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  • Author: Matthew Williams | Banner: Matthew Williams

    It came from above, far above the blue sky, in the coldest depths of outer space. It had spent a long time in the endless abyss of darkness, traveling through the cosmos to search for planets. It had only one thing it focused upon, eternally.

    Hunting.

    There had been many strange and dangerous creatures who were the heights of giants. Some of them were used by highly advanced alien races as weapons in their conquests of planets. Others had a simple will of their own, traveling through space to find suitable planets where they would reign terror upon all life on the celestial body.

    This creature was no different from those monsters, for he too had the same desires to bring destruction for his sick pleasure. But at the same time, like any carnivorous, primal creature, he needed to hunt, to feed. He had spent weeks trespassing planets to consume those that he could detect with his superior echolocation. He had recently raided a civilization from a planet light-years away, but their puny size hardly satisfied the beast’s hunger. He needed something big, powerful, something that was worth killing to prey upon.

    Then, his answer had called. The cosmic raider’s sensitive ears had picked up the sound of a roar, one that sounded like the voice of a creature around his size. Locating where the voice came from, the creature changed directions toward it. He was guided to an unfamiliar blue planet where his echolocation picked up several more roars. Knowing that this planet was rich with lifeforms, some around his size, the space devil couldn’t wait to bathe his teeth in the sweet nectar that he craved so. Blood.

    On one peaceful night, on the planet known as Earth…

    Site Omega, an island chain of the Isle Del Diablo that the government had used as a containment facility to imprison several mutants for future studies, was under attack. The invader from above had arrived on the island to spread his terror upon those that ran this so-called zoo for kaiju. He emitted high-frequency sound waves that caused great pain to the facility’s personnel, making their ears ring and even a few bleed. These harsh sounds also caused permanent damage to all the electronics, even disabling the force fields that prevented the monsters from escaping, along with the special collars that kept the mutants from attacking one another.

    All personnel made quick contact with the government, revealing that they were being attacked by what could be best described as a colossal bat, though quite different than the one they had contained here. The creature was a living nightmare, especially to anyone suffering from Chiroptophobia. It did look just as deformed as all the other mutants that humanity had come across, but at the same time this odd bat just as much resembled an alien and a devil. The sickening skin was mostly a fleshy-red color, with a line of scales located on the chest, knees, back, and tail. The orbs within his eye sockets along with the muscular organ within his mouth bore a nuclear-green color. And the membranes of the wings were all black, decorated with veiny stripes resembling lightning bolts of a crimson hue.

    The alien had overwhelmed the contained mutants, showing no mercy to them. He had bested the Giant Bat, pinning it down before clamping his jaws on the blue-winged mammal. The Giant Bat made one last screech that was quickly silenced when its neck was snapped, the body going limp and dying shortly afterward. The other mutations had fled, all of them badly injured. The mutated hummingbird had flown away, with the Shrewster trailing behind. The killer tore out chunks of the Giant Bat’s innards, having the satisfaction of tasting the delicious blood that soaked his green gums.

    All surviving personnel began to evacuate as they watched with looks of fear on their faces, as the invader extended his wings to let loose a terrifying shriek that boomed through the whole aisle of Monster Island.

    The invader was ready to feast upon more of the Giant Bat’s flesh, when his ears perked up at the sounds of bellows and hisses stirring. The crimson mammal turned around to see who would remain here, let alone dare themselves to interrupt his moment of feeding upon his latest kill.

    Two of the facility’s breached mutants remained on the island, for they were in the middle of a brutal battle with one another. The first one, King Cobra, an enormous blue and red serpent that wasn’t given a more unique name due to his similar appearance to the biggest venomous snake in the world. And then the second one, the Crustaceous-Rex, one of the most popular monsters of the facility due to his rather bizarre appearance and for being the first creature to fight Zilla.

    While the visitor had noticed the two a few minutes ago when he began to attack, even considering going after them, his attention had been brought to the Giant Bat when the winged mammal attacked him.

    There had been a good reason why the military had instructed the facility managers to put up massive force fields, not only to prevent the mutants from escaping the island but to avoid the risk of having them attack each other. The incident of the S.C.A.L.E. organization attempting to free all the monsters was still fresh in many minds. Even at their colossal size, many kaiju were still just animals, following their instincts. For King Cobra and C-Rex, those instincts made them arch-rivals, determined to prove that they were the peak of the food chain. The Crustaceous Rex would not let the King Cobra be the top predator, and vice versa.

    An earth-quaking thud triggered when King Cobra fell onto the hard surface after being kicked by C-Rex’s feet, causing the oversized snake to emit a pained shriek. Not wanting to go out too early on a fight that just got started, King Cobra lifted a third of his body length up, only to have it grappled by the C-Rex’s four tentacles. The oversized snake hissed when he shook his neck around to break free the slimy appendages, but they had a perfect grip on the serpent.

    Crustaceous Rex heaved to have King Cobra’s back slam into the ground again so he could pin the snake down. But the snake reached out and nipped at one of the crustacean mutant’s tentacles, where his fangs pressed down on the soft, greenish-yellow flesh, forcing it to let go or else be pierced. King Cobra rose up to tower over his unfriendly neighbor, emitting a loud hiss while showing the teeth in his opened maw. C-Rex wasn’t intimidated by the frightful, sibilant sounds that the serpent made, as he wrapped his tentacles around him.

    The Crustaceous Rex quickly turned his body around as his four appendages released King Cobra. The undersea mutation watched as the snake roughly skidded across the landscape, coming to a halt when he was just a few inches away from the red bat responsible for Site Omega’s containment breach. The invader got off the Giant Bat’s corpse when he ascended into the air, staying airborne as he observed the recovering King Cobra. C-Rex stomped closer to the serpent while he growled loudly, opening his segmented mouth to regurgitate tar. King Cobra ducked down to slither out of the black glob’s way, and so did the invader, leaving the liquid to coat the chewed-up carcass of the Giant Bat.

    The invader grew cross when he saw this, his well-earned prize of slaughtered prey was now contaminated by filthy tar. Slaughtering the annoying bat was troublesome, to have all that hard work go to waste in a moment was infuriating. The space devil fixed his neon green eyes at the two mutations and caught their attention when he flew forth, passing by while hitting them with his stretched out wings. Both C-Rex and King Cobra shrieked when they fell to the ground, their ambusher flapping his wings to keep himself ascended, staring at the two creatures.

    King Cobra rose his head and spread his hood, hissing loudly at the monster unintentionally responsible for their freedom. C-Rex then rose up, also crying out at the enormous red bat with a bellowing shriek. C-Rex knocked King Cobra aside with an unexpected swipe from his leg, bravely approaching the winged terror. The invader cried out when he prepared to attack, but the strange, yellow mutant suddenly leaped with haste to tackle the stranger. The invader screamed when he landed on his back, pinned down as he looked up at the leviathan, who opened his face-splitting maw to let loose a growl that soon turned into a shriek. The invader pulled his legs back and thrust them up, slamming his soles onto C-Rex’s underbelly to shove the mutant away.

    Crustaceous Rex fell on the beach’s sand while King Cobra rose up. The giant snake stuck his tongue out before loudly hissing at the invader, then made his attack. The blood-colored alien saw the serpent springing his head forward and used his wings to hastily take flight, but with the snake’s lightning-like speed, he managed to puncture the devil’s left leg with his sharp fangs. The invader screamed while he flapped his wings as hard as he could, but King Cobra swung his head from left to right like a canine shaking a small animal caught in its jaws.

    The mutated snake was about to slam his prey down on the ground, but just then, a high pitched screech came out the invader’s maw, sending three concentrated sound blasts at the serpent’s head. King Cobra’s clamped teeth immediately freed the bat as the snake shrieked in pain, swinging his head around while he felt his head aching from the powerful attack. The invader flapped his wings to back away before dive bombing to slam his taloned feet against King Cobra’s neck.

    The invader bashed the serpent down, only to spring up to tackle C-Rex before he could get up. The alien raised his winged forearms and brought them down to rake his sharp claws against the sea monster’s yellow hide. The carapace on the Crustaceous Rex had prevented the space bat from caving in his flesh, with only a scratch being left on the tough shell. C-Rex roared when he bucked the bat off his back before turning around, growling as his tentacles reached out and bound the winged terror’s legs. The invader screeched when he felt the soggy appendages and began to flap his devilish-wings, but C-Rex held on tightly to prevent his enemy from taking off. The more it struggled, the tighter the tentacles squeezed.

    King Cobra rose up, shrieking out loud when he slithered straight toward C-Rex. Like a spitting cobra, the reptile opened his mouth to shoot his bio-adhesive spray all over the crustacean mutation’s feet. C-Rex growled in annoyance when he felt his soles caught by his arch rival’s sticky glob again. As he tried to pull his feet up, King Cobra swiftly coiled his long body around the sea monster. The red bat was freed from the tentacles when they began to whip and constrict King Cobra. He watched as the two struggled and squirmed.

    King Cobra craned his head to glare at the invader, intimidating the strange creature by spreading his hood while flicking his tongue. When the invader readied his sonic scream, King Cobra spat out another shot of the sticky substance at the bat but missed when the winged alien banked a swift maneuver to the right. C-Rex then moved his tentacle to wrap around his reptilian enemy’s neck, grumbling while he slowly tightened his constriction to choke him to death. King Cobra wheezed as he violently slammed his head down on C-Rex’s hide repeatedly, spearing the yellow carapace with his teeth.

    The invader flew in to scream into the night, releasing harmful sound waves to stun the two monsters. C-Rex let go of King Cobra as he groaned in pain, hurting from the loud sound waves despite lacking hearing, letting the serpent swiftly slither away. The extraterrestrial being grumbled when he positioned the pointy tip of his tail while flying straight toward the mutant, thrusting the appendage to jab into the leviathan’s belly like a scorpion. The deep-sea invertebrate cried out, spraying ichor. Hissing frightfully, the invader grabbed onto C-Rex’s right leg, surprisingly managing to lift the mutant into the air, even ripping him out of the adhesive he was trapped in. C-Rex desperately stretched his limbs to reach for the crimson bat, but failed to do so before the mammalian space creature released him. The invader and King Cobra watched as the shrieking crustacean plummeted to the beach with a geyser of sand erupting on impact.

    With C-Rex resting on the soft sands, the invader flew through the air, emitting his echolocation that caused further damage to Site Omega and the hearing of all present. King Cobra was having a minor headache from those annoying sounds, for they were about as harmful, if not more annoying than the sounds coming from that Giant Bat it had to share a home with. The invader moved quickly when he made a sharp turn, going straight toward the mutant while opening his mouth.

    King Cobra used his swift reflexes to jerk his head to the left, though quick enough to avoid his throat from being chomped by the teeth of the bat, he wasn’t fast enough to avoid his hood being bitten. King Cobra hissed furiously when he felt the invader’s jaws tearing the tough cobalt-blue scales, for it was almost as painful as the bite from that iguana mutant he fought in Tokyo.

    The blood-red creature growled in delight, his green tongue tasting the blood that spilled from King Cobra. It was unusual but had a very sweet taste that lightened up his mood while encouraging him to kill this creature so that he could feast upon his flesh. The invader beat the squirming King Cobra’s head with his wings, as he tried to reach out to the serpent’s cranium to end its life with one single bite.

    When the invader was about to kill the largest cobra in the world, his echolocation picked up several incoming threats, causing him to get off of King Cobra and fly up. Several explosions detonated around the bat’s body, one of them set off on his right cheek, making him gasp in surprise. The US Navy has been called in about the alien bat causing a breach on Site Omega, and had sent in a fleet of jets and bombers to combat the threat, while reinforcements were on their way. The missiles had failed to inflict any noticeable damage upon their target, but instead merely caught his attention. The invader emitted an angered cackle when he extended his wings, taking off to the skies to pursue the vessels that attacked him.

    The military jets soared through the skies, taking sharp turns to position themselves to face the flying devil on their tails. Three vessels steered away to separate from the group, just as the hellish-looking bat demolished the rest with a single use of his sonic scream. The invader kept the remaining trio tracked with his echolocation and began to pursue them, slowly catching up to them from behind. Unable to escape, the pilots of the jets were greeted with death when each one of their vessels were caught by the bat’s jaws.

    The Crustaceous Rex began to rise from the sand it rested upon, groaning when he could feel his legs wobbling from the fall he took. The deep-sea mutant gazed up, locking his eyes at the invader tearing through the last military plane with its sharp teeth. The crimson bat detected the aquatic giant and dove down, zooming toward the sea monster, releasing another sonic shriek to stun the yellow freak before it had a chance to counter. The Crustaceous Rex flinched from the powerful sound waves as he was rammed by the devil, causing the leviathan to crash to the sands yet again. The invader made a gurgling noise when he perched on the downed C-Rex, bellowing as saliva and blood drooled out from his stained mouth. The bat from the cold depths of space lashed his claws to rip the soft exterior flesh, making his prey scream when his talons tore their way through the unprotected hide. C-Rex’s annoyance grew just as much as the alien’s, as two of the mutant’s tentacles caught the devil’s lanky legs, swiftly yanking them aside to pull the bat away from him.

    The invader fell on his side, groaning when he got up, only to be knocked down again when the Crustaceous Rex swiftly recovered and swung his leg, striking at the alien’s neck. C-Rex’s split maw gurgled when he marched closer, lengthening his tentacles to wrap around the red demon’s legs before pulling them closer to him. The sea dweller rumbled with fury when he used his tendrils to slap the extraterrestrial mammal. Growing annoyed and starting to feel that this thing was mocking him, the invader lifted his head and used his echolocation abilities to bombard C-Rex with a volley of concentrated sound blasts.

    Just as the invader thought he was freed from C-Rex’s loosening tendrils, King Cobra moved in to ambush. The hissing, serpentine mutation bit down on the bat’s cranium, holding on tightly as his body began to coil around. Now that his prey was trapped within his constriction, King Cobra began to squeeze the life out of him. But C-Rex, still enemies with his neighbor, intervened by wrapping his tentacles around King Cobra’s neck.

    The invader coughed and wheezed for air, his lungs having difficulty taking in air with King Cobra’s constrictive body growing tighter. If that wasn’t bad enough, the pressure was starting to make his limbs grow numb. If he didn’t react soon, his bones might snap like a twig. The extraterrestrial mammal could see the snake struggling with C-Rex, tugging his head while the tentacles dragged him near the deep-sea predator. Even when tangled up, King Cobra still combated by gnashing his jaws at C-Rex’s throat.

    With the two mutants occupied on killing each other, the invader drew his fading breath in, then let loose a high pitched scream that released booming sonic waves, causing any surviving buildings to collapse in a heap of rubble. They were strong enough to stun both C-Rex and King Cobra to where they released each other, the snake’s coils loosening.

    The invader gasped for air, having a moment to finally catch his breath. The alien mammal’s emerald eyes leered when he gazed at the two mutants, determined to put an end to their lives. The invader fired several sound blasts at King Cobra, forcing the snake to slither away. Freed from the coils, the angered space demon flexed his numbed wings before he used them to ascend and use his sonic screeches, inflicting further harm to the two monsters. C-Rex made a panicking, whale-like cry when he couldn’t take these loud screams anymore, they were causing so much pain that not even his carapace could protect him from it. King Cobra was shrieking out of control, he swung his neck around as if the high-frequency waves had caused him to go mad.

    The Crustaceous Rex looked at the shrieking devil and opened his splitting-maw. The mutant regurgitated a stream of tar that he had been wisely saving through the whole fight, successfully showering the devil’s hideous face with it. The invader coughed and gagged when he got the foul taste of the flammable liquid in his mouth and on his wings. He was forced to land, regurgitating to get the disgusting tar out of his mouth, for it was the worst thing he had ever ingested.

    King Cobra slithered in front of the invader, quickly spraying the winged alien with his bio-adhesive spray. The glue-like liquid splattered all over the crimson monster’s tar-covered face, covering up his green eyes. The invader shrieked when his eyesight was stolen, but even if blinded, he still had his echolocation. And already, he picked up the thudding sounds of an approaching Crustaceous Rex, who roared angrily when he raised his right, blocky leg and swung it at the invader’s face in an uppercut fashion. The invader was knocked back as he plunged into the shallow waters of the ocean, creating a humongous splash that sent waves washing onto the beach.

    C-Rex leaped into the sea, he was ready to finish off the struggling, problematic bat. Extending his tentacles, the world’s most bizarre kaiju wrapped them around the invader to prevent him from moving any further, as he began to drag it deep into the ocean. The mammalian alien was panicking, forced to fold his ears to prevent saltwater from gushing in. Unable to see and with no way to use his extraordinary echolocation powers, he blindly struggled to break out of C-Rex’s death grip. When it appeared that C-Rex was going to be the clear victor of this fight, the bat’s thrashing tail suddenly swung forth with precise aim. Bubbles spewed out of C-Rex’s opening maw when he screamed, feeling the tip of the galaxy creature’s tail skewering his exoskeleton, making a noticeable crack in it.

    When Crustaceous Rex’s tendrils were pulled back to cover the injury he received, the invader used his taloned forelimbs to scrape the sticky bio-adhesive out of his eyes, allowing him to see clearly. Narrowing his eyes in a display of irritation, the invader lifted his legs to have his talons grapple C-Rex’s legs. The red mammalian monster used his powerful wings to shoot himself upward, dragging his prey with him.

    King Cobra saw the ocean erupting as the invader flew up with C-Rex in the grasp of his claws, water falling off their bodies while the red terror ascended higher and higher. Crustaceous Rex extended his tendrils to reach for the wings but winced when the invader made another sonic scream. He was done playing games with the sea monster and that giant snake. Tired and hungry, he wanted to end the fight right now. Roaring in pain and terror, seeing that he was being carried several hundred meters into the air, C-Rex tried one last thing in a final attempt to survive. The yellow crustacean pulled himself to face the space bat, where his splitting mouth spat the last amount of tar at the alien’s right-wing.

    The invader screamed when the glob of sticky, black substance latched onto his membrane, causing him and Crustaceous Rex to fall from the sky. King Cobra, the surviving personnel, and soldiers upon the fleet of battleships all gazed at the sky as the two giant monsters fell. Both of them still fought, C-Rex using his remaining tentacles and the invader using his sonic screams.

    The two giants both plunged into the ocean, creating an enormous column that generated huge waves which washed away everything on the beach. Scores of fish were tossed about like chaff, being left to feebly flop on the land.

    The reinforcement team of US Navy battleships aimed their cannons, and the helicopters locked on with their gatling guns and missiles, all forces were ready to take action should any of the two kaiju emerge. King Cobra hissed at the heavy warships when some of them aimed their turrets at him, immediately opening fire. Missiles detonated throughout the serpent’s hood, causing him to shriek in annoyance. But instead of retaliation, the giant snake instead slithered into the ocean and began to make a hasty retreat. Exhausted and feeling sore from his wounds, he decided to make his escape, so he wouldn’t be imprisoned on that island again.

    As the captain ordered his people to keep firing the turrets at King Cobra, radars picked up something rising swiftly, as the invader shot out of the water, right behind most of the battleships. Before they had a chance to turn the cannons around, the blood-red bat used his sonic scream to cause severe, deafening pain to the crew of the military ships, as their radars and monitors burst into showering sparks. The helicopters were immediately destroyed by the sonic waves, the invader watching them explode into fireballs with scraps of metal and parts plummeting to the sea.

    The invader was dissatisfied by this, being unable to kill C-Rex, who decided to retreat from this fight along with King Cobra. But on the bright side, this fight could perhaps be a reminder for those two that he is something they should fear, for he is a space predator that should be taken seriously by those brave or foolish enough to go up against him. Letting out a cry that boomed through the ravaged base of Site Omega, the new threat to Earth flew off to the north with incredible speeds. Jet planes took off to pursue the crimson menace, while the marine soldiers escorted survivors off the breach.

    The next day…

    “So you’re saying that this red bat came out of nowhere?” Nick questioned.

    Major Hicks nodded to the scientist. “I’ve been told that he showed up, destroyed the generators by emitting a very loud scream, and attacked the contained mutants.”

    “So are you talking as loud as in like a jump scare in those horror films?” Randy asked.

    “Way louder, like something that can make you go deaf permanently,” the Major explained.

    “Given that it resembles a bat, then it would make sense that its screams and even its echolocation could generate high-frequency sound waves,” theorized Nick.

    “Well I’d say my destroyed facility is proof enough of your theory,” Hicks said. “It will be disastrous if that devil were to approach a populated area.”

    “But do you have any guess or idea where it came from?” Monique questioned.

    “Well, I did hear reports from NASA that their satellites had picked up an unidentified object falling into orbit and making a collision course toward an area close to the island.” Hicks answered.

    “Then this could be a hint that our visitor is not a mutant from this planet,” Nick assumed.

    “You might be right on that, my men even mentioned that the bat did look a bit alien,” the Major agreed. “Which is why I’m here, to ask for your assistance to stop this new threat, considering the many times that you and your team have dealt with mutants before.”

    “Of course, we’ll gladly accept your request,” said Nick. “But one last question, did the mutants escape the island?”

    “Yes, all of them have retreated, the Giant Bat was killed by the alien and C-Rex is confirmed missing,” Hicks explained. “Shame that the bat had died, I just thought of a good name for it, but I might as well give that name to the one that killed it.”

    “Mind sharing that name?” Randy asked, as Major Hicks nodded and spoke it to the H.E.A.T Team.

    “Bagorah.”

    Winner: Bagorah

    K.W.C. Kaiju War Chronicles

    A very special thanks to dopepope for some of the assets used in this banner for the K.W.C. Be sure to follow him on DeviantART, ArtStation, and Instagram.

    K.W.C. // September 10, 2021
  • Author: Andrew Sudomerski | Banner: Dao Zang Moua

    [Continued from Match 275]

    Off the coast of Vladivostok – Shin Earth

    Gilded, golden wings flapped in the torrential snowstorm, gliding over the chilly sea. The wicked hurricane transmogrified into a blizzard, freezing the water vapors that were formed and converted into ice pellets. Golden lightning struck wildly with reckless abandon, accompanied by the wrathful gales that blustered the ocean beneath them. It became increasingly difficult to navigate through the icy haze, but for the hydra it was little more than a nuisance.

    The golden demise sought the destruction of all life. Ever since that fateful, unfortunate day in San Francisco centuries ago, King Ghidorah had been on the hunt to exterminate all remaining life that existed on the planet. They knew that they were out there. The titans, the aliens, they were still here. Ghidorah scoured every square inch they came across, searching for them. Yet it felt like it was for naught. If they left one stone unturned, life would certainly flourish in their absence. That simply wasn’t an option. More importantly than that was one that it loathed and despised the most…

    As the dragon arrived at the frozen tundra, they fired their Gravity Beams and scorched the icy earth. However, they noticed their electrical output had been dampened. Even the frequent lighting strikes were less severe than they were just moments ago. A hazy memory clicked as familiarity dawned on them. They ceased and observed the misty sheet that obscured their eyes. Fortunately for Ghidorah, they did not need eyes to track their target. So long as there was a secretion of radioactivity nearby, the hydra could pinpoint their location. From what their senses dictated, another kaiju lurked in the heart of the island—with two distinct radiation emissions.

    The large, draconic shadow stretched across the landmass, churning the fallen snow from their resting place, and landed near the source. They stood above a nearby pit and peered in. Husks of the MUTO creatures they fought so long ago littered the crevice, but their shape was different. The molted shells lacked the wings of the one that challenged them and had a larger build compared to the small one. They weren’t corpses; their radiation signature indicated they were all from the same creature. For every shedding phase, the MUTO grew in size and girth, constantly changing. But what had caught Ghidorah’s attention was the outer skin that emitted nuclear steam—it was fresh. It had to have been sitting there for no more than a few days.

    The MUTO molt was a pristine white exoskeleton infused with black flesh, which matched the surrounding husks. But there was one feature that differentiated it from the rest, and that was the scars it bore. Burns were seared into it, culminating in ashen armor that was brittle to the touch. And unlike the rest of the body, the radioactive imprint left behind was not from the MUTO. No, Ghidorah remembered this scent well.

    It was from the Godzilla they had encountered centuries ago.

    That day, when Ghidorah had been reduced to just the right head, was the first and last time the hydra saw that creature. They had tried to goad it to exterminate it many times after that encounter, but the monstrosity disappeared off the face of the Earth. Not even their senses could pinpoint where it had gone to. It seemed this pest had encountered the very creature they had sought to kill.

    The right head screamed in frustration. It had yearned to consume the blood of this Godzilla. The left head chirped happily. This proved that the one they were looking for was still active. The center head snapped at them both, hissing irritably. Their ceaseless noise making would no doubt attract unwanted attention. Yet in that instant, the solid foundation collapsed beneath their feet. Ghidorah outspread their wings and took flight, but a large body leapt from the hole, pushing the debris aside. Four long curved claws hooked onto the airborne dragon’s thighs and tails; with a powerful yank, the parasitic lifeform slammed them to the ground and proceeded to drag the golden hydra into her underground lair.

    The mammoth dragon felt their wings grind against the stone cold passageway. There wasn’t enough density in the rock formations to grievously injure them or shred their wings apart. It was little more than an annoyance to the terrible tyrant. But where the evolved female MUTO would take them to was something they weren’t keen on finding out. Ghidorah outstretched their wings and dug into the tunnel’s sides, slowing their descent into hell. As the membranes dug deeper into the walls, they finally found their grip to counter the MUTO’s pull. The two titans played tug of war, putting in everything they could.

    The center head wedged between their breastbone and the burrow’s roof, its neck igniting with holy wrath. With a pump of electrical energy, Ghidorah unloaded a concentrated Gravity Beam that struck the Queen MUTO on the head. Culminating all of their power into one head forced the behemoth arthropod to release her grip, pushing her back. The left and right heads also discharged their Gravity Beams, but their target wasn’t the MUTO. Rather, they carved out the rock that enclosed their wings, with the loose gravel rolling down into the abysmal depths.

    Ghidorah’s wings finally found breathing room, even if minimal. But it was just enough. Redirecting their electrical prowess, Ghidorah discharged lightning bolts from the wing-tips, weakening the channel’s infrastructure, even if they were hampered by the MUTO’s EMP field. The more they flapped, the more they were granted freedom to move. Because of this, the entranceway was clogged from the rubble and minerals. This wasn’t much of an issue for Ghidorah as they burrowed their way through with their triple lightning beams. From what they noticed, it seemed the hulking parasite was not in pursuit.

    Soon enough, King Ghidorah eradicated the clogged hole with a burst of Gravity Beams, allowing them to snake their way out. The moment they were on surface level, they took flight upon their mighty wings and awaited their opponent.

    Another pocket imploded and revealed the Queen MUTO in all her hideous glory. Her body was substantially larger than her last molt, with bulk that rivaled mountains. Her visor streaked with a crimson glow and released a screeching cry. She defied the golden dragon and sought to become more brutal, more powerful. Even from the air, Ghidorah retorted by rattling their tails. Her insolence was duly noted.

    The wyvern took the initiative by gliding toward the monstrous creature. The MUTO raised her two enormous hooked claws and locked them in place, prepared to strike. Ghidorah brought their hind legs to the forefront and flexed their claws. The large behemoth used her other set of forelimbs to guard herself from what was to come next. And so it transpired; draconic feet clutched the beefy forearms that protected the MUTO’s body, which cracked under the immense pressure. She responded by swinging the extended hooked arms down and tore through the thick, golden membranes. The dragon furiously flapped their wings to keep afloat, subsequently following up by wrapping the bulky beast with their spiked tails.

    Ghidorah’s forward momentum carried the two titans across the rugged ice sheet, with the MUTO bearing the brunt of it. She lost her footing, allowing the three-headed menace to take over. Uncoiling their tails, Ghidorah pressed their tremendous weight on the downed MUTO. Her armor cracked some more as she screeched. With every cry, she defied the harbinger of doom, she would not yield. Irritated, Ghidorah responded by pelting her face with weakened Gravity Beams and demanded her silence.

    Even if her natural EMP dampened their full power, it still didn’t stop the fact that she would die if this continued. Lightning chipped away at her and would soon enough to snake their way into her skull. She persevered; she refused to surrender to death.

    Her brain pumped adrenaline, alerting her of her imminent demise. Time slowed to a crawl as she felt her body shift. A chemical reaction was underway, one that would turn the tide of the battle. Her internal radioactive fuel converted into electromagnetic energy; from it, she directed all her internal power into the electric organ, amplifying the power of her sphere of influence.

    The left head ceased fire and noticed it. They chirped at the others and tried to get their attention. Only the central head took heed as the right head pelted their enemy with lightning bolts. The middle saw what the left was referring to and hesitated. If they pursued this path, they could kill it before the titan could neutralize their electric prowess. The middle barked and commanded the left to continue firing until the MUTO was dead.

    In that moment, the MUTO struck against the hydra’s side, mustering enough strength to hurl the demonic dragon off her. Ghidorah careened into a nearby cliffside and toppled the icy boulders on top of their fallen form. The wyvern writhed, recuperating from the surprise attack as they struggled to break free from their confinement.

    The Queen MUTO propped herself to her feet, then observed her cracked claw. All that power, and for what? Her visor glanced at the fallen King Ghidorah. They were shifting out of the rubble that piled onto them and had yet to take flight. She continued to channel the energy, reducing the electrical prowess of the enemy. Charging amidst her mighty limbs, the Queen MUTO charged at the fallen ziz, shaking the earth beneath her.

    Ghidorah was nearly free, yet their torn wings had delayed them by mere moments. Unable to fend for himself, the hulking beast rammed directly into the three-headed devil, cracking the crust beneath them and revealing a chasm. The two titans snipped and clawed at each other, tearing plated armor and glimmering scales from their respective forms. The left and right heads tried to regurgitate Gravity Beams from their maws, but fizzled and short-circuited before even leaving the orifice. Without mercy, the MUTO Queen pressed her entire mass against the cliff-face, fracturing Ghidorah’s aurum-laced armor.

    The central head snapped with malice, clamping its jaws into the shoulder joint of the ancient parasite. The others were quick to follow suit. If they sapped the mighty foe of her strength, of her sole advantage she held over them, then certainly victory would be theirs for the taking! And lo, their actions bore fruit. Siphoned energy flowed into their body, feeling their electric energies being restored. Try as she might, the fearsome MUTO Queen could do little to shake off the vile serpents that stole her energy.

    Light emanated from the golden snake’s body as their fangs released their grip. Before the MUTO could charge again, the great and mighty destroyer stood fully upright, wings outstretched.

    And fired.

    Their entire body flashed brighter than the sun, jagged bolts of lightning searing into her body. The pushback sent her tumbling down into the chasm that she had incidentally created, hollering as she fell into the black abyss. The ensuing destruction, too, carved the lonely island as an avalanche of boulders and ice chunks pelted the fallen queen. Rushing snow muffled her cries as she was buried alive, sealing her within her temporary confines.

    Pleasure filled Ghidorah’s senses, content with their satisfaction. Having absorbed the MUTO’s essence, their regenerative factor accelerated as if nothing had ever happened. With powerful gales, the three-headed tyrant took flight into the stormy, snowbound skies. In spite of everything, Ghidorah had won. But the ultimate hunt had yet to come.

    Hours later, after emerging from the hole of ice, snow, and rocks, the MUTO reclaimed her domain. She glanced at her broken claws. This strength was insufficient. Her journey would have to continue, one built upon a wrathful foundation. She would evolve and grow and do everything necessary to bring life to this lost world.

    The MUTO’s head filled with distant ringing. Her beating heart was graced with warmth, yet she did not understand where it came from. It eluded her and her mind’s eye could only see a haze. The MUTO dismissed this thought and quickly returned to a familiar place; a frozen void, surrounded by an ocean of loneliness.

    Winner: King Ghidorah (Legendary)

    K.W.C. Kaiju War Chronicles

    K.W.C. // August 30, 2021
  • Author: Landon Soto | Banner: Landon Soto

    In a secluded village far from the cities of Japan, the local residents were going about their daily business, growing crops, fetching water, and so on. Recently, there had been rumors of villagers seeing a giant man roaming the nearby forests at night. Some claimed that it was the cause of the disappearance of cattle, of course, most people brushed off these rumors and accused the men and women who spoke of such a creature of being drunk.

    Witnesses claiming to see the giant wandering about still happened frequently, so much so that the village started integrating the giant into their culture. From tales claiming that its mighty footsteps created the earthquakes to mothers telling their children that the giant man would snatch them up should they misbehave. It seemed that this elusive giant man had left quite an impact on the small village.

    On one fateful summer day, the heat was making itself known by beating down on the residents of the village. Some were fanning themselves, others playing in a nearby lake. Everything was calm, that was until one man came running out of the woods practically in a frenzy.

    He waved his arms and shouted, trying to warn the village of an incoming threat. The people who were outside of their homes stared at the man, some went inside, others grabbed a nearby weapon, however, they were ill prepared for what was to come.

    A long tongue stretched out of the woods, grasping around the poor soul like a frog catching a fly. As quick as the tongue appeared, it disappeared along with the man. Sounds of large footsteps slowly became more and more audible, the villagers were frozen in fear as a large gray mass rose from the forest, it had a sharp white face that eerily resembled a skull, as if the skin on its face was peeled off completely.

    The most bizarre aspect of the creature was that it had arms, but no legs, its lower body dragged along the ground like a snake. The beast eyed its surroundings as it used its vile tongue to lick its own face. Some villagers called it a monster, others called it a demon.

    Technically it was neither, it was an animal from a hellish island known as Skull Island, a place full of incredible and dangerous beasts. Its mannerisms and overall characteristics on the other hand, were more like that of a monster or demon. Either way, it was hungry, and it knew it had stumbled upon a buffet of delectable morsels.

    Many people attempted to hide in their homes, but the ravenous beast easily ripped apart their houses and snatched up the families hiding inside. Some hid in pig pens, submerged in mud, managing to escape a grotesque demise.

    Just when all seemed lost, a loud roar echoed through the village, the Skullcrawler cocked its head toward the source and winced as it gazed in the direction of the sun. The beast’s reptilian eyes widened as it noticed an eerily familiar humanoid shape in the distance.

    Facing the direction of the humanoid, the beast roared at the silhouette as a warning Paying no attention to the cry, the giant humanoid charged at the Skullcrawler, its form becoming more and more clear.

    The Skullcrawler reared its head in confusion, it looked vaguely similar to the giant ape back home, but there were many noticeable differences. This humanoid was far less hairy and was scrawny compared to one back home.

    Not caring what the giant man truly was, it shook off its previous fears and charged, ready to rip this being apart. Unknown to the Skullcrawler, the giant man was no ape, although he wasn’t exactly a natural being either. It was unclear how exactly he came into the world, but what was known was that he had superhuman abilities and a name he vaguely remembered; Frankenstein.

    The two colossal beasts charged at one another, the ground quivered beneath them, preparing for a grueling fight. The remaining people of the village watched in shock as the giant of legend had come to defend their village.

    Frankenstein lunged forward and grabbed the beast by the throat, he tried to strangle the life out of the Skullcrawler but the gray creature used its powerful tail to wrap around Frankenstein’s waist and began to squeeze tightly. Roaring in pain, the giant’s grasp began to lighten up, just enough for the Skullcrawler to shoot forward and clamp its jaws around Frankenstein’s neck. Frankenstein let out a strained groan as he felt the beasts claws dig into his skin. Frankenstein jammed his thumb into the ravenous beast’s orange eye. The vile creature released its bite, allowing Frankenstein to grapple with the Skullcrawler’s jaws.

    Frankenstein began to forcefully part the jaws of the Skullcrawler, in a panic the beast uncoiled from Frankenstein’s waist and wrapped its snake-like body around the humanoid’s left arm, the beast tried to pry its opponent’s hand off of its jaws. In one final attempt to be released, the Skullcrawler shot its tongue forward, gouging Frankenstein’s left eye. The unnatural being howled in agony as the Skullcrawler ravaged his eye socket, blood and juices flying all over, reigniting the predator’s awful hunger.

    Falling on his back, Frankenstein released his grip of the Skullcrawler and clutched his face. The beast slunk away and stared at its prey, happily devouring the giant man’s eye. Suddenly, the lizard pounced with impressive speed, the predator used its razor sharp teeth to rip into Frankenstein’s ribcage. Roaring in pain, Frankenstein reached for a tree and slammed it down upon the frenzied creature.

    Getting more and more annoyed at the humanoid’s attempt to drive it away, the reptilian monster swatted the tree away with its thick forearm. The beast roared into the face of Frankenstein, but once again had its jaws grappled by the big man. Frankenstein groggily rose up as he felt his blood run down his side, the flesh peeled from his frame. With a light bellow, the giant man swung the crazed creature far from him and the village.

    Slamming into the ground, the hungry creature immediately got back up. The awful beast hissed at Frankenstein and began to charge wildly, Frankenstein uprooted another tree and closed the distance between them, smacking the Skullcrawler’s head with his tree club, the creature collapsed on the ground, seemingly unconscious.

    Frankenstein moved in closer to inspect his foe’s condition with his one good eye. Seeing his opponent sprawled on the ground gave him confidence that he had beaten the vile monster. As soon as he was about to leave however, a thick whip like tail slammed into his face, Frankenstein clutched his face as he yelped in pain, his nose nearly broken.

    The Skullcrawler’s eyes shot open as it cackled with glee, its deception managed to fool its prey. Using its tail, the Skullcrawler tripped the large man and rose up, it began to crawl atop its downed opponent’s body. His right eye seeing the incoming danger, Frankenstein put both hands in front of him, trying to prevent the beast from progressing further, but the Skull Island inhabitant still had a trick up its nonexistent sleeve.

    The creature’s long whip-like tongue wrapped around the giant man’s neck and attempted to choke out the humanoid. Frankenstein wrapped his hands around the tongue and began to tug hard, trying to bring the creature closer so he could beat it to death. Using its sharp claws, the monster raked Frankenstein’s chest, leaving three large gashes across the giant man’s chest. Frankenstein grunted in pain, but used it to apply more grip on the Skullcrawler’s tongue. His face turned red, sweat ran down his cheek as he struggled for air.

    Lunging forward, the beast managed to wrap its jaws around Frankenstein’s arms, nearly hidden by the creatures’ feral face. Feeling sharp teeth tear into his arms, Frankenstein headbutted the Skullcrawlers snout, trying to free his arms from its repulsive mouth. More and more blood oozed down the Skullcrawlers throat, it enjoyed the taste, wanting more. It tried chewing into the limb, teeth cutting open Frankenstein’s veiny arms. One last headbutt cause the Skullcrawler to retract its tongue, Frankenstein gasped for air as he yanked his arms out of the creature’s mouth.

    Grunting in pain, Frankenstein kicked the reptilian monster off of himself and rose up to his feet, Frankenstein ran a finger over his chest and felt his wounds regenerate. The giant man examined his arms, long strips of skin peeled from the limb and dangled freely, his regeneration already at work. One by one, strips of dead skin fell to the ground as new flesh took their place.

    Grabbing another tree, the man made preparations to strike the Skullcrawler and put it out of its misery. Recovering from its injuries, the sick creature was unsure of how to kill the giant. Rearing upward, the Skullcrawler roared at Frankenstein, attempting to intimidate him. Frankenstein snarled, he knew what he had to do and was ready to finish the beast off.

    The Skullcrawler charged at the giant man, mouth wide open, ready to eviscerate its prey, Frankenstein charged at the monster, holding his tree like a lance, the two ready to finish their brawl. The lone Skullcrawler lunged into the air and arched toward Frankenstein. Lifting his tree up, he shoved the splintered weapon into the monster’s throat.

    Choking on Frankenstein’s wooden club, the predator lashed out with its arms, scratching Frankenstein whenever it could. Throwing the beast down to the ground, Frankenstein released his grip on the tree and watched the Skullcrawler try to rid itself of the wooden object. Acting swiftly, Frankenstein ran up to the beast and drop-kicked the tree, shoving it further down the false demon’s mouth.

    Wood and foliage tore up the beast’s throat, but the force of the kick caused the creature to vomit. Pulling the tree out of the Skullcrawlers mouth, Frankenstein looks at the once green leaved tree, now covered in brown bile and crimson blood. Frankenstein looked down at the beast with disgust.

    Tossing the tree aside, Frankenstein sat upon the barely conscious creature’s back and gripped both its jaws with his bare hands and began to part the monster’s mouth. Pulling its upper jaw toward him, he used all the force he could muster. A creaking sound could be heard as the jaws were separated beyond their natural limitations, suddenly the jaws broke with a sickening crack that resonated throughout the forest.

    The shock instantly killed the Skullcrawler, dropping its broken jaws, Frankenstein stood up and triumphantly roared over the Skullcrawler’s corpse. The people of the village watched as Frankenstein sat atop the dead Skullcrawler, his back facing them, they could smell the faint scent of death emanating from the dead beast. Frankenstein’s crooked teeth tore into the severed right arm of his fresh kill, the meat satisfied him after his hard battle.

    After a couple minutes, a familiar cry echoed throughout the forest. Frankenstein growled, he stood up and scanned his surroundings, before locking onto the source of the sound. Far off in the distance an enormous mass was closing on Frankenstein’s location rather quickly, the late afternoon sun barely making the incoming threat visible, a Skullcrawler. The people of the village once again hid from the vicious creature, not wanting to meet the same fate as their unfortunate neighbors.

    The larger Skullcrawler was not far from the giant man now, its eyes narrowed and stared down Frankenstein. The large beast caught sight of the dead Skullcrawler right behind. Furious that its comrade had fallen in battle, the beast bellowed to the heavens, Frankenstein returned the call and got into his fighting stance. The ebony Skullcrawler stared at the giant man with gluttonous intent, it wanted to feast on the humanoid before it.

    The inky black monster lunged toward Frankenstein who rolled out of the way. Frankenstein beat the enormous Skullcrawler with the severed limb of his previous kill. The beast, annoyed by the assault, caught the arm in its toothy maw and ripped it from Frankenstein’s grasp, spitting it out and snarling at the giant man. Frankenstein grunted as he uprooted another tree, hoping to have equal success in murdering the new vile monster.

    The much larger Skullcrawler wrapped its tail around Frankenstein’s legs and dragged him off of his feet, slamming the giant human against the ground. Dirt and foliage shot into the air, Frankenstein groaned as he slipped out of the muscular tail. Standing up, Frankenstein grabbed the end of the tail, hoisting the shocked predator over his shoulders.

    Trees and dirt were sent flying as the Skullcrawler slammed into the ground, a raspy cry escaped its jaws. Dazed by the unexpected attack of its prey, the Skull Island beast tried to free itself, but to no avail.

    Frankenstein prepared to toss the Skull faced beast again, however, a sharp pain shot throughout his right leg, causing the man to fall to one knee. Looking behind him, he spotted a small Skullcrawler gnawing at his calf, Letting go of the big one, Frankenstein grabbed the smaller Skullcrawler with both hands and roared in its face, only to receive a whip like tongue toward his regenerating eye. Closing his eye, the small tongue simply bounced off his eyelid, Frankenstein threw the smaller Skullcrawler onto the big one that was recovering from the last attack.

    The both of them scrambled to their feet as they snapped at each other, both roaring at Frankenstein. The smaller one struck first by leaping at Frankenstein who grabbed the ravenous creature by the neck. Its sharp claws tore into Frankenstein’s hands as he tried to keep it far from his face. Preoccupied with the smaller beast, Frankenstein failed to notice the big one circle around him.

    Frankenstein roared in pain when he felt the larger black beast’s thick tail begin to constrict around his body. Tossing the smaller one away, Frankenstein tried to pry himself away from the squeezing monster.

    The charcoal black Skullcrawler continued to wrap around the upper body of the giant man. Frankenstein reared his fist back before striking the lower jaw of the Skullcrawler but failed to do any serious harm. Seeing its opponent struggle for freedom, the Skullcrawler wrapped the tip of its tail around Frankenstein’s right arm, forcing it back.

    Trying with all of his might, Frankenstein forced his fist forward in an attempt to break the monster’s hold. The small brown Skullcrawler saw its teammate tussle with the giant man and crept in to provide aid. Constricting around Frankenstein’s legs, the Skull Island denizen squeezed them together, causing the giant to loose footing and fall on his rear.

    The big Skullcrawler capitalized on the assist and shot its tongue out and wrapped it around Frankenstein’s left arm, then dug both of its razor sharp claws into Frankenstein’s back. Frankenstein cried out as he felt his flesh peeled from his body, struggling to free himself. The smaller one crawled up the big one and perched itself on the big one’s shoulder, lashing it’s tongue out and wrapped it around Frankenstein’s arm as well.

    The humanoid tried desperately to retract his left arm, but the combined might of both Skullcrawlers forced him to stick his arm outward. The limb extended further and further, until the big one gripped the extended arm with its own and yanked on it with brute force. Frankenstein howled in agony as his left arm was dislocated, another tug from the vile creature and the limb was ripped from the socket, blood spraying all over the face of both predators.

    Frankenstein howled in anguish as his mind was flooded with unbearable pain. The big one stuffed Frankenstein’s severed arm into its toothy jaws, but immediately began to choke and jag on the limb. From inside the monster’s gullet, the severed arm gripped onto the Skullcrawlers tongue, holding on for dear life.

    Releasing Frankenstein, the big Skullcrawler scurried away from him and continued to hack and wheeze as it tried to devour the limb. Falling on his back, Frankenstein moaned in pain as he felt blood ooze from his wound, his vision occasionally blurred. He was dragged back to reality when he felt a sharp pain shooting throughout his body, glancing at his wound, he saw the small Skullcrawler rip strands of flesh right from the stump.

    Staring at the vile creature with hateful eyes, Frankenstein hammered its head repeatedly with his good fist in a fury. The disgusting little creature’s skull caved in as blood and brain matter oozed from the fresh cavity, its lifeless body twitched and writhed about. Frankenstein picked himself up with his remaining arm and located his previous aggressor, still trying to devour his right arm.

    The giant Skullcrawler spat out the limb, the severed arm tumbled in front of Frankenstein who picked it up and examined it. Thick saliva dripped from the fingertips. The giant Skullcrawler caught its breath and glanced up toward Frankenstein, who glared right back.

    Roaring out in a fury at the loss of another member of its brood, the Skullcrawler lashed out again and swiped Frankenstein’s healed chest and created three more gashes, deeper than before. The beast shot its tongue out and licked up the oozing blood. Frankenstein fumbled back in pain before he roared and grabbed the tongue before it could retract.

