster’s body, he began to unleash a flurry of punches upon the creature’s face, each blow creating shockwaves from the impact.

    Seeing the blue glow in the creature’s mouth, the Titan clasped the mouth shut and tore off one of the graspers, stabbing it into an eye. A screech of pain grumbled from the Trilopod at the loss of its eye. The gem-like orb on the arthropod’s chest flashed red, firing its chest beam and hitting the Titan in the face. With the Titan now clutching his face, the parasite fired off an atomic ray, bathing the Titan in a wash of radiant flames, freeing its claw in the process.

    As the Titan slammed down on his back, the Trilopod quickly crawled atop the giant human, pinning his arms down. Screeching in rage, the Trilopod slammed its sharp scythe like claws against the bone-like armor, shredding sparks and shards of hardened flesh flying with each hit. Each blow tore off his armor, the Titan thrashing to get his limbs free. Bringing his legs to his chest from under the beast, the Titan kicked out, sending the mutated alien careening back toward the river. The Armored Titan roared out as it stood groggily. Seeing his foe still getting up, he slowly got into a running stance.

    The Trilopod shook its head, free of dizziness as it lifted itself up. Looking at its target enemy, it saw the giant sprinting toward it at surprising speed. With its enemy running straight for them, it unleashed both atomic fire and its chest beam simultaneously, swirling around into a red-and-blue spiral beam. The captain turned Titan crossed his arms in front of his face, taking the brunt of the beams head on as he continued his charge. Burning hot plasma seared his superheated flesh, blackening the cracked armor as he gained speed. At maximum capacity, the Titan tackled the crustacean mutant into the Tigris River, halting its relentless assault.

    Alien and human struggled as they continued their fight within the depths of the river. Armored fists matched sharp claws beneath the surface. The river hissed and steamed as the Titan became submerged, his superheated body boiling the water around him. The black ashes mixed into the broiling water, the heat riling up the Trilopod. It lashed out with its scythes, slashing the Titan in the shoulder. Mud scattered as the two wrestled beneath the waves, steam boiling off the surface as they separated.

    The Titan stood his ground, trying to search for his foe in the depths before rising above the water. Looking around, he noticed a large movement toward the other side of the river and strode toward it. The water boiled off his newly regenerated flesh, his shoulder wound sewing shut. As he reached the center of the river, he felt something latch onto his leg, dragging him under the water.

    The Trilopod roared as it rushed out of the river depths. With a powerful swing of its tail, it threw the steaming Titan out of the river and through several buildings. Inside the nape of the Titan, Captain Gordon growled angrily. Most of his face, as well as his arms and legs had already fused into the flesh of the Titan’s body, but he cared not for that. Willing the body to move, he began rising to his knees, when an atomic ray slammed into his back. The beam knocked him face first into the ground, pushing him across the dirt and buildings as it seared into his armored flesh.

    Behind him, the parasitic hunter slowly made its way forth. Each time the Titan made to get back to his feet, the arthropod would fire another beam, targeting the arms and legs in order to keep him down. Bringing its muscular leg up, the arthropod crushed the giant human with its larger mass. With his legs now mostly healed, the White Titan kicked as hard as he could against the ground, flipping his body forward and rolling out of the way. Dirt and rubble exploded upward as the monster hunter slammed into the ground.

    Rolling to his feet, Captain Gordon began looking around his surroundings for something that could prove useful when he backed into something cold and metallic. Turning his head, he noticed the Victory Arch, a pair of arches consisting of two outstretched hands holding crossed swords. Recollecting from his hazy memory, the swords were made of stainless steel with bronze grips and dedicated to those fallen in battle. Before he could act, the Trilopod rushed out of the dust cloud, slamming its shoulder into his body, sending him through the monument.

    The Armored Titan struggled to get to his knees, only for the Trilopod to grab onto his neck with its pincher tail. Reaching out, he managed to grab onto one of the bronze arms before he was hoisted upward. Lifting up the Titan, the false Godzilla screeched out, clamping its claws around the Titan’s body in order to prevent the arms from moving away from his side. The chest-embedded orb began to glow red while what remained of its dorsal spines shined a deep blue. Atomic energy built up in the Trilopod’s mouth, but the Armored Titan remained calm.

    With a backward swing of his forearm, the Titan stabbed the Trilopod in the gut, the Victory Arch in hand. The Trilopod screeched out in pain, releasing its hold on the Titan as it fired the chest beam. The red blast sent the Titan rolling forward, smoke and steam sizzling across his back. Picking up the other part of the monument, he tore off the bronze hand and held the sword up. It felt off, but he would work with what he had. Swiping the blade across his armored skin, the Titan held the sword across his arm.

    The Trilopod roared out, tearing out the metal monument from its side, green blood spilling from the resulting wound. Glaring at its opponent, it saw the Titan rushing toward it with a weapon in hand. Sword met claw as the Titan slashed at the parasitic hunter. The onslaught continued with each blocking the others’ blows with their own fortified shells. It wasn’t until the Titan slammed the sword down with all his might that the two were caught in a stalemate. Neither budged for several moments, causing the Titan to retract his blade, swinging it from below. The Trilopod was quick to react however, crossing its arms and catching the blade between its claws. Glowing red, the Trilopod snapped the blade in two, firing the crimson beam soon after.

    The Armored Titan quickly leaned to the side and evaded the beam. As he did so, he grabbed a hold of the second, blood-covered sword and swung upward with all his might. The dull metal snapped upward with immense force, gouging into the softer grey chitin. A blue claw fell to the ground as the Trilopod screeched out. Charging forth with a loud roar, the Armored Titan stabbed the sword through the Trilopod’s chest, straight through its ruby red orb. Green blood spilled viscously from its wounds as the mutant’s dorsal spines began glowing with atomic luminescence.

    Blue nuclear flames washed over the giant human, but he persisted, twisting the blade inside his enemy. As his skin blackened and armor turned to ash, Captain Gordon released one last shout of rage, leaping into the air and kneeing the Trilopod in the head. The resulting impact drove the sword upward through the crustacean’s body, slicing it in half as the flames spilled into the air.

    Breathing heavily, the Armored Titan lifted the bloody sword onto his shoulder as the sun beat down onto his ashen body. Flames burned violently around him as the corpse of the Trilopod collapsed onto the ruined streets below. Blackened flesh disintegrated, being renewed by purple regenerative embers. As the Titan looked upon the corpse of the Trilopod, hope filled his being. Perhaps, humanity would succeed in stopping this second invasion using this power. Even without him there to lead the charge.

    The sound of humming caught his ears as the giant human turned his head. An explosion struck his head, forcing the Titan to kneel down as smoke wafted off his mostly burnt face. As stream rose off his wounds, five metal objects landed around him with arms outstretched, mechanical roars of malice sent toward the Jaeger Titan. Five Mechagodzillas stared at the massive human as Captain Gordon grunted from within the Titan’s nape, most of his body now absorbed into it. Taking a stance with his blood covered sword, he readied himself for the next round as a burst of steam billowed from his regenerating mouth and nostrils. His body glowing purple as heat and steam burst forth.

    “Is that all you’ve got? You’re gonna have to try harder than that to kill me!”

    Winner: Armored Titan

     

    K.W.C. // December 14, 2020
  • Authors: Tyler Trieschock & Andrew Sudomerski | Banner: Andrew Sudomerski

    [Continued from Match 311]

    Mt. Mihara – 1989

    The responsibility Kubal had to fulfill weighed on his conscience. Endless droning from the V-22 Osprey’s propellers provided the only source of comfort for his anxiety. More than that, he couldn’t keep focus. Was his fear really getting to him? Surely not, he was a hardened veteran who was up to the task, but his mission was far easier said than done. He combed his gloved hands through his buzz cut silver blonde hair to ease the tension. It was a mission that the Japanese Self-Defense Force had failed time and time again, yet continually persisted at the cost of foolish men who didn’t know any better.

    Kill Godzilla.

    The cargo space blared to life with a red siren. That was his cue. A loud clang filled the empty space as the hangar door opened. Gusty winds seeped into the empty hull and pushed against Kubal. He rose to his feet and prepared the HALO insertion. The outside world presented to him the gates of hell and the devil that resided in it.

    Even with the heavy gear loaded on him, Kubal dashed and leapt without hesistation out of the Osprey. He spread his whole body out to widen the surface tension. Coarse air pushed against his freefalling form as he made his gradual descent. He saw Mount Mihara blossom with a plume of smoke and lava, the erratic explosives detonated around the volcanic ridge, and the ever so fearsome silhouette that instilled fear upon seeing it.

    A cavalcade of erupting lava and pressurized blasts roared triumphantly as if celebrating Godzilla’s long awaited return. The nuclear menace boomed a magnificent roar that overpowered the erupting volcano, one Kubal heard over the rushing wind that filled his ears. He went for his ripcord and pulled it, forcing the parachute to jettison from its pack. Air expanded the folded material as it bloomed into the balloon it was designed to be. Its circular shape caught the air and slowed Kubal’s fall substantially and allowed him to glide the rest of the way.

    He witnessed the charcoal reptile’s sluggish march down the slope. However, the titanic beast stopped in his tracks and pivoted his head. Godzilla’s eyes locked onto the fleeing V-22 Osprey before shifting to Kubal. The drifting man hurried and tried to grab the blade strapped to his suit’s torso. Godzilla rumbled a low growl, almost curious of Kubal’s presence. The closer Kubal found himself to Godzilla, the more his human instincts screamed to run and abandon the mission. For a moment, a phrase spoken by Kubal’s father played like an anthem in his mind, strengthening his resolve and immediately removing any ounce of fear. Soon, only the devil staring into his soul would feel that terror…

    If he had waited for mere seconds longer, he would’ve crashed into Godzilla’s scaly snout. But he knew the time was now. He pulled the blade out and didn’t hesitate for a moment as he plunged it directly into the palm of his hand, penetrating the glove and allowing blood to flow through the opening. Kubal’s body surged with a brilliant light and heat that enveloped him. Even Godzilla winced at the sudden fiery sphere, which was blinding to the eye.

    No more than a moment later, there was an even greater light that consumed them both.

    The active volcano quieted with the emergence of a more powerful explosion that could be heard for miles on out. Searing flames brimmed at the core of the blast and the residue kicked high into the sky, morphing into a mushroom-shaped cloud. Its aftershock rocked the nearby ocean and displaced the natural geological formations of Mount Mihara. The high temperatures it generated heated the ashen stone and evaporated the salt water into pure steam.

    It was a light that was shone throughout the whole world.

    ***

    Arabian Desert, Saradia – 1988

    Thunder boomed across the lonely desert. The explosive blast generated an artificial sandstorm that followed the shockwave’s wake. Pure steam broiled from the crater’s center, and with it the gargantuan human. Composed of exposed muscle tissue and fleshy tendons, the 120-meter Colossal Titan rose from the charred sand that surrounded him. He stood idly by and waited for further instructions.

    Wearing a labcoat and expressing a smile of satisfaction, Dr. Genichiro Shiragami raised a nearby microphone to his parted lips. His fingers gently pressed a button on the device, allowing the outside speakers to pick up his next words which he slowly spoke, in awe of his creation. “Excellent, Kubal. Now walk.”

    The Colossal Titan lifted his hulking leg and brought it in front of him. The large foot crushed and dislodged the loose sand as he alternated movement to his other leg. Each step was awkward from the uneven desert, yet he maintained balance.

    From the observatory, the high-ranking Japanese Self Defense Force and the Saradian Armed Force officials were nothing short of stunned.

    “So this is Jaeger?” one of the Saradian generals noted in awe. “Was this your doing, Dr. Shiragami?”

    “Not… entirely,” Shiragami hesitantly responded before he snapped himself out of his glare. “This wouldn’t have been possible without the generous cooperation from Prof. Ibuki and his invaluable research.” Shiragami gestured to the Japanese gentleman next to him.

    “Oh no, the pleasure isn’t mine to take,” Goro Ibuki sheepishly dissuaded, displaying a proud grin as he pointed to his assistant. “It’s Jet Jaguar you have to thank for all this.” All eyes shifted toward the robotic android that stood by the bulletproof window, staring blankly at the red Titan. “My creation’s not one for words,” Ibuki continued, “but rest assured, his mind knows more of molecular biology and quantum physics than any human on the planet.”

    “It’s assuring to know that the Titan Program bore fruit and wasn’t a waste of taxpayer money,” a Saradian general stated. “How soon can you mass-produce the Jaeger serum?”

    “We can’t do that… yet,” Shiragami intervened. “The first obstacle is the subject itself and how rare their genetic makeup is, even in a world with nearly five billion people. But even if we found the handful of possible subjects, making more Jaeger is an incredibly precise and time-consuming process. In addition to these faults, we have yet to learn the full extent of these Titan powers to begin production. We need more time, but a solution will be found with it.”

    “I concur with the doctor’s sentiments,” a JSDF admiral acknowledged. “We don’t know how this will fare in combat. We need a demonstration of Kubal’s power.”

    “Funding for the Titan Program will be extended to next year,” the SAF general affirmed. “Get what you need and give us a demonstration by then. I’m being generous, so don’t disappoint.”

    “Understood, but please gentleman, consider this an investment in humanity’s future,” Shiragami replied. Soon after, the officials were dismissed from the premises. Only those who were part of the Titan Program remained. Shiragami’s demeanor changed as he approached Ibuki and clasped his left shoulder.

    The two men stared blankly at one another until a bit of laughter developed between the pair.

    “Kubal turns into a humanoid taller than Godzilla and here all these guys can think about is money,” Shiragami lambasted as he rubbed his temples.

    Goro’s chuckle evolved in a large, tooth-filled grin. “From how you were talking, I could have sworn you were one of them.”

    Shiragami nodded his head in disapproval. “After what happened with Erika, I told you I’d help you make the world a safer place for the ones we care about. I’m still in agreement on that, no matter how many egos I need to stroke. Lives, no… death will be eliminated by what we do.”

    Shiragami walked behind Goro, placing his hands on the inventor’s shoulders. “You understand what to do, right?”

    Goro nodded, a few tears swelling in his eyes as he looked to Kubal’s titanic form. “There is no need to remind me of the importance of this. We’ll help however we can.”

    “Good,” Shiragami whispered, his smile melting away to a look of ire as he stared at the back of his companion’s head.

     Goro kept silent. There wasn’t room to debate or criticize Shiragami’s way of thinking. He instead took a quick glance at his robotic friend and noticed something wrong. Jet’s shoulders sank with regret as he continued to stare at the Colossal Titan. While the robot bore a large, happy grin on his face, Goro knew in his heart of hearts that Jet felt a deep rooted remorse.

    ***

    Mt. Mihara – 1989

    Reptilian eyelids opened to the sight of a boiling stone wall. His head was filled with a quiet, sharp ring. The world around him was muffled and barely made out the destructive symphony that played around him. The light had already died down, and all that was left was a heat wave that muddled the air. Godzilla pushed against the melted rim and got back to his feet. He was disoriented, still recovering from the aftermath. His ears popped and returned his sense of hearing; his migraine faded and no longer bothered him as it did. At the last second, he noticed that he was no longer on a slope of a volcano, but one of a crater. He shook his head to reorient himself, then turned his wrathful gaze upon the hole’s center—a place he had only been at just moments before.

    The hollow basin brimmed with pure heat that warped the surrounding air. White vapor rose in tandem with the heat, all enclosed by a magnificent ring of fire. In the center was the shape of a dull red human-like man with exposed muscle tissue and fleshy tendons. The monstrous man was crouched on his knees, with his upper half bent forward. It seemed as if he was bowing. Godzilla released tremendous heat that was absorbed into his body through a mighty bellow, demanding a challenge.

    Scorched earth shifted under the Colossal Titan’s palms as the giant pushed himself up. His dull red muscles regained their natural color as he stood erect, his whole body washed with a brilliant crimson. Superheated flames coursed through his chest and spread throughout the rest of his being, further illuminating his bright red skin with hints of orange flashes. A cauldron of steam escaped from the natural vents on his body and drifted skyward.

    The Colossal Titan finally came to a stop at a full one-hundred and fifty meters. His massive frame dwarfed the King of the Monsters, more so than most others Godzilla had fought in the past. The Colossal’s fiery irises flashed amidst the black sclera as he lowered his head and locked eyes with the charcoal reptile. He saw that Godzilla tilted his neck to meet with a gaze filled with insurmountable willpower and fighting spirit.

    It was those eyes that made Godzilla the ultimate symbol of power.

    Kubal and the Colossal Titan unleashed a deep, booming roar in unison.

    The fight was on.

    Neon blue lights trickled along the maple leaf dorsal plates. Nuclear energy quickly channeled through Godzilla’s reactor organ and up his throat. Separating his jaws, the atomic leviathan discharged a radioactive beam with immense power. The azure ray lanced itself into the crimson humanoid’s abdominal muscles and found an exit through his back. The Colossal Titan let out a pained groan as he collapsed onto one knee with a resounding thud. He impulsively pulled his left arm over the open wound, which gushed with uncontrollable steam as his body prioritized its regeneration process. The Titan’s flaming eyes peered away from the wound as a secondary flash from the leviathan’s dorsal spines illuminated the smoldering crater.

    Inside of the Titan, Kubal’s eyes went wide as Godzilla fired another atomic ray. Terror entered Kubal’s mind, but an idea followed just as quickly. This time, Kubal threw the Colossal Titan’s right arm out, with the palm fully exposed. Heat channeled through the arm and concentrated into the hand, which shone with utter brilliance. Highly pressurized gases dispersed the powerful pillar of radioactive fire from a compact point. Godzilla stopped, as did the Colossal Titan once the beam dissipated, allowing Kubal to retract his remarkably degraded right arm.

    Damn, it worked. Next time less steam, I can’t lose this much muscle fiber to block-

     A third, short blast of atomic fire detonated across the Colossal Titan’s left shoulder, forcing him backward while the nuclear leviathan gritted his teeth. With a grisly howl, Godzilla stampeded toward the enormous humanoid, prepared to take the fight up close and personal.

    The Colossal Titan braced for impact. His enormous size, while imposing, left few evasive options at his disposal. His knee and bare feet anchored themselves into the molten slab the moment the gargantuan figures collided. Godzilla’s ivory claws punctured into the stringy sinew-bound chest of the giant, which poured burning blood and gusty steam. In an impressive display of his strength, the charcoal leviathan hoisted the giant over his head and hurled the searing Titan into the molten rock. Melted slag displaced against the Colossal Titan’s massive frame, which too began to swelter and liquefy under the humanoid’s superheated body.

    Nuclear energy coursed through Godzilla’s body. The stampede wouldn’t stop; he would not relent for a moment’s notice. Thunderous footfalls sloshed through the softened mineral pool, undeterred by the heat it produced. Blue electricity sparked from his fingertips as he harnessed his nuclear power and prepared to strike. Then, with a mighty swing, pressed his energy-infused claws onto the muscles of the Titan’s right arm. With an immediate pop, muscle tissue and blood ruptured from the contact point, eliciting an agonizing cry from the Colossal Titan. The crater-like wound began to sizzle with steam, trying to resuscitate the damage sustained.

    Again, Godzilla brought his claws forth and slashed the Colossal’s chest region, sparking a reaction from the heat and the radioactive jolts. Crackling explosive bursts lacerated the torso and profusely poured out blood and vapor. With a booming shriek, the Colossal Titan cried out in agonizing fury. Repetitively, Godzilla hacked and slashed the gargantuan brute, shearing tight-knit muscles from the skeletal frame.

    Amber irises flashed against the Titan’s black sclera in a fit of rage. Even in pain, he mustered the strength to emit a low hiss at the mighty monster king. Then, he retaliated. From within the Colossal Titan’s core, a bright light illuminated from the holes and tears. There wasn’t enough time for Godzilla to counter what came next. Fiery steam jettisoned from the exit wounds and violently thrashed the monstrous tyrant. Every breath Godzilla took only further parched this throat as the hot, coarse air slipped into his orifice. Godzilla tried to fight back with a stream of atomic fire, only for it to scatter in his face.

    From within his Titan body, Kubal pressed on. Slowly drudging from the outermost rim of the crater, the Colossal Titan continued to spew superheated, pressurized steam from his torso. The strands of muscle diminished to fuel the Titan’s wrathful retribution. But even all great lights fade as the exertion ebbed away. As the blazing storm died down, the battlefield became engulfed in a thick mist. Kubal didn’t need to look to see what his attack had cost him. He could feel it; the emptiness in his Titan’s chest, the compromised muscle knitting back together, his ribs reforming bone. He steadily rose to his two feet, but his eyes burned with unforgiving fury. What he needed to keep an eye on was the target that remained standing.

    From the fog, the fearsome silhouette was slouched over. Godzilla’s eyes peered with intense bloodlust, with patches of ashen marks tattered across his already black, rugged scales. He salivated with drool from between his double sets of incisors, coating his inner mouth with protection as the remnants dripped into the molten slag. With a low rumble, Godzilla thrashed his tail around, churning the mushy pool of mineral. His spines flashed neon blue, regulating his atomic energy through his form. The leviathan peered at his battered foe, rage coursing as his claws twitched with destructive fury.

    This battle would not be a challenge any longer. He’d tear apart every fiber of the huamnoid’s body and burn every particle to the finest ash. Nothing but a horrendously agonizing death would satiate Godzilla’s ravenous desire of destruction. Feeling the high of adrenaline from his bloodlust, Godzilla began to rush once again.

    ***

    JSDF Headquarters, Tokyo – 1986

    Screaming filled the small, bleached white room. Strapped to the wall with a variety of tubes feeding liquid into his body, Kubal couldn’t help but unleash his agony. Orange electricity sparked across his bare chest as the procedure continued, causing the two medical staff watching him to twitch nervously. One moved to assist merely for Dr. Shiragami to rest his left hand on their left shoulder, stopping them in their tracks. Minutes continued to pass, Kubal’s horrific screaming intensifying, but Shiragami ignored the unproductive sound, instead paying attention to his watch. As the big hand passed three, he relinquished his hold on the medical assistant.

    Dr. Shirigami took a deep breath before he yelled with new life, “Can’t you see him screaming, he’s in pain! Get the man down!”

    The door opened behind the doctor, attracting Shiragami as Goro Ibuki and Jet Jaguar entered the room right on time. “Hello Goro, did you hear the work of these fools.”

    Goro nodded, a look of concern on his face as he walked past his friend and helped Kubal off the wall. The test subject nearly fell, but the three people were able to keep him upright as Kubal was handed a water bottle, which he downed almost immediately. With a few breaths, Kubal gradually stood upright without any support, walking stubbornly to a chair at the far side of the bare room.

    Shiragami readied to move, but a metallic hand rested on his shoulder from Jet Jaguar, drawing a look of disdain from the doctor.

    “Your favorite guest is here to speak to you,” Goro stated, attracting the doctor’s visibly agitated expression. “I can cover things from here my friend.”

    Shirigami took a deliberate step away from Jet Jaguar.“Thank you, I doubt we will continue any further today,” Shirigami noted before he quickly departed the room with the other medical staff scurrying behind him.

    With his head resting on the wall, Kubal continued to breathe chaotically. “Did you… come from the… hospital?”

    Goro nodded with a grin on his face. “Results for the month show definite improvement.”

    Kubal peeled his head off the wall, his breathing still labored but steady. “Thank you, you didn’t need to….”

    “It is the least my assistant and I can do for all you have put at stake.”

    Kubal rolled his eyes, placing his head back against the wall.

    “My intentions are selfish, Goro. Everyone is and besides, without that treatment… I wouldn’t have much of a life. Would I?”

    Goro’s eyes lingered for a moment, dulling ever slightly before life returned causing them to glow seemingly brighter than before.

    “True, all people are selfish. To protect or better themselves is only natural. For me, I’d trade anything for a relaxing vacation from all of this,” Goro chuckled as he placed his hand on Kubal’s shoulder. “But going through this painful process, risking your own life, for those you care about or don’t know, would prove that you aren’t selfish. For what is there more to put on the line than your life?”

    Kubal tilted his head back, closing his eyes in mild irritation.

    “First man I’ve ever met that I can’t tell if you’re wise beyond your years or just daft.”

    Goro retracted his hand, laughing. “Probably a bit of both.”

    ***

    Mt. Mihara – 1989

    The Colossal Titan pushed his left foot into the slag and placed his right behind him. His muscles tensed, anticipating Godzilla’s next move. The crazed leviathan plowed through the molten mineral, atomic lightning dancing along his spines. Gritting his teeth, the Colossal Titan pulled his right leg farther back and began radiating a burning light. Rugged air burst from the heel bone, displacing the mush behind it, and propelled his hefty foot like a rocket with incredible forward momentum.

    Godzilla barely registered it as he recklessly barreled through the slob, but was quick to realize the error of his ways. Thick, compact toes collided against the black, muscular sternum that made up Godzilla’s chest, fracturing the skin and bones that laid beneath it in an earth-shattering shockwave of blood, heat, and muscle. The monstrous leviathan soared through the air, thrown back from the sheer force of its power–violently puking and erupting blood from his maw and chest cavity. Within seconds, Godzilla found himself beyond the rim of the crater, carving a path from his mass as he slowed to a stop.

    Hate-filled eyes dizzily glared at the cauldron, with the humanoid at its center. A hideous snarl escaped Godzilla’s lips, forcing himself back to his feet. He slouched over, still feeling his shattered chest shift around as he moved. His regeneration slowly patched up the damages, but the residual pain lingered on. He diverted his attention to the Colossal Titan, who started limping out of the pit. With a quick glance, Godzilla noticed the dried up leg and splintered foot. Godzilla grunted as neon lights flashed from behind.

    The Colossal Titan was quick to the draw as he placed his left arm over his core, in the path of the atomic ray. The arm illuminated into a fiery orange, pressurized steam expulsed from the forearm the moment before the beam could land. Concentrated air diffused the radioactive flames at such intensity that the beam never bypassed the buffer layer. Only the insignificant remnants of Godzilla’s signature weapon made their mark on the gargantuan humanoid; but those miniscule wounds were healed with minimal effort.

    As soon as Godzilla ceased firing, the Colossal Titan simply back-handed the rest of the atomic beam into the nearby slope. The Titan retracted his left arm aside, only to stumble on his desiccated leg.

    Shit, Kubal cursed to himself. He withdrew his Titan’s left arm, then his whole body was immediately bathed in a burst of steam; an indicator of his Titan form’s incredible regenerative prowess. But he knew Godzilla wasn’t going to let him have the chance to restore his body.

    Godzilla spat another volatile atomic burst, far quicker than Kubal had anticipated. It lanced into the Titan’s left thigh, rupturing in an explosive burst of blood and gas. Kubal knew trying to patch up the wound was a fruitless effort, for his body was overtaxed with replenishing his innards from his earlier attack.

    I need to prioritize, I can’t sustain the whole body like this.

    Pinkish steam diminished from his core, diverting his regenerative cells to the thinned left arm and right leg. The Colossal Titan panted, sewing its wounds before resuming the offensive. But even so, Kubal knew he’d have to suffer for it. His Titan’s eyes gleamed at the King of the Monsters, who stumbled down the hill–eager for blood, and to end this futile effort.

    ***

    JSDF Headquarters, Tokyo – 1985

    Little light passed through the curtains of Shiragmi’s office, ensuring it a grey, almost lifeless appearance. Dust covered most surfaces and reflected through the light as it floated in the congested space. At the room’s far end, two men sat on opposite sides of a pristine desk with a fresh vase of roses, staring at the other with unparalleled disdain.

    “I said no, and that’s my answer. Simple as that,” Kubal affirmed, his left eye twitching as he suppressed his urge to yell.

    Shiragami rested his face against his hands before he closed his eyes, vented a deep breath from his nose and pulled his head back to look at Kubal once more. “And yet Mr. Kunimura, you never answered as to why.”

    “Do I need to?”

    “No, I think I have a rough idea as to why.”

    Kubal’s eyes narrowed, his body leaning forward. “So, why was I ordered here?”

    “Because I have the solution to your problem, one the five specialists you’ve visited this month lacked. Even the one you gave a black-”

    Kubal burst from his seat, his shadow towering over Shiragami as he stood, his breathing labored as he thought of his next move. Meanwhile, Shiragami remained composed, unamused by the act of aggression.

    “If you’ve finished, I know its terminal. Maybe a few years at most, but my work can ensure that doesn’t transpire, or are you too proud to accept my help?”

    Anger faded from Kubal’s expression with every passing second. Without removing his gaze from Shiragami, Kubal leaned back into his seat, allowing it to creak under his weight. “I’m supposed to believe your word?”

    “No,” Shiragami retorted with a wave of his right hand, “only my results. Until they are adequate, all medical costs will be covered to ensure your cooperation. By this project’s conclusion, we both will achieve our shared goal.”

    Kubal’s left eyebrow raised in disbelief causing Dr. Shirigami to look at his roses with a smile which seemed unnatural for the doctor. Kubal vented a breath of defeat, his demeanor softening in his chair. “What do I need to do?”

    “Survive, Kubal… That’s the only thing I require of you.”

    ***

    Mt. Mihara – 1989

    The two colossi swung at each other, superheated turbulence warping the radioactive jolts from Godzilla’s fingertips. Every tap of Godzilla’s atomic power popped the Colossal Titan’s frail musculature; in turn, every concise blow from the Colossal Titan fractured and broke Godzilla’s scaly hide in a pulse of burning air. For each hit Godzilla had to brace, he stumbled back against the upward curvature of the slope. Likewise, the Colossal Titan retracted his busted hand to recuperate, while the other dished out the heavy load.

    This seems to be working, but… Kubal lost his train of thought as he clenched his left hand in preparation. He felt how much more time it was taking to mend the wounds. No, I need to take action now.

    Heat swelled from the soles of his Titan’s feet, prepared to sacrifice more precious muscle fiber. Gaseous steam surged, acting like boosters as the Colossal Titan lunged at the charcoal leviathan. His superheated body collided against Godzilla’s blackened hide, cracking it and pressing the gargantuan reptile into the rocky slope of the volcano. The Titan smothered the monstrous creature in a blanket of his own ravaged body, pinning the beast’s throat with his partially formed left hand.

    With his right, he pulled it back, ready to drive it into Godzilla’s head.

    However, the reptile’s intelligent eyes flared at the sight and quickly dispatched an atomic ray at the raised arm. In a burst of radioactive flames and superheated steam, the right hand exploded with a cacophonous boom. Even with the hand missing, the stubbed arm came crashing down in a fit of rage on the reptilian’s throat, desperately trying to keep him pinned.

    Very well, let’s try this! All across Kubal’s massive body, the Colossal Titan began to radiate light like the sun. Hot air jettisoned from his broken body, eating away at his muscle fibers. Heated jet streams dispelled when they struck against Godzilla’s dark armored hide, but coursed into the fractured wounds the monster king had sustained during their brawl. Godzilla’s blood and organs boiled from the foreign heat entering the body, slowly being sealed off by the regeneration of the scaly epidermis. Even with his innards being unnaturally heated, all this only fueled Godzilla’s bloodlust even more.

    The Colossal Titan gazed at the pinned Godzilla, even as his own body slowly deteriorated from exertion. Come on, just burn! However, both Kubal and the Titan’s eyes widened when Godzilla’s rugged skin began to flash various shades of neon blue.

    In an instant, the Colossal Titan was overwhelmed by atomic power.

    The discharged energy exploded from Godzilla’s body, the nuclear pulse shredded the humanoid’s scarred figure effortlessly. The Titan’s face tore to pieces, its head and neck splintered from the rest of its body. The arms that had once pinned the kingly leviathan were reduced to ash, and the rest of the humongous, frail body was flung off of Godzilla, careening to the base of Mount Mihara. With a thud, the headless, armless form of the Colossal Titan laid in tatters, dissipating with uncontrolled steam.

    Within the nape, Kubal only saw darkness. His mind went wild, overridden with swelling anxiety. He felt the harsh gravitational forces wrack his body, knowing full well that the head was airborne. But without his Titan’s eyes, there was no telling when or where he would land… His mind recalled this darkness once before. Locked behind the shutters of a wooden door, helpless as everything he once held dear to was shattered and destroyed. The deafening roars, the screams, they would never go away. His whole world crashed around him, then the shutters finally opened…

    A burst of steam forcefully jettisoned Kubal out of his Titan’s nape, his frail human body rolling over the rugged terrain. Rocks and pebbles punctured through his clothing, or what little he had. He curled into a ball and shrieked, attempting in vain to shrug off the pain. Additional steam swelled from the fresh wounds, his skin trying to push out the foreign debris from his body. As the jumble of embedded rocks fell to the ground, Kubal felt his body patching the scars, a residual effect of his Titan powers.

    His eyes shot up toward the King of the Monsters.

    The monstrous beast heralded a victorious screech, barely paying heed to the insignificant human in his path. His cells sewed the damages he had sustained, and in a mere matter of minutes he would be as good as new. Kubal breathed in and out, letting his body physically heal… But there would be no time to rest. As new skin replaced the old, and his skeleton cracked in place, he once again undertook the herculean task set before him. There was brief apprehension, but he overcame it as he brought his bare hand up to his mouth, chewing into it until it bled. His body radiated light once more, and was quickly enveloped in a bath of steam and heat.