    Opening his mouth wide, the giant man chomped down onto the appendage, his crooked yellow teeth sliced the tongue in two. Spitting the tongue onto the ground, Frankenstein crushed it underfoot. The Skullcrawler cried out in agony as it retracted its severed tongue.

    Frankenstein leapt forward as he roared out in a rage. The giant man swung his severed limb downward and beat the distracted Skullcrawler with his severed limb, smacking it across the Skull Island predator’s triangular face. Frankenstein then kicked the monster’s snout and sent it reeling back in pain.

    Sticking the severed arm against the stump, Frankenstein could feel his body begin to heal itself. Muscle fibers and skin tissue began to sow themselves back together as the blood began to rush into the reconnected limb.

    The Skullcrawler scoured the area in a craze, looking for Frankenstein, but when it spotted him, it was greeted with a tree to the face. The dazed creature fumbled back as it spat out a few teeth, licking the blood from the empty sockets with its severed tongue.

    Glaring at the humanoid, the Skullcrawler spun around and dragged its long tail across the ground, sweeping Frankenstein off of his feet. Rushing up to the giant man, the larger Skullcrawler clamped its jaws around the waist of Frankenstein and shook its head violently, trying to rip open Frankenstein’s stomach. The giant man elbowed the Skullcrawler’s snout, forcing the Skullcrawler to toss Frankenstein away and scratch its nose.

    Frankenstein rose up and inspected his left arm, the skin fibers were almost done reattaching themselves together. Frankenstein winced as he felt the puncture holes in his stomach slowly heal, dried blood stained his flesh.

    Panting, the giant grabbed a large boulder and tossed it at the Skull Island predator. The rock slammed into the black beast’s head, which elicited a cry of pain from the monster, forcing it to the ground. With his opponent disoriented, Frankenstein leapt forward and planted his feet on the beast’s lower jaw, then placed his hands on the upper mandible, Frankenstein tried to pry open the jaws of the big one with his whole body.

    The giant Skullcrawler uses its sharp claws to rip open Frankenstein’s back, the big man gritted his teeth as his eyes winced, but he ignored the pain and continued to lift his body upward, the pinned Skullcrawler frantically clawed at Frankenstein, desperately trying to free itself of him.

    The predator charged forward and slammed Frankenstein against a boulder, scraping him off in the process. Struggling back to his feet, Frankenstein put his hands up in his signature stance and gritted his teeth. The Skullcrawler lunged forward but was caught by Frankenstein, the giant man swung the Skullcrawler by the jaw and continued to spin until he released his grip, the large reptile crashed into the forest, kicking up dirt.

    Staring into the sky, the beast flipped over and scanned its surroundings, hearing footsteps getting closer and closer, the beast spotted Frankenstein, with another tree in his hand. Seeing the oncoming threat, the skull monster moved out into the open field once more, Frankenstein snarled as he charged at the ravenous predator, preparing to stab the Skullcrawler with the tip of the tree.

    The Skullcrawler got in close and coiled its tail around the goliath and flung the humanoid onto the ground, the back of his skull busted open by a boulder. Frankenstein groaned as he rubbed the back of his head, inspecting his hand. The giant saw crimson liquid that stained his palm, gritting his teeth and furrowing his brow, Frankenstein glared at the stalking Skullcrawler.

    Seeing its chance to attack, the Skullcrawler leaped into the air like a shark, however, Frankenstein lifted the tree above his body and prepared for the Skullcrawler. The ravenous beast’s eyes widened as it was unable to stop its momentum, spearing itself onto the tree.

    Breaking through the cracked rib cage, and nearly jutting out the back, the gluttonous demon wheezed as Frankenstein strained, but managed to stand. Lifting the dying Skullcrawler high, however, the beast would not go down without a fight. Clutching Frankenstein’s head, it felt the soft spot where Frankenstein cracked his skull, and in one last display of strength, the beast ripped open the back of the giant’s head!

    The brain of Frankenstein dangled out of the back of the giant man’s skull, both creatures stared at each other with pure hatred, before both their eyes rolled to the back of their heads, Frankenstein fell backward, nearly crushed by the Skullcrawler’s dead weight. Both monsters soaked in each other’s blood, both consumed by darkness, no signs of movement shown from either being.

    The next day came and the villagers found the lifeless bodies of both Frankenstein and the Skullcrawler. The people paid their respects to their elusive savior, and soon went back to their homes. One boy, however, thought he saw a few fingers move, but, perhaps it was just his imagination…

    Draw: Frankenstein, Skullcrawler

    K.W.C. Kaiju War Chronicles

    K.W.C. // August 20, 2021
  • Author: Quinton Blackburn | Banner: Landon Soto

    It was a world long lost to mankind. A world where giants roamed the earth and magic ruled supreme. It was a world of dragons and knights, of kingdoms and fiefdoms. It was a world that many felt was locked in statis, unchanging and forever the same as the years and decades passed. And yet, change was on the horizon. Kingdoms to the east brought in an explosive black compound they had used in fireworks, and disease ran rampant through numerous towns and settlements. A long, bloody war had begun to the north, a war many would not live to see the end of. Spring seemed to be arriving earlier and earlier each year, and the winters were becoming shorter but more brutal.

    It was a dark omen for many, one that foreshadowed something far worse. That something worse came in the form of a great meteor that crashed into the earth several miles from a benevolent king’s castle. The villages that had been there were vaporized in the collision, but the worst was yet to come. From the crater had emerged a creature unlike any other, a beast not of flesh and blood, but an insect-like abomination. The king’s forces that had been sent to investigate the tragedy had found themselves beset by the monster and a swarm under its command. Lightning crackled from the beast’s split horn and vaporized any who had stood in its way. Arrows had only bounced off its hide, but that alone was enough to draw the ire of the nightmare and the swarm it commanded. Hundreds of knights and archers were torn apart by the plague, and now, the beast slowly made its way toward the king’s castle.

    That was what the king knew, as he sat on his marble throne. The entire fiefdom had been evacuated to more distant villages at his request, but now, he was faced with a far worse problem. Within the hour, the beast would arrive, and who knew if it would stop. His entire kingdom was at risk. What had taken him decades to expand and improve from conquests and tribulations was falling apart because of a creature not of this world.

    In desperation, he had turned to a witch, a sorceress that had dwelled on the outskirts of his kingdom. His entire life, he had heard the tales of this sorceress. That she alone communed with the devil. That she had been around for hundreds of years, since the Roman Empire. Many who had come before had tried to claim the head of the sorceress, and he himself had ordered his army to kill her for her witchcraft and the danger she supposedly possessed.  Yet now, he had no choice but to lay his hopes on this woman, who was kneeled in the middle of his throne room, one hand over her bosom, and her long-tattered cloak draped against the stone floor.

    “Witch, that is the situation I am faced with,” the king coughed. He shifted his aged, hefty frame in his throne and let aged eyes look upon the far younger looking, pale skinned witch. “My greatest knights are still out there, buying as much time as they can. My greatest advisors have offered me only two options: call for your help, or run with my tail between my legs. I have no other options, and if anyone has a solution, it must be you.”

    The sorceress lifted her violet eyes up to the king. Her face showed no emotion he could read, only curiosity. Her obsidian hair was brushed back, and she let out a sigh as she stood. She was tall, a foot taller than the king had been in his prime, and half a head taller than the largest of his knights.

    “I thank you for calling on me, and yes, I do have a solution. I know of this creature from visions, and what it brings to you. It is Legion, for it is many, and a beast from behind the stars. No weapon of man can pierce its hide, and its spawn will ravage everything in its path. “

    “Legion… like the demon cast out by the Prophet…” the king muttered. Life… beyond the stars? Such a thing seemed impossible, and yet here he was not in a position to doubt such a claim. “And how can you stop it? Why is it here?”

    “It is a harbinger of far worse, my lord.” The sorceress walked toward the throne. “The Star of Calamity follows, and it will raze this world as its own. A creature beyond even the gods, an archdemon given flesh. A fallen angel who will turn your kingdom, and all others beyond it, into hell itself.”

    The king’s face paled as he heard this. “P-please, sorceress! Tell me! D-do you have a solution, a way to stop the end times? A way to save my kingdom? Anything you want, I can give you as reward!”

    The sorceress’s lips turned up at the edges only so slightly. “There is a way, but we must act fast, my lord. And you won’t like the solution, for it could still cost you not only your kingdom, but your life.”

    “And?” the king stammered. He forced himself up onto his feet, which buckled beneath his weight. “Tell me, what is it? WHAT IS IT?!”

    “It is the Fallen God, my lord.” The sorceress leaned forward to look him in the eye. “The ancient beast, Rahab. I must awaken it from its slumber.”
    _________________________

    As the last of the commoners fled the fiefdom, the knights and army of the king fought a losing battle. The swarms of the beast descended on them like a plague, and many were cut down and ripped to pieces. Yet, the swarm itself took heavy losses, as large boulders hurled through the air by catapults crushed through their ranks, and arrows tore holes into their hides, letting out the gasses that lay within.

    A spear-like leg stabbed down into a catapult and sent those too close flying through the air from the impact. The great beast, Legion, slowly worked her way across the grassland, never peeling her cold, cerulean eyes off the castle. The large structure up ahead would make for a perfect place to establish her nest. She could sense it, a large deposit of silicon in the area. The high walls were perfect to protect the flower that would be constructed within, and here, her race would prosper. It was almost too perfect, if it weren’t for the annoyances that kept firing upon her and killing her brood.

    A metallic, groaning screech echoed from her maw, and the lights above her head flashed. The Legion swarm’s attacks increased in ferocity, and they continued to plague the knights.

    A rock struck her in the head. Though it did little to actually hurt the queen, it brought her full attention on the catapults that were aimed at her, in the heart of the village. Screeching in defiance, the queen’s horn split apart, and electricity crackled in the space created….
    _____________

    “Sorceress, you are playing with fire!” the king stammered as he cleared the top step. His crimson robes and white fur coat were drenched in his sweat, and he had to rub his eyes to see clearly.

    “I know what I am doing, and it is the only way. Would you rather just your kingdom be crushed in the conflict, or everything being lost this day?” the sorceress snapped back. “Or do you need a minute to catch your breath, then give me an answer?”

    The king glared daggers at her. They had ascended to the top of the castle, and from here, the king could see over his entire fiefdom. It was a lovely sight, now that he had the excuse to come back up here again. The village building and pastureland that stretched for miles, the grasslands beyond those, the forests and trees far to the horizon-

    A pillar of fire and smoke filled his sight, and the next thing he knew, he was sent sprawling on his back from the resulting shockwave. He coughed and struggled to rise back to his feet. His head swerved out to where the plume was, and his heart sank.

    Through the smoke, the creature marched. Its hide shone with a metallic sheen, and azure eyes stared straight ahead. A single horn jutted from its head, and from the sides of its hooded neck were a dozen writhing spikes. The creature was enormous, far larger than anything he had ever seen, and yet was carried along by several speared limbs that moved it closer to the castle. An unearthly screech echoed from its maw.

    Legion was drawing nearer. It was now or never.

    “Just do it! Bring the Fallen God back to life!” the king cried.

    The sorceress rubbed her brow. “As you wish.” She then turned and walked to the ledge of the castle’s roof. She held her hand out over the edge.  “I take it you trust the tales that this kingdom was founded on top of the Fallen God’s seal?”

    “Growing up, no. But now I have no choice but to believe. And you?”

    The sorceress turned her head back to face him. “Maybe, maybe not. But we’ll see now.”

    Before the king could demand what she meant by that, he was stunned by the dark aura that seemed to surround the sorceress. Just looking upon her sent shivers down his spine. The energy he felt radiating from her… he felt the unnatural demonic power that channeled into her outstretched hand, and down to the ground far below.

    “Oh Fallen God, I offer to you my power and the blood of nobility. Arise from your sealed slumber and return once more to the world of man. Let your fire cleanse this mortal plane and suppress the insolent who define your reign! Arise once more, Fell Titan!”

    The king, realizing his cue, carefully walked up beside her. He pressed a small knife, only an inch long, against his hand, and cut in. He winced as he felt his warm blood drip down to the earth below, but any pain he felt was overshadowed as the earth itself cracked and heaved. He quickly began to backstep toward the stairs, as the earth groaned and rose.

    “My lord, I present to you, the key to your kingdom’s survival.” The sorceress turned, and gave a low bow. Behind her, the earth split apart, and cottages and stores were flung into the air. A spiked tail rose up, and lashed out against the earth. A bipedal frame rose up from the earth, and smoke billowed from an opened maw. Three horns adorned the being’s head, two on the sides and one on the front. Jagged talons flexed and sharpened against each other. An ebony hide seemed to absorb the light of the sun itself, and a demonic, sinister visage glared down at the king and sorceress.

    “The ancient texts refer to it as Rahab, but my line hold another name for the Fell Titan,” the sorceress proclaimed. “Bagan, the Fallen God!”
    __________________________

    Bagan glared down at the humans before it with contempt. The last thing the great beast remembered was bloodshed and violence and being forced into a long slumber when it lost. What it also remembered was when it had been worshipped by ancient man, with offerings fit for a god like him.

    This? This was no offering. Instead, while one was dressed in the proper garments for a worshipper of him, the other, the fat man, wasn’t. While deep down, he was somewhat grateful to be released from his seal, the lack of a proper offering, of even the proper etiquette of being approached by these mortals infuriated him. His maw opened, and light began to gather within the depths of his dark throat…

    A sharp pain struck him in the back, and Bagan nearly fell forward. The sorceress stood her ground, and watched as the claws many times larger than her ripped into the castle only a few feet away. Bagan turned, and saw the reason he had been released. The strange insectoid creature before him let out another shriek as its split horn closed.

    Bagan’s lips unfurled into a snarl. This THING, this PEST dared strike against a god?! The light that had been gathering in his mouth was now expelled, and the air cracked and hissed as a beam of concentrated plasma cut through to the queen. The beam crashed into Legion’s hide, and the insectoid menace was shocked at the power that was behind it. Her silicon body, normally able to withstand extreme temperatures, felt the heat of the beam, but even more so the explosive force which sent her sliding back. If she hadn’t had her legs hooked into the ground, she would have been blown onto her back straight up.

    Bagan howled and the Fell Titan charged at the alien creature. At the same time, Legion lowered her head and charged at Bagan. The earth shook as the giants collided with one another. Yet, it was Bagan who was shocked as the air was knocked from his lungs. The queen’s horn struck him in the stomach, and the impact cracked the armored hide of the god.

    Worse, he was being pushed back. Bagan tried to keep his footing, but Legion would not be denied. Her horn swung upward, and the next thing Bagan knew, he crashed into the ground several hundred meters behind the alien, who slowly turned back around to face him. The impact had rattled Bagan’s head, and the titan shakily rose to his feet.

    Seizing an opportunity, Legion opened her horn once more. Electrical arcs danced in the space created as she tried to take aim. The beam was fired, but the blast was wide. Instead of a direct hit, the beam scraped the edge of Bagan’s shoulder, blasting away the armor that was there and spilling crimson blood onto the ground.

    Bagan’s eyes widened as he realized what had happened. Blood… HIS own blood?! Spilled by this inferior atrocity?! Mortals had bene punished for far less, yet this was inexcusable! He would not stop until Legion’s remains were scattered across the land for this offense!

    Energy channeling in his mouth once again, Bagan fired his plasma breath, but this time, the queen was ready. Electricity crackled from her side spikes, and an energy shield formed before her. The beam crashed into the shield and harmlessly splashed over. Legion let out another shriek, but this time, it sounded more like a laugh in Bagan’s ears.

    The Fell Titan charged once again. The queen did the same, yet she realized too late it was a bait. Before she could collide with Bagan, the titan shifted his mass to the side, letting the queen move to where he had been, before he swung the full weight of his mass into her side. Legion’s legs buckled as she tried to remain upright, but it was the opening Bagan needed. He swerved to lash out at her and raked his claws against her hide. The claws punched through the silicon body of the insect and gas began to leak out. Legion cried in pain, but Bagan was far from finished. He latched his jaws around her horn and gripped his claws on her sides. Plasma was building up in his mouth. He was going to blow her head off here and now.

    What he failed to notice, until it was too late, was the rapidly climbing heat coming from the horn.

    A sharp cry came from the giant’s maw as he was forced to let go. Wasting no time, Legion opened her horn once more and fired. Despite how close the range was, the beam was a miss, and only hit the ground in front of Bagan’s feet. Plumes of earth and dust erupted outward, but while it had done little actual damage, Bagan was blinded by the bright light and the dust in his eyes.  Worse, the kinetic force of the beam’s explosion against the ground had blasted Bagan onto his back.

    Once more, he rose to his feet, but he could not see his opponent. In vain, he reached out with his clawed hands and swiped, but only felt the air. He stopped. He heard it, a repetitive thud which shook the very ground he stood upon…

     

    Something slammed into him from behind, and Bagan’s face was reunited with rock and soil. He tried to stand up but found himself bowled over yet again. In his daze another blow struck him from the front, and the impact had caused the god to cough up blood. He ran his hand across his chest, and felt a gash opened up there.

    Bagan’s anger boiled over. The enraged god turned and was about to fire his beam in every direction, when he noticed the dirt around him. The earth was torn open and resealed, but not from the battle, these streaks of brown were too precise. In his rage, a brief moment of clarity reached the titan. The insect, his opponent went UNDER the ground. He waited, and began to flick his tail again, awaiting for the ground to rattle once more.

    The noise grew louder. He waited, honing on the exact direction the trembling originated.

    It was to the left.

    Bagan twisted his body, thrusting his arms outward to intercept a long, knife like appendage. The blade stopped mere meters from the dragon’s eye as the dragon took hold of the insectoid limb. Bagan grinned. Flexing muscles long dormant, Bagan ripped Legion from her burrow and smashed a multi-clawed fist into the inferior creature. A pained cry echoed yet a cloud of debris instantly filled the space between the pair.

    Bagan wiped the dust from his eyes and blinked. Though the air was still filled with debris, he could see several spikes broken next to a large hole in the ground. The Fell Titan hissed. Had his foe retreated? Had a single strike been all it could take, and it fled with its life to rob him of the satisfaction of retribution?

    Bagan’s answer came in the form of a pair of legs that erupted from behind him. Bagan whirled around in surprise, but he was too slow, and the legs slammed down into him. Bagan struggled to keep his footing and staggered back from the hit. From the earth emerged Legion, her azure eyes flashing red for a brief moment.

    She swung her front legs again, but this time, Bagan was ready. Energy crackling down from his horns into his claws, the Fell Titan raised his arms. He caught Legion’s limbs in each hand, and with all his strength, yanked her forward. Bagan’s horn was driven into the chest of the insectoid being, and more gasses began to leak out. Now her eyes were flashing, and Bagan chuckled as the sky above turned dark. A thunderstorm was brewing.

    What he didn’t realize, was this was an alert to the swarm, a cry to help their leader. The swarm, who were finishing off the king’s forces, heard their leader’s signal for help, and turned to converge on Bagan. As the titan prepared to sink his fangs into Legion’s head, he found himself beset by thousands of Symbiotic Legions that latched onto him. At first, it was a minor annoyance, but then pain seized Bagan’s world as they began to eat away at him.

    Normally, Bagan’s hide would have been too much for the one-eyed aliens to get through, but the wounds the queen was able to inflict and the broken armor exposed easy areas for the swarm to infest and chew away at. Bagan relinquished his hold on the queen and tried to dislodge the swarm from him, but for the dozens he crushed or scraped off, more took their place. He was forced to close his eyes to keep the swarm away from such vital areas…

    And that was just the opening Legion needed.

    She lunged forward, and a blinded Bagan found himself knocked onto his back. The legs of the queen stabbed down and pinned the titan to the ground, and her horn once more opened up. Even with his eyes closed, Bagan could see the sudden brightness, and knew exactly what was going to happen.

    His horns crackled once more, and the air above Legion filled with supercharged ionized gases. As Legion fired her beam, the gases rained down like diamonds.

    The beam blasted through Bagan’s chest and shoulder and cut across his chest. Blood coughed up from the Fell God’s mouth. His entire right arm fell severed to the ground, the wound cauterized by the sheer heat of the beam. If the queen hadn’t had him pinned, the explosion would had flipped him over. The Symbiotic Legion had managed to move out of the way of the beam right on time.

    Legion, however, had come out the worst in the exchange. The diamond storm had rained down upon her, and her hide had been riddled with holes punched through. Her horn had been caught by one of the hits, and had shattered from the impact. Many of the swarm perished in the diamond storm, vaporized by the extreme temperatures or splattered. Legion’s eyes dulled, and she slumped forward. All she had wanted was a place to spread her kind, and this thing had ruined it all. She tried to will herself to rise, to conjure her energy whips to at least kill Bagan, but she couldn’t even do that. She was too weak.

    Bagan’s eyes began to close. When he had been unsealed, he wasn’t at full strength. The eons of slumber had robbed him of most of his power, and as he was, he was a shadow of his former self. In his prime, this bug would have been crushed, but instead, it had to end like this. Incapable of even killing such a thing…. What a waste.
    _________________________

    The fiefdom was in ruins. Roads that had been used for hundreds of years no longer existed. Ancient farms and armories had been leveled or replaced with cavernous trenches dozens of meters wide. The bodies of hundreds of the king’s army lay strewn across the ruined fields. Many of the Symbiotic Legion swarm were perched on either their corpses or on the exhausted frame of their queen, uncertain as to what to do next.

    From the entrance to the castle, the king reared his bald head. “I-it’s over… Sorceress… Sorceress, it’s over! You were right!” he exclaimed. He walked out of the castle and looked at the bodies of the twin giants. Never had he felt so small in his life, and yet, he was happy. “I cannot believe it!”

    “Naturally. Who would believe a giant monster could save you from another giant monster? Perish the thought.” The sorceress walked past him. Her eyes scanned the ruins of the landscape carefully, as if looking for something. “The damage can be fixed. It’ll take some time, but it’s not irreversible.”

    “Definitely not. It’s the lives I’m more concerned for,” the king muttered. “My finest knights… It won’t be easy to replace them. They sacrificed themselves for the greater good, but now… now we’re defenseless.”

    The sorceress’s hand grabbed his face, and his head was turned to look her in the eyes. The violet haze in them seemed to bear into his soul. “You no longer have to worry about that. Leave all that to me. I have just the idea in mind for my rule.” She let go and turned back to the titans.

    “W-wait a minute!” The king almost tripped over himself. “Your rule? I’m the king!”

    “Not anymore.” The sorceress grinned. The dark aura around her radiated out and flowed around the titans. Their bodies stiffened and twitched as they fought it, but in their weakened states, they were powerless. Legion crawled off of Bagan’s body, and Bagan rose to his feet. Both turned to look down at the king, and their wounds slowly began to close up. “See, you said I could have whatever I want, and what I want is your kingdom. This doesn’t change the fact you and your ancestors hunted me down and tried to kill me. As far as I’m concerned, this is payback.”

    The king’s face paled. All around him, the swarm was landing, and they had eyes only on him. “Help! HELP! SOMEONE, ANYONE! HELP ME! PLEASE!”

    The sorceress shook her head. “I’ve been waiting so long for this moment. And for this opportunity to crop up. It’s perfect, really. Your guards are gone, your knights are dead. The only ones here are you, me, and my new servants. Don’t worry, your kingdom will become something far greater under my rule. I’ll stretch it from coast to coast – no, even further than that. This entire world will be under one kingdom, with the power of Bagan and Legion under my control. If they hadn’t exhausted each other so much, I wouldn’t be able to do this, but now, there’s no one that can stop me. So, rest with your fathers, King-“

    A booming cackle cut off the sorceress. She turned to look up into the sky. All eyes did as well, even the king, who was too terrified at what he saw to move.

    High above, the sky had become enveloped in a dark maelstrom. Lighting crashed and flickered across the sky, but what came with it was what made the king’s blood run cold, and the sorceress’s eyes widen.

    A dragon descended from the dark storm, but unlike any dragon the earth had ever seen. Its scales were golden in hue, and light radiated from its body. Two tails swished behind it, each covered in spikes. Two taloned legs gripped the earth as the dragon landed, and both of its wings beat twice to keep it in an erect position. Three heads craned up to observe the two titans that looked back at it, each one crowned with a diadem of horns. The left head looked upon Bagan and Legion with a timid, almost frightened look, while the right head tilted, as if curious as to these creatures. But the middle head bared its fangs and let out a hideous cackle, a cacophony of noise unlike anything mortal ears had heard.

    The Star of Calamity was here.

    The sorceress steeled herself. Though this beast dwarfed her new servants in size, she had numbers on her side. There would be a world for her to rule, and this dragon, the King of the Abyss, would not rob her of it.

    With rage in her heart a lust for death in her voice, she screamed, “Bagan, Legion, kill it!

    Draw: Bagan, Legion

    K.W.C. Kaiju War Chronicles

    K.W.C. // August 10, 2021
  • Author: Alex Williams | Banner: Angela Rizza

    Flesh and metal exploded all around him. The only sources of light in this dark abyss he surrounded himself in were the flickering lights signaling the demise of several participants in this very bloody battle. Even his powerful fireballs weren’t reliable in this conflict to shed some light for him and the aircraft accompanying him.

    Gamera huffed as he soared through the storm, navigating it as best as he could on top of the hail of sonic beams cutting through the dark storm clouds. Several have hit him through the course of the assault and each hit made him shriek in pain more and more. The Self Defense forces accompanying him weren’t so lucky as they were cut down in seconds and yet, more plowed through the cloudy entrances.

    The sentinel wanted to feel sympathy for those throwing themselves against the Shadow of Evil, but he felt nothing. No matter how many times he saw an aircraft explode before his very eyes, he couldn’t feel it.

    Gamera couldn’t help but wonder if it was the battle itself that elicited such indifference toward their heroic sacrifices. The Guardian didn’t know how long he had been engaged with the horde of Gyaos for. Minutes? Hours? Days?

    He didn’t know.

    Was it the reemergence of the Gyaos? The beings twisted beyond anything anyone could imagine; he worked so hard to eradicate them, only for them to show up bigger and stronger in a matter of a few years. He felt a change of personality during his hunt for Gyaos, a change resulting in him only caring about the results.

    Even then, that rage, that fear, was not felt by him now.

    With the flap of wings briefly being heard in the deafening storming, Gamera unleashed a roar and slammed his elbow to the left, eliciting a gurgled, disgusting cry from a Gyaos. He reeled the vile being in range of his vision and eyed at the beast struggling to roar at him. The Gyaos, choking up blood, struggled to keep its mouth steady, readying to fire a sonic beam, but was cut off! Gamera unleashed a plasma ball at its head, detonating it upon impact. The sentinel pulled its elbow out of the Gyaos’ esophagus and let it plummet to the ground.

    Or was it the being he recently confronted?

    The being that nearly took his life and ensured the Earth to the Gyaos. He didn’t know what it was or where it came from, only it was connected to a girl in some sort of way. Whether it was something it bonded with or a battery to sustain itself, he couldn’t let it continue. No matter the cost.

    Despite it all, he felt hatred in the girl, one unparalleled by any other, but then, confusion as she was lost. She had no direction. It was if she was only driven by one goal and once it was settled, there was nothing left for her. She became a husk.

    Could the same be said for him?

    A sonic beam sliced through Gamera’s shoulder, his vocal cords ringing immediately as a shriek of pain emerged from his mouth. Taking his mind off of his thoughts, he spotted the Gyaos and jetted toward it, shoving his hand through its back. The twisted creature let out a series of pained cries, feeling the life fade from its eyes. Gamera wouldn’t let the beast suffer for long as it fired another fireball, annihilating the back of its head. The screams ceased as the beast went limp, informing Gamera that it was no longer a threat. The warden threw the Gyaos down and continued to dash across the sky, looking for another to dispose of.

    Yet, the last theory plagued his thoughts. He knew this was the end, but didn’t know how this would culminate. Either the Gyaos would rip him to shreds and feast on every bit of his body before overrunning the planet or he would perish, taking all of them with him. Those were only a few of the possibilities that rang through his mind.

    The sentinel noticed blood seeping through his many wounds and his shell severely cracked, with parts of it even torn off. He didn’t know how much longer he could keep up as the feeling of unconsciousness loomed over him, knowing it could overtake him at any second.

    Still, despite it all, these questions would linger on for whatever time he had left.

    A series of echoed shrieks rang through with several flaps drumming through his ears. Gamera glanced onward only to be met with five sonic beams cutting through several parts of his body. The conservator screeched in agony, the afflicted bones were split into pieces from his shoulder all the way to his legs, piercing them through his shell. From this point on, Gamera could no longer keep himself up in the sky. He felt himself descending rapidly as a Gyaos dove in toward him, planting its feet onto his stomach. Before Gamera could react, the Gyaos opened its maw and launched its head forward, sinking its fangs into the sentinel’s shoulder.

    Gamera elicited a blood filled cry as the Gyaos ripped a huge chunk of flesh off and devoured it. The winged beast let out another cry, going in for another bite, but Gamera mustering every piece of strength he could, fired a plasma ball at it. Sadly, his aim was off, only blasting the ravenous beast’s left wing off. The Gyaos shrieked out, but its desire to feast overcame it and went for another bite, clamping its jaws onto the shoulder wound.

    Unleashing another scream, Gamera could do nothing as he watched the Gyaos feast on him. His strength very nearly depleted as more and more Gyaos swooped down toward him to claim a bite from his very flesh.

    The sentinel knew this was the end and a bad one at that. Once they were finished with him, the Gyaos would turn their attention to humanity. He failed them and that was all there was to it. Still, he couldn’t find any remorse in it, instead feeling it was his time to go.

    Gamera felt himself let go as he prepared for his mortal enemies to pick him apart. The flaps of their wings drumming closer and closer, their cries filled with excitement. He would soon be embraced by the afterlife, with his troubles not being able to follow him.

    However, fate had an odd sense of deciding one’s path.

    The rough, roaring engines announced themselves as a volley of missiles dashed across the clouds, striking the vicious horde. Upon impact, several Gyaos exploded upon impact while others were badly scorched by the powerful weaponries’ radius. The Gyaos weren’t entirely helpless, however, as they immediately fired their beams, cutting through several of the JSDF aircraft.

    Gamera couldn’t believe his eyes as he watched the fireworks above him. The projectiles being spewed out by both sides were extinguishing every combatant piece by piece. The explosives detonating in every space colored the clouds from a near pitch black to a bright orange. The remains of flesh and metal rained down from the heavens, plummeting past the conservator and his attacker.

    The meager amounts of fire crashing in on him slowly built his strength back up, but it would not be enough to unleash a powerful attack. Despite being limited, it would be enough to raise his arm up. Gamera slowly wrapped his hand around the Gyaos’ throat, earning a panicked shriek as it felt the air escape from its body.

    Gamera, for sure knew he would at least take out this one Gyaos before he met his demise. His grip tightening around the disgusting beast’s neck while the Gyaos desperately tried to flee. Its body rattled around, its feet clawing at Gamera’s stomach, drawing blood out, but it did not deter him from relinquishing his grip.

    More and more explosions filled the sky, coloring the clouds in an even bright orange as more pieces from the deceased combatants rained down. With the raining wreckage, pieces collapsed on the two, slicing them apart. Metal shredded Gamera’s hand, cleaving two of his fingers off while the Gyaos eyes popped from the shrapnel, blinding it. The two would cease their fighting as the debris showered them in their last moments of descent.

    Their cries were the last to be heard in this war torn storm.

    CRASH!

    The two made an impact on the broken streets of Kyoto. The thud could be heard beyond the city and into the neighboring settlements. Gamera couldn’t hold back his cries as the center of his shell shattered into pieces. Broken pieces launching themselves into the surrounding buildings, shattering them in the resulting collision. The Gyaos elicited the same reaction with its feet snapping off from the impact, unleashing a panic filled scream, now thrashing around.

    Gamera groggily observed the beast blindly throbbing around, unaware of its surroundings. Had it been any other fight, he would have felt relieved about being in better condition, but had no such feelings on the resulting collision. All that mattered was fulfilling his promise of eliminating the devil on top of him.

    Once more he reached for the beast’s neck, his hand shaking and even nearly giving out. Gamera growled quietly, commanding himself to not back down, reinforcing the meager amount of strength on hand, ensuring he made it to the esophagus. His hand still shook rapidly, binding it around the Gyaos’ neck, unleashing a gurgled cry from the one-winged beast.

    The thrashing nearly made Gamera let go of his grasp, but his determination was stronger, tightening his grip. Air rapidly fled from its throat while Gamera punctured his sharp nails inside, drawing blood from it. The Gyaos gagged, feeling the very life dissipate from its body until there was almost nothing.

    With a quick burst, Gamera brutally snapped the Gyaos’ neck! The sentinel kept its grip on his deceased foe, staring at the lifeless corpse. Gamera felt himself breathing rapidly, slowly turning his attention to the sky above him, noticing how the orange filled clouds were vanishing before his eyes. He was greeted by a clear night sky with the stars shining brightly down on him. It was as if a costly battle never took place.

    The hungered cries of the Gyaos were gone.

    Gamera felt nothing of their presence. Not only their lack of it in Kyoto, but the whole world.

    The sentinel couldn’t believe it.

    The Shadow of Evil was vanquished.

    His goal was complete. The mission that was bestowed onto him by an ancient civilization was over. Gamera knew he should feel pride in accomplishing his mission, but like his feelings over the course of the battle, nothing fueled him.

    Gamera no longer had a purpose.

    He was no longer a guardian.

    The Guardian of the Universe immediately felt it would have been better had he perished in the fight. He would have at least died with a purpose, but now he would die with nothing.

    The pain still flooded his body, feeling his bright green blood oozing from his wounds and the bones in his legs shattered. Calling upon the sparse strength he had, he tightened his grip onto the Gyaos’ broken neck and lifted himself up just enough to get himself to land on his stomach.

    The collision between the ground and his hole-ridden stomach unleashed a pained cry from the guardian. He stalled for a few moments, gathering every ounce of strength he could before he could move once more.

    It was at that moment he would make himself disappear. Disappear far into the trenches of the ocean, just as he did before the Gyaos made themselves known a few years back. If he could not be granted death, then he could at least be granted with exile.

    There was nothing left for him in this world. Humanity actively fired on him this past year, hoping to eliminate him from the very planet he once loved. He couldn’t blame them, however, as he would do the same had he been in their position.

    With his remaining hand; albeit very badly, he reached forward, pulling himself up. It was the only means of transportation he could offer himself as his body was still broken. It would take years for all of his wounds to be remedied and he wouldn’t want to spend it all in a city where he could potentially endanger everyone around him.

    With another pull, he moved forward toward his goal of reaching the ocean, earning another cry from himself. The rough terrain rubbing against his wounded stomach made the journey very unbearable. Still, he pressed forward as the thought of one human probed his mind.

    The girl he was once connected with. He viewed her as a paragon of humanity, but ever since their connection was severed, she was just like everyone else. A bystander. One he wouldn’t normally notice, but was gifted to see her one last time after the fight with Iris. He couldn’t feel it, but knew he should be thankful their connection shattered when it did. It ended up being a blessing in disguise as the pain she would have shared with him would have killed her. Even then, he no longer felt that comradery with her.

    Compared to the two of them, she could still have some sort of purpose. She was free from their commitments and had a life she could explore while he was reduced to a shadow of his former self.

    With another tug, Gamera clawed forward, cringing as the ground pressed sharply against his stomach. Only one further thought filled his mind and it was one that made him feel something.

    Gamera was nothing and no matter what he did in the future, it would remain that way. He was the last of a derelict civilization and nothing could change that.

    To the former Guardian of the Universe, it was a fate worse than death.

    ***

    2020

    JR Tokyo General Hospital

    Shibuya, Tokyo

    She couldn’t shift her eyes away from the woman lying on the hospital bed. Even with the heavy rain hitting the windows, her eyes didn’t falter. The girl knew for a very long time that this moment would arrive, but once it came over, nothing prepared her for it.

    The girl wanted to cry, to beg for her mother to not go, but had to restrain herself for the sake of her little brother, Nagi. He was far too young to understand what was going on as she had to make up a lie. A lie she barely held together by fabricating a story of how she had suffered a cold. The worst thing about the lie was that she didn’t even know what her mother was dying from. She had noticed her mother getting weaker and weaker over the years, but could never pinpoint the cause of it all. Whenever she did ask, her mother would snap at her and tell “keep her nose out of it.” All she wanted was to help her in any way she could after her father passed on, but her mother would always refuse. Her mind quickly drifted back to Nagi, and fortunately for her, her kid brother bought the lie and was able to be convinced to play with the other children in the recreational room. She was grateful for it.

    “No child needs to see their parent like this,” the girl murmured, finally tilting her head down.

    Unknownst to her, the bed ridden patient slightly pitched her head up, glancing at her daughter. She felt herself slipping away, knowing this was the end. Ayana had made several mistakes in her life, wronging everyone in her life and destroying every chance she had at creating a fulfilling life.

    All she managed to do was create misery for everyone who showed her kindness. Satoru, her extended family, Mayumi, Asagi, her husband, Nagi, and Hina. They showered her with nothing, but love, however, all she repaid them with was nothing but despair.

    Ayana regretted everything about it. If she could take it all back, she would. She would have been a better sister, providing her little brother with an amazing role model instead of being withdrawn and filled with vengeance. Now, he was exactly like her, a hardened soldier, with nothing to live for. She would have been a better daughter to both her biological parents and her step parents. Both gave her everything a child could ask for, but she forsake them.

    Lastly, when she had a family of her own, Ayana treated them the worst of all. She constantly started fights with her husband, often leaving for days on end. Ayana knew it worried the three of them and at the time felt no remorse for it. It had only gotten worse when her husband perished in a car accident, leaving her with two kids she didn’t know how to raise. Their father provided them with all the care and attention they craved, but for her, it was the opposite. Nothing but neglect was given to them, leaving a very strained relationship between the three of them.

    Ayana huffed in misery knowing full well her daughter was already a better parent than her, and she had just turned fourteen. A child doesn’t need to be a parent, they just need to be a kid.

    Tears welled in her eyes, knowing out of everyone, the one she never wronged was the one who brought her pain.

    Iris.

    She felt a complete connection to the ancient being even a symbiosis to it, and in the end, was proven wrong. It had caused the deaths of countless innocents, effectively turning her into the very thing she blamed for her parents’ demise. The thought plagued her at how many people she left orphaned from her own revenge, knowing full well wherever her soul would go, she would have to pay for her sins.

    It was ironic. Her connection to the being she loved was the one that would ultimately kill her. Being inside the beast, even only for a few minutes, had drained a significant part of her lifespan. Instead of being able to live a full life, it was cut in half as problems with her health occurred by the time she reached the age of twenty. Excessive coughing, bleeding through the nose, muscle spasms, and many other terrible inflictions plagued her.

    Ayana didn’t fear her judgement. Instead, she was terrified about making the attempt to make one last amendment. She kept her gaze on her daughter, her eyes opening up slightly, happy that her mother was conscious.

    Her hand trembled as she reached for the oxygen mask on her face. The girl immediately seeing what Ayana was trying to do, jumped out of her chair and grabbed her arm.

    “Mom, don’t!” the girl cried out, tightening her grasp, desperately trying to prevent any more harm she could do to herself.

    What followed was the girl feeling her mother’s gentle touch on her arm. Ayana gave her a nod, almost telling her as if it was okay. The older woman removed the oxygen mask from her face, making herself fully visible.

    She greeted her with a soft, warm smile. An expression the girl had never seen before.

    “Hina…..” Ayana whispered, her breathing rapid.

    The heart monitors immediately racing up and down. A long steady of beeps flooded the room, prompting Hina to act. She launched her hand toward the oxygen masked and went to put it back on, but was once again stopped by her amiable touch.

    Hina glanced back at her mother, as she whispered once again, “Don’t. This is… the end.”

    “Mom….” Hina sobbed, tears dropping as if they were in sync with the rain just outside.

    “I want you…..” Ayana murmured out, but was interrupted by her daughter with an outburst.

    “No! You don’t get to do this! Not to me! Not to Nagi! You don’t get to leave after everything you put us through!”

    Ayana watched the sudden change in her daughter’s tone, as the girl who shined as bright as ever with a smile was now induced with rage. She knew she had only mere moments left, minutes if fate was generous. The least she could do was give her daughter some parting words and hoped she would follow them.

    “I know… and…. if I could go back, I’d be a better mother, but this is the real world. Second chances are not a thing,” the dying woman explained.

    The words flowed into Hina’s head, comprehending what her mother was trying to convey, however, her anger still overridden everything. She retaliated by screaming, “You say second chances aren’t a thing, but you never bothered to make the attempt! All you did was make our lives miserable! Were you trying to make us become like you?”

    The words stung Ayana, as she remained motionless by her outburst. She knew Hina was right. Every word of it, but it couldn’t be something to dwell on. She grabbed Hina’s hand, as her daughter jerked in surprise, however, she didn’t fight despite her unbridled anger currently brewing in her.

    “And every word of what you said was right,” Ayana announced quietly, causing Hina’s eyes to widen in surprise. Her anger slowly faded away and was replaced with curiosity as to where her mother was heading with this. “Which is why I ask you to do something for me.”

    Hina immediately gave Ayana a frown at the request she was making.

    “I know…. I know. I have no right to ask you for anything, but hear…. me…. out,” Ayana spoke between each cough. Each one that followed was worse and worse.

    Hina leaned in closer, offering no words in reply, but simply a slight tilt. Ayana acknowledged the response and proceeded, “Continue being who you are. No matter how difficult things get, continue being the girl who can brighten the room with a smile. Be the girl who can show everyone the world is worth living for. Live a life you can be proud of.”

    Hina trembled with the words spoken from her mother, watching her slowly lose consciousness. It was that moment she could no longer cast any anger down at her mom, but instead felt misery returning back to her. She noticed the monitor’s beeps slowing down, each one only passing by every few seconds.

    This was it.

    The moment arrived and only one of them still wanted to know it.

    The two locked eyes with each other as Ayana, using the last of her strength, murmured, “Tell Na…. Nagi…. I love him so much.”

    Tears washed over Hina’s face, as she tried her best to wipe them away, but it was of no use. Her face was flooded with them while she struggled to utter a response.

    Hina croaked out, “No… you can tell…. him…yourself. You’re going…. to get out of that…. bed, walk in that…. room and tell… him! You’re going to tell him!”

    Ayana ignored her daughter’s grieving commands. She looked deeply in her eyes and smiled, content with knowing the last thing she would see was her daughter’s shining face.

    “Hina, I love you,” Ayana spoke softly.

    As soon as the last word was said, the monitor flatlined. The room turned silent.

    “Mom?” Hina murmured, rubbing her arm, hoping she had just dozed off and she’d awaken. She continued to shake her mom’s arm countless times, desperately trying to get her to stir back up, but as if glass had just shattered on the floor, reality arrived on Hina’s doorstep.

    “Why…. did it have to be like this?” choked Hina, squeezing her mom’s hand, “Why couldn’t we have more time?”

    She let out a series of cries, screaming at the passing that had just taken place. Hina didn’t know what to do, she didn’t want to call in the nurses as they would take her mother away from her. She didn’t want to tell Nagi their mother just died. Hina felt herself frozen, not knowing what to do. The girl needed a solution, regardless of what it was, it just had to be now.

    As if her prayers were answered, a ray of sunshine broke through the dark, grey clouds and pierced through the window. The ray of light hit the side of Hina’s face. The girl shifted her head slowly to the left, immediately taken back by the new luminous beam and how it was primarily projected down toward a neighboring building.

    Her mind was cleared from all emotions, all she could focus on was the sunshine. Hina let go of her mother’s hand slowly and ventured out of the hospital room. She needed to know about the light.

    Hina stepped out of the hospital, subconsciously ordering herself to put up her umbrella, sheltering herself from the still pouring rain. The girl shifted her feet toward the destination, losing all track of time and paying no mind to anyone around her.

    Within minutes she made it to the building, noticing the decay and rust masking it along with its many shattered windows. On any other day she would have felt sympathetic for the building’s decomposition, but its current state will have to do. She took her first few steps onto the rotting stairs, carefully making sure she didn’t go through any of them.

    Her legs began to wobble from the long trek upstairs, but Hina ignored them as she reached the top. What she saw was a sight that made her heart race, a sight that made her feel elated and astonished. She was greeted with a source of vegetation on the roof, all of it growing out the objects in place, such as rusted air conditioner units and the discarded pipes. Flowers boomed through the gaps between each of the tiles, and lastly, to top it all off, an orange shrine stood in the center.

    Its presence greeted the new arrival and even seemingly ushered an invitation for her to come over. Without even giving it a second thought, Hina accepted the silent offer and strolled over to it. She stepped in front of the altar, admiring its form up close, but soon took her eyes off of it, realizing she was directly in the sun’s projected ray.

    Her umbrella dropped, turning her eyes at the beautiful view above her. She admired it and took in every second she could of it. It had been a week since she’d seen the sun and it was something that was dearly missed. Still, the beauty couldn’t overtake her yet. Hina had a reason for being at the shrine and only now did she realize why she made the trip over to it.

    Turning her attention back to the shrine, she put her hands together and began to pray. Praying for her mother to come back, to find the strength to carry out her mother’s last request, or to find some sort of purpose. Any one of these would suffice for her, so long as it gave a reason to push on.

    Then, with a step through the altar, and by praying with all her heart, she felt everything around her pause. Water no longer fell, but instead, vibrated in midair. Shortly after, a bright light shined in front of her face, Hina’s eyes immediately opening up. She watched as the droplets shot up into the air and before she could even react, her viewpoint was changed entirely.

    All she saw was the bright blue sky. Like the ray of sunshine, she admired the long lost beauty, but quickly snapped out of it when she saw where exactly she was. Hina saw herself floating in the sky!

    Hina, to her surprise, didn’t feel any fear in it, likely due to the marathon of emotions racing through her mind. Instead, she felt amazed by everything around it. She gazed at the clouds with a grassy surface to them, as if they could fit a small village on each one. The droplets of water raced upward, zooming past her.

    Out of all the things present in this new world, the thing that surprised her the most was the presence of fish swimming in the sky.

    “Fish?” Hina examined, completely baffled on how they’re able to survive without any body of water nearby. Before she could ponder it any further, swarms of the fish-like creatures surrounded Hina.

    None of which made contact with her, but still enough for her to gasp as the beings continued to circle around her. Despite it all, she didn’t feel any sort of dread from it.

    As if it had just begun, the fish swam away from Hina as she felt herself descending from the new world and back toward the one she knew. To her surprise, however, she saw the silhouettes of the clouds moving away as more of the sun shined through. She couldn’t help but smile at the sun casting its light over Tokyo, blanketing it in a world where people could find joy in it.

    “I know what I have to do,” Hina surmised, glancing down at the city below her, “I will make the world bright. Not just for you, but for everyone, regardless of what it is.”

    Hina smiled brightly, ready to make the changes needed to continue on with her life. Knowing no matter how bad times will get, she will be able to persevere and to offer a beacon of hope to anyone who needs it.

    All that was left was the world waiting for her to commit to her promise.

    ***

    2021

    Kairyu-Maru

    “I’m a sixteen year old high school student,” Hodaka typed on his phone, intently staring down at his device, hoping he would get a response to his upcoming inquiry. Any will do for that matter, one that would ensure him stability in his new life.

    He briefly rubbed his face, still covered with a couple of band-aids and a sizable bandage covering his right cheek. The wounds were not only fresh in his mind, but acquired recently. It was not something he would want to talk about to anyone nor even think about as he would often flee from those thoughts and think of something else. Preferably, starting a new life in Tokyo and thinking of the limitless possibilities. Possibilities he never knew he could achieve when he was chained to the island he lived on, but now could enjoy any he so desired.

    Hodaka went to lower his hand back down to his phone to resume typing his query, however, a voice from the bullhorns of the ship snatched him from his device’s gaze. He looked up, giving it his undivided attention, “We’re expecting heavy rain shortly.”

    Hodaka jumped up from his seat and bolted up the stairs, fully intending to witness the oncoming storm. It was a sight he yearned to embrace, as his hometown was often void of rain. He ran past several descending passengers all making their way down to the lower decks of the ship, apologizing as he squeezed between each one.

    “For your own safety, please head back inside,” the announcer through the bullhorns spoke out.

    The teenager did not let the speaker deter him from the severity of the upcoming storm, as he fully intended to bask in all of its glory. Hodaka stepped onto the deck, tilting his head as he looked at the dark grey sky looming above him. The sky was a calming sight to his sore eyes, taking him away from his worries, with the high winds providing him with a sense of comfort. Then, within an instant, the storm unleashed everything it had. Rain poured onto him, instantly drenching him. He did not run, but instead, relished in it, growing a huge smile. He stretched his arms, enjoying every drop that collided with his body.

    It was, however, too good to be true. A funnel-like shape appeared above the vessel and within seconds pounced on it. The ship rocked greatly as Hodaka lost his balance, taking him out of his state of comfort. He let out a gasp, immediately falling on his back. The pain rang through his body, but he couldn’t focus on it as he instantly felt himself sliding down toward the side of the ship. Several of the searchlights shattered from the impact along with portions of the wooden flooring snapped, allowing water to pour through.

    Hodaka felt himself hitting against the metal bars overlooking the side of the ship. He was thankful for the safety, but groaned from his stomach making direct contact with it. The blunt force was enough to knock him down for the count, but he found the strength to hold onto it for dear life.

    Against his better judgement, he looked down at the ocean, staring at the endless abyss he could have fallen into. Hodaka briefed a sigh of relief, as he felt the ship tilting back to its normal position, turning his attention over to it. He felt himself regaining his composure as he stood back on his feet. The teenager looked back over the ship, with curiosity still on his mind as he uncovered a new sight to behold, however, it wasn’t one to be admired.

    Two bright red eyes glared up at him from the water. Hodaka shivered, as he felt himself frozen while the eyes pierced through his soul. He didn’t know what it was, but knew he had to run. Despite it all, he felt his hands still glued to the rail, his feet planted firmly to the surface.

    ‘Why can’t I move?” Hodaka murmured, still staring down those devilish eyes while his mouth quivered.

    Then, the water splashed upward as the being, in the shape of a tadpole covered in sludge flew toward him. It let out a terrifying gurgle as he still felt himself frozen. Hodaka’s mind couldn’t even process what was going on, remaining fixated by the incoming creature.

    Fortunately, someone else was able to move the boy. Hodaka felt himself being slammed down on the ground as he watched the slimy beast fly over him. The boy glanced over to the source of his collapse and saw a middle-aged man kneeling in front of him. Despite his rugged appearance, with a messy stubble, clearly as a resort of uneven shaving and messy hair on the top of his head, he invoked a calming, friendly look to him.

    “The ocean’s amazing, but you can focus on it later. We have to get away from whatever that thing is,” the man ordered, pointing at the tadpole turning its attention back to them.

    Hodaka looked over as the monster’s red eyes glared at them once more. It was relatively small, but it still stood nearly twice his height. The sight of the monstrosity terrified the two, as they saw how sludge dripped from its body while it inched toward them. They nearly stumbled in their footing, but remained vigilant enough when the time came.

    The beast let out another gurgle and lept toward them, as they quickly jumped out of the way. The sludge covered monster collided with a wall, instantly causing steam to erupt as its body was causing pieces of it to melt off.

    Without wasting any time, the man let out a scream and lunged at the stoic beast, shoving a spear through its belly. The monster gurgled in laughter as it stared its attacker straight in the eye while the spear started to dissolve. The man looked down at what was happening to the spear, quickly looking back up at the disgusting creature.

    “Well, shit,” he muttered in annoyance, realizing him and the boy he just saved were doomed from the very start.

    The dripping wet monster gurgled once more, pulling itself through the spear, readying to make another leap toward its prey. The man started to run, immediately grabbing Hodaka by the arm while the anomaly gave chase.

    Their hearts raced as fast as they ran while the gurgling from the slimy creature reached closer and closer to them. Their only hope for salvation was to make it to the lower decks of the ship where they could either barricade themselves in a room or call upon others to help deal with this monstrosity.

    Despite their valiant attempts to escape, one simple thing slipped their minds. The floor was still drenched with water as both of them slipped. They plummeted down on the ground, immediately trying to pick themselves up, but were pinned down from the heavy pour. Another gurgle was heard as the two turned around to see the red eye creature leering from the corner. Its eyes once again acting as if it were staring at their souls.

    The goo-like creature moved its body past the corner and stood directly in front of them. The monster’s gurgles sounded as if it were laughing. Laughing as it finally cornered its prey, taking a few steps toward them, each one acting as if it were savoring the moment.

    Neither Hodaka or his newfound friend could move, frozen in fear. They were not ready for what was about to come, as both of them had stuff they wanted to see through, but alas, it seemed not to be.

    The being stopped in front of them, once again staring at them, almost as if it was curious about them. Within a few seconds, its behavior changed once more as it got ready to pounce on them, ending its hunt for them once and for all.

    As it reared itself back for the jump, the dark clouds parted ways and the sun’s ray shone through. Its light pierced the being, as it instantly let out a gurgled cry, harming it from the beam. The anomaly turned away from its prey and launched itself off the boat and back into the ocean. With a splash, the being felt itself more at ease as it consumed its watery home, taking one last look above as the sun continued to shine through even more.

    It had to wait for another time to resume its feast, as all it could do was stay under. Nonetheless, it glanced back at the moving ship and realized something. Wherever this ship was heading, it would be bound to contain what it needed to thrive off of. The dark creature followed in pursuit, betting everything on its hunch, knowing full well this lead would deliver all that it desired.

    Hodaka and his savior slowly got up as they breathed slowly, feeling relieved about surviving the ordeal. The teenager put his hands on his knees, panting while the man simply laughed.

    “That was a hell of a storm, wasn’t it?”

    Hodaka breathed, as he then chuckled, “Thanks for saving m…. me back there.”

    “Don’t mention it,” the man simply replied, turning his attention to the clouds dispersing as the sky was returning back to its normal blue. He smiled, content with its appearance. It may have not been his favorite reason for why he appreciated the sun, but it was certainly a good reason for it to be around.

    He turned back to Hodaka who was now standing full back on his two feet and asked, “You know, I can go for a bite. What about you?”

    ***

    It had been nearly an hour since their near death experience and despite the initial fear, Hodaka had his eyes glued to his phone once more. All that mattered to him was being able to start a new life in Tokyo, but in order for that to happen, he needed a source of income.

    ‘I’m looking for a well paid part-time job,’ typed Hodaka, hoping someone would be able to heed his request. Before he could type any further, he heard a satisfied voice, “This is delicious!”

    Hodaka looked up from his phone and watched his new friend eating a large sum of food, one that could potentially feed two people. “I don’t know if I can eat all of this, so you sure you don’t want any?” he asked, rubbing his chin while his mouth watered at the food before him.

    “No…. after what we just saw…. food’s the last thing on my mind,” stammered Hodaka, feeling more alert than ever and having his priorities in place.

    “Nonetheless, thanks for the treat,” the older man replied, taking a bite out of the gravy covered steak.

    “Of course! This was the only way I can thank you for saving my life,” Hodaka pointed out, once again feeling grateful for his timely rescue.

    “Initially yeah, but we were sitting ducks within a few minutes, so I just postponed us getting devoured,” the man paused, taking a bite out of his rice before continuing. “But, at the end of the day, at least I’m the one who’s eating and not that thing. Reminds me of this one time when I was a boy.”

    “Not to be rude, but how did something like that remind you of something from your childhood?” inquired Hodaka, feeling skeptical over his claims.

    “Eh, it’s a memory I would rather not revisit, but I suppose I could tell it if I wasn’t feeling so parched,” he spoke as if he was acting like he was trying to regain his memory while rubbing his chin. He then looked over at Hodaka with a smug expression on his face.

    Hodaka sighed, he was curious about the story, but most of all, he still felt gratitude for saving him, so he decided to indulge his request. “What’ll it be?”

    “Hmm…. Do you think they serve beer here?” inquired the man, as a grin formed on his face.

    Hodaka cringed, as he reluctantly pushed the button for “draft beer.” The price put a dent on his wallet, nine-hundred and eighty yen for a simple drink! Already were things looking down for him regarding his financial stability, but he intended to fulfill the promise he made. The beer dropped down as Hodaka picked it up and brought it over to the table.

    “Ah, just in time!” the man exclaimed happily, taking a swig from the glass. “Now, I believe I owe you that story.”

    He set his drink down, composing himself as if he were rejogging his memory, and looked back at Hodaka. The man took a deep breath in and then exhaled, “About…. twenty-five years ago, I think, my hometown, Sendai, was getting evacuated. At first, we just assumed it was some sort of flood heading our way, but instead of heading the way we were supposed to go, they directed us over to the south side where you’d think said disaster would take place.”

    Hodaka listened in, drawing more and more interest with his story, as butterflies formed in his stomach. “As we were boarding the helicopters, my seventeen year old self drew the short stick and got stuck with one that couldn’t take off.”

    He paused, taking another chug of his beer, helping him regain his composure as Hodaka noticed him slightly shaking. The teenager decided to cut in, hoping to spare him from retelling the story that would likely lead back to a tragic memory, “You don’t have to say anymore!”

    The man smirked at Hodaka’s request and followed it with a hearty laugh, “Hey now! I was just getting to the best part.”

    “But didn’t you say you’d rather not revisit it?” inquired Hodaka, concern still being a large presence in his voice.

    “Well, yeah, but it was my way of you getting me a drink,” he answered, causing Hodaka to shoot daggers at him.

    ‘A grown man scrounging on me and all I get is a shitty story.”

    “Go on,” sighed Hodaka.

    “As it turns out we get ambushed by this larger than life creature with these large horns and piercing blue eyes. I thought we were done for when this turtle comes out of nowhere and saves us!”

    “A….. turtle?” stuttered Hodaka, a bit baffled by his claim on what saved him.

    “Crazy, I know, but as a kid, I thought it was the most amazing thing ever!” he exclaimed, having a resurgence of excitement in his voice, as he took another sip. “Sadly, that turtle or Gamera as he’s apparently called, basically bit the bullet. Heard later on he was able to vanquish that thing, though, so no real loss.”

    “Not the most engaging story, if I may say so,” commented Hodaka as he winced, feeling the story was a bad trade off for the beverage he bought, but not wanting to offend the man.

    He smirked, “I suppose that’s a fair criticism. Storytelling isn’t my thing. That would be journalism.”

    “Or it could just not match up to what we just went through,” Hodaka pointed out.

    “There’s that too.”

    Hodaka stood on the deck of the ship once more, watching as it pulled into the Tokyo harbor while he admired the orange sky above him. Already he felt entranced by the great city yet intimidated by it.

    “Tokyo sure is scary,” mouthed Hodaka, still looking at it deeply. Within seconds, however, he frowned, completely realizing he never fully finished his query. He yanked his phone out of his pocket and began to type.

    ‘Where can I get one without a Student ID?’

    As if on cue with his message being posted, a raindrop landed on his phone, prompting him to look up. It hadn’t even been a few hours as the rain was making a powerful comeback. Not wanting a repeat of last time, Hodaka departed from the deck and went back to the lower levels despite having every desire to bask in the comfort of the weather.

    “So….. what brings you to Tokyo anyway?” the man asked Hodaka as they walked off the ship, making their way past the dock.

    Hodaka frowned, not wanting to burden anyone with his troubles nor inform them of him running away from home. For him, the easiest answer would have to be something to make up, even if it sounded cliche.

    “Ehm….. just visiting a relative,” answered Hodaka, hoping it would be enough to throw his temporary companion off the questions about his business here.

    “Is that so?” the man smirked, causing Hodaka to turn away at a breakneck speed, knowing full well he didn’t buy it.

    “I mean, summer vacation starts very early, you know,” stammered Hodaka, further trying to justify his fake reason for leaving his home.

    “Uh-huh,” he simply muttered, still keeping the smirk on his face. Before Hodaka could take another step, he stopped him, as he then pulled out a small card. “Well, feel free to contact me if you ever need help.”

    Hodaka grabbed the card from him, but nearly dropped it when he slapped him on the back. The teenager grunted in annoyance from the slap as the man then laughed while walking out, “See yah, kid.”

    Hodaka watched him depart in the pouring rain as he stayed under the oning for the time being. He looked down at the card, reading every bit of information printed on it. “K&A Planning” as the business and “Keisuke Suga” as the name of his savior.

    “Doesn’t even reveal his name until the business card. Would have been nice to know it a lot earlier,” mumbled Hodaka, annoyed by the amount of hurdles he went with him throughout the whole day.

    Still, he kept Suga’s offer in mind, should it come down to it, but for now, it was time to explore this new life he graciously stepped into.

    Red eyes surfaced above the water, shifting them around the brightly lit city. Its idea of following the ship was not a wasteful one as its eyes widened at several buildings emitting smoke. The beast crawled up onto a pitch black area of the dock as it let out a small gurgle like laugh.

    It slithered toward its first destination and knew it was a feast to behold. One far better than what its domain provided.

    ***

    Fuglen Cafe, Tokyo

    She sipped on her coffee as she kept a watchful eye on the rain battered windows. It had been pouring nonstop for the past few days, making day to day travel around the city less than ideal. The cold outside illuminated a light blue through the windows, contrasting with the cafe’s warm, orange lightning. As terrible as the weather conditions were, she couldn’t help but appreciate the view and atmosphere. It reminded her of the times she was a child, sitting near the fireplace while it poured just outside, listening to the fire crackle and the hard hitting rain were very enjoyable to listen to.

    “Mayumi….” a voice called out, snapping her out of thoughts.

    Mayumi looked up and saw Asagi walking over to her table with a cup of coffee in her hand. “Asagi. So good to see you,” Mayumi greeted, a smile firmly planted on her face.

    “Our meeting is certainly a bright spot for my week,” spoke Asagi, forming a smile of her own while she took a seat. “Things have been very hectic.”

    “No argument here,” sighed Mayumi, placing her hand on her head. “Between the constant running around, assisting several enclaves and updating the government on unusual organisms, it’s very tiring.”

    Asagi took a sip from her drink. “Still having you run reports on the Gyaos?”

    “Strangely, yes. Even though they’re two decades dead,” confirmed Mayumi, putting her hand on her chin. She felt strangely conflicted toward their extinction. On one hand, she was relieved they would never have to be subjected to the “Shadow of Evil” ever again, but on the other, it was all she was known for. Every call she had gotten was nothing but the Gyaos. No matter what new venture she tried to involve herself in, her work on them pulled her in.

    Once a promising young woman who struck gold, bound to make plentiful contributions to society, now just a nearly forgotten ornithologist, running errands on a product of a bygone civilization.

    “Hard to believe it’s been that long since that happened and him… disappearing,” Asagi trailed off, snapping Mayumi back to reality. She knew Asagi was still reeling over Gamera’s absence all of these years. She felt sorry for her friend, even relating to her on how a big part of her life had faded away in an instant. However, her attachment to Gamera, a connection they haven’t even shared for ages should no longer matter.

    Asagi had a life and shouldn’t be wasting it holding out hope for the Guardian.

    Mayumi knew this would set her off, but any push she could make to have Asagi move on would be worth it. She hesitated, however, as the woman before her shifted back to that young girl she first met all those years ago. One gleaming with happiness and a smile that could convince anyone to have faith, but now it was one of misery. Asagi no longer had any of those characteristics, always wearing a solemn expression and felt more reserved as if she took a vow of silence. Even if it bore no fruit, she had to try to at least try to set her on the path to moving forward.

    “You’re still holding out hope for him?”

    “Him and I were connected for a year!” Asagi shrieked out, her throat ringing as people shot looks at the two. Mayumi’s eyes darted back and forth between her friend and the other patrons, feeling taken back by the outrage and the effect it had on everyone. Regardless of context, it didn’t look so good to any outside party.

    Asagi, on the other hand, did not feel such reservation. She reinforced her glare on Mayumi, leaning over slightly toward her, speaking in a more hushed, yet defiant tone. “And then to have that connection severed, with no resolution whatsoever on whether or not I can even still communicate with him. Can you imagine what that’s like?”

    Mayumi’s heart sank. The words Asagi conveyed to her sunk into her skin, and not in the sense of them making her elicit any sympathy for her. Instead, frustration.

    She exhaled through her nose, irritated at how Asagi could even ask her a question like that. Asagi knew everything she had to go through, the losses she had to endure and how they were constantly there. To remind her of how she failed.

    “I mean, I tried my hand at raising two children for nearly ten years only to make them worse than before,” Mayumi spat, flipping her arms, frustrated at having to go over that part of her life story with Asagi. “But sure, I guess I can’t imagine what that’s like.

    Asagi was stunned, as Mayumi’s words stung her, forcing her to crash back into her seat. She was hurting and didn’t even think to realize Mayumi was still reeling from her family falling apart. Her mouth quivered as her bones were reduced to jelly, compelling her body to shake slightly, angry at herself for making such a horrible assumption.

    “You’re right, I’m sorry. I just…. still think about it…. a lot. More than I should really,” stammered Asagi, reaching for her cup to help ease her nerves.

    Mayumi watched how quickly Asagi was to rectify her choice of words and how it affected her. She was in no better shape than she was. Mayumi just held it together more than she did, and had to constantly remind herself of that.

    “No, it’s okay, I just took it the wrong way,” sighed Mayumi, resting her hands down on the table.

    The two sat motionless for a few minutes, neither of them uttering a single word. Asagi, wanting the silence to cease, decided to bring up a question in the hopes it would yield more positive results. “How’s Yoshinari?”

    “He’s good. We were able to spend a couple of days together before he had to depart,” Mayumi answered, with a brief smile on her face, however, it was forced to fade away when the second half of her answer exited her mouth. “Our careers make things hard for us, oftentimes not being able to see each other for months, but we do what we can to make it work.”

    “It’s good the two of you still have some semblance of time together.”

    “What about you and Yukino?” inquired Mayumi, hoping to hear if she was faring any better with her significant other.

    “Her…. her and I…..” stuttered Asagi, trying to convey the right words to explain her situation. She hated the subject and wished it was gone with every fiber of her body, but just as her connection was severed, her relationship was in no better shape. “We’re separated.”

    “Asagi, I’m so sorry. I thought the two of you were doing well, what happened?” probed Mayumi, her heart racing at the terrible news unfolding being relayed to her. She always liked Yukino. She knew how to break up tense situations, always inspired others to be better and her general presence was enough to bring out the best in Asagi.

    “We were, but we just had different priorities. She wanted a family, and I…. well, you know what I want,” Asagi spoke, almost as if she was whispering, but in reality, she was ashamed of that truth. She had it all, a loving wife and the prospect of having several children with her was a thought she constantly entertained, but knew it was something she couldn’t have. Not when her mind drifted elsewhere.

    “Any hope of getting back with her?”

    “Doesn’t look like it. I wouldn’t be surprised if we go with divorce proceedings within the next few months, ” sighed Asagi, as she fiddled with her thumbs, barely keeping the tears in her eyes contained. She missed her deeply, but deep down, Asagi knew thinking about her wasn’t going to solve anything. Instead, she needed a distraction, one from what was going on in Mayumi’s life. Like last time, hopefully it was enough to get her mind off of her predicament. “How’s Ayana and the kids?”

    Before Asagi’s very own eyes, the color from Mayumi’s face left her. It was as if she became a ghost, sitting motionless, looking at her dead in the eye. Asagi’s heart raced, worried over what was happening to Mayumi. She immediately reached out to her to get at least a reaction out of her, but fortunately for Asagi, Mayumi showed signs of movement. Her mouth pulsated, as she wrapped her right hand around her left arm, preventing it from shaking.

    “I didn’t know about it until a few weeks ago, but Ayana is gone,” stuttered Mayumi, her voice cracking at having to deliver the terrible news. It was a day she hoped would never come, but life was against her. It had taken away her daughter, and Mayumi knew she played a bit of a part in it.

    “No…. that’s terrible. Mayumi….” stammered Asagi, her heart sinking at the news delivered to her. She put her hand on top of Mayumi’s, doing her best to comfort the grieving mother. Asagi knew it wouldn’t do anything, but it was a gesture she couldn’t help but do.

    “I know, I know,” whispered Mayumi, the choice of volume in her voice she used as a defensive mechanism to prevent herself from breaking down. She had done her grieving beforehand, but it still wasn’t enough. Mayumi wanted to do more, but couldn’t.

    “Does Satoru know?” inquired Asagi, looking up at her.

    “I contacted the base he’s stationed at. He hasn’t returned any of my calls, so I know we’re still not on speaking terms,” Mayumi spoke quietly, still keeping her head facing down at her hands, taking a moment of silence to compose herself as she hadn’t even finished delivering the rest of the news. The part of the news that made her feel even worse than before. The chapter in her life that made her realize just how much of a failure she became.

    “And the worst part is, I don’t know where Hina and Nagi are,” croaked Mayumi, tears pouring out her eyes, as she tilted her head up to face Asagi. “I just…. wish I could have done right by them, by Satoru, by her.”

    Asagi took every word Mayumi relayed in. She felt devastated by her words. Asagi wanted to do everything she could for her, or even say something that would lift her spirits, to make her think it’ll be alright in the end, but all she could draw was blanks. Like her situation with Yukino and how she couldn’t say or do anything to save her relationship, nothing could be done with Mayumi. Instead, only a question came to mind.

    “We really screwed up, didn’t we?” sighed a defeated Asagi, relinquishing her hold on Mayumi and reeling it back to her side of the table.

    “Yeah….. We really did,” mumbled Mayumi, tilting her head down back at the table, letting her droplets of tears hit the surface.

    “You think we can move on?” Asagi asked, despite knowing it was impossible for them to do so.

    “With the way things are going, I don’t know. I really don’t know,” Mayumi croaked, followed by a series of deep breaths. Her mind was plagued with nothing but failure and doubt at how far she had fallen as a decent human being.

    “Maybe one day?” huffed Asagi, a tiny bit of hope surfacing in her voice.

    “Maybe one day,” breathed Mayumi, turning back up to her friend. She grabbed her things and stood up, no longer wanting to be in the cafe, but instead retreat to her home. The reports the government had requested could wait, she knew she could just make up some excuse to bring them in on a later date. Now, it was simply not the time for them to pester her.

    The ornithologist went to take her leave, but stopped herself as she had one final question to ask her friend. “Same time, next month?”

    “Yeah, the usual,” muttered Asagi.

    ***

    Shinjuku Station

    “Tokyo is scary,” Hodaka heaved, pressing his back against the wall as he watched the rain pour heavily on every passing individual.

    In the matter of a few weeks, Hodaka depleted nearly all of his savings, leaving him to wander aimlessly in the drenched city. He wrapped his arms around his legs in an attempt to keep himself warm, as he contemplated how to make do with his remaining funds.

    “I wouldn’t be in this mess, if the law didn’t require minors to have a student ID to apply for a job!” moaned Hodaka, rubbing his hands on his face, exhausted from the constant job search.

    He continued to stare at the passing horde as his thoughts flooded his mind. Hodaka knew he would have to think of something to get out of his current predicament, otherwise he would have no choice but to crawl back home. The very thought of that idea made him shiver. That life was nothing but pain and misery, and he would be damned if he ever had to go through it again.

    “Don’t sit here, please” a deep, commanding voice ordered, snapping Hodaka out of contemplation. The homeless teenager shifted his head toward the culprit and noticed it was a security guard, with his hands tied behind his back.

    ‘Ah crap!’

    While it was far from perfect, the shelter he provided himself was enough to buy himself some time. However, since he was being evicted, it was time to start over and to go from there once he could find another place to crash at.

    Hodaka picked himself up and started to move his legs forward into the cold, harsh rain, but not before apologizing. “Sorry, sorry.”

    He marched off into the storm, passing by several others trying to make their way through. Most of them were just blank faces to him, but a few of them stood out, primarily because of trying to ask him something.

    “Eighteen dollars, all you can drink!” a salesman cheerfully yelled out, trying to hand the pamphlet out, but Hodaka barely paid him any mind and brushed past him.

    Then another, more high pitched, excited voice spoke out, “Master!”

    Hodaka turned his head to see it was a girl in a maid outfit trying to sell a service. He nearly chuckled, realizing he couldn’t even get paid to stand in the rain like these poor people. Still, Hodaka would have preferred it to finding another station to rest under. He’d at least get to come back to a warm room after his shift was over with.

    The wandering vagrant turned his head away from the maid, electing to continue pressing on, hoping to find salvation.

    Minutes had passed and still, nothing. His feet ached while his eyes flickered on and all. He was seconds away from collapsing. Thankfully, Hodaka saw a well deserted corner he could stay at for a while, but immediately felt a hand placed on his shoulder, slightly jolting him awake.

    “Hey, you.”

    Hodaka turned around to see two police officers looking down right at him. Their eyes glaring down at him as if he committed a heinous crime. He gulped as his mouth remained glued shut while he stood frozen in place, anxious to know the reason why they stopped him.

    The officer on his left spoke, “What are you doing here? Are you a minor?”

    Those questions made his heart race as they were ones that could very well send him back to home he called a prison. Hodaka knew no answer would satisfy them, which seemed to be a recurring theme in Tokyo. There was no such thing as a good answer.

    Instead, despite the pain he felt in his feet, he immediately bolted past his interrogators! The officers attempted to latch onto them, but he used the surrounding populace to his advantage. Hodaka brushed past several people, creating a maze of his own to the point where his pursuers could not hunt him. The officers had no choice, but to give up the chase as their person of interest disappeared completely in the crowd.

    ***

    Hodaka didn’t know how long ago his confrontation with the law was, but it no longer mattered to him. He found himself huddled up underneath a seedy, old like building. It was furthest from ideal, but he didn’t care. Hodaka simply just let his eyes slam shut, getting as much rest as he could before having to inevitably move along yet again.

    A bottle rattled on the floor, stirring Hodaka awake. He nearly groaned at what the coming ordeal was to run away from, but to his surprise, a cat stared up at him. He breathed a sigh of relief and smiled softly at the grey and white cat sitting across from him. Its green eyes stared up at him while their bright pink nose twitched slightly from the cold breeze.

    “Tokyo is scary, huh, little lady?” chuckled Hodaka.

    The cat let out a small meow, walking toward him. Hodaka reached inside his pocket and pulled out a cracker. He knew it wasn’t much for the tiny animal, but it was enough to prevent it from starving. He placed the cracker down as the cat graciously chowed down on it, purring at the meal she was partaking in.

    As if he were trying to make conversation, Hodaka spoke softly, “I don’t want to go home.” He paused, continuing watching the stray cat eating the scraps before him. Unlike his new friend, he could make do with scraps, so long as he didn’t have to go back.

    “Never again,” muttered Hodaka, allowing himself to let sleep overtake him once more.

    ***

    “Who’s this?” A concerned voice asked, belonging to a well dressed woman.

    “Is he sleeping on the floor?” another asked, leering over the boy, feeling disgust at what she was witnessing.

    Hodaka groggily forced himself awake to find a man, likely the owner of the business he was sheltering under, standing above him. Malice covered his face as from his point of his view, he was about ready to beat him to a pulp.

    “Are you a customer? If not, then get the hell out!” barked the owner.

    Hodaka got up slowly, his legs shaking as if they were twigs on the verge of snapping, as his face was frozen in fear from the owner leering at him. “Sorry…. I didn’t mean to cause… any trouble,” apologized the runaway, as he went to make his way out of the enclosed space.

    “That’s the fourth time tonight!” mentally cursed Hodaka, as he would now have to shuffle for an egregious amount of time in the rain to his next place of shelter.

    ‘Why does Tokyo make it hard for someone trying to find honest work? Why does…..’

    SLAM!

    Hodaka felt himself crashing into the asphalt, he was fortunate enough to brace himself by letting his left hand and knees take the brunt of it. The runaway, however, collided with a recycling bin, immediately spilling its contents all over the street.

    It took him a few moments for the initial shock to wear off, only now realizing the cause of his fall. He glanced back at the business owner smirking at him as if he just removed a piece of trash from his property. Hodaka saw the man’s mouth open, but couldn’t hear what he was saying from the loud rain pouring all over him and the many passengers walking by. All of them, having nearly the same reaction as the person who assaulted him.

    Without providing it any further thought, his first instinct was collecting the trash littered across the street and putting it back in its container. Piece by piece was thrown back in the can, until a very peculiar object caught his eye. For a mere second, he was entranced by the unusual brown wrapping, while hands acted on their own reaching for it. Hodaka held it firmly in his hands, inspecting it, as he felt something hard and metallic inside the bag.

    However, the rain was still a nuisance and he couldn’t afford to be in it much longer. Thankfully, his stomach rumbled, providing himself the excuse to stay in an established building for an hour or two.

    ***

    With a slight tear, the content of the bag spilled from the ground and immediately made a loud thud colliding with the floor. Instinctively, Hodaka went to reach for it, but as soon as his eyes glanced downward, they widened in terror.

    ‘Oh my god….’

    Without affording himself any time to ponder the newly acquired item, he snatched the handgun from the ground and shoved it in his backpack. His heart raced as the thought of people witnessing the display became apparent to him. Hodaka’s eyes rapidly scanned the dining area, seeing if anyone spotted the act.

    To his relief, all he saw were people glued to their phones, the rain hitting the windows, or their food. Hodaka breathed a sigh of relief as he planted himself back onto his seat, as his mind drifted back to the gun. Why would someone throw a gun away in the trash? Why not just pawn it off at least make something off of it?

    With an overwhelming amount of questions flooding his conscience, only one logical conclusion came to his mind. “It’s gotta be a toy,” mumbled Hodaka, with a deep sigh following after.
    He pulled a card out of his pocket, the one from Suga, and planted it on the table. Hodaka then typed in the address and entered directions for them. “Guess it’s either take him up on his offer or crawl back home,” muttered a defeated Hodaka, as he took one last sip from his soup before letting his head drop to the table.

    His eyes closed and soon found himself drifting off to sleep, welcoming however much time he could get to rest from his constant struggles of moving from corner to corner. Then, as if Hodaka was transported to another place, he found himself sitting on his bike, overlooking the ocean on a cliff. He recognized this place all too well, it was the edge of the island he used to live on.

    Hodaka couldn’t move as his eyes were glued on the vista before him. Before getting home from school, he would always stop there, always dreaming of escaping from this island. Not only did he wonder what life was like outside of the isle, but wanted to experience it no matter what.

    Before his very eyes, a ray of sunshine broke through the dark clouds above him. As if it had a mind of its own, it traversed the ocean in front of him, almost as if it was showing him something. Hodaka sat there in amazement, immediately understanding the information it was seemingly trying to convey.

    He gripped the handles on his bike and rode off, knowing exactly what he had to do to make his dream a reality.

    BAM!

    As thunder roared, Hodaka immediately jumped up, realizing he was back in the restaurant he was currently sheltering in. Although, a girl, who appeared to be around the same age as him looked down at him with a smile on her face. As far as appearances go, she was by far the most welcoming in his time in Tokyo.

    Hodaka snapped his eyes at what resulted in his rude awakening and noticed it was simply a Big Mac. The foreigner’s face immediately lit up bright red, as he could feel the embarrassment of being startled over something as simple as a burger.

    The girl simply giggled at his reaction, finding how flustered he was getting to be adorable. “I….. er… what’s this for?” stammered Hodaka, trying to understand why she brought him a burger despite not ordering one.

    “Let’s just keep it our little secret, shall we?” hummed the worker, still keeping a bright smile on her face.

    Hodaka was taken by the gesture, never receiving this kind of kindness in his life before. Still it doesn’t answer his question on why she bestowed a free meal to him. “But, why?”

    A small frown grew on the girl’s face, as her hands went behind her back. “You’ve eaten that for dinner three nights in a row,” spoke the worker, as she went to return back to her station, however, she gave him one last smile.

    Over the course of the next few minutes, Hodaka feasted on the burger. Taking in every delicious bite. No other meal or even any other Big Mac tasted as good as the one that was handed out to him. To him, maybe that was the reason why it tasted so good. It was the first time someone had treated him like a person instead of a street urchin.

    “It really was the best meal I’ve had in all sixteen years of my life.”

    With another bite, he found his resolve.

    ‘Tomorrow is the day I take control of my life.’

    ***

    “It doesn’t work… great!” Hodaka muttered, annoyed at the doorbell not ringing. After spending forty minutes traversing through the rain, he would have been over the moon had something gone right today.

    Hodaka shrugged his shoulders as he reached for the doorknob. “If it’s unlocked, then what’s the worst that could happen? Getting chased by the cops? Been there, done that.”

    He opened the door and walked in, finding himself to be in a dive bar-like room. The colors in the room were dull, but enough to still be distinguishable. Hodaka couldn’t help but notice all the bottles lying around the room. It was then that a wretched smell entered his nose, causing him to reel back in disgust. At this point, he’d hoped he could get someone to greet him or at least find a better room than this.

    “Excuse me. I’m Morishima. I called earlier,” Hodaka announced, but to no avail, no one heard him. “Mr. Suga, are you in?”

    With no reply, Hodaka covered his nose as he breached the next room, immediately noticing the deplorable smell fading away. However, something caught his eye. Something that unleashed a horde of butterflies in his stomach, his face blushing at the sight before him.

    A very attractive woman, dressed in a purple tank top and blue shorts slept on a couch. He was astounded by her beauty as his eyes shifted toward her breasts. As soon he laid his eyes upon them, he immediately turned away, covering his face in embarrassment.

    “Wait, this isn’t right? Why am I even doing this!?” Hodaka blurted out only to be met with a femine voice, “Hello?”

    The teenager immediately jumped in shock, feeling uneasy in his moment of weakness. At the very least he reasoned himself with that he could at least make things right. “Sorry, I’m….” Hodaka tried to explain, but was simply cut off by the waking woman. “The new assistant. Kei told me.”

    “Huh?” Hodaka uttered out, completely confused at how she was referring to him as an assistant even though he wasn’t employed nor even been brought in for an interview. “No, I haven’t yet….”

    “I’m Natsumi. Nice to meet you,” introduced the now fully awake associate as a huge grin formed on her face. “Hallelujah! I no longer have to get stuck with the grunt work.”

    Natsumi got up from the couch and traversed over toward the fridge. She pulled out some ice and some iced coffee to make up for herself and Hodaka. As she put the drinks together, Natsumi composed a devilish smile on her face.

    “Say…..” sung Natsumi, immediately getting Hodaka’s attention.

    “Yes?” Hodaka questioned, curious as to what she was about to ask him.

    With a quick jump around, she joyfully blurted out “You looked at my boobs, didn’t you?!”

    Hodaka’s ghost nearly jumped out of his body, as his face was steaming red with embarrassment. With no other way to defend himself against her accusation, he simply retaliated, “I didn’t!”

    “Relax, I’m just messing with you,” Natsumi spoke softly, followed with laughter as she went back to mixing the drinks. “So, what’s your name?”

    “Hodaka Morishima.”

    “Not one I hear often. I love it!” boomed Natsumi as she brought over the drinks and took a seat across from the adolescent.

    “So…… I take it you’re employed here?” inquired Hodaka, taking a sip from his drink.

    “Ah… I see you want to know about Kei and I,” mused Natsumi.

    “Absolutely…..” stammered Hodaka.

    Natsumi chuckled at his direct yet awkward approach in their talk. “You’re a funny guy, Hodaka.”

    With another sip, she then answered his question, “It’s exactly as you think it is.”

    Hodaka nearly spat out his drink from the answer he received, letting his straw drop his hand. He watched as she went back drinking away her beverage as he was left to contemplate the explanation.

    ‘No way! A mistress? I….. Tokyo sure does keep finding new ways to surprise me!’

    “Long time no see, kid!” a voice called out, snapping Hodaka away from his thoughts. He turned around to see Suga walking in with a bag of groceries in one hand and a beer in the other. Suga smirked at Hodaka, “Have you lost weight?”

    Before Hodaka could even answer his inquiry, Suga tossed the beer to him. The beer landed in his hands, however, it was snatched away a second later by Natsumi. “Don’t tell me you went gambling again!”

    Suga didn’t give her an answer, but instead kept his focus on Hodaka while he cracked open his beer. “I take it the job search didn’t go so well?”

    “Yeah…. You could say that,” mumbled Hodaka, hanging his head in shame.

    The older man chuckled while pulling a magazine out from the bag, “No shame in asking for help.”

    “Huh?” questioned the foreigner, looking up at the magazine being presented to him. The cover showcasing a pyramid between the Earth and an eye, seemingly appearing to showcase urban legends or conspiracies. Two of which, Hodaka had no desire of contributing to, but nonetheless, had little choice.

    “This is what we’re working on now,” Suga announced, handing the magazine to him, resulting in him flipping through the pages. “We write for time-honored and prestigious magazines.”
    Most of these stories already confirmed his suspicions, such as “The Cyborg with a scarf and a motorcycle” or “Otaki Factory constructing a dancing robot!” However, one did catch his eye, though.

    “Many human sacrifices in protecting Tokyo”

    He couldn’t explain why this story in particular spoke to him, and couldn’t ponder it further as Suga continued to speak. “Our next feature is urban legends.”

    ‘Figures’

    Hodaka frowned as Suga relayed the instructions for his first task, “Go and interview people who witnessed or experienced some.”

    “Um…. okay….” Hodaka stammered, having no idea where to even start with this job. “What should I even ask for?”

    “That? Any topic will do. People disappearing with their clothes left behind, mushroom addiction, claims of teleportation. They’re all bullshit anyway,” rambled Suga, wanting nothing more for Hodaka to find him an engaging story to publish.

    “What….” Hodaka trailed off, resisting the nearly overwhelming urge to facepalm himself from all the low grade science fiction stories his new boss was suggesting.

    “Ah! I see you’re not liking those suggestions. Fair is fair, I suppose,” Suga spoke out, noticing his employee’s lack of enthusiasm. He pulled out his phone and showed it to Hodaka. “How about this? The girl who brings sunshine wherever she goes. Far more grounded, don’t you think?”

    “Sunshine girl?”

    “I’m like that!” Natsumi joyfully yelled out.

    “As you can see, it’s practically been raining non-stop this whole year,” Suga pointed out.

    “He ignored me, again,” murmured a disappointed Natsumi.

    “There’s a demand for it. People hoping for some good luck charm against the rain,” Suga further explained, taking a seat on the couch.

    “Right…..” muttered Hodaka, still not fully on board with the assignment, despite it being the best of a worse situation.

    “Come on, kid,” spoke Suga, bringing the new employee back to paying attention. “You’ve got zero initiative. Natsumi’s got an interview appointment. Go along and listen. You can learn a thing or two.”

    “Right now? Here? We’re doing this?” Hodaka blurted out with his list of questions, with the very sudden reassignment.

    “Woah! Woah! Easy there, squirt,” Suga calmly said, putting his hands up, trying to calm the kid down. “No need to play a game of twenty questions.

    Natsumi clapped her hands together all too eagerly, unleashing a huge grin on her face. “You’re on probation!”

    “Probationary period,” Suga illustrated, correcting her ever so slightly.

    “Uh….. I really can’t….” stammered Hodaka, still feeling incredibly unsure about the newfound position he was thrusted into. To which, he was now having seconds about taking Suga up on his offer, and instead wanting to head back in the drenched streets.

    ***

    “Of course, sunshine girls do exist,” the seer spoke while writing down something that couldn’t be seen by neither Hodaka or Natsumi.

    “I knew it!” Natsumi gleefully cheered, slapping her hands together.

    ‘You’ve got to be kidding me!’ Hodaka mentally screamed out while rapidly writing down everything being discussed between Natsumi and the soothsayer.

    “Let’s not forget about rain girls,” the fortune teller added, looking back up at the two. “The first are possessed by a fox god. The latter by a dragon god.”

    “Excuse me? I’m lost,” announced Hodaka, looking up from his notebook.

    The seer glanced at him, but was quickly deterred when Natsumi stepped in. “Ignore him.”

    She simply nodded her head as Natsumi shot Hodaka a small glare, who immediately understood the message and went back to transcribing the conversation at hand.

    “Dragon god individuals drink a lot. They yearn for water,” the fortune teller paused as Natsumi eagerly shook her head up and down, wanting to hear more and more of what she had to say. “They’re strong-willed and competitive, but a bit careless and unreliable,”

    “Ooh! That really sounds like me!” Natsumi blurted out, grinning at the idea she herself might be a girl of the Dragon god.

    “Fox god individuals are hardworking, but too weak-hearted to be leaders. Many are beautiful.”

    “Definitely fits me too!” interjected Natsumi, pointing to herself, feeling incredibly happy her personality compliments both tribes.

    “Really, Natsumi?” metnally asked Hodaka, rolling his eyes at her being overeager at the fortune teller’s words.

    “The weather’s off-balance, so more sunshine and rain girls are born now. Homeostasis of Gaia theory,” explained the fortune teller, letting the pen in her hand drop onto the table.

    “I see….” Natsumi trailed off, prying her fingers off her chin, leaning her ever so slightly forward in great interest.

    “We must be careful. Messing with the natural order always has a cost, as was the case when the Gyaos surfaced,” the fortunate teller began to explain, as Hodaka shifted his head away from his notebook and at the seer. He heard the name before, but no one wanted to give him an explanation as to what it was. Either due to fear or anger in their faces when the question was presented to them. Still, it was something he was always curious about.

    “Gyaos? What’s that?” Hodaka inquired as Natsumi snapped her head toward her assistant.

    “The Gyaos were big birds who were awakened by rampant pollution who could fire yellow beams or whatever! Now, hush! I want to hear the rest of the story!” she shrieked, not wanting to miss a single beat of what the fortune teller had to say.

    “As in this case with the weather girls, whoever uses too much weather power gets spirited away,” explained the seer, as she put her hands together, concluding her lecture on the weather girls.

    “That’s……” Natsumi paused, putting her hand on her chin once more, as her tone of her switched to one of caution, acting if she was suddenly more concerned with her own wellbeing. “I’ll be careful.”

    “I don’t think she’s referring to you.”

    ***

    “So, how was the crazy story?” asked Suga, peering his head over to Hodaka’s laptop as he was typing in his notes.

    Hodaka relinquished his fingers from the keyboard and let out a sigh. He looked up at Kei and answered, “A so-called psychic talked at length about fantasy novel-like stuff. I guess if there was anything interest of note, she does mention how ‘if you use too much power, you’ll disappear.’”

    “Splendid! This will do nicely in our urban legends!” Kei spoke out, sending his fist up into the air.

    “No! Weather isn’t some kind of power. It’s a natural phenomenon,” retaliate Hodaka, feeling unsure on whether or not he should still type up this bogus article.

    “Obviously, it’s a bunch of bull,” chuckled Suga, as he turned Hodaka’s laptop to face him, immediately inspecting the work he had put in so far. “But we’re providing entertainment, what’s wrong with that?”

    “I suppose that’s a fair point,” sighed Hodaka.

    “Is this all you have written so far? You’re as slow as a group of writers that I used to know,” spoke a slightly annoyed Kei, still scrolling through everything that was typed out thus far.

    “Sorry,” mumbled Hodaka, tilting his head down.

    “But it’s not so bad,” Kei spoke, smiling as he turned to the foreigner. “That settles it then! You’re hired!”

    Hodaka was taken back by the announcement. Hired? No way! His job problems were gone, but he had other problems that still needed to be attended to.

    “Wait a minute! I…..” Hodaka tried to explain, but was cut off.

    “No need to worry. It’s a live-in job and meals are included,” clarified Suga.

    Hodaka jumped from his seat and began bouncing up and down. “I’ll do it! I’ll do it! Please hire me!”

    Suga let out a belly laugh, as he patted him on the shoulder. “Good!”

    Kei then put his arm around his shoulder as a question popped in his mind. “Say…. What’s your name again?”

    “What?” the newly hired employee muttered in confusion.

    “Dummy!” Natsumi hollered from the kitchen, turning their attention toward her giggling. “It’s Hodaka.”

    “That’s right. I was going to guess Harold,” announced Suga.

    Hodaka frowned at his new boss. “Harold? Really?”

    “Hey, I was close. I knew it started with an H,” Kei pointed out, defending himself from his roommate’s scowl.

    Hodaka went to speak, but was interrupted by Natsumi. “No need to bicker. What is needed is to celebrate with a nice, delicious meal.”

    They looked over to see plates of sushi, stir fry, and lettuce wraps sitting on the table. Hodaka’s mouthered water in an instant, as he hadn’t seen food like this in months. A meal worthy of a king.

    “Here,” Suga spoke, handing Hodaka a can of beer.

    “I’m underage, remember?” Hodaka pointed out.

    “Not like any cops are after you and besides, we’re celebrating your hiring. One beer isn’t going to kill you,” Kei articulated, cracking open the can and holding it up.