    The thunderous noise and brilliant shine caught Godzilla’s attention. Before his very eyes, he saw a shape take form–a skeletal body materializing, threads of muscle sinew weaving together, ligaments and tendons coating the structural joints. A heat wave washed over Godzilla, but even he knew this wasn’t the humanoid’s full power it had once displayed. He grimaced at the thought of a foe he couldn’t comprehend, but drowned such ideas out of his head. If it could die once, it would perish again by his hand! Godzilla screamed at the defiant challenger, prepared to end it however many times it needed to take.

    The Colossal Titan rose to its one-hundred and thirty meter height, its desaturated skin slowly regained color. Heat escaped as steam through the Titan’s natural body vents. Unlike before, the Colossal Titan’s muscles remained a stagnant, solid red, lacking the illustrious flare they once had. The ossified fibers were no longer the soft, natural strings that held the giant together. And although most of the body had formed, several areas of its anatomy were compromised: the bones of its forearms peeked amidst the muscles and tendons that held it together; sharp, spear-like ribs jutted out from its torso; the feet only had substantial tissue up to the metatarsal bones; and while its head had reconstituted most of its muscle mass, its face lacked any muscle fibers sewn to it. Rather, sunken hollow eyes glared at the tyrant that stood before it… Then from the darkness, they illuminated with fiery, yellow bulbs that pierced Godzilla’s soul.

    The Colossal Titan opened its jaws agape, venting Kubal’s frustrations and anger with a spiteful, soul-shattering scream. Godzilla responded in kind with another regal bellow.

    From the scorched earth beneath him, a shallow pool compared to the crater he had initially created, the Colossal Titan took long, massive strides, pushing his reformed body to its limits. Volcanic rock crunched under his malformed feet with every step, taking the initiative to re-engage in combat. Godzilla braced for battle, and again the two collided in a spectacular display of destruction. Their vie for supremacy raged on as they wrestled with their raw strength, eager to overpower the other.

    In the midst of their scuffle, the red giant pulled his left arm back, preparing his next weapon of choice. Stiffening his index and middle fingers, they ignited in a supercharged blaze. He may have an armored shell, but his eyes aren’t! Swinging them around, the blistering fingers combusted the oxygen molecules in their path, generating a trail of fire.

    As they lined up to Godzilla’s muzzle, the brightly lit appendages discharged a furious bath of raging steam directly into Godzilla’s eyes! The powerful and monstrous king of all monsters caterwauled in horrific agony–a sound that sent chills down the spines of those who heard it. The Colossal Titan pulled his left arm back to assess his next plan of attack. His two fingers were reduced to skeletal appendages, with not a trace of fiber left on them. They, however, had fulfilled their purpose.

    Reaching his right hand out, he planted his palm atop the moaning dinosaur’s cranium and pressed with a firm grip. The blinded Godzilla wildly discharged an atomic heat ray from his jaws, as the Titan swiftly and forcefully twisted the reptile’s head to misdirect the lethal blast. It grazed the right shoulder and ear of the Colossal Titan, blackened and dried up from the intense radioactive heat produced from the beam.

    Damn, that was close. But he knew he couldn’t wait. Godzilla could fire again at any moment. Heat radiated from the back of the Titan’s hand, thrusting Godzilla’s head downward. The sudden force and increased momentum left Godzilla mildly confused and irritated. Even in his handicapped state, Godzilla felt the swelling heat–the Colossal Titan had something prepared. And it came in the moment of impact, as the Colossal Titan rocketed his supercharged knee directly into Godzilla’s face! A thunderous cacophony resounded as the Titan’s right kneecap busted in a sweltering shockwave of heat, shattered bone, and blood. Godzilla’s snout cracked, spurting blood and fangs from his nostrils and mouth. With tremendous force, Godzilla was effortlessly thrown against the volcanic bedrock, plonked onto his wounded sternum.

    Kubal, with his Titan’s auditory receptors, heard Godzilla’s wheezing and pained cries… He winced at such despicable sounds. A sign of weakness from a destructive being. It was repulsive and insulting, and proof enough for Kubal that it was not the god of destruction he had long feared. Yet hearing the maimed cries only emboldened Kubal’s mission; now, there wasn’t a doubt in his mind that he could kill it by his own power.

    The lumbering Nephilm towered over the prostrate reptile, leaning over the bony plates that jutted from the leviathan’s backside. The wounded hands of the Colossal Titan reached out and gripped the centermost of Godzilla’s maple-leaf dorsal plates. With a firm grasp, the Titan’s remaining fingers lodged into the bony plates, cracking the protective shell around it. Before Godzilla could even wimper, the humanoid giant tore the spine asunder, eliciting an unrivaled shrill from the nuclear menace that unsettled the deepest depths of the human soul. Under the bony exterior, fleshy membranes pulsated neon blue and crackled with loose radioactive energy. They oozed flourescent puss, which bled out of the gaping wound.

    From within the nape, Kubal grinned with an overconfident aura. Godzilla, it’s over!

    Before he could plunge his hands into the forest of dorsal fins, a resounding crack shattered the Colossal Titan’s side. A long, segmented charcoal tail prodded itself into the giant’s ribcage, with splintered bone and fractured muscle. It pressed into the Titan’s side until it inevitably hurled the colossus aside, crashing into the slopes of the very volcano they fought on. It took Kubal by surprise, only to realize that Godzilla’s tail was the culprit. Kubal grimaced, directing his Titan’s fiery eyes at the fallen king. Realizing what had happened, he uttered a foul curse under his breath.

    Even with the residual steam flowing from Godzilla’s face, his eyes had healed.

    The charcoal leviathan pushed himself off the rugged slope and stood erect, brushing off volcanic ash. His lips curled with primal ferocity, revealing his bleeding gums and missing fangs. His dorsal plates surged with atomic energy, even as the shredded spine discharged excess energy from instability. Again they flashed, regulating his awesome power, channeling it into his next attack.

    Godzilla’s eyes and spines crackled with lightning as he screeched yet another triumphant roar.

    With no holding back, a swirling pillar rushed from his maw in eager anticipation. The once neon blue was now an equally radiant violet flare, one encased in white-hot spirals. The supercharged spiral beam at first effortlessly tore the earth asunder as Godzilla gradually brought the atomic ray to the Colossal Titan.

    Try as he might, Kubal urged his Titan body to produce a countermeasure, but it was a moment too late. Burning purple energies scourged the collapsed Titan’s lower torso, eliciting a booming moan from the gargantuan, then promptly exploded behind the red giant. The intense heat produced from the souped up ray instantly cauterized the muscles before they could even bleed. Only uncontrolled steam and flames escaped from the wound.

    Kubal grunted in furious ambition. You’ve been holding back, you son of a bitch!

    Kubal forced the Colossal Titan to regain its footing, to which it could only get him on his knees. Godzilla didn’t even wait another minute before deploying another payload. The skeletal face of the Colossal Titan seemingly winced at the sight, immediately thrusting his compromised left arm out in front of him. Superheated gas slipped through the illuminated palm, mustering everything he could to keep the atomic beam at bay. The two forces collided, and while it had been successful and dispersed the energy, the spiral ray’s greater power allowed it to push against the sharp winds. Scattered pieces found themselves buried into the hardened muscle, puncturing it with relative ease. By the time the two ceased their brief war of attrition, Kubal felt how much of his arm had to be compromised to even block that. Although muscle still remained, the bone became significantly more prominent to the naked eye.

    Fortunately, in the midst of their stalemate, it granted the Titan time to get back to his feet. Even with his right kneecap busted, he could still move. His yellow orbs peered at Godzilla, who exhaled burning steam from his maw. The reptile’s spines flashed a neon violet, merely regulating his energy. Even from within the cushion of the nape, Kubal broke out in a cold sweat.

    No, he internally hissed, I refuse to bow to fear. Remember your resolve, Kubal! His body began trembling, though not of his own volition. At that moment, he recalled his father’s words…

    ***

    Saitama Prefecture, Tokyo – 1951

    The distant voices of two adults echoed through the chilly halls of Kubal’s home as he sat quietly at the desk in his room. The child’s eyes stared blankly at his homework. The multiple sheets of paper covered with scratches, eraser marks, and wrinkles, but no answers to be seen. The faint light of the sun through winter clouds and snow fall peered through his window, and as Kubal heard his father’s voice begin to strengthen, he knew his time was up.

    The door to Kubal’s room swung open, impacting the broken wall stopper as Kubal’s father staggered in. Standing nearly six feet tall, the adult’s arm easily stretched and grabbed the papers in front of Kubal.

    “Still blank?” he yelled, crumpling the papers into a ball using his right hand.

    Before Kubal could react, his father’s left hand grabbed his collar and yanked him out of his chair. The two stared back at each other at eye level, no sound emanating from Kubal as he watched on in fear.

    “He’s just having problems with this lesson. He’ll work through it,” a woman yelled from out of the young boy’s sight. The attempt at reasoning gave little assurance to Kubal who trembled within his father’s grasp.

    “Problems huh?” Kubal’s father asked with a slur. “Well Kubal, let me teach you the greatest lesson life gave me in this cruel world. Only two types of people. Only two. You’re either the guy throwing the punch, or-”

    A crack reverberated through the enclosed space while two female eyes looked away in shame. The floor creaked from the impact as Kubal’s body hit the floor with a resounding thud. The young boy’s body twitched from the pain, finding no comfort on the cold, wooden floor. A slight, tearful moan began to echo as Kubal’s father stood over him, his shadow encompassing the boy’s twitching body.

    “And life isn’t going to hold back, Kubal. So never give the courtesy.”

    ***

    Long, deep breathes parted from Kubal and his Titan form. Steam vented across his body, but his hardened flesh showed little sign of the regeneration he began the battle with, and yet, Godzilla’s wounds seemed to be fading before his eyes. Kubal stopped breathing for a moment, gritting his own and the Colossal Titan’s teeth in silent rage, but the thought of victory emboldened his duty. He was still stronger than the so-called ‘King of the Monsters.’ There was no doubt within Kubal’s mind he could win.

    If I can get in close, I can go for the he– Kubal stopped the thought, yelling in frustration which in turn echoed a roar from his Titan. No, he’ll just blast me again… and, I can’t take that many…

    The Colossal Titan’s head slumped downward, glancing over his scarred arms. The titanic body which granted him unrivaled strength, the one which desperately regenerated the numerous, grevious wounds across his form, why did he care if it survived? Violet, flickering light gradually attracted the Colossal Titan’s rage-filled gaze up the volcano’s slopes to Godzilla’s unavoidable presence. Steam vented from the Titan’s maw in anticipation of its future actions and as Godzilla let loose an atomic breath, the Colossal Titan charged forward.

    Radioactive flame struck the Titan’s left arm as he formed an X in front of his cumbersome, sprinting body. By the attack’s end, the Colossal Titan’s nigh-skeletal left hand resembled a blackened stub, one which showed no sign of regenerating.

    One.

    Kubal slammed his gigantic form head-first into Godzilla’s abdomen. Ribs cracked and blood launched from Godzilla’s jaws before his body struck the rocky slopes behind him with tremendous force. A pained moan echoed from the King of the Monster as he lay nearly stagnant while a monstrous shadow enveloped him. Standing above the fallen king, Kubal swung his Titan’s left arm downward, causing Godzilla’s eyes to widen in shock.

    Atomic power burst from the back of Godzilla’s throat with haste. Radioactive flame tore through the Colossal Titan’s weakened flesh with ease, reducing the Titan’s entire left arm to ash with a long, decisive blast that forced the Colossal Titan’s body upward.

    Tw-

    Time slowed in Kubal’s mind as he looked over his Titan’s nonexistent left arm out of the corner of his Titan’s left eye. A split second of fear evolved into unbreakable determination before the Colossal Titan turned back to Godzilla. Steam vented from the back of the gargantuan humanoid’s head and with a thunderous explosion of superheated air, Kubal swung his Titan’s cranium downward.

    Murderous, reptilian eyes narrowed as the rock beneath Godzilla illuminated an overwhelming purple. If his foe wished to rush at him so brazenly, he’d ensure his death would be quick.

    An immense spiral blast discharged from Godzilla’s maw, engulfing the Colossal Titan’s head in orchid flames. The continuous beam of plasma stopped the Titan’s head, burning its flesh away into radioactive ash, yet the Colossal Titan still pushed downward, infuriating Godzilla. With a final surge, Godzilla discharged the remains of his power to atomize the Titan’s skull in a fiery explosion. The dark nimbus clouds above the pair parted form the overwhelming power, swirling violently from the superheated air.

    A plum blaze and smoke clouded the air before Godzilla watched the headless body of the Colossal Titan recoil upward. With a thunderous roar, Godzilla announced his victory to all those that dared to challenge his reign, deafening the volcano he lay upon. As he finished his bellow, the nuclear leviathan heard the nearly silent scream of another being, one coming from above him. His eyes focused on the humanoid’s nape, where something stirred at the edge of the neck’s flesh.

    No hair remained on Kubal’s body. The skin across the human’s form was nearly all burned away, revealing an exterior nearly identical to his Titan counterpart. Wide, murderous eyes gleamed down at Godzilla, unable to blink without any eyelids, as Kubal closed his right hand into fist so tight that blood seeped from his mutilated palm. The Colossal Titan’s right hand, raised high into the sky behind the Titan’s torso, closed in tandem with its human pilot, releasing a titanic shockwave of air which cracked the rock behind Godzilla’s head.

    Three.

    Kubal screamed in rage a war cry and brought his own skeletal-like right arm down. The Colossal Titan’s right arm did the same, shaking the atmosphere as steam jettisoned from his upper arm to increase its velocity. A shiver coursed down the King of the Monster’s spine. It could feel the wrath about to be brought down upon it. Blue light flickered within Godzilla’s jaws, the beast trying to summon enough power to fire a ray to blast the appendage to ash, but as he desperately charged his depleted reserves, a superheated fist smashed into Godzilla’s face, sending a mushroom cloud of steam at least a square mile in size outward.

    Mt. Mihara quaked from the blow. Vents of steam erupted along its sides while a fissure instantly cracked open to its vent, discharging steam in unprecedented volumes. The cataclysmic display of power rattled those that watched from afar. Terrified eyes looked on, unsure of the results of the battle, but as the steam cleared, terror morphed into joy.

    The Colossal Titan’s headless, left arm deficient yet defiant form stood atop his nuclear opponent. Godzilla’s headless corpse lay stagnant while Kubal kept his right arm held high, to show his survival and superiority of strength over the supposed ‘King of the Monsters.’

    After so many years of warfare against the nuclear titan, the will of Man had achieved its first true victory.

    ***

    JSDF Central Hospital, Tokyo – 2 days after Godzilla’s defeat.

    The hospital around Kubal fluttered with sporadic chaos as doctors assisted patients and nurses rushed to different rooms. No sound seemed to echo from their footsteps. No voice echoed through the endless hallway he walked down. The dim lights illuminating dust as the victorious individual meandered to his destination. An infinite weight began to drag his arms and his legs, slowing his movements even further. As Kubal finally snapped from his trance, he discovered his destination.

    Kubal stopped in front of the door, resting his hand on it to catch his breath. Slowly, he pulled the door open with all his strength to discover three individuals looking over a small human, almost skeletal in appearance, buried under a white blanket. Kubal’s eyes immediately drew to the child’s own eyes which still shined brown, giving him strength to walk into the room. His sight remained focused on her eyes as he formed a smile, unable to look at her pale white skin or bald forehead.

    “Dad…dy!” the young child softly cheered, trying to rise from her bed merely for Kubal to keep her still.

    “Relax Titan, I’ll come to you.”

    The child stopped any attempt to rise from her bed allowing Kubal to sit at its edge.

    “Your day going well?” Kubal asked as he cradled his left hand against his daughter’s head, rubbing her forehead with his thumb.

    “Yeah,” the girl said with a weak smile. “J.J. showed up and made me laugh, which was nice. Mommy brought me a toy from home. That helped, oh!” The child’s eyes suddenly glowed with curiosity as she focused on a singular thought. “Did you really fight Godzilla, dad?”

    Kubal’s smile retracted slightly, his head turning toward the three others in the room to emit a stone-cold glare. The woman with long, black hair smirked in accomplishment, matching Kubal’s glare with her own. Their battle ended as the middle-aged man with graying hair followed, stepping forth while the humanoid robot remained stationary.

    Goro stepped forward with a naive smile, his arms waving in the air. “I thought she’d like to know how strong her father was. Relax Kubal! Next time, I’ll make sure my assistant keeps quiet!”

    A small laugh echoed from Goro while Kubal looked back at his daughter, the fierce stare replaced with one of compassion.

    “Well, he’s right. I did beat him,” Kubal noted before pointing to his daughter’s chest, “and I’m not even as strong as you.”

    A smile between the two seemed to warm the room until the girl’s eyes began to close. In an instant the girl fell asleep, but Kubal kept his hands close, rubbing his daughter’s forehead with a warm embrace until a hand which felt as if it possessed claws sunk its fingers into Kubal’s shoulder. Kubal wished to shrug off the act, but he kept his composure, stood upright and left the room without looking at who touched his back. As he shut the door to his daughter’s room, Kubal eyes shifted from compassion to fury in front of his wife.

    “You got Goro to say-”

    “Maybe you’ll finally answer me!” the woman retorted with her index finger on Kubal’s chest.

    Kubal vented a long breath, staring uninterrupted into his wife’s eyes. “It can’t help her yet!”

    “How long?!”

    “More time!”

    “What time do we have left?!”

    The two stared at each other, ignoring the condescending eyes which gazed at them from every direction within the hallway. Tears formed in the sockets of both individuals as they stared at the other, and as a single droplet flowed down Azusa’s cheek, she pulled away, recomposing herself.

    “I don’t want to fight, Kubal. I just… if there’s a chance… I need to know, with what time I have left, if I’m going to have to say goodbye.”

    ***

    Shiragami’s Lab, Tokyo – 1989

    Through the microscope, Shirigami witnessed human cells fall under siege. In the pattern of a wave, the normal cells expanded in size to nearly twice their original shape. Immediately their behavior changed to that of aggression, lurching toward the uninfected cells until none remained. After a few moments, the cells began to fade away, squirming violently until nearly nothing remained of them except microscopic remains. With the test completed, Dr. Shirigami pulled his head back and clicked the recorder in his right hand.

    “Viral agent appears successful in eliminating the transfer issue, yet symbiosis still escapes me. Immunity or complete biological takeover remain the only results. Should I perhaps attempt genetic manipulation for desired results? Thoughts for-”

    CLANK!

    Genichiro looked right, noticing a vase of roses in the hands of a young woman. Her thick yet short black hair swayed side to side as she moved the flowers to their optimum position. Satisfaction of her flowery display overtook her with joy, forming an overwhelming smile which drowned Genichiro in delight.

    “You surprised me, Erika. Trying to give your dear father a heart attack?”

    “I doubt it’d be enough to stop you from working.”

    The solace in the doctor’s face faded a moment with the final word. His eyes gazed for a moment away from the smile which brought him so much comfort, to the scar which encompassed most of the right side of the woman’s face. A wound from a malicious, explosive act that even after years of healing, still kept the fires of passion burning within Dr. Shirigami’s heart. Working up the courage to continue his smile, the doctor turned back to his work.

    “I’ll be late again tonight, but thank you again for the flowers they’re-”

    Erika leaned over and embraced her father in her arms, silencing him mid-sentence. He remained stationary in his chair, unable to utter another sound, but he knew the absence of words said all he needed between the pair. Relinquishing her grip, Erika walked away, vanishing past a corner into the darkness of the laboratory.

    Genichiro gazed outward, lost in thought, until he quickly refocused on his work. All until the sound of footsteps brought his gaze away from his experiment, a smirk on his face as he thought of his daughter. As the doctor looked toward the cause, his smile instantly vanished, for in just a moment, he knew the tranquility which he cherished would be disappearing any second.

     

    Goro Ibuki walked with a hurried pace through the halls of Dr. Shirigami’s lab, his robotic assistant by his side. Throughout the day, a dark thought permeated Goro’s mind from the tense discussion of the girl’s parents. Things were getting dire, he could not deny this of Nariko’s condition, and while he trusted his friend to remain level-headed, his instincts could not shield him from the inventor’s lingering doubts. Fears which manifested into reality as he opened the main door into the lab, merely to find Kubal clutching Shirigami by the neck with one hand, and holding two small vials in the other.

    “Kubal!” Goro yelled before he bolted toward him merely for a deathly stare to stop the inventor in his tracks. Jet Jaguar readied to move past Goro, but the inventor put his right arm in front of his creation, hoping to talk reason into his friend.

    “Please my friend, what are you doing?”

    Kubal shifted his gaze to Shirigami who struggled to breathe within his captor’s iron grip. Fingers of Kubal’s dug into the scientist with ease. If he wanted to, Kubal could’ve snapped his neck like a fragile twig. “He has the answer, he’s always had Nariko’s answer. And I’m done waiting.”

    Shirigami gasped an in-audible response, attracting Goro’s concerned gaze.

    “He… doesn’t have your answer,” Goro sorrowfully retorted as his head tilted down in shame.

    “Of course he does!” Kubal shouted in rage. “You’ve always been blind to all he’s done. All that he’s-”

    “I’ve known.”

    Kubal’s sharp words ended in an instant. Slowly, he lowered the doctor within his grip and faced Goro with an expression in no shortage of bewilderment. But as he looked to the inventor, the vigor which once accompanied Goro vanished as his shoulders and head sunk.

    “The experiments… they went too far. I’ve known for a long time of what he’s done, and every time I thought of ending all of this, I couldn’t find the strength knowing the cost, the life we both don’t wish to see end. But, I know Shirigami. If he held the answer you seek, he would have already used it.”

    The rage which Kubal once expressed gradually faded as did his grip. With a violent gasp, Shirigami drew in much needed air and yelled, “The vials, they’re contagious! Don’t let him open those-”

    The loose grip of Kubal instantly tightened around the doctor’s neck, silencing the warning. A tired breath escaped Kubal who looked to Goro with a dire need for guidance.

    “I can’t wait any longer Goro, I…”

    Goro gradually tilted his head up, a warm smile across his face. He took a step forward, but hesitated a moment. His hands twitched as he thought, but gradually Goro found the words he desired.

    “You’re not selfish for wishing for her safety, but this… this isn’t you. What is in those vials could endanger many lives. Please… Kubal…”

    Kubal’s head gradually sank in silence. A gradual tilt allowed him to draw his attention to the two vials of the Titan serum he was able to acquire in his left hand. The clear liquid sloshed so easily from side to side, Kubal nearly doubted the impact it could have on others…

    Kubal’s eyes dilated in revelation. Why did he care about others’ lives? Life never held back. It always delivered misery, pain, conflict, and now it threatened to take what he cared for. But this time he possessed the power to defy life, to defy the cruelty the world constantly bestowed. So why give the courtesy to others?

     Kubal lifted his head upward and stood tall, casting his shadow over Goro which seemed to shatter the inventor’s compassionate grin.

    “I now understand what you are, Goro.”

    Goro’s eyes widened with regret while Kubal’s snapped to his captive. With a violent yell, Kubal tossed Dr. Shirigami onto the lab equipment beside him. Glass shattered from the doctor who rolled across the surface. Jet Jaguar burst forward with inhuman speed as Kubal’s eyes shifted right. With an arm free, Kubal spun and launched his left arm forward to strike merely for the robot to evade and thrust its right palm. Blood exploded out of Kubal’s back as a robotic hand burst forth, clutching the beating heart of Kubal.

    Kubal emitted an inhuman screech as blood and saliva rocketed from his mouth. The soldier’s legs trembled from the sudden loss of blood. Weak steps followed with Kubal falling face forward onto Jet Jaguar’s chest, clutching Jet Jaguar’s shoulder with his left hand. A violent pull retracted the robot’s hand through Kubal who stumbled backward, blood spilling from his gaping wound. As he neared falling, Kubal yelled in fury, resisting the force of gravity and demonstrating the strength he possessed as orange bolts of electricity began to cascade around him. Animosity and disdain now filled the hollow man’s eyes.

    “You’re nothing Goro. Nothing, but a weak fool.”

    The lightning around Kubal concentrated until its chaotic display overtook his meager form. Jet Jaguar spun around in the discord, racing toward his inventor to shield him from the inevitable. High winds shattered the lab’s windows in an ear-rattling boom. Then, all within the lab vanished as pure white steam jettisoned in every conceivable direction, illuminating all under the night sky with the lab’s immediate annihilation.

    It was a light that seemed destined to engulf the world.

    Winner: Colossal Titan

    K.W.C. // December 7, 2020
  • Authors: Joseph Steinard Jr. | Banner: Matthew Williams

    New York City was busy as it always was. Many cars were lined up on the streets, traffic was awful today, drivers waited impatiently for the traffic light to turn green. They had jobs to get to, homes to go back to, places to go and they were stuck in a manmade sea of mobile steel. Exhaust gas escaped their vehicles and traveled to the air, joining the cloud of smog in the sky that polluted the area that wasn’t just caused by the cars’ exhaust, but smoke from factories lingered as well. The air pollution was thick, causing people on the ground to cough.

    The traffic light finally turned green and the cars at the start of this line of vehicles moved. The wheels carried the red car on the road, making its way to a bridge. The woman in the seat next to the driver looked out the window to see the ocean next to the city. She saw the water many times but today something was different.

    The woman raised an eyebrow and leaned closer to her window as she saw a shadow in the water. Something was swimming in the ocean and it was way too big to be a shark. As the thing swam closer to land, it got closer to the surface. Soon she saw two crimson red eyes rising out of the water as it made its way to the city. The woman frantically patted her husband on the shoulder.

    “What is it?” He asked as he turned his head her way while driving.

    The woman looked at him as she pointed at the window. The thing swimming in the water began reach the shallow part of the ocean, and a purple glow surrounded its body. The creature grew to nearly the size of a skyscraper as a result of its transformation. The monster looked as if it was made of pollution, sludge dripped off of its odd looking hand as it walked toward the city. It gurgled as its red eyes, now with toxic green pupils, looked down at the humans in the area then at the pollution in the air.

    The man stopped his car and opened his door as the woman did the same, looking at the Smog Monster in fear. Every vehicle behind them had also stopped with their drivers and passengers also staring at the monster.

    “….. That is one big pile of shit,” The man remarked before getting back in his car. The vehicles on the bridge drove away from the monster who now arrived at the city.

    Hedorah cared not about them, they were too far away to be bothered with anyway. Instead, the polluted terror made his way to the streets, sludge trickled down onto the road as he looked down at the cars driving through the liquid. The Smog Monster brought his hand down and grabbed a few of the vehicles, his acidic touch corroded the metallic hulls. The people inside panicked as they tried to escape the kaiju’s grasp, desperately trying to open their doors, but to no avail. Hedorah brought the cars to his orifice before swallowing them.

    He absorbed the exhaust coming out of the vehicles as well as the fuel inside the cars. The humans inside had been dissolved shortly after their vehicles were eaten. Hedorah turned his attention to a nearby factory, eyeing the smoke stacks. The blob-like monster walked toward it, absorbing the polluted air as he walked by buildings. People on the streets were slowly killed by the sludge that now covered the ground.

    Hedorah leaned onto the factory, sticking the smoke stacks in his mouth and sucking the smog like a drink. The Smog Monster gurgled in content and relaxed his eyes as he absorbed the pollution.

    Suddenly, an object flew towards New York at great speeds. It wasn’t a plane or a spaceship, but another monster. It had blue armor with red fins on its back; blades for hands, which shined in the daylight; as well as cybernetic enhancements on its beak, feet, and tail. It landed on the ground, causing the road underneath it to fracture and explode. Gigan reared his head and roared into the sky.

    He had been sent here by his masters to destroy this city and he wasn’t going to fail. Gigan lifted his left arm and brought it down on a nearby building, cutting into it and causing it to topple over, falling on the ground with an earth shaking thud. The cyborg’s eye glowed before firing his Cluster Light Ray at a group of buildings, causing them to combust. Gigan chuckled as he advanced onto the city, crushing smaller buildings as he moved.

    Hedorah had heard this new creature make his arrival, the Smog Monster stopped feeding on the factory. This was his territory and he wasn’t going to let this alien take it without a fight. Purple light surrounded his body as he changed form once more, now resembling a saucer. Its Flying Form lifted itself off the ground, poisonous gas escaped its body as the Smog Monster flew forward toward the other side of the city.

    Gigan slashed another building, making it fall to the ground. Windows shattered and walls collapsed in the process, causing concrete and glass to scatter across the ground. Two slits on the cyborg’s chest opened up before two razor discs flew out. Both discs raced towards the city, circling around a few skyscrapers under the whim of its user. Within seconds, sections of the towering buildings slid off, leaving clean cuts where they were. The discs flew back to their master, returning to the compartments in his chest before they closed. Gigan cackled with glee, the cyborg turned to see a giant building with what looked like a needle on the top. That was what he woiuld destroy next.

    Gigan took a few steps toward the building before getting hit in the back by a series of red lasers. The cyborg screeched in pain as the beams stung his back, turning to see his attacker. Gigan gave a small sound of surprise to see Hedorah. The kaiju looked peculiar as it floated in front of the cyborg monster, flashing purple and growing back to its final form. It demanded a challenge with its gurgled screech. Gigan squawked back in response, banging his claws together.

    The cyborg made the first move by charging at the Smog Monster, slashing at Hedorah’s slimy body with his claws, sending sludge flying into the air. Hedorah retaliated by smacking the cyborg in the face with the back of its hand, forcing Gigan to stumble back. The cybernetic monster grunted in annoyance before looking at his hands, he shrieked in horror as he saw that his scythes were being eaten away by his opponent’s acid. He then chirped in surprise when he saw that the sludge was on the streets was coming back to the Smog Monster, the cuts that he inflicted had now healed. Gigan screeched at his foe before he fired his Cluster Light Ray, the beam struck the toxic kaiju directly in the face, sending a series of explosions into his body.

    Hedorah moaned in pain as chunks of his body flew off, including part of its face and an eye. Chucks of sludge quickly repaired some of the damage. Parts of its body had dried up, but its face had fully healed. The Smog Monster’s new eye opened to see Gigan was gone. Had the cyborg retreated? Hedorah learned the real answer when Gigan flew from behind him with his buzz saw activated, the bird-like monster flew slightly above the polluted menace, cutting into his shoulder.

    Acidic blood spurted out of the wound as Hedorah roared in pain. Gigan wasn’t finished yet. The cyborg quickly stabbed the Smog Monster in the back with his tail while still flying, causing Hedorah to fall flat on his face. Gigan kept flying close to the ground, dragging his opponent through the mess of rubble. The cyborg cackled before flying upward and letting Hedorah free. The slimy monster was then thrown into a skyscraper, causing the building to collapse onto him.

    Gigan landed on the ground to see Hedorah buried under the rubble. The cyborg chuckled in amusement, but glanced at his own chest to see how bad the damage was. Some of his armor had been melted, there were even a few holes where the acidic blood had burned through. Thankfully, his buzz saw had held up alright, the cyborg activated it just to check if it still worked. The saw had acted perfectly fine.

    His tail on the other hand wasn’t so lucky. Gigan turned to look at his tail to see that the crescent-like tip of it had been eaten away. The cyborg roared in frustration and turned to the remains of the building to see a blob sticking out from underneath the rubble. Gigan chirped in confusion as he saw the grey blob started to move. Then more blobs from under the fallen building moved toward it, creating a bigger blob. The blob gurgled before opening its eyes.

    Gigan shrieked in surprise. This monster was unlike anything he had ever fought before. Before he could think of what else to do, a jagged red beam shot out of Hedorah’s eye, striking the cyborg in the chest. Gigan screeched in irritable pain and staggered back as the beam burned his armor, resonating with a stinging sensation in the area. Before either monster could do anything else, a rainbow colored beam struck Hedorah in the back of the head, sending sludge flying as the Smog Monster toppled over.

    Not long after Hedorah was brought down, a few yellow beams hit Gigan in the abdomen, sending the cyborg flying into a building. Chunks of concrete fell on Gigan’s head as he tried to recover. The alien invader got back to his feet and shook his head. Hedorah had also gotten up, the back of his head healing. A mechanical roar was heard from behind the two kaiju. Hedorah turned around to see the source of the attacks.

    Flying a distance away from the two was a mechanical beast. Unlike Gigan, this monster was completely robotic. It was a robotic version of the King of the Monsters, Godzilla, its polished armor shined in the sunlight. Mechagodzilla flew passed Hedorah before turning itself upright between the two, its rockets propelling it in the air before slowly lowering to the ground. It and its crew had been sent here to deal with both of these monsters. Behind the metallic Godzilla was a ship with two laser cannons on the front, the Garuda moved into the back of Mechagodzilla, the guns on the shoulders of the robot.

    The ship lowered down on Mechagodzilla’s back, latching on with a click. Super Mechagodzilla roared at the two kaiju, bashing its fists together, accompanied by a loud clanging sound. Gigan and Hedorah looked at each other, then at the weaponized robot. There was no way that they would work together, no matter how strong this new opponent might be. The two of them decided that this would be a free for all.