    Hodaka shrugged his shoulders and followed the others’ lead. The three put their cans together and cheerfully hollered out “Cheers!”

    ‘That was the first meal I shared with someone since I came to Tokyo.’

    ‘And that was when my new life started.”

    ***

    “Callie,” Hodaka called out, holding an umbrella firm in his hand as it shielded him from the heavy downpour. His search for an old friend had not yielded any results despite searching through several alleyways for the past couple of hours.

    There were things he wished he was able to do instead on his off time, as his days on the job were very hectic. Even though his job was an editing company, his duties were beyond just writing articles. They ranged from answering the phone, filing receipts and even regular chores around the house. All of these tasks were rather tiresome, but there were others that were enjoyable such as riding around town with Natsumi to conduct interviews and to transcribe them later on.

    Even though his days were chaotic, he wouldn’t leave it for any other job. Hodaka smiled at the bond he was able to form with his two bosses as for the first time in his life, someone was relying on him, and even treated him with care.

    ‘Those rainy days in Tokyo passed in a flash’

    The teenager turned to his right and once again repeated the word he had been using all day. “Callie. Callie. Callie!”

    As if on cue, a grey and white cat hopped down and slowly walked toward him, meowing at him. Hodaka smiled as he leaned to greet his friend, “There you are!”

    He rubbed his hand on the cat’s head, immediately eliciting a pur from the feline. With his free hand, Hodaka removed food from his pocket and set it down on the ground. “How’s it going, Callie?”

    The feline let a soft meow as it then sunk its teeth into the treat. “Good girl,” murmured Hodaka, continuing to rub his hand on Callie’s head. “Took a great deal of negotiation, but I was able to secure a place for you. Natsumi loves cats and Suga loves something that can rake in cash, so you gotta be a good mascot, okay?”

    Callie paused from eating only to seemingly give Hodaka a confused look. He simply laughed in response, “My exact reaction too.”

    Hodaka smirked at his friend as she went back to eating. The name Callie, was always a beautiful word to him, as it was not only a word that was pleasant to the ears, but one that brought back good memories for him. His hometown was troublesome, but the restaurant he visited frequently were his brief moments of serenity.

    Callie’s Crumbs.

    That’s what inspired him to call his new friend. Like the mascot of the business, the stray cat was the striking image of the caricature. Finally, he looked down to see Callie licking up the crumbs before him.

    “Okay, just for you,” Hodaka murmured, pulling out yet another treat for her.

    Callie meowed excitedly, trotting over the newly placed treat and began gnawing on, taking in every delicious bite.

    “It’s an easy job. You’ll see,” a voice creaked through the hallway, capturing Hodaka’s attention. The voice sounded all too familiar to him and it was not a pleasant one.

    “Um…. stay here. I’ll be back shortly,” ordered Hodaka, as he pulled out his umbrella while Callie slightly perked her in confusion before sinking her teeth back into the treat.

    Hodaka stepped out of the alleway to see a group of people walking past him. Two of them were dressed in sharp, clean suits while his eyes gravitated more toward the girl. Could it be the way she presented herself? He looked at her beautiful pink dress and the white coat draped over it, however, it wasn’t her clothing that made him keep an eye on her.

    “But….” the girl tried to speak, but was cut off by the man putting his hand on her shoulder. “Just give it a try. You’ll get paid right away. Our club is right there.”

    “That girl….” Hodaka mumbled as he continued to watch the group get farther and farther away. His eyes lingered on her until it hit him like a bullet train. His mind flashed back to when he was in the restaurant all those weeks ago. The one who gave him the burger. It was her!

    He knew those people with her were up to no good. Despite not knowing her, he knew she wasn’t the type that shouldn’t be burdened with whatever offer those people had in mind for her. Hodaka picked up his feet as marched forward, pursuing the group to find out what was going on and to hopefully get her out.

    The pursuit led him back to where he once stayed a couple hours under. He never quite knew what it was, but could only guess it was an unpleasant, seedy establishment.

    “Give it a go and earn yourself some buck,” the owner cheered, trying his best to encourage some enthusiasm from his potential new employee. The girl quivered her lips, as she didn’t want to do it. The owner soon noticed her reluctance and smirked. He wrapped his arm around her body, eliciting goosebumps from the poor girl along with a slight jolt. “It’s right there. Let’s go.”

    Then, before Hodaka’s very eyes he dragged her toward the rundown business. His stomach turned to knots, feeling incredibly uneasy about what was transpiring before. It was clear she didn’t want to do it, but had no real choice in the matter.

    Without giving it a second’s thought, Hodaka put his hand on the orange bag around his torso. He prepared to unzip and to pull out the gun to break up the conflict, however, he froze.

    “But….” Hodaka sputtered, letting go of the bag. He picked up his feet and bolted toward the group nearing the entrance way. His heart raced, almost as if it was in perfect synchronization with his legs. Hodaka’s arm reached for, snatching the girl away from the people she was with. A collective gasp was heard while Hodaka dragged her away from the area.

    “Let’s go!” Hodaka shouted, desperation and terror in his voice.

    “Hey! Wait….. a minute!” the owner stuttered out, taking a moment to put together what just happened before rushing off to pursue the kidnapper.

    “Wait!” the girl called out, her hand still imprisoned by Hodaka’s grip.

    “Just keep running!” barked Hodaka, his feet picking up the pace, running as fast as he could.

    “Listen to me!” bargained the girl, but her pleas fell on deaf ears as they ran down the street. However, it was all for naught as they spotted one of their pursuers standing on the other side of the alleyway. The two stopped in the tracks as Hodaka immediately went to reevaluate his plan, but a hand was roughly placed on his shoulder.

    “You brat!” the owner screamed out as he threw Hodaka down on the hard asphalt. Hodaka winced in pain, his back immediately feeling the pain from the collision. He kneeled down to Hodaka, slapping him a couple of times. His face turned a bright red from the egregious amount of slaps he endured. “Hey, man. What do you think you’re doing?”

    “You were forcing her!” spat Hodaka, his voice nearly cracking as he was not only furious at what they were doing to her, but terrified at the situation he put himself in. His whole body trembled, he wanted to escape, but he had to stay vigilant. It was the only way he could possibly get these two scumbags to stay away.

    The aggressor ceased his assault, almost as if he was completely dumbfounded by the accusation. He nearly felt compelled to laugh, but wouldn’t give the young upstarter any satisfaction. Instead, he just raised his voice with pure malice. “Are you dumb or what? We’ve made a deal. Wait….” he inspected Hodaka and noticed something very familiar about him. Something very pathetic until he realized who it was. “Don’t tell me…. You’re the brat that was squatting in front of our club? What’s this, payback?”

    He reared his fist back and sent it flying down toward Hodaka’s face. The resulting punch created a huge bruise on his cheek as Hodaka bit his tongue, refusing to give him the satisfaction of letting out a cry of pain.

    “Please stop it!” pleaded the girl, as she went to reach out for Hodaka, but was quickly restrained by the owner’s associate.

    “Goddamnit!” Hodaka screamed out, his hands moving at incredible speeds, ones he never felt before as they ripped open the bag. The teenager yanked the gun out and pointed it at the man above him. “Get off me!”

    The aggressor simply chuckled at the gun geared toward him.“What’s that, a toy gun? You really are dumb.”

    His arms twitched as the gun shook rapidly. Hodaka absolutely did not want to do anything further, but his options were very limited. His assailant continued to taunt him, but his words became unintelligible as all he could focus on was whether he could fire or not.

    Then, the world went silent as he made his choice.

    BAM!

    Everyone’s ears rang from the loud gunshot. They were all frozen in fear by what had just transpired. The bullet landed next to Hodaka, leaving a small ringing noise. Smoke traveled out of the barrel while the instigator collapsed onto the street, no longer pinning Hodaka to the ground.

    Seeing this as an opportunity to make her move, she ran over to Hodaka, grabbing his arm.“Get up!” Hodaka obeyed her command and allowed himself to be picked up, immediately resulting in the two leaving the scene of the conflict while the owners were still frozen in fear by the gunshot.

    The two had run for miles, both of them were out of breath and covered in sweat. Thankfully, the girl knew a place where they could lay low for the time being as they were held up in an abandoned building. Both of them were now breathing rapidly from the exhilarating event they had to endure.

    “You!” the girl barked, Hodaka snapping his head toward her, observing as she held a towel out, as she stared him down with a glare. “What was that for? To thank me for the burger?”

    Hodaka couldn’t speak, his body still tremembled. He didn’t know if it was the result of being assaulted, the gun going, her yelling at him, or all of the above. His mouth quivered, trying to muster the strength to speak, but it was too late as she immediately yelled out once more.

    “Where did you get that gun? Who are you?”

    “That’s…” Hodaka stammered, limping toward her, but soon found himself stopping at a respectable distance from her, explaining himself to his newfound acquaintance. “I found it. I thought it was a toy. It was like a lucky charm for me.”

    “What? You pointed it at someone. You could have killed him,” stammered the girl, feeling nothing but disgust for her rescuer’s justification.

    The words stung Hodaka, with events of the confrontation finally setting in. He felt sick for what he had to do and even regretted it, but as he went over it several times in his head before, there was no other way. Before he could even find the words to make it right, she marched toward him.

    “I can’t believe it! You make me sick. You’re the worst!” shrieked the girl, shoving the towel toward him. Hodaka accepted the towel, as his hands barely held onto them due to them shaking. The girl on the other hand, stormed past him, still extremely agitated by what ensued.

    Hodaka remained nearly frozen in place except for his hands. He reached into his orange bag once more and pulled out the gun. The teenager looked down at the handgun in his hands, and on cue, they started to vibrate. He felt sick to his stomach, sick that he even had to pull the trigger. With a scream of anguish, he threw the gun at the wall as it trembled down to the ground. He then let himself drop to the ground, his hands covering his face, his sobbing synchronizing with the rain pouring through the open cracks of the old building.

    “I got fired from my part-time job,” the girl announced, making her way back toward the grieving Hodaka.

    The foreigner slowly titled his head up and removed his hands from his face. “Was it my fault?”

    “No, nothing to do with that burger,” clarified the girl, putting her hands in her pockets. “But, that’s why I need a well-paid job.”

    “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have..” cried Hodaka, tears pouring out of his eyes, swinging his head away from her. She looked down at the grieving boy and felt sympathy for him. On one hand, she was frustrated with him interfering, but on the other, she was glad he arrived when he did.

    She gave him a small smile as she lightly grabbed his cheek. “Does it hurt?”

    He slightly jerked away from her touch, surprised by her sudden kindness.“Not really,”

    She giggled at his reaction as a question entered her mind. “You’re a runaway, aren’t you? I can tell.” The two stared at each other for a moment, letting the rain outside provide them with a comfortable pause before she spoke once more. “But, you can’t enjoy Tokyo with this rain.” –

    “It’s….. Not what I expected when I got here,” answered Hodaka, feeling disappointed by the constant downpour.

    The girl smiled at him as she grabbed his hand. “I want to show you something.”

    With that, the two made their way up a series of stairs until they reached the roof, finding themselves once more drenched by the rain. Hodaka took everything in on the roof, the orange shrine, the garden and the grass peeping through the cement.

    “It’ll clear up now,” the girl disclosed, followed by a smile, reassuring him her promise would be met.

    “Huh?” inquired Hodaka, baffled at what she meant by the rain clearing up. The sun hadn’t come through in over a month.

    “What did she mean by clearing up?”

    Hodaka looked up to see the rain still collapsing on his face as the clouds remained as grey as ever. He was still unsure by what she meant, as he turned to face her to ask his question only to find her hands together and her eyes closed.

    “What do you mean?” interrogated Hodaka, but before he could even get an answer from her, a ray of sunshine struck her. Before he knew it, the clouds dissipated as the bright, blue sky came through. His mouth dropped open as he, too, felt himself covered by the sun’s rays.

    Hodaka gasped as he watched the sun shining through while the clouds retreated. For once, it was a clear day in Tokyo. An absolute beauty in his eyes. He couldn’t believe it and most of all, he couldn’t believe Natsumi wasn’t crazy!

    “A sunshine girl?!” Hodaka hollered out in astonishment.

    The girl giggled as she released her hands and turned toward him with a smile.“I’m Hina. What’s your name?”

    “Hodaka.”

    “How old are you?” asked Hina, stuffing her hands in her pockets.

    “Sixteen” answered Hodaka.

    Hina smirked at him, humming for a couple of seconds. “Younger than me. I’ll be eighteen next month”

    “You really don’t look it,” complimented Hodaka, observing her body as he took her for someone his age or even younger.

    “You should treat me with respect,” teased Hina, immediately feeling superior to her younger new friend. She blocked the sun with her hand, as she observed the alluring blue sky above her. It was a beautiful moment and she was glad she made the sun shine through today. It was the perfect time to make it happen.

    “Pleased to meet you, Hodaka,” spoke Hina, raising her hand toward him.

    Without any hesitation, Hodaka took her hand and shook it. “Me too”

    “For all the hell I went through, today was a fantastic day, and the start of the best moments of my life.”

    ***

    “Don’t say such bullshit!” Daiki yelled out at his friend as they ran down the drenched streets.

    “Why would I lie about something like this? The last time something like this happened, our parents were kids!” the other hollered out excitedly, wanting his friend to witness what he had seen just minutes before, as he struggled to keep his glasses from falling.

    “I hope you’re not wasting my time again,” sighed Giichi as he rubbed his messy hair, trying to keep it in place.

    They bolted in the alleyway as the more eager of the two shouted while pointing out deeper into the channel, “Look. Over there!”

    “What are you talking about, there’s nothing!” yelled Giichi as he looked up and saw nothing but drops of rain descending from the dark storm clouds above them.

    “Use your eyes, man!” gleefully shouted out Daiki. The two glued then their eyes up at the sky, nearly straining them as they saw a giant body of water materialize above them. Small rays of light shined through, immediately entrancing them with its beauty. However, something unnatural was swimming in it, almost as if it was seemingly basking in it.

    “What’s that?” stuttered Giichi, his whole body shaking at what just appeared before them.

    The being paused as it shifted its whole body around, now glaring at the two witnesses below it. Its piercing red eyes angered and yet curious as to why they would show up and observe it. A part of it wanted to stay and enjoy this newfound body of water, but the other wanted to feed. However, the monster wasn’t given a choice in the matter as the body of water exploded.

    The kids screamed as the pool-sized body of water splashed down upon them. Their bodies were completely absorbed by the water for a mere few seconds before immediately subsiding to the ground. The two took a moment to recompose of themselves, breathing rapidly, hoping this strange event would be over with.

    A gurgle was then heard.

    The two looked up to see sludge dripping to the ground, its black, slippery matter splashing upon their shoes. As their eyes ascended upward at the culprit, they saw a being straight up from a horror movie, something that should, in no way, shape or form exist. The being stood nearly twice their height, as it hunched over, observing them. They stood in horror as the greyish black being moved its body unnaturally, with a swishing noise that could elicit chills from even the bravest of men.

    Nothing could prepare them for what came next.

    With a loud gurgle, the anomaly leapt forward at Daiki, completely knocking him to the ground. The teenager let out a muffled scream as his whole body felt like it was burning. His skin sizzled away as his very insides were being boiled. Giichi, feeling a modicum of resurgence of composure coming back to him, reached forward for his friend’s uncovered arm. He grabbed a hold of his arm and with every ounce of strength he had, he was able to feel himself pulling his dear friend out.

    Giichi collapsed on his rear, taking a moment to collect himself. With a few deep breaths from the impressive feat of strength he had to pull, his mind drifted to his friend. To make sure everything was okay, he opened his eyes to check on his wounded friend.

    He let out a bone chilling scream as he witnessed Daiki’s heavily mutilated body before him! The skin on his upper body was completely gone, as it poured onto the wet asphalt, giving it a peach and crimson red colored paint job. Muscle and bone were all that was left, but even then, they began to melt away as steam flowed up from the body. Daiki’s unaffected arm soon broke away as the rest of the body separated itself due to his body being doused in acid. Lastly, Giichi wasn’t even successful in pulling out his friend’s whole body. His bottom half was completely gone!

    Entrails hung out and in some cases, were even leaking out. Giichi quivered his lips, horrified that he unintentionally helped that monster rip his friend in two. He snapped his head over to his friend’s head as his joyful look was history. Now, it was just muscle with his glasses seared directly above his eyes.

    A gurgle of laughter was heard once more as Giichi turned his head over to the beast standing above him. It took a step toward him, readying to absorb its prey, however his prey wasn’t entirely helpless, he got up on his feet and began to bolt. Giichi didn’t want to leave his friend behind, but it was of no use as his body was still in the process of decomposing. At the very least, he could find the authorities to put this abomination down.

    He would make sure his friend would get avenged.

    POP!

    Giichi let out a banshee scream as he felt a sudden surge of pain in his feet, as if someone poured lava on them. He collapsed on his stomach, instantly turning over to see his shoes melting directly into his feet. Giichi unleashed a howl of pain as the small amount of acid was agonizing to his skin. His mind immediately drifted over to his friend’s fate and realized his feet would meet the same. Still, he had to escape, no matter the cost. Giichi flopped over on his stomach, pushing himself to try to crawl away, noticing he was nearly out of the cursed alleyway.

    A sigh of relief overtook him, as he could get the help he desperately needed, but it was not meant to be. The anomaly hopped in front of him, part of its body splashing its contents all around the area.

    Giichi’s fear overtook him once more with tears pouring out of his eyes. All he could do now was plead. “Please… please.. Don’t do this. Please….”

    The being tilted its head slightly, seemingly taking its prey’s words into consideration. Its hands lowered down as the anomaly kept itself stationary. Giichi breathed a sigh of relief as if he mentally congratulated himself on talking his hunter down. He immediately began to veer off from the slimy being, crawling away toward his destination.

    STOMP!

    Giichi cried out once more as he felt the anomaly’s foot planting itself on his back. Immediately the back of his shirt melted away as the acidic sludge coated itself all over his back. A blood curled cry zoomed out of his mouth while the anomaly cackled in his suffering.

    Even though the skrieks of agony were music to its ears, it couldn’t afford the chance of alerting others to its position. It had nearly been compromised several times and would not be in shape to fight off a whole army. It still had plenty of delicious food to devour.

    With its arm extending out, it grabbed Giichi’s jaw, holding it in place as the sludge did all the work, melting the joints off. The beautiful screaming ceased immediately as it was replaced by gurgles while blood flooded out of his mouth.

    Giichi’s only silver lining in this whole traumatic event was that he didn’t have to suffer for long. His consciousness fading while his eyes melted, their liquid remains dripping onto the wet ground.

    The last thing he heard, however, was the gurgling laughter of his killer.

    ***

    “I understand how you feel, Keisuke,” spoke an older woman as she set her cup down. “But, she finally stopped talking about you.”

    She looked out the window, its reflection showing off her shoulder length grey hair, purple sweater and grey pants. The woman sympathized with her son-in-law, but the wellbeing of the granddaughter took top priority.

    “It’d be cruel to meet her now,” surmised the grandmother.

    “But, I have the right to see her, Kanna,” Keisuke reasoned, leaning over as he then felt a hand on his shoulder. He relented as he flashed his eyes at the social service agent, Asagi. To him, she wasn’t all that bad, she listened to what he had to say and would constantly try to help him regain custody of his daughter.

    Instead, she spoke in his place, trying to settle an agreement. “With respect, Mr. Suga has been showing improvement. Given some time or be allowed opportunities to visit Moka for a few hours per week.”

    Kanna seemingly ignored her and shifted her focus toward Keisuke, staring at him blankly. “You still smoke, don’t you?”

    “What are you even talking about?” Keisuke nearly blurted out, but kept his composure at a manageable level. He was furious at how she could make an accusation like that. He had been doing everything her and Asagi had instructed him to do, and yet, she still casted doubt upon him. Had this been any other person, he would have flown off the handle, but considering his visitation with his daughter was on the line, he had to approach this more diplomatically.

    “If I may,” Asagi chimed in, with Kanna shaking her slightly, allowing her to speak. “Mr. Suga has shown no sign of continuing that habit. He has been clean every time I’ve checked in on him.”

    “She’s got asthma,” Kanna bluntly said, seemingly ignoring the information Asagi conveyed to her once again. “I know you still smoke, and the fact you plan it around her check-ins. You’re just simply inconsiderate.”

    “I quit smoking a while ago!” announced Keisuke, disgusted with these continuous accusations.

    “Again, I can show you the proof that he’s telling the truth,” added Asagi, preparing to pull out the necessary documents to showcase the evidence needed.

    “That won’t be necessary,” spoke Kanna, nearly cutting the agent off, turning her attention to her son-in-law once more. “But…. you give a bad impression.”

    She turned to the window once more, watching the horde of raindrops pouring from the sky. With a sigh, she spoke once more, “It’s raining all the time this year. She can’t play outside, and it’s bad for her asthma.”

    “I… understand….” muttered a defeated Keisuke. He wanted nothing more than to see his daughter again, and as much as he didn’t like to agree with her, Kanna was right. The circumstances were not in his favor and he wasn’t fully honest with his statements he had vocalized just moments ago.

    “We… can still work something out. Why not at least give Keisuke two hours under your supervision every Sunday….” Asagi tried to negotiate, but was cut off by the older woman.
    “I’m sorry, but my answer is final. Until the weather clears up for a while and Keisuke has proven to change his habits, I will not grant him visitation,” Kanna spoke as she lifted herself up from the chair. She grabbed her belongings and went to take her leave, but not before she turned around one last time, “I feel sorry for children nowadays. We used to have beautiful springs and summers. I hope she can experience that with her father.”

    Keisuke planted his head on his palms, frustrated and depressed over these turn of events. It was not the first time he was denied visitation nor will it be the last. He was truly at a loss. Without her, he had no drive, he was just simply, a shadow of his former self.

    “Why… why are you trying so hard to help me?” Keisuke breathed out, turning his head at Asagi. “Any other person from social services would just side with the person who’s raising the child in a more stable home.”

    The question stung Asagi hard as if she was being impaled by those very words. She swallowed hard as the very thought and even the job made her walk on eggshells. Asagi took the job to help save families, to prevent them from being reduced to pieces, but it was rather ironic for her. She nearly caught herself laughing at it, with the situation she was in herself. All she saw in Keisuke was a reflection of herself.

    “Because you’re not the only one who screwed up on the prospect of a family,” answered Asagi, her face no longer of stoicism, but of anguish.

    “For what it’s worth, I’m sorry,” Keisuke spoke, fiddling with the ring on his finger.

    “Thanks,” Asagi spoke softly.

    “You know, you shouldn’t have covered me. I still smoke on occasion,” admitted Keisuke, as Asagi turned to him, seeing guilt flood over his face.

    “I know,” muttered the agent.

    “Why’d you do that, though? Even knowing it would affect her greatly?” inquired Keisuke, his fingers still glued to his ring.

    “Because unlike me, when you’re presented with something you need, you’ll forgo what’s actively hurting you. While you still smoke, you’ve been doing it in smaller increments. You’re giving yourself far too little credit. That is why I’m pushing for Moka to be released back into your custody,” reasoned Asagi, feeling her face as determination filled her body. If she couldn’t for her family, then she could at least save his.

    Keisuke was taken back, his fingers relinquishing their grip on his ring. He wanted to thank her in every appropriate way possible, but had once again kept himself composed. “For what it’s worth, thank you. This means a lot to me.”

    And in an instant, Asagi saw him smile for the first time ever. Rarely ever did she see such an emotion during her job, but it was one she appreciated nonetheless. Asagi, in turn, smiled back, as she got up from the couch.

    “I should get to it, there are other sessions I have to mediate,” announced Asagi, readying to take her leave as Keisuke got to his feet.

    “Look, I know it’s not my place to suggest this, but if you ever need someone to talk to about what’s going on with your life. Vague or detailed, however you want to convey it, I make for a good drinking buddy,” spoke Keisuke, giving her a warm smile, informing her he would not judge her in any way.

    Asagi couldn’t help but smile for a brief moment, but immediately retracted it with a solemn expression. “While I won’t say no to a drink or to even possibly talk about my story, I don’t think it’ll help.”

    “Why not? You’re doing a banger job of helping me out. I think you deserve to have someone help you out,” reasoned Keisuke, wanting to do everything he could to help her out.

    “Unlike your addiction, mine….. mine is not something you can get over. Especially when it has such a huge impact on your life. You can get over yours, I can’t,” explained Asagi, the words she had just spoken hurt her greatly. She wished she never spoke them or even thought about them, but it was the truth and nothing but it.

    There was no hope for her.

    “I understand, but if you need to talk about it, you have my number,” Keisuke spoke, patting her on the shoulder, the tone of his voice shifting slightly more joyfully. “Just don’t be a stranger, that’s all I ask.”

    He took his leave from the lobby, leaving Asagi to dive deep in her own thoughts. No matter who said those words or what kind of look they gave her, they did not break down her wall. She was gone as her mouth quivered, “Advice I wish I could follow.”

    ***

    Hodaka ascended up the ramp toward the apartment complex, admiring the view on his left. Rays of light poking through the lightish clouds, giving them a bluish hue pleasing to the eye. The sight was certainly comforting to him as he made plans to visit Hina today, to which it made him feel slightly uneasy. On one hand, he was excited, but on the other, he was apprehensive, fearing he could mess up at any moment.

    “They can’t live together, just the two of them,” a concerned voice spoke, gaining Hodaka’s attention.

    “You’re right,” the other woman concurred, pushing through a small red gate while Hodaka walked past them. Both of which paid him no mind as he, on the other hand, was curious as to who they were talking about. His feet continued moving him along to his destination as his mind wandered if it had to do with Hina and whoever was living with her.

    “Was there something more than just their financial issues?”

    Hodaka stopped him as stood in front of the front door to the apartment. He knocked on the door only to realize something. “Hold on…. I’m visiting a girl’s home for the first time!”

    Before he could think about it any further or even pick up his feet to run away in fear, the door slammed open with Hina greeting him with a warm, inviting smile. Hodaka jumped nearly twice his height, eliciting a chuckle from his new friend.

    “Welcome, Hodaka. You had trouble getting here, didn’t you?” teased Hina.

    His teeth chattered while his whole body shook, still feeling nervous about the meetup. “No, er….” Hodaka tried to answer, but his mind did not cooperate with him as it commanded him to nearly shove the bag full of food to Hina. “It’s not much, but…”

    “Wow, thank you. Come!” Hina ecstatically said aloud, taking the bag from him and ushering him inside.

    Upon first glance, he noticed how cramped her apartment was, immediately bumping into a table. He managed to compose himself as he stumbled out of the kitchen to where Hina directed him to the living room a mere step away. He nodded and took a seat on one of the cushions, turning his back to Hina who stayed behind to prepare the meal.

    “Did you have lunch?”

    “Not yet, but….” Hodaka tried to speak, but she waved him off. “Just sit there and relax.”

    Hina grabbed the necessary ingredients and began mixing them together while Hodaka scanned a good portion of the apartment. As he noted before, it was small, but she seems to have a good number of possessions to where she wasn’t hurting. Despite losing her job recently, she did seem to live comfortably, though he had to ask a question that’s been on his mind since he overheard his neighbors talking.

    “Do you live alone?”

    “With my younger brother,” Hina answered, cutting up some vegetables from a mini home garden. “We’ve had some problems, though.”

    “Where are your parents in all of this?” inquired Hodaka, trying to piece together as to why her parents aren’t around to give her a stable environment.

    “I….” Hina paused, sadness washing over her face as she took a look out the window before continuing, “They’re not with us anymore.”

    “I shouldn’t have brought it up! I’m sorry!” Hodaka nearly snapped, feeling ashamed of himself for probing into a sensitive issue for her.

    “It’s okay. It’s only natural to ask that,” Hina assured nonchalantly, keeping her eyes on the window.

    “Surely you have other family to call on, right?”

    Hina glanced back at the meal, keeping her voice as composed as possible. The talk of family always made her emotional and knew it wouldn’t be the time and place to break down in front of her new friend. “We have grandparents, and…. an uncle, somewhere out there.”

    Hodaka felt perplexed by her lack of enthusiasm for not wanting to find her missing relatives. While he was not fond of this, he did not want her to feel the same way as he did. She did not deserve to be miserable. “Don’t you want to find them?”

    “I’d love to meet them, but my mother barely talked about them. I only remember her saying she was adopted and not really on the best of terms with them,” rambled Hina, taking another look back at the window, watching the rain continuously hitting the ground as lower inclinations were overflowing. “I hope to meet them one day, see what they’re like and tell me what my mother was really like.”

    Hina grabbed her desired spices from the rack and sprinkled them onto the meal in place. “Now, time to play twenty questions with you. Why did you run away?”

    Hodaka sighed at the question. It was one he was tired of hearing. Suga, Natsumi, Hina, everyone asked him that question. “I found it suffocating to live with my parents. And in that town.”

    “I see. I guess we rolled the dice on troublesome families, then,” surmised the cook. “Shouldn’t you go back? Surely it can’t be that bad over there.”

    Hodaka felt himself beginning to shake, but was able to stop himself from making it too noticeable. The issue always brought out the worst in him and he knew he would have to drop it before he’d snapped. “I don’t want to.”

    “Right,” Hina spoke, picking up the tray and bringing it over to the table with a huge grin on her face. “Here you go!”

    “Wow!” Hodaka vocalized in delight as his mouth watered over the meal before him, taking him away from his previous thoughts. Two giant plates sat before him, one being a lettuce wrap complete with tomatoes and meatballs while the other was a just rice bowl with an overeasy egg sitting in the middle. It was simply a feast to behold.

    “So, how’s Tokyo treating you?”

    “Hmm…. come to think of it, I don’t feel like I’m suffocating anymore,” Hodaka spoke quietly, feeling content with his decision all those weeks ago.

    “I’m happy you’re able to live more freely,” expressed Hina.

    Hodaka simply nodded as they both clapped their hands. “Let’s eat!”

    Minutes passed as they continued to gorge down on the delicious feast when a light bulb lit in Hodaka’s head!

    “Of course!”

    The visitor reached into his back and pulled out a notebook, detailing a purpose that could get her out of the situation she was currently in. Hina took notice of the notebook and grabbed a hold of it. She spent several minutes reading it over before looking back at Hodaka, her eyes widening.

    “Wait, you’re actually serious about this?” gasped Hina, scrolling through the notes Hodaka put down on the notebook.

    “Well, you’re a real sunshine girl, aren’t you?” Hodaka asked as Hina nodded, turning to face him. “You can clear the sky up by praying.”

    “Yeah,” Hina trailed off, grabbing a bowl of dessert.

    “Don’t you need a job, though? You’re a bit strapped for cash.”

    “I do. But, I’d feel guilty about charging people for bringing the sun out.”

    “It’s a better alternative than working at the club,” Hodaka surmised as his eyes gazed upon her, admiring her beauty.

    “Hodaka,” Hina muttered, gaining his attention. “What are you looking at!?”

    Hodaka nearly jumped out of his seat as Hina wrapped her arms around herself. His face turned red as a tomato, “I’m not looking at anything!”

    Hina continued to glare at him as Hodaka muttered, “I’m sorry.”

    “Apology accepted, but you’re not off the hook,” Hina declared as Hodaka chuckled while rubbing the back of his head.

    He then pulled out his laptop, typing up a few things befores pointing it to Hina. Her head jerk backed slightly, apprehensive about the price displayed in front of her. “Isn’t five thousand yen a bit too much?”

    “Shall we do three thousand yen then?” Hodaka suggested.

    Hina put her hand up to chin, contemplating their decision. “Considering living expenses, though. I suppose five thousand is a fair price, if we do this.”

    The day soon turned to night as the two discussed the prospect of their future business together. Split of profits, expenses, scheduling, and anything else that came to mind. With some arguing and laughs, the two were able to get a good idea on how to run their newly born business.

    “It’s done!” The two gleefully said out loud as the screen lit up their faces with the graphics they had created. A simple yet enticing homepage of the sun shining bright with a frog in a raincoat holding hands with a dog while the clouds dispersed.

    “Time to upload it,” declared Hodaka, moving his finger toward the publish button.

    “Hey! I’m home!” a childish voice called out, closing the door behind them. “I’d like some sardines please!”

    Hodaka and Hina looked up from the screen to see a child with black hair going down to his neck. He had a backpack strapped to his back as he was well groomed wearing clothing that would come from a private school. However, he was completely baffled by who this stranger was in his house.

    “Uh… who are you?”

    “You’re the boy from the bus!” Hodaka called out.

    The boy tilted his head to the right, completely baffled at what the stranger was talking about. “I…. what?”

    “Do you know each other?” Hina asked, raising her hand toward the child. “Hodaka, this is my brother Nagi.”

    “Nagi, this is Hodaka. He’s my business partner.”

    Before Nagi could express further confusion, a coin depositing sound erupted from the laptop. Hodaka snatched up the computer and exclaimed, “We got a request!”

    Hina glanced over to the screen, realizing he was telling the truth, but still in amazement by how fast a request arrived. “You’ve already uploaded it?”

    “They want good weather for a flea market,” explained Hodaka. “It’s tomorrow”

    “Wait a minute! Am I really going to do this?” Hina screeched out, jumping up and down as she was already beginning to express doubt on performing this job.

    “We can figure something out!” Hodaka spoke out, trying to reassure his friend while Nagi rolled his eyes and made way toward the kitchen.

    “But, it’s going to rain!” countered Hina.

    “That’s the whole point! You have to clear it up!”

    “Who the hell is this guy?” Nagi asked himself as he opened up the fridge, trying to find something to fix up. “What did he do to my sister? And why am I acting like the adult all of a sudden?”

    ***

    “Please use this,” Hodaka demanded, holding out a yellow umbrella for Hina to take.

    Hina opened the umbrella and with it several ghosts floated around with the barely visible strings holding together. She appreciated the effort he’d put in for her, but it was something she not only didn’t need nor really cared for. “Sorry, I won’t,” Hina answered, closing the paracel.

    “Uh….. not to worry! I got another secret weapon for you!” Hodaka announced, swinging his arms to the left, motioning for Hina to turn around as she saw a kid in a round ghost costume. Its giant, bulbous head was the exact identical shape as the ghosts on the paracel.

    “Sorry, don’t need it,” spoke Hina, denying Hodaka’s offer once more.

    “Let it be known that I hate you. So much!” Nagi groaned, as he swung his arms upward, grabbing a hold of the head piece and slamming it down to the ground.

    After several minutes of bickering and planning their strategy, they had arrived at their destination. A farmer’s market loaded with kiosks stocked with plentiful amounts of fresh goods and knick knacks for the average person to enjoy. There, the trio stood on a bridge as Hina put her hands together, praying for the sun to shine through while Hodaka waved the umbrella around her as Nagi ran in circles, donning the ghost costume once more.

    “Who called these weirdos?” a bulky middle aged man demanded, his voice oozing with curiosity as he watched the three doing their routine.

    “We thought it might bring good luck,” reasoned his petite associate, believing they were a good omen for hers and his business.

    “Don’t push yourselves too hard!” the man called out, keeping his eyes on the trio.

    “We’re almost there!” Hodaka shot out to his clients, as he snapped his head back to the sunshine girl. He pulled out a bottle, concerned for her wellbeing since he noticed she was starting to hunch over, feeling as if a wave of exhaustion washed over her. “Water, Hina?”

    “What about candy?” added Nagi.

    “Tell them to go home,” the observer ordered, finally taking his eyes off the trio as it was becoming clear the weather wasn’t clearing up.

    “Okay,” the other spoke as she prepared to move from out of the gazebo when another co-worker of hers shouted out ecstatically, “The sky’s clearing up!”

    “No way!”

    With their own eyes, they witnessed the impossible happening. Clouds were dispersing while the sun shined through, blanketing the whole market with light. The rain ceased in a matter of seconds, the market’s patrons no longer drenched, but instead, feeling the warmth of the sun. Voices of astonishment filled the area with the very sudden welcome change in the weather.

    “It’s cleared up!”

    “It’s been ages!”

    Hina rushed over to the client’s tent and slammed her hands on the table, with a huge grin on her face. “What do you think?”

    “You guys are awesome!” the woman congratulated, matching Hina’s smile with her own.

    “You’re a real sunshine girl!”

    “You’re great, and even if it was a coincidence,” the older man spoke, approaching the table while he shoved his hand inside his pocket.

    “It wa….” Nagi tried to speak, but Hodaka grabbed a hold of him, shutting him up.

    “Here’s two hundred,” the farmer spoke, handing them their payment, immediately eliciting grins from both Hodaka and Nagi.

    “It’s too much,” Hina stammered, her face turning red. She felt their job wasn’t worth two hundred and gently pushed the money back.

    “Nonsense! You get a bonus for being great,” the old man announced, denying their previous form of payment and handing the two hundred dollars back to them.

    “Thank you so much! We’ll sell a lot more now!” the client joyfully yelled out, shaking their hands as the trio felt an overwhelming feeling of joy and success.

    They continued to bask in those feelings as the group walked away from the market. Then, as if they were a hivemind, stopped in their tracks. The trio looked at each other and before they knew it, all of them jumped in their air in celebration.

    “Amazing!” Nagi beamed.

    “I feel I could do this!” sang a newly confident Hina.

    “Yes! We can really turn our lives around!” declared Hodaka.

    ***

    “Yes! Thank you! The premiere is going to be perfect!” the director enthusiastically howled, as he jumped up only for his glasses to fall off.

    Hodaka smiled. “Anything to help.”

    “Hope everyone likes the movie!” beamed Hina.

    Hodaka looked down at his phone, his eyes immediately widening. “Shoot, we’re running late for our next meeting!”

    “But, I want to watch the movie!” countered Nagi, his voice filling with anger, as slammed his foot down.

    “We’ll catch a later screening,” Hina mouthed, pushing her brother away from the grand premiere, filled with people dressed up as their favorite characters from the upcoming movie.

    “But I want to take a picture with Neronga!” Nagi complained, snapping his head over toward a person dressed up in the hulking monster suit waving at him.

    “Sorry, gotta go!” Hodaka declared as he and Hina scooted Nagi away from the premiere and toward their next scheduled meeting.

    ***

    “No more coming out during the day, you pesky vampires! The sun is here to help!” a kid yelled out, poking his friend with a stick.

    “Ah!!!!!” the other screeched out while falling to the ground from being poked by the wand and the sun shining onto him.

    “The evil has been defeated! The lake is safe thanks to you heroes,” the kid announced triumphantly, turning to the trio and pulling something out of his pocket. “I may not have a lot of money, but please take this doll as a bonus.”

    ***

    “The roads are cleared now!” a girl joyfully cheered as she gave them each a hug, incredibly grateful to the three for their hard work.

    “I can’t wait to visit your aunt’s home, Gorgeous! I hear she makes delicious food!” Mac moaned, with her stomach immediately unleashing a monstrous roar afterward.

    “Settle down, Mac! We’ll get plenty to eat,” Professor reassured, holding her books tightly.

    “And to exercise!” Kung Fu excitedly blared out, kicking her leg upward.

    “I’m bummed I no longer get to sing in the rain,” Melody murmured, tilting her head down in disappointment.

    “Pretend it’s raining,” Fantasy cheered, putting her hand on her friend’s shoulder, eliciting a smile from her.

    “I just want to give Blanche all the love and attention she deserves,” Sweet chimed in, her voice incredibly bubbly, making it a pleasant noise for anyone to hear.

    “Why do you all have weird names?” Nagi blared out, his mind about to burst from the unconventional names being thrown out.

    “Nagi!” Hina hissed, embarrassed by her brother’s attitude as she began to pull him away from their clients.

    Hodaka quickly followed his friends, but not before leaving behind him some parting words. “Uh…. right…. enjoy the trip, girls!”

    ***

    “I’ve read online that the ‘one hundred percent sunshine girl’ is amazing,” the client spoke, turning to face Hodaka with a warm smile, feeling enthusiastic about the event before them.

    “But, this is such a big event. Do you really want to rely on it?” Hodaka inquired, feeling apprehensive about the large-scale gig they were currently preparing for. The money was great for this particular job, it was what made his stomach turn to knots. He had no idea if Hina could do what the client requested. She was talented, but what they wanted was a tall order.

    “It’s going to rain all week. We won’t be able to postpone it,” the client reasoned, putting his hands on his hips. Compared to Hodaka, he was far more optimistic in the girl’s capabilities. “In this situation, we’re even ready to rely on a charm.”

    “Right…..” mumbled Hodaka, his eyes then shifting toward Hina who had her back against them. Compared to her normal clothes, she dressed up for the occasion in a beautiful peach colored kimono with orange and yellow colored circles, resembling the sun. He couldn’t deny how beautiful she looked with the outfit, particularly with the giant red bow on the back of her dress. She told him the kimono once belonged to her mother, one she often used for festivities like the one they were about to partake in.

    His frown and his doubt dissipated when Hina turned back and gazed at him. She let out a small smile, seemingly telling it would be alright. He nodded back as the elevator door opened up, with the three patrons walking on the rooftop of the building. Rain poured heavily as Hodaka and the client shielded their faces from the storm. Hina, on the other hand, marched forward to the highest part of the roof, undeterred by the heavy rain.

    She put her hands together while closing her eyes. Hina had done this several times before and it was no different this time. As if the weather itself had received the order, the clouds began to disperse while the droplets of water swirled around her. In a flash, the sky went from a dark grey to a bright orange, encapsulating the entirety of Tokyo with this newfound serenity.

    Everyone present in the city ceased their current activities and gazed upon the beauty before them. To them, it was as if the sun shined brighter than ever despite it being so little they saw it now. It wasn’t just the sun and the sky people took note of, but the buildings and nearby bodies of water shined.

    Hodaka grinned at what Hina had done at such a grand scale. She managed to light up the whole city as opposed to only portions of it. He sighed, however, feeling guilty for expressing doubt in her abilities, but it was more than that, he reasoned with himself. In reality, he was concerned about any adverse effects her abilities could have on her. He had only hoped it was just his doubt getting the better of him again and not an actual truth.

    He bolted toward her, eager to tell Hina she did an amazing job as that is what she should be hearing right now.

    The sun soon retreated as night fell, but the huge, bright light was replaced by several others as fireworks erupted all over the city. The festivities had officially begun. People were celebrating on the streets, enjoying themselves as they danced amongst themselves, gorging on food, or even taking in the clear scenery. Taking in every uninterrupted moment they could.

    Hina and Hodaka did not join in on the celebration. Instead electing to stay on the rooftop and to watch the fireworks. It was nothing short of peaceful to them and it was the way they both liked it.

    “I’m in love,” Hina announced, putting her hand over the exploding fireworks, getting a good view of the clear night sky. Hodaka titled his head toward her, unsure what she meant as his heart raced. The possibilities were limitless. Was she talking about the job? Her abilities? Or even…. Him?

    Hodaka tried to speak, but couldn’t muster up the strength to do so. He wasn’t sure if he wanted that last possibility to be the answer. He liked her a lot. One of the best things to happen to him in his life, but he was unsure if they would be well suited together. Still, he had to find out.

    Before Hodaka could speak, however, Hina continued. “With this sunshine girl job.”

    He breathed a small sigh of relief. As grateful as he was, a part of him wanted her to confess some sort of feeling toward him. Was it because he felt lonely? The simple desire of wanting a companion? Or was it something more? Something he couldn’t quite comprehend.

    Hodaka soon stirred out of his thoughts when he heard Hina speak once more. “I finally found my role in life.” She turned to him and smiled as fireworks continued to brighten the night sky while rapidly changing their faces to different colors from the light. She giggled slightly “Maybe. Or maybe not. Or maybe not not.”

    “My role in life?”

    “What was that supposed to mean!?” Hodaka mentally blared out. His mind raced once more. He agreed with her sentiments that they were grateful for the job, but this didn’t have to be her sole purpose in life. She could have more in her life. So much more!

    He lifted his fingers up, trying to count how many maybes she had just said, but it was too much. Instead, he opted to ask a simple question. “Yes or no?”

    Hina snickered at his bemusement. “You’re too serious sometimes. Don’t worry about anything, just enjoy the moment with me.”

    “I…..” stammered Hodaka, but he ceased his attempt at a counterpoint and decided to stop. She was right. He needed to live in the moment. There would be another time. “You’re right. The sky is beautiful.”

    The two sat in silence, taking in the crisp, cool air and the night sky above them as the stars shined upon them. It had been a long time since they’d seen a view like this and it had only gotten ever better when the next round of fireworks exploded before them. Their view now containing a beautiful, diverse selection of colors welcoming to the eye. The two were entranced by the view, their troubles vanquished. They were in near perfect harmony.

    “Thank you, Hodaka,” Hina softly spoke, as she smiled at him.

    Hodaka smiled back as she inched herself closer to him. He felt a slight shiver behind his back, but he would not let nerves get the better of him this time. Hodaka followed her example and inched himself closer to her, as the two smiled at each other once more and took in the fireworks.

    “Weather is a mystery. The way the sky looks can move you so much. Hina really moves my heart.”

    A beautiful moment to end a beautiful day on.

    ***

    “Okay, yes, yes,” Mayumi spoke, irritation rising in her voice as she held her phone. She was frustrated by the constant demands of the government agency to update them on creatures long deceased. The ornithologist was tempted at times to quit and to go back to her old job, before the Gyaos showed up.

    The voice on the other end continued to ramble on as the words became foreign to her. She no longer cared what they were ordering her to do, she just wanted it to end. Mayumi knew she could just drown the words out as she was able to wing it everytime. She figured the government was doing the same as well, just to keep themselves up to date on the Shadow of Evil.

    With one voice drowned out, another filled her ears. Mayumi perked up to the TV as she saw the fireworks going off in the clear sky.

    “The Jingu Fireworks Festival went off without a hitch as the weather cleared up thanks to sunshine girl, Hina Amano, and her associates, Hodaka Morishima and Nagi Amano,” the newscaster spoke.

    Mayumi felt herself freeze up at what the anchor just vocalized.

    “Hina.”

    “Nagi.”

    Her eyes widened.

    The TV cut to Hodaka, Hina, and Nagi being interviewed, but their words fell on deaf ears to Mayumi. She kept her gaze on the two kids, her grandkids. Her heart raced faster than ever, as her arms shook with excitement.

    Mayumi pulled the phone away from her head and stopped the call. She opened the Sunshine girl app on her device and made an appointment. It was the easiest and only way she could see them.

    She set her phone down and continued to stare at her grandkids on the TV. It was a long time coming and a moment she was all too eager for. Her second chance was coming. She wanted nothing more than to see the two of them and to do right by them. To do right by the daughter she failed. Mayumi wanted a family again.

    “Hina, Nagi. You’re coming home.”

    ***

    Fireworks continued coating the sky for the past few hours as the clock nearly struck midnight. Tokyo was more alive than ever along with its citizens ostensibly having no cares in the world, only to celebrate. Unknownst to them, the water swirled rapidly while thousands upon thousands of bubbles made their way up to the surface. A dark, greyish being rose above the sea, as the water poured down from its slimy body. Its huge, menacing red eyes looked at the lively city. So colorful, so lively, so many possibilities.

    It gurgled with glee. The anomaly raced through the bay and leapt onto the dock. It had spent the last few weeks growing exponentially to the point of no longer being able to conceal itself in the shadows. Instead, it was strong enough to face whatever was thrown at it and it welcomed them, especially the pollution and the screams. The beautiful screams.

    The anomaly fired acidic sludge from its body, blanketing an entire block in a greyish mud. Within seconds, steam rose above it as everything hit with the substance began to melt away. The mutated tadpole murmured in delight, watching its work unfold.

    Nearby, occupants of a hotel were previously enjoying the festivities when they noticed the very peculiar being making itself known. They couldn’t believe their eyes. Joy faded from their bodies as confusion and fear took over. Everyone bickered amongst themselves, trying to make sense of the situation unfolding in front of them.

    Hearing their panicked voices, it turned to the source and saw them standing in different areas. If it had lips, the being would be smiling right now. The music was about to return and it would not let this opportunity go to waste. Three bursts of acidic sludge launched themselves out of its body and onto the hotel. The substances melted through every fiber they could touch as chunks of it splashed down on its occupants. Bloody, pained screams erupted from the maws of its victims as the flesh melted from their bodies, leaving only bones behind. Others suffocated, with steam rising from the sludge and into their orifices, forcing their insides to shut down. Then, as a grand finale to the show it created for itself, the entire building collapsed on itself, reducing it to a pile of acidic sludge with remnants of metals sticking out.

    All around it lights turned on, the chattering picked up and the fireworks above it slowed down. Everyone and everything now saw the grotesque monstrosity standing before them in their city. It looked straight ahead and all everyone could do was panic as sirens went off to alert the JSDF of the threat before them.

    The last of the fireworks soon ceased and with it, dark grey clouds covered the night sky. An instant downpour arrived, drenching the acidic monster’s body. It felt an overwhelming sense of pride, as it was being rewarded for its horrendous deeds. It not only got to feed and hear the music, but to be rejuvenated as well.

    If it wanted more to happen to it, then it certainly wouldn’t disappoint. The anomaly reared its head back, letting out a gurgle full of delight as it went deeper into the city, to continue its massacre.

    ***

    Down in the dark, isolated abyss, Gamera laid motionless on his stomach. In the past, the former guardian would have drifted off into a long sleep when he wasn’t needed, and yet, his only eyes closed for mere hours at a time.

    It was as he previously feared.

    He was no longer needed.

    Gamera let out a small murmur, lifting up his still mangled right arm. Despite only getting meager doses of mana at a time, time was his ally. The egregious wound he once received on the final night of his duty was nearly a relic of the past. Only a few fingers were missing while scars were painted all over his hand as a grim reminder of what he nearly lost forever.

    Before he knew it, pain rushed to his hand, eliciting a scream from the old sentinel. Gamera set his hand down slowly back to the ocean floor. The pain was agonizing, and no matter how many times he tried to teach himself, the former guardian could never seem to be able to tolerate it. Even the slightest motion caused a sharp, stabbing pain to it. One far worse than anything he felt before. At best, he was able to move it just enough to where he could function at the bare minimum.

    Healing his body slowly wasn’t the only service mana was doing for him. Gamera felt his body shifting, however, it wasn’t evolving, but the exact opposite. His skin felt smoother, his shell more rounded, losing that powerful edge it once had, and his head losing several of its formal features. Now, nothing more than a flat surface.

    The guardian shook his head and growled in frustration. Gamera felt disgusted with himself. As a former protector, he should have learned how to master pain, but it wasn’t meant to be. With each passing battle, he held out hope he would have overcome his weaknesses, and yet, nothing. The only lesson he learned was that he couldn’t even achieve it nor be the guardian everyone needed him to be. Why of all times was he now able to comprehend it?

    He simply huffed, as he couldn’t help but think if this was his reward for protecting the Earth. No everlasting peace, no honorable death, not even a new objective.

    Lying at the ocean floor, bruised and battered, only to be forgotten. That would be how his story ends.

    Gamera felt his eyes shuttering, feeling some relief that he will not have to be alone with his thoughts for much longer. However, one last thought dawned on him.

    Asagi.

    He was happy she was able to break free from her commitments with him. She was able to live a life of her own and find a purpose. The thought of it brought him some comfort as she would not be jailed like him for the rest of her life. It was the very least he could hope for.

    Gamera’s eyes closed, taking him away from his own poisonous influence, if that’s what it even was. He didn’t know for sure, but regardless, he looked forward to drifting off to sleep.

    For a moment, it was working. The thoughts of despair were gone.

    Instead, something else rushed in!

    Screams filled his ears, instantly snapping his eyes open. His eyes darted across the area, but nothing was found. The screams did not cease as they were getting louder and louder for the conservator.

    Gamera’s heart raced, as these screams were something he would normally not hear. Whenever trouble arrived, it was always the Earth itself calling upon his aid, but it was humanity itself?

    Why would their pleas be the ones he would hear?

    His connection with them was shattered!

    There was no reasonable conclusion for why they would be the culprits.

    Nonetheless, Gamera had to investigate. Not only for the good of the Earth or for humanity, but it may give the old sentinel a purpose once more.

    Gamera slowly lifted himself, pain crackling throughout his whole body while his bones popped from being stationary for so long. He planted his feet onto the ground and looked above, letting out a gurgled cry as the pain rushed throughout his whole body. His knees nearly collapsed, but he quickly commanded himself to not falter, slowly finding the strength to stand up once more.

    His limbs retracted into his shell as he jetted off, ascending through the depths of the ocean. Gamera looked forward to seeing the sky again, but let out a small roar of disappointment, realizing he could only gain a small amount of enjoyment when he was fulfilling an order. Regardless, he had to figure out what was causing the disturbance and how to stop it.

    Gamera just hoped he had purpose for being there and not from the sense of false hope.

    ***

    Hodaka couldn’t let his smile drop, even long after he dropped Hina and Nagi off at their home. The entire day was magical. He was happy.

    These thoughts of bliss filled him with energy as he made his way toward his way back home, but before he could rest for the night, he had to make a quick stop at the local store. Supplies for Hina and Nagi, and to give himself a moment of reprieve from the oncoming storm. Hodaka stepped in, feeling the refreshing cool air without being rained on, making his way down his designated aisles.

    He hummed slightly to himself thinking about the coming days he would get to have with his dear friends. The thoughts flooded in as he put the items needed in his basket, making the sun shine through, going to every beautiful location imaginable, and being with Hina.

    Just hours before, he felt apprehensive at the thought of Hina confessing her feelings for him and was still thankful that was the case. However, a part of him wished she did. She really made his days shine brighter than the sun ever could. He just didn’t know which reality he wanted. The one where they stay as good friends, but never be more than that. Or, the one where they become something more but risk the chance of getting into an argument that makes them wish to never see each other again.

    Hodaka’s thoughts evaporated instantly when he felt himself colliding into something. He felt himself landing on his backside, his items scattered all around the floor while a yelp was heard. His heart raced, he’d hoped he didn’t cause anyone any pain during his daydreaming. The teen jumped to his feet and prepared to help the person he bumped into.

    “Are you okay?” inquired Hodaka as he extended his hands toward the person he collided with.

    “Yeah, yeah…..” the woman stammered, slowly gaining her footing thanks to Hodaka’s help. “I’m okay.”

    “I’m really sorry for colliding into you. Just, uh, lost in thought,” said Hodaka, rubbing the back of his head in embarrassment as the stranger kept her gaze on him as if she was studying him.

    “It’s no big deal. Accidents happen all the time,” she replied.

    “Um….. here,” spoke Hodaka as he bent down, reaching for the items on the floor. “Let me help you. It’s the least I can do.”

    “Thank you,” she vocalized as she kneeled down, doing the same. She glanced back at him and decided to ask him a question that’s been plaguing her mind. “You’re with the Sunshine girl, right?”

    “Oh, yeah,” answered Hodaka. “I take it you seen some of… our gigs?”

    The woman smiled, knowing she was one step closer. “Yes, and I’m very impressed with what the three of you have done. It’s beautiful.”

    “Thank you,” Hodaka said, handing the items back to the woman. He soon followed with recovering his supplies. “Again, I’m really sorry for the trouble I caused you. I hope you have a good day.”

    He turned to take his leave, but before he could advance, she called out for him. “Wait!”

    Hodaka turned around, facing the middle-aged woman. What more could she have to say to him? He was unsure, but decided to hear her out.

    “I’m Mayumi Nagamine and I have an appointment with the three of you in the next few days,” she stammered, her lips quivering with each word that was spoken. Mayumi mentally cringed at the sentence she just conveyed, the worst one she had ever said, but it had to get out to the boy.

    “That’s wonderful!” Hodaka nearly exclaimed. “We’ll be happy to make your day, miss Nagamine.”

    “Ye…. yes! It’d be wonderful!” Mayumi choked out, eliciting a look of confusion from Hodaka. He took a step back, slightly terrified by how his new client was acting.

    “Um…. Well, then. It was great to make your acquaintance, but I have to get going. Things to do and all that,” rambled Hodaka, taking several steps back as he then turned to walk away.

    Mayumi watched the boy making his trek away from her. Her stomach rumbled, her mind raced as everything in her body was in full overload. The moment was just a few days away, but she couldn’t wait. She needed answers, she needed to see them. Her mouth slowly extended, the words racing up her throat.

    “Are Hina and Nagi okay!?” she blurted out, causing Hodaka to freeze up instantly.

    “Why would she be asking about them? What are they to her?”

    He turned around only to find her face to be blanketed with concern as if she was away by years of regret. “And why is she so concerned for them?”

    He had to find out. If she was going to stalk or even hurt them, then he had to know. He couldn’t let anything happen to them, no matter what. He would do anything for them even if it came to sacrificing everything.

    “Why are you asking that?” Hodaka inquired, his voice rattling. “What are they to you?”

    “They’re my grandchildren!” exclaimed Mayumi, her voice nearly shaking Hodaka off his feet as she realized just how loud her answer was. She covered her mouth, her eyes widening in embarrassment as she had hoped no one else heard her very loud and abrupt answer.

    “Grandchildren?” mumbled Hodaka, his mind racing back to what Hina had told him about her family.

    “We have grandparents, and…. an uncle, somewhere out there,” Hina’s voice rang in his head, his mind becoming far more clearer with the revelation placed before him.

    “You’re….. The grandmother she mentioned?” stammered Hodaka, his heart racing.

    “She mentioned me?” quivered Mayumi, a smile curving slightly upward.

    “Not by name, but they do know they have one around,” he answered.

    “Are they doing okay, though?” Mayumi asked once more, desperately wanting to know if they’re managing on their own after the passing of their mother.

    “Better than before, but not by much. The Sunshine girl jobs are preventing them from being on the streets, I suppose,” answered Hodaka, looking down at the food in his basket. “It’s mainly why I’m here, using my share to buy extra supplies.

    Without even thinking, Mayumi reached in his bag and pulled out an unspecified amount of money. She grabbed Hodaka’s hand and set it in his hand. “Here. Use whatever you need to keep them on their feet.”

    “Oh, thank you,” Hodaka spoke softly, appreciating the help she was providing for her grandchildren.

    “And!” Mayumi spoke, pulling out her phone as her voice was rapidly shaking as if she was giving an unprepared presentation in front of a class. “You can call me anytime they need something and I’ll be sure to give you whatever they need so you can give it to them.”

    Hodaka’s doubts about her dissipated as he watched and heard her every action. She wasn’t a threat to them. She was just a grandmother who dearly missed her family. Mayumi was just going through the motions.

    “You don’t have to do that,” spoke Hodaka, causing her to pause, but her body continued to shake. “You can tell them that when we stop by for the gig.”

    “The gig?” she asked until it came back to her. “Right, the gig. No! I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

    “Why not?” Hodaka inquired with a smile on his face. “It’d be the perfect time!”

    “I want to, but would they even want to see me?” Mayumi paused, looking down, musing over her many failures. Just hours before, she planted her feet firmly, determined to bring them home, now that the reality was becoming closer, she balked at the idea. “I haven’t been there for them and to appear so late in their lives, I don’t know what it’ll do to them.”

    Hodaka knew where she was coming from. On one hand, she wanted Hina and Nagi to be reunited with their family, but on the other, knew Mayumi had a sense of reasoning behind her. In some cases, someone being gone for a long time only to show up randomly could make things worse. Still, regardless of what’s to come he had to help make things right.

    “I know you’re nervous, but is it so wrong for them to know they have a grandmother who loves them very much?”

    “I….. I guess it isn’t,” Mayumi spoke softly, tilting her head down slightly, a tear rolling down her face.

    “It’ll be okay. We’ll get all of you reunited, I’ll make sure of that,” declared Hodaka, patting her on the shoulder.

    “Thank you. I don’t know what to say,” she mused, looking back at Hodaka, who’s smile still shined brightly, causing her to grow a small grin of her own.

    “Don’t mention it. I’m just happy Hina and Nagi have someone who cares about them.”

    “That makes two of us, then.”

    “And, I will make good on my promise. I will make sure your family gets reunited.”

    “Thank you. I can’t thank you enough,” Mayumi said, grabbing Hodaka’s hand and shaking it rapidly. He felt slightly uncomfortable, but knew she meant well and his happiness to help the three be reunited was more empowering.

    “I suppose I should get everything in order….. For the big day, that is!” Maymui nearly exclaimed once more, excitement and nervousness taking control of her body.

    Hodaka chuckled, waving her goodbye. “It’ll be okay. We’ll get all of you reunited.”

    The two turned away from each other, heading off to what needed to be done. After spending a few extra minutes getting what he needed for his friends, he walked out of the store and into the pouring rain. One that had considerably picked up since he entered the establishment. Hodaka quickly pulled out his umbrella, but it was of little use as the roaring winds nearly knocked the paracel out of his hands.

    He let out a sigh and ventured back home, braving the storm. Hodaka, however, couldn’t let that smile of his drop. It seems like with each passing day, life was getting better and better for not only him, but the ones he cared about.

    Once more, he let his thoughts take him away from his surroundings as loud, booming noises cut through the thundering storm. A loud gurgle was heard, causing Hodaka to pause as he turned to his left and saw piercing red eyes seemingly staring at him. The same eyes that penetrated his core all those weeks ago.

    “No….”

    “Mayday! Mayday! We’re going down!” a loud voice screamed out as a helicopter spinning out of control, rushed from the dark clouds and collided with a nearby building. An explosion followed soon after, unleashing a boom that nearly caused Hodaka to drop to the ground. Hodaka glanced back over to the intimidating red eyes, as they seemingly illuminated the surrounding clouds to a blood red. It was as if the apocalypse had arrived and the blood of innocents was about to blanket this very world.

    He felt that same fear he felt on the boat. Hodaka’s whole body shook, slowly getting up to his feet as he trembled in front of the monstrosity before him. The anomaly simply gurgled in delight at the destruction and mayhem it was causing as more jets zoomed toward it, capturing its attention. It gurgled in delight, as it had more to play with before being able to enjoy more of its meal.

    Every instinct of Hodaka’s told him to run. To evacuate the city, but he couldn’t. He didn’t want to watch the thing that looked like a spawn from his nightmares eradicate the city, but to instead, do what was more important.

    Hodaka picked up his feet and ran. He ran away from the ensuing carnage behind him, bolting as fast as he could. The runaway needed to make sure they were alright. He needed to get them out of here. Nagi, Hina, they needed to be informed. They needed to survive. No matter the cost.

    The rain couldn’t stop him. The monster couldn’t stop him. Nothing could stop him.

    Several jets dived into the city, all of them targeting the anomaly roaming through every block, blanketing them with acidic sludge. In perfect synchronization, the missiles departed from their carriers and zoomed toward their target. The acidic being looked up at the oncoming projectiles, staring at them with great interest, murmuring curiously. The projectiles crashed into the being’s body, exploding against its wet, slimy hide as flames coated it.

    The squadron of jets swarmed their targeted area, circling around to confirm whether or not the kaiju was dead. With a glimpse of an eye, substances shot out of the newly born fire while red eyes shot through the burning flames. The discarded piles of its body rapidly bursted out of its body, scattering throughout the neighboring blocks, enveloping them with its sludge. Several cries were heard as people were splashed with the acidic substance, instantly melting away.

    “Attack has failed! I repeat! Attack has fai….” a pilot called out, but was immediately shot down by a dark flying project. The jet’s engines stalled, followed by it completely melting away in the span of a second.

    The flames around its body subsided as it felt pieces of its body hardening up, but it was of no concern. The anomaly felt the refreshing water pouring down on its body, rehydrating its wounds, bringing it back to full strength. It cackled in delight while shooting several more rounds of sludge at the remaining jets, bringing them down with precise accuracy.

    The being purred with delight, making its way deeper into the city, leaking its acidic contents for all to suffer. All will be in service of its joy. Of its feeding. And, of its massacre.

    From a great distance away, Asagi watched from her apartment, the rain crashing down on the buildings laced with fire and acidic sludge. Her heart raced, as she watched the carnage unfold. She felt the urge to cover her ears from the bone chilling cries from the anomaly’s victims, but couldn’t find the strength to do so. All she was able to do was stay frozen in place. Her mind, on the other hand, couldn’t help but be swimming in questions.

    “Gamera, where are you?”

    Its gurgles filled the sky, firing more acidic sludge, instantly corroding a building into gooey remains.

    “Why aren’t you coming?”

    The Smog Monster glanced toward Asagi standing on the balcony, taking great interest in the lone human.

    “We need you.”

    It took several steps forward, wanting to inspect this so-called courageous prey.

    “I need you”

    It gurgled with glee, excited to see what kind of reaction it would give it before gifting it with a gruesome death.

    “Please. Save us. Save me. Just give me something!” cried Asagi, watching the monster marching toward her with curiosity in its eyes. It saw fear in her, but nothing to indicate it was the one who was causing it.

    The anomaly growled ever so slightly, firing a small dose of its sludge at Asagi’s surrounding area, causing her to take two steps back. The projectile hit some of the furniture on her balcony, instantly dissolving it. Fear from the being entered her body, but it wasn’t the real reason why she was afraid. Instead, it was one belonging to someone else.

    “Regardless if I get through this, I’m sorry if I’ll never make things right. I love you, Yukino,” Asagi spoke softly, staring at her executioner straight in the eye, readying to meet her end.

    It growled once more, not hearing its favorite noise. The anomaly aimed itself at the inferior being, readying to vanquish this stubborn pest. Asagi readied herself for the pain, putting her hands together.

    SWOOSH!

    A mighty roar was heard while jets made Asagi’s ears nearly pop. The anomaly couldn’t turn its head fast enough when an unidentified object slammed its round body into it. The Smog Monster let out a cry as it was sent flying across the street and into a building. Its remains immediately crumble around it, trapping it momentarily.

    Asagi couldn’t believe it. She stared at what impeded her execution. What she yearned for all these years, came back. In her eyes, he stood tall, defiant as ever. His scars of battles past plagued him, but it did not seem to deter him. The Guardian tightened his left hand into a fist, but struggled with his right, letting out a minor cry as the pain prevented him from doing so.

    Gamera was back.

    Asagi smiled brightly and approached the railing. “Show them why you’re still needed.”

    It crawled out of the melting rubble, facing its new adversary. The being eyed the approaching adversary with great interest, noticing the pain it was already dealing with. The Smog Monster purred with delight, knowing extracting pain would be very easy and its reactions would be far more easier to spot than the ones of humans.

    The anomaly welcomed the fight as it leapt forward, intending to blanket Gamera’s entire body with its own. Gamera, however, had other ideas as it elbowed the oncoming foe on the side of its head. The blow knocked it back a few feet as it let out a gurgle of annoyance, but Gamera soon followed with a cry.

    The former guardian looked at his elbow and to his horror, saw some of the skin melting off. The hissing sting forced him to let out a wail while the Smog Monster took the opportunity and leapt onto him. Gamera unleashed another cry as he felt the acid dripping down on his stomach, piercing his insides.

    The being laughed at Gamera’s suffering, the most joy it had ever felt. It continued to leak more of its deadly contents onto the former sentinel as its foe let out another scream. Gamera, containing his pain for a few seconds, brewed up a massive orange flame in his mouth, aiming it right at its giant head.

    BOOM!

    Gamera fired off his plasma fireball like a cannon. The blast hit his tormentor’s head, instantly incinerating the left side. It unleashed a cry of pain, allowing Gamera to knock the monster off of him and to stand back up.

    Despite the agonizing pain it was in, the anomaly felt the cooling rain fix its wounds almost instantaneously. Gamera couldn’t believe what was transpiring before his eyes. Nothing he did could put it down.

    Within seconds, the massive wound on its head was sealed and the being was as good as new. It gurgled once more as its hand motioned Gamera for it to attack once more. Already Gamera felt his body about ready to collapse. Never, especially so early in a fight, did he feel this drained. His knees shook while his eyes were about ready to slam shut.

    Gamera stumbled toward the being. Was it his wounds still getting the best of him, or was it something else? He looked at his foe still beckoning him for a fight, but nothing compelled him to fight. Deep down, Gamera knew this vile being had to be vanquished, however, all he wanted was to die.

    That was the conclusion he came to. There was nothing left. Perhaps this monster wasn’t so bad afterall. He could distract the anomaly long enough just for everyone to get to safety and for them to find a solution to destroy it.

    Gamera took another step forward, feeling his bones nearly snap. The former guardian felt disgusted with himself by that terrible thought he just came up with. He had to fight. He had to destroy this being and to find that purpose.

    His eyes closed once more as he lost his footing, collapsing into a building. He let out a roar of disappointment, feeling nothing but disdain as he allowed himself to fall so low. Gamera shook his head as he eyed his foe once more, still standing in place. He couldn’t help but wonder if the anomaly was simply mocking him. It didn’t attack in these past couple of minutes nor beckon him to continue on.

    Gamera snarled, picking himself up from the damaged building. The former sentinel faced the monster before, ushering out a roar, letting it know that the duel was back on. It responded with a gurgled glee, taking a step forward. Before he fully renewed the fight, Gamera knew both of his ideas were the solution.

    Find a purpose if he could, but if that failed, he would gladly give his life to save the world he once loved one last time. Both monsters unleashed their respective roars and charged forward, readying to continue their showdown.

    ***

    “Please be okay. Please be okay. Please be okay,” Hodaka repeated to himself as he bolted down the wet streets, passing several people who were evacuating from the fight before them.

    They had to be safe. Their home was far enough from the monster’s assault, but close enough for him to reach it in time. That lingering thought, however, of something happening to them, terrified him. He had just found people he could be happy with and the thought of them being torn away terrified him.

    He pushed through the gate and into the complex as he raced up stairs to their apartment. Hodaka’s hand moved in a flash, repeatedly ringing the doorbell, hoping to get them out here as soon as he could.

    Hodaka saw a concerned Hina opening the door, her eyes filled with grief. A small sense of relief combatted her apprehension, asking her friend, “Hodaka, what’s going on? One minute everything is fine, and now some sort of monster is attacking the city.”

    “I have no idea. I thought that thing would never come back, like, it was just a random thing,” stammered Hodaka.

    “Wait, you’ve seen that thing before? Why didn’t you tell anyone!?” Hina nearly screeched out.

    “Between only two witnesses, one being a kid and the other possibly being drunk at that time, I don’t think anyone would believe a story like that!” Hodaka blared out, as a loud gurgle was heard followed by a pained cry synced up with a fiery explosion in the distance. “Why am I explaining this? We don’t have time. Grab Nagi, we have to go!”

    “Can you two keep it down? I’m trying to get some sleep,” Nagi murmured, sluggishly entering the living room while rubbing his eyes.

    Hina grabbed her brother’s hand and yanked him out of the room. “What the hell?!”

    “Now’s not the time!” Hodaka yelled out as the three made a beeline out of the apartment complex. Between the pouring rain and the thousands of people evacuating like them, they were forced to take several detours. Many of which proved to be troubling as several obstacles still stood in their way as the cries of war followed them, as if they were stalking their prey. Their hearts collectively raced, terrified beyond belief. None of them knew if they would survive the night. They all had their reasons for wanting to survive.

    Nagi, to go on yet another date.

    Hina, to provide several more miracles.

    Hodaka, to have just one more day in his new life.

    And yet, they all had another reason to survive. One that was collectively the same. To continue being with each other.

    ***

    Gamera charged forward and rammed his shell into the beast, sending it stumbling several feet back. Steam immediately rose from his carapace, as a small part of it began to be eaten away by the acid left on it. Gamera grumbled, as he unleashed another fireball, but the anomaly was all too familiar with his foe’s signature move, leaping out of the way. The projectile detonated against a building, exploding the upper half instantly.

    Distracted by the explosion before him, Gamera failed to notice the creature firing off several shots of acidic sludge at him. The blobs struck his belly, eliciting a cry of anguish from the former sentinel, as he collapsed to his knees. Gamera started to brush the goo away, but a sharp stabbing pain struck his right arm, forcing him to scream while he crashed onto his side.

    It crawled toward him, giggling with glee while firing more of its sludge at it. In turn, Gamera unleashed another scream of agony as the acid began to eat away at his body. He thrashed around, trying to pull himself up but the pain in his right arm shot up once more, forcing him to crash. The pain was excruciating. The sludge eating his body away was nowhere near as bad as his two decade old injury. He just didn’t understand why his old wound would still be a problem for him. The other wounds that were inflicted on him that night were long gone, but the one on his arm refused to go away.

    Why?

    Gamera constantly questioned it.

    Why won’t it go away?

    It unleashed another gurgle while his eyes shot wide open. Gamera looked at his approaching foe, he gritted his teeth, charging up another fireball. He discharged it, aiming it right at its feet, a move the anomaly did not expect whatsoever. The resulting explosion sent the Smog Monster soaring over a few buildings. This bought Gamera a few seconds to recompose himself as he stood up once more, ready to continue the fight.

    Gamera marched forward toward where his foe crashed, but soon stopped himself when he saw it on the other side of a brightly lit building. However, that wasn’t all he saw. What he witnessed was several people still inside, all of them were terrified by the display. The being stared at Gamera and the people inside as it simply eyed them with curiosity. It had wanted to move, to continue its assault on the chelonian, but it had sense the past guardian cared about these pests. For now, it would sit back and see how his foe would solve this conflict.

    Having it in clear sight, Gamera’s mouth began to brew with an orange flame. Bits of it flowed out of it as he stood there, charging it, making sure it was powerful enough to kill it. He reared his back, readying to release it when he saw the look of fear on the trapped civilians. Gamera moved his head slowly forward. His stomach turned to knots while his hands shook. He had done this before, several in fact. All of which brought down several Gyaos. In the past, he had slaughtered several innocents just to eliminate a threat. Why was he hesitating now?

    It’s right there! One powerful shot and it’s down! The many outweigh the few! Gamera reasoned with himself, but he felt a striking pain in his chest.

    Gamera’s arms fell, his shoulders slouching while the flame in his mouth dissipated. Guilt ran through his whole body. It had not struck him before, but all of those people he helped kill just to eliminate one or two Gyaos in a city left him thinking.

    Was he any better than the Shadow of Evil?

    Time slowed down around him as his conscience spoke to him.

    All this time, he was created to save Earth and its children, to ensure no harm would ever come to it. Yet, he contributed to all that destruction. His first reawakening, he killed the Gyaos by eliminating them in the quickest way possible, taking several lives with them. Then, when the Legion invaded, he threw the swarm off his body so hard their remains could have collided into god knows how many people fleeing. His arms shook at how he failed to stop the flower from detonating, taking several lives away while he got to live because people saw him as a hero and not the monster he rightfully is.

    When the Gyaos blackened the sky, he killed as many people as they did, if not more. All the while, a being born pure of hatred and vengeance nearly killed him all from a monster he helped create. He did not know the girl’s full story, but knew he was greatly responsible for her pain and suffering. He rescued her, but in the end, it was a failure. Gamera still sensed the hatred in her heart and flew off, attempting to atone by throwing his life away at the oncoming horde.

    Like everything else, he failed. He survived while those who were good, perished. Atlantis’ finest creation was a lie to not only him, but to every living being on this planet. The world would and should know him by a title that is far more fitting for him.

    Gamera: Atlantis’ Final Failure.

    Time sped up for him once as he looked back at the building only to see a crimson beam shooting straight through it. The projectile sliced through several of the occupants like butter and into Gamera’s left collarbone, ushering out a bone piercing scream. He stumbled backward and crashed into a building while the rubble landed on top of his stomach. Blood oozed out of his wound while he struggled to get up. It was a fruitless attempt as all he could was watch his foe cut through the building, slicing it into pieces.

    Gamera mentally cursed himself. Why couldn’t he take the shot? They were dead the moment it landed on the other side. Why was he feeling so guilty about taking even one life? He had taken countless lives before.

    Why couldn’t he be what everyone needs him to be?

    It marched forward, readying to torment its adversary once more, blaring out a distorted laugh. The grotesque being shot out a volley of its crimson beams, all of them piercing through his body and leaving a trail of scars.

    Hodaka guided the siblings as best as he could out of the city, but it was all for naught. With the increasing amount of debris, sludge and people pushing them down, they were closer to the conflict than they would have liked. The roars were with earshot, all of them forced to cover their ears as they slowly moved forward.

    They reached the stairs leading outside of a subway, thinking they have achieved salvation only to find their worst fears have been realized. The three of them saw the anomaly before them, unleashing another round of its bolts at its downed opponent.

    “Shit!” Hodaka voiced out, turning around to usher both Hina and Nagi back into the subway, but a loud gurgle caused them to freeze up. He turned around to see those huge red eyes staring at him once more. Hodaka’s eyes widened in fear at the eyes piercing into his soul, filled with hunger and desire. It had waited a long time to have another shot at disintegrating one of the few that had escaped its clutches before.

    Hodaka nearly choked while his eyes watered, feeling ashamed for himself for leading his two dear friends into a death trap. He should have known which routes to take and to push past all of those obstacles in place. Now, they were destined to die as all he could hear was sobbing from the siblings.

    It let out a large cackle, firing off a shot of its acidic sludge at the trio. Hodaka braced himself for the overwhelming burning sensation, but the feeling never arrived. Instead, a large shadow was casted over them, followed by a large cry. The three looked up to see Gamera’s injured hand now blanketed with the gooey substance. Steam rose up while some of the skin dissolved.

    They turned their heads slightly to the left, noticing Gamera looking straight down at them. It wasn’t a look of malice or sorrow, but one of relief. He had felt a small sense of pride in being able to save at least a couple people, however, it wasn’t enough for the many that had just lost their lives. Still, something about these three kids brought him a sense of solace. He couldn’t understand why, as he looked at them more closely. Their combined emotions of fear and astonishment intrigued him, but it wasn’t what drew him. It was their youthful optimism that made him feel something. Something he couldn’t quite place. He had seen that look before, but it did nothing for him before. Why now of all times? He couldn’t dwell on it for long, however.

    An orange flame brewed in his mouth once more as he snapped his head forward, unleashing the powerful blast. The anomaly predicted the move and leapt out of the way while the ball flew past its intended target.

    It bought Gamera time as he slowly lifted himself up, readying to renew the battle once more. He marched toward the anomaly, now beckoning him to continue as if it was mocking him. He stumbled, his strength continuing to falter with each passing step. Gamera threw a punch at the monstrosity, intending to strike it in the eye, but the being laughed, leaping over him. It fired another crimson bolt, striking him in the back. Gamera let out another cry, crashing into a building as Hodaka and Nagi cringed at the horror before them.

    Hina, on the other hand, just stood there, taking in every detail of the battle before her. Gamera, the anomaly, the battlefield, the rain.

    The rain.

    “That’s it!” She mentally blared.

    “I figured it out!” Hina blurted out, with Hodaka and Nagi snapping their heads at her.

    “What do you mean?” questioned Hodaka.

    “You mentioned that thing only appears when it rains, right?”

    “As far as I know of, yeah, but we don’t know if that’s a guarantee,” countered Hodaka.

    “He’s saved us just now. Why not return the favor by at least trying,” Hina pointed out, slamming her hands together, closing her eyes.

    Every sound she heard was getting quieter and quieter with each passing moment she concentrated. The voices of her beloved companions, the battle cries and the rain were nonexistent. All she could hear was the slight sound of the clouds departing and the sun slowly breaking through the newly visible dawn. She’d do anything to help everyone and everything. Gamera, on the other hand, made her feel compelled to save him. Not just because of him saving her a few minutes ago, but a connection. Something about the kaiju spoke to Hina, as if it were completely natural. She just couldn’t put it together.

    The sun seemingly deploying a powerful ray struck the anomaly, causing it to let out a shriek of pain. The star’s ray drying up portions of its body while the droplets of leftover rain descended on the streets it stood on. It squirmed around while Gamera realized what was happening. He let out a small murmur, following it up with a powerful plasma fireball. His attempt proved to be far more successful this time around, watching his weapon consume the disgusting creature in a ball of fire.

    It let out a screech of agony, thrashing around on the ruined ground while dried chunks of its body rained down onto the ground. Gamera got back up to his feet and marched toward it, readying to finish this fight once and for all. The being, however, wouldn’t let this pathetic relic end its spree. It was just getting started, it still had so much to accomplish.

    In a blinding violet light, the anomaly’s form completely changed in front of everyone’s eyes. Gone was the crawling tadpole like creature, now replaced with a flying saucer like form. Gamera pushed his aching body, rushing over to it, but it was too late. The anomaly let out another roar, ascending toward the sky, fleeing to live another day.

    Gamera let out a roar, announcing its intent to chase it down. Jets blasted the ground, getting ready to lift off, however, before he followed suit, the former guardian turned to Hina. He realized by putting two and two together, with the arrival of the girl, she turned the tides of the battle for him. Gamera pondered on this act, thinking it was for him, but knowing how humanity now viewed him, it was very likely just done to get the monstrosity out of her home.

    Still, he couldn’t help but wonder if she was another byproduct of Atlantis. Someone who could miraculously control the weather. Perhaps he wasn’t alone in this world, perhaps she and her companions could be what he needed. Reality struck his mind, subconsciously telling him she wasn’t part of the same lineage, just simply a coincidence and his initial instinctions were right.

    He couldn’t help but entertain the previous thought, however, he had to settle for his disappointment. Nothing more than a useless relic. Nonetheless, Gamera let out a roar of appreciation to the girl who saved him.

    Not wasting anymore time, Gamera darted off into the sky, chasing after the invader. Hodaka and Nagi watched as Hina smiled at the chelonian’s appreciation. She felt proud of herself for saving his life as she kept her eyes glued on the departing figure.

    “Uh…. Hina. You want to tell us what was all that about?” questioned a very confused Nagi.

    “How were you able to understand that…. thing?” added Hodaka.

    She turned to them and smiled softly. “I didn’t. I think he’s here to defend us, and he’ll fight to the very end to keep it that way.”

    “Sure….. Maybe that’ll make more sense after I get some sleep!” countered Nagi.

    A few miles away, Asagi still stood on her balcony, watching as her friend departed from the city. She had expected to be overwhelmed with joy, however, that feeling wasn’t present. Asagi felt nothing. Only of apprehension and confusion. She saw his egregious wounds and how frail he acted. The hero she once viewed him as was no longer there, only replaced with a broken guardian.

    “Gamera…. What is going on with us?” Asagi questioned, disheartened by the display shown before her. Both of them lost their way and are now paying for it by being shadows of their former selves.

    Gamera didn’t bring her peace. Instead, it just brought her more questions.

    ***

    “The Smog Monster scientists are dubbing as ‘Hedorah’ has injured over five thousand people and killed at least three-hundred,” the voice of a reporter spoke.

    “The incident known as ‘Hedorah’s Massacre’ has left many people terrified at the thought of a continued residency in Tokyo. Many are already putting their homes up for sale,” another reporter spoke.

    “The JSDF has set up a perimeter around the city’s shores and are currently consulting with the world’s scientists on the most efficient way to combat Hedorah.”

    “Is Gamera friend or foe?”

    “Is Gamera up to the task or will he fall?”

    All of these reports weren’t words Hodaka wanted to hear. He traversed the many busy streets as he saw several reporters telling their respective stories while others were recovering from the events just a few hours ago. Hodaka just delivered Hina and Nagi back home, ordering them to get some rest and to not take any requests for the next few days. What they just experienced was something they needed to recuperate from. Worse than the incident on the cruise.

    Hodaka’s walk soon turned into a stumble, his eyes slowly closing as he approached Suga’s home. Hina had offered him to rest at her place, but he declined knowing Natsumi and maybe Kei would be worried over his disappearance. He reasoned he may as well at least let them know he’s okay.

    With a turn of the knob, Hodaka entered the residence and immediately collapsed on the couch, letting his eyes close in what felt like years.

    “Hey! Where the hell were you!?” A booming yet exhausted voice yelled out.

    “Are you okay!?” A more frantic voice cried out.

    Hodaka stirred himself awake and saw his two roommates standing before him. Kei had a frown on his face while Natsumi was concerned.

    “This is going to be a fun conversation.”

    “I’m okay,” Hodaka yawned, bringing himself up on the sofa.

    “When that thing that attacked us several weeks ago returned! You know how many times I tried to call?” Kei shouted, taking a step closer, his demeanor causing Hodaka to gulp.

    “I’m sorry, but I had to help some friends….” Hodaka tried to speak, but Kei cut him off, deeply angered by his decisions.

    “That story I told you. I didn’t tell you everything.”

    “Great, you want another beer with this one?” Hodaka spat, eliciting a nervous look from Natsumi and Kei’s face turning a bright red with anger. He didn’t care, though, he was getting fed up with his superior’s behavior for something that wasn’t even his fault. Hodaka had dealt with this once before, but not again.

    “Listen here, you little shit!” Kei barked, now towering over the child, “I already lost people before! I shouldn’t have to even worry about you, but I do. So, the least you can do is answer the damn phone!”

    Hodaka was taken back by what he said. He thought Kei just viewed him as an employee and nothing more, never did he expect him to say what he just said. He stammered out, “I’m… sorry…. I just wanted to make sure….”

    “My parents told my brother and I to take the first helicopter we could out of the city while they were trying to make sure we would still be secured after the attack,” explained Kei, taking a moment’s pause to recollect himself from the traumatic memory. “It didn’t matter anyway, that flower or whatever it was detonated and wiped them off from the face of the planet.”

    “I…. I don’t know what to say… that’s rough,” Hodaka apologized, looking down in shame, reflecting on how he was acting during the whole conversation.

    “It is,” Kei simply stated.

    “Hey, Hodaka’s okay. He did what he had to by checking on people he cared about. In fact, you’d do the same in his position, Kei,” Natsumi chimed in, desperately trying to keep the household from exploding.

    “Yeah, but the difference is, he’s a kid. I know what I’m doing,” spoke Kei, turning away as he headed toward his office, not even allowing Hodaka and Natsumi to say anything.

    Kei pulled the drawer out from his desk, planting himself firmly on his chair. He reached down for his pack of cigarettes and pulled one out. He inspected it, as he tried so hard to quit. So many things were on the line for him. His job, Natsumi, Hodaka, and his daughter.

    He let out a sigh, bringing the lighter up to the cigarette.

    “Goddamn kid making things harder than they are,” muttered Kei, preparing to take a puff.

    Meow.

    Kei stopped while Callie hopped on the table and stared at him. She had gained a considerable amount of weight these past few weeks. Even gaining “Fattie” as a nickname. Her stubby tail wagged rapidly, still keeping her gaze onto him, as if she was judging him for the action he was about to commit.

    “What?” Kei mumbled, returning the stare back at the house cat. Callie let out another meow, seemingly questioning his decision to take up smoking again. Out of everyone, why was the cat making him feel guilty? It was such a calming sensation that made him put up with everything, however, everything was what he needed to put up with.

    “Son of a bitch,” he grumbled, breaking the cigarette in half.

    Then, a knock on the door made itself known. Kei turned around to see a guilt stricken Hodaka standing in the doorway. “Hi… can we talk?”

    Kei let out a deep breath. “Sure.”

    Hodaka walked into the office, taking a seat on a neighboring chair. “Kid, look,” Kei tried to speak, but Hodaka cut in.

    “No, I’m sorry. I could have at least called when I ran halfway across the city to find my friends. I can’t even imagine all the grief I put you and Natsumi in.”

    “Scared me more than that Hedorah or whatever they’re calling it,” Kei responded, resting his hand on his face.

    “Yeah, I can imagine, but still, I wanted to thank you,” announced Hodaka.

    “Thank me?” inquired Kei. He had no idea why the kid would want to thank him. He only paid him thirty dollars a month, food, and his phone bill. Natsumi would have killed him for that kind of exploitation, and even he agreed it was a bad deal, but there was not much he could do.

    “For actually caring. Not a lot of people who you’d think would do that don’t, so I just wanted to say thank you. For…. caring, I think,” Hodaka awkwardly spoke, feeling grateful for everything Kei had done for him these past few weeks.

    Kei simply chuckled at the way the kid presented his announcement. “Don’t mention it, just go ahead and get some rest. There’s some things I need to take care of.”

    Hodaka nodded with a yawn following, as he took his leave out of the office. Kei turned back to his desk and dialed the number on his phone.

    “Hello, this is the Mamiya household,” a femine voice spoke from the other line.

    “Hi, it’s Keisuke. Sorry to rush you, but regarding the visit.”

    ***

    With a mighty roar, Gamera followed it up with a plasma ball. The projectile soared toward Hedorah, yet it dove out of the way. Gamera growled in annoyance. The pursuit went on for hours and Hedorah showed no signs of giving out, especially when the clouds darkened the sky once more. Unfortunately, Gamera’s energy was waning. His jets constantly stuttered as he felt himself losing altitude with each passing minute and the mist.

    The mist Hedorah was now expelling from its underbelly was blinding and burning. Gamera choked harshly, feeling his lungs burning while his eyes blinked rapidly in an attempt to protect them. He felt himself descending further and further while Hedorah soared through the sky effortlessly.

    Gamera squinted at its flying form while his jets picked up ever so slightly. He had to take this monstrosity down once and for all. Flames flowed through his mouth while he pointed his head toward the distant Smog Monster.

    Just one shot.

    One to take it down and it would all be over.

    He reared his head back and unleashed it, but nothing came out. Hedorah was still flying as it was. Gamera had only just realized the flames dissipated as smoke was all that was left flowing out of his mouth. The chelonian felt himself descending, realizing his jets finally gave out. The former guardian didn’t roar, but only watched as the monster continued flying away, knowing it would be free to resume its massacre.

    He had fallen so far. Every setback that was inflicted onto him was just that. A setback. Gamera always had a plan or a way to overcome an obstacle imposed on him. Now, he felt defeated. Defeated by nothing more than a meager dose of sulfuric mist.

    Gamera closed his eyes, expecting to find nothing but darkness. All he saw, however, was the girl who he not only saved, but returned the favor. He couldn’t help but ponder it once more. Was this another bond being forced upon them? Was she just meant to be another Asagi, forced to endure the same pain they had to go through?

    He still had no idea if she was another byproduct of Atlantis or not. Her connection to the sun was both admiring and concerning. Gamera appreciated the fact there was a remedy to help heal the world, but the potential cost was what concerned him. His heart pumped slightly, thinking about the girl. If she did it too much, then she could get hurt or even worse, die.

    His mind drifted back to the Smog Monster. No matter what he did, Hedorah shrugged off everything he threw at him, but when the girl brought out the sun, it was nearly vanquished. Gamera felt the water washing over him as a huge splash rained down upon him. He longer saw the sky, but the dark abyss.

    Perhaps the girl was what the Earth needed instead. He could just close his eyes, shut down his body and let the world forget him once more. If and when Hedorah showed up once more, she could just command the sun to come through while humanity could bring in its weapons and destroy it.

    Gamera had no purpose for that fight. He could just rest.

    His heart throbbed once more, his stomach growling with disgust. A part of Gamera hated that line of thinking. It was morbid, irresponsible, and disingenuous! That girl did not need to put herself in harm’s way. She has a life, people who depend on her and a purpose.

    He’s expendable compared to her. Gamera needed to continue on, and yet, felt the need to give up. Gamera hit the ocean floor as the old sentinel looked up at the surface, his mind still swimming between the two paths before him. He was a broken record at this point, questioning his own self worth. He may never know if the answers he sought would give him closure.

    Until he had the strength to decide which path to follow, he would lay there. Wallowing in his own self pity, feeling pathetic as ever.

    He was never worthy of the title bestowed on him. Pretender was more suitable for him.

    ***

    The day had arrived. Hodaka looked at the siblings walking alongside him in the pouring rain. Their smiles shining brightly in this dark storm, grinning at being able to see the sun once more, but he was happy for a different reason. He was gonna help reunite a family and it was a special one. Hina and Nagi meant a lot to him and any peace they could find brought it to him as well.

    “I just hope Mayumi can keep it together,” mumbled Hodaka, noting her apprehension despite her eagerness to meet her grandchildren.

    “What was that, Hodaka?” Hina hummed.

    Hodaka’s face turned red, embarrassed she could have heard what he was planning for the two of them. “Oh, uh…. Nothing… just thinking out loud.”

    “Of course you were,” giggled Hina.

    “Yep, that’s me, all right,” chuckled a nervous Hodaka.

    “You need to calm down more often,” Nagi pointed out.

    “Yes, sensei,” Hodaka complied, lowering his shoulders down slightly as they arrived at Mayumi’s door.

    The moment was just about nigh. Hodaka reached his hand forward and rang the doorbell. The impregnable pause was unbearable, he wanted all to go well, but something in the back of his mind told him things won’t go as planned. Hodaka did, however, promise to help this broken family out, and as much as he didn’t want to, will scream and shout should the worse arrive.