    Gigan broke the silence by shooting his Cluster Light Ray at both of his adversaries, sending both a series of lasers and explosions at them. Hedorah squealed in agony as more pieces were blown off its body. The explosions made Super Mechagodzilla take a few steps back. However, the lasers did nothing to it, in fact the attack gave it energy. The mechanical Godzilla used that energy and put it into its Mega Buster. The rainbow beam shot out of Super Mechagodzilla’s mouth and collided with Gigan’s chest, sending the shrieking cyborg skidding away from where he stood. Having healed from Gigan’s attack, Hedorah jumped towards Super Mechagodzilla, smacking it in the face as it landed beside the robotic beast.

    Super Mechagodzilla nearly fell back from the attack, but luckily it had just enough balance to not be fallen. Hedorah cocked his head, he had expected his acidic touch to melt the robot’s face. Thankfully, its diamond coating protected it from such things, but only for a limited time. Mechagodzilla turned to face the polluted menace before the tips of the Garuda cannons lit up, Super Mechagodzilla fired two blue beams at Hedorah, hitting him multiple times in the body. The Smog Monster roared in pain as the energy blasts stung its body, drying up several parts of his abdomen. The alien fiend had to think fast or else he would dry up completely.

    Incidentally, Gigan came back into the fight just in time. The cyborg ran toward the mechanical Godzilla before hitting it in the face with the flat of his scythe. Before Mechagodzilla could do anything, the cyborg hammered on its shoulder just below the right cannon, denting the metal. Gigan quickly slashed at Super Mechagodzilla’s chest, leaving noticeable scratch marks. They wouldn’t do serious damage yet, but after enough they might. Mechagodzilla stopped Gigan by shooting a Mega Buster at his chest, the cyborg once again skidded back before a port on the mecha’s stomach slid open. A flash of light shined before Super Mechagodzilla shot a Plasma Grenade at Gigan, sending a shower of sparks flying as the cyborg flew back. Another building fell victim to the monster’s weight, crashing to the ground with a low groan.

    As Mechagodzilla turned its attention back to Hedorah, a glop of sludge shot at its eyes, making the robot blind as the crew inside couldn’t see anything outside. Super Mechagodzilla wiped the sludge off of its face, but as it got its vision back, the Smog Monster quickly pounced on the robotic doppelgänger of Godzilla, causing it to fall with Hedorah on top of it. The massive blobby creature wasted no time. He let his acidic body damage his opponent’s diamond coating. Within a short amount of time, the acid ate away at the coating, infiltrating internal circuitry by the burning touch. Mechagodzilla shot its eye lasers and Mega Buster at Hedorah, but the living sludge monster toughed it out, no matter how many holes were shot though his body. He let out a low gurgle through the pain he was going through as he let his putrid sludge spill out onto the robot, the cold liquid found its way into the seeps and cracks of his emotionless foe. This could potentially ruin Mechagodzilla’s joints, the crew needed Hedorah off of the robot so they could fire the Plasma Grenade without damaging it.

    Thankfully, help came from an unlikely source.

    A Cluster Light Ray hit Hedorah’s side, blowing chunks off his body, causing the Smog Monster to lift himself up to find Gigan roaring at him. This gave Super Mechagodzilla the perfect opportunity to open the port on his stomach. Hedorah glared at Gigan before being caught off guard by a Plasma Grenade launching him into the air, the yellow beam sent him flying high into the sky and splitting him in half from the blast. Both halves of Hedorah quickly flashed purple before turning into their flying forms, the two flew back to the ground, one Hedorah landed on top of the other to become one. The flying form then flashed purple once more to turn back into his final form, groaning in pain from the attacks.

    Super Mechagodzilla slowly stood back up, the awful liquid that covered its body nearly weighed it down. The robot wiped the sludge off of its body, revealing corrosion on its chest and stomach region. Mechagodzilla moved its arms up and down multiple times, shaking the vile liquid out of its joints before shaking each leg, letting the sludge splatter onto the ground. The robotic Godzilla may have been damaged, but it could still fight. Mechagodzilla turned its head to find where Gigan and Hedorah were only to see that they were once again fighting each other.

    Gigan roared as he brought his scythe down onto Hedorah’s head, making the Smog Monster roar in pain as his slimy flesh was once more punctured. Thankfully for him, his acidic blood splattered onto the cyborg’s weaponized hand, causing it to sizzle and steam as the acid ate away at it. Gigan chirped in frustration before delivering a kick to Hedorah’s chest. The polluted terror groaned as it was sent stumbling a few steps back. Hedorah then smacked the cybernetic kaiju in the face, severely damaging one of his mandibles as the acidic touch nearly melted it off. Gigan roared in frustration before his opponent shot his eye beam at the alien, hitting him in the chest, causing him to roar in pain and nearly fall over. Every attack from this monster burned him.

    Super Mechagodzilla hovered toward them, firing its Mega Buster at the two kaiju as he got closer. Hedorah fell over as the rainbow beam repeatedly hit him. Gigan used his scythes to somewhat protect him from the blasts, though he still skidded back. Mechagodzilla then fired its Garuda shoulder cannons at the monsters while still firing its Mega Buster. Hedorah roared in pain as more and more chunks of his body flew off, some of the pieces got lucky and went back to the Smog Monster while most of them dried up from the attacks.

    Gigan now found himself overwhelmed; sparks flew off his body as he fell over. He managed to activate his own rockets and fly backward before positioning himself forward. The cyborg’s eye glowed before firing his Cluster Light Ray at the robotic Godzilla, Mechagodzilla was sent back by the lasers and explosions, its diamond coating no longer being able to protect it from energy attacks. Gigan chirped in glee seeing this and fired his weapon once again, the lasers and explosions once more damaging the robot. Super Mechagodzilla fired its Mega Buster, but its cybernetic adversary swiftly dodged the beam. Gigan flew closer and closer toward the robot and delivered a kick to its chest, the force of the attack causing it to fall.

    Gigan landed just in time for Super Mechagodzilla to get back up using its rockets. The alien cyborg moved in on the giant robot before slashing at it with his claws, sending sparks flying. Although Mechagodzilla wasn’t good at close combat, it still fought back, sending a surprisingly strong punch to Gigan’s chest. The cyborg screeched before receiving a kick to the leg. Gigan screeched in pain once more as his leg had broken, the limb now having a bone sticking out through his armor. With its opponent distracted with his injury, Super Mechagodzilla opened the port on its stomach again before firing a Plasma Grenade at the cyborg, sending him flying into another building, Gigan laid in front of the building, trying to get up, but lacking the energy for now.

    Super Mechagodzilla roared in victory as he defeated one of its foes, as the robot turned to face the Smog Monster, Hedorah was already flying at it in his flying form, shooting his eye beams at the mecha. Mechagodzilla stumbled back from each blast, its armor sizzling from where the jagged beams hit. The robotic Godzilla shot its Mega Buster at the flying saucer looking kaiju as he passed by, hitting him in the stomach. Hedorah roared in pain as he crashed into the ground, sending concrete flying up. The living sludge monster turned back into his final form and was about to shoot another crimson beam at the robot, but Super Mechagodzilla shot another Mega Buster at his body along with its dual Garuda beams. The rainbow and blue beams caused Hedorah to roar in pain as the energy blasts blew chunks off of his body.

    The crew inside Super Mechagodzilla decided it was time to end this. Shock Anchors and cables shot out of its arms, both anchors went into each of Hedorah’s eyes. The Smog Monster roared in pain as he was blinded, electricity raced through the cables and into Hedorah’s body, not only shocking the toxic beast, but also making him dry up! Hedorah roared in agony as his body was drying, desperately trying to dislodge himself from the Shock Anchors. He waved his arms in the air, trying to find the cables and burn them off, but he couldn’t find them. He thought his acidic blood would be able to destroy the anchors but it soon got dried up from the amount of electricity surging into his body.

    Hedorah’s struggles stopped. His hands froze in place. His body was no longer slimy and wet, now it was hard. Super Mechagodzilla’s Shock Anchors flew back to the robot’s arms, destroying the Smog Monster’s dried up eye sockets in the process. Super Mechagodzilla fired its Mega Buster at the lifeless shell that was Hedorah, disintegrating the husk of a body.
    The robotic savior of the city gave a mechanical roar in victory. The crew inside cheered, shook hands, and gave each other high fives. This was another day saved for Earth. The crew activated Super Mechagodzilla’s rockets and prepared to go home.

    Until a few swift cuts made Mechagodzilla’s head fall off its shoulders.

    The mechanical Godzilla’s rockets died as Super Mechagodzilla fell to the ground. The crew panicked they tried getting the robot to work. How could this have happened?

    Two razor discs flew passed Mechagodzilla’s fallen body and went back to the compartments in Gigan’s chest. The cyborg stood on one leg and screeched in victory. Right now he was too damaged to continue his mission. He had a broken leg, nearly melted off tail and scythes, and a sparking stomach region, but he had won.

    Gigan activated his rockets and flew into the sky, he would return to his masters to get repairs.

    Hopefully they would forgive him for not completing his orders.

    Winner: Gigan

    K.W.C. // December 2, 2020
  • Authors: Dao Zang Moua & Matthew Freese | Banner: Andrew Sudomerski

    Four years have passed since that fateful day in 2014. The day the world learned that Monsters truly exist. As such, the once secret organization, Monarch, had been doing its best to find and study these creatures. With the knowledge of monsters now widespread, the organization now had to rush to beat out other interested groups in finding these Titans in order to both preserve and prevent their use for destructive purposes. Put under fire by the US Government, the organization was now under scrutiny by the governing bodies of several other countries, all wanting the knowledge they had gathered over decades of studying the Titans.

    To some, that might seem as though all their hard work was being torn away like a leaf in the wind. For Shinichi Yamane, he was almost glad that this information was going to be spread out. The older man let out a long sigh as he sat in the back of an Osprey, a new hoverable aircraft built by Monarch. The knowledge they had gathered was mostly in ways to destroy the Titans, while some, like himself, sought to understand them. If this information was shared amongst the world, evacuation plans and emergency responses could be better created in case one of the Titans awoke and rampaged. As with how much good this would be in the long term, he had a feeling that Monarch would refuse to release it once again.

    The shuddering rumble of turbulence in the machine he rode did little to ease him, as he watched one of the many government meetings about the militarization and giving the military rule of Monarch, the organization being defended by a trio of Monarch employees. Being a second generation researcher at Monarch had its benefits, allowing for a better understanding of the organization as a whole and more freedom to search new locations. However, those also came with their own problems, as his old friend Ishiro Serizawa would attest, the man currently in said debate over the organizations’ continued existence outside of the military. The two of them were close friends, both their fathers having done much work together when Monarch was first founded. Though both sought similar fields, only one was busy representing an entire organization. As such, Yamane had a bit more freedom than his more well known friend, something he liked to joke about.

    However, Yamane felt that there was still something missing in his life. While Serizawa researched intently into Gojira and other titans with similar relations, Yamane preferred a more adventurous life for his old age, searching new areas for indications or hidden habitats for various undocumented Titans. His discoveries of several Titans and Titan fossils had earned him enough merit for him to simply study any of the creatures on Monarch’s radar he wanted, yet he continued on with his search for titans. Many believed he simply enjoyed the thrill of the hunt and adventure. Only he knew the truth. Unlike the others, he hadn’t felt a connection to any of the Titans he had found. None had gained his interest enough for him to devote his time to. As such, he felt as though he were always incomplete as a scientist, as though there was nothing truly worth devoting his time to.

    The feed soon cut off as the pilot alerted him they were nearing the location. Staring out the side window, Yamane watched as temples of various sizes and states of decay sprawled across the land. He was on assignment to the Tharabha Gate of Bagan. A recent earthquake had opened up a sinkhole to an underground temple nearby, dating much further back than those on the surface. If it weren’t for the depictions of Titans and the constant waves of hot wind blowing through from within the temple depths, it would have gone straight to some other historical researchers rather than the Titan-oriented Monarch. If this site had nothing to offer for him, he would pass it on to another researcher to take over and head for the next potential lead, a dormant volcanic island in the pacific where rumors of a giant monster nearby have spread.

    He could already see sprawling groups of various workers closing off the area and setting up research stations, all wearing protective gear. Near the gate was a massive hole in the ground, with various shrines having collapsed within. The moment the Osprey landed, he was already on his feet, meeting with a group of soldiers and researchers as he felt the unusual warmth of the surroundings.

    “Dr. Yamane, I presume?” a soldier stated in a slightly broken accent, holstering his weapon to hold out a hand. “I am Lieutenant Li Xiong, second in command of the platoon sent to monitor this location.”

    Yamane held out his identification pass and shook the hand, looking around at the various equipment and monitors set up.

    “Has anyone found the source of the heat waves?” Yamane spoke as he looked at the ancient structure, staring more closely at the two small shrines with statues of guardian spirits. In front of those two shrines and the gate was a large sinkhole caused by the earthquake. Staring inside, he noted that it had to be at least 30-40 meters of solid rock before the chasm revealed a large eroded cavern, now lit up with various lights and equipment.

    “Not yet, sir, but the heat appears to be coming from further down in the depths,” the soldier replied. “We have been sending down people in six hour intervals due to the heat inside the chamber.” The sound of hooks striking rock sounded out as several soldiers quickly shot onto the surface, each wearing temperature-regulating bodysuits and a mysterious mechanism on their waist. As they pulled themselves up, another powerful burst of warm air shot out of the hole, launching out one of the returnees who had shot off too much gas. With wires still stuck into the rock, he slammed down in an arc, back first onto the dirt at high speed. People rushed over to check on him as Yamane quickly realized what they were using.

    “So that’s the O.D.M. Gear,” he said, watching as people rushed to remove the gear from the injured soldier, the wires quickly retracting back into its container. O.D.M., short for Omni-Directional Maneuver Gear. A more refined version of the Katatsumuri device that allowed for better movement in a 3-dimensional space. Upon the discovery and usage of the Katatsumuri during the MUTO Prime Incident, Monarch had quickly hired the student at Japan University who invented the device and funded her to make her invention have better maneuverability in emergencies. As such, it was soon changed from a bulky, back-mounted mechanism that shot wires up and down, to a more streamlined waist harness mechanism that fired two retractable grappling hooks using a pressurized gas-propelled pulley system. A second version that used a more controllable, gun-like trigger mechanism was in the works, under the title of A.P. Modification.

    “As you can see, Doctor, the bursts of air were too powerful for us to use rappelling gear, so we asked Monarch to send us some of the prototype Maneuver Gear to get us down into the depths for the early stages,” the major replied. “However, once inside the cavern, we noticed various stone water pipes as well as ventilation holes releasing heat and water into a ravine.”

    Professor Yamane stared at the scene for a moment longer, the warm air billowing past him before slowing to a breeze. He wasn’t sure what it was, but in the back of his head, the professor felt something he hadn’t before during an excavation. As though something was calling to him.

    “I’m going down in the next shift,” he ordered. “Perhaps this is the one I’ve been searching for.”

    After several hours of waiting and greeting the personnel already working, the professor had changed into a temperature-regulated body suit, made by Monarch to protect against radiation from Titans and the temperatures of extreme locations. The suit came with a specialized helmet made to filter air in dangerous environments, as well as allowing for video recording and built-in communications. For the last couple of hours, Yamane had spent time with the soldiers who had already tested out the gear, learning the proper aiming techniques and how to use the mechanisms. It was this excitement to find new subjects that drove the professor as he stood over the billowing hole with groups of soldiers and researchers alongside him. The previous shift had just exited the hole, leaving this next shift to work through the night.

    “Are you sure you want to do this, Professor?” Lieutenant Xiong asked as he stood in the same equipment, holding his helmet in his arms. As hot air billowed out into the brisk twilight air, the professor stared into the depths before giving his response. Helmet lights on the others turned on as they prepared to leap into the depths. A large burst of warm air blew upward as several soldiers and researchers alike dove into the depths, cushioning their bodies with the winds as they fell into the depths.

    “A man once said, ‘When you’re ready, nothing can stop you. If something’s stopping you, you’re not ready.’”

    With his peace said, Yamane put on his helmet, hearing the hissing click as it locked into the suit, and dove into the hole. As he descended, he felt the air brushing past his suit before he shot out the anchors on his maneuver gear. Metal clamped into rock as the group descended into the depths, being sure to counteract their falling speed with bursts of compressed gas.

    The thuds of boots hitting broken stone and whirring wires echoed across the chamber as the group unlatched their hooks from the walls. The moment he hit the ground, the professor felt the heat brushing up against his suit. Unlike the crisp morning air above, the chamber was filled with an uncomfortable warmth, most likely cooled by the opening above. He began to look about his surroundings, various lights illuminating the dark cavern, revealing a large underground ravine cracked on one side as rocks and soil covered parts of the flooring. Carved into the walls were bas reliefs telling the tales of some civilization of the past. The roof of the cavern had several large and small openings, each releasing small bursts of hot or warm air into the room due to the damages of the collapse. Alongside them were several stone drains that were dripping water into the room, most likely being brought down and leading back into the nearby Irrawaddy River.

    “Interesting,” he spoke as he walked toward one of the walls, trying to decipher what story these carvings were telling. “How far have you gotten in exploring the temple, and how far back have you managed to date the rockface?”

    “So far, we’ve managed to date the stone carvings to about over 20,000 years,” one researcher said. “Though our equipment is still analyzing the samples, that is the most recent estimate. As for the exploration, several of the tunnels are blocked off by collapsed structures.”

    Staring up, he wondered what ancient civilization would make such intricate carvings, especially around that era. Most of history would state that such advancements in civilization should not have existed at such a period, yet some locations found by Monarch explorers had also, secretly, proven these ancient, and advanced for their era, civilizations existed at points where man should have still been living in caves.

    As he followed the walls, he found himself on the edge of the ravine, peering into the darkness as water fell down beneath him. Pressing a button on the side of his helmet, he activated his darkened headlamp, revealing the size of the ravine was far larger than he had assumed. Darkness still overcame the light of his helmet, barely able to see the wall of the opposing side hundreds of meters across. The depths themselves were still covered in darkness, leaving the ravine to appear like an endless abyss waiting to swallow him whole.

    “Careful there, sir,” one man said, staring at how close the professor was to the edge. “Wouldn’t want you to fall in now, would we?”

    “Of course not,” he replied back, joking along with the researcher as he turned back to rejoin the group. As he did so, the ground began to shudder as more heat filled the chamber. Panic filled the group as small rocks and dirt fell from the ceiling, the start of an earthquake in the making. The muddied ground beneath the professor quickly began to crumble, dropping him into the depths of the ravine behind him as the rumbling stopped.

    “Professor!”

    Shinichi screamed as he fell into the depths, his light frantically waving back and forth. Muddy water cascaded across his body as he reached about, trying to grab hold of the triggers for the Maneuver Gear. The hiss of the hooks firing outward and the snap of the wires stopping his fall briefly stunned the professor as he dangled, his vision covered in dirty water. An accidental press of the trigger mechanism from the snap caused a burst of gas to shoot out, launching the professor through the waterfall and into some rocks, his mask cracking from the impact and forcibly detaching the grapples from the rock. .

    “Gah!”

    With a cracked face protector covered in dirt and water, Yamane laid stunned on wet, yet oddly warm stone. He laid there for a moment, his back hurting from falling onto the maneuver gear before slowly sitting up. Turning back, he saw the large opening concealed by the falling water, lights flickering on the other side.

    “I’m alright!” he responded back, catching his breath from the rush. “I appear to have fallen into some sort of cavern.” As he stood, he felt the heat breezing past from behind, turning to see a long dark hallway covered in bas reliefs. “It seems I’ve found a passage leading further into the temple.” Static reached his ears before Captain Xiong’s voice came through.

    “We are getting video responses now, we can now see what you’re seeing,” Xiong said with some static in his voice. “I’ll send some people down, but we have no way of knowing exactly where the cave opening is with all the rushing water. You’re on your own for now.”

    With communications back in check, Yamane walked toward the halls, his headlight guiding his passage through the damp corridor. Peering upon the walls revealed more daily life of the civilization, though this time showing people bowing before a large pyramid with two horns. Behind the temple stood a massive beast, with horns like a triceratops, as well as two large shoulder spikes. Off to the side of the beast stood a more familiar entity to Monarch’s files, a certain ‘bringer of balance’ as his friend would say. As he looked upon the ancient art, he noticed beneath the murals were a series of ancient runic text, similar to other runic script of older civilizations.

    “Do we have anyone who can translate these runes?” Yamane asked as he backed up, viewing the entire Mural revealing more runic script and what appeared to be a massive creature etched into the stonework.

    “We have the translation program running over your video feed right now, but so far the only words that have been translated are ‘God of Darkness’ and ‘Bagan,’” a researcher stated.

    Yamane stared upon the mural in awe, the feeling in his mind coming to fruition. This was what he was searching for, his missing piece in his monarch journey.

    “Bagan,” he said, putting a hand to the mural’s horned beast.

    *****

    25,000 years ago

    Where life may flourish, humanity will always find a way to exist. Tall, triangular buildings of red stone stood upon the open plain of the land, protected by a large stone wall. A massive city spanning the land, built near a large river with man-made waterways bringing water to and from the city. Sprawling farmland spread far outside the walls, reaching out into the land until it reached the unending forests. Wooden caravans traveled to and fro among dirt roads through the forests, buying and selling their wares among the people of the city. It was here, on the edge of the forest that the Grand Temple of Bagan stood, made to honor the civilization’s great protector and their namesake. The God of the Forests, Bagan. Stood in front of the massive temple were two towers with long spires of stone, each with a minor gate guardian statue as massive hornlike spires jutted out from the forests behind the temple.

    People moved about within the courtyard of the temple, some kneeling down in prayer while others tended to the various flowers and small gardens beautifying the venue. Among them was a young woman dressed in white and green robes. Among the priests and priestesses of the temple, she was the highest rank, the divine translator between men and god. The high priestess, Hayma.

    Sitting in the midst of the garden, she stared toward the massive horns jutting from behind the temple’s structures. People bowed to her as they passed her by, yet she barely paid them mind. Even now, she could feel their outermost thoughts toward her, some seeing her with respect for her position while others held jealousy toward her talent, hiding behind masks of awe. Unlike the rest of the humans, Hayma was born differently, born gifted. She was born with the power to hear and speak to the hearts of both men and gods. People like her were found and brought to temples in order to hone their gift to translate the Gods words to the people, eventually finding the god that best connected with their personality. Though that was what the masses knew, the truth of the matter was for the gifted to use their talents to bond to a god, both to drive away angered gods, and for some, to control the gods themselves.

    Hayma sighed as she watched the spires move gently up and down. Even in his slumber, she could feel his thoughts in her mind. If she focused hard enough, she could even view his dreams if she so wished. Unlike what the masses would believe, the Gods didn’t speak like a human, but instead sent emotions and pictures through the bond as visions, sometimes even memories of past or future events. It was a bond that worked both ways, both beings sharing their hearts and minds together allowing them to see what the other saw. It was this bond that allowed those with her gift to connect humanity with the gods, sharing their emotions and experiences together. It was as she was viewing the glimpses of her god’s dreams, that she felt the mind of another drawing near. The mind of another god.

    Thundering footsteps shook the land, causing the people to panic. Some bowed down where they stood while others began to pray in a mass panic. Hayma did neither, walking up to the top of a tower in order to do her job as the High Priestess. As she made her way up, she watched as people moved about in mad prayer, others simply continuing business as per usual. However in all of them she felt a tinge of fear among their thoughts. She pitied them, knowing that their prayers were mere chitters of ants to most gods, unlike her whose voice could be heard and understood.

    Staring into the distance, she looked out into the horizon, searching for the god that was nearing. She had seen many of the great titans during her time as high priestess. Some were built like great animals, using their strength and power to overpower opponents. Others were built out of the elements themselves, showcasing the raw power of nature and reminding them of its might. However, she felt that only her god could compare to the monstrosity approaching. It’s power was something to be wary of.

    In the distance, she could see it’s coal black scales, almost rocky in appearance looming closer. Jagged spines jutted up like plates of sheared obsidian, flowing down in three rows along the spine of the reptilian creature. During her time learning to harness her power, she was taught to be wary of this god amongst all others. This creature was the balance bringer, the great destroyer, the King amongst the Gods. Gojira.

    Hayma stood there, staring at the massive god king as it made a path toward their city. As much as she hated having to do so, she knew only she and her god could deter the other gods of the world. With her mind made, she put her hands together in prayer, her mind pulsing with power as it began trying to connect with the oncoming god. It was a painful process, entering the mind of a god she had no bond with, yet she had to in order to keep them away from the city. However, trying to connect to this one was far harder than the others that occasionally made their way through. Briefly touching its mind, she was bombarded with information on its current purpose. Hunt, Kill, Intruder, False King. Alongside these messages came images of a great terror, one she had never seen before. A great shadow in the sky, covered by golden lightning. Pushing past the surface, she made contact with the God King’s heart, seeing the full picture for what it was. A golden destroyer descending from the stormy heavens, a harbinger of death and destruction.

    Now knowing his purpose, she began sending her own messages to the god, trying to dissuade him from trudging through their home. Surprisingly, she found it much easier to be heard then with other gods, as Godzilla stopped in his path. The great leviathan turned toward her location, as though staring straight at her. A feeling of understanding came through the bond, a weaker connection of trust compared to the one she had formed with her guardian deity. Sweeping his vision across the land, he noticed the city nearby, as well as the people bowing down in zealous fervor. With the people now in his sight and the pleading of the priestess in his mind, Godzilla turned to go around the city. Sighing in relief, Hayma unclasped her hands, readying to release her connection to the foreign god now that they had come to an understanding.

    This was not to be however, as a scent caught the alpha predator’s attention. Sniffing more, his eyes seemed to dilate as the powerful titan peered around once more, noticing the white spires jutting from the ground. Growling, Godzilla stood on guard, his sudden aggression catching Hayma’s attention. Blue energy pulsed through the jagged spines, lighting up patterns upon the rocky exterior as the titan king reared back. Memories flowed through the still open connection, memories Hayma had not seen before in other titans that wandered too close to the city. Unlike some of the other gods, Godzilla had been around far longer than the rest, having fought more battles than the rest of the titans ever had. It was through this experience that Hayma saw a vision, one from the long distant past.

    From where she stood, great burning flames washed over the land, the corpses of various titans, even other Godzilla, laid scorched and torn apart, rivers of boiling blood flowing along the molten ground. The skies were dark with soot and ash, occasionally lit up by the golden light of the moth goddess herself. Hayma watched as the goddess of light dove, her wings crimson red with rage before a stream of blistering white fire overcame her. His hatred was felt around her as the ground shook. From below her rose an injured Godzilla, blue energy billowing like smoke from shattered spines, anger marring his features. He roared out to the cause of this great annihilation, a dark figure that was revealing in the death and destruction strewn about. Shadows covered the monster’s form, yet Hayma recognized it all the same. As the figure turned to her, blinding light filled her vision, white flame striking blue.

    Gasping for breath, Hayma nearly fell over from the vision, her mind still connected to the god king. The vision she had seen showed her part of the past of her god, one she knew pieces of yet was still hidden from her. Her telekinetic power began to pulse with her panic, causing the civilians that were too close to collapse from the mental exertion. As she began to calm, the ground near the temple began to shudder. Dirt and rock shook as the mountain behind the temple slowly began to rise upward, raising skyward. Muscle and hide reddish brown, rippling with the might of the gods. Armor like great white marble covered its body, the two large spires that stood behind the temple jutting out of the shoulders like mighty pikes. Crowning his head were two large horns, a third nasal horn jutting outward like a blade of a dagger.

    Having felt the panic of his priestess, Bagan, God of the Forest, roared mightily into the sky, warning the oncoming titan to back away. Upon hearing the earth shaking warning, Godzilla growled to himself. His spines continued to flicker with their azure patterns, readying in case a fight broke out. Though his hatred for this abomination filled his mind, he had more pressing matters at hand then his rage. The monster king roared back, not in challenge, but in warning. A warning that a great calamity was coming.

    With the two conversing above, the people below prayed en masse in panic. They did not wish to be caught in the midst of a war between Gods. Even with her mind strained with the connection between two tense, powerful beings, Hayma still felt the innate fear of the people around her. It was over a moment later, as the god king backed away, still ready in case a battle were to break out. With the warning in place and the intruder leaving, Hayma unlatched her connection to the blue leviathan, her full attention now back on her god.

    Bagan looked down toward his priestess, sensing the rolling turmoil inside her mind. It transferred to him as well, letting him share in her emotions. He wished there was something he could do to comfort her, but he was lost on how to do such a thing in the face of his past darkness. It weighed on his heart like a stone.

    The stupor was broken by the low growl of Godzilla. Connected to her god, Hayma understood the meaning of the call through his mind. It terrified her.

    If this was Bagan’s territory, then it was his responsibility to handle the encroaching nightmare.

    The leviathan turned fully, walking away with only an occasional glance back. His heavy, booming footsteps soon faded into obscurity, leaving Bagan and Hayma with his parting message playing in their minds. Panicked murmurs amongst the people drew both their attentions to the horizon opposite Godzilla, revealing dark clouds creeping over it like grasping hands. Small flashes of yellow could be seen in the void.

    The priestess quickly made her way to the crowds, rattling off commands. “Everyone, prepare yourselves! Something horrible is coming, we need to be ready to weather this encroaching storm!” She repeated this a few times as the people scattered and ensured the message was spread far and wide. She turned to face her god, closing her eyes and clasping her hands before her face.

    “Please, protect us as you always have. You cannot fail here, not against this… abomination.”

    Bagan bowed his head slightly. This kingdom, its forests, and its people were his life. He would fight with all he had, until the last breath left his body. The glimpses he got of this entity from his priestess were enough to tell him that this would be a fight to rattle the heavens. Stretching his muscles as he adjusted to being awake, he reassured Hayma.

    With some of the fear lifted off her heart, Hayma went back to making preparations.

    Hours later, night fell. Bagan rested in his usual place, the psychic waiting by his side. She was tired, but her mind was focused on something else. She closed her eyes, reaching out once more.

    My god, can you hear me? She telepathically questioned. The bull dragon focused on her presence inside his mind, affirming. What did I see in Gojira’s mind? It was you but, it…

    The chamber of Bagan’s mind shuddered with myriad emotion, none pleasant. Anger, sorrow, fear, and shame. It was the ancient past, before ape became man. Control was lost, vast fields of death, unending mourning for what he had done.

    Hayma was taken aback when she “heard” that ever since that point, Bagan had restrained his true strength. Fearing that he would relapse and that day would happen anew. That was all he let his servant know, the rest of the knowledge locked away within recess of the colossus’ mind that could not be probed even if Hayma wished to violate his privacy as such.

    She felt his disdain for himself. He saw himself as disgusting and wretched, a disgrace to titankind. How could he call himself a protector with so much blood on his hands?

    Bagan suddenly felt a calming warmth in his mind, like an embrace. You have saved us in the past, no matter the danger you alone have stood to face it. In his slumber, the bull dragon’s mouth curled into a smile. Do not let your dark past define you. You have saved thousands of lives multiple times.

    Suddenly, the deity was transported to a scene, one filled with terror.

    A young girl ran through a city embroiled in chaos, a cacophony of agonized screams mixing with foul shrieks. People lay dying in droves, bleeding out and suffering as two-legged reptiles consumed them frantically, grey scales and a white skull-like face being stained with crimson as they ate like they had starved for a decade. Her vision was blurry from tears that continued to flow no matter how often she wiped her eyes, but even that did not stop her from noticing when one particularly colossal beast looked at her.

    Despite being big enough to crush a house flat with one step, the elder Skullcrawler still saw fit to madly charge at the young child, throwing itself full fervor at a target that would provide practically no sustenance. The hoarse, rasped call that escaped its cavernous throat, rolling past teeth stained with blood and decorated with viscera, nearly deafened her.

    As she turned and ran as fast as her small legs could carry her, the living nightmare’s mind brushed against hers, bombarding her with horrid images of her own mutilation and of the all encompassing madness billowing through the Skullcrawler’s mind. It was endless screaming, wrath clawing over agony only to be shoved down and overpowered by hunger, anguish returning in full force and waging war for dominance of the conscience.

    The ground shook as it drew near, only making it harder for her futile attempt to flee to create distance. The young girl screamed in terror and sorrow, adrenaline trying and failing to push her to safety.

    A roar that shook the heavens rang out. The earth was rocked by a tremor, sending the child falling down. She curled up into the fetal position, weeping as she awaited death, hoping it would be swift. Instead, there was another crash, combined with a call of immense agony from the cruel beast that had just tried to end her. Looking up, through her tears, she saw the Skull Devil.

    Its tail, pinned and presumably crushed beneath a pillar of ivory armor. Her gaze traveled further up, managing to still witness from the bottom of her vision as the column lifted up and reduced the body of her assailant into paste.

    Bagan saw himself through her eyes, standing tall and proud. The rest of the predators fled in droves, not attacking another living thing as their oft-ignored survival instinct took over. The deity looked down to the girl he had saved, face framed by glorious sunlight. Most found his glowing red eyes and sharp fangs ominous, even those loyal to him were hesitant to stare directly at his face.

    But through Hayma’s young eyes, and through her eyes even now, he saw himself as a savior. From the very depths of my heart, I thank you. For everything. She revealed to him.