    The door opened, revealing Mayumi in a lime green kimono, with a nervous smile on her face as she glanced down at her two grandchildren. Her heart raced fast, as she admired them, seeing how well they’ve grown up despite the hardships they faced. Still, she was scared beyond belief, not knowing how to reveal her relation with them, much less a simple conversation with them.

    “Hi, you three must be with the Sunshine girl, right?” Mayumi awkwardly stammered out.

    “That’s correct, ma’am,” answered Hodaka.

    “Good, good,” the house owner nearly stumbled over her words. “Please, um, come in.”

    The three followed her instructions as Nagi whispered in Hina’s ear “What’s gotten her so scared? Is she afraid of children or something?”

    “Hush!” Hina ordered.

    “So, where, uh, exactly do you want us to set up at?” Hodaka asked, trying to break the ice for the three of them, even though he knew it was a dumb question to ask.

    “I imagine out back would suffice,” answered Mayumi, traversing through her cozy, warm house. Windows were plastered throughout, providing plenty of natural light with the furniture looking soothing as ever. A place one would absolutely love to call home, yet something was missing in it. A part to make it feel complete.

    “What’s the occasion?” inquired Hina.

    “Hmm?” murmured Mayumi, turning her attention to her granddaughter, her eyes widening. She was as beautiful as ever and full of life. She could feel the tears in her eyes welling, wanting to tell both of them here and now, but her whole body nearly shut down. Mayumi wasn’t ready, even if she desperately wanted to.

    “Oh, the occasion,” stuttered the older woman, slowly finding the words to convey her lie, “I wanted to see the sun, since work has prevented me from seeing it every time you helped make it come out.”

    They stepped out into the luscious green backyard. Plants were placed everywhere while stones were placed throughout. They admired the beauty of their customer’s home as Hina smiled. “At the very least, it is a nice reason for wanting the sun to come out.”

    “It is,” Mayumi simply concurred, knowing it was already better with them around.

    “Say…..” Hodaka interjected, “Why don’t you two set up while I talk to our client about anything else that needs to be taken care of.”

    “Jeez, you know you can help set it up for once?” Nagi pointed out.

    “Uh-huh,” Hodaka simply replied as Nagi rolled his eyes, moving along with Hina to make the preparations. “You’re stalling, what’s wrong now?”

    “Stalling? You three just got here! What do you expect me to do, make the biggest revelations in their lives when I open the door?” Mayumi nearly bursted out.

    “You got a point, however, I notice you’re already tensing up. What’s wrong?” Hodaka demanded.

    “I…. just want to make sure everything goes okay and…. want them to accept me,” stammered Mayumi, before finishing her sentence, “I want another chance.”

    “Hey,” Hodaka calmly spoke, putting his hand on her shoulder. “We’ve been this over before, you can do it. They need someone who can be there for them, they need you, more than ever.”

    “Right, right…” breathed Mayumi, turning her attention back to her grandchildren setting everything up. She saw how they were giggling and feeling energetic, how she longed to experience those moments with them. Today was the day, she just had to make sure she could commit to it, no matter what.

    She stepped down from the porch and toward the two, readying to tell them the truth. “Excuse me, Hina, Nagi, right?”

    The two turned to the older woman, as Hina spoke up. “Yeah, what’s going on?”

    “Before you do what you do, um, I’d like to… tell you something,” sputtered Mayumi.

    “Okay, what is it, mam?” replied Nagi.

    “I…. just wanted to say….. Both of you are…” Mayumi faltered once more, she thought she had it down after days of preparation and the two pep talks Hodaka gave her, but she collapsed. She couldn’t do this, something was holding her back. “I just wanted to say you’re doing good!”

    “Oh my god,” muttered Hodaka, smacking his head on his face.

    “Um…. thanks,” Nagi simply replied.

    “Thank you. We appreciate the kind words,” Hina spoke, feeling disturbed by the older woman’s behavior as the two siblings went back to resume preparations.

    “No, wait,” Mayumi stuttered once more, gaining their attention. “What I meant to say was….”

    Hodaka nearly pinched the bridge of his nose at the display before him. He knew she wanted to tell the truth, but she was stuck. With a sigh, he approached the group as his friends were still visibly disturbed by her behavior.

    “Do you want to tell them or should I?” inquired Hodaka, causing Mayumi to freeze up while Hina and Nagi’s eyes widened farther than ever.

    “Hodaka, what are you talking about?” Hina questioned, her voice rattled slightly at the revelation about to play out.

    “Hina, Nagi. Mayumi here is your….” Hodaka nearly announced when Mayumi’s jaw dropped and screeched “Grandmother!”

    Mayumi rested her shoulders slightly as the outburst rang in everyone’s ears. She couldn’t believe it. She’d done it. Now, a new fear washed over her, two pairs of very stunned eyes piercing at her, as they stood in place. There was no backing down now, she had to finish it.

    “I’m… your grandmother, I…” Mayumi tried to speak, but Hina stepped forward.

    “No. This is some sort of joke,” Hina declared, turning to Hodaka and giving him a glare. “What the hell are you trying to do? Why would you do something like this? You know after everything we’ve been through, this should not be taken lightly!”

    “Hina…..” Hodaka attempted to speak, but Mayumi stepped forward, pulling a photo out of her pocket. She brought it up to her two grandchildren, both turning their full attention to the picture. What they saw changed their whole perspective of the situation.

    It was Mayumi and Ayana standing together along with an older man and a kid around Nagi’s age. All of them were standing together in a park with fireworks going off in the sky as everyone, but their mother was smiling at the celebration.

    Hina took her eyes off of the photo and back to the woman, her mouth quivering. “Why?” Hina spoke, her voice cracking. “Why didn’t you ever make contact or try to find us! You could have helped when mom was in the hospital!”

    The words that came out of her granddaughter struck her like lightning and the scared reaction Nagi gave off made it hit harder for her. No matter what answer she provided, she knew it wouldn’t make their pain go away. All she could do was tell them.

    “I wanted to, more than anything,” Mayumi answered, taking a moment’s pause. “Our relationship with Ayana was strained, she was always distant and would rather keep everyone at arm’s length. I tried to do everything I could, but in the end, I just made it even worse on her. Then, when you two were born, I wanted to do everything I could to help, to make up, but she always hid you away from us.”

    Nagi’s voice trembled as it then turned into rage, “You could have been there to save mom! She didn’t have to die! Like any good mom, you could have done something to save her no matter what and now she’s gone!”

    “I know!” Mayumi bawled out, dropping to her knees, grieving from her failure. “Had I known what was happening, I would have done everything to save her! I didn’t even find out till a month ago! I just wish I did better for all of you.”

    Their ears were filled with her sobs as they all just watched her continue to grieve. Painful memories flashed back for Hodaka, ones revolving around his family and how they treated him. Abusive and demeaning were all he knew back then and from what Mayumi revealed, it seems like Ayana had a similar life as he did. He should feel disgust with the grieving woman, but instead, he felt sorry for her. He didn’t see an abusive parent, but one marred with regret and sadness.

    He stepped forward, intending to help smooth things over for the family, but was stopped by the sight of Hina kneeling down. “Hina?” he softly spoke.

    She didn’t pay attention to him, but instead kept her gaze on the older woman. “One of the biggest wants in my life was to meet you. To know the two of us weren’t alone.”

    Mayumi sniffed, clearing her nose and rubbing her eyes. She looked up at her granddaughter, who held a soft smile at her. “It’s all I ever wanted too. If I could, I would change back time so we could have met a lot sooner and so you two could always have a big family.”

    “We still have time to make up for that,” Hina declared, kneeling down toward her.

    Mayumi smiled back at her, nearly choking once more from tears, but not of sadness but of happiness instead. She went in for a hug, however, she had to stop when a childish voice was heard.

    “You better make up for all of this, because this is what I wanted too!” Nagi nearly bawled out, throwing himself at Mayumi. She nearly chuckled, wrapping her arms around her grandson while Hina leaned over and embraced the two of them

    “I will. I will. Anything for you both,” hummed Mayumi, holding onto her grandchildren tightly as they all kept themselves huddled together for quite some time. Soon, the rain stopped pouring on them and instead, the sun shined brightly upon the family.

    “Just please promise me one thing,” Mayumi spoke, getting her two grandchildren to look at her with puzzled expressions. “Never hesitate to ask for anything. I’ll always be here for you. No matter what.”

    “Can we come by any time?” Hina inquired.

    “Yes, yes you can. When and for however long you two want,” Mayumi sobbed as her two grandchildren joined in while Hodaka simply smiled at the united family. While this could never be fixed, he couldn’t help but feel elated to see how his friends’ family are together at long last. It truly warmed his heart knowing such a thing was possible.

    “Hodaka!” Nagi hollered out, snapping him away from his thoughts. “Get over here!”

    “You’re not getting out of this so easily!” added Hina, with Hodaka chuckling in response.

    “If you say so,” replied Hodaka, marching over to join in the family embrace. Like, the day he met Hina and the celebration, this was one of the best days of his life.

    ***

    With the shut of her car door, Asagi stepped out and took in her surroundings. She had visited the location several times over these past two decades, however, to her it not only looked like it was still in ruins, but where her life started. The refinery where Gamera vanquished the final Gyaos played back in her mind constantly and in greater detail every time she toured it.

    It was a great day in her life, she was bonded with a majestic creature, determined to protect the world and its people. Out of everyone, she, an ordinary schoolgirl, was chosen for the task as a priestess to the guardian. She had the time of her life being valued by so many people and having a purpose she could fulfil. Being needed.

    Then, that gradually degraded when her connection was shattered to revive Gamera. She traveled around the world and looked through every relevant book on the subject for an answer to bring it back. Alas, nothing came of it and she could only guess what he was feeling. There was only one time where she was able to guess correctly on what he was feeling and it was his determination to end the threat of the Gyaos at the end of the century. Since then, nothing.

    “And that’s what baffles me more than ever,” mouthed Asagi, staring deeply at the ocean beyond the refinery. “Why am I still not feeling anything? Why are you acting the way you are?”

    She reached in her pocket, pulling out the once shattered bead, as she glued it back on in an attempt to reactivate it. Asagi held onto it for all her life, hoping by some miracle it would give her a sign. She stared at it for a considerable amount of time.

    Nothing. No glow, no reconstruction, no signal.

    It was just a useless relic.

    Asagi raised her arm back, her hand tightening up as fist, she was ready to do it. She held on for far too long, it was time she let go of Gamera. Asagi needed to move on. With a step forward, she threw arm out. Asagi watched the huge body of water in front of her, hoping to see it rippling from a collision, but looked down only to see her never relinquishing the bead.

    “Goddamnit,” choked Asagi, tightening her fists once more. “This is why you can’t live a normal life.”

    She continued staring out at the ocean. Her mind drifted back to the past few nights when Gamera showed back up. Asagi expected him to be the savior he was known for, however, he was showing signs of constant pain and doubt. Gamera was no longer the hero she knew, in fact she had no idea what he was.

    “Almost as if it was better you never returned. I thought you would give me answers, but I guess, I’m…. we’re lost,” surmised Asagi, her voice barely more than a solemn whisper.

    Gamera soon exited her thoughts as Yukino came forth. She was the one who was the most important person in her life. Those trips to the aquarium, their skiing trip in Hokkaido, their wedding, and even traveling around the world to help her understand her connection.

    Asagi gritted her teeth once more. She threw the most amazing woman away all for a meager shot of being reunited in a role she desired. “She deserves someone far better than me.”

    She knew the divorce proceedings would hurt, but in the end, it would be better for Yukino. That was all she could do for her, to ensure she had a better life. To give her that family she yearned for, for so long. Asagi couldn’t let go of the fleeting hope of a connection with Gamera. The former priestess put the bead in her pocket and pulled out her phone, knowing what she would have to do.

    Before she could dial the number, her phone rang. Asagi looked down and saw the ID belonging to “Mayumi Nagamine.” A meager smile formed on her face as talking to her friend brought her a small measure of peace.

    “Hello?” Asagi answered.

    “If you’re not feeling too down, you should come meet us at Shiba park,” Mayumi said from the other line.

    “Us?” inquired Asagi.

    “I found them! Hina, Nagi! And some other people they made themselves well acquainted with! They’re great! I’d love for you to meet them,” Mayumi enthusiastically voiced, her tone of voice completely surprising Asagi. It was a tone she had not heard from her for a very long time.

    If Mayumi found what she was looking for and could even keep it, then was it possible for her to attain it as well? A small grin grew on Asagi’s face as she answered, “I’d….. I would love to meet them. I’ll be there soon!”

    “See you then!” Mayumi cheered.

    Asagi hung up, taking one last look at the ocean. “Okay, let’s see if I can actually learn something for once.”

    ***

    “Daddy, do it again. One more time!” a little girl in a blue dress cheered, giggling at the amount of fun she was having.

    “Right! Ready!” Suga replied estaically, grabbing her by the arms and swinging her around, both of them immediately laughing while Nagi watched with a smile on his face.

    “Out of everyone, it had to be you, didn’t it?” Hodaka demanded, still completely floored by Suga being the one who called in the request.

    “Ow! That’s really bad for your back, you know?” yawned Suga, seemingly ignoring Hodaka’s accusation and taking a seat between him and Hina on the bench.

    “Did you know this was my job?” inquired Hodaka, puzzled at how he could have known what he did in his time away. “And you said nothing? And you have a daughter?”

    Suga chuckled at the kid’s twenty questions as he then turned over to Hina and shook her hand, completely taking her by surprise. “I’m stunned. Today’s forecast was one hundred percent rain.”

    “She’s a miracle worker, all right,” Mayumi chimed in, with a couple of drinks in her hand. She passed the beverages to the three.

    “Thank you nana,” spoke Hina, immediately eliciting a grin from Mayumi.

    “Anything for you,” replied Mayumi, turning her eyes toward Nagi and Moka chasing each other in circles around the park. “What did I miss? And I want to know it all in every detail.”

    “Just Nagi and Moka goofing around while Hodaka and I watched,” answered Hina while Suga chuckled.

    “That’s still a lot!” Mayumi pointed out, wanting to experience every moment with her grandchildren as she could, even to the point of pulling out her phone to record the two kids running around.

    Hina couldn’t help but smile at her grandmother’s antics. Within a short amount of time of being reunited, she was already acting like a parent who’s been raising them for years.

    Suga, on the other hand, chuckled at Mayumi’s behavior. He did admire her commitment to her grandchildren, though, she was like him. They both did whatever they could to provide their children a future and to even better themselves to give them someone to look up to.

    “My daughter has asthma,” announced Suga, returning to the previous conversation before as his friends turned to him. “She lives with her granny, who won’t let me see her on rainy days.”

    He looked up at the sky, admiring its beauty as he fiddled with a ring around his finger. “Nothing can beat a gorgeous blue sky.”

    Hodaka nodded in agreement, cementing his eyes at the horizon before him. “So, you’re Hodaka’s boss?” Hina asked.

    Suga chuckled at the question. “I also saved his life from that Hedorah monster.”

    “Since when? The only time you could have saved him was when it attacked Tokyo,” questioned Mayumi, confused at how they could have encountered the monstrosity before.

    “Nah! It attacked us while we were on a ship heading to Tokyo,” explained Suga.

    “And you never thought to report it?” snapped Mayumi, concerned for Hodaka’s wellbeing.

    “No one got hurt and it wasn’t as severe as all the other times a monster reeled its ugly face,” retorted Suga, slapping Hodaka on the back. “Besides, the real question is, why does Hina treat you like a little boy?”

    “She’s two years older than me,” answered Hodaka.

    “Sixteen, seventeen, eighteen. Same stuff,” surmised Suga, raising his hands up, all the while Mayumi couldn’t help, but start laughing.

    They looked at her with concern as Hina stammered “Everything okay, nana?”

    It took Mayumi a few seconds to compose herself as she breathed out. “You’re not eighteen! You’re sixteen!”

    “What?!” Hodaka gasped while Suga bursted out laughing as Hina’s face grew red in embarrassment. Hodaka’s tone shifted slightly more calmly, asking Hina with sincerity in his voice. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

    Hina took a deep breath in. “I lied, because it was the only way I could get jobs to support Nagi and myself.”

    “Right, right,” Hodaka softly spoke. “I understand why you did it, but a part of you enjoyed teasing me about it!”

    “I did,” chuckled Hina, her smile coming back once more.

    “And besides, you don’t need to worry about that anymore, you got me,” Mayumi chimed in.

    “I do, I do,” whispered Hina, smiling at how she never has to pretend to be someone she’s not ever again. Those days were nothing but stressful, scrounging up whatever cash she could get from the jobs she took, and now, with the help of her grandmother, she could sit back and enjoy her life as a kid once more.

    “There you are!” a voice called out, snapping everyone’s attention as Mayumi recognized the voice all too well. She saw Asagi strolling toward them, setting her bag next to the bench, taking a look at Hina and then back at Nagi. “You finally found them, huh?”

    “Asagi, it’s good to see you again!” Mayumi greeted, giving her dear friend a hug, surprising her, but nonetheless, returned the gesture. “It’s great! I haven’t felt better in years.”

    “I’m happy for you, Mayumi. I really am and….” Asagi tried to speak when she heard a child’s voice screaming out “Aunt Asagi!”

    She turned around to see Nagi and Moka running toward her, with the former giving her a hug, once again taking her by surprise. “Hey….” Asagi greeted, her eyes trailing back to Mayumi. “Really, Mayumi? Aunt Asagi?”

    “What?” Mayumi spoke, shrugging her shoulders. “You’re the closest thing they have to an aunt.”

    “I suppose so,” replied a defeated Asagi.

    “It’s not so bad, just give it a try,” Mayumi encouraged.

    “Right,” Asagi concurred softly, looking back down at the kid hugging her. “Good to see you too, Nagi….. Right?”

    “You got that right!” Nagi hollered out, offering her a high five. She slowly raised her hand up as he immediately slapped hers with his.

    Asagi turned to Hina offering her hand. “It’s finally nice to meet you, Mayumi has always talked about meeting the two of you?’

    “That much?” inquired Hina, surprised just by how much her grandmother talks about her.

    “You and Nagi were always a part of our conversations,” she answered, as Hina simply chuckled.

    “There you are!” a cheerful voice called out gaining everyone’s attention as they saw Natsumi running up to them. “Hi guys!”

    “Anyone else coming after her?” joked Nagi.

    “Nagi, there’s something I want to show you!” Moka announced, pointing to luscious grass with a batch of flowers in the middle. Nagi smiled as he followed her to their destination.

    “Wait,” Hodaka stammered out as Suga turned to him.

    “What?”

    “Aren’t you going to be in trouble?” asked Hodaka, as he thought deeply about Suga’s relationship with Natsumi and how he was constantly fiddling around with his wedding ring.

    “Eh?”

    Hodaka leaned forward and whispered in his ear, “Does Natsumi know you’re married?”

    In a flip of switch, Suga bursted out in laughter as Natsumi stopped in her tracks, confused at the sudden cue of joy in front of her. “What’s up with you guys?”

    “Hodaka thought you were my mistress,”

    Natsumi’s eyes widened, her face turning bright red as she let out a banshee cry. “Mistress!?”

    “Jeez, is that what you wanted me to see, Mayumi?” questioned Asagi, feeling confused at the display before her as the group exchanged several words with each other.

    “Not… exactly, but it’s just a simple misunderstanding. They’ll get over it and besides, we’re all having fun,” answered Mayumi, a proud smile still firmly on her face.

    “Why did you tell me you were uncle and niece!?” Hodaka bursted out.

    “Wasn’t it obvious?” Natsumi hollered back while Suga continued to cackle at the situation they were all in. “Besides, that’s a really disgusting fantasy, Hodaka.”

    “That… doesn’t even make any sense! I wasn’t even fantasizing about it,” argued Hodaka, looking down at the ground.

    “You have a really perverted mind,” added Hina, feeling a modicum of disgust at her friend.

    Hodaka’s face grew bright red from embarrassment, as Natsumi spoke, “Hey, Hodaka.” He looked up at her slightly, his eyes shifting more between her face and breasts, as she then smirked at him. “You’re looking at my boobs, again.”

    Hodaka squealed, his face still a bright red while steam seemingly blew out of his ears, “I did not!”

    Natsumi then joined her uncle in laughter while Asagi simply chuckled at the display before her. Mayumi took notice of her friend’s behavior, “Even in awkward moments, it’s not so bad to be part of something like this.”

    Asagi smirked. “It’s not so bad, but I don’t think I’d be really good at it, though.”

    “Neither am I, but I’m trying, and I think I’m doing okay,” Mayumi paused, putting her hand on her friend’s shoulder. “I think, but if they’re happy, then that’s all that matters.”

    “Daddy, I made a garland for you,” Moka called out for Suga, as he got up from the bench to play with his daughter. He wasn’t the only one called as Nagi opened his mouth, “Hodaka, grams, come over here! I want to show you something!”

    “Senpai is calling me, hold on,” announced Hodaka, excusing himself from the group.

    “Be right back with you, Asagi, I need to know what Nagi has to show me,” Mayumi eagerly vocalized, nearly bursting at full speed to see what he needed.

    Natsumi chuckled at their behavior, turning her attention to Hodaka. “He’s hilarious, you know?”

    Hina scoffed at her comment, a tad annoyed at his behavior just moments ago. “He’s such a kid.”

    “Don’t you think they’re the same, though?” questioned Natsumi.

    “You mean Hodaka and Suga, right?” replied Hina, as she watched them walking toward their respective callers.

    “Eeyup! Kei, well, after what happened, he ran away from his brother and came to Tokyo when he was a teen. He met his future wife and fell in love big time,” Natsumi taking a moment to pause to admire the group playing together in the open fields. “But, she died in an accident some years ago. He’s still in love with her, and I think Hodaka is the same in that regard.”

    “He’s not so bad in that regard, just a bit clueless and awkward,” Hina surmised.

    Natsumi chuckled. “I’ve been dying to meet you for you for so long, Hina.”

    “And you too, Asagi!” she added, jumping from her seat and grabbing both of their hands, taking them by complete surprise as they stared at her face full of wonder. “The one hundred percent sunshine girl and the priestess of Gamera! Both of you are amazing!”

    “I….. Thank you?” stammered out Asagi, feeling incredibly uncomfortable with Natsumi’s behavior at how she was fangirling over both of them.

    “I wish I had a skill like controlling the weather or talking to a giant turtle on my resume. I hate looking for a job so much,” Natsumi excitedly spoke, before sinking her shoulders down in disappointment. “I wish I was still in high school, things were so much simpler back then.”

    Hina giggled at Natsumi’s behavior. “I can’t wait to be a grown-up instead.”

    “I guess I’m the opposite, then,” Asagi joined in on the conversation. “Things were far simpler back as a kid. You don’t have to worry about a job, making commitments or even second guessing every decision you’re about to make.”

    “Hear, hear!” Natsumi simply cheered.

    Hina turned to Asagi, noticing how distraught she appeared to be during this whole get together. She was put off by her behavior, but didn’t let it ruin her time, however, she had to know exactly why she was acting the way she was.

    “If I may, why are you all distant,” questioned Hina.

    Asagi was taken back by the young girl’s question. She’d normally be offended by someone trying to pry into her life, but maybe it was because of her relation to Mayumi or the fact she already resembled her when she was a child. That bright smile, willing to help in any way she could and to do the right thing, Asagi couldn’t be angry at the girl.

    Instead, Asagi let out a sigh. “When you lose a part of yourself you thought would last forever, it changes you. It ruins every relationship you have with everyone you care about and causes nothing but pain and misery.”

    “With Gamera?” Hina spoke softly, inching closer to Asagi.

    “Yeah,” Asagi answered. “And truth is, I don’t even know why I felt so attached to him beyond his duty to protect us when that was a promise he failed to make good on. Several died in his path and yet, I still believe in him… in some weird, twisted way.”

    “It’s good you still have faith in someone, there’s strength in that,” chimed Hina, giving the older woman a warm smile.

    Asagi shook her head slightly. “Goddamn! I really am looking in a mirror.”

    She needed to set Hina straight, not in a way that would turn her into her or make her disillusioned with everything, but to set her in the right path. So, she doesn’t make the wrong choices like she did.

    “Hina, you’re a good kid, one of a kind. Continue being the person you are, the kind who always cheers people up, but don’t prioritize your gifts over a life and the people who love you. Otherwise, you’ll get what you’re staring at,” Asagi monologued, eliciting surprised reactions from Natsumi and Hina.

    “Jeez…. I had no idea… that thing can do something like that to you,” mumbled a distraught Natsumi.

    “Yeah, just please avoid those mistakes. You two still have time,” added Asagi.

    “And you don’t?” questioned Hina, frowning at her.

    “I appreciate the optimism, but it’s just not possible for me,” sighed Asagi, looking down in distraught at the life she was trapped in, with no way out. Her mind drifted back to Yukino, knowing full she would adore this meetup and showering all four kids with gifts. Even cooking up a whole feast for everyone. The thought made her giddy, but knew it was nothing more than a fantasy, as those thoughts quickly dissipated.

    “You’re wrong,” Hina retaliated, as Asagi lifted her head up, seeing her smiling at her. “I believe you’re still able to achieve it. You just find it in yourself to see it.”

    “I tried that, kid, and nothing.”

    “But you have to give yourself a chance and I’m sure Gamera wants you to live that life. You two were connected after all,” surmised Hina.

    “I… I know he would, I think,” whispered Asagi.

    “Hina! Natsumi! Come play with us!” Moka called out while waving her arms excitedly.

    “Be right there!” Natsumi eagerly called out, bolting toward the group.

    Hina lifted herself from the bench, taking a look at Asagi. “And I meant what I said. I have faith in you and that life. You just need to have it for yourself.”

    Asagi stood motionless as she watched Hina meetup with the rest of the kids while Mayumi and Suga walked back toward the bench. She couldn’t help but not notice a resemblance going on with Hina.

    “Are you sure she’s Ayana’s daughter?” questioned Asagi, keeping her eyes on Hina laughing playfully with the others. “She’s so full of life.”

    Mayumi smiled, turning to face her granddaughter. “She’s strong, stronger than any of us.”

    “Does she know everything her mother did? With Iris?” spoke Asagi, concern growing on her face as Mayumi’s smile dropped.

    “No, not yet, but I’ll at least tell her anything they want to know. They deserve that much.”

    “I wouldn’t worry so much, you’re already doing fine,” voiced Suga, eliciting a grin. “They’ve taken quite a liking to you.”

    “You sure? They may seem happy right now, but I don’t know if they’ll feel like that forever or what if I do something wrong like…..” Mayumi trailed as Suga sharply cut her off.

    “Relax,” Kei hushed, raising his hand up. “We screw up, there’s no way we’re going to avoid that. We already did that and we’re going to do that several more times. But, it just means we do a little better the next time and knowing they’ll do better when they grow up is what makes me confident I have what it takes to raise Moka.”

    “Yeah, I suppose, just….” stammered Mayumi.

    “Just?”

    “It’s going to be hard. I already screwed up once and it was the worst mistake in my life. I can’t afford to do that again,” Mayumi softly spoke, turning back to her grandchildren playing.

    “Hey,” Suga voiced, getting Mayumi’s attention. “Don’t be so hard on yourself. You’re getting a second chance, we both are. We just have to do better this time. Not for our sake, but for theirs.”

    Mayumi smiled, nodding her head. “Count on it.”

    Asagi stayed silent, paying close attention to their conversation and how they’re committed to changing their lives around. They were willing to make the leap to a new life, but she couldn’t join them, and her reasons were far more miniscule compared to theirs. If only she was able to heed Hina’s advice, then she could be on their level.

    “That goes for you too, Asagi,” Suga spoke, taking her away from her thoughts. “You should give your wife another call. Be in love again, start a family. You still have time.”

    “Were it so easy,” muttered a defeated Asagi, resigned to her fate.

    Suga shook his head as Mayumi sighed at Asagi’s continued distress as she was still keeping herself locked away from a life. There was only so much she could do to help, as her patience was starting to wane. Sooner or later, Mayumi knew she’d have to cut her losses and let Asagi wallow in her misery. However, to her surprise, Asagi chuckled and spoke.

    “For what it’s worth, this has been a good day.”

    ***

    With rain pouring down and paracels opening up, the day in the park had ended. Laughs were shared and a bond was built. A day none of them would ever forsake.

    As the droplets of water came down faster, Moka’s coughs became more egregious. “Are you tired, Moka? Here, take a breath,” Suga murmured, as with a shake of an inhaler, he brought it up to his daughter’s lips. “One, two, three.”

    She breathed as her coughs went away quickly as excitement came back to her voice. “I’m fine. Let’s play!”

    “Maybe another time. I don’t think your grandma would want you playing in this weather,” replied Suga, putting the inhaler in his pocket.

    “I guess we’ll take our leave now,” Hina announced as she walked up to the rest of the group with Hodaka and Nagi.

    “But I want to spend more time with Nagi,” Moka declared, grinning at Nagi as he returned the gesture. Mayumi smirked at the obsession the girl had for her grandson, thinking it was absolutely adorable to see Nagi becoming someone she could look up to.

    “Hey! Why don’t we all go to dinner together?” Natsumi suggested, raising the umbrella over her uncle and niece. “Just because it’s raining doesn’t mean it has to end.”

    “I don’t know…. We should be getting back,” Hina replied, as Mayumi looked at her with concern.

    “Everything okay, Hina?” she questioned.

    “Nagi and I just like to get back home at a certain time, and….” Hina answered, but found herself stopping as Mayumi took over.

    “We’ve been over this. You two don’t have to live by yourselves, all of you always have a place with me. You’re important to me,” spoke Mayumi, wrapping her granddaughter with a hug.

    “I know, it just feels like I would be intruding,” countered Hina, tilting her head slightly down.

    “Hey, grams said she wants to be there for us. I’d say we just move in! Plus, we won’t be cramped anymore!” Nagi joyfully yelled out, smiling at the thought of moving in before toning it down for the change in subject. “Besides, I’ll go eat with Moka, if that’s okay?”

    “Sure,” Hina answered.

    “Yes!” Nagi cheered, throwing his fist in the air.

    “You sure you don’t want to join us?” Mayumi inquired, feeling bummed her granddaughter won’t be joining for the feast.

    “Grams, I think Hodaka and Hina had something planned,” Nagi pointed out, winking at Hodaka. He nearly gasped, but knew what Nagi was hinting at. Going through the past couple of days, trying to get advice from several people like Nagi and Natsumi, he wanted to get a gift for Hina. He couldn’t deny it, but his feelings for her were growing stronger and stronger. Hodaka had to confess, to get it off his chest and the two of them being alone would be the perfect time to do so.

    His thoughts were interrupted with Moka jumping out of her fathers arms and wrapping herself around Hina’s legs. “Thank you for bringing out the sunshine today!”

    Hina returned a smile at the little girl and kneeled down to her. “Thank you. I’m glad I made you happy.”

    “Well, just let me know if you need anything,” spoke Mayumi as her granddaughter simply nodded. The two groups soon went their separate ways as Hodaka and Hina strolled through many blocks, making their way back to the apartment.

    He watched her as she walked in front of him as his hand fiddled around with the gift in his pocket. Hodaka’s stomach turned to knots, knowing full well that the moment was about to arrive.

    “Oh my god. Oh my god. So, this is possibly gonna be the first time I tell a girl I love her.”

    Hodaka stopped, his feet planted firmly on the upward path as he pulled out the red case from his pocket. “Hina.”

    “Hodaka,” Hina spoke.

    “Sorry,” he apologized, feeling as if he interrupted her, but she kept her smile aimed at him.

    “It’s okay,” she replied. “What is it?”

    “Oh, uh, nothing in particular,” stammered Hodaka, pushing the red case deeper back into his pocket.

    “Why did you say that?”

    “What were you about to say, though?” resumed Hodaka, curious as to know what she was about to say, and with his luck, maybe she would feel the same way about him.

    “Hodaka, you know,” Hina softly spoke, but the words became unintelligible as he saw something completely unknown to him. It made his mouth shake rapidly while his pupils grew. Blue and green droplets circled around Hina as she continued speaking, swirling as if they were in a funnel.

    “I….” Hina tried to speak once more, but as if a sudden gust of wind swept in, she disappeared before his very eyes.

    Hodaka darted his head in all directions, desperately trying to search for as he called out her name repeatedly. “Hodaka!” Hina’s voice screamed out, immediately getting him to look upward. What he saw completely baffled him, she was floating up several feet in the air as she slowly descended while the droplets of water still circled around her.

    He reached out for her, but she dropped to her knees before he could catch her. Hodaka went to help her up, but noticed something that made him pause. Green and blue like liquid substances covered her arms, creating a transparent look, as he could see the asphalt through them. His heart raced, terrified at what was happening to his dear friend as she quickly covered her arms up in fear.

    “Hina, what is happening to you?” Hodaka nearly exclaimed, concerned over her wellbeing as he helped her up to his feet and gave her his jacket.

    With his arm wrapped around her for the rest of the trip back home, Hina explained everything to him. How that day started when she became the sunshine girl, how she wanted one last walk with her mother and how she was drawn to the shrine that sent her to the sky. Had it not been for her abilities, Hedorah and Gamera, he’d thought she was crazy, but he couldn’t deny it. All the pieces were there. Something was terribly wrong with her and he didn’t know what. And that was what terrified him the most, not knowing what to do to help her.

    “I think…. that’s when I got connected to the sky,” Hina surmised, pulling the sleeve over her affected hand, walking up the stairs to her apartment. Without another word said, they entered the home as Hodaka went into the bathroom to dry himself off. Still, he couldn’t help but wonder what it all meant.

    “Connected to the sky?” he questioned, looking at himself in the mirror. Before he could ponder it any further, he heard a doorbell ring, he opened the door and went to exit the restroom, but saw Hina peering through the eyehole.

    Hodaka, assuming it was Nagi or Mayumi, went forward, but Hina brushed him away. “Stay in there, Hodaka.”

    Knowing something bad was about to happen, he complied, shutting the bathroom door once more as he carefully listened in on the coming conversation.

    “Police. Sorry for the late visit,” an officer spoke, her voice carrying sympathy.

    “Police? What are they doing here?” Hodaka questioned himself, his ear still pinned to the wall.

    “We’re doing some rounds, because we’ve been told that a runaway known as Hodaka Morishima has been seen here quite a bit. At least one day, that is,” a detective announced, handing Hina a photo of him.

    “I can’t say I’ve seen him before,” Hina feigned ignorance, handing the photo back to the authorities.

    “Are you sure, several of your neighbors have seen him around here before,” the detective added.

    “Again, I have not,” Hina answered. “What has he done, though?”

    “We just want to ask him some questions. He’s a runaway and his parents filed a missing person’s report.”

    “Shit.” Hodaka mentally cursed as his parents were able to track him down. He didn’t want to go back, not to that life. He was happy where he was at and would be content without ever having to see them again.

    “Also, you’re living alone with your brother, right?” the officer questioned.

    “That’s right, but our grandmother will be taking us in shortly,” Hina answered, as a lump in her throat grew while sweat dropped from her forehead.

    “That’s a bit of a problem too,” the office added. “Without a guardian, you….”

    “But! We don’t bother anyone!” Hina retaliated. “We have a guardian, there’s no need to…”

    She was then interrupted by the officer, “I’m sorry, but without proof of a guardian, and even if you do have one, it’ll still be a while for ownership to be approved.”

    “We can worry about that later,” the detective spoke. “For now, we’ll leave you to whatever business you have. Good day.”

    And with that, the two authorities left as Hina shut the door. Hodaka slowly exited the bathroom, from the conversation he heard, he saw she was in great distress. “Hina.”

    “She’ll likely come back tomorrow with social service,” Hina deduced, turning back to face her dear friend. “Even if we got Mayumi to help, they’ll still likely separate us for the time being! I…. I can’t let Nagi be separated from me for even a day!”

    Hodaka tried to speak, but was interrupted by his phone ringing. The person responsible was Suga, as it immediately went to voicemail. “Kid, come out now. There’s some problems going on with you, the kids, everyone.”

    “Oh my god,” Hodaka nearly grumbled.

    “It’s okay. I can wait here and pack,” Hina spoke as Hodaka left the apartment and marched over to where Suga was parked.

    He saw Nagi bursting out of the car, running toward him. “Hodaka, The police were….”

    “I know,” Hodaka cut in. “Go home. I’ll be right there.”

    Nagi did as he said and bolted toward his home while Hodaka stepped inside the car.

    “Temperatures have fallen sharply after sunset,” a meteorologist announced over the car radio, but the two dismissed it, since Hodaka kept his focus on the driver, who was now sporting a black cap with a dragon on it and a black trenchcoat.

    “Mr. Suga?”

    “Are you surprised by my new look?” he inquired. “I’m in disguise.”

    Suga leaned over and turned off the radio to prevent any more distractions. “They came to my office and they’re treating it like a kidnapping.”

    “Are they serious?” Hodaka nearly barked out.

    Suga shook his head. “I denied any involvement, but they didn’t buy it.”

    He leaned over and placed the cap on Hodaka’s head, in some meager form to help conceal his identity. “Take it. It can be part of your severance pay.”

    “Thanks, I think.”

    Suga let out a deep sigh as what he was about to say pained him. “Don’t come back to the office. They’ll arrest me. I filed for custody of my daughter and your Asagi friend is actually helping a lot to make my case known. I’m… sorry. ”

    “No, I understand. I wish you luck in getting her back,” Hodaka acknowledged, feeling happy for him, yet scared he was getting kicked out of a place he called home.

    “And one more piece of advice,” Kei spoke, leaning his back on the seat. “Go back home tomorrow. Then everything will go back to normal.”

    Hodaka’s mouth shivered as his mind ran rampant with traumatizing memories of being sent back. He couldn’t believe what someone he looked up to just ordered him to do. He wanted to scream and shout at him, but restrained himself, knowing it wouldn’t solve anything.

    Suga flipped through his wallet, pulling out several bills of yen. “It would be best for everyone.”

    “Not for me, though.”

    He handed Hodaka the money. “It’s time to grow up, kid.”

    Without any further exchange of dialogue, Hodaka departed from the car and returned back to Hina’s apartment. He opened the door to find the siblings packing their bags as if they were evacuating.

    “We can’t stay here anymore,” Hina announced, packing only the essentials of what they needed.

    “But, where are you…” stammered Hodaka, approaching her slowly.

    “I know what the most likely answer is, but I don’t want to burden her with it,” Hina answered.

    “Why not?” asked Hodaka, taking another step forward. “You have a grandmother who loves you both more than the world itself.”

    “I don’t see the problem. Grams is great!” Nagi spoke out, poking head out from his room.

    “Hodaka, shouldn’t you go home before you’re caught?” asked Hina, looking up at him. “You have a place, too. You don’t need to throw it away,”

    “Please, don’t say that,” Hodaka trembled.

    “We’ll be fine. You’ve done everything for us, it’ll be okay,” Hina consoled, her hand touching his arm.

    Hodaka’s hands bundled up into fists, he heard that order from everyone and he wasn’t going to follow it no matter what. “I’m not going back.”

    “I’m going with you. If I have to pay rent or do whatever it takes, I will! But I will not be separated from you two! We go together!” Hina proclaimed, his voice piercing through the walls.

    “My man!” Nagi cheered as Hina gave him a bright smile.

    “Okay. Let’s make good on Nana’s promise,” Hina said. On one hand, she wanted him to not be burdened by her problems and to live out his life in comfort, even if he didn’t see it that way. Yet, on the other hand, she was glad he was sticking around. She couldn’t say it before and she wanted to, but her feelings for him were growing, and she didn’t want it any other way.

    ***

    The pouring rain froze over as snowflakes soon took their place. They descended on every piece of the bright nightlife of Tokyo. Despite the shivering and the near shock from the surprising drop of temperature in August, everyone stood still and admired its beauty. Completely unnatural, but to them, it was a small reprieve from the endless rain.

    The Tokyo Bay froze over in a matter of minutes, creating several feet worth of ice, solid enough for any being to walk on. Ships all over were immediately stuck in place, creating a frozen layer, slowly overlapping the vessels.

    Oozing itself through the cracks of the ice, Hedorah took form, standing on top of the surface, gazing at the bright city before it. It stood taller than ever, no longer was it crawling on all fours and hunched over, but standing nearly three times as tall as before. Its eyes shifted at the trapped craft as their occupants screamed in terror at the Smog Monster. Hedorah gurgled in delight as its massacre was to begin anew.

    With its rapid aim, it fired its crimson bolts at every ship in its raids, reducing them to a smoldering mess. Alarms sounded all over the bay while the polluted monstrosity marched toward the city, alternating between firing off its blood red beams and acidic sludge. These rapid fire assaults turned the bay into a flaming polluted mess, completely eviscerating everyone present.

    “To all of Tokyo, the monstrosity known as Hedorah, has made landfall! Please get as far as you can. The JSDF will employ several distractive measures to keep it occupied,” a woman announced over loud speakers all around the city

    Jets zoomed by dropping several fireworks as they exploded in front of Hedorah’s eyes. They widen in amazement, the beautiful colors erupting in front of it marveled in its beauty. Tanks rolled up, creating a blockade around the monstrosity to buy as much time as they could for the fleeing civilians in the area. The hardest part for any member of the JSDF was everything they threw at it, just creating more havoc, killing how many in crossfire, with its body parts splattering all over. All they could do was hopefully distract it long for a miracle to happen.

    And that miracle was something several people were praying for. Everyone had one name crossed in their minds, desperately hoping he would show up to save the day once more. Some remembered the destruction he caused all those years ago, but the destruction would become far greater if he didn’t show up.

    The world needed him once more.

    They needed Gamera.

    After trudging through the snow, they arrived at Mayumi’s home. A place that invoked a warm, welcoming feeling just outside of Tokyo. A place where all of their troubles could be erased, where they didn’t need to worry about a single thing. Just a place where they could relax and enjoy themselves.

    With a ring of the doorbell, Mayumi immediately opened the door to see the three kids standing there with all of their luggage. She immediately grew concerned as she saw the fear in their faces, knowing they were in trouble. However, she didn’t care, she just wanted them to be safe.

    “Are you okay? Why didn’t you call? What do you need?” Mayumi asked, bombarding them with questions, nearly kneeling down to their level.

    “We need a place to stay, and social….” Hina tried to speak, but Mayumi cut her off with a warm smile.

    “You’re always welcome here. No matter the circumstance.”

    “Thank you, nana” Hina spoke softly, as she and Nagi immediately wrapped their arms around her as Mayumi did the same.

    They relinquished their hold on each other and gathered inside the home where they put themselves on the couch. “Now, you three just rest. I can get something special cooking for the occasion,” Mayumi spoke with a reassuring voice, leaving for the kitchen as the three breathed a sigh of relief.

    “After all this time, I guess I’m a wanted man now,” Hodaka deduced, resting his head back on the couch.

    Nagi chuckled, giving him a thumbs up. “That’s so cool.”

    Hodaka and Hina joined in on the laughter as they let their bodies slip back, being able to rest after what felt like years of nothing but running around. After spending a few minutes to unwind, they decided to tour around the place, since they would be making it their home from now on.

    “Woah! This room is huge!” Nagi exclaimed, his face lighting up at how big one of the rooms was. He immediately ran up the full-sized bed and began jumping up and down on it. They scanned the room to see it filled with posters of old movies and film equipment scattered around.

    “Huh, this was uncle’s old room,” Hina surmised, holding up a photo of her uncle as a child. He had a camera strapped around his neck surrounded by film equipment in a forest.

    “Well, if he’s not using it now, then I call dibs!” Nagi proudly proclaimed, jumping off the bed, as he inspected one of the cameras.

    “If Mayumi lets you have it,” Hodaka pointed out.

    Nagi smirked, knowing he didn’t have to worry about anything. “If? Grams loves me, she’s going to let me have it.”

    Hina giggled at their bantering, waving her hand forward. “Come, let’s check out the rest of the house.”

    They explored the rest of the house to find one last room unaccounted for. From the partially closed door, they saw something strange in it. With a slow creak, they opened the door to find it completely devoid of life. There was nothing left of a personality in here, no hobbies, no interests, just barren. It brought back unpleasant memories for Hina and Nagi.

    “I…. this was mom’s room, wasn’t it?” Naga asked, his voice trembling.

    “I’m afraid it was,” Mayumi chimed in, nearly causing the three to jump, as they saw a solemn expression painted all over her face. “She lost all interest when…. It’s hard to say, I’m sorry.”

    “No, I understand. I don’t know if I could ever understand mom,” Hina softly replied.

    “My biggest regret in life is still not doing enough,” she reiterated, looking down.

    “I know, and if you could take it back, you would,” voiced Hina, with a smile on her face as she embraced her grandmother.

    “Thank you,” Mayumi spoke, holding her granddaughter tight once more. “I was about to say, dinner is ready, and I think you kids will love it.”

    “Hallelujah! I’m starving!” Nagi interjected, nearly bolting out of the room.

    “Looking forward to it,” Hina joyfully exclaimed.

    Mayumi led them out of the room and into the kitchen, and what they saw made their stomachs roar with hunger as their eyes were fed by the beauty of it all. Noodles, rice bowls, fried chicken, curry, and too many other things to keep track of completely filled the table. It was the most appetizing meal they’ve seen.

    They scattered to the table, taking their seats while Mayumi smiled at their eagerness. She watched as they gorged on the food before them. “Hey, Hodaka, let me try that,” Hina spoke, her eyes peering at the bowl of noodles in his hands.

    “Mhm,” Hodaka murmured, handing it to her. He picked up another and took a bite of it. Hodaka purred with delight, “The curry is delicious!”

    “I can always make more if need be,” voiced Mayumi, taking a bite of an eggroll.

    “Yes, please!” Nagi exclaimed.

    Hina looked around the table and saw something peculiar that struck her as odd. There was an empty chair with a plate set out in front of it. She turned to her grandmother and asked, “What’s with the extra plate? Grandpa won’t be back for quite some time. We expecting anyone?”

    Mayumi looked down at her plate at the question, letting out a sigh. “It’s for your uncle. Every night I set a plate for him in case he ever wants to stop by for a meal.”

    “Oh, I’m sorry for bringing it up,” Hina backtracked, looking back down at her meal, her chopsticks slowly moving her food around.

    “It’s okay, it was bound to come up eventually,” Mayumi countered.

    Hodaka hated the quiet that just transpired, as he looked at the family of three with him all sitting in silence. He had to break it up somehow as he tapped his chopsticks on his plate, trying to concoct an idea. Then, it hit him!

    “Karaoke!” he exclaimed, gaining all three sets of eyes on him. “Let’s do it! We can’t continue to let things sour our mood!”

    “He’s right!” Nagi spoke out, standing up as he placed his hands on the table. “We should do it, and besides, I need to see how bad you sing.”

    In a matter of minutes all four of them filled the house with the lyrics they sang. Hina clapped as she watched the three people she treasured the most sang.

    “The fortune cookie in love. The future’s not looking so grim. The thing that’s in your heart. The thing that will soon disappear.”

    “Not bad, Hodaka. Still not as good as me, but you’re getting there,” Nagi commented smugly as Hodaka frowned at him.

    “Well, if you’re so good, then how about another round?”

    “You’re on!” Nagi shouted, pressing the button on the remote to cue the next song.

    “While you two are singing your butts off, I’ll make some coco,” Mayumi spoke, heading toward the kitchen.

    “I’ll come too,” Hina added, following her grandma into the kitchen as they began gathering the necessary ingredients together. As beautiful as this night was, Hina wanted the truth from Mayumi, she needed to know why everything happened the way it did. A matter of closure she considered it.

    “Nana,” Hina spoke, gaining Mayumi’s attention, letting go of the utensil.

    “What’s wrong, dear?”

    “I just need to know why my mother was the way she was,” Hina spoke, giving herself a moment’s pause before continuing. “Nagi doesn’t have to know, but please, whatever it was that caused her so much grief, just tell me.”

    Mayumi breathed out, she didn’t want to tell her, but knew she couldn’t keep it away from her. The horrifying truth would have to come out and she didn’t know what it would do to either of her grandkids. Still, it was something that had to be done and something she deserved to know to bring her some sort of peace.

    “Ayana…. your mother went through a lot of hurt, well, when she was your age. Almost thirty years ago when that grief began. She and her parents, your real grandparents, were in Tokyo when Gamera fought against the Gyaos,” Mayumi began to explain.

    “Gamera? What does Gamera have to do with all of this? He’s a friend to all of us,” Hina countered, feeling extremely baffled at how Gamera could potentially be the cause of her mother’s pain.

    “To some, yes, like Asagi, but to others, he was seen as a demon. Ayana saw him as nothing more than one, because your parents were casualties of his fight. Not intentionally, but Ayana didn’t see it that, and…. I’d understand if you don’t see it that way either.”

    “Gamera…. was the source of all this?” Hina stammered out, feeling disbelief wash over her at the revelation crashing down on her.

    “Not intentionally, but yes. For years, Ayana held a grudge against him and was willing to let the world burn just for a shot at avenging your grandparents. When I first met her, she already made a deal with the devil to accomplish this goal,” Mayumi further explained, feeling chills running down her back as she was feeling sick going back to those awful memories.

    “A devil?”

    “Yes. Iris. And the scary thing is, I don’t know who fueled the other? Her or it. But, it got the rest of your relatives killed except for your uncle,” Mayumi stuttered, her teeth nearly chattering at having to relay such horrifying information to her granddaughter.

    “She….. got them killed, because of what happened on accident?” Hina croaked, her eyes widening in horror at the atrocities her mother committed.

    “I know, and I’m sorry, but it soon came to an end where Gamera saved her and ripped her out from the devil. She broke down and realized all the terrible things she did and apologized, but I don’t know if she ever forgave him. She carried around the grudge until she passed away,” summarized Mayumi, following it with a deep breath, knowing just how horrible the information she conveyed was to Hina.

    Her granddaughter just stood motionlessly, her mouth quivered. “Gamera was responsible for everything my family went through….”

    “Yeah, I guess he did,” replied Mayumi, the kitchen falling silent as the two stood there for several moments, trying to figure out how to continue on. Hina looked back up at her grandmother, slowly finding the words to channel her thoughts.

    “I just hate why Gamera couldn’t just avoid that building or why my mom did everything they did, and yet, I don’t hate them for what they did,” Hina vocalized, her eyes filled with sadness as Mayumi approached and wrapped her up in a hug.

    “If you ever need time to process this, I understand. It’s a lot to take in,” Mayumi whispered, rubbing her head.

    “Thank you,” she whispered back, as she looked toward the direction of the living room. “For now, can we return to karaoke? I think I can use a distraction.”

    “Yeah,” Mayumi briefly chuckled. “Me too.”

    The two returned back to the living as all of them continued the night having the time of their lives, but as all good things come to end, so must this one. Nagi drifted off to sleep as they tucked him into Satoru’s old bed while Mayumi said goodnight to the two, leaving Hodaka and Hina alone in Ayana’s old room. Hina left the room to change into her pajamas, leaving him in his thoughts, as he stared at the ceiling.

    “Dear God, if you really exist, I beg you. This is more than enough. We don’t need anything else. The five of us will manage somehow, so please, don’t give us anything more, and don’t take anything more from us. I beg you please, Dear God. Just let us be like this and have me with her forever.”

    The clock struck midnight when Hina walked in wearing a robe. She smiled at him, as something immediately came back to his mind.

    “The gift!” Hodaka mentally blared out.

    “Hina…” Hodaka spoke.

    “Yes?” Hina asked, smiling at him as she saw him reaching in his pocket and pulling out a small red case.

    “Happy birthday,” Hodaka happily spoke.

    “Eh?” Hina breathed out, looking down at the gift, laying down on the bed with him.

    “It’s cheap, but I’ve picked something that I thought would look good on you,” he spoke, pushing the gift toward her as she inspected it. She opened it up to see a blue ring with a yellow jewel in the middle, immediately entranced by it as she let out a gasp.

    “Thank you!” She spoke out, pulling him in for a hug. The hug made Hodaka’s face warm up as he returned the gesture, as they soon pulled away after. “Tell me, though. Would you like the rain to stop?”

    Like getting struck by a speeding truck, Hodaka was completely baffled by the question imposed on him. What did the weather have to do with the gift, he thought. Still, he would like to see the beautiful blue sky more often.

    “Yes,” he finally answered.

    “I was chosen to be a human sacrifice. Natsumi told me about it a while ago. Whoever is chosen to be one gets sacrificed, then the weather goes back to normal,” Hina explained, turning over on her back, looking directly at the ceiling, as if all emotion in her voice dissipated.

    Hodaka couldn’t believe what he was saying as he chuckled in an attempt to persuade himself that what she was saying was just a joke. “Come on. You know Natsumi. Always interested in silly stories, it’s not like people actually disappear, and…”

    Hina lowered a part of her robe, catching him off guard as what he saw horrified him, reminding him of what he saw earlier in the day. Nearly her whole torso was transparent as the blue and green liquid flowed throughout her. Tears welled in her eyes as she shifted her gaze from her body to the terrified Hodaka.

    “What are you looking at?” Hina choked up.

    “I’m not looking!” Hodaka nearly bursted out, tears now pouring out of his eyes as well. “I’m looking at you.”

    It was then he broke down and cried. His cries were painful for Hina to hear as she nearly joined in, but reinforced herself. She scooted herself over while she covered herself up with her robe. “Why are you crying?” she let out calmly as she then further explained. “The more I pray for sunshine, the more my body becomes transparent. I’m sure that, if I die this way, the usual summer will come back and everything will be normal again.”

    It was the worst thing Hodaka was hearing, how she was going to throw away her life to make everything better. He despised what was happening as he was wiping the rapid amount of tears pouring down his face.

    “Please, take care of Nagi and nana,” Hina spoke softly.

    “No! You’re not going anywhere!” Hodaka bawled, crawling toward her. “The five of us can live together! We can make it work, no matter what!”

    “Hodaka….” Hina trailed off as he put his hand on her leg.

    “Let’s make a promise, Hina,” Hodaka declared, sliding the ring onto her finger. “We’ll always be together.”

    “I’ll do whatever it takes to make sure we’ll never have to worry again. That way, if you quit being the sunshine girl, your body will go back to normal! So….” Hodaka spoke out, but was interrupted by Hina wrapping herself around his body.

    The two held each other as they unleashed everything they had, their sobs filling the room. Hodaka soon found himself losing consciousness as sleep overtook him. Hina slowly lowered him down on the bed as she let him lay down peacefully. She watched his sleeping form and smiled.

    “The time we had together was precious and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. You won’t be alone. You have a family. Nagi, Yoshinari, and Nana. Take care of them, you all deserve to have each other,” Hina softly spoke, as she changed into her clothes and left the house, knowing full well the final task she had to do.

    ***

    Buildings dissolved as Hedorah walked through, watching as the acidic remains rain down upon the fleeing citizens, reducing them to disgusting remains of flesh and bone. It gurgled with glee as it fired another crimson beam at the incoming jets, watching them crash and burn into several parts of the city.

    Its massacre would be complete and nothing could deter it from it. This was the day it had been waiting for and it didn’t even have to worry about losing all of its fun when the city was reduced to nothing. There were millions upon millions of places for it to invade and it looked forward to every second of it.

    Despite the fear traversing all over their bodies, everyone still held out hope for the former guardian. A hero once more to save them from this abomination.

    Hedorah marched forward, wiping out another block in a matter of seconds, transforming it into a river of sludge. It unleashed another Hedrium ray, creating a wave of fire swerving above it. The Smog Monster took another step forward when it heard a loud crack. It snapped its head back at the frozen Tokyo Bay, noticing a sizable chunk beginning to falter. This anomaly had its attention, wondering what it could possibly be.

    CRACK!

    An icy explosion occurred as its shattered remains launched upward, with a fiery plasma ball erupting out of the hole and striking Hedorah in the chest. It let out a pained roar as it waved its arms around.

    With two smight hands slamming onto the surface of the ice, Gamera pulled himself out. He stood defiantly, his body still shaking to the core, but he did not allow himself to falter. He glared at the monstrosity deeper in the city as it shared the same stare as he did. It gurgled in anger at how the former sentinel was still alive after burning its lungs with its acidic smoke.

    He just didn’t know when to quit, nonetheless, it would make sure the chelonian would suffer a long and painful death. Hedorah launched himself up in the air sending himself flying toward the frozen bay.

    Gamera watched his now airborne foe approach him, preparing himself for whatever it threw at him. Whatever his purpose may be, he may never know, but he knew one absolute truth. This abomination of life must be destroyed and he would make sure it dies even if it takes him with it.

    It would be the death he yearned for years and it would be the one he would finally get. The Gyaos denied him of it, but Hedorah would not. Then, Atlantis could truly cease to exist.

    Hedorah widened its arms as its body was seconds away from colliding with Gamera. The former sentinel knew what it was up to and quickly stepped aside as its foes crashed into the icy floor, gurgling in annoyance. With a kick, Gamera sent it flying several feet away as it unleashed another plasm ball, detonating against its slimy hide. Bits of its body dried up on contact, but the meager amounts of water on the surface rehydrated, making its wounds tolerable.

    Hedorah lifted its head up and unleashed a hedrium ray, but Gamera was quick on his feet and turned his back to face it. The beam struck him, eliciting a pained fill roar, knowing the alternative would have been far worse if it struck his more vulnerable parts.

    With his back turned, Gamera didn’t foresee Hedorah firing off several rounds of sludge, all of them striking his body. Gamera shrieked in agony as the acidic mud began eating away at his body, sludge even pouring in his gaping wound in his shoulder, creating an absolute stinging sensation.

    He tried to take a step forward to resume the fight, but slipped on the icy surface, collapsing onto the floor as it started to crack. His head crashed through the hole he previously made, submerging it into the cold water. Hedorah approached the fallen Gamera and slammed its massive arms onto his body, splashing its contents all over his body. His deafening cries were enough to make Hedorah cackle with glee as it repeated the attack.

    It hurt to move, but Gamera had one trick up his sleeve. He retracted his back into his shell as his limbs followed shortly. Before Hedorah could react, flames erupted from four holes, melting the surface around them. The bottom half of the Smog Monster’s body was submerged in water, instantly feeling rejuvenated, laughing at his foe’s poor method of attack. However, it failed to realize his true reason for retracting its lifts.

    Gamera spun his body rapidly, crashing into Hedorah as steady flames from his body set the upper half of it ablaze. The Smog Monster cried in pure agony as it felt itself rapidly desiccating; dry, hard chunks collapsed onto the ground. Its hands crashed into the water as they swung up, splashing water in a meager attempt to keep itself damp from the burning flames. This was not how all of this will end, it reasoned. It would not be bested by an aging warrior.

    It had only one chance to make this searing pain end as its fading eyes watched the spinning shell’s openings. A beam erupted from its head and entered through its desired target, instantly causing Gamera to stop spinning as he cried out in anguish. He dropped onto his stomach as he looked up at the burning Hedorah, its eyes filled with pure malice.

    Hedorah raised his arms and swung them at Gamera, sending him flying out of the bay and crashing into the city. It gurgled in pure acrimony, as it watched Gamera wailing around on the ground, feeling the same amount of pain it was. They were almost evenly matched as whatever attack they had in store, the other was able to counter it and so on.

    It sunk its body into the freezing water, extinguishing the flames on his body and rehydrating itself. Hedorah’s pulposus red eyes rose from the water and continued to glare at Gamera with pure aminoisity. It no longer wanted Gamera to suffer, it just wanted him gone. He took that away from it as the only joy it could receive now was his demise.

    Hedorah moved its arms around, melting the ice as it traversed through it, making its way onto the desecrated streets. This annoying conflict ends now, as it walked toward his downed foe.

    “I had a dream,” Hina said out loud to herself, walking down the ruined streets, seeing the searing flames over the outer portion of Tokyo. “The day I met you. You looked like a lost kitten. But you’ve helped found meaning for my existence. I kept working as the sunshine girl because I was happy to make people smile. I’m really glad to have met you.”

    Hina heard the loud monstrous cries from both combatants and the loud explosions that accompanied them. She didn’t run, or flinch, or even cry. She held no fear for what was going around her as the smoke from the acidic sludge around her began to flow into her body. The pain nor the beginning of suffocation couldn’t stop her as she made her way to her destination.

    “So, don’t cry, Hodaka. Everything will be alright,” Hina tearfully said to herself, knowing full well she didn’t want to make the decision she was about to commit to. However, it was the only choice she had to save the world and everyone she loved.

    She looked up to see the collapsed Gamera on his back, twitching from all the pain he had just endured. Green liquid oozed from his head as he let out small murmurs of discomfort, the burning sensation still washing over him. Hina took a deep breath, seeing as she found herself with a being she should hate for all the grief he caused her family. Playing a huge part in taking almost everything from her, and yet, that hatred could not be brought out. All she saw was a broken warrior before her.

    Gamera’s eyes slowly opened his eyes, feeling completely groggy at everything that just happened. What he saw made his eyes widened a tad more. He saw the girl who was able to command the sun standing in front of him, facing him. She was conflicted, he sensed a great deal of trauma, one that reminded her of the girl connected to Iris. Except, none of the hatred in her, but instead, pure of heart.

    The former keeper huffed, knowing well she was about to be a casualty of his conflict with Hedorah. If only she could understand him, he would tell her to leave, but it would be entirely fruitless. From what he could understand, she had no intention of moving.

    Then, he saw her lips open up as the words started to flow through his ears.

    “You invoked a lot of pain through a lot of people’s lives, including mine,” Hina spoke up, as Gamera kept his eyes pinned on her. “No matter what you did, no matter how you tried to save the world, it was never enough. There will always be people who will find ways to demonize you and to blame you for every action they’re about to commit.”

    The words landed in his mind as he took every one of them into consideration. He knew the acts he had committed were unforgivable. He didn’t need to hear them, as he even knew his death would not make the world mourn him, but instead celebrate it as “The Shadow of Evil” would finally be vanquished.

    “My mother, perhaps you remember her, nearly brought upon the end of the world for revenge. For what you did to her, and yet, you decided to save her. I don’t know if you could be understood by anyone, just like with her,” Hina nearly sobbed, but kept her composure, as her eyes were still trained on the fallen kaiju.

    Gamera’s heart beated slightly faster, that’s where he was able to recognize her. She was the daughter of the woman who held nothing but hatred, and as he saw before, exhibited none of those traits in her. Yet, there was still pain in her. He didn’t know if he could understand it, but he at least shared that with the girl.

    Both of them were completely lost.

    “I know people will never forgive you or that my mom never forgave you even if she regretted all the pain she caused to others, but…..” Hina paused, staring at the wounded eyes of Gamera, seeing he wasn’t truly a monster. Just a being with pain inside him, something she shared with him.

    “But, I forgive you,” Hina spoke, her body immediately becoming fully transparent. Before Gamera could fully react, her whole body transformed into droplets of water, shooting up into the sky.

    He couldn’t believe it! Of all the things that had happened, she had to disappear. One, he felt there was something that could be shared with her. Gamera groaned in anguish, watching as the snow transformed back into rain, but immediately ceased soon afterward. The dark clouds disbanded as the sun soon began to rise up, blanketing Tokyo once more with its bright light.

    Hedorah let out a pained gurgle as the sun’s ray struck him, immediately beginning the process of drying it out. Gamera, hearing those cries, tightened his hands. The pain following through him did not deter as he kept them tightened. That girl sacrificed herself so he may not only have a second chance of ending the threat once and for all, but for the world itself to heal.

    He would not let her unjust sacrifice be in vain. Gamera’s blood boiled, letting out a roar of anger as the world had no reason to let one person sacrifice herself just to fix a problem. He slammed his fists into the ground, his feet retracting into his shell as flames detonated on the ground, lifting him off the surface. Gamera let his feet crash into the ground as he faced the pain stricken Hedorah.

    Gamera let another member of a family he harmed die, and despite the words of being he was “forgiven”, he couldn’t see it that way. The only forgiveness he could possibly attain is by making sure her sacrifice wasn’t in vain.

    With a powerful angry roar, the loudest he ever discharged, he ran faster than ever. A plasma ball flew out of his mouth and crashed into Hedorah’s left arm, separating it from its body. It let out another cry of pain while Gamera crashed into it, letting it fall on its back. Hedorah squirmed as Gamera stared down in pure malice, readying to take away everything it held precious.

    ***

    “I had a dream. I was still on the island. I wanted to leave. I was rushing desperately, trying to reach the light. When I thought I did, I reached a dead end instead. Then I decided I wanted to enter that light. And at the edge of it, I found you.”

    Hodaka let out a gasp, pulling up from the bed as he breathed rapidly. His whole body drenched in sweat, feeling the room to be unusually warmer than before. His mind then shifted over to Hina, as his eyes scanned the bed only to find her nowhere in sight.

    “No, no, no, no!” Hodaka stammered, jumping out of the bed as he searched the room, not being able to find her. Then, he saw the sunlight poking through the blinds, confirming his worst fears, but yet, he didn’t want to believe them.

    He barged into the nearest next room, hoping to find her as he shouted out, “Where are you? Hina!”

    Mayumi and Nagi stumbled out of their respective rooms, rubbing their eyes as they were waking up. “What’s wrong, Hodaka?” Nagi groggily asked.

    Hodaka turned around to face the two, knowing full well what he was about to say would break them. Without a second to waste he nearly exploded, “Hina’s disappeared!”

    “No…. she can’t, she can’t! I just got her back!” Mayumi cried out, fear completely washing over her as the loss of another family member was becoming a reality for her.

    “I just dreamt…. That she was disappearing in the sky,” Nagi spoke, his voice trembling in terror.

    “Don’t tell me….” Hodaka trailed off, realizing his worst fears had indeed come true, as a knock on the door immediately caused them to turn.

    “Open up!” a demanding voice spoke on the opposite side of the front door.

    “What’s going on?” Nagi shuddered as the knocks got louder and louder.

    “Stay here, I’ll go see who it is,” Mayumi motioned forward, opening the door slowly to find the authorities standing at her doorstep. A huge lump was created in her throat, as she gulped in fear, completely baffled at how they knew where to find the kids.

    “Can I help you?” she trembled.

    “Mam, we’re going to need you to evacuate your house now as you are still in the radius of the kaiju attack going on,” the officer ordered.

    Mayumi almost breathed a sigh of relief, knowing her kids were not in danger. “Yes, of course. Just let me go grab my children and we’ll be on our way.”

    Mayumi turned to the two children poking their heads through the hallway and motioned for them to come out. They slowly made their way to the living room when the detective’s eyes widened at the identities of the two kids.

    “Hodaka Morishima, right?” the detective asked, as Hodaka even took two steps back, knowing full well what was about to transpire.”You’re a missing person. And suspected of unlawful possession of a weapon.”

    “And you, ma’am, are now being charged with kidnapping,” the officer directed to Mayumi as his face turned bright red with anger.

    “Are you kidding me? For taking in children, two of them who are rightfully mine to claim guardianship over!” Mayumui screeched out, as she felt herself being cuffed.

    “Let me go!” Nagi screamed out as a police officer grabbed a hold of him, immediately causing Mayumi’s body to shake rapidly.

    “Get your goddamn hands off of him!” Mayumui screamed out, her voice emulating that of a banshee’s.

    “Hodaka, Grandma!” Nagi cried out, as Hodaka even rushed over to his aid, but felt himself tackled to the ground, his vision going black.

    ***

    After coming to, Hodaka felt himself be ushered toward the police car parked outside. Everyone’s feet trudging slowly through the body of water.

    “After months of rain, the Kanto plain is finally seeing some brilliant sunshine. In the last few hours, temperatures have spiked up over seventy-seven degrees, ” A newscaster reported on the radio.

    “The overall damages made to Tokyo are still to be determined as the kaiju are still present in the city. While it is tempting to enjoy the emergence of the sun, the JSDF is still keeping the evacuation order in place until the situation can be dealt with,” another relayed.

    Hodaka looked up at the sky, knowing how beautiful the sight was, but didn’t feel anything for it. He then saw something shining bright, his eyes squinting, trying to comprehend what it was. It soon dropped in the water, creating a small splash. Hodaka leaned down and picked up, his breathing stuttered when he saw it was the ring he gave Hina just hours ago.

    “What are you doing?” the detective asked, agitated as Hodaka was not moving toward the vehicle.

    “Hina…..” Hodaka’s voice shook, his teeth chattering. “Sacrificed herself.”

    Nagi and Mayumi were frozen in disbelief as it was just now washing over them. She did end up giving her life to make things better. The floodgates opened up for both of them as they began to sob over the revelation.

    “Hina! Tell me it’s not true! Hey!” Hodaka ran forward, screaming at the sky, demanding an answer. He did not get far as a police officer immediately restrained him and ushered him toward the vehicle.

    “Now, I’ve got a question for you. Hina Amano, do you really have no idea where she’s at?” the detective asked, trying to account for the missing person amongst the group.

    Hodaka couldn’t help but think back to a lot of what was shared between him and her. Their days performing the gigs, their days of fun and them being them. For the longest time he thought she was the oldest, but her being younger than him really hit him. He should have been the one taking care of everyone, it should have been him who had to make the sacrifice. Not her!

    “I’m the oldest one,” Hodaka choked up, eliciting a baffled look from the detective. “The sky has cleared because she offered herself in exchange. And no one else knows that! I can’t take it!”

    His hands shook, his legs wobbled. He couldn’t just stand there and let them take him away. He had to do something now! With his arms swinging forward, he slammed them into the detective’s face, forcing him to let out a yell. Hodaka nearly slipped from the watery surface, but kept his footing intact as he ran down the street, escaping his captives to find the person he treasured the most.

    “Save her, Hodaka!” Nagi screamed out at the top of his lungs as Hodaka picked up the pace as the police gave chase. However, they were able to keep up, nearly grasping at Hodaka when a car nearly drove over them, driving the officers from him.

    The car window rolled down and to his surprise, it was Asagi. “Hodaka!”

    “Asagi, what are you doing here?” he cried out.

    “Not following through with the evacuation order! What the hell got you in trouble with the police?!” Asagi blared out.

    “Trying to get Hina back!” Hodaka answered.

    Asagi shook her head.

    “He really loves this girl, doesn’t he? More than anything else.”

    It spoke to her, wishing she could be just like him. Asagi hit the unlock button on her console and gave out an order, “Get in!”

    Hodaka, with no hesitation, jumped in the car as they sped away from their pursuers and into the damaged city.

    “At the very least, we’re in an exciting part of our lives. Complete outlaws!” hummed Asagi, smiling at the situation they just placed themselves in.

    “And you’re not worried about any of this?!” Hodaka nearly exclaimed.

    “Hell no! I’ve done stuff far worse than this. Besides, you’re doing a lot better than me right now. You’re sacrificing everything for the girl you love,” Asagi countered, keeping her eyes on the damaged roads ahead of them. “Tell me, where do you think she’s at?”

    ***

    The police drove toward a camp for the fleeing civilians as the detective turned toward Mayumi sitting in the back. “That kid you supposedly kept an eye on is making things a lot harder than they should be.”

    “What’d you expect? He’s been through a lot and obviously cares deeply for Hina,” Mayumi spat back.

    “Watch it!” the detective barked back.

    “Whatever,” Mayumi murmured, annoyed at how much of a nuisance the detective was being.

    “Hmmm…. Perhaps we can help each other out then,” he spoke, gaining her attention.

    “I’m listening,” Mayumi sternly replied, keeping her eyes glaring at him, as she did not trust him one bit.

    “Help us find out where Hodaka Morishima is going to and we’ll be willing to let a few things slide, like housing the three kids,” he explained.

    Mayumi shook her head, leaning forward, despising the man sitting in front of her. However, she couldn’t let her hatred overtake her as it was the best deal she could get under these circumstances. “Fine, I’ll tell you, but under a few conditions.”

    “Name them.”

    “You bring me along as well as another person who may be able to help out. And you support me in getting full custody of Nagi Amano, since he is my grandson afterall,” listed Mayumi, keeping her eyes pierced onto him.

    “Deal, but isn’t Hina also a grandchild of yours?” he inquired, taken slightly back at her not mentioning her granddaughter.

    “I don’t know if she’ll ever come back,” Mayumi nearly choked up, but kept herself defiant, preventing herself from showing any weakness.

    The road everyone was heading down was a long one and filled with misery. No one could prepare for it even if they could see every bit of it. All of it was about to come crashing down.

    ***

    “That derelict building in Yoyogi? That piece of shit!?” Asagi exclaimed, her foot pushing harder on the gas pedal.

    “Aye. That’s where she became the sunshine girl,” Hodaka revealed.

    “Hold tight!” Asagi cried out, nearly interrupting him as they swerved through pieces of debris. With each passing block, the streets were becoming more and more unbearable to traverse through, making it extremely difficult to reach their destination.

    “She said she got connected to the sky on the roof of that building, so if I go there, I’m sure I can fix all of this,” added Hodaka.

    “Shit!” Asagi yelled out, forcing Hodaka to turn his head forward to see the large body of water now flooding the streets ahead of him.

    “This can’t be it!” Hodaka cried out, feeling deterred by the roadblock.

    “It’s not! Hold tight!” announced Asagi, slamming her foot on the pedal, forcing the car to go at full speed, as it went flying over a portion of the body of water. Hodaka’s heart raced at the action his friend just committed, the car now descending as seconds later it exploded on the water, now slowly sinking.

    “Go, Hodaka!” commanded Asagi, as they climbed to the roof of the car, keeping themselves afloat. With no hesitation whatsoever, Hodaka jumped onto a nearby truck and followed it with another jump on a ladder leading up to a nearby train track.

    “Thank you, Asagi!” Hodaka called out, making his getaway as sirens blared behind them. The cops marched up to Asagi, who was swimming toward them. She knew she was about to be detained and didn’t care. He was doing something she could never do, and she was proud of him. Hodaka was going to save Hina and make Mayumi’s family whole once more.

    She knew it.

    Hodaka ran for what felt like miles, sweat pouring down him and nearly out of breath, but it did not cause him to falter.

    “Hina. Hina. Hina. Hina!” He repeated out countless times, looking at the vista before, seeing a huge funnel cloud like shape off in the distance. He wondered if that’s where she could be as he asked himself a question. “Are you there, Hina?”

    With every memory of her now playing in his mind, he felt himself picking up the pace. His movements were becoming faster and faster. The authoritative voices telling him to stop belonging to the military and police were not something he could obey, but instead ignore. The more the memories played, the more he resisted.

    “I’m sorry. I’m sorry, Hina. I made you do that sunshine girl thing! You’ve shouldered all of the responsibility!” Hodaka chanted as he now found himself at the entrance of the abandoned building. Without allowing himself to think of scenarios where Hina would either forgive or chastise him for his mistakes, he bolted through, climbing the various levels.

    Hodaka made it to the room he was all too familiar with. The room where he was officially introduced to Hina, but something felt odd to him, like something bad was about to happen. Then, it hit him.

    Mayumi and Suga stood there in front of him. Neither of them carried faces of joy or concern, but of disapproval. Hodaka’s heart sank, feeling the dread from what was about to transpire.

    Nothing good was about to come from this confrontation.

    ***

    Gamera reared his head back, as he discharged another plasma ball, exploding in front of Hedorah. It let out a gurgle of terror, as the sun and the rapid amount of projectiles were causing its life expectancy to shorten drastically. It fired a Hedrium ray to ward off Gamera to buy it a meager amount of time to think of a plan, but it was of no use. The beam pierced through his shell, but it did not hinder him. Gamera gritted his teeth, as the affected piece exploded into chunks, as he kept pushing forward.

    Hedorah only had one form of salvation and it was the dissolving Tokyo Bay. If it could reach the water, it would surely live to fight another day. It had to! It couldn’t end like this! It had only just known what existence was like in just a short amount of time. It panicked. It had finally known fear as it turned around, moving as fast as it could toward the bay.

    Gamera watched Hedorah trying to make itself, seeing it inch closer and and closer toward the bay. He let out a low growl, angry at how cowardly his foe had just become. It laughed as it tormented and slaughtered countless people, but now, it showed the same fear as before. Gamera felt nothing but disdain for this worthless creature and knew this cycle would only continue if reached the water.

    Without any other options, Gamera braced himself for the pain he was about recieve. His legs launched themselves into his shell as flames came through. Gamera projected himself at his fleeing foe causing it to scream in horror as it felt itself being tackled. Hedorah, with his remaining arm struck Gamera’s head several times as its acidic sludge splattered all over, eliciting steam from the affected zones. The former sentinel gritted his teeth once more, ignoring the pain as best as he could, but it was getting too much for him. He felt himself losing altitude as his jets stuttered, forcing them to make a crash landing on the shrinking icy floor.

    The two laid a few feet from each other, with Hedorah looking at the calming, slow moving body of water next to him. It was so appetizing that it could almost taste how refreshing it looked. It murmured with delight as the Smog Monster longed to be in safety of the abyss once more. Hedorah didn’t regret going out of its comfort zone, as it found the best food it could ever hope to dine on and the entertainment was all it could ever dream of. The abomination crawled slowly when it heard the earth shattering roar of Gamera once more.

    It shrieked as it rapidly crawled to the surface, it was so close to salvation! Gamera grabbed the Smog Monster’s tail as its remaining arm hit the ice as hard it could, trying to break the ice to escape. However, it felt itself being dragged back toward the center of the surface. Hedorah growled furiously, flipping itself on its back, firing a crimson beam once more. Gamera quickly inched his head out of the way as he set it up on its feet.

    There was only one way Gamera could ensure its destruction and that was to take it up to the sky. Hedorah prepared to fire another beam to incapacitate him long enough to escape, but Gamera had other ideas to end this conflict. Gamera crossed his arms and launched them backward, revealing two spikes coming from his elbows.

    Before Hedorah could even prepare for what was about to happen, Gamera rammed them into the Smog Monster’s eye sockets causing it to scream in bloody agony. Beyond the sun, it never knew it could feel such pain, but its eyes, his one true vulnerable spot, created a pain filled sensation it could never understand.

    Black ooze poured down its eyes as it splashed onto Gamera’s spikes, immediately causing them to fizzle. Within seconds, his spikes broke causing Gamera to shriek in pain as the acid poured through the openings of his discard claws. Still, the remains of the spikes were still dug in deep into Hedorah’s sockets, nearly forcing it to circle around in complete terror. It had no clue where to go and how to escape.

    It was truly helpless.

    Gamera took a deep breath in, knowing it was all but over. He prepared himself for the pain he was about to feel. The formal sentinel closed his eyes, as he saw his life flashing before his eyes. His creation, the fall of Atlantis, reawakening for the first in thousands of years, connecting with Asagi, and his failure. He had a purpose once and perhaps this could be the second one he helped fulfil. Gamera wouldn’t know until it was over.

    With a deep breath out, Gamera approached his panicking foe and wrapped its arms around it, hearing it scream in horror. The former sentinel’s jets activated, melting the ice they stood on, dissolving it completely as he left it toward the sky, traveling several thousands of feet in a matter of minutes. His stomach and palms burned as his foe’s contents latched itself onto him. He hissed in pain, but tightened his grip on Hedorah as he felt the effects of the sun doing its work. His weakened right hand struggled to grab a hold of the Smog Monster, as the combined might of the acid and his still healing wound made it shake rapidly. Gamera huffered as he reaffirmed his resolve, piercing his hand onto the drying body, securing its hold. Hedorah’s body was drying rapidly as its cries were growing weaker and weaker. The Smog Monster could barely tilt its head as its consciousness was fading.

    All it could ever achieve dried up.

    Gamera titled his head slightly to see himself a good distance from the surface. Knowing it was time, Gamera threw his nearly dried up foe further, freeing himself from the acidic monster. Fire brewed from his mouth as he fired a plasma ball, striking it directly in the center of Hedorah’s body. It immediately went ablaze, creating an orangish hue around it, but Gamera didn’t stop there. He fired not one, not two, but three more projectiles! Each one detonating against the dried up Smog Monster, creating a bigger explosion than the last until the final one reduced it to nothing.

    With the last of his plasma fired off, Gamera felt his energy depleted. He watched the sky, the beautiful blue sky. He loved it, but it didn’t feel rewarding nor did vanquishing the monster he swore to destroy.

    Why?

    Why didn’t he feel a sense of pride or gain a new purpose?

    Was this some sort of cruel irony? Searching so desperately for a purpose that he nearly sacrificed himself just to vanquish a world ending threat.

    Gamera shivered, knowing full well he deserved to feel nothing but pain and misery for hoping it could change his life around. He only returned to stop Hedorah for that reason alone. The former guardian knew that was all it deserved. It failed in everything he set out to do and now he was back where he started.

    Falling from the sky after vanquishing a terrible threat.

    Gamera murmured slightly, disappointed that the Smog Monster didn’t take him out with it. Just like the Gyaos, they both failed in fulfilling their promise. Now, all he could do was hope fate would at least be merciful to him.

    It was tempting to close his eyes and let himself drift off to sleep as he descended from the heavens, but that beautiful blue sky was the one piece of solace he had left. He could enjoy it for the last few minutes he had left on his Earth, before his inevitable collapse.

    He just hoped it would be enough to kill him this time.

    ***

    “Mayumi, Suga?” Hodaka exhaled, his eyes still peeled onto them in shock. “What are you doing here?”

    “Mayumi asked me to help find you,” Suga answered, taking a step forward. “She said I could help with all of this.”

    “Why?” Hodaka trembled, turning his attention back to Mayumi, her face painted with guilt and worst of all, defeat. “What are you doing?”

    “Do you realize what you’re doing? Running into a city when that thing is still out there!? Do you have a goddamn deathwish?!” Suga fired back, his tone of voice now coated with concern. He had already been through enough, living on the streets, being attacked by Hedorah several times and now a fugitive from the law. He needed to stop for his own good.

    “Hina’s disappeared!” Hodaka barked back, taking a step forward as he ignored everything the older man just said. “It’s my fault. The sunshine girl job was my fault. All of this was my fault!”

    “Hodaka, please….” Mayumi uttered out, her voice cracking as she hated the situation she was in, seeing a kid she cared about reduced to a crazed mess.

    She didn’t finish, but Hodaka had a feeling about what she was about to say and it filled him with nothing but thoughts of betrayal. He was about to speak, but Suga interjected once more, “Hodaka, you….”

    Hodaka stepped forward, refusing to let himself be talked over by people who not betrayed him, but worst of all, were abandoning her. “No! It’s my turn to help her now!”

    Sirens blared out, the three of them turning their heads in all directions of the building as car doors soon slammed open.

    With tears nearly bursting out from his eyes, he looked back at his supposed friends. “Get out of my way,” Hodaka stubbornly spat out, running past them, but felt something grabbing him by his shirt.

    “Wait!” Suga called out, restraining him as Mayumi followed, her whole demeanor eliciting concern. “Suga, don’t hold him down.”

    Her voice fell on deaf ears to both of them as Hodaka chanted as he pointed up the visible orange shrine above them, “I can get to heaven from there!”

    Suga glanced up at the altar, as both his and Mayumi’s eyes went wide with what he just conveyed. They didn’t know what he meant, but feared for the worst as Mayumi’s hand shook rapidly, feeling disgusted by what he was saying.

    “She’s in the sky! I’ll use the emergency stairs!” Hodaka explained defiantly, desperately trying to convince him to let him go.

    “She’s not up there! That is nothing more than a bullshit tale we would write about! You knew this since day one!” Suga countered, feeling extremely agitated the kid is refusing to listen to reason.

    Hodaka ignored him once more as he shrieked out, “I have to help her!”

    “Goddamnit, Hodaka! Get a grip!” Mayumi shrieked out, slapping him across the face as the sound echoed throughout the whole building. Hodaka stood there in shock, as he couldn’t believe what she just did.

    “She’s gone, don’t you see? I don’t want you to end up like her. I can’t lose another kid…. Please…. don’t go down this path,” Mayumi tearfully explained, her voice bursted between sobs while her knees wobbled. She hated everything she just said and even herself for that matter, for already believing her granddaughter was dead. Mayumi thought she could get a second chance, that she deserved one, but she immediately balked the moment things became an inconvenience for her.

    “Calm down. It’ll be okay,” Suga hushed, trying to get his two friends to feel at ease as he began to lay everything out. “We can go back to the authorities and explain everything that happened. They’ll understand it as just a simple misunderstanding. You’ve done nothing wrong.”

    He held Hodaka tight, almost bringing him in for a hug.

    “Natsumi was right. He really is me.”

    “If you keep running away, it’ll be too late. You know that,” Suga contended, desperately trying to prevent him from making the same mistakes he made in life that turned him into what he was now. “Please…. I’ll even be with you the whole way through. We can do this.”

    Suga picked Hodaka back up and grabbed him by the arm, attempting to lead him out of the room, but Hodaka held his stance firm. He wasn’t convinced and he would never go back. No matter the cost.

    “Let go of me!” Hodaka barked, using all of his strength to pull back, but Suga wouldn’t relinquish his grasp.

    “Calm down!” Suga angrily yelled out, pulling Hodaka closer to him, but it was nothing more than a mistake as Hodaka bent down and sunk his teeth into his arm. Suga hollered from the sinking pain. “You little bastard!”

    With a raised foot, he sent it crashing into Hodaka’s stomach. The teenager went flying several feet across the room, eventually skidding on the rough surface. Hodaka twitched from the injury he’d just recieved, but his eyes found something he never thought he’d see again.

    The gun.

    Without even letting his conscience speak out, Hodaka slammed his hand on the gun and pointed it at the two adults. Both of them immediately froze in place out of which everything had come down to.

    “Don’t stand in my way!” Hodaka screamed out from the top of his lungs, his throat ringing as he continued to point the gun. “Let me see Hina!”

    With his finger pressing down on the trigger, a bullet fired off as the ringing reverberated a great distance. Suga moved his hands all over his body while Mayumi collapsed on her knees, both of them realizing the bullet hit neither of them, only to see Hodaka had pointed the gun upward.

    Hodaka rested the gun down, remaining sedentary, realizing what he had just done. He felt sick to his stomach as despite the grief they were causing him, he didn’t want to hurt either of them. Hodaka finally broke down, his eyes trained on his two friends as they saw just how badly affected he was by all of this. He nearly abandoned his hold from the firearm, but saw several members of the police barging through the room.

    “No! No!” Suga called out, fruitlessly trying to get the authorities to back away as Hodaka lifted his weapon back up, pointing it at them.

    “Drop the gun!” The detective ordered, his voice no longer carrying an authoritative sense but one of pure anger.

    “Wait a minute, easy, easy!” Suga shouted out, blocking them from Hodaka, as they slowly circled around him. “It’s a misunderstanding. We’ll explain, right Mayumi?”

    Mayumi couldn’t provide any assistance as she was petrified that everything had transpired. More so than the Gyaos, or Iris, anything else faced. She could handle any type of danger except for the ones that involved the people she loved. Was that why she accepted to be married to Yoshinari, because they didn’t see each other for the majority of the year? Or how she adopted Ayana and Satoru? So, she didn’t have to raise them all the way to eighteen? Was she happy when she lost her kids the first time, so she no longer had to shed any responsibility?

    If that was the case, why did she go out of her way to rescue Hina and Nagi? Or did she only do it so she could relieve that experience?

    “Why do I hurt everyone?”

    The detective trained his weapon onto Suga, as he immediately held his hands up. On the outside, he was terrified, but on the inside he was incredibly furious at him for threatening to shoot him. He wanted to beat the shit out of him.

    “The hell did I do?”

    To play devil’s advocate, he turned to Hodaka, “Right? It was just one big misunderstanding.”

    “Goddamnit…….” Hodaka’s voice trembled, his arms shaking rapidly, as his gun was pointed at the detective. “You, both of you say you’re trying to do better, but all you’re doing is just making the same mistakes you did before.”

    “Hodaka…..” Suga tried to reason once more.

    “Shut up!” Hodaka shrieked out. “What if Moka was the sunshine girl? Would you even help her or just let her die!?”

    Suga couldn’t even answer as that reality terrified him more than anything. He had just gotten her back and losing her again only made him sick. Suga started to reel back everything he said to Hodaka, as he was now remembering what the kid was feeling. Hodaka lost a person whom he loved, just like he did.

    Before Suga could even ponder it further, Hodaka cut him off. “The fact I have to ask that question already gives me my answer!”

    “Don’t make me shoot! Drop the weapon!” the detective ordered once more.

    Hodaka disregarded him yet again and turned toward the defeated Mayumi, still on her knees. Out of everyone in this room, he was starting to despise her the most even if he didn’t want to harm her, but he still wanted to chew her out for everything.

    “You’re the worst person I’ve ever met! You go all this way to give them a life, but immediately throw it all away when they actually need help! You gave them nothing more than false hope! You got another daughter killed and another son pushed away from you! You just helped create another Ayana! If that was your goal, then congratulations! I don’t know who’s worse, parents who outright abuse them or ones who shower them with love and then immediately turn on them!” Hodaka screamed at the top of his lungs, every word bombarding Mayumi’s eardrums.

    Every word she heard was true. She gave up far too easily, even though she told herself that plenty of times, hearing it from another person struck differently. Mayumi ruined two of her children’s lives and was well on her way to destroy two more. She believed in a lot of things and even saw a lot of them she never thought could happen. Perhaps…. That shrine could actually do it.

    She looked up to Hodaka, his body still shaking rapidly, inching his finger away to fire off another round. Suga took a step forward, taking a deep breath. “Come on, Hodaka, just put it down.”

    Suga watched as the authorities were mimicking Hodaka’s behavior, his eyes widened in fear as they saw their fingers readying to pull their respective triggers. “What the hell is wrong with you guys!? He’s just a kid!”

    “Leave me alone!” Hodaka shouted out once more, gaining Suga’s attention once more. “Why are you holding me up? You all know nothing! What’s so hard about believing everything about the sunshine girl when there’s giant beasts roaming the Earth!?”

    “I just want to see her once more!” Hodaka cried, throwing the gun on the floor as he made a break for it, but the detective was faster. He pushed him down to the ground, pinning him down as he put a handcuff on one of his hands.

    “Got him!” the detective announced.

    “Let go of me!” Hodaka harshly spat out, desperately trying to break their hold on him.

    Suga felt regret flooding him while watching him getting nearly dogpiled by several cops. He hated himself for seeing it sooner or even believing him when he had been nothing but a good kid all along. Even better than he was. He was the person he wished he could have been. Now, it was becoming the other way around.

    With his hands tightening, he yelled out “Take your hands off him, assholes!”

    Before they even knew it, Suga rammed into them, knocking them away from Hodaka. “You bastard!” the detective spat out as Suga sent his fist flying into his mouth, a small trickle of blood drizzling out.

    Suga turned back momentarily, screaming out “Go, Hodaka!”

    Hodaka couldn’t believe it, but he was wrong. Suga did care. He just couldn’t see it. He appreciated it greatly, silently thanking him as he picked up his feet and ran. However, he was forced to take a grinding halt as a police officer came out from the corner and trained his weapon on him.

    “Stop!” he ordered.

    “You’re not stopping him!” a loud voice screamed out as Hodaka saw to his complete astonishment, Mayumi slamming into the officer, barely knocking him down. She sent her fists crashing down onto his face as they immediately caused her to recoil in pain from the impact.

    “You were right! I was wrong! I was a terrible person! A terrible mom! And now, a terrible grandmother!” Mayumi cried out, keeping the officer restrained. This could be how everything ended for her, but she no longer cared. All she cared now was for Hodaka to make it to the roof, to save Hina and to make sure her grandchildren were reunited. This was what she wanted and if she got out of being imprisoned for several years much less survived, then she would have nothing back. She would shield them from everything, she would be there with every step of the way, she would be a parent for once.

    They were her life now.

    “Save her! Save this family!” Mayumi ordered, her voice going higher than ever as Hodaka nodded, jumping out the window and onto the staircase.

    Hodaka climbed it at great speeds, wasting no time as he couldn’t fail. He had to bring Hina back, he had to! Not even a minute gone, Hodaka reached the top as he raced over to the shrine, his mind could only speak as he thought of one last prayer. The one that was most important of all.

    “Dear God, please, please, please.”

    Then, everything went white for him.

    He gasped as he opened his eyes, finding himself in a dark abyss with droplets of water racing past him. He was perplexed by his empty surroundings while he descended, his mind wandered to Hina, wondering if this is where she ended up. Hodaka looked down to what he could only make out as the Earth was covered by an endless storm. As he got closer he saw ocean waves with sirens going on while red lightning struck the blackened skies.

    “Hina, is this why you sacrificed yourself? What does all this even mean?”

    A loud roar was heard, forcing him to turn around only to himself aghast by the display before him. A watery serpent-like creature dashing toward him as Hodaka could only scream as it devoured him. He was splashed by its watery body as several water droplets shaped like fish swam all around him, eventually sending himself out of the massive abyss and back into the blue sky.