    For the first time in eons, Bagan felt true joy.

    Days passed, anxiety rising with the darkening of the skies. Rain fell constantly, starting off as a light drizzle until a few days of increasing intensity made it a torrential downpour that threatened to flood the kingdom. Colossal bolts of golden lightning tore down from the heavens, blasting apart trees with their electric might or just leaving scorched patches upon the earth. Ferocious winds rippled through the trees, plucking away leaves and pulling off branches.

    Hayma was no stranger to harsh storms, but this one eclipsed any other by an immense degree. She waited within Bagan’s temple, sheltered from the soaking rain by its roof. From her perch she saw people fleeing into their homes, into stores and other similar places, and more than a few ran past the colossus standing before the temple to seek solace in the largest building. She, along with the others who tended to the temple, welcomed them in with open arms.

    “The temple shall not turn you away in this dark time, come forth and be shielded on this holy ground!” Hayma spoke, lifting the burden off many shoulders as they settled into some kind of comfort. She looked out once more, seeing her god standing outside. He cared not for the torrent, the lightning and howling wind gave him no fear. Bagan just stared out into the distance, claws flexing as he prepared himself.

    He did feel fear creeping through him, it was slight, but he could tell it was present. The single deadliest foe he’d ever faced was coming, how could he not feel some fear? But, Hayma was the rock his people leaned on for stability, and he was her rock in kind. The forest god remained steadfast, determined to not let weakness show.

    “Bagan shall guard us, his will and body shall remain as unbroken as it has for centuries!” The head-priestess chanted to her people.

    “Praise Bagan, our indomitable guardian!” Someone in the group shouted. The rest joined them in the chant, bringing a smile to Hayma’s face.

    The joy in her heart faded when she sensed it. A presence of pure malice, grotesque in its desires. She subtly reached out with her mind, only to mentally recoil like she had put her hand too close to a fire. Whispers crept through her brain, incomprehensible and maddening. Throbbing pain joined them. They faded as she connected to her god once more, trusting in his strength.

    Bagan looked into the bleak heavens, eyes trying to see through the shade. He knew something was in there, approaching. The colossus snarled, sharp teeth being bore. Through the lightning, he heard some repetitive sound. Sucking in air, the armored god let loose a mighty roar that rose above all other noise. Hands flew to cover ears amongst the civilians, shielding their hearing from the rolling, baritone call. Bagan’s crimson eyes narrowed as the repetitive noise became clearer.

    It was laughter.

    Lightning illuminated the silhouette, too complex for Bagan to make out what he was looking at in the instant before it faded. But what he did hear was the uproarious, deranged laughter layered thrice over. It was mocking, cruel, and callous.

    From the clouds they descended. Golden scales enshrouded the dragon, interlocked like armor. Colossal wings carried them through the air, lengthy, bony fingers with membrane weaved between them. Twin tails swung through the air, ending in clubs that rattled with spikes. Thin yet muscular legs ended with wicked claws, primed to dig into flesh and rip it asunder. And finally, meeting Bagan’s burning gaze, three heads adorned with crowns of horns. Snake’s tongues flickered out and tasted the air. The right head met Bagan’s wrath with its own ferocity, eager to rip and tear. The left stared with curiosity, taking in the features of their soon to be foe. And the center looked with utter disdain, seeing another fool standing in the way of their divinity.

    The golden serpent landed, sending mud and stone flying with the impact. They stood to their full height, spreading their wings and unfurling their necks. The sky still raged with the hurricane, the by-product of the demon’s sheer power.

    King Ghidorah screeched, announcing the arrival of the almighty.

    Bagan stomped the ground before him, bellowing in challenge.

    The xanthic demon balked at this. Was this one not impressed, not intimidated by their display? They called toward the bull-like behemoth, trying to prod and irritate him. He did not seize the bait, merely beginning to walk forward.

    The left head of the devil peered around, noticing the small structures around their feet. It transferred this information to the rest, who quickly put together what this situation was. A guardian, a giant who sought to protect the pathetic wastes of flesh and blood instead of torturing them for entertainment or snuffing them out en masse for the crime of being so weak.

    King Ghidorah knew full well how to draw the hatred of these kinds of foes.

    One tail rose high into the air, before coming down like a hammer onto one of the abodes, crushing it into powder. The thrice-headed fiend cackled as he felt the squish of organic matter amongst the stone.

    Bagan’s slow march transformed into a full sprint, his thick legs moving at speeds that belied his mass. Hayma was taken aback at the harsh, echoing call that left her god’s maw. Something about it reminded her of the visions of his past she had seen before…

    King Ghidorah’s joy was apparent with the cruel laughter that escaped their three mouths. They could just tell this would be a good fight, especially the promise of crushing the spirit of such a colossal behemoth! Getting low to the ground, the dragon’s wings came down and acted like another pair of legs, allowing them to charge forward far faster than they could have on just their legs.

    The kingdom shuddered as the serpent and the bull drew closer.

    With mighty calls, the two clashed, Bagan’s hands crashing into the jaws of the dragon’s outer heads with a shockwave that would have demolished any nearby structures if there had been any. They shoved, trying to overpower the other. Neither gained any ground, until King Ghidorah’s foot came up in a kick to the behemoth’s leg, sending sparks flying as claw scraped armor. The offset in balance let the defender god push his foe backward, and even when both of the demon’s feet were planted, they struggled to gain a solid foothold.

    The center head of the serpent turned and brought its teeth down on the wrist of its foe, earning a cry of pain from Bagan. Pulling itself free, the head which had been locked in the grip lunged forward, bashing its skull into the behemoth’s chin. The two released each other, backing away a step. Almost immediately, the two were back on the attack.

    Bagan’s claws crashed into the dragon’s chest, trying to pierce the golden scales. King Ghidorah’s heads lashed out, whipping themselves against the hide of their foe. The behemoth closed his fist, cracking it against one of the heads assailing him, earning a cry of anguish. The other two were quick to respond, clamping their jaws onto his arm and thrashing themselves back and forth to maximize damage. Armor began to crack and flake away, prompting the deity to turn his body and swing his arm, pulling it free. Swinging his own head, he tore away scales with his nasal horn, sending them and a shower of sparks falling.

    Snarling, the xanthic demon beat their wings, carrying them into the air high enough to send a dual kick into the guardian’s chest, cracking the hide and forcing Bagan back. As he stumbled, the dragon flew forward, crashing their bulk into his. With their left head staying back, King Ghidorah’s other two heads lashed out, biting and tearing at their foe. Their talons stayed latched onto the god’s stomach, their twin tails coming forth to wrap around one of his arms to let the devil press the attack. Bagan struggled as he staggered back, King Ghidorah’s weight pressing down on him as more chunks of armor were torn away. He reared his free arm back, but when he swung it forward, the left head shot forward and snagged it in its jaws, ceasing his counter.

    With the demon’s legs rearing back and crashing bladed kicks into his gut, trying madly to break through and pierce his gut, Bagan roared in outrage. The protrusions from his shoulders crackled with white electricity, drawing the attention of the fiend. The assault stopped as they watched the dazzling display, growing hungry for power at the sight. From the shoulders the power surged through Bagan’s upper body, reaching its destination as it danced between his trio of horns. King Ghidorah lashed out, seeking to steal this power and make it their own, only to be cut short as the god’s maw opened wide.

    An immense beam of blazing plasma, banishing the darkness with an azure hue, soared forth from the chasm of Bagan’s throat. Crashing into King Ghidorah’s chest, it lifted them off their foe and carried the devil through the air for a great distance. The shrieks of anguish from the serpent echoed across the lands.

    The golden fiend smashed into the ground, flattening a portion of the city beneath their mass. They began to rise after a few moments of laying still, groaning in pain as their blackened chest smoked. Bagan was already there, swinging a punch into the dragon’s gut that sent them spilling over once more, crushing more abodes in the process.

    The behemoth smiled, feeling the thrill of battle course through his veins again. It was exhilarating! He slammed a stomp onto the serpent’s tails, being rewarded with a snapping sound. It had been so long since he had been met with something that would challenge him.

    A brilliant light shined in King Ghidorah’s chest, quickly traveling up their throats. Bagan was taken aback at the sheer luminosity of it. The destroyer pushed themself up with their wings, then whipped around and opened their three jaws.

    The bull-like beast roared in agony as golden streams of alien electricity blazed into his chest, tearing through armor and burning the flesh beneath. The trio of Gravity Beams converged into one, all focused upon maximizing damage. When the assault faded, there was a blackened hole in the deity’s armor.

    Rising to their full height, King Ghidorah bashed their wing against the dazed foe, sending Bagan falling onto his side. The bull dragon’s bulk smashed into the ground, sending dust shooting into the air. Cracks spider-webbed down the streets.

    The serpentine destroyer leapt with the thrust of their wings, bringing their taloned feet down onto Bagan’s side. The earth was further disturbed by the impact, tremors flowing throughout the city. Another leap, another stomp to the torso leaving cracks in the behemoth’s ivory armor.

    Bagan glanced over his form, seeing the cracks in his hide slowly beginning to seal shut. He growled in disdain, they should have already healed! Had his self-imposed restraint truly dulled his capabilities this much? But, it was better to deal with this issue than that of himself unchained…

    My lord, fight! I know you have the strength to overcome this demon, you can do anything as long as your resolve withstands!

    His priestess’ reassurances lit a fire in the god’s gut. King Ghidorah prepared to take off once more, only for their foe to suddenly roll over, his palm slamming into the gut of the one who is many. Claws dug into scale and skin as the muscular arm drove King Ghidorah’s back into the mud. The fiend was already trying to rise, only for Bagan to once again carve a gash into the golden armor with his nasal horn.

    Quickly rising to his feet, the guardian returned the favor with an immense stomp to his foe’s gut. Screeches left the trio of mouths, only growing in fervor and pitch as Bagan’s foot shot forward and caught the underside of the demon, sending the golden nightmare soaring through the air.

    Stone and soaked soil defied gravity upon the devil’s impact, before slapping back down soon afterward. King Ghidorah rolled for a moment, groaning in wrath at the humiliation, but soon stopped. Back on their feet immediately, King Ghidorah charged right back toward Bagan with renewed fury.

    The divine behemoth charged his plasma breath, parting his jaws and discharging the holy wrath of his power. The golden serpent beat their wings, carrying them into the air as their throats shined with the alien energy within. A trench was carved into the earth, flash-boiling the mud and reducing grass and rock to ash as Bagan’s assault missed its target.

    Hayma cringed as the beam destroyed dozens of homes, hoping that no one would notice the accidental devastation. To her dismay, complaints rose behind her.

    “What the hell is he doing!?” Someone shouted over a chorus of angered whispers.

    King Ghidorah unleashed Gravity Bolts, sweeping them across Bagan’s form and his immediate surroundings. Lacerations as black as coal marred the bull dragon, as beautiful architecture that took months to craft became nothing in an instant.

    Hayma felt pain pulse through her skull at the building wrath in the temple, as if each growl of displeasure was a smack to the head. “If it wasn’t for him, our kingdom would be powerless!” She snapped at the crowd. “Do you expect him to effortlessly destroy something that even the other gods of the world fear?”

    Pulling his head up, Bagan carried his weapon into King Ghidorah’s path. Rogue energy flew off in sparks as the beams collided, the plasma breath breaking through the individual bolts. The xanthic demon ceased fire and tried to dodge, but failed to avoid the edge of one of their wings being clipped by the beam. With smoke rising from the torn membrane, King Ghidorah plummeted to the unforgiving ground.

    Hayma’s words, along with the change in the battle, seemed to subdue their anger for the time, at least enough to let her be able to breathe a sigh of relief. However, she could still feel the latent rage building in their hearts, and it was taking a toll on her mind feeling so much negativity in one location.

    King Ghidorah climbed to their feet, hateful snarls escaping their mouths. The left head peered over, witnessing the damage inflicted upon their wing. Smoke curled from tatters, strands of membrane falling free and sizzling away upon the mud. The information was fed to the greater conscious, only intensifying their fury.

    Bagan charged into battle, twisting his body to bring his shoulder crashing into the chest of the fiend. Moist soil flew as King Ghidorah’s feet dug into the ground, immediately replying with flailing headbutts, cracking off shards of armor. The forest god’s feet dug in as well, he refused to give an inch. His claws sliced across the golden armor, tearing away scales and leaving shallow grooves.

    The serpent’s foot lashed up, cracking against the guardian’s thigh. Bagan lowered his head, slamming the top of his skull against his foe’s stomach. He reared up, carving another gash with his nasal horn. King Ghidorah bit down on their foe’s horns, then swung his wings like fists to bash into the guardian’s sides.

    Pain shot through his form with each strike, but Bagan focused enough to charge up another Plasma Breath, loosing it into his foe’s gut. With their scales charring and flesh bubbling, King Ghidorah was shoved back, their grip forced to be relinquished. Homes were made into powder beneath their feet as they tore through the mud.

    Despite the anguish and damage wracking both titans, they marched toward each other like they had not been hit once.

    King Ghidorah’s three sets of jaws clamped onto Bagan’s throat, teeth digging in. The golden demon clamped down as hard as they could, desperate to taste blood. They forced Bagan back, madly thrashing their heads back and forth.

    Rearing a hand back, the bull dragon thrust it forward, driving the claws into the burnt flesh on King Ghidorah’s chest, lancing into the weakened hide and staining his fingers black. The fiend released their grip, backing away with shrieks of agony.

    But the pain stabbing into his throat had outraged the forest god.

    Lunging forward, one of Bagan’s hands grasped the left neck of Ghidorah, pulling it taut. The demon screeched in shock and panic, which morphed into agony when the bull dragon’s teeth clamped onto the throat. Empowered by his own agony and hatred, Bagan crushed down with all the might his jaws could muster, soon tasting the absolutely bitter wretchedness that was his foe’s blood. King Ghidorah tried to fight back, but Bagan just planted his foot in the fiend’s gut before yanking back with all he had. Gold scale parted to reveal pale flesh, which split into tenebrous fibers.

    And with the snapping of tendons, Bagan ripped his foe’s head off.

    The golden fiend stumbled back, vision growing blurry as blood like bile spewed forth from the stump. The two remaining minds were spinning with shock and horror, barely able to comprehend what was before them. Ignoring the bitter taste in his own mouth, Bagan crushed the skull between his mighty teeth, scattering shards of bone and globs of brain matter.

    The vile sound snapped King Ghidorah back into reality, drawing a primal noise from the depths of the twin throats. This wretch would dare to disfigure the superior being? To rip away a third of their consciousness?

    The wyrm would take so much more than a third in return.

    Still trying to rid his mouth of the vile taste, Bagan was caught off guard as King Ghidorah entered the air with a scream devoid of reason. The wound in their wing would have stopped a prolonged flight, but it did not halt the very short airborne assault.

    The destroyer slammed a foot down onto Bagan’s skull, then dropped from the air, sending the forest guardian crashing to the mud face-first. Grinding their heel against their foe’s head, King Ghidorah twisted in place and latched their other set of talons around one of the horns on Bagan’s head.

    The screams of the bull dragon were muffled by the soil as King Ghidorah rushed forward, dragging the guardian behind them. Trees and crushed houses flew like ash in a fire’s backdraft as the devil purposely sought to destroy all Bagan valued. Turning toward the temple, the killer of god and man alike let loose laughter that sounded like it escaped from the pits of Tartarus.

    The people within cowered, horrified at everything they witnessed, their terror growing into mortal dread as the serpent moved with all the fervor of the Skullcrawlers that had terrorized the kingdom over a decade ago.

    Bagan, it’s coming toward the temple, do something! Hayma begged telepathically.

    The god groaned, feeling himself be dragged once more. He lifted his head enough to gasp a deep breath, before slamming his palms into the loose ground. He pushed with all he had, earning a chorus of hatred from King Ghidorah as they were flung into the air, their feet becoming unlatched by the force.

    Hayma was too busy celebrating the sight of the fiend being hurled back like trash to notice the growing dissent amongst the people for the temple being saved, but not the myriad homes King Ghidorah had torn down with Bagan’s body…

    Breathing in heavy, ragged bursts, the guardian turned to face his opponent, his posture afflicted with a noticeable slouch. He needed to end this fast, he was running low on energy. If he tore off another head, surely the demon would flee. That was all he would need to do, then he could slumber…

    Golden agony crashed against his face, blinding him as teeth were shattered. Cracked armor was torn asunder down his torso as King Ghidorah continued the assault, the twin streaks of luminous death dancing across their target’s form. Trying to endure the pain, Bagan charged up another discharge of plasma, his shoulders glowing with the building power as it flowed toward his maw. The golden beams stopped.

    And then came again, each grander in scale as the wyrm tapped into the deep reserves of their power. They combined into one, a single spear of divine death.

    Bagan stopped charging as the combined Gravity Beam tore into his groin, shattering armor like dry wood. The entire kingdom heard the wheezed groan that escaped his throat, before he fell to the earth like a crumbling tower.

    Hayma gasped, her own fear only intensified by that of everyone else in the room.

    “So he’s going to cause all that destruction himself, and then die!?” someone shouted.

    “What kind of god only saves his temple and cares not for his people? One I would rather not worship!”

    Hayma turned to the crowd of hundreds, trying to reassure them. “Please, everyone remain calm! We need to trust in Bagan, especially in this dire momen—”

    There was a cracking, which echoed for all to hear. It sounded like a hundred trees snapping at once. Hayma turned to see it, even though her psychic powers revealed it to her already.

    King Ghidorah had broken one of Bagan’s arms underfoot. The guardian tried to get up, shaking and coughing with anguish. One of the serpent’s necks shot forth, encircling his body to wrap around the still working arm of the god. Opening its jaws, it sank its fangs into the flesh, relishing in the sweet taste of blood. The remaining head peered at its prey, seeing a cracked portion of hide. It hooked a horn beneath it, before pulling up. The sickening sounds of it peeling away were like a melody to the devil. With one last yank, there was now a patch of exposed flesh, which it greedily bit down on like a beggar receiving a meal.

    Glowing light was pulled from beneath Bagan’s skin, flowing into the teeth and down the necks like water. He writhed and moaned in agony, but it did nothing to deter the wyrm from drinking of their foe’s essence. With his power being drained, Bagan focused what remained and covered his body with white electricity. The only effect this had on his opponent was for the electricity to course over his foe’s scales, leading his power to be absorbed at double the rate. Immediately, the torn wing membrane began to sow itself back together, strands erupting from the wound and connecting together. The same was becoming true across King Ghidorah’s full body, scales regrowing to recover healing tissue, burnt flesh falling away and being renewed.

    From the limp neck, tendrils emerged like the grasping feelers of a cephalopod. They attached to one another as more grew, slowly but surely reconstructing the curious aspect of the thrice-headed one.

    The maelstrom of emotion amongst the hundreds, perhaps thousands, within the temple was like weights upon every inch of Hayma’s body. Her breathing was short and swift as she tried to calm herself down. The negative energy filling the chambers of the holy place made this impossible.

    “After all this destruction by his hand, the so-called god will just die and leave us all at the golden dragon’s mercy!” Shouted an older woman, cradling a crying child in her arms.

    Hayma tried to plead. “People, please, put your faith that he can break free and—“

    “I’m not putting my faith in that wretch!” a man shouted above the groaning crowd. “He’s just as bad as the storm bringer!”

    The priestess tried to respond, taking some hope in the glimmers of reverence in their deity amongst the gathered. “How can you say such a thing after he has protecte—“

    “After he had destroyed our homes, yet got a second wind to fight back when his temple was in danger! How can we be sure he has not just been guarding us because we bask him in praise!” A lower ranking priest called out.

    An elderly man responded before Hayma could even get a word in edgewise, his voice clearly weathered by age but still managing to echo. “We all saw how the balance bringer reacted when he drew near to Bagan! Tell us, oh great and high priestess, why the king of the gods wished to destroy our so-called god!”

    “Why, he merely did not… he didn’t recognize him! Gojira knew not of our god before their encoun—“

    “She’s lying, I’ve known her for years!” Shouted one of Hayma’s fellow priestesses, driving a blade of fear through the loyalist to the forest god. Even the other devotees to him were turning!

    She breathed a sigh of relief when another person spoke up for Bagan. Another elderly man, who spoke with reserve and calmness. “People, please! Can you fault our lord for struggling against such a mighty foe, and for not being perfect? I am sure that Bagan shall break free and drive the demon away, as he always—“

    The man cried out as another male struck him across the face, the younger man sending his elder to the ground. Gasps filled the room, but to Hayma’s dismay, she did not sense everyone in the room disagreeing with the assailant. “Shut the hell up, there’s nothing left for that demon in god’s skin to save!” he shouted.

    Tears were flowing from Hayma’s eyes. “You all cannot just reject him, Bagan has saved us all so many times, this one time is enough to drive you all away?” she shouted. There was silence, an all encompassing, frightening silence.

    It was quiet enough to hear someone unlatch a torch from off one of the pillars of the room. Suddenly, the commotion picked up again as a rough-looking, grizzled man charged through the crowd, holding the burning stick. He broke through the front, charging toward Hayma with a look of utter hatred in his eyes, not a single person in his path having tried to stop him.

    “My family was out there, damn you and your false god, witch!” he bellowed, before burning the priestess’ face with the flame with a strike. She fell to the ground, crying out in anguish. Burns now marred her once beautiful features.

    And that action ignited the kindling being wracked up inside the collective mind of the crowd.

    “Death to Bagan!” The chant echoed madly as people began tearing down tapestries depicting him and his battles throughout history. Fists flew into the faces of those who supported the deity, brutal and unrelenting as hysteria became king amongst them. Other torches were unlatched and used to burn works of art and altars devoted to him, filling the chambers of the holy place with smoke and drifting ash.

    Bagan wept as he sensed it all, transmitted to him from the tortured mind of his only friend. King Ghidorah let out muffled laughter, their two heads mentally conversing and sharing mockery toward the insects. Did they somehow think this display of barbarity would save them?

    But the golden devil would not object to a show with their meal.

    “How could you all do this!?” Hayma cried out, tears streaming from the one eye left unaffected by the assault. “After all he has done, you do this!?”

    Her attacker showed no remorse as he slammed a kick into her side, bruising ribs. Another man stepped toward her, brandishing a fishing knife. Men, women, and children cheered as he approached, roaring with delight at her incoming death.

    “No, please! What do you all hope to even accomplish!?” she begged of them.

    The knife-wielder just shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t know, I’m just following the crowd. I just happen to be the one with a weapon.” He replied with a toothy, sadistic grin before plunging the blade into Hayma’s stomach.

    Time seemed to pause for her.

    She no longer saw the people she had communed with every day of her life, those she praised Bagan with, the people of her kingdom. She saw wild animals, savages following only their herd mentality. All it took was fear to turn them into this.

    She would give them something to absolutely dread.

    As her blood sprayed forth from the wound, the attacker pulling the blade out and preparing to drive it in again, Hayma screamed. Not of agony, but to their dismay, in horrid hatred.

    “Damn you all, pathetic scum!” She declared, the words echoing into their very minds. “Bagan breaks his body to serve you all, and you spit in his eye! I devote my life to ensuring his relation to our kingdom is good, and you do this!”

    At her last word, psychic waves lashed out, sending agony through the minds of all present. The knife-wielder sliced her across the stomach by mistake as he stumbled back, but Hayma seemed to care little for the excess blood flowing from her.

    Tears flowed from her eyes, but her wrath did not dim. “You all deserve what shall happen next!” Weaker-minded people fell to their knees as her mind continued lashing out in a frenzy, clutching their heads as their brains throbbed with agony. She looked to the man who had burned her, who was busy backing away with a look of mortal terror in his eyes. “Join your family.” She spoke to him, words dripping with venom.

    The crowd was suddenly afflicted with horrid images flashing through their consciousnesses. Skullcrawlers ripping them asunder, blood and gore flying in all directions as they feasted. The unending hatred and misanthropy flowing through the three minds of their assailant, images of them reducing the kingdom to ash and gruesomely torturing the survivors to death.

    Of Bagan’s true darkness unleashed, the corpses of gods forming a mountain beneath his feet.

    All of these and more grotesque sights flashed through their brains. The absolute pain and anguish of Hayma manifesting as bile which she vomited upon them all.

    The torch holding father, his mind spasming with all being forced upon it as he received it far more intense than any other, stuck his face in the flames. He accidently inhaled, pulling fire into his body and collapsing his lungs. He dropped like stones, joining the knife wielder as he plunged the blade into his own gut.

    People fought amongst themselves, some compelled into blind frenzies by the psychic assault. Hayma just laughed, a broken, pained cackle that tore at her throat. The last statement the people heard from her was this, blood flowing from her mouth.

    “Bare witness to the wrath that eons ago crushed the gods and made the Earth itself shudder in terror!”

    A crowd rushed over to her, stomping upon her broken body in a desperate bid to end the blazing needles being driven into their psyches. She merely closed her eyes, reaching out with her mind.

    Overwhelming pain. Even with the two headed serpent draining away at his life, the pain of its bite was nothing compared to the psychic power clawing into his mind. He could feel her, the one pillar of light he had left in this world. He could feel her injuries, her pain stricken body, her anger at the people, her sadness at their betrayal, but most importantly, he felt her fading away, her fading voice echoing one last message within his mind.

    I know you can win this. I know what you truly are, and I don’t fear it. From the very beginning, I knew that you were the one I wanted to serve. The visions of your past only cemented my thoughts on you further. The people don’t deserve you. We protected them, showed them mercy and kindness, and they responded with fear and betrayal. So show them. Show them your true power, my friend. Unleash your power, kill that false god, and regain your title as the true ruler of this world!

    With her last words embedded in his mind, the connection between man and god was severed at last. Silence filled the behemoth’s mind, the fading light of his friend’s presence turning to darkness. With her light now gone, darkness filled its void, violent and building with his rage and sorrow. Weakened by the psychic response and fueled by his feelings at the death of his only true friend in millenia, Bagan, God of the Forest was dead, and in his place, Bagan, the God of Darkness, was reborn anew.

    Electricity crackled across burnt armor, surging throughout the encaptured monster’s body and into the maw of the golden demise. The golden hydra hungrily lapped up the increased electrical charge, surprised at the sudden influx of power being given off as their severed neck seemed to increase tenfold in its regeneration. Blackened ash fell to the ground, replaced by ashen white armor and blood red flesh. Red eyes glistened and crackled with electricity as power surged through his very being.

    Lifting up his broken arm, he roared out in pure rage, the bones snapping into place, as he clawed into the neck restraining his other arm. Gripping with unrestrained might, he dug his claws into the beast’s golden scales, piercing deep into the foreign invader’s body. Ghidorah cringed at the pain assailing it’s other head as the third head finally finished its regenerative process, the only restraint left being the healing patch holding the head from forming.

    As the center head went to unlatch the clear membrane, it heard a loud crack, something long and muscular wrapping around its horns and maw before snapping backward. Turning around, it found the source of the bindings on its body, its opponent’s tail now extended, trying to yank it off the rest of the body. As it struggled to get free, it watched as the once shattered open wound it had been biting healed like it had never been struck.

    With pain striking their body, the right head continued to absorb the vast amount of power this creature was giving off. As powerful white energy surged through its neck, the head soon realized that the transfer of energy was going nowhere, coalescing and circling within itself. Confused at first, it wasn’t long before the head found itself sailing through the air, having been torn off the main body and sustained only by the energy it was absorbing. The God of Darkness roared out as he tore King Ghidorah off his body, swinging it around with his powerful tail, and tossed the golden being through the remains of the palace, sending the dragon hurtling across the land.

    White electricity crackled off his flesh, his hide fully healed as his regeneration returned to its true strength. The shackled darkness within his heart was now pulsing through his veins like pitch black fire as Bagan glared at the burning temple. Millenia of restraint began lifting as the dark power surged through his body hungrily. As his strength returned to him, he heard the angered cries of the people below. Turning his head, he saw the humans staring at him in fear, the corpse of his only friend lying in a bloody puddle in their midst. Seeing the ones responsible only fueled his anger further. He would not let them defile his friend’s body any further.

    There was only one fate for those who rebelled against their masters.

    Those in the above ground section of the temple had little chance of survival as burning hot plasma vaporized their very being, leaving behind nothing but molten rock. Turning his head, Bagan continued to unleash his rage upon the people he had once protected, the ones that would dare to scorn his kindness and centuries of protection upon only a single battle destroying their home. The cries and pleading of those below did nothing to appease his wrath as he burned all who stood before him. Without his friend, their prayers meant nothing to him.

    Stone and rubble scattered as the three headed monster exploded out of his brief tomb. Ghidorah was furious! With a loud cackle of anger, the devil’s wings opened to their full might, rocks and mud slinging backward. Turning their view, they glared murderously at the creature that dared to not only tear off their head once, but twice now. The power they had absorbed from their foe quickly kicked in, the torn stump growing at a rapid pace as the middle head tore off the remaining membrane of the other.

    The side heads flexed their newly formed muscles as they turned their hatred toward the beast. Bagan simply stood there, unleashing his flames onto the buildings below. It seemed they had managed to make their prey snap. What a pathetic thing to lose one’s mind over. This would only make the coming kill all the more sweeter for them. Golden sparks built up around the dragon’s body, traveling upward to the three heads. With three consecutive roars of rage, golden destruction surged outward, coming together into a combined beam of destruction.

    Hearing the crackling of lightning, Bagan stopped his divine wrath and turned to the storm bringer. Holding up a single hand, Bagan watched as the oncoming beam was completely negated, its electrical might reflecting off an invisible barrier of energy formed from his glowing claws, tearing apart the city below.

    Shocked that their foe had suddenly gained a new ability to stop their beams, King Ghidorah stopped their electrical assault and charged forth on their mighty wings. Power surged from Bagan’s horns, empowering his body as the great behemoth glared at the false king before him. The nasal horn shifted, moving closer to the center of his head as he leaned forward. Within an instant, he had surged forth, crossing the vast distance between them as though his heavy bulk weighed as little as a feather.

    The sudden burst of speed shocked the three headed serpent, unable to react as Bagan appeared in front of their heads, slamming horn first into their body. The powerful impact knocked the dragon backward, bones snapping like twigs upon hitting the heavily armored bulk of the dark god as they were speared through the chest by all three horns. Pain filled the golden monster’s being as Bagan flung the dragon upward off his head, his nasal horn flinging back to its normal position and slicing through flesh.

    As the golden destroyer was sent backward, it had little time to react as Bagan surged forth with another burst of speed, this time grabbing ahold of the dragon’s tail and slamming them hard against the ground. The earth shook as the foreign invader cratered into the mud, bones breaking and healing as Bagan threw the dragon back toward civilization. Ghidorah flapped their wings, trying to gain air only for the ivory god to barrel into them, shattering the scales on their chest as he slashed forth with his unrestrained power. A cross of energy seemed to form with his strike, rending flesh and scales apart like paper.

    The dragon crumpled across the ground, tearing through the city and sending mud and debris flying. Broken bones snapped and mended while blood pooled out of an X shaped wound with a long cut in the center going through their chest. With a powerful flap of his wings, the destroyer of worlds was airborne, launching themself out of grabbing distance. Snarling, the golden dragon watched as Bagan shot forth beneath him, electricity surging across the behemoth’s armored body as it failed to tackle the three headed monster once more.

    It seems that something had changed in their foe. The right head wanted nothing more than to dive back down and tear into the insolent beast while the center head wondered where this newfound strength had come from. As the other two were arguing whether or not to dive in, the ever so curious left head was quick to act, flinging their body to the side as white plasma scorched past their location, singeing the tips of their wing. The surprise at the now intensified heat ray nearly got the dragon burned as the beam moved after them, stopping momentarily as they flew into the clouds.

    Bagan’s entire being was filled with euphoric joy. The overwhelming strength, his strength, had returned to him. Such a long time restrained made the dragon god excited at the feeling of finally cutting loose once more. The heaviness of his armor was gone, his energy was unending, and his mind was far more clear without the need to protect the traitorous ants around him. As he reveled in his true strength, he glared at the false king hovering in the clouds above. He had a promise to keep. Charging up his power, he fired another blast of his plasma breath, relishing the intense heat it now emitted.

    As the dragon twisted about to dodge another plasma beam, they realized it was not only his strength of body, but the potency of their enemy’s energy that had also increased. The right head screeched in anger that this creature dared to hold out so much raw power on them as the center head began surging their body with a negative charge to prepare for a large assault. Lightning slammed into the dragon’s body from above, scattering and absorbing into the dragon’s scales. It started with a single bolt, before more began to surge through the skies. Bagan watched as bolt after bolt struck the hydra’s body, before eventually the entire sky was alight with golden light, a consistent stream of electricity flowing into the dragon above.

    Electricity surged across his body, converting raw energy into solid muscles as it healed his injuries. The Great Monster Zero roared out, the building energy surging throughout their body and wings before they arched their wings toward Bagan. Three streams of golden electricity shot out of the dragon’s maws, accompanied by more bolts of lightning streaming out of their wing tips. The oncoming surge of energy slammed into Bagan’s forcefield, slowly pushing the ivory destroyer back. Cracks began to form on the barrier, causing Bagan to unleash a fury filled roar. Energy crackled across his spikes as he unleashed his power upward in the form of three energy orbs. The spheres shot past Ghidorah, causing the right head to cackle in mockery. More energy spheres quickly began firing off, trails of electricity following them into the sky as the left head watched on curiously.