    Knowing now he was in the right place with the clouds below and seeing the massive platforms around him, he screamed, “Hina!”

    More of the watery fish swam around the body of land, around Hina’s sleeping body as her name echoed out to the area. With each scream, the fish departed from her as she slowly woke up, the transparent green and blue substance dissolving.

    She slowly stood up on her feet, her whole being struck amazement as she saw the impossible! Hodaka was in the sky, screaming her name. Hina already accepted her fate, she didn’t want him to come rescue her. She didn’t need to throw his life away as well. And yet, she couldn’t refuse.

    “Hodaka!”

    “Hina!”

    He desperately tried to reach for her, but the wind was pushing him too fast, preventing him from making any contact on the surface. She stood on her feet and ran to save him from his terrible mistake. Hodaka had been through too much and she couldn’t let him suffer anymore.

    “Jump!” Hodaka yelled out as Hina did as he commanded, her feet taking her away from the surface and into his arms. They descended rapidly, passing through several clouds and even back into the dark storm at times.

    “I found you!” he cried out happily, feeling her embrace, to which he considered the best feeling of his entire life. He felt connected, he found his calling and he didn’t want to ever leave it.

    “Hodaka,” Hina tried to speak, but he interjected. “Don’t let go of my hands, okay!”

    Hina nodded as they kept their hands interlocked with each other as best as they could, but it was of no use. The strong winds forced them to vacate their hold onto each other as Hina was shot further down from Hodaka.

    “No! No! Hina!” Hodaka cried out, not wanting to lose her after he spent so much time trying to find her again.

    “Hodaka!” she cried out, panicking at her plunging rapidly down the Earth.

    They exited the storm cloud, allowing Hodaka to get closer to Hina, but it was still of no use. He couldn’t close the distance between the two, but it didn’t deter him. He inched as best as he could to reach her as he called out to her once more, making a declaration on what will happen if they make it out of this.

    “Let’s go home, Hina! To Nagi, to Mayumi, to wherever you want to go!” he cried out.

    “But, if I do, the weather will….” Hina countered, but Hodaka shouted in defiance. “I don’t care!”

    Hina was taken back by what he just said. He was willing to throw away the world just for her. It was selfish of him, but it made her breathless, like she felt like she was truly loved.

    Elsewhere, Gamera continued his rapid fall to the sky, still intent on letting himself die when he reached the earth. However, through all odds, he heard people screaming through the sky. He shook his head, trying to comprehend how anyone could be at this high of an altitude. The former sentinel knew how fragile humans were, but their voices were powerful as ever. He shifted his head to the right, noticing two subjects falling alongside him.

    His eyes zoomed, recognizing the boy from before, saving him from Hedorah. Then, the girl who sacrificed herself for him, for the world.

    She was alive? How!?

    He couldn’t believe it. But, why was he feeling so relieved to see the girl okay? What about them, her, made it feel special to him?

    He treated them like anyone else, saving them if they happened to be in the way. Yet, he felt a sudden inclination to feel something more than a sense of duty. He listened to the girl, still dedicated to her duty as the sunshine girl. Something he felt he could greatly relate to, but felt disgusted by it at the same time.

    “It’s enough! You don’t have to be the sunshine girl anymore!” Hodaka blared out.

    Did he tell her to forsake her purpose, could it possibly be something much more than that? Gamera thought, tilting his body more to the side, his body now facing the falling duo.

    He could understand the words humans spoke, but never really paid them much mind. However, Gamera asked himself why their words were reaching him. Was fate trying to tell him something? He desperately searched for an answer, and nothing still came to him.

    “Who cares if we don’t see the sunshine again? I want you more than any blue sky!” Hodaka announced, meaning every word he said to her. The person he treasured the most in this demanding world.

    Hina’s tears were sucked out of her eyes and into the sky as what Hodaka said was setting in. All he wanted was to be with her and what she wanted most of all was to be with him. They were connected and that’s all that mattered.

    “The world can stay crazy!” Hodaka affirmed, with one powerful reach, grabbing onto Hina once more and reuniting with her. The two locked each other in an embrace and descended, fully dedicating themselves to each other no matter what the world threw at them.

    The world?

    The world can stay crazy. Those words in particular struck a chord with Gamera as if a key was jammed into his mind, unlocking what he desired all these years ago. What he was searching for so long wasn’t what he wanted or even there.

    He wasn’t cursed. He was never “The Shadow of Evil.”

    Instead, he was the opposite of that.

    He was free. He was free to make his own decisions. That freedom was his reward for doing his duty to the world, to humanity. He didn’t have to be the “Guardian of the Universe” anymore. He was just Gamera.

    With a huge breath of relief and even choking up a bit, Gamera felt a huge wave of air wash over him. It was as if every burden he had ever received in his life evaporated and was now able to dictate his own path. No longer living on orders or a promise, but could now live for himself, and it was okay.

    Gamera threw away his title and his old responsibilities. He had a new one now, one given to himself as he snapped his back to the kids once more. They had saved his life not twice, but now three times. He would not carelessly allow people to get harmed or die on his watch, but those kids now meant more than the world to him. It was now his turn to save them.

    With the evacuation of his jets, Gamera flipped himself on his stomach and raced toward them. He let out a roar signifying he was here to help as Hodaka and Hina watched the savior come to their aid. They didn’t feel any terror from him, but instead of a sign of comfort, knowing he would always be by their side.

    Gamera reached for them, and what he noticed was his arm no longer shaking. It was a miracle! All of that pain was gone, his grief no longer there. Nothing held him back now.

    He caught them with his once injured hand while they stared at him with amazement as he returned the favor. Gamera kept his attention on them, knowing he was finally at peace as they flew down to the city of Tokyo.

    Soaring through the landscape, Gamera found a spot where he could land safely and deliver the two safely. He slowed his descent, landing on his stomach as he watched several people, most of them the JSDF approaching him. Gamera knew they still didn’t trust him and didn’t care if he ever regained it. All that mattered was Hodaka and Hina’s safety. He laid his hand out flat, allowing them to walk.

    “Hina! Hodaka!” Mayumi and Suga shouted, running in handcuffs as the authorities tried to stop them, they were too late. Mayumi wrapped her hands around them as best as she could as she tearfully looked at her granddaughter.

    “Hina…. I….” Mayumi tried to apologize, but Hina cut her off as she continued resting her head on her shoulder.

    “It’s okay. I’m here, you’re here, that’s all that matters.”

    “Never seen the big guy up close,” Suga remarked, admiring Gamera, before turning to Hodaka. “How’d you convince the big guy to save you two?”

    “I.. don’t know, but I think he sees something in us, and I think we see something in him,” he surmised, taking a look back at Gamera.

    The savior momentarily turned his head upward, watching as the dark clouds slowly made their move once more. These people in this plot of land would never see the sun again. He questioned if he helped make the right choice in all of this or if Atlantis would have wanted her to die had they still been around.

    Gamera could still see the blue sky if he traveled around the world, but he felt content with living in the moment, knowing the blue sky’s visibility here was numbered. It wasn’t a thing lasting forever that made it beautiful or having to prepare himself for trying to guess what the future would hold for the world. Gamera was happy to know he could experience such things.

    Companionship, freedom, and a life he could call his own.

    And the answer to his question was, he made the right decision for himself. Gamera didn’t care if it angered the whole world, for once in his life he lived for himself.

    He tilted his head back down at the smiling Hina. Gamera saw it in her, as she was free from her burdens like him. They were able to live whatever lives they wanted, but he wanted to spend it watching over them, the people he held dear to his heart.

    “Thank you, Gamera,” Hina spoke as Gamera nodded his head slightly.

    Then, he sensed someone, someone who should not be here. He saw Asagi slowly walking up to him in amazement and confusion. He saw her still being troubled and grumbled. She was free a long time ago, it baffled him at how she couldn’t let go.

    “Gamera,” Asagi mouthed quietly, keeping her eyes trained on the being she once bonded with. It was here at last where she finally came face to face with him once more. Every fiber of her body felt like it was ready to connect once more and yet nothing happened. It was completely empty.

    He still cared for her in a sense, but it was time for her to let go. Gamera looked at her before turning his attention back to Hina and huffing. He stared at her for a few seconds before motioning his head back to Asagi.

    Gamera let out a small murmur to Asagi. It wasn’t one of despair or of grief, but to signify an end of an era.

    It clicked for her. Asagi finally saw it. Finally saw what so many people were trying to tell her for two decades. It was no longer about her, but instead, about them now. She let out a large exhale, turning her focus back on to Gamera.

    “Thank you, old friend,” Asagi spoke, a smile now showing up on her face.

    “Did he say anything?” Mayumi inquired, trying to get a grasp on her friend’s sudden shift in personality.

    “Yeah, he said everything I needed to know,” answered Asagi, keeping her smile.

    Gamera turned his back to Hina and Hodaka as they smiled up at him. He wanted to stay with them for as long as possible, but couldn’t. He needed to rest and he didn’t want to risk humanity opening fire on him.

    The savior picked himself up causing nearly everyone to back away in hurry as he looked up at the darkening sky. It had wanted humanity to kill him before, but now he wanted to live. Live to see his friends fulfill all they could achieve.

    He was going to keep that promise to them and himself. With his legs retracting, Gamera flew up into the sky, departing the city of Tokyo and toward the ocean where he could rest for the next time he sees the two.

    That freedom would not be forsaken.

    ***

    Asagi stepped forward, staring at the ocean. She stopped by the refinery once more, not regale in old memories of her time with Gamera, but to get a sense of closure. Mayumi had gotten closure and she deserved it as well. She couldn’t help but feel a large amount of weight being lifted from her, as if she was finally being released from her duty. Now, all she could do was determine a life for herself from here on out.

    She chuckled at the amount of persuasion an old friend of theirs had to do to get them largely off the hook. Tsutomu Osako had nearly seen it all, but lost his marbles at having to help clear so many people in so little time. More so than the countless monsters hunting him. She appreciated him nonetheless, otherwise she wouldn’t be here doing the thing she was about to do.

    Asagi pulled the bead out from her pocket and stared at it once more. She rubbed her thumb over it, gently caressing it. She never regretted her connection with him, what she did to help save the world, or everything she learned from it. It made her invested in the world beyond her small town and even made her finally connect with the person who meant the most to her.

    With her free hand, she pulled out her phone and pressed Yukino’s name. It rang for a few moments when a tired voice answered. “Asagi, what’s going on?”

    “Hi, Yukino,” Asagi vocalized, trying to keep herself calm. She wanted to make things right, but that all depended if she was willing to take her back.

    “I… I heard what happened, are you okay?” she asked, her voice packing more concern than before, only now realizing what just happened in Tokyo a few days ago.

    “Yeah. I’m okay. Are you okay?” Asagi asked for greater interest in her loved one’s well being.

    “Asagi, I’m in Osaka. I wasn’t in any danger,” Yukino muttered.

    “Oh yeah, I figured, but I just wanted to make sure,” reasoned Asagi, smiling just a tad at dialogue starting up, one far better than they’ve had in a long time.

    “So, did you see Gamera, again?” she asked, her voice starting to sound more exhausted, expecting Asagi to start either raving about Gamera or how her life wasn’t complete without him. Yukino wanted to end this conversation as much as she hated to admit she knew this marriage wasn’t going to last. She was ready to move on.

    “I did, but…. I got my answer,” Asagi answered, finding great solace at her revelation.

    “I suppose you did, and hey, listen, I have to go. The kids are going to get really riled up if I’m not there on time,” Yukino spoke out, getting ready to hang up when Asagi hollered out.

    “Wait!” Asagi paused for a moment. “Sometime soon, whenever you think is best, do you think I can come down? Because I’m ready to talk, I want us to move past all of this, move past Gamera. I just want to move with you.”

    She didn’t hear clearly, but Asagi could have sworn she heard Yukino chuckle and that suspicion made her more justified when she heard her voice pick up.

    “The first of next month would be a good time.”

    “Yes, perfect! See you then!” Asagi cheerfully spoke out as Yukino let out a chuckle she could hear more clearly now.

    “Goodbye, and don’t be late,” Yukino playfully ordered, hanging up the phone while Asagi kept her smile.

    She glanced down at the bead once more, still rubbing her thumb over it softly. “I guess you helped me one last time. Thank you.”

    Asagi tilted her head up at the ocean, tightening her hand into a fist and launching it forward. The bead flew out of her palm and plummeted into the body of water as she had finally freed herself. She lifted her hands up, her eyes peeled toward the sky, embracing the new world she had just entered in.

    ***

    For three years, Hodaka was put on probation back at home. He hated nearly every passing minute of it, but it was the only way Mayumi and Asagi’s old friend was able to keep him away from jail. The only things keeping him from going insane from the monotonous schedule he went through every day from school to his parents were graduating and seeing his true family again in person.

    He was thankful for all of the calls he was allowed to have, hearing them helped make those past few years tolerable at best. However, it was not the same as seeing them in what remains of Tokyo.

    Hodaka snickered as a thought came circling back in his mind. He recalled the sirens on his island going off with everyone running and screaming when he saw it was Gamera standing at the bay. He wasn’t sure why the savior was there, but eventually came to realize it was only a checkup when he showed up to take a closer look. He remembered how Gamera stared at him for a while before leaving. Hodaka, to this day, still couldn’t figure out why their savior felt attached to them, but he didn’t object to it. He liked having a larger than life friend around.

    “I wondered if Gamera has done the same with Hina,” mused Hodaka, keeping his eyes trained on the now distant island. He breathed a sigh of relief as he was now moving to Tokyo. No longer a kid, but an adult as he would be able to make his own decisions from now on.

    He scrolled through the photos on his phone, seeing how everyone he cared about have grown. Asagi and Yukino grinning with their two year old daughter, Tomoko. He slid his finger across to see Suga, Natsumi, and Moka celebrating a birthday party, before moving onto the final photo. It was similar to the one with Ayana and Satoru, but everyone in Hina and Nagi’s new family were jubilant. Everything worked out in the end for them and he couldn’t be happier.

    The ship moved into the sunken portion of Tokyo as Hodaka turned his attention to the ruined buildings. This was the future he helped create for Tokyo? More than half of the city submerged in a watery grave as its citizens were forced to travel primarily by boat. Housing was far more difficult to acquire as several homes were either destroyed or the prices on them were raised. Fortunately, it wasn’t a concern for him, as Mayumi offered to have him stay with them.

    What concerned him was how he would feel when he saw Hina again. The calls these past few years were nice, but they weren’t real like seeing her in person. The moment of truth would be upon him as they had invited him for a picnic out on one of the unaffected parks.

    Hodaka let out a sigh and pulled out a ring. The same ring he gave to Hina all those years ago. He meant to return it to her, but he was taken away before he had the chance to. Hodaka continued to inspect until he heard the ship signaling its arrival. He looked up to see the patch of land the ship stopped at as he took his leave.

    Rain still poured, but unlike in the past, no one was bothered by it. Instead, treating it as a normal thing as if everyone had adapted to it. Hodaka still found it odd to shift through, as his eyes were trained on the sunken architecture.

    “The world’s always been crazy,” he surmised, going to move forward until he heard someone calling his name.

    “Hodaka!”

    He snapped his head up to Mayumi, Nagi and an older man he assumed was Yoshinari waving at him. Hodaka’s mouth curved into a smile, waving at them as he traversed over to them.

    “It’s so good to see you all!” Hodaka delightfully spoke out as Mayumi and Nagi wrapped him up in a hug.

    “We missed having you around,” Mayumi murmured.

    “Yeah, I was missing my apprentice. You still have a lot to learn,” Nagi jokingly announced.

    Hodaka simply chuckled at his response, nothing about him changed and he wouldn’t have it any other way. “It’s great to be back.”

    “And it’s nice to finally meet you, Hodaka,” the older man spoke, raising his hand up with a warm reassuring smile on his face. “Yoshinari.”

    “Likewise, sir,” Hodaka responded, shaking his hand.

    “You’ve done a lot for my family and I just wanted to say you’re part of it now, whether you like it or not,” announced Yoshinari.

    “Wouldn’t have it any other way,” Hodaka replied, as he soon looked around his surroundings, noticing something very off. He was worried as if something horribly changed, turning his attention back to his kin. “Where’s Hina?”

    “She stepped away for a moment, something about talking to an old friend,” Mayumi answered.

    “Oh,” Hodaka simply mumbled, tilting his head slightly downward.

    “What’s wrong?” Mayumi asked, perturbed by his sudden drop of excitement in his voice.

    “I thought Hina would just be here, I don’t know,” answered Hodaka softly.

    “Hey,” Nagi said, gaining his apprentice’s attention. “If there’s one thing she wouldn’t stop talking about, it’s you,”

    “That much, huh?” Hodaka nearly chuckled.

    “Eeyup, so what the hell are you waiting for? Go see her! Her friend will wait,” Nagi ordered, cheering him on.

    “Nagi!” Mayumi scowled, still attempting to sway her grandson away from using that kind of language.

    “That was nothing compared to last week!” countered Nagi, as Hodaka simply laughed, picking his feet up to meet up with Hina.

    Despite the reunion and the reassurance he got, he still wasn’t sure if everything would be okay. Could it be they were just preparing him for the worst? He was still lost. Hodaka looked down at the ring, pondering his next steps on what to do.

    “Do I tell her neither of us are at fault for what we did? Does she even still feel the guilt of making a part of the world like this? Should I tell her that I’m having thoughts like that?” he asked himself, looking at the half sunken bridge across from him.

    Hodaka heard a loud murmur, looking up to see to his astonishment, Gamera standing stronger than ever, without a scar in sight, in the bay staring at something. He didn’t expect the savior to be here, completely bewildered at what his purpose was.

    However, his mind immediately exploded, realizing why he was here. Hodaka took several steps forward only to stop himself when he saw Hina standing there, putting her hands together, praying.

    It was then, all doubt ceased once more.

    Tears flowed down his face, shivering at the reality before while his heart beated.

    “No. None of that is it. That day, I…. we changed the world! I made a choice. I’ve chosen this world. I’ve chosen to live here!”

    “Hina!” Hodaka excitedly screamed out, immediately gaining her attention as she smiled delightfully at him. She met his speed, running toward him as they made contact, wrapping each other in a tight embrace.

    “Hodaka!”

    “What’s wrong? Are you okay?” Hina quivered, her hands shakily landing on his cheeks.

    “Hina,” Hodaka happily spoke, moving her hands from his face to his own, preparing to make a declaration of his own. “We’re gonna be alright.”

    Gamera nodded his head, smiling at seeing the two of the three people he cared about the most reunited after so much time. Them being safe and sound was far more rewarding than anything he had ever achieved prior, bringing him a sense of solace, knowing he was able to choose whatever path he wanted from here on out.

    He was finally at peace, living a life he could be proud of.

    Winner: Gamera (Heisei)

    A very special thanks to Angel Rizza for the wonderful banner! For those unfamiliar, Rizza was commissioned for artwork on Criterion’s Godzilla: The Showa-Era Films to do the cover for Mothra vs. Godzilla (1964). By all accounts, please check her out on her social media, including Instagram and DeviantART.

    K.W.C. Kaiju War Chronicles

    K.W.C. // July 30, 2021
  • Author: Matthew Freese | Banner: Landon Soto

    Loneliness.

    It is a strange thing. All living things have experienced it in some capacity, and those with the minds to actually comprehend it reviled it. For Evolution has installed within them the drive to be with others of their kind, for loneliness meant that one was vulnerable and unable to pass on their legacy. Then, what if one were to be truly, totally alone in this life? Not a single other to even find any sort of comfort in?

    And what if they were restrained, with nothing but their own thoughts for eons?

    He saw nothing, nor felt, heard, smelt, or tasted. The only thing he had were his thoughts in this abyss, and those had quickly turned sour. This unending length of time had done nothing to sweeten the inner musings of the destroyer.

    Before internment in purgatory, he had been a cruel sadist who raided planets for sustenance. Life would flow from the plant life into his stomach, leaving fields of death and decay as he burned all sentient life. Fire would climb high into the skies, blanketing the dying worlds in smoke as he relished the horror he inflicted. He was unstoppable, gods and monsters alike being torn asunder and reduced to ash by his unholy power.

    But, why did he do it?

    In the past, he had never dwelled upon these things. Either he was too busy in a chaotic frenzy, or sleeping as he traveled through the depths of space. He had tried to sleep in this place, but how could he? He could not close his eyes, he never grew tired, if it weren’t for his thoughts he would not exist!

    Oh how he hated his thoughts. He did not remember how he was born, so he remembered no warmth of a mother or father. When the destroyer tried as hard as he could to recollect his most distant memories, it was all the same thing. Destruction, incineration, and genocide. No kindness, no peace, no… companionship.

    He knew why he did it on the technical level. To live. Though, what did he have to look forward to? To continue this cycle of mass extinction just to continue a meaningless life all alone? Could he go back to it, drown this self-reflection in carnage and return to what he had been?

    Especially with how this self-reflection had lasted so much longer than his life before?

    Suddenly, sensation. A rumbling, which ignited another feeling as a still heart began to pulse. Warm fluid coursed through a body rendered catatonic for sixty-five million years. The shaking continued, drawing a mind lost in eternal darkness and despair to something other than itself. There was a loud sound above, a muffled explosion.

    And particles of dirt fell upon a scale harder than any stone.

    Nerves flared to life, alerting the body of sensation. A raspy groan filled a chamber, bouncing off the walls and into three pairs of ears. Shriveled tongues scraped against the roofs of mouths as cracked and dry as the cavern’s walls. Six eyes opened wide, illuminating the void with harsh, red light.

    His mind was overwhelmed by the sudden presence of his body, feeling it cramped within this small space. But something rose above the countless thoughts rushing through him at light speed. For it wracked his whole form, a chasm within his body that ached.

    Hunger.

    He lashed out against the walls, ripping through them with ease. He stood, thrashing apart his confinement and sending tides of rocks falling upon him. They would not bury him, for he could feel his muscles stretching. As he continued to climb, something pierced the darkness aside from his own sight. It forced three hisses from the destroyer, for the light of the sun offended its still reeling and flailing mind.

    A mountain crumbled into dust, sending scores of people fleeing for their lives. Already, they knew that those within were dead, the excavation having gone worse than any of them could have pictured except in their wildest dreams.

    But a tragedy turned into a cataclysm when a form arose from the smoke.

    Black scales coated the form of a demonic titan. Three heads perched atop serpentine necks waved madly, opening mouths filled with knife-like teeth and bellowing to the heavens that he had returned. Four muscular, stout legs carried the dragon as he walked out, revealing more of his body. Two pillars of ebony rose from his back. A thick tail splitting into two at its end followed it as it walked.

    One of the heads swept its gaze over the workers, paralyzing many with fear and sending the rest screaming in horror about how the end had arrived. For they truly believed that the second coming of the apocalypse made flesh was now.

    For Desghidorah greatly resembled a golden dragon which had nearly wiped humanity off the face of the Earth.

    Ignoring the strange, screaming beings before him, the ebon dragon continued searching until he saw fields of green. Desperate to fill his stomach, he charged towards the forests, gait awkward as he adjusted to movement after so long of stillness.

    Emerald energy began to leak from the now wilting trees, traveling along the ground towards Desghidorah. It flowed into his feet, crawling up into his body as he absorbed the life essence of the plants.

    When one grows immensely hungry, the body will begin to get used to this and greatly lessen the pain. What this means is that if the stomach is even slightly refilled, the pain will return in full force, often driving the poor soul into a frenzy to fill the gnawing void.

    Desghidorah screamed as the first droplets of life energy entered his body, rushing further into the forest as he drained more and more from the plants. No thought went through his mind other than feeding, for it had felt like someone had carved open his body and pulled his stomach free. Mighty trees snapped like dried twigs beneath his feet, their dwindling essence still being pulled from their remains.

    The insane bellows of the hellspawn echoed across the landscape.

    As this unfolded, another being sensed a change. It would have been imperceptible to all but a select few beings, those who could feel the very essence of the Earth itself.

    She felt a dark spot arise on the aura of the world, hundreds of miles away from her current location. For now, it was small, almost insignificant. But what drew her attention was how it grew, each passing second its malevolent power rose.

    Translucent, gossamer wings of emerald spread from her back, adorned with elegant patterns and glowing spots that resembled azure eyes. Sharp limbs supported her thin body, the forelegs primed like a mantid’s claws. Blue eyes that shined observed the sky above as she beat her wings, gracefully taking off into the air. Trees were nearly flattened as she ascended, the sheer speed with which she flew generating powerful winds.

    Mothra made it her mission to purge this tumor from the world.

    Reports filled China of a strange object soaring through the air at rapid speed, most only getting to see the blur of the divine moth as she passed overhead. In a matter of minutes, she was over the ocean, racing towards Japan to combat the menace.

    Desghidorah continued to feed, feeling his hunger pains lessen with each moment. Animals fled in droves from him, but for this he did not care, for he was not concerned with the puny creatures of the land. More complex thoughts than “feed” would bubble to the surface, but he pushed them back down for the time being. They could be considered and pondered later.

    His rampage had just begun, yet already he left vast fields of barrenness behind him. Instead of proud standing trees coated in bright green, miles of forest were filled with gnarled, grey spires of dead wood. Soil, once rich with nutrients, now cracked and dry like a desert’s sands. And like grasping hands, the decay continued to crawl over the untouched splendor.

    Soon, Mothra had arrived. Even from miles away, high in the heavens, she witnessed the defilement of nature. It made her blood boil, prompting her to fold in her wings and descend like a rocket. Like all the titans of the Earth, she had developed a connection to nature itself, so to see this destruction was like seeing a beloved friend afflicted with painful disease.

    But for her specifically, there was another element. Many titans only cared for the smaller lifeforms beneath them on a vague, general level. They cared for life overall, but a few individuals being crushed did not enrage them. But her, and her symbiotic partner, felt a deeper connection with the smaller ones. Particularly those with sentience and intelligence, as foul as some of those may be.

    As she considered the loss of human and animal life this fiend could inflict, a better look at him stopped her descent. Her eyes widened as she saw the waving trio of heads and the spiked crowns adorning them. Was this thing related to King Ghidorah? Had it come to avenge him?

    Despite how high up she still was, Mothra was not a difficult presence to miss. One of Desghidorah’s outer heads saw her in its periphery, craning its thin neck up to fully see her.

    The alien had one main brain, connected to three organs in the heads which ensured that all three were in sync. So, what one head saw, they all saw.

    Desghidorah’s eyes widened. Brilliant, ornately patterned wings surrounded him in his memory, colossal moths firing streams of light from their antennae or flapping their wings to shower him with golden scales. He would unleash his power, only for the powder to capture it and thrust it back upon him.

    Mothra recoiled slightly as the three heads looked at her. The beast shook as he stared, faces rapidly flashing through different emotions.

    *****

    They lay dead around him, his teeth stained with yellow ichor. He breathed heavily, exhaustion digging its talons into him. Everything this planet had thrown at him, he conquered. He was unstoppable!

    Until a colossal light manifested above him, drawing his gaze up to reveal one more of the divine moths, creating a luminous sigil within the sky. Desghidorah howled in hatred as it shot down, enveloping his existence.

    And sealing him in eternal darkness.

    *****

    Mothra’s heartbeat skyrocketed when an unholy noise left those three jaws, the most hideous scream she had ever heard. His wrath rattled her to the core, shaking her resolve.

    And then three glowing fireballs of crimson raced out of Desghidorah’s maws.

    She dodged, descending further as more raced towards her. Despite the barrage coming her way, she gracefully weaved between each one as the distance between them closed. Only a few hundred meters away from her foe, the divine moth opened her mandibles and spat out a glob of gelatinous substance.

    It unfurled into a web when it struck the center head, keeping the upper and lower jaws together as it encircled them. Circling around the ebon dragon, she shot another ball of silk, doing the same to one of the outer heads.

    Despite how much time had passed, however much it had been, she still existed. The ones who had sealed him away still lived, and had almost immediately arrived after his freedom. They had to have been waiting, waiting for the day he broke free just so they could imprison him once more. He was not going back, he would rather die than be put in that hell once again!

    Streaks of flame left the gap between Desghidorah’s teeth, burning away the webs and allowing the formerly closed jaws to spew hellacious geysers. Mothra backpedaled, screeching in shock. Despite avoiding the Heavy Flame Wave itself, the heat it output filled her with pain like when the Fire Demon had assailed her. Blindly, the dragon thrashed his heads around, sending the flames flying in all directions.

    Dead trees ignited, sending a conflagration racing through the forest like scattering ants. Cutting off his hell’s flame, Desghidorah focused on Mothra once more, running forward as he bellowed promises of death. The guardian flew straight up, drawing enraged cries from her foe.

    Spreading her wings to their full width, Mothra shined like a miniature sun, making Desghidorah backpedal as his eyes snapped shut. Ignoring the protests of the destroyer, the guardian raced downwards once more, forelegs primed as the God Rays faded.

    Landing on the center head, she scraped her scythe-like legs against the black armor, casting out sparks. Fortunately for her, she had remained aware of her surroundings, otherwise she would not have been able to fly up and dodge the outer heads lunging and biting down. Instead of ripping into her wings, they clacked their teeth together through open air.

    More orbs of scarlet death pierced the air, barely missing the goddess’ wings. She did not feel like testing out her own durability against their power.

    Mothra found herself lost on how to proceed. Her foe was a thrashing tangle of powerful limbs and deadly blasts of flame. But, she knew she had to figure it out soon as his power grew with each moment. If her guess was correct, those pillars upon the destroyer’s back would soon prove to be so much more if he was not stopped.

    Desghidorah stopped firing wildly, taking time to walk towards a region of forest that remained untouched. He knew that blind fire would not incinerate his foe, not while he was confined to the earth. More trees rotted, acting as kindling for the raging flames spreading.

    Hissing in frustration, Mothra sped down, aiming behind the black dragon. Desghidorah’s heads whipped around, trying to bring her down with Pyroclastic Shots, but she folded her wings in and drew close. Distracting the heads with several globs of web, sending them flailing for a brief moment as they burned the silk off, she got behind the destroyer.

    Lunging forward, she landed upon his back. She raised her abdomen up, revealing it to be tipped with a cruel-looking stinger. Swiftly, she brought the organic blade down…

    Leaving sparks as the black scales stopped it cold. Panicking, she thrashed it back and forth, trying to work it between and pierce the skin. If she could just pierce the skin, perhaps it would create an opening she could exploit. Except, Desghidorah was not frantically trying to snap at her or incinerate her despite being on top of him.

    There was a flash of light, and before Mothra could even process what was happening, a wave of heat and force crashing into her body. A whitish-blue dome of energy erupted from Desghidorah’s back, hurling the guardian away like she was made of paper.

    Smoke curled off her as she crashed into the dirt, sending burning trees flying with the impact. The world blurred and rolled around Mothra, drawing a weak groan from her mandibles.

    Heavy thuds snapped her out of this stupor as she looked to see the ebon fiend turning towards her. Raising her wings into the air, she slapped them against the ground, pushing herself up onto her feet. Desghidorah charged forwards, howling as his feet splintered the earth beneath. Mothra left the ground, just in time as the ground beneath her detonated with fireballs slamming into it. The impact sent her spiraling through the air, frantically beating her wings to stay stable.

    Mothra screamed in agony as a stream of flame washed over her back, only lasting for a second as she fled out of its reach. Scorched darkness painted her exoskeleton and wings, cracking with each movement as she retreated. Desghidorah bellowed behind her, trying to snipe her out of the air, but she avoided them as she ascended into the clouds and out of sight.

    Deciding it would be folly to chase her when he could instead be gaining more power, the destroyer turned away and went back to feeding. He needed to be ready for when she returned with the rest of her kind, this time he would not let one escape his notice until it was too late.

    Far away, Mothra landed roughly, breathing heavily. She shook with each movement, her body demanded she rest, but she needed to get a message out. Raising her head, she let loose several shrieks in succession. Her wings dimly flashed as she did this. Once she finished, the guardian’s head dropped, her whole body going limp.

    Invisible waves traveled across the world, carrying her “words” with it. There were any number of titans she could have alerted, but there was only one she trusted. The echoed waves reached a single set of ears, so very far away, but he heard it like he had been right there with her.

    Deep within the abyss of ocean depths, a living monolith stirred. Dully-colored armor that had endured a million blows flexed. Yellow eyes that had witnessed countless thousands of years opened. Thick, muscular arms that had battered a hundred titans extended. A long, powerful tail which had slain tens of giants waved behind him. And jagged spines which only belonged to one creature glistened in the sparse light.

    Godzilla, the King of the Monsters, had been called into battle.

    Rising from the darkness, he sensed the growing evil. His partner had fallen in battle before the fiend, earning a dual reaction from the colossus.

    The first, wrath. He and Mothra’s bond stretched back through the millennia, a closeness akin to a mated pair’s. They always had each other’s back, and she had saved his life as often as he had saved hers. The titles given to them by humankind, King and Queen of the Monsters, were not inaccurate.

    The second, wariness. If it had taken her down already and still continued its meteoric rise in power, he would be hard pressed to find victory. Mothra was relatively small and fragile, but she knew full well how to handle foes larger and stronger than herself with a deadly grace. If she could not overcome, then something truly menacing had arisen.

    But he had risen to every challenge thrown his way, and he did not intend to stop anytime soon.

    Unaware of the power approaching him, Desghidorah continued feeding. No longer wracked with anguish from hunger, his mind was drifting. How much had changed since his imprisonment?

    Everything about this world felt different. The air, the landscape, the animals, all of it. Even the moth that had attacked him was only tangentially similar to the ones that had fought him before.

    But deep beneath these thoughts of confusion, the despair that had built up over eons lurked, threatening to bubble forth and consume him if he did not distract himself with other things. So, he focused on hunger and clearing his confusion.

    Above him, the sky began to darken. A black cloud began to spread, blotting out the sun as it crawled across the blue sky. Trees it passed over began to wither like Desghidorah had drawn near. The air began to grow toxic, causing smaller beings like insects and frogs to drop dead as larger creatures fled to escape a slow, painful death. Villages were blanketed by darkness, the people within unable to call for help as phone signals evaporated. All they could do was flee, hope to escape before succumbing to the poisoned air.

    Desghidorah’s cackles rolled across the landscape as he witnessed the extension of his will smother this place. Despair faded into the recesses of his mind as he indulged in sadism once more, growing high from the sheer power he wielded. It was beautiful, truly majestic to watch nature fall before him.

    Soon, the waters of the ocean rushed over an empty land, an unfortunate side effect of the passing of nature’s grandest guardian. But Godzilla did not focus on the devastation caused by his tidal wave as he looked into the heavens, seeing the blackened sky. The mephitic cloud stretched from horizon to horizon, blotting out the sun as he marched.

    As the leviathan made his way further inland, he witnessed the wilting trees and strewn about carcasses. His rage intensified as he moved, more helpless animals succumbing to the death filling the air.

    His fingers twitched as he desired to wrap them around the throat of the foul beast responsible. He carried no respect for bringers of mass death, especially those who took pleasure in slaughtering the weak. Godzilla was not quick to wrath, an immensely long life had tempered his temper. But this?

    In his mind’s eye, he pictured the humans who had once served him choking on this poison, and it made the fires in his gut rage. Once again, he would take pride in his role as mother nature’s fierce protector, brutally doling out her justice.

    Minutes dragged onto hours until he finally spotted the epicenter. Desghidorah sang his mad choruses as he crushed animals strong enough to survive his poison into red smears, relishing as trees perished around him in an instant.

    Of course the thing capable of such atrocity would bear such a resemblance to his vanquished nemesis. Had it come to avenge him, carry on his legacy? Godzilla growled, teeth grinding.

    This Ghidorah would join his relative as dust in the wind.

    The destroyer’s mirth was ended when the mightiest, most hate-filled roar he had ever heard besides his own echoed.

    Turning, his eyes widened as he witnessed a colossus charging towards him. When he had first come to Earth, he had encountered others of this one’s kind. But they were not like this one.

    They were slightly shorter, less bulky. Their back spines were small, not the towering spires protruding from this one’s back. And while they could run, they certainly had much to be desired when it came to speed.

    This one though, ran with a ridiculous speed that closed the distance between them in a matter of seconds. Desghidorah was barely able to counter due to his shock, leaving Godzilla to grab the outer necks with his massive hands and begin to squeeze. Scales bent and broke under the pressure, earning a panicked roar from the only head able to still release a cry.

    Godzilla released his grip, roaring in pain, when a stream of fire left the maw directly before him. This fire was not normal fire, that he could wade through miles of with ease, whereas this one was agonizing. Despite nearly having their windpipes crushed, the outer heads shook off the pain quickly and lashed forward like spiked hammers.

    Batting them aside, ignoring the pain they inflicted as they bashed his hide, Godzilla dragged his claws down Desghidorah’s chest. Sparks flew, but not much else as he failed to pierce. The ebon dragon reared up, slashing his own claws across the leviathan’s stomach, leaving shallow grooves.

    Lunging forward, Godzilla latched his hands onto Desghidorah’s back, and began to shove him back. Trenches were dug through the dirt as the dragon tried to resist, but he could not find purchase against the sheer power against him. The teeth of the monster king scraped against Desghidorah’s center throat, trying to tear through and rip free the jugular.

    Explosions against Godzilla’s body ceased this, making him wince as his push weakened. The outer heads cackled as they continued spewing Pyroclastic Shots, forcing the leviathan to backpedal as he tried to block the continuous fireballs. Once he was far enough back, the center head joined in, all three unleashing their attacks at once.

    Chunks of his armor was torn free and blasted away as the Triple Vortex Attack crashed against him, nearly throwing Godzilla off his feet. His bellow of pain echoed, drawing laughter from the demon.

    The air was filled with a crackling sound, snapping the destroyer out of his humor. Blue light began to crawl up the leviathan’s back spines, soon casting out a brilliant glow. Desghidorah panicked, recognizing this attack from those of this one’s kind he had fought before.

    He was, however, unable to counter before Godzilla stepped forward, opening his maw. A colossal stream of blue energy raced forwards, resembling a geyser of flame as it washed over Desghidorah’s chest. The ebon dragon screamed, trying to desperately back away. He was forced back as scales were incinerated and melted, until the beam faded and left his chest glowing for a brief moment.

    Godzilla charged forward, ramming his bulk against Desghidorah and nearly throwing the disoriented dragon to the ground. Blindly the destroyer unleashed his fire, madly waving his head as he tried to keep his foe back. The leviathan grit his teeth, before stepping forward and twisting his body, sending his tail hurtling through the fire.

    Desghidorah yelled as thick limb nearly dislocated his center jaws, cutting off the stream of flame. Godzilla grabbed his foe by the necks, and straining his muscles, he lifted the ebon dragon up off his feet. The destroyer was unable to attack in time before the monster king twisted his own body, hurling the dragon for hundreds of meters away.

    When Desghidorah was back on his feet, the fierce lord of nature was back upon him, swinging his heavy fists. The Super Darkness Dragon yelled as the pounding blows made him recoil, only to soon howl in rage. Driven by wrath, his three maws latched onto one of the leviathan’s arms, digging their teeth in deep. Before Godzilla could attack again, anguish speared into him.

    Crackling electricity traveled down the demon’s teeth, flowing into the limb. The bolts snapped apart sinew and peeled back skin, making it difficult for the radioactive titan to focus long enough to counter.

    Just as adrenaline had given his foe the strength to suddenly turn the tide, so too did Godzilla’s adrenal glands fill him with the power to fight back. Narrowing his eyes, he pulled back his free hand and sent a strike into the center neck. Strips of burnt flesh were ripped free as the mouth’s grip was dislodged. Scales had cracked under the strike, leaving the main controller of the destroyer flailing in anguish. With a strong pull back of his arm, Godzilla freed himself of the other two mouths.

    Every involuntary twitch of the injured arm hurt, so he favored the other as he swiped it across the necks of his foe, attempting to draw ichor. Scales were torn away as sparks flew, but Desghidorah still bashed his skulls against Godzilla’s ribs.

    The monster king backpedaled slightly, before being forced back further by the Heavy Flame Wave washing over his stomach. His groan echoed for miles. Suddenly, Desghidorah cut power to the infernal geyser, and began spitting Pyroclastic Shots from his jaws.

    Crimson bolts crashed against his hide and against the ground beneath Godzilla’s feet, kicking up walls of dirt and burning wood. He stumbled back further, losing sight of his foe as the air was filled with debris and dust. The assault ceased, and the ground began to shudder.

    Godzilla had faced many colossal foes, so he knew that the shaking of the earth growing steadily weaker did not mean his foe was approaching.

    The bellow of the nuclear guardian rang in the destroyer’s six ears as he fled towards healthier ground. He was not going to win this battle like this, that much was clear to him. Desghidorah was hurting his foe, but he was not dealing the damage needed to claim triumph being mauled to death or succumbing to the Atomic Ray.

    But he was so close to a transformation that would make all his problems cease…

    Godzilla watched as vast swathes of the forest perished, their lives flowing into Desghidorah. He charged, intent on stopping this rise of power. Energy began to course through his back, lighting up his spines.

    Desghidorah cackled to the heavens as he metabolized the consumed life essence. Sparks of power erupted from the pillars atop his back, as flashes of light obscured his whole body. His time in perdition had withered his body nearly as much as it had his mind, but with this, his former glory was in his grasp.

    The leviathan’s charge ceased when Desghidorah vanished in a cascade of luminance, but when his senses detected a change in the air and a spike in power, he redoubled his efforts. Atomic energy reached his throat, ready to be discharged.

    But it was too late…

    Three fireballs slammed into his torso, a trio of massive explosions following that knocked him to the ground. The geyser of nuclear power was involuntarily released, tainting the air with an azure glow. Looking up, the monster king recoiled before the sight of his foe.

    Grand wings, their membranes crimson as freshly spilled blood, stretched out from Desghidorah’s back. His outer necks had grown bulkier, matching the size of the central neck. Muscle rippled beneath his charcoal scales, even greater than before.

    Godzilla tried to get back to his feet, only to have Desghidorah launch himself forward. The dragon’s forelegs slammed into the leviathan’s back, earning a cry of anguish as he was forced to the ground. The destroyer dug his claws into the thick hide, piercing into the flesh beneath and spilling blood. Godzilla bellowed as chunks of meat were carved from him, rolling down his body and coming to rest on the ground.

    He stepped off his foe’s body. Reaching down, Desghidorah’s three maws clamped down onto the leviathan, filling his mouths with radioactive blood. The coppery taste was one he had missed for so long. Lifting the colossus into the air, he sent electricity through his bites once again, earning a tortured cry of anguish from the guardian. Godzilla’s thrashing only made his anguish worse as the teeth were jostled in his flesh.

    Curling his necks inward, Desghidorah swiftly straightened them out to hurl his foe forward, sending the leviathan crumpling to the ground. Smoke curled off blackened patches which were just next to bleeding caverns.

    The ebon bringer of end times began to breathe fire at the ground before him, manipulating his control over the power of fire to call upon the magma beneath. Soil and stone torn asunder as a colossal fissure formed, spitting tides of molten rock into the air. The boiling canyon was large enough to consume nature’s fierce guardian, something he was keenly aware of as it closed the distance.

    Horror filled the ancient warrior as he witnessed the display of vile power. He had never seen such an ability before in his seemingly endless life, what was he facing? Could he even stand before a being able to rip the earth asunder and spray forth its molten blood?

    Godzilla placed both hands on the ground, trying to push himself to his feet. A Pyroclastic Shot to his wound stopped this, leaving him prone and agonized as the ground beneath gave way. The alpha bellowed as he dropped into the boiling stone, disappearing from sight amidst the smoke and fire.

    Desghidorah paused as he heard the reverberating call, for it was not just a wordless sound of terror. It carried a call for a specific being, and something in his mind told him he knew exactly who it was. Especially, because shortly after he had beaten the moth, he heard the slightest echoes of a similar yell.

    Beating his wings, carrying himself away from this ruined forest, the fact that both his most recent foes truly cared for one another stayed on his mind like a stain. The chill of existential dread settled over the one born of hellfire, the devastation laid out before him beginning to leave a bitter taste in his mouth.

    Seconds turned to minutes as the destroyer left the scene of the battle. The roiling magma soon settled down, and silence fell over the land. A clawed hand shot forth from the molten rock, digging its talons into the stone. Its twin, joining it and latching onto the canyon walls.

    A head erupted from the fluid, shrieking in agony. Rivulets of orange leaked from Godzilla’s gills as he pulled himself up, dropping back into the pool. Slowly, one hand went higher, then secured a grip. The other rose to its level, then climbed higher before latching on. The leviathan’s arms and legs strained as they supported his frame against the wall, the claws of his feet similarly lodged within the wall.

    He violently shook each second, all his willpower being put to avoid falling back into the hell beneath. Godzilla sucked in gasps of toxic air, feeling it sting his mouth and throat. Lava ran down his spines, dripping down. Further he ascended, revealing more of his burnt skin.

    Two massive, weary hands gripped the rim of the cavern. The monster king slowly dragged himself further until he could get a foot upon the ground, then the other. He took a few steps to distance his tail from the crater, before dropping like a switch had been flipped off. His eyes were shut, and the only movement he made was the familiar rise and fall of breath.

    Godzilla had been in magma before. It was not something he desired by any means, but he had been through the boiling pits of the Hollow Earth and atop undersea volcanoes before. But that was when he was in peak condition, not after a pitched battle and a brutal assault.

    He was not sure how long he had slept before sunlight shined down upon him. Slowly, he opened his eyes as he groaned, looking up as a portion of the black cloud was parted. Godzilla smiled as he watched her descend like an angel from the heavens, wreathed in holy light.

    Mothra landed before her partner, a small bundle of metallic objects clutched in her forelimbs. Stepping forward, she dropped the objects with jagged edges, letting them crack open on impact.

    The King of the Monsters basked in the radiation they emitted, letting out a slight growl of thanks for this gift. Desperate times called for desperate measures, and it appeared that his partner had seen fit to raid one of humanity’s nuclear power plants to aid him.

    It did not bring him back to his full ability, but as Godzilla placed his hands on the ground and pushed up, he knew that he had been rejuvenated significantly. Rising to his full height, he looked down at his partner. Her back was still burnt from her battle with the demon, causing the leviathan’s fists to clench as he imagined her pain.

    The Queen of the Monsters replied with a chirp, adamantly stating