    The barrier soon shattered from the empowered assault, scorching the dark god with unholy might. Armor burned under the electrical assault as white electricity crackled over his bare hide, mitigating some of the damage with his own electrical power. Unlike before, the bullish monster held in his painful roars, focusing his power into his shoulder spikes before roaring skyward. Taking their enemy’s roar as one of a dying creature, the center and right heads continued their assault. It was only when the left head noticed a glimmer in the sky that it realized why the spheres had soared past them. Blinding white light lit the dark storm above, causing the multi headed destroyer to stop their assault in surprise.

    As Bagan’s scorched armor began regenerating, he roared out once more, the white light now shooting down like meteors. Glistening white diamonds of pure energy shot out of the stormy heavens, piercing aurum gilded armor like a hot knife through butter. King Ghidorah screeched in unholy pain as the first diamond shot through their wing, crashing into the ground and shattering into blistering hot embers. A second was quick to slice off one of their rattling tails as they dodged a third on its way toward their central head. More began to fall, prompting them to take initiative. If their foe wanted to attack them using their own storm as cover, they would show how useless the attack truly was.

    Wing lightning tore through the skies themselves as The King of Terror twisted about in the sky. Diamonds shot toward the golden hydra at high speed, none striking the more agile aerial monster. Golden electricity tore into white plasma, shattering them and sending particles of light scattering across the raining sky in a myriad of rainbows. Lightning fired from the right head as it continued laying waste to the diamond assault, the center head taking control of moving the body while the left head continued monitoring the surroundings for oncoming attacks.

    To the humans that remained, the stormy skies that once brought despair now appeared as a myriad of color, a deadly dance traversing the now colorful sky as the golden tyrant twisted and dismantled each attack.

    White plasma struck the dragon from behind as the diamond assault ended, scales and flesh scorching under the superheated assault as the beam burned through their wing membrane. Twisting their body around, the king of terror glared fiercely at the damn creature before them that refused death. They watched as Bagan’s burns quickly began to heal up, far faster than their own healing currently was. The holes in their wings were slowly getting smaller, and their tail started the process of regrowing. They had already used up most of the power they had stolen from Bagan’s body healing their injuries, the momentary storm charge having been used up in the ensuing destruction of the energy crystals.

    Bagan taunted the golden hydra from his position on the ground, energy building up as he prepared to fire another blast of his plasma breath. Seeing the sparking electricity flowing across their opponent, King Ghidorah began charging up their own attack, gold lightning crackling across their body and into their maws as they dove down to meet the demon in one final clash. Light gathered around the two demons as they fired their respective attacks. White plasma shot forth, striking the combined might of a trio of Gravity Bolts, neither side giving out. The surging power growing between the two attacks began building tremendously before a magnificent explosion overtook the two dueling monstrosities.

    Minutes passed as the dust began to settle. What was once a beautiful cityscape and forest now remained a scorched plain of hills and ruins. Rising from the muddy ground, King Ghidorah shook his bruised and battered body, burns and injuries bleeding into the mud below. Their left head laid limp at the side, most likely unconscious from the resulting explosion, as the right neck was torn in half from its jawline. Their wings were tattered, but still capable of flight for the moment. They would live, but the destroyer would need to find a place to rest to recover strength.

    The bruised center head looked around the battlefield, seeing no sign of their opponent anywhere. Letting loose a roar of victory, the dragon readied to fly away when a nearby mound of dirt and mud shook. From the ground burst an injured Bagan, blood oozing from several injuries as they started healing back together. The God of Darkness roared into the sky as he searched for his foe.

    Seeing this abomination still alive and somehow even healing, the center head of King Ghidorah knew it would have to retreat if they were to get their revenge. They had this abomination on his knees and dying before something kickstarted a second wind for this creature. They would have to recover and grow his strength before attempting to kill this creature. Flapping rapidly, the dragon took to the skies just as Bagan found them. By the time the bulky god had reached his foe’s location, the dragon was already airborne and about to enter his storm system.

    Rage filled Bagan’s mind. This creature attacked his territory, and now it was retreating all because he had shown his true power. If this creature thought they could escape Bagan’s wrath, they had another thing coming. White Lightning crackled across his spikes as he prepared to fire another Plasma blast at his enemy. Moments before he could, the limp left head suddenly came back to consciousness, a reactive burst of his gravity beam firing from his maw. The golden electricity smacked Bagan face first, blowing up his energy in his face and allowing the dragon god to reach the cover of his storm.

    Time seemed to slow as he watched the dragon’s tails slowly enter the clouds above. Inside Bagan’s mind, he began thinking of ways to reach the cowardly invader. His attacks wouldn’t reach him from this range and he couldn’t leap high enough to deal damage. As his rage at failing his friend’s promise filled his mind, memories began to flow in the back of his mind. Memories of his friend surged throughout the dark energy coursing through him, memories of the days they spent together and the resonant feeling of her death. All these thoughts flowed together like a river of light in his sea of darkness. It was through this light that a new power surged through the dark gods body. For even the deepest depths of darkness must always have a light to give them meaning.

    Shimmering Light burst from Bagan’s shoulder spikes, enlightening the darkness around him. The light began to shift and morph as it spread outward, glittering power surging forth as the God of Darkness took flight.

    Bagan roared out as he chased after King Ghidorah, his wings of light lighting up the darkness of the storm revealing the golden hydra. Ghidorah stared back in panic. They had not expected such a heavy foe to be capable of flight! It hadn’t even had wings to bring it airborne, yet here it was in their storm. In a panic, they attempted to fire gravity bolts at the white behemoth, only for the armored dragon to shoot off into the distance, his presence only being dictated by the trail of shimmering light particles circling about his storm.

    All at once, Bagan’s body surged with power as his claws extended to twice their size. White electricity covered his body as his speed increased significantly, his horns twisting and moving as he prepared to rush his foe. It was then that the alien king felt dread spreading through their body.

    At a speed that belied his size, Bagan sped toward King Ghidorah, white light trailing behind him as he slashed the dragon on the side. Golden scales and chunks of meat were torn off as Bagan sped past. Before the three headed monster could react, the ivory god had already twisted and curved around, speeding toward the dragon once more and severing the right neck with his nasal horn. Another curve in the air led him slashing his large claws across the wing membranes holding the golden dragon airborne as another blow knocked the dragon upward with a slasher claw. Several times did Bagan continue this rush of attacks, his speed constantly increasing as he circled about, slashing across his prey’s body with his horns and claws. Golden flesh scattered in the storm above as the rain turned red with blood, each blow tearing off more and more flesh.

    The King of Terror was in shock as they hovered, unable to move as their foe continuously hacked away at his body. The sky was alight with trailing white light, each illuminating the hydra’s figure as they sped past at Mach speed. It wasn’t until Bagan was hovering above the golden hydra did they realize just how powerful this demon god truly was. As the Ivory God of Destruction sped toward the alien Invader, King Ghidorah unleashed one last resort to hopefully buy them enough time to escape.

    A duo of Gravity bolts shot forth from panicked and shredded maws. Electricity shot out of neck wounds, burning the dragon yet they continued onward, firing the golden lightning and striking Bagan’s shoulder. The shoulder spike shattered under the electrical assault combined with the speed at which Bagan was moving, destroying one of his glittering wings and leaving him off balance.

    Ivory armor slammed into the golden dragon, spinning the two out of control as they shot toward the earth below. Not wanting to die, Ghidorah quickly latched onto Bagan with their two remaining heads and began draining as much as possible. In retaliation, Bagan snapped forth, tearing into and devouring the flesh of the center neck while stabbing his hand into the dragon’s gut. As they shot past the clouds, Ghidorah opened what remained of their wings, catching enough air to flip Bagan over to take the brunt of the fall damage. An explosion of dirt shot into the sky as the two crashed into the earth. The ground shook viciously upon their impact, fracturing and splitting open as lightning struck the ground around them.

    The two monsters laid atop each other, bleeding and broken as the muddied earth fractured open beside them, growing wide enough to swallow them whole. King Ghidorah groaned out as they lifted themselves off Bagan, the latter’s hand having shoved completely through their chest while the dragon’s center head had been ripped off, dead in the maw of Bagan as it slipped into the ravine. The armored behemoth’s white shell was all but shattered, his limbs and shoulder protrusions broken upon impact. The blood of both monsters coated them crimson as the left head turned, finding itself the last remaining head on the main body.

    The golden dragon could hear the panicked cries of more creatures, glancing into the depths of the ravine to see a horde of legged snake like creatures within various opened tunnels and chambers. The ravenous horde tore at the severed head with savage hunger, larger creatures snapping at the smaller ones in order to sate their hunger first. A snarl from the living dragon caught their attention, causing them to quickly drag away the head in fear, retreating back into their holes.

    Crawling away, it looked over their body to assess the injuries, finding several large gashes and holes covering most of the body, one of the tails missing and a leg broken. Unlike the aggressive, battle hungry right head and the battle hardened leadership of the center head, the left head’s purpose was to be cautious and curious in its surroundings in order to watch for hidden and oncoming attacks. As such, it found it in their best interest to use the energy they had stolen during their fall, to heal up their shredded and nearly cut off wings.

    Pain filled the body as flesh and bone rapidly grew outward from the tattered remains of his wings. It was in the left head’s best interest to be able to escape first before regaining strength to fight. As its wings healed enough to maintain a short flight, a huff of breath caught its attention. Turning their last remaining head around, the dragon watched in fear as Bagan slowly attempted to lift itself up.

    His arms were broken, as were his legs and ribs, yet Bagan attempted to get to his feet. Dark flames burned in his blood red eyes as the demon got to his knees, his need to finish this battle forcing him to rise. Before he could rise any further lightning struck his face, tearing into him and pushing him closer to the ravine. The Dark God cringed as golden electricity scorched away half his sight, stopping as it revealed the bone beneath his flesh. White lightning coursed through his healing body as Bagan readied to fire his plasma breath.

    With all his power surging through his body, the dragon turned to fire it all and finish off his enemy. However, he was unprepared to see the bleeding, one headed dragon already airborne, diving feet first toward him. The crack of bone shattering resounded through the land as King Ghidorah slammed into the dragon god’s skull, slashing out the dragon’s other eye with their talons. The hit to the face pushed the former guardian back just enough for his off balance, heavy bulk to cause the muddied ground he stood on to collapse, causing a landslide that pulled him into the dark ravine.

    As he fell into the depths, the God of Darkness roared, unleashing all his power at once. A pillar of light shot out from his body, overtaking and filling the crack in the earth with his power. The screams of the ravenous horde filled his senses as the light lit up their dark caves. Their roars were like a chorus of the damned leading him into hell as he fell from the surface. The Golden Dragon screeched out as the power knocked them backward, watching as what seemed to be a wall of light shot skyward, piercing through the storm clouds and into the recesses of space itself.

    Bagan raged as he felt his power surging out of his body, the pure energy being emitted shaking and destabilizing the foundations of the ravine. Rocks and mud quickly began to fall, as though to fill in the gap left in the earth and Bagan along with it. As the earth began to close on him, something curious began to happen to Bagan’s body. With his body severely injured and low on energy, his super regenerative ability kicked into overdrive, pulling out one last trump card to save his life. Instead of patching him up like new, instead his regeneration expanded outward like a tumorous growth, covering and shielding his body in a cocoon of flesh. As the ground began to collapse above him, the god thought back to the memories of his friend. No matter how long it took, he would be free of this prison, free to get his revenge. Free to take control of this world. Free to ensure his promise would be fulfilled.

    The earth shuddered and quaked as the ground seemed to fuse back together, the wall of light dispersing into the darkness of night. The King of Terror couldn’t believe it. All this trouble, all this pain and near death, all for their foe to succumb to mother nature’s wrath. Anger and relief seemed to fill the dragon’s mind, remembering how its other heads had thought this behemoth would be a satisfying beast to take down. Now however, all it felt was the pain of wounds healing slowly along with the anger that it was not them that truly finished off the foe but an act of nature burying him in the earth. Still, it would take this as a victory for the moment.

    With a single head remaining, King Ghidorah roared to the sky in triumph, spreading his wings as blood continued to leak from his many scars and injuries. What it hadn’t expected, was to get a response so quickly. A mighty roar responded to his call, one far closer and far more powerful than what it had let loose in his injured state. Looking around its surroundings, it wasn’t until a crack of lightning struck the earth miles away that he saw it.

    Glowing blue energy sparking across rocky hide and serrated spines. A glare of anger and determination filling the face of the charging god king. Growling, the dragon knew it wouldn’t be able to take on the oncoming alpha predator with his injuries. With a bark of warning, Ghidorah took to the sky, flying off as the great leviathan neared.

    Seeing the invader leaving so soon, Godzilla roared out in rage as he slowed down. He hadn’t expected for the earth’s dark destroyer to lose. Sniffing the air, he knew that the great destroyer of old was still alive, perhaps swallowed by the earth. Even if he had been holding back in restraint all these years, Godzilla knew that the Dark Titan should have been able to kill this creature. Perhaps the planet itself interfered and swallowed the dark dragon for a future task. Only time would tell if Bagan would return. Until then, he had a threat to the planet to destroy and balance to bring.

    As Godzilla left the area, what few survivors of the titan’s wrath began to gather. Those who had lost their faith in their god began to pray for his return, some migrating away out of grief for their fallen to lands in the east. Yet it was those who had survived the attacks of the forsaken who became the most zealous in their religious fervor. They began praying for the dark god to unleash his divine wrath, seeing their survival as a sign for them to be envoys of his darkness against the ones who would betray them. As such, they would begin to rebuild, even with the destruction of most of their homes and families. Years later, they would begin tunneling beneath the ground, hoping to reach their god once more and document the great battle that had taken place, even with the ravenous devil that made the depths their home. As it was so, with the ability to flourish and sustain life given by the dark god’s unleashed power, humanity would continue to live on in the land of Bagan.

    *****

    Present Day

    Professor Yamane dissected the new information within his mind. Despite orders to stay put, the professor had continued along the path, following the story the walls spoke of as he passed by the petrified remains of various skull crawlers. Soon, he found himself standing in front of two large doors of stone. Engraved onto the doors were the towering three headed destroyer flying above a carving of the Dark God. Yamane knew what the creature facing down Bagan was, yet the runic translations only referred to it as the one who was many. Monarch knew it as Monster Zero.

    If this Bagan was a superpredator on par with the likes of Godzilla and Monster Zero, then this site which was his tomb would end up heavily guarded in order to prevent his awakening. As he touched the door, he noticed what appeared to be a stone button embedded in the wall nearby.

    “Professor, it’s time for the next shift.”

    Xiong’s words went over his head as the professor reached for the button. Silent whispers spoke to him in the back of his mind. A silent, almost feminine voice, beckoning him forth with promises of ancient secrets as he felt the protruding stone.

    “Professor, Do you read me? It’s time to leave this dark place and return to the surface.”

    Pushing the button, he heard the grinding of stone, one left unmoved in millenia. As the doors opened, the radiation detectors in his suit began to rise, a large gush of heat pushing against his body as he saw what stood behind the doors. His camera system began malfunctioning as the power being emanated short circuited its systems.

    “Shit the radioactivity near him just spiked and his camera systems shut off. We need to get him out of there now!”

    Yamane walked forth into the chamber, staring in awe at the massive chasm before him. In the midst of this chasm, a large orb of flesh pulsed with life, white lightning coursing through its veiny surface as heat and steam vented from its surface.

    “Captain Xiong,” he said, staring with hidden glee at the discovery of this alpha titan’s dormant state, “Be sure to send a message to Monarch that I will not be accompanying Dr. Miya to Sergio Island. I believe I will be staying here to study this Bagan further.”

    Unbeknownst to the professor, something began to stir in the depths of the fleshy cocoon. A mind left slumbering for millenia slowly began to stir. Unknown sounds, muffled by his fleshy prison, began filling his once silent sanctuary. Yet, among these new sounds, familiar noises and unusual calls could be heard echoing through the world. There was a conflict in the air, one that Bagan knew he would be forced to awaken for, and with his awakening, he would find the golden dragon and finish their battle. White lightning coursed around earthy brown armor, claws clenching as the dragon continued to slumber. Soon, he would awaken and fulfill his promise. Even if he had to destroy the world to do so.

    Winner: King Ghidorah (Legendary)

    K.W.C. // November 20, 2020
  • Author: Joel Forsberg | Banner: Landon Soto

    With a howl of satisfaction, Gabara kicked another building away.

    After years of torment, the colossal ogre had finally found a perfect domain. He had ventured out to terrorize humanity, to finally claim territory for himself. But no matter what he tried, Gabara found himself defeated by some other kaiju.

    When he returned to Monster Island after his years of searching, he had been excited to vent his anger on his favorite victim, Minilla. Though Gabara found the son of Godzilla, another offspring of the Monster King has appeared in the green brute’s absence, and a very angry Godzilla Junior chased the emerald ogre out of his own home.

    Defeated and disgruntled, Gabara wandered the Earth until he found this place. The city below him was called Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, the capital of the Galapagos archipelago. But Gabara did not know that, nor did he care. The only thoughts rattling inside its mischievous mind was the fact that he had finally found his own place to stomp into the ground.

    Amidst Gabara’s ecstatic rampage, a strange, high-pitched roar echoed through the air. The feline-faced kaiju snapped out of his daze and turned his head to the source of the noise, but the rocky beach revealed nothing. Gabara shrugged, and turned back to his reign of destruction.

    Another roar caused Gabara to snort angrily and whip around once more, his left eye visibly twitching. This time, however, he was greeted by the sound of rumbling. Gabara stared in confusion as a massive chunk of stone broke from the shallows.

    The ogre’s gut reaction proved incorrect as the creature arose. It was no rock, but a massive shell! Water cascaded off the shell’s sides as Kamoebas stepped upon the sand. He had been circling these islands for months, feasting upon seals, iguanas, and the occasional boat. This was his hunting ground, and he was not going to lose it. The turtle slowly rose to the land and turned to the green invader in his home, letting out another screech.

    A wicked smile spread over Gabara’s face, baring yellow teeth. Under normal circumstances, he would be angry that his reign of terror was interrupted. But this shelled monster was barely taller than the pre-pubescent monster prince. The bully cracked his knuckles and started toward the beach, snickering all the way. He was eager to make a memory; the memory of him smashing the first threat to his new domain into turtle soup.

    Kamoebas shook off the last of the water and lumbered toward the ogre, who had entered an excited jog. The terrapin waddled toward the invader, but Gabara was too fast. The green ogre kneed Kamoebas in the nose, eliciting a squeal from the chelonid. Gabara didn’t let that stop him, striking again from the left, then from below. Kamoebas’ head was batted around like a ball, making him dizzy and disoriented, but he still found enough clarity amongst the beating to heavily stomp down on Gabara’s foot. The invader howled in pain and stepped back, grabbing his foot and hopping around the other, crushing multiple buildings in his fit of pain.

    Kamoebas shook his head, trying to get his brain back in place. As his spasm ended, the turtle stared at his agonized foe. With surprising speed, he waddled toward Gabara and crashed into his remaining leg, toppling the bully with a roar of triumph. Gabara let out his own cry as he fell into the street, face planting into the asphalt. The lumpy green monster slowly rose to his knees, just in time to see Kamoebas charging back toward him. Gabara leapt to his feet as his loggerhead foe charged, and delivered a punt beneath Kamoebas’ chin. The walking island skidded to a stop, stunned from the blow, and groaned.

    With a reverberating laugh, Gabara reached under the shell of his enemy and flipped Kamoebas over. As the turtle squealed, he beat on his underbelly and neck. Even with the hard shell underneath, the blows were felt with all their force on Kamoebas’ ribs and organs. He flailed his limbs, but to no avail as Gabara continued the beating with his cackles of excitement. To him, it seemed Kamoebas was to lose this battle. The turtle, however, still had an ace up his sleeve.

    With a deep breath, Kamoebas extended his neck out to the same length as his body. It struck Gabara in the gut, forcefully knocking the air out of him. A wheeze left the bully’s lungs and he hunched over, grabbing his stomach. As the ogre tried to gasp for air, Kamoebas seized his opportunity. Launching his neck out again, he sunk his fangs into the side of Gabara’s head, driving out a scream from the horrid toad as he shook his head, attempting to shake the terrapin’s firm grip, but somehow managed to accidentally flip Kamoebas – and, hence, himself – over in the process. Gabara was smashed into a small neighborhood and Kamoebas landed on his feet, albeit very ungracefully.

    Although disoriented, the turtle kept his grip on the ogre. Gabara screeched again as Kamoebas dragged him through the neighborhoods and streets, shoving his warty body through concrete, steel and asphalt. As he neared the beach, Kamoebas loosened his grip, and with a swift movement of his head, the turtle tossed Gabara into the sea. The ogre’s green arms flailed above the water, accompanied by bubbles from his screams of fear.

    Kamoebas watched the water as his foe flailed about, eventually sinking below the waves, fingertips disappearing with a final burst of bubbles. The water became calm. The only sound was the gentle slap of waves hitting the beach.

    The chelonid screeched in victory, believing he had won, and began to turn his back to the waves.

    Without warning, Gabara burst from the waves with a reverberating cry. Before Kamoebas could turn to face him once more, the bully grabbed the turtle by the tail. Gabara’s horn then began crackling with neon blue energy, which traveled down his arms and into the turtle’s body. Kamoebas squealed as his whole body was exposed to the voltage. Violent spasms plagued him while Gabara laughed. Kamoebas could not hit the bully with his short legs, and the shaking of his body prevented him from turning around.

    Gabara’s cackles continued as he shocked Kamoebas, pleased with his foe’s suffering. Electricity, however, was not enough to satisfy his bloodlust. He began dragging Kamoebas backward into the water, where he would then pummel the creature into the seafloor.

    His mistake, however, was not letting up on his electricity attack as he did so.

    When Kamoebas hit the water, the electricity traveled through it and into Gabara. The ogre felt his own attack surge into his legs and up into his body. The voltage made him stand stiff and upright, and he let go of Kamoebas’ tail. Even without his grip on the turtle, the electricity kept surging through Gabara’s body for some time, allowing Kamoebas to escape his grasp and run onto the land.

    As the final surge traveled up to Gabara’s head and through his hair, Gabara stopped his convulsions. His hair blackened and tongue sticking haphazardly out of his mouth, Gabara couldn’t help but think of all the previous victims of this attack. The ogre found himself no longer blaming Junior for the barrage of atomic rays fired at him.

    Snapping out of his trance, Gabara watched as Kamoebas retreated inland and snarled, following after the rocky-shelled turtle. As he stepped onto the shore, Kamoebas flipped around, eyes rolling in his head. The electricity had disoriented him, but he was not about give up. Using his new path, Kamoebas announced his attack with a screech and charged toward the cat-goblin. Gabara responded in like, snarling and running.

    The two monsters charged each other with no sign of stopping. Cars and street lights were crushed in their wake, but they didn’t care. All they wanted was to rip the other to shreds.

    As the kaiju got close, Kamoebas tilted his head to snap Gabara’s thigh, but the brute was too quick. He brought his other leg around and struck Kamoebas in the throat, causing the oversized terrapin to choke and stop. Gabara, however, did not follow suit. With his right hand, he grabbed Kamoebas behind the jaw and unleashed a barrage of punches into the mutant’s face. Kamoebas cried out with each punch, giving Gabara a feeling of glee. But while the beating was satisfying, Gabara wished to not give the reptilian another chance to retaliate. Gabara reached his other hand behind Kamoebas’ head, and his foot on the turtle’s shell. With a mighty heave, the ogre pulled on Kamoebas’ head, attempting to tear it off.

    Kamoebas squealed as Gabara pulled, feeling the tension on his neck. Gabara, in turn, laughed and pulled harder.

    He kept pulling.

    And pulling.

    Eventually, the bully realized something was wrong. With a quizzical grunt, he looked at the turtle, wondering what had happened. Kamoebas met his gaze with blank eyes, looking somewhat unworried. Gabara furrowed his brow. How had the creature not been decapitated?

    He looked over Kamoebas’ head to see his extended neck, which had adapted to the bully’s tugging. With an amused chortle, Kamoebas quickly pulled his long neck back into its shell. Gabara was tugged along with it, and the momentum caused him to slam his face into the terrapin’s hard carapace. The warty ogre screamed and pulled his hands away to caress his broken nose, trying to numb the pain.

    Kamoebas shook his now freed head, trying to get rid of the dizziness. Another one of Gabara’s screams brought him back to reality, and he snarled. He compressed his neck even further, attempting to store up more energy, and set his eyes on the stunned feline’s gut. However, the electricity and beating together had disoriented Kamoebas. He launched his assault, but its destination was a bit lower than he had originally aimed.

    The turtle’s head struck hard and true. Gabara tried to scream, but the sound caught in his throat with a choking sound. Tears welled up in the bully’s eyes as he fell to his knees, his mouth frozen in a silent scream as he grasped the injured area.

    Kamoebas retracted his head and observed the oni’s reaction. His attack was a lot more effective than expected, but the chelonid was not one to complain. He took his opportunity and struck Gabara once more, this time in his already shattered nose. Gabara was sent back flipping into the water, landing in a colossal belly flop. The resulting splash traveled through the air and farther inland than even the destruction from the two monsters’ rampage. As the water flooded through the streets, Kamoebas kept a careful eye on the ocean. He had learned about assuming the death of his foe from his bout before, and he was not going to make the same mistake this time.

    Bubbles rose to the surface. Kamoebas tensed up, waiting for his foe to reemerge…

    Belly up, Gabara rose out of the water, clearly unconscious. Drool dripped from the monster’s open mouth as he began floating away, into the open ocean.

    Kamoebas watched as Gabara floated away, eventually becoming a green speck in the distance. Another cry of victory escaped the turtle’s maw, but this time it was final. After finishing his victory screech, he slipped into the water. The battle had left him hungry, and he could go for some seal.

    Winner: Kamoebas (Showa)

    K.W.C. // November 11, 2020
  • Author: Andrew Sudomerski & Tyler Trieschock | Banner: Landon Soto

    Deep Space – 1973

    There was only comfort in isolation. And for countless eons, it embraced the empty vacuum, going through the basic repetitive routines of its existence. Its birth was irrelevant. Survival was the only necessity to thrive in this cruel void. The nothingness, for endless ages, was its only home. But an urge pulled it to a globe of green and blue, a place it had never been to before. Was destiny giving it a chance at a new life? To prove itself worthy to live in a heartless world? Following its instincts, the amorphous lifeform dove towards the massive sphere.

    The time spent falling was nothing short of progressive. Time accelerated as gravity took hold of its form. However, it wasn’t long until it found itself splattered against the hull of a metallic capsule. Orbiting across the ocean of emptiness, the Helios-7 was a research vessel collecting data of unknown organisms within Earth’s exosphere. Little did it realize that it would serve as a ride for an alien organism from galaxies far away. Acting on primordial instinct, the amoeba clung to the vessel with all its might. Its cells, adapted to the absence of heat, were able to withstand the bitter void, which did not bother it in the least. So when it seeped through the cracks and navigated its way to the interior, it began to torture the men aboard Helios-7.

    Their screams faded before Helios-7 fell back into the atmosphere.

    And so, the Helios-7 plummeted to the wideness of the Pacific Ocean. The world would learn of its tragedy later that week, as the spacecraft vanished beneath the oceanic surface. Little would anyone know the truth of the matter; a virus from far beyond our world settling in, adapting. The first set of earthly victims of the amoeba would never tell the tale of what happened…

    *****

    Lagos Island – 1973

    Confident human eyes gazed upon an unbeatable leviathan.

    The three-headed dragonoid scanned all in its presence, uncurling golden lips to reveal razor sharp teeth. Bright hot energies sparked within the beast’s three maws. The air rippled from the intense heat gathering near the dragon’s jaws as it prepared its signature weapon of destruction. A bright light encompassed the humans as they witnessed the colossal creature’s unmatched power first hand.

    Gravity bolts tore into the ocean with unrelenting fury. Geysers of superheated vapor blasted high into the atmosphere, blanketing two men in a colorful mist which blanketed the ash-covered rock surrounding them. But even partially blinded, they could not look away from their biological creation, which possessed the power they desperately searched time and space for.

    An irradiated mutation born through manipulation of the past.

    A creature that ignited hopes for a brighter future.

    A monster their enemies would curse with hate until they vanished from existence itself.

    King Ghidorah.

    *****

    Pacific Ocean – 1973

    Caressed in gray clouds on a humid summer day, Smokey traversed nearly 10,000 feet over the Pacific Ocean. It remained invisible to the luminance of Earth’s star, but the heat was getting the better of the ship’s crew of three.

    “Big brother, are we there yet?” the young Akira complained, drenched in a layer of his own sweat. This was about the fifth time he asked, and frankly, it was getting under Hotaru’s skin. She knew they were almost there. Heck, she was steering the aircraft to their destination, but her younger brother just didn’t have patience. Even then, the sweat underneath their homeworld uniforms would prove to be a pain to wash off. And to believe they bathed just earlier this morning. Of the three siblings, only Hikaru kept his cool.

    “Almost,” he replied in a confident tone, “We’ll start descent in less than five minutes.” Smokey’s cockpit only consisted of two seats for the pilots to fly. Not that Hikaru minded. It was his responsibility to search and repel any major threat, kaiju or alien, and transform if it had to come to it. And according to the reports from their parents and grandfather, there was something lurking on one of the Bikini Islands.

    Hotaru couldn’t help but recall what their father said to them earlier in the day; a cluster of shipwrecks washed ashore on some of the nearby islands. The inhabitants, though far and few between, also accounted for that of an unidentified object within the vicinity. The specifics, however, were rather vague and conflicting. Some claim it to be the Oodako family, others Ebirah, and others something different altogether. If it was truly a space monster, it had her worried. Were the Garogas already here, scouting Earth before sending their armada? She prayed that this wouldn’t be the case. Sucking her teeth under her pink face veil, she decided to drop it. Her questions would be answered in less than a minute, so she would have to see and find out.

    “Should I start the descent?” Hotaru asked, with a tinge of nervousness.

    “Go ahead. We’re here.”

    Trying to mask her anxiety, Hotaru set Smokey on a steady slope down. “Activate the mist and keep Smokey concealed,” Hikaru said. Flipping switches on the control board, Hotaru encased their handy transportation vehicle into a cloud of thick fog. Although the effects were not immediate, at least they didn’t need to withstand the sun’s ultraviolet rays and heat waves anymore.

    Hotaru, relieved not to be at high altitudes, grabbed hold of a two-way handheld transceiver. Unlike those from the human military, these were wireless with a bandwidth that well surpassed the technology of the time. Small and compact, these ‘Zobots’ came in handy with long-distance calls; but for family only.

    “Land Supi to Mirifa. This is Zone Angel,” Hotaru spoke, clearing her voice of any downcast, “We’ve arrived at the site, and we’re going in. Over.”

    “This is Mirifa, this is Mirifa,” their grandfather, Raita, buzzed in from the other side. “I’m detecting anomalies that weren’t there before. Contaminated blood and several–” The feed abruptly cut off, arousing suspicion from the three.

    “Strange that we’re getting interference this far out,” Hikaru remarked.

    “And it’s concerning,” Hotaru noted, “What did grandpa mean by contaminated blood? I get there are waste fills in the Pacific, but I don’t think it’s that.”

    “I’ll go out and check. You two keep an eye out.” His younger siblings simply nodded in agreement.

    Smokey continued its decline, the friction of the air encompassing the aircraft. Straight ahead was their destination. Lagos Island. For the last few decades, this section of the Pacific was considered a hazard due to heavy exposure to radiation during the Atomic Age. The island, once undoubtedly harbored lush greens and silky white sands, was a dead-man’s land. Brittled trunks and charred bark stood erect, the sands coarse and ashened. Lagos had been devoid of natural life for a long time.

    While radiation proved to be toxic to humans, a Peacelander wouldn’t have much to fear. Their biology was naturally tolerant of high doses of nuclear material, although they could die if they were exposed for too long. In addition, they would still need radiation-cleaning for the safety of their environment and others. So when Hikaru leapt out of Smokey and into what was essentially a contaminated zone, his siblings knew there wasn’t too much to worry about.

    The g-forces pushed against Hikaru’s human shape as he continued to accelerate from free falling to his destined location. While he could easily enter flight mode at any time, he wanted to have a little bit of fun now that time allowed it. Performing a series of gymnastics he would see often on the television during his off-time, Hikaru enjoyed the current of the breaking wind cooling his body from the sweat sustained from the flight here.

    “Really, Hikaru? Really?” Hotaru muttered, softly chuckling at her brother’s antics as she brought Smokey to a slow halt. Outside of her and Akira, there was no one else watching. So why even do it?

    Akira, too, watched with admiration. ‘One day, big brother,’ Akira thought, indulging in his fantasies, ‘I will be the next Zone Fighter.’ However, out of the corner of his eye, he saw something.

    “Big sis, look over there!” Akira pointed in the general direction that he saw this object. Hotaru glanced where Akira was pointing, surveying the clouds. For a second, she didn’t notice it. But it was then that she noticed the object. A silhouette of something… Otherworldly. The even stranger part, she was confident either herself or her older brother would have noticed it first thing.

    Hotaru’s eyes widened. Had her greatest fears come to fruition? Without hesitation, she got a hold of the Zobot to contact their brother regarding the situation. “Zone Fighter, this is Zone Angel, do you copy?” Hotaru shouted, her voice cracking, “We have a reading on something!” Instead of their brother’s voice from the other end of the transceiver, only static greeted their auditory senses.

    “That’s not good…” young Akira muttered, “But it has to be from that UFO! No doubt about it!”

    “I agree. We’ll…” she paused, conjuring a plan in her mind. “We’ll investigate the spaceship, while Fighter scours the island for any clues.” Akira nodded. With that, the two pilots of Smokey veered a course to the object hovering in the cloudy sky.

    *****

    As the free fall closed the gap between him and the land below, Hikaru ceased his flashy airborne spins and flips. Arms outstretched and straightening his body, Hikaru took flight and skillfully settled on the coarse, blackened sand with ease. Ash and salt kicked up from his landing, though Hikaru’s face veil filtered most of the particles. His eyes surveyed the setting. A desolate wasteland, barren and fruitless.

    ‘It’s sad to think humans are capable of such destruction.’ He released a heavy sigh. ‘So many races have fallen into the trap of self-centeredness and waste, and it seems the Earth created monsters in response to these dangers. But they’re also capable of accomplishing great things. That cannot be denied–nor forgotten.’

    Before venturing in for clues, Hikaru twisted his head to observe the shrouded Smokey. While the camouflage rendered it invisible to the untrained eye, Hikaru’s sharp senses allowed him to see the vessel taking flight. But toward what? Before he could do anything, he heard something directly behind him. Swiftly turning around, he saw a massive figure rise from the ocean depths.

    “That answers that, I suppose,” he retorted to himself, dashing inland to avoid the wake of the strange beast.

    The waters churned as the first piece of the mammoth monster made itself known. A golden, snake-like head whipped out of the shallow ocean, glistening with water and shining in the presence of the few strands of sunlight breaking through the gray clouds. Its deep red eyes fixed on Hikaru’s tiny form with awareness. Massive water droplets, with the size akin to boulders, rained down from the dragon’s serpentine neck. Hikaru reflexively doged each and every one, sans the water globules from the exploding boulder-sized droplets. He needed to put space between him and the kaiju, and fast. Transforming too close to the enemy and they could easily take advantage of his brief vulnerable state post-transformation. Putting mild distance between them would help him observe the enemy in case of any surprise attacks and give him time to react accordingly.

    Hikaru outstretched his hands and took flight, then twisting his head he saw that wasn’t the full creature he witnessed. Two more identical heads with long necks shimmered in the light as the shores tore apart from the dragon’s gargantuan wings rising up. Cascades poured off of the golden dragon’s body as Hikaru recognized its shape.

    “King Ghidorah…” Hikaru quietly muttered. He recalled reading about this one when he and his family were conducting their research in human history. Though it was strange, as the terrible monstrosity he saw right in front of him differed from the photographic evidence provided by various news articles. Maybe an immature member of the same species? He wasn’t sure. Even as Hikaru found himself deeper inland, Ghidorah’s shadow gradually caught up with him as the terrifying ziz stood completely upright, letting all the loose water roll down his scaly hide. Ghidorah flexed his wings, outstretching them to the point where they blotted out the sun’s rays. Truly, a horrifying sight to behold, yet so majestic. But Hikaru had no time to admire or fear the monster. He had no choice, he had to fight.

    “Here goes nothing.” Hikaru turned around and made another perfect landing on the charred surface. The split-second he could get his footing, Hikaru knelt on one knee and brought his hands in front of him. He closed his hands, only leaving his index and middle fingers out as they pressed together. He brought both of his hands up, with the fingers directing all the needed energy into his helmet’s protrusion.

    “Zone, Double, Fight!” Immediately, a swath of light enveloped the young warrior. Not even a second passed as he grew at an exponential rate. The light deformed his body, altering it to be fit for this new form. Bigger and bigger he became until the light reached a size suitable for his gargantuan humanoid body-type. As the light dissipated, the gigantic humanoid only met roughly at Ghidorah’s neck bases, where the necks joined with the main body. Adorned by silver and blue patterns with jagged red streaks and a waist-belt with a blue light, it was time for Hikaru to show off the power of the Zone’s heritage and legacy: Zone Fighter!

    Six eyes glared at the new arrival. They held no disdain, anger or fear of the humanoid, but for Ghidorah, his thoughts didn’t matter anymore. His mind was now a prison within his own body. The humanoid was a threat, as his masters dictated. It was not his choice to choose to fight or flee and there was no room for backing down or disobeying their commands. In the end, Ghidorah held no choice, he had to fight.

    Ghidorah initiated the conflict when the maw of his central head generated concentrated energy. Within seconds, a wild burst of electric light crackled through the air, but Zone Fighter was quick to evade the first bolt. The other two heads followed suit, putting the massive humanoid’s athletic abilities to the test. The Gravity Beams carved the surrounding earth, exploding with sparks and chunks of flying boulders. For as impressive as a feat it was evading Ghidorah’s bolts, nothing could last forever.

    Gravity Beams soon found their mark, pounding against Zone Fighter’s massive figure. Sparks erupted from his body, scattering across the ruined Lagos Island. As Zone fumbled to get back to his feet, Ghidorah continued to press the assault without hesitation or mercy, knocking the champion of justice around as Ghidorah took several steps forward. Within the brief interval that his body wasn’t being bombarded by Gravity Beams, Zone Fighter generated energy in his hands and brought them together. Curving outward and bringing his hands down, Zone created a flat barrier reminiscent to that of a medieval knight’s shield. And just in the nick of time as the Gravity Beams struck against the pink energized shield. The Meteor Reflection Barrier, rather than dispersing the energy, took in the kinetic force of the beams and bounced them right back at King Ghidorah!

    The golden dragon shrillishly cackled, feeling the wrath of his own beams and ceased firing. He needed to adopt a different tactic, and so he did. Flapping his enormous wings, Ghidorah shook off all the leftover moisture and propelled into flight, heading straight for the Zone hero. With enough time passed to recuperate, the meteor man leapt back and allowed the energy to flow through his body. As King Ghidorah shattered the Meteor Reflection Barrier with his incredible mass, Zone Fighter charged his body with a burst of light and vibration as he made a mad-dash to meet the terrible beast head-on.

    Literally flying across the ground with his Meteor Jet ability, Zone and Ghidorah collided against each other in a massive shockwave, with the heroic fighter planting a firm Meteor Punch directly into Ghidorah’s chest cavity. Despite the golden creature’s incredible weight, thick scales, and pure muscle mass, the jet-like velocity combined with the powerful punch was enough to hurl the gargantuan hydra into the charcoal terrain on his back.

    Zone Fighter took advantage of this by leaping on top of the fallen dragon, throwing a series of quick and successive hooks and punches that broke through the sound barrier with each strike. Each of Ghidorah’s heads were on the receiving end of the relentless onslaught, with none of them given the time to retaliate due to the massive concussions inflicted on them. As each of the heads went limp from unconsciousness, Zone Fighter planted his knee directly on the middle head’s trachea with light charging on his right hand. His last Meteor Punch should do the trick. Zone Fighter screamed as he brought his fist down, but alas it was not meant to be.

    Even on the brink of unconsciousness, Ghidorah’s left head powered through the concussion and clamped his dagger-like teeth into the descending arm. Ghidorah pumped the arm full of his own energy as sparks and lightning flew off of the bite wound. Reeling from the pain, Zone Fighter cried out and backed off. The head limply released its grip, unable to hold out any longer.

    The alien warrior inspected the wound he received, still feeling the aftershock coursing through his arm and shoulder. Simultaneously, he observed the unconscious Ghidorah, wondering exactly how much time he had to spare. Unfortunately for him, it wasn’t as long as he hoped for. Even after suffering a series of concussive blows that would have rendered any other monster or Terror-Beast immobile, Ghidorah proved to be nothing short of stubborn. Even if this wasn’t the demon of the galaxy, this lesser Ghidorah was every bit as worthy to be called one. Dizzy and disoriented, King Ghidorah recovered from his unconscious state with his heads writhing on the ground. It looked like Zone was going to have to pull out the big guns.

    “Meteor Missile Might!” Zone Fighter shouted aloud, with his arms crossed over his chest. In a flash of light, each of his wrists were strapped with gauntlets, ready to open fire on the recovering Ghidorah. Now he would prove to the three-headed imposter his true might!

    *****

    Smokey crept in close to the stationary aircraft, hidden in their own artificial cloud. This saucer was unlike anything the humans had on record; it wasn’t Xilien nor Nebulan in nature, it wasn’t even of Garoga influence. What was clear in the minds of Hotaru and Akira Sakimori was that these guys, whoever they might be, were up to no good.

    “How are we going to get in?” Akira questioned. The unfortunate part in Hotaru’s mind was that it was a legitimate query. She hadn’t quite figured that out herself. Since the saucer hadn’t moved since they arrived, it was a safe assumption that they hadn’t been spotted. The crazy idea crossed her mind to just use Smokey to engage it in a dogfight, but she wasn’t sure if such a rash decision would be a wise thing to do. They had to be a threat, but the extent of their capabilities were unknown. A stealth-based tactical approach would have to do, at the very least, to get a better understanding of who or what they were up against.

    As Smokey closed in, hovering beneath the bizarre aircraft, Hotaru observed a pair of elevator-like doors protruding from the underside. “There,” she remarked, “I think we have our ticket into whatever this thing is.” She tapped on the control board, activating Smokey’s auto-pilot and kept it temporarily parked under the saucer.

    “Sis, look!” Akira exclaimed, pointing out of the cockpit window. Hotaru decided to glance out the window herself to see what exactly piqued his interest. From their vantage point, they could see Lagos Island and the unfolding battle happening before their very eyes. Their elder brother, Zone Fighter, locked in combat with a familiar figure recorded in human history as King Ghidorah, each hurling Gravity Beams and Meteor Missiles at each other.

    “Wh-what is this? King Ghidorah?!” Hotaru was indisputably shocked at seeing one of the galaxy’s most infamous threats here. Even before they arrived on Earth, Hotaru always recalled the myth of King Ghidorah as a fearsome destroyer from her youth. An apocalyptic punisher who, as legend has it, was born alongside the universe during its conception.

    “Maybe these, uh… Uh…” Akira struggled finding a good terminology for these visitors.

    “Aliens, Akira. They’re no different than us or the other races, at least to Earth’s inhabitants.” Hotaru stated.

    “Right. I knew that.”

    “Come on, we have to see what’s up. Maybe these visitors have the answers we’re looking for.” She pressed on the button that opened the roof door. It slid open, with Hotaru signaling Akira to follow her. The two siblings flew out of Smokey, with their Zobots in hand, quickly arriving in front of the doors in a matter of seconds. They scanned the surrounding area, surprised to see that there weren’t any cameras present.

    “I don’t see anything,” Hotaru noted, “Let me know if you see any air vents we can use to get in.” Her younger brother nodded. Yet before they could do anything, the doors automatically opened and a swarm of humanoid guards already drew out their advanced pistols.

    “On behalf of the Equal Environment of Earth Union, you are both under arrest for trespassing on government property,” the guard stated robotically, “put your hands behind your head, or we will open fire.”

    Hotaru was stunned. ‘Did they really have cameras already set? Or had they known of our arrival beforehand? What’s the Earth Union? EUGH!’ she winced, venting her mental frustrations. Realizing this, she quickly resumed a stoic expression, praying no one noticed. The unexpected predicament they were in didn’t have room for them to slice through the group of soldiers. Not only were they vastly outnumbered, but the ethical consequences of killing humans didn’t sit well with her.

    ‘At the very least, maybe we can talk with someone to figure out what’s going on here,’ she thought to herself. So she complied with their commands when she put her hands behind her head. “Come on, Junior,” she insisted, addressing Akira by his heroic alias as she hid her Zobot out of sight. He quietly complied, doing much the same, and was quick to do what she asked of him.

    “Good,” the guard was satisfied with their course of actions, “now follow us.”

    *****

    Zone Fighter and King Ghidorah warped the landscape with their onslaught of projectile weapons. They kept their distance from one another, though it was abundantly clear that golden hydra was more of a tank than the meteor man. Ghidorah ceased firing, shifting gears into a defensive stature. Tough membranes that were the wings concealed his body as the dragon tucked his heads within the empty space. Missiles continued flying amok, only to find that those that reached their target were merely deflected by the wings. Even worse, he started walking through it.

    The alien hero was hard pressed to believe that the Meteor Missile Might, one of two weapons he often resorted to as a last ditch effort, was as ineffective as it was. True, he was against a member of the Ghidorah species, so it wouldn’t be a cake walk. Still, it was concerning nonetheless. But now that Ghidorah was wrapped behind his wings, there had to be an exploit Zone Fighter could yield to his advantage. Then he saw what he could do.

    “Meteor Jet!” Zone cried out, summoning his jet-like speeds once more. Coated in a bluish glow, Zone Fighter closed the gap between himself and Ghidorah again. Time which Ghidorah had to prepare. Anchoring his golden trunks into the charcoal earth, the protected hydra pulled the weight of his twin tails, intending to use them as maces. Seeing through Ghidorah’s instinctual plan, Zone used the momentum built up to perform a twirling leap, completely avoiding the mace-like tails. This, in turn, left Ghidorah’s back completely exposed; focusing all the kinetic energy into one leg, Zone Fighter defied the laws of physics and plunged his sole directly into Ghidorah’s spine! Although it wasn’t enough to dislocate a spinal disc, as the scales and muscle absorbed most of the impact, the force was enough to plant Ghidorah into the crust, unable to unfurl his wings in time.

    Using Ghidorah’s back as a springboard, Zone Fighter spaced himself apart as to prepare for his actual finisher. Bringing his forefingers to his forehead antennae, it flashed with a brilliant light. This, in Zone Fighter’s mind, should do the trick.

    “METEOR PROTON BEAM!”

    A sharp blue laser darted out, lancing into Ghidorah’s golden hide with resounding success. An explosion of gold sparkles and red blood gushed from the wound, eliciting an animalistic cry from the three headed monster. For one reason or another, hearing Ghidorah scream struck a chord with Hikaru. It obviously wasn’t the first time he heard monsters cry out; plenty of the Terror-Beasts were more than capable of imitating pain, though that was only a survival mechanism implanted by the Garogas, as to avoid destruction. It wasn’t like they had the capacity for empathy. Even the Ghidorah known to Earth was nothing short of an engine of destruction, only screaming in wrathful fury when in pain. But this was different… Concerningly different. But Zone had a duty and an objective. This was a Ghidorah, and it had to be stopped.

    No matter the cost.

    Ghidorah’s scales and muscle mass buffered enough of the Proton Beam so as not to completely eradicate his spinal cord. Nevertheless, it was going to be painful to move around. Using his wings and legs as support like that of a quadruped, Ghidorah regained his footing and hissed at Zone Fighter.

    “Huh, I didn’t expect those wings to be so elastic,” he noted to himself. He glanced at the belt around his waist, noticing the blue hue shift into a concerning yellow. ‘The sooner, the better.’ The hero readied for round two until his ears began to buzz with static….

    *****

    A few moments earlier…

    Hotaru and Akira found themselves surrounded by human-like guards and encased in the confinement of this mysterious vessel. The interior wasn’t at all what Hotaru would have expected. It had a strange retro-sci-fi vibe… But she assumed there was more going on under the surface than she could comprehend. Even their rifles were akin to human engineered weapons compared to the other known races.

    They continued walking down the corridor in relative silence until they reached what Hotaru only assumed to be the main quarters of whoever these visitors were. The sliding doors opened, granting them access to the control room. With it, came many indecipherable screens, numerous other guards, and at the center were two distinctive figureheads who differed from everyone else.

    “Sir, we’ve detained the Peacelanders as you instructed,” the M10 guard stated. Hotaru and Akira were aghast at what they just heard, but didn’t utter a single word.

    One of the two Caucasian men, adorned in a business suit with graying hair, dismissed them with a wave. Immediately, all but one scattered and returned to their original stations. The one who remained, caucasian as well with short golden hair, stared at them with a smile which emitted a cold chill down Akira’s spine.

    “Who are you people and what are you doing here?” Hotaru demanded, in need of answers.

    “My my, direct and to the point, aren’t we?” the civil man responded before he began to walk toward his guests. “I am Chuck-”

    A crack emitted beneath Wilson’s foot stopping the man in his tracks. As he raised his right foot, blood, guts and other fluids of a small crab lay at the bottom of his sole. A look of distaste from the blue fluids took hold of Chuck before he wiped his sole against untainted ground.

    “Apologies, we were on the island a few moments ago and it seems the wildlife grew attached to our ship. I’m Chuck Wilson, and this is my associate, Glen Chico.” Glen Chico, the other man with red receding hair, offered his formalities. Unknowing of how to properly react to all this, the children bowed as a reluctant greeting. “We are here on behalf of the Earth Union,” Wilson continued, “collecting an experiment that will benefit all mankind.”

    “Don’t you mean the United Nations?” Akira questioned.

    “No,” Wilson corrected, “not in the least. Besides, I need some answers from you two. Exactly what it is you’re doing here?”

    “That’s none of your concern!” Hotaru snapped.

    “That so? Because if I recall not one second ago, I stated what our business was here. Equivalent exchange, I’m sure you understand.”

    Hotaru sighed. “We received reports about shipwrecks near here. So we were investigating… I guess these are also part of your ‘mankind saving’ experiments? Using a monster to kill innocent people?”

    Glen Chico’s eyes widened in confusion. “I’m not sure what you mean.”

    “The golden dragon thingy,” Akira intervened, “the creature that’s fighting our brother!” Hotaru motioned for him to zip it, but the damage had already been dealt. Akira gestured an apology.

    “I assure you, we and our Ghidorah have not done any harm since we arrived in this time-” Chico mistakenly commented merely to glance at Wilson who simply rolled his shoulders.

    ‘Wait, ‘our’ Ghidorah?’ Hotaru thought to herself, ‘How did they make their own Ghidorah?’

    “There is no harm in explaining Glen. Would it really change anything?”

    “You’re not of this time, are you?” Hotaru inquired as all the pieces in her mind began to form a single thought.

    “Very absurvent. Yes, we are from the 23rd century. The Ghidorah below is something of our own creation and we know all of you from records of our time describing your feats. The worship of heros continues even to our own time.”

    With a mere flick of Glen’s wrist, screen doors slid open to reveal multiple hi-tech projector screens. On them were surveillance footage of Zone Fighter, Ghidorah, the island, and its surroundings. Hotaru observed closely and realized all of these differentiating angles were impossible for standard drones to even observe, almost like a film.

    “If everything is going like you said it is, then make him stop fighting!” Akira demanded sternly, “We don’t want to fight you!”

    “Of course,” Wilson stated aloud, “so long as you tell Zone Fighter to do the same with your… Zobots if I recall our records correctly. They should work now as our communications were blocking your own.”

    *****

    Golden light gleamed within the dragon’s jaws, rippling the air from its heat, but the act did little to scare the mighty hero standing valiantly against the dragon’s onslaught. In preparation, Zone Fighter planted his feet deep within the ground and channeled energy to his fingers. ‘Come on, let’s see how you like a second round of the Reflection-Barrier.’

    Before either enacted their strategies, King Ghidorah’s light began to fade. Fury-filled eyes of King Ghidorah dulled to passive stares. The three heads turned their attention away from Zone Fighter, appearing to chat amongst themselves in complete obliviousness of his opponent. The buzzing in Zone Fighter’s ears gradually morphed into a familiar female voice, drawing his attention briefly away from his opponent’s strange activity.

    “Brother, please stop fighting Ghidorah. He will not attack as long as you don’t!”

    An unrecognizable gasp echoed from Zone Fighter whose fists tightened with concern. ‘Stop fighting? Hotaru, what are you thinking? It’ll bring destruction and terror to everyone and everything!’

    Zone Fighter kept his hands raised in a fighting stance. ‘No way I can let this thing live. I’ll need to end it now while it’s passiv-’

    An eerie bioluminescent light attracted Zone Fighter’s focused gaze away from his foe to the nearby waters. Whatever glowed, it was large in size and just beneath the coastal waters. Believing this to be the moment of betrayal, Zone Fighter switched his attention to Ghidorah, his fists sparking with energy for a Meteor Slice, merely to see the dragon equally focused on the light. Zone turned away, unsure of his next action only to see more lights in the ocean. He counted… One… Two…

    …then the ocean emitted an overwhelming light as far as the horizon stretched.

    *****

    “See, all friends here. Now, if you all wish to return to Smokey, we will be taking King Ghidorah back to our own timeline,” Glen enthusiastically explained to the pair.

    “Hold up a sec!” Akira stated with his arms raised. “Why do you have a Ghidorah here in the first place? Equivalent change and all that!”

    The enthusiasm seeped away from Glen who looked to Wilson for guidance merely to see his superior now staring at his hands with a look of unrivaled curiosity. Glen’s left eyebrow raised in uncertain concern, but with a shake of his head, he focused on more pressing matters. Deciding it best to answer, Glen began to walk over to the pair.

    “Godzilla in our time has gone on to destroy Japan completely, so we created a new King Ghidorah to combat him. We first arrived in 1992, but… we realized quite quickly the great machine we built traverses not only time, but space as we found a past unlike what we knew. A world in war, in ruin and overrun with-”

    Glen stopped his movement and shivered a moment in disgust and terror. “After the discovery, a few of our team stayed behind in that time while we dropped off our creation in your timeline’s 1944. Now, we’ve returned this year to retrieve our Ghidorah. Once he is safe, we’ll ensure our M10s will escort you-”

    An energy blast tore through Glen’s skull like paper leaving a headless corpse to fall onto the floor. Nearby computers exploded from the energy shot sending sparks showering across half the room. Miniature explosions from electric circuits took hold of the control room as monitors sparked uncontrollably while the perpreator formed a smile as he retracted his smoking weapon.

    “How… interesting,” Chuck Wilson commented as he looked at the gun, admiring it with intrigued, wide eyes. Before he could do anything further, a long kick from Hotaru struck him across the side sending him ragdolling across the room. Sickening pops reverberated from the human before he came to a stop, his body twisted and mangled.

    Hotaru stood over the broken man, her right arm outstretched so Akira would not see the state of the madman beneath her. “You… you killed your friend!”

    Wilson’s head turned beyond any normal limit, breaking cartilage as he gazed up at Hotaru. “To this body, he may have been a friend but to me-” Blue ooze began to glisten from the multiple wounds covering the Futurian’s body, “-he is nothing more than inferior. For I am all things. I am Yog.”

    “You’re a parasite.”

    Wilson’s eyes shifted their gaze to the flickering screens above Hotaru. “Oh, I am far greater and soon-” Hotaru looked at the screen, revealing Ghidorah, Zone Fighter, and an army of new monsters arising from the surf, “after I infect those two, I’ll be unstoppable.”

    Wilson’s body fell limp while a blue substance oozed from his dead jaws. An audible sound of disgust filled Hotaru’s closed mouth, but before she could utter a word, the room around her began to tremble. Sparking computers morphed into a swelling blaze, quickly enveloping half the room in its wake. A small hand yanked Hotaru out of her stunned state and forced the young woman to run while the fires rapidly spread.

    “Come on sis!” Akira yelled as he directed her to the door which they arrived through. Upon passing the door, Hotaru stopped in her tracks and glanced back to the massive screen showing the horror gradually unfolding beneath them. Fires glistened beneath the live feed, mirroring the racing of Hotaru’s mind. ‘Maybe Hikaru won’t have to fight this horde alone…’

    *****

    From the surf they arose in mass from their master’s order. Mere cuttlefish in origin, the squids now were mutated to monstrous size from the interstellar being coursing through their veins. Gezora, the Yog hive mind nicknamed these creatures. Tentacles dragged across the sand, gradually depriving it of all material until nothing but course rock remained. Greed filled the eyes of Gezora’s cold gaze inland to Zone Fighter, the hive mind urging the cuttlefish to restrain the humanoid so he too could join their collective. For with the warrior’s power and the dragon’s might, they could become more than just a meager army.

    The world would tremble beneath the might of Yog.

    Zone Fighter felt an iota of fear course down his spine from the horde which spanned the horizon. ‘Wait… so did these… are these what Father and Mother detected?’

    A ping in Hikaru’s ear snapped him out of his fear merely to hear the sound of running and harsh breathing.

    “Brother, can you protect Ghidorah?”

    “Wait, what? Hotaru?” Hikaru responded in surprise. “There are new creatures, a horde of…”

    “It’s a parasite!” Hotaru snapped in response. “They can control living beings and want to add you to its collection with Ghidorah.

    Zone Fighter’s gaze locked on Ghidorah’s fallen form, sparks cascading down his left arm. Aiming methodically for its necks, the warrior’s left arm raised, ready to unleash a ray which would end the immobbile creature. “If I kill Ghidorah, that won’t be a problem.”

    “There are too many!” Hotaru yelled, causing Hikaru to wince. “Besides, we need to stop the Yog here. If we let them escape, the parasite could spread. Hold them off and we’ll control Ghidorah from our ship?”

    “We will?” Akira’s voice skeptically inquired.

    “It’s the only way,” Hotaru assured.

    Zone Fighter refocused his attention on the horde of cephalopods and with renewed determination, he felt the fear which momentarily froze him vanish. Small steps evolved into a resolute sprint toward the incoming swarm and as he approached the hundreds of Gezora racing toward him, Hikaru uttered no words in response to his siblings, for they already possessed his trust and respect. All he needed to do, as always, was face the impossible. A mission Hikaru accepted without question as he launched a fist into the mass of flesh.

    The warrior’s hand tore through Gezora’s flesh like tinfoil, taking Hikaru by surprise as his hand punched through the back of squid’s head. Azure blood sprayed from the wound, red eyes rolled back into the creature’s body and with a thud, one Gezora lay dead in the shadow of Zone Fighter. The tremble of the earth from the remaining hundreds kept Hikaru’s first victory muted.

    An all encompassing screech of anger let loose from the horde of Yog, tentacles surging toward Hikaru’s body as the full swarm reached his position. The slimy appendages grasped nothing but recently vacant air as Zone Fighter rolled under the tentacles and reached safe ground. Outstretching his own arm, the hero of justice grasped a number of tentacles and pulled. A Gezora flung forth toward the hero who swung his right leg into the parasite infested creature, launching brain matter onto its kin as the leg ripped through blue flesh.

    ‘Can’t keep killing them single file like this. Time I jumped in.’

    With a determined yell, Zone Fighter launched himself into the air, evading a fresh wave of tentacles. His arms outstretched and flying at full speed, the horde watched the warrior perform an aerial loop before Zone Fighter flew parallel to the ground and like an arrow flying through the air, tore through all in his way, leaving a trail of dead or dying Gezora in his wake. Feeling his momentum slowing, the alien warrior tilted back up toward the open sky merely for tentacles to ensnare his legs. Whipping the hero back to the ground, Zone Fighter collided with the recently dead, creating a cloud of dust and azure blood.

    The horde of hundreds descended upon the fallen warrior, encircling him from every direction, but Zone Fighter refused to suffer such a grim fate on his back. Jumping to his feet in an instant, Zone Fighter demonstrated his defiance with overwhelming strength. His right fist cleaved the entirety of a single Gezora’s face off. Blood sprayed upon three squids who angrily charged forth, waving their slimy appendages in an act of intimidation. A spin kick plowed the trio of cephalopods to the blood stained dirt while a single elbow strike upon a squid behind the warrior ruptured its eye and sent it screeching backward in anguish.

    Even as the dead began to pile up, Zone Fighter felt no relief. The horde which encompassed him showed no sign of ending, no sign of stopping and their icy grip seemed ever tighter with every passing moment. Then, in unison, the swarm launched itself toward the hero from every direction. Tentacles constricted Zone Fighter while bodies buried him in a growing, monstrous mass.

    A few Gezora, scattered across the charred landscape, stood ominously as they watched their kin throw themselves upon the warrior. Inside their bodies, the unified Yog hivemind relished the sight and awaited the inevitable. The frigid bodies of Gezora would make resistance impossible, even for the powerful Zone Fighter, and soon he would become nothing more than another vessel. A new, unbeatable-

    The pile of Gezora atop Zone Fighter vanished in a monumental explosion and fire ballooned into the heavens. Within the blaze, a humanoid shadow arose with silver bracelets upon its outstretched arms and as the fires gradually died, Zone Fighter stood triumphant, bathed in the blood of Yog. Charred flesh crashed upon the earth like rain, a deathly gaze emanated from Zone Fighter and the bracelets upon his wrists clinked as they reloaded another volley for imminent fire. The horde of Gezora, or specifically the Yog’s hopes of a quick addition to its army vanished as Zone Fighter lifted his arms and screamed in defiance, “Meteor Missile Might!”

    King Ghidorah remained still on the warm, rocky terrain it lay upon. With no orders, it could not move any part of its body and so, like a prisoner within a cell, it remained stagnant, watching the horde of squids be shredded in a spectacular volley of explosive firepower.

    Why was the battle occurring? What were these new creatures? Simple questions like these entered the dragon’s mind, yet were disregarded with little care. For the only question the dragon truly desired to be answered, was when would shatter the submissive chains which bound him? When would it be free once again?

    *****

    Hotaru and Akira felt the ship listing beneath their feet as they dashed down flickering hallways. Sliding, metallic doors became nothing more than a blur to the pair as their eyes eagerly awaited for one particular entryway. Yet as distant detonations reverberated through the deteriorating vessel both knew their time of escape was fading. The groan of metal followed another tilt of the ship, turning the floor’s twenty degree angle to a thirty degrees.

    “How much farther!” Akira whined.

    “Not too much, just keep running!” Hotaru retorted through harsh breaths.

    The flickering lights surged with power and faded, acting as a precursor to the ship listing another five degrees.

    “We’re almost running on the wal-”

    “There!” Hotaru shouted in relief as the pair turned a corner. “Get behind me Akira!”

    The confused eyes of Akira snapped to her sister. “Wait, what do you mean?”

    From outside the Futurian vessel, metallic doors burst open and began a long descent to the land below. Hotaru, her shoulders extended so she could ram through the door, morphed into a suitable flight orientation as she flew toward the Zone family aircraft. Right behind her, Akira floated forth with his arms slouched, relief dripping from his expression.

    “That-that was close. I wonder how much time we had le-” Akira’s eyes widened in terror as he looked back to see the air which once housed the Futurian ship now vacant. An explosion of metal far below made the child forcibly laugh to himself as he entered Smokey with a vacant stare, ignoring his sister who scrambled onto the smokey’s communications.

    “Land Supi to Mirifa, this is Zone Angel. Do you read?” Hotaru urgently shouted. ‘Please let the interference be gone.’

    The line remained ominously silent until a familiar voice soon came to life, bringing great relief to Hotaru. “I am dear. What’s wrong?”

    ‘Yes! Now the hard part.’

    “Mother, we need grandfather’s help to save Hikaru. Can you reach him?”

    “Already here,” Raita Sakimori assured over the Zobot communication line. “When you three didn’t check in, your mother reached out to me in the lab. What do you need?”

    “Can you hack King Ghidorah?” Akira enthusiastically inquired.

    “Excuse me?” Raita replied while Hotaru sighed, clutching her forehead. “It’s a long story.”

    *****

    Standing over charred, dismembered pieces of at least a hundred Gezoras, Zone Fighter took a moment to catch his breath. A few battered and bloody Gezora still walked across the landscape to attack, some peeling themselves off the blood soaked land, but a single well placed strike ended their existence. ‘Timer’s red, but at least I cleared most of them. Maybe I won’t need King Ghidorah’s help after-’ Hikaru snapped his attention to where the dragon lay stagnant merely to see in the opposing horizon a far larger horde of creatures composed not only of Gezora, but two new creatures.

    The hivemind, once enraged, now grew arrogant with the unveiling of its full might and the deployment of its newest creations. With red eyes which extended from an exoskeleton covered body, multi-legged mutated crabs lumbered forward in the midst of its Yog kin. Snapping elongated pincers, the beasts Yog nicknamed Gamines would be a great asset along with the other, reptilian creatures hidden beneath black shells. The massive turtle mutations, or Kamoebas, crawled forth, ready to implement its master’s will without hesitation.

    A furious punch from Zone Fighter floored a nearby Gezora before he burst toward King Ghidorah to intercept the swarm. ‘Were all squids just a distraction? An easy win so I wouldn’t notice the main threat? Hopefully these new creatures are just as easy to kill.’

    Running at full speed, Zone Fighter jumped into the air and retracted his legs, soaring over King Ghidorah whose eyes watched him with intrigue. Touching down at the edge of the hydra’s wing, Zone Fighter rushed only a hundred meters more until he came face to face with the forward forces of the horde or specifically a lone Ganimes. A kick fueled with Zone Fighter’s momentum struck the crab’s abdomen, violently cracking the exoskeleton, while the mutation’s right claw sliced across the warrior body. Blood leaked from both wounds, yet each combatant showed little sign of giving in as they charged at each other.

    Zone Fighter ducked under Gamines’ swipe and moved beside the crab, unleashing two mighty blows upon its exoskeleton. Each fractured the protective shell, causing blue blood to leak, yet the crab showed no signs of slowing when it swiped at Zone Fighter again. ‘Alright, it’s far tougher but I can’t get caught up on this thing. I need a weak point!’ Spinning under the swipe, Zone Fighter swung his right leg outward and retracted it in, burying Gamines’ head into its own body with the heel of his foot. ‘And, found. Now…’ Zone Fighter spotted a nearby Kamoebas to practice on prior to the main swarm’s arrival. ‘Let’s see how strong you are!’

    Zone Fighter dashed forth, taking the turtle by surprise from the humanoid’s speed. Retracting his right arm backward, the warrior launched it with all the strength he could muster at the beast’s shell causing a sickening snap to echo. The sound of two bones breaking in Zone Fighter’s right hand. A monothlitic yell escaped Hikaru lips as he clutched his hand and from his pain, Kamobas found an opening and clamped its maw around the warrior’s left thigh. Hammer like blows struck the top of the turtle’s head in a desperate effort, but Kamoebas refused to let go. Infuriated, Zone Fighter clutched the terrapin’s skull and forced its thumbs into the creature’s eye sockets, impaling brain matter. A weekend howl echoed the turtle’s jaws before it finally vanquished its grasp, allowing Zone Fighter to stagger away from the dead creature.

    ‘Even tougher… great!’ As the ground began to tremble, Hikaru took a fighting stance and summoned latent energy to his arms. King Ghidorah would not fall into the parasite’s realm of control, not as long as he drew breath.
    .
    *****

    “We have an issue,” Raita’s voice echoed within the cockpit of Smokey. “We can’t remotely control King Ghidorah.”

    Hotoru and Akira looked to one another in panic. “What!” they yelled in unison before Akira proclaimed, “But, you gotta!”

    “Huh well these, Futurians you called them? They’re tech is impressive for humans. They used a high pitched frequency to send orders and another to enforce their demands. This second signal was their key. I can imitate the first frequency, but the second alludes me. Their key alludes me…”

    “So we can’t help Hikaru,” Hotaru worryingly questioned.

    A tired, old breath coupled with static echoed in the call. “No, we can. Using Smokey, I can send out a signal to break the lock on Ghidorah.”

    “So basically we free him and have to ask him nicely?” Akira remarked with dread. “Maybe brother doesn’t need help?”

    Hotaru nervously pulled up optical sensors within the command center of Smokey to assess the situation. A live visual feed of Zone Fighter’s position appeared revealing the warrior desperately fighting a literal sea of flesh and his timer now glowing a dire red.

    Hotaru, filled with concern, dug her gloved fingers into the control panel. ‘Brother, just hold on a little longer.’

    *****

    “Meteor Slice Chop!” Surging crimson energy from his fingertips, Zone Fighter thrust both his arms out, each angled to perform optimally. Arrow-shaped blasts sliced through the air, shredding through the limbs of the Gezoras like paper. Even the Ganimes caught in the crossfire were susceptible to the energized cutters, disarming the mutated crustaceans in the process. The Kamoebas, however, proved durable enough to withstand it, though it did chip their reinforced armor.

    ‘No matter how much it takes, we must fight!’ A Ganime rushed up to him, the meteor man shifted combat styles and plunged his fist into the disgusting visage of the cretin. Its eyestalks and mandibles caved in from the tremendous force of the impact, the ensuing kinetic energy flinging the dead crab away from him. Even so, a quick glance to his belt buckle was already cause for concern. ‘It’s still red. I have to let them know.’

    His compound eyes scanned what was in front of him, prepared to take down the next Yog spawn. However, unbeknownst to him, his Achilles’ heel shot with a sudden, sharp pain. With a twist of his head, Zone Fighter saw the dark shelled terrapin gnawing at the back of his foot. Before he could prepare another Meteor Slice to do the deed, he was suddenly jumped by a pair of Ganimes’, one of which was an unusual white color. Using his strength, he wrestled with the shelled triad, but found himself slowly overwhelmed.

    From the eyes in the sky, the pilots of Smokey came swooping down. “Zone Fighter, this is Angel, we’re coming in!” Hotaru glanced at Akira, and they both nodded. Fighter was in imminent danger, and he needed the help he could get.

    “Meteor Proton Beam!” the siblings shouted in unison as Hotaru pressed down on the joystick’s buttons. From the frontal nose of the alien craft, a searing blue laser washed over the aquatic marauders, eviscerating the brown Ganimes and carving off a piece of the Kamoebas’ face in the process. Freed from their grip, Zone Fighter hurled the white Ganimes to the side and, in an act that mirrored his siblings, brought his fingers to his antenna.

    “Meteor Proton Beam!” From the red-tip of his forehead protrusion, a bluish beam struck the albino crustacean and promptly ignited in a glaring fireball, even if it was far from the end of it. However, there was still a chance, so long as they could pull it off.

    “Akira, prepare for Zone Marker replacement!” Without missing a beat, Akira’s fingers prepared for the ol’ switcheroo. From Smokey’s belly, the red-tipped cap lowered into the outside world. “We only have one shot at this,” Hotaru added. “We have to be within 90 meters of Fighter, otherwise it won’t lock on.”

    Suddenly, the cockpit rocked violently. “What’s going on?” Hotaru’s eyes furiously scanned her surroundings until she noticed the source of their predicament. For a moment, she thought she had hit some terrible turbulence so low–but the reality was everso more unsettling. From the ground, many of the Ganimes reared their heads back and spat volleys of coalesced seafoam from their mandibles. While such a feat would be nigh useless against their brother or the mighty Ghidorah, the force of it was still enough to crush humans into paste. Or in this instance, bend metal.

    One of the watery spitballs thwacked on the nose cone, warping the metal and displacing their aerial momentum. “We lost the laser cannon!” Akira bluntly shouted, “We need to pull up!”

    “Hang in there,” Hotaru muttered under her breath, eyes laser focused on her brother, who was starting to lose balance from loss of Proton power. “Now!” Simultaneously, they cried aloud, “Zone Marker Change!” and fired the cap directly at the meteor man. The expired cap adorned on his head fell as the new one came in its place. He could feel the Proton power course through his giant form, the belt shifting from red to blue in an instant.

    Energized and prepped, Fighter gave a simple thumbs up. If nothing else, it delayed the worst of it–provided this ongoing war would ever come to an end… As Smokey was forced to retreat into the artificial clouds of its own creation, Zone Fighter saw a shift in behavior from the unusual lifeforms.

    “Wait… Are they….” Before he could complete his train of thought, he saw the others of the Yog-spawn divert their attention directly to the other target: King Ghidorah.

    “Oh no you don’t!” The meteor man boldly proclaimed, whipping out his Meteor Missiles Might bracelets into action. A flurry of missile fire erupted around them, temporarily halting the mad fiends in their place, if not outright destroying them in the process. Leaping to the air, the renewed Zone Fighter landed directly in front of the mass horde, eager eyes desiring to add them to their army.

    ‘As much as I’d hate to admit, I could really use its help right about now,’ he silently confessed in thought, continuing his relentless onslaught.

    If the threat wasn’t stopped here, then the entire world would befall into doom.

    Serpentine slits could only scan the environment around it, unable to act in accordance with its will. These dead shores and the basking sunlight reminded it of a time long since passed. Nostalgic memories flowed into its suspended consciousness… A place it had once called home. A home stolen by the great flames that forged it into the superbeast it now was. For a time, such a feeling granted it freedom, but much like the stasis it was in, was denied by its former masters.

    It saw the humanoid and the amassed army of sea monsters. They converged upon him, and he fought back rigorously. For what? Even if it was against its will, hazy memories recalled their recent bout. This alien man was a fighter and no doubt fought to kill. Was it… It couldn’t. Perhaps as a byproduct of the swarm that befell them, were the alien’s intentions truly altruistic? Unable to control its facial muscles, Ghidorah gawked idly from the lonely coast of its deserted home.

    Then, its eyes snapped violently as a sharp ringing resounded in its consciousnesses.

    A mental lock unhinged, decompressing the pressure that had plagued its brains for so long. For the first time in its existence, feeling returned to its body. Bat-like wings, feet, and tails stirred sporadically, at long last acquiring a body that belonged to it. Pulsating red sparks circulated around its heads, each one emitting their own cries of jubilation.

    As it reoriented itself to its will and control, Ghidorah continued to observe the fight that unfolded before their very eyes. All that transpired turned less and less favorable for the alien warrior. As strong as it was, even this proved to be far too much for them to handle. Ghidorah’s facial muscles contorted into a grin. Perhaps as a means of repaying the favor, the beast came to a decision. Not out of some comradery act of selflessness or righteousness that moved its wild heart.

    No, it was to prove a point of who the strongest really was.

    Hikaru continued to struggle, but a familiar darkness began to creep in from the edges of his sight. Appendages became numb from the multiple tentacles of Gezora which clutched his body. Gurgled sounds escaped the constricted warrior’s throat merely to fall on malicious ears of the horde which surrounded him. A tentacle gradually arose above the endless sea of creatures, dripping animated blue blood which contained the pure essence of Yog.

    The hivemind grew impatient as the torn appendage raised over an open wound on Zone Fighter’s body, waiting for a large droplet of blood to ensure the infection. Regardless of the time it would take or the tenacity of the humanoid, the Yog would grow stronger and soon, no living creature would be able halt the conquest of Earth. All would be Yo-

    A goliath of golden skin crashed in front of Zone Fighter, caving in the head of a Kamoebas and the body of a Gezora. Before the swarm could realize the situation, hurricane force winds blew dozens away while lightning like blasts ignited those too close to Zone Fighter’s body. Creatures burst into flames around the warrior’s body, creating a wall of fire which none of the horde dared cross. For now they faced a new opponent, one free of its chains and ready to unleash the pent up rage it harbored for so long.

    The horde of Yog would fear the wrath of the mighty, the unshackled, King Ghidorah.

    A wary cry echoed from each maw of the dragon and on bat-like wings the hydra ascended into the air. Its flight proved short lived as it crashed down upon the back of a Kamoebas, cracking its sides and flattening the soft flesh with its shell. Blood and organs jettisoned from the holes which the smooshed Kamoebas’ appendages stuck out of and standing proudly on the shell of the creature it killed, Ghidorah unleashed a torrent of gravity beams on all foolish enough to squirm in its shadow.

    The dragon took special interest in the cephalopods, frying them with such precision their fiery corpses littered the battlefield more than any other creature. Ganimes boiled within their shells from the energy blasts, venting steam from their cracking crustaceous exoskeletons; however, unlike their dying Yog infected kin, Kamoebas by the dozens crawled forth under the chaotic barrage. With heads retracted, the mutated sea turtles dragged themselves closer and closer to their attacker, infuriating the dragon.

    King Ghidorah’s three heads ceased their assault. Animalistic sounds barked from each draconic maw to the other on what to do with the persistent reptiles merely for each head to nod in agreement. Turning their six eyed gaze to the nearest Kamoebas, a continuous, triple gravity beam cascaded across the creature. The massive outer shell at first held strong, but its durability quickly faded. Sparks enveloped the Kamoebas while its deathly cry signaled to all its breathren its gruesome death, fires encompassing the fresh corpse.

    A once slow crawl evolved into stampede for the Kamoebas group, shaking the earth with reptilian heels. The sudden burst of speed took King Ghidorah by surprise and from its momentary confusion, three reptilian heads extended forth and clamped their jaws upon golden scales. Wails of anguish cried out from the dragon’s heads before it refocused on Kamoebas clutching its wing. King Ghidorah’s three heads snapped upon the neck of the creature and ripped its maw off his body before swinging it wildly like a club. The other two Kamoebas clutching him retreated to their shells, but the horde around Ghidorah could not hide so easily, allowing the hydra to flatten dozens. As flesh finally tore from the reptile’s neck, the gravely injured Kamoebas which acted as a club flew into the swarm and crushed a lone Gezora beneath its bulk.

    The Yog, its parasitic essence watching behind every set of eyes in the horde, grew furious by the display of sheer power from King Ghidorah. This dragon, imposing its size and strength may be, would succumb to it. It, the Earth, all would eventually be Yog!

    Tired breaths escaped Zone Fighter’s faceplate. The beeping of his color timer kept the alien warrior aware of every precious passing second as his belt flashed red while his mind raced. King Ghidorah’s unequivocal rampage through the mutated army proved an invaluable ally, but he’d grow tired soon, an opening would appear and just like his fight, the dragon would fall. Hundreds still remained and even if most of the creatures were focused on mostly focused on him-

    Rocks rustled behind Zone Fighter’s wary body. A new Gezora, appendages flailing wildly, charged toward Hikaru merely for the warrior to spin and thrust his elongated hand through the cepholopod’s head, right between its eyes. Blue blood spurted around the warrior’s embed arm, the squid’s eyes rolling up until the creature fell plummeted to the charred dirt, dead.

    Another tired breath exited from Hikaru.

    -it wouldn’t last for long.

    ‘Hotaru and Akira only had the one recharge pellet. Even with another, would that be enough?’ Hikaru chuckled at the irony as he remembered his thoughts arriving to the destroyed isle. ‘I need some humans capable of destruction right about…’ Zone Fighter’s eyes widened every so slightly while his gaze shifted to King Ghidorah, watching the dragon burn a Ganimes and a Kamoebas to smoldering corpses with his gravity beams. ‘Or maybe, just one of their creations.’

    Zone Fighter stood tall with renewed confidence, the dire buzzing of his timer ever present, and pressed the Zobot within his right ear. “Hotaru, Akira, do you read?”

    “Brother!” Akira excitedly replied. “Wait, what happened with Ghidorah?”

    “He’s fighting the swarm, why?”

    “He’s not under our control,” Hotaru admitted in a resentful tone. “We can request him to do things, but that is all.”

    “I knew protecting him would make him like-”

    “Akira!” Hikaru interrupted, “Tell Ghidorah to unleash his gravity bolts on me.”

    The communication between the two brothers fell silent, surging with life as Hotaru yelled, “Are you mad?”

    “It’s the only way to end this, please,” Hikaru assuredly pleaded only to continue, “and make sure you tell him not to hold back.”

    With silence returning to Hikaru’s ears, he focused on Ghidorah, awaiting the sign his message went through.

    Four separate sets of pincers launched forward, puncturing Ghidorah’s golden scales. Harrowing cries echoed from all three maws of the dragon until rage forced action. Gravity bolts spewed out in every direction, setting fire to two Gezoras and one Ganimes. Yet even as the trio of creatures perished, seven more took their place, forcing Ghidorah to screech in defiance. The horde retorted with action.

    Tentacles lashed out, entangling the dragon’s left head while Kamoebas’ heads launched out of the horde and grabbed a hold of the right head as well as the hydra’s legs. Pulling from every direction, the sea of mutated creatures struggled to make the golden creature bow, but as their relentless struggle intensified, Ghidorah felt itself inching toward the charred dirt. Realizing it was losing even with its immense strength, golden wings flexed out of the horde and with a mighty swing, launched Ghidorah into the safety of the open sky.

    Kamoebas, too stubborn to release their grips, plummeted like rain upon the mob who looked on with a unified glare of envy. Furious growls echoed from the swarm of Yog-mutated beasts, but Ghidorah cared little for their intimidation display, taking the moment to catch its breath and look upon what remained of the horde. Even after slaughtering so many, staining his golden scales with their blood, an endless swarm of the beasts remained. After the relentless fighting throughout the day, the dragon dreaded the thought of continuing any furth-

    Messages suddenly flooded the hydra’s three minds, orders to fire gravity beams upon the humanoid which protected it, sending Ghidorah into a bout of rage. He would not heed these new directives. It was free, it was… Ghidorah’s heads looked to one another, slowlying grasping it held control over its body. Was this a mistake? If they could ignore the orders, why would he receive them?

    A humanoid bellow rattled the heavens and drew the dragon’s bewildered attention as well as the hundreds of eyes of the yog swarm below it. Upon finding the source, King Ghidorah discovered Zone Fighter standing proudly, its left arm raised high with his right pounding his chest in affirmation. A second, confident yell echoed and as the horde began its charge toward the humanoid, Ghidorah’s three heads formed amused smirks, golden energy glistening within their maws.

    Zone Fighter’s open hands fell to his sides as the sky above him began to glisten a golden glow. Tremors rattled him from the approaching army of Yog, the charred earth beneath his feet fractured from the sheer approaching mass and his timer’s beeping notified him of the few dozen seconds he had left, but all the dire signs failed to sway Hikaru, even as golden bolts discharged toward him from Ghidorah’s maws.

    For what was there to fear? He would not be dying this day.

    “Meteor Reflection Barrier!” Zone Fighter proclaimed for all those that dared fight him.

    A curved shield, composed of hardened light, materialized in front of the warrior and upon its outward facing plate which reflected the silhouette of King Ghidorah, the gravity bolts struck. Lightning like blasts rained down upon the barrier, ringing it like a drum and causing it to become brighter and brighter until a mighty gravity blast descended upon it. The continuous, triple gravity beams flowed like water into the radiating shield, its glow rivaling the sun, and as King Ghidorah finished unleashing his reserves, Zone Fighter reached out and grabbed his creation’s edges.

    Immediately, the fingers of the warrior burned, sizzling from contact with his creation, but Hikaru refused to allow the meager damage to stop him. Hearing the barrier cackling with Ghidorah’s energy, Zone Fighter knew he possessed little time and pulled with every ounce of strength in his possession to reposition the angle of the shield. The ground cracked under Hikaru’s heels, small flames ignited around the warrior’s fingers, and a steady yellow drowned out the stampede toward his position. Gradually, the barrier shifted from a one-hundred and thirty five degree angle to a ninety degree formation, giving Hikaru a small sense of relief as the Yog horde nearly reached his position, their silhouettes reflecting in the barrier of light.

    Watching the Reflection-Barrier cackle with energy, Hikaru couldn’t help but launch his arms outward in defiance. This would be the moment the Yog, and all under its vile control, vanished from his planet!

    “Reflection Barrier: Gravity Maelstrom!”

    As if on cue, the barrier produced a singular gravity bolt of unparalleled size and destructive potential. The single Gezora standing directly in front of the blast vanished in a golden light and after it vaporized, all those behind it followed it into oblivion. The protection of Ganimes’ exoskeleton or Kamoebas’ shell failed to stop the blast and just as quickly as it tore the first Gezora to molecular dust, it cut a blinding hole through the swarm.

    The Yog horde’s charge transitioned into a disorganized frenzy as the beasts moved out of the blast’s way, but Zone Fighter would not allow their escape. Grabbing the shield once more, Zone Fighter pulled with all his might and shifted the barrier’s angle, sweeping the Gravity Maelstrom’s bolt across the landscape. Horrendous screams of hundreds of Yog filled the air, Zone Fighter too screamed in agony as he felt the skin on his fingers sizzle away, but the bolt continued firing until the alien warrior completed a three-hundred and sixty degree turn, his fingers burned to the bone.

    The Reflection-Barrier’s shield fragmented into nothing but droplets of light and with its departure, Zone Fighter collapsed to the charred landscape in exhaustion. The warrior pried his vision off the ash covered ground, watching a dark shadow encompass his sight, before he fell into the pits of unconsciousness.

    The familiar light of day welcomed Hikaru as his consciousness returned. To his left and right, Hotaru and Akira sat respectively, visibly smiling through their facial coverings at the sight of their brother’s awakening. Hotaru fought back tears in her eyes while Akira looked away, crossing his arms and doing his best to obfuscate his joyous sniffling.

    “I knew… you’d be fine,” Akira remarked, stuttering as he found it difficult to speak. As Hikaru’s hand placed itself atop his younger brother’s head, the child’s emotional barrier gave way to a warm hug upon his older brother.

    With one arm clutching his younger brother, Hikaru peeled himself off the ground and swept his gaze past his siblings to what lay beyond. In the distance, monstrous corpses set aflame lay scattered in every direction. The source of their burning showed no interest in hiding its actions as Ghidorah spat gravity bolts, vaporizing what Hikaru could only assume to be the remainder of the mutated swarm.

    A hand rested upon Hikaru’s shoulder, drawing his gaze to Hotaru. “The Yog is gone,” Hotaru affirmed with a confident nod. “Whatever’s left, he’s been burning since we got to you.”

    Hikaru looked back to King Ghidorah, a sense of unease and relief rushing through him greater than any lingering pain he felt. ‘So… what are we going to do with you,’ Hikaru contemplated.

    “So, we keeping him?” Akira remarked, breaking Hikaru and Hotaru’s thoughts as their eyes became wide in shock.
    “Why?!” Hotaru shouted.

    Akira eyes narrowed, his arms crossing once more in apparent disgust. “He saved big brother. We gotta help him out.”

    “It was an alliance of momentary, strategic convenience!” Hotaru snapped only for Akira to tilt his head, drawing a sign from Zone Angel. “It was only temporary.”

    “Ohhhhh, well we still gotta.”

    The rustling of Hikaru staggering upright attracted the squabbling pair to their sibling. Jumping to their feet as well, Hotaru and Akira noticed a confident, familiar smile form beneath Hikaru’s face veil, putting them both at ease.

    “We’re going to help him,” Hikaru affirmed without a trace of doubt in his voice. “And I think I know just the place he can live in peace.”

    *****

    Skull Island – 1973

    Within the chaotic storm walls which swirled around the island’s perimeter, monstrous flora and fauna dotted the archipelago’s landscape under near sunny skies. The ravenous emerald allosaur, Gorosaurus, hunted herds of Sker Buffalo across empty plains merely to see a familiar beast of golden scales descend on the far side of the island. Without hesitation, the beast unleashed a wail to alert all battle capable monsters and most importantly, the island’s king, before he charged toward King Ghidorah.

    Zone Fighter touched down in a sea of lush jungle and rolling hills. A harsh gust of wind blew past him while the ground ferociously quaked from the three-headed dragons landing just a dozen meters behind him. With a simple nod, the hero instructed King Ghidorah to follow, but the shaking of the ground halted any movement. From the jungle, beasts of monstrous size enveloped the pair, encircling every angle of the duo.

    Gorosaurus screeched with frenzy, bearing his serrated teeth in preparation to tear the vile invaders apart. Baragon continuously roared while he knelt low to the ground to pounce on the pair. Black Moth snarled viciously at the unwelcomed party, carving a line in the ground with her talons. The boisterous cry of Maguma acted as a warning. Before the group could lunge, a booming roar echoed, silencing any thought of action within the island’s defenders. All eyes turned to two ape-like creatures which parted the jungle with a flick of their wrists.

    Grey fur coated the larger of the pair who looked on his subjects and intruders with intrigue. King Kong’s primal eyes scanned Zone Fighter and King Ghidorah, weighing his options before the smaller Kong began to growl. The younger beast beat his brown-fur chest in an act of aggression merely for the larger Kong to bat him over the head with the back of his left hand. The undisputed king of Skull Island swiftly returned his gaze, deciding the best course of action.

    As primal eyes gazed into the dragon’s, King Kong noticed no terror or rage emitting from the beast. It seemed… lost.

    With a final grunt in preparation of his order, King Kong roared into the heavens of his decision, deafening even the mighty storm which encircled the island. King Ghidorah, at least this particular creature, could stay in his domain.

    As he finished his commanding bellow, wary eyes of the ape looked to Gorosaurus. The allosaur’s eyes twitched with rage, but gradually, the ancient dinosaur nodded slightly in acceptance giving the old ape a feeling of relief. With no other noticeable discontent, King Kong returned to the jungle with his heir following closely, and soon, the rest of the creatures in tow.

    With trouble avoided, Zone Fighter parted a wary breath and turned to King Ghidorah who looked at the alien hero with a grateful gaze. A mighty shout echoed from Zone Fighter before he launched into the sky, leaving his ally in the safety of the mighty king.

    King Ghidorah, an ally.’ The thought made Hikaru’s head spin as he soared through an endless sea of clouds which glowed under the setting sun. ‘Never thought that was possible, but against the Garoga, against the future the Futurians foresaw… I’ll gladly fight by his side once more.’

    *****

    Pacific Ocean – 1973

    Churning bubbles escaped the air pockets that remained in the submerged MOTHER, drifting ever closer to a watery demise. A state of being to be abandoned by the vision of man, forsaken to die a lonely death. Destiny was a cruel mistress. Fate had forgone the glory promised to it, and all value of conquest and propagation was lost because of it.

    Within the husk of a saucer, Yog persisted in the bitter void of the oceanic trenches. Conjoined to the host’s amygdala, bulged eyes of a desecrated, twisted corpse contracted in deep thought. It scoured the dead man’s mind for additional intel. What it saw, if it uttered the truth, terrified it beyond belief.

    From the eyes of its victim, it only saw the end ad infinitum. To it, this had to be the absolute truth. Yet such knowledge was so limited, even more restrained by the arrogance the deceased had once held near and dear to his shallow heart. The impossible and plausible all existed in equal factions, but only through his eyes did it see the end brought about by the red giant.

    Deep sea pressure contorted the metal framework of the saucer, compressing it like aluminum foil. The Yog remained in the heart of the vessel, clinging to the host for a physical form. Certainly, the Yog’s enhancements allowed the human body to survive depths it normally would be unable to breach. It wasn’t that it couldn’t abandon the body and find another host to parasitically infest. If it chose to, it could phase through the subatomic molecules and resume its mission anew.

    But the realization of the truth–a future where it no longer existed or would leave its mark in the universe–killed the instinctual drive to spread. With this existential knowledge burned into its sentience, could it really live knowing that it would be forgotten to time? Even if a future existed that would be more merciful than the one it saw, the results would be the same nonetheless. For Yog would never leave the lasting impact it had so desired. The fruits it bore would be infertile, for the seduction of the Earth’s worldly pleasures snuffed the life out of it.

    As the Futurian vessel plunged in the abyss, the host curled into a ball and waited for the inevitable. This planet would go on, but it would not. All that was left was itself and its thoughts, with only one solace to all of this.

    There was comfort in isolation.

    Winner: Zone Fighter, King Ghidorah (Heisei)

     

     

    K.W.C. // October 31, 2020
  • Author: Connor Clennell | Banner: Andrew Sudomerski

    The universe was an enormous place. In the 200,000 years that mankind had been around, they had yet to truly grasp the scope of the reality they lived in. Even far older and advanced civilisations struggled to answer such a boggling question. But every year, the knowledge of the universe grew as something new appeared from the infinite blackness of the cosmos, whether it be a new planet or satellite, foreign race, or type of interstellar fauna. In the case of the latter, knowledge was often accompanied by death.

    The galactic network had known for untold decades of beasts such as King Ghidorah and Legion, whose tales of terror had circulated far and wide across the Milky Way. But in recent times, new entities, both organic and artificial but deadly in their own right, had made their presence known. First, it was Bemular. Then Gigan, followed by Goliath, Mechagodzilla, and Orga in the years that came after. At the cusp of the next decade, alien invaders took focus as the major threat to national security over civil wars and terrorist attacks. With such lacking information on the world they lived in, none could anticipate when the next horror of the void would emerge and begin a new age of destruction.

    Crimson wings stretched wide across the empty vacuum, allowing the beast to sail with ease on the solar winds. It had been travelling for weeks now, leaving behind worlds stripped bare of life and resources in its wake. Billions had filled the drooling monstrosity’s belly, yet it still craved more. Its stomach growled soundlessly with unquenchable hunger, demanding sustenance, but there was none to be found so far. The newest solar system to suffer its presence was lacking in flora and fauna, leaving the foreigner more and more ill-tempered with each planet it visited. But the planet coming up looked promising, giving the scarlet intruder a glimmer of hope in finally sating the hunger that consumed it. Continents of green spread across its surface, divided by vast, blue oceans. To Bagorah, it was like an all-you-can-eat buffet. And it would eat everything.

    The alien’s wings folded inward, drawing close to the body as it began to descend through the atmosphere. A cone of heat engulfed the bat’s form as gravity began to take hold, dragging it down and increasing its velocity exponentially with every passing second, but it was no concern to the great beast. It knew that it would survive entry, and begin the feast shortly after.

    Even if the cosmic vampire had sought to make a stealthier arrival, its presence was instantly recognised. Other species of ancient titans dominated the blue planet, sharing a complex and fragile balance over resources and territory, and were none to accept disruption to their harmony from foreign rivals. Near the Kyushu Providence of Fukuoka, Bagorah’s arrival was taken note of for a different reason. Stone and earth that had remained undisturbed for centuries suddenly began to tremble and crack, falling into the depths of the planet as something under the surface stirred back to life. Tremors rocked the region, taking down freeways and office buildings as the quakes reached up to 8.0 on the Richter scale, but the source of them was uninterested in the consequences of its actions. It had hibernated for centuries, awaiting the return of its preferred prey. Although other giants had frequented the providence over the last decades, the forgotten beast had decided not to challenge them, as its once-great strength had faded with time. But the new arrival was promising, and while it was not among the list of creatures the ancient one once hunted, it was desperate enough to try.

    The earth visibly shifted and rose as the awakened titan moved under the crust, burrowing its way toward the most likely site of the invader’s landing. Genetically-wired instincts urged it on, regardless of its depleted resources, but the mission had to be completed. It was the last and only one of their kind left in the world, but soon, many more would be brought into it…

    The burning shape of Bagorah filled the skies over Nagasaki, casting a reddish-orange glow over the crowded, lawless streets. Millions abandoned respect for their fellow man in their desperation to stay alive, but the fact that the crimson xenoform was here proved it was already too late. Before it could make impact, the bat-like thing banked up, allowing the city to feel the ravages of its tail wind. Shards of glass fell like rain as thousands of windows shattered, only to be swept up along with anything loose and thrown across the landscape. As the screams of its prey filled its hypersensitive ears, Bagorah could only purr in delight. Its wings flapped in powerful strokes, bringing the interloper to an instant halt and blowing away the flames that coated it. The surrounding structures were immediately set ablaze, but it was of no concern to the great carnivore. All that mattered was the feast.

    Swooping just above the asphalt, it scooped up thousands into its open maw. So ravenous was its hunger that the chiropteran didn’t even wait to finish its mouthful before dipping its head again and filling its bloody gullet once more. As it went for a third helping, the foreigner stopped. It hovered in place and turned in the other direction, entranced by something in the distance. What it was, the bat had no idea, but it could hear clearly the sounds of the earth itself shifting and crumbling, growing in volume by the second. Its green eyes narrowed and searched for whatever had come. This was its bounty. It would not surrender it.

    Showers of soil erupted from cracks in the tarmac like geysers only yards away from Bagorah. The street started to sink into the ground, with debris erupting into the air just as quickly as it disappeared below the surface. Amongst the chorus of rumbling rock, the vampire caught a deeper sound. At first, it thought that the ground was rising up, but the black, jagged mass that emerged from the pit was most definitively alive. Huge, brawny forearms slammed into the pavement and pushed the colossus out, allowing the sunlight to wash over all of its bizarre form. Nothing else on Earth could compare to the newcomer in anatomy. Features of mammals, reptiles and insects were all present on its body, but there was no relation between any of those species and the ancient thing.

    The new arrival had many names given to its kind over the centuries. Some called it the Dragon Beetle, whose footsteps could shake the earth like thunder. Others cursed it as the Unclean Thing, for it corrupted the world with its essence. The oldest civilisation of all, lost from memory, knew the earthly demon as Jinshin-Mushi. All of these titles had been forgotten, but the modern age had given it a new one, upon discovering its connection to another lost species only recently documented.

    MUTO Prime.

    The hunchbacked creature let out a low shrill and stretched its tired, stiff limbs. It had slumbered for far too long, and now had to complete the cycle. Its elongated eyes were locked on its airborne target. It was not of this world, but the bat was the only choice it had to ensure successful reproduction.

    But Bagorah was not intimidated by the behemoth. Its nose, like its ears, was highly acute, and could sense the MUTO’s weakened state. A single whiff of its scent was all the bat needed to tell that the creature was not at full strength, yet had still come to challenge the scarlet invader. It couldn’t see a rival, but a greater meal that had delivered itself right to the starving predator. With a demonic shriek, the alien flapped toward the super parasite at great speed, spreading slobber into the wind as the urge to consume overpowered it. Its ferocity took MUTO Prime by surprise, leaving it slow to react as the flying fiend swooped overhead and raked its talons across its rocky back. A gigantic forelimb swung upward, but it was too late to strike the swifter killer. Dark blood flowed from the gashes left in its hide, dripping to the ground around the black titan as it struggled to turn in the confined street space. As it finally spun around, Jinshin-Mushi was assaulted by the chiropteran’s claws once more, slicing into its meaty flanks and retreating just as quickly. Once again, MUTO Prime lashed out with its massive arm, only finding hard granite and steel that shattered under its great strength. It grumbled slowly, becoming angered by its inability to land its claws on the red menace.

    Through the black smoke from the burning city, Bagorah screeched in an imitation of human laughter. Its prey couldn’t have picked a worse place to challenge it, in an environment that hindered it and gave the carnivorous xenoform plenty of cover to use. Even with the odds on its side, the invader should still have been cautious, but overconfidence and hunger clouded its logic and it dove down like a rocket. Its jaws opened wide, exposing fangs like needles and a green, flickering tongue, all stained with the blood of its human victims. Soaring over the parasite, it rolled to the side as one of its unusual forearms swung up, and swept over the behemoth’s back to lean its head down and sink its jaws into MUTO Prime’s shoulder.

    The beast from before Christ roared load and deeply, throwing its alien head back as pain surged through the assaulted shoulder like venom. The titan’s blood seeped into Bagorah’s mouth, which the galactic ravager lapped up with famished gusto. The taste was unusual to the great bat, but such a thing had never deterred it from a meal in the past. It jerked back to rip away a chunk of Jinshin-Mushi’s flesh, but the predator’s head didn’t budge from its spot. Confused, it tried again, only to meet the same lack of results. The hide of the ancient one was too taut and thick to be easily ripped away, and it was a miracle that Bagorah’s fangs had managed to pierce the surface in the first place. But as it tried to relinquish its bite, the chiropteran’s jaws remained locked to the site. Its attempts to main MUTO Prime has driven the crimson horror’s teeth deep into its tough flesh. It couldn’t pull free!

    Muffled screeches of distress left the flying evil’s stuffed maw as it struggled to pull free from the super titan. The invader’s wings and talons beat and scratched at the parasite’s form, informing it of the bat’s current position. It reached back with one colossal hand and clamped tightly around Bagorah’s mid-section, then pulled back, tearing the enormous creature from its shoulder. A reverberating groan escaped the maw of MUTO Prime as a chunk of its own flesh was ripped away as a result, and looked at the culprit squirming in its grip. Although its focus was to escape, the gluttonous foreigner could not resist gulping down the piece of the titan in its jaws before the chimaera’s own eyes. Gnashing fangs reduced the meat to paste, splattering Bagorah’s body with the blood of the Unclean Thing before swallowing and licking the remains from its drooling lips. It saw no need to hide its craving for the local’s flesh.

    This action drove an enraged cry from the black thing and the arm holding the invader swung out, throwing it into the side of the nearest skyscraper. The bat was instantly embedded in its structure, stunned from the impact and restrained by warped steel and broken concrete. With its enemy and target immobilised, MUTO Prime reared up, roaring into the darkened sky before slamming back down and charged at the helpless flyer. All Bagorah could do was widen its eyes as the herculean beast thrust its entire mass and godly strength against its crimson form, forcing the air from the demonic alien and robbing it of its voice. The imprisoning structure shattered under the unrelenting force of MUTO Prime, falling to the earth as a gigantic hail of rubble. Within the shower, Bagorah was thrown back, crashing to the uneven streets and skidding across the surface with wheezing breaths. When it finally stopped, the remains of its prison came down upon the foreigner, burying it under tons and tons of concrete debris.

    As the smoke and dust drifted away, MUTO Prime strode out from the haze. It grumbled silently as it caught sight of its pinned target, writhing and shrieking as it hastily started to loosen the concrete boulders restraining it. The killer of titans took heed and increased its pace, consumed by the drive to complete the seeding of the new generation. Bagorah’s efforts intensified as well once it noticed the behemoth’s approach, but its body was still held down under the hill of rubble. Its freed wings beat wildly, slapping the ground to try and lift the bat out of its prison as Jinshin-Mushi neared, finally casting the shadow of its impressive bulk over the struggling xenoform. Bagorah’s emerald eyes met the red, visor-like slits that were the parasite’s own and screeching loudly, trying to intimidate it into backing off, but the cries of the scarlet beast seemed to only aggravate the great one. Once more, it reared onto its hind legs, lifting its massive forelimbs in the air in preparation for the crushing blow.

    More debris slipped off the chiropteran’s chest, but it was still trapped and lacking time. The eater of ecosystems was not defenceless, however. Despite its alien origins and appearance, Bagorah was still a bat in nature, and possessed the same abilities as its earthly relatives, only greatly enhanced. The devourer’s jaws suddenly split open, emitting a long, piercing scream into the air. So powerful was the sound, the very space around the cosmic predator’s jaws warped and distorted from the high frequency. Windows across the block instantly shattered and buildings were shaken to their foundations, but MUTO Prime felt the full effects of the sonic blast as it took the brunt of it. The armoured titan lost its balance and stumbled, toppling over onto its back and roaring in agony in its disorientated condition.

    Now was the invader’s time to strike! With a final burst of power, Bagorah burst free of the restraining debris and flew toward its fallen adversary with a haunting shriek. Although pain coursed through the behemoth’s head, it recognised the incoming danger and tilted to catch sight of the incoming threat. Its inner pairs of arms lashed out, catching the ferocious carnivore inches away from its throat and held the starving thing back. Thick saliva splattered across MUTO Prime’s throat as sharp fangs snapped furiously, eager to taste of its flesh and blood. Bagorah’s wings flapped wildly and its taloned feet slashed at the tough belly of the colossus, scoring white lines across its surface. The great parasite pushed back with the strength it could muster, but its crimson nemesis was not so easily dispatched, holding vigour unfitting of its lithe form. But as the effects of the sonic attack faded, the hunchbacked goliath was able to refocus once more. Its whole body seemed to vibrate tremendously and its strange jaws opened, unleashing its own supersonic roar and returning the favour to the hellish alien. Bagorah’s hypersensitive ears took the blast in full and it screamed in agony, momentarily losing its hearing and balance. Unlike the chiropteran’s sound blast, the cry of Jinshin-Mushi was one of sound and force, which threw its attacker clear off and to the rubble-filled street.

    The predator of the stars hit the rough ground with a pained squeak and a veil of dust. It shrieked and thrashed as its ears ringed, trying to outlast the agony as MUTO Prime slowly climbed back onto all fours. It stepped toward its distressed target, pinning its wings to the ground with its forearms and leaning down to the bat’s level. From the sides of its face, four orange, luminous tendrils emerged from hidden sheathes, lazily twitching as their pointed tips slithered closer to Bagorah’s restrained form…

    The bat suddenly lunged forward, shocking the elder titan as its jaws flew past the tentacles and gripped its throat. Jinshin-Mushi howled and reared back, releasing its hold on the alien glutton and withdrawing the ovipositors.  As its attacker’s reaction pulled it up, Bagorah did not let go of the parasite’s neck, choosing instead to thrash its head back and forth to tear apart the behemoth’s flesh as its massive wings expertly kept it hovering in place. Its tongue darted out to taste the blood dripping into its maw at the source and it purred in delight. Like the vampire bat it so closely resembled, it lapped up the substance with drunken gusto, intoxicated by its exotic, earthly flavour. There was a sudden, powerful collision to its torso, and Bagorah found itself flying back, gasping for lost breath as MUTO Prime lowered its offending fist.

    Dark fluid flowed from the ancient one’s wounded throat and stained the demolished ground beneath it, but the damage was surprisingly minimal. It still hurt like hell, though, but MUTO Prime chose to ignore it and rushed its recovering adversary. The tactic was predictable, giving Bagorah enough time to ascend out of the angered beast’s path and hover above, looking down with its own snarling expression. Twinges of pain shot through its bruised chest with each wing beat, fuelling the fire of hate that the foreign killer had for its earthen opponent. The chiropteran’s jaws snapped, shooting a blast of high-frequency sound at the herculean monster that forced it to step back. The dark-coloured thing groaned and shook its head, dazed by the sudden attack but otherwise unharmed. Bagorah circled the confused titan, launching sonic bombs from its shrieking maw from all directions to surround it in a sphere of sound. The louder volume had a greater effect on the MUTO herald, disrupting its hearing and echolocation abilities. It swayed on its feet, struggling to find its balance as its head tracked the crimson stalker.

    While the tactic was sound, it was not what Bagorah desired. It craved the thrill of action, the rush of adrenaline from attacking its victims itself. It descended, triggering the xenoform’s foe to lash out with its forelimb. In its muddled state, the strike missed by yards, giving the bat the opportunity to sink its talons in-between the goliath’s shoulder blades. Flapping powerfully, it steered Jinshin-Mushi toward the surrounding buildings and slammed it through the wall of a smoking office building. Crushed debris slipped down its form before it was jerked back into the sunlight, roaring in fury at its alien offender. The great chiropteran pulled MUTO Prime across the desolate street once more, shifting its own body weight to send the bulky terran careening into another building with an ugly cracking sound.

    For the next minute, the action of smashing the dark behemoth into the surrounding structures continued, with the beast coming away from each impact more bruised and bloodied than before. Thick cracks ran across its exoskeleton and it swayed on its feet, still under the effects of the earlier sonic attack. However, it began to stabilise, lifting its head and spreading its limbs to gain better traction on the ground. It appeared that Bagorah’s attempt to bludgeon the bizarre giant had worked in Jinshin-Mushi’s favour. The sense had literally been knocked back into it by the blows.

    With a sound almost as alien as Bagorah’s, it charged, tearing down the roadway with the crimson predator clinging to its back. The foreigner screened in alarm as it was pulled along for the ride and flapped frantically to try and halt or change the colossus’ path, but its efforts could not halt its momentum. MUTO Prime’s limbs pumped faster and faster, increasing its speed by the second until it knew that it had enough. It bellowed long and loud as it drove the body of itself and Bagorah into a skyscraper, breaking the structure’s foundation upon collision. It fell apart, crashing down on the joined monsters and removing them from sight within a cloud of dust and falling rubble.

    As the remains of the building hit the ground and the rubble settled, silence fell across the cityscape for only the briefest moment. Although the impact and collapse were both impressive, it was not enough to keep the duo down. Crimson wings burst from the debris like a thing of nightmares, with Bagorah throwing aside rubble and standing tall seconds later. Its piercing, emerald orbs easily located the living mountain that was Jinshin-Mushi amongst the littered landscape and it let out a cry of upmost hate before taking to the air. It circled the ancient parasite as it pulled itself free from the concrete sea, moaning with fatigue.

    As it shook the dust from its head and neck, sharp talons assaulted its vision. The elder beast cried out as Bagorah’s claws slashed at its face, driving the confused giant back. MUTO Prime’s fists swung wildly, missing the gigantic extra-terrestrial’s form as it hovered above like a hummingbird, raking its bladed feet across the titan’s neck and shoulders and kicking at its hideous features. The aerial killer shrieked with glee and mocking laughter as it drove its prey down, growing more certain of its victory and the prize that would come with it. And oh, what a prize it would be.

    But like with all who grow overconfident, their pride will ultimately bring about their downfall. In its focus to take the great parasite down, the scarlet fiend’s senses dulled as it slipped into a blood-crazed trance. MUTO Prime’s arm lashed out again, connecting with and grasping the chiropteran’s tail with a surprised cry from the red invader. It slammed the predator down with a mighty crack as its body hit the pavement, stunning it for the briefest moment. Jinshin-Mushi lifted its arm again, heaving the heavy bat over its hand and smashing it back-first into the ground. Shrieking wildly, Bagorah flapped its wings in an attempt to break free of the goliath’s hold. Suddenly, it was flying across the city as it was tossed by its black nemesis. It shrieked wildly before it was cut short as it clipped the side of a building, knocking out a chunk and sending the aerial menace spiralling in another direction. As another building loomed, the bat’s wings extended, clasping onto the outside with its clawed tips to lessen the impact. It scuttled across its surface like some demonic gargoyle, seeking cover to re-focus and adjust its strategy.

    As it peeked its head around the corner, the chiropteran’s emerald eyes widened in shock at the chunk of debris hurtling toward its roost. Instantly, it fell back, releasing one wing from the building as the projectile struck, demolishing several floors only a kaiju-sized hair breadth away. Bagorah leaned out again, screeching with anger as it spotted MUTO Prime rip out another slab of concrete from the side of a skyscraper. As the forgotten creature hurled it, Bagorah ascended into the air, leaving the debris to shatter the xenoform’s perch. Its return to its element brought an enraged sound from the jaws of MUTO Prime, quite aware that it would nearly impossible to bring the colossal intruder back down. It would not give up, though. Its unfightable instinct to reproduce urged it on, and the progenitor of the MUTOs had no choice but to comply.

    The parasite’s arms reached out and dug into the ground, tearing up massive handfuls of metal and rock and rearing onto its hind limbs to lift both object. With a mighty throw from each arm, it sent both boulders flying one after the other at its alien target. The first chunk missed as Bagorah rolled out of the way, aligning itself with the trajectory of the second projectile with a cunning glint in its eyes. Reaching out, it grasped the boulder mid-flight and flipped in the air, throwing the projectile back at the armoured brute. For MUTO Prime, it was an easy feat to break the boulder with a swing of a forelimb, but a veil of dust was generated in the process, hindering the behemoth’s line of sight. Its arms waved clumsily to try and dispel the cloud, but they were too blocky for the task and the dust was too thick. From the other side, the top of a building was tossed, shattering against the ancient titan’s cranium and forcing it down with a pained cry. Bagorah’s haunting shriek echoed as the goliath lifted its head with a scowl on its features. Either the foreigner was adapting its strategy as they battled, or it was choosing to mock it with the black giant’s own stratagem.

    Bagorah’s claws reached out, embedding into the roof of a residential building and tearing away the top of the structure. Swinging its lower half forward, it tossed the building through the dust cloud with all the strength it could muster. The great carnivore’s rival had caught on to its scheme, however. Its throat rumbled as the structure’s dark silhouette appeared through the grey fog, and as it broke the corner and spiralled toward the elder beast, Jinshin-Mushi’s maw released its devastating sonic attack. The reverberating roar instantly shattered the flying building and dispelled the dust in the air, giving the parasite a clear look at its red enemy once again. But as the veil vanished, it found the bat bearing down toward it, screeching aloud and spraying spit into the wind. Raising its wings vertically, it slowed to a halt and hovered before the black colossus, ears twitching like tuning antennae. Its hypersonic scream erupted from the xenoform’s throat as MUTO Prime responded with its own high-frequency sound.

    As the two beasts quickly found out, unleashing two sound-based attacks at the same time was a poor play. Between the duelling waves, a sphere of literal sound began to form, fuelled more and more by both creatures in the span of seconds until it reached critical mass. The orb burst apart with a sonic boom, launching the warring titans across the landscape. The proud infrastructure of Nagasaki fell apart for miles, burying one of the region’s most important cities in the rubble of its own buildings.

    MUTO Prime skidded to a stop, drawing trenches in the already ruined tarmac as its claw stabbed the ground. Shaken by the explosion of sound, it was unsteady on its feet and struggling to hear properly. Its vision was clear, however, and it could make out the form of Bagorah, thrown much farther across the city due to its previous aerial position. The alien slowly crawled from the rubble, shaking its bruised body clean and flexing its wings, not sporting small rips across their membranes. The action brought something behind the beast to MUTO Prime’s attention, causing a new strategy to pop into its fuddled mind. Despite its fatigue, it reared up with upmost urgency, lifting its massive forearms up and slamming them down into the earth with all its weight and strength. The ground shook with the force of the greatest earthquakes, ripping down the buildings not completely demolished by the sonic boom. Colossal cracks raced away from the behemoth, creating deep ravines in their wake as the tremor rolled toward Bagorah. Although its senses were dulled, the bat’s hearing was still impeccable. The growing noise of the trembling earth sent a rush of adrenaline coursing through the foreigner, prompting it to take flight and evade the shockwave.

    As the tremor passed under the mammal-like xenoform, it cackled with mocking laughter and cast its green eyes on the panting Jinshin-Mushi. It failed to notice the cracks spreading behind it, but MUTO Prime’s tired features turned into its approximation of a grin, confusing the flying beast. What had it to be so proud of, so close to its end?

    By the time the ringing in its ears ceased and it could hear the crumbling granite, it was too late. All Bagorah could do was look over its shoulder and watch in horror as the skyscraper behind it, with its foundations weakened by the tremor, came crashing down. The scarlet thing shrieked and tried to fly away, but the falling tower slammed into its back and brought it to the ground, disappearing amidst exploding debris and thick smoke.

    Slowly and wearily, the Unclean Thing approached. It was tired and bruised, but now victory was at hand. With its forearms, it brushed away the remnants of steel and granite to expose the helpless form of its quarry. As sunlight washed over it, Bagorah hissed and tried to move its wings, only to receive a fierce punch to its face that made the ferocious invader cease its struggles. It chittered pathetically as blood drained from its broken nose and MUTO Prime leaned close. From the sockets of its face, the ovipositors emerged, squirming lazily as if to taste the air before homing to the bat’s form. A sense of pride flowed through Jinshin-Mushi as it relished its completed objective, its need to reproduce. The arrow-headed tentacles drifted closer, tapped the flesh of the immobile creature and…

    Nothing.

    MUTO Prime jerked back in a mix of confusion of rage. Nothing. Not a single rad of radiation, the element that its offspring needed to incubate and grow, emanated from the alien’s body. It had been there. It had sensed it, from the moment they met.

    Bagorah had been emitting radiation since its arrival, but it was stored from its travels across the cosmos. It had no means to harvest or store it, and so it began to dissipate into the atmosphere. At this point, there was hardly any left to register for a full rad. Without it, Jinshin-Mushi had no way of feeding its young. The parasite had wasted its time on an incompatible target.

    Which meant that the bat had no more use to it.

    With a roar of rage, it smashed its fist into Bagorah’s snout. A gurgled sound of pain came from the foreigner as it attempted to vocalise with its broken nose, but MUTO Prime didn’t care. A second strike dislocated the fiend’s jaw, and the third made it shatter like glass. It kept on punching, burning up the little energy it had to beat the chiropteran’s head in. Gore and bone flew in every direction as it reduced Bagorah’s skull to a bloody pulp, and still kept the beating going, spurred on by rage alone.

    Eventually, its rage shimmered and its stamina ran out. Gasping for breath, the giant slouched over the corpse of its former rival. Without its anger, all it felt was uncertainty. The reserves stored from its hibernation had been used up in the battle, leaving it with barely enough strength to stand. It was in no condition to seek out another host or defend itself should another predator come. It needed food.

    It looked down, studying the body of Bagorah intently. It wasn’t irradiated and lacked the specific energy required to refuel itself properly, but…

    Jinshin-Mushi leaned down and tore a chunk of flesh from the dead thing’s chest, throwing it into its maw and gulping it down with efficient speed. It cocked its head as it analysed the taste of the otherworldly meat, then grumbled in satisfaction and grabbed the corpse, dragging it back to the tunnel and its lair.

    In this universe, nothing can be certain. The most experienced beings can fall should they not be prepared for the dangers that they may face. For Bagorah, this was the end of its story of terror. After so much pillaging and slaughter, its hunger and pride had let it to its demise in the most ironic of ways.

    The tables had been turned. The predator had become the prey.

    Winner: MUTO Prime

    K.W.C. // October 20, 2020
  • Author: Anthony James Velez | Banner: Landon Soto

    Their plan had worked to a T. Godzilla was wiped out of the pages of history. In the place of the King of the Monsters was the three headed monster, King Ghidorah. No amount of opposition leveled at them by Japan was enough to fight it off. The Futurians were confident that the world would be theirs soon enough.

    As King Ghidorah shot lightning-shaped beams somehow made out of gravitation itself, their masters were preparing on how to implement their ideals on this world. There was no doubt there would be rebellion from the government and people of Japan, and the dictatorship would require a means to convince them that their takeover would be beneficial without reliance on King Ghidorah. Of course, word was already spreading via the news of their kaiju destroying their home, so the dragon could perhaps be used as an intimidation tactic until they had a long-term solution. Ghidorah, meanwhile, hadn’t the brains for such decisions. They didn’t have a mind for any actions not predetermined by their masters as it was.

    As such, they just focused on their mission on attacking Tokyo, destroying everything and slaughtering everybody in sight. As they continued their flight on their rampage, however, something in the nearby ocean caught their attention. The Futurians noticed Ghidorah stopping in their tracks and staring off into the waters in curiosity, turning toward the ocean themselves. What they saw had caught them by surprise. Familiar fins were coming toward the bay, cutting through the salt water like a swarm of ravenous sharks.

    It was pretty easy to tell that they were differences compared to the Godzilla they got rid of, though. The spines, though similar to the original Godzilla, resembled jagged stone and were smaller than the first. As more of him rose from the depths, his bipedal, bulky body with near stubby arms, giant legs, and a face resembling that of a komodo dragon marked the key differences of this new Godzilla.

    ****

    “So there’s more than one of the species left in the world…” Wilson mumbled to himself, drumming his fingers together.

    “We’ll just have to fix that. King Ghidorah, destroy it immediately,” Grenchiko commanded through a speaker in the MOTHER.

    ****

    King Ghidorah shook their heads, beginning to focus again and flew toward the new Godzilla. Godzilla let out a ferocious roar that shook the land itself as he charged toward his newest enemy. King Ghidorah brought their feet in front of them, closing in on Godzilla before slamming them into his chest. Godzilla grunted as he skidded across the ground, grabbing the legs of the golden atrocity and pulling them to the ground with a heave. As Ghidorah toppled atop the ancient predator, Godzilla bit down in-between their right and middle head.

    King Ghidorah wrapped their right neck around his left arm and began pulling him off, Godzilla raking its right set of nails across the golden scales in response. Godzilla wrestled his arm out of the grip of the head, only to get thwacked by that head in the chin and reel back. Quick to recover, Godzilla rammed his shoulder into King Ghidorah’s sternum, forcing the glimmering beast back as well. Ghidorah was quick to recover though and leapt into the air, their bat-like wings beating as their three heads spat gravity beams upon the elder Godzilla, staggering him.  The dragon spun in mid-air, swinging their twin tails into the face of its enemy, only to regret it when Godzilla bit down and slammed them back to the ground, smashing small buildings in the process.

    As Godzilla loomed over the Futurian creation, Ghidorah’s left foot slammed into the behemoth’s right knee. A howl of pain erupted from ancient jaws, allowing Ghidorah to arise without resistance and lunge at his foe with all three heads. The center neck wrapped around the titan’s throat while the others began pummeling him with gravity beams. Godzilla grit its teeth from the pain pressing into his chest with every shot as he grabbed the face of the middle head and tried to shove his nails into the dragon’s eyes. As Godzilla’s claws dug into his flesh, the dragon unwrapped themselves from his neck and aimed to shoot a bolt from their central mouth in retaliation, but it was cut off as their mouth was bit down on and shut. Godzilla put his impressive strength into practice as he lifted the body of the dragon with his grip on all three heads.

    The ancient creature slammed the dragon into the ground, pain shooting into their back. The dragon wrapped their tails around the new Godzilla’s legs and pulled, taking the fossil of a being down with them. Godzilla growled as a head shot toward him, only for it to be caught by a dragon’s head and slammed into pavement. The other two heads slipped free of Godzilla’s grip and bit into his hands, aiming to pull him off. The kaiju growled at each other, grappling desperately to gain a better hold over the other, but as Ghidorah flexed its mighty wings and found itself atop its foe, the three-headed beast flapped its mighty appendages.

    Harsh winds made Godzilla wince, but surely the dragon could not take flight. He was too-

    The nearly one-hundred thousand ton ancient leviathan found itself pried off the man-made city and taken into the air by its enemy. Ghidorah flew across the land, spectators yet to escape the devastation looking in awe at what they were seeing the dragon do. Awe transformed into panic when Ghidorah finally released Godzilla, screams filling the bay before a mighty crash overpowered the noises as water swept all on the coast away. Godzilla groaned in the shallow depths of the bay, but his gradually recovered proved short lived as. gravity beams descended from the heavens, keeping him pinned down.

    Godzilla kept himself from howling in pain, refusing to show weakness to the dragon as he prepared his own attack. The Futurians saw his spines glow and began to warn Ghidorah, but they were confident that they could keep him pinned and avoid the upcoming attack.

    The ancient behemoth proved them half right-

    As gravity beams rained down upon him, Godzilla alit the city in a azure tint. The concentrated atomic flames which raced up into the sky connected with King Ghidorah’s central head, burning its eyes with radioactive energy. The dragon descended to the city, wailing in agony while. Godzilla struggled to his feet and charged toward the dragon.

    King Ghidorah could barely see from their middle head, staggering about while shaking their head to try to shake away the blurriness. They were so focused on this, in fact, that when Godzilla had closed the distance, they didn’t have the time to react when the ancient king slammed his tail into the legs of the dragon, knocking them down through a row of structures. Godzilla bit down into the middle head and grabbed the right and left heads before slamming them into the ground repeatedly, the dragon kicking and flailing about. One last slam to the ground led Godzilla to throw the dragon across the air, Ghidorah screeching in alarm as they sailed across the land before slamming back into the city. The hydra screamed in pain from the throw, making it difficult to stand as Godzilla marched toward them.

    The city alit a familiar azure color. Flames danced with reptilian jaws, the building thrum of energy and illuminating dorsal spines giving the behemoth’s intentions away easily. Before the atomic ray could be unleashed, a plethora of  gravity beams collided into the leviathan’s knees, knocking Godzilla off his feet as the ray was unleashed. Buildings of varying size ignited, creating a wall of flame to the right of both monsters. Ghidorah vented breaths of relief while Godzilla’s eyes narrowed in rage, reflecting the light of the fires which burned beside them and lumbered toward Ghidorah.

    The distance between the pair vanished in an instant and Godzilla managed to grab the left head of the dragon before squeezing it like a soda can, but the other heads bit down on his right hand in retribution. Godzilla made do with what he had and closed his hand, squeezing the dragon’s left skull as Ghidorah shredded his right appendage. Blood spilled from both kaiju yet neither showed signs of relenting. Draconic wings flexed once more, indicating to Godzilla the dragon would soon fly, yet he persisted in his efforts to crush the Futurian mutant’s skull, not relenting for a moment as both he and Ghidorah ascended above the burning city.

    Higher and higher the pair flew into the smoke filled sky, sickening sounds indicated the pair’s flight would not last long. Sinew and flesh began to tear off from the middle neck as Godzilla continued his grip. Godzilla let go of the two other heads, grabbing the middle head with both clawed hands. Soon enough, three heads became two as the middle head was instantly torn off its original place, blood falling like rain as Godzilla descended upon Tokyo. A mocking roar boomed from Godzilla’s maw until the impact of the city silenced its cry. A shockwave ripped through the metropolis, putting out the flames while a tremor rattled all the residents within. As the smoke cleared, the mighty behemoth lay in a fresh crater, the severed head of Ghidorah in its clutches.

    *****

    “This cannot be,” Grenchiko gasped, watching the events of the battle unfold with disbelief. “Godzilla is defeating our King Ghidorah!”

    “You underestimate Ghidorah’s power, Gren,” Wilson said with confidence. “The loss of one head will not stop our monster from killing this ancient relic. Besides, we’ve already killed one Godzilla, history will repeat itself again.”

    *****

    The two remaining heads of King Ghidorah growled in fury as they watched Godzilla crush the severed head under its heel. A snort of air discharged from the leviathan’s nostrils while he bore his fangs, demonstrating the fate which awaited the two-headed beast. Ignoring the warning, King Ghidorah lunged toward the behemoth, gravity beams pelting the saurian’s frame. Eventually, King Ghidorah tackled Godzilla, the kaiju nearly getting knocked off his feet from the force. Launching its claws forward, the leviathan grabbed the left head by the muzzle and forced its jaws wide open while preparing another atomic ray.

    The right head tried to save the left by lunging for him, but was stopped by Godzilla’s forearm as he raised it in the head’s path. This action allowed the left muzzle to slip free, and it brought its jaws down on one of his fingers. Snarling in pain, Godzilla still fired, consuming the head with atomic flames. King Ghidorah’s head screeched in pain, its eyes and face melting under the intense heat and power spewed upon it. The right head added pressure upon the arm that had them trapped, aiming to break it. Godzilla felt his bones creaking and threw the left head away, allowing Ghidorah’s right head to wrap around his right arm.

    Godzilla growled as Ghidorah’s jaws pressed down further and further. The gleaming atrocity’s left head couldn’t aim without eyes, so when it tried to grasp the titan by the throat, it instead bit into his right shoulder. Suddenly, a loud snap resonated through the area, Godzilla’s pupils expanding from the intense pain. Ferocity flared inside him, urging pull the dragon’s right head apart. With a violent snap, the neck around his broken arm fell limp as Godzilla pulled it off. King Ghidorah’s remaining head tried to get back into the fight, but not being able to see and having limited hearing did not make this an easy task.

    Despite now having a broken arm, Godzilla pushed forward. Ghidorah began to try to take flight, but Godzilla bit down on his left wing before he could leave the earth. Godzilla’s body slammed the creature and dug his claws into the wing as he slashed it to shreds. Blood dripped off his claws as Ghidorah once again tried to bite Godzilla, but the saurian bit down on it first. Unable to tell where its jugular was, he grabbed the neck with his hands.

    The dragon kicked him in the back, toppling him on top of his neck. Godzilla slammed his tail against its legs, keeping it from attempting to do that again as he added his teeth and began to wring the neck. King Ghidorah began smacking Godzilla in the face with its untouched wing, each blow causing the predator’s grip to loosen. He was forced to let go, or else give Ghidorah a chance to attack after breaking free. With its freedom, the wounded dragon fired off  a single, continuous gravity beam at point blank range, scalding the leviathan in golden energy.

    With his remaining arm, Godzilla grasped the flailing head and directed it toward its intact wing as much as he could in his situation. The gravity beams tore through the wing, Ghidorah ceasing his flapping to prevent further damage and make an already horrible situation even worse. Godzilla began to twist the neck again, attempting every angle it only seemed to cause pain. His tail was beginning to tire from the constant blocking it needed to do from King Ghidorah’s feet, so he needed to think of something and fast. Soon enough, something came to mind as he bit down on the neck and pulled upward. His claws joined on either side of his jaws, digging into the neck and pulling in both directions.

    It seemed to be working as blood began to spill into his mouth. His tail did miss a kick and its foot slammed into his spine, breaking some spines from doing so. He changed position, his jaws keeping the head grounded while his hands pulled upward instead. Finally, the places where his hands were holding gave way as the neck had torn into three sections. The eyes of King Ghidorah were open and lifeless, staring into whatever remained of their battlefield.

    Letting the golden beast’s head slip from his grasp, Godzilla breathed heavily, exhausted from the battle against his natural enemy. This definitely wasn’t the Ghidorah he remembered, but having killed a Ghidorah was good enough for him in any case.

    *****

    The Futurians felt their dreams of a world under their rule disappear. Their greatest weapon had been dispatched by this new Godzilla and they needed to start the attack over again by scratch. This time, they needed to find what creature this thing originally was and kill it as well. That was assuming they could gather enough forces from the future to destroy it, seeing as its fully evolved form had killed a universal threat like their kaiju.

    As the MOTHER’s engines roared into life, preparing to return to their time, Wilson and Grenchiko gazed out of the window at the distant form of the elder Godzilla.

    “Damn you, Godzilla,” Wilson snarled. “Enjoy your victory over King Ghidorah. It will soon be rectified.”

    *****

    The MOTHER vanished in a flash of light, catching the momentary attention of the behemoth who stood within Tokyo Bay. Paying the lightshow little thought, Godzilla turned his attention to the corpse of King Ghidorah. He stepped on its chest, took a few breathes, and let out his victorious earth-shaking roar toward the heavens above.

    Now that whatever humans still around had heard the dominance of the new owner of this island, he began to pull the “king” away from his territory. Godzilla wished that he was still able to control his other arm, but he would have to be patient for the time being and wait for it to recover. He would have to live with this new handicap for a while.

    With the death of Godzillasaurus, and by extension, Godzilla, the world seemed to have been left without its most powerful creature, for better or for worse. This new Godzilla had made the news, revealing to the rest of the world that the name would be kept alive. The J.S.D.F. had to formulate a plan along with the United Nations on how to handle the creature that pretty much had the Japanese population under his thumb. The King of the Monsters was gone forever. In his place was a creature which proved itself above a king, a true Alpha.

    Winner: Godzilla (Legendary)

     

    K.W.C. // October 11, 2020
  • Author: KeSean Johnson | Banner: Landon Soto

    Energy… Power… Energy. It is what one needs to become faster, stronger, better.

    It was a peaceful day in Japan. No carnage, no wars, no Kaiju. A group of six American tourists and two scientists had come to the Land of the Rising Sun to learn and study about the most famous mountain in the Japanese mainland: Mt. Fuji. Fascination of the geological feature firmly grasped every member until their eyes gazed upon the wonder or in this case, the unexpected anomaly growing out of it like a tumor. The crystal pulsated a pinkish-white glow and concealed raw power. The tourists and scientists could not believe what they uncovered only two-hundred meters away from them. The thing stood near the huge mountain with a height they could only assume was near fifty meters. (more…)

    K.W.C. // October 1, 2020
  • Author: Jake McDaniel | Banner: Dao Zang Moua

    The waves around Okinawa Island danced and churned like a boiling pot, a paradox of calm and eeriness. As the waves lapped the rocky coast of the Japanese island, gulls and pelicans strayed from their nesting grounds to dive into the sea to capture the abundant fish that the sea was rich with. But only a few of the seabirds satisfied their bellies, as most returned home empty handed, unable to find food no matter how desperately they searched. For the seas surrounding Okinawa had mysteriously become silent in the past few days. The fish had simply ceased and the seas had become almost a dead zone, beautiful from above but lifeless when one breached the surface. (more…)

    K.W.C. // September 20, 2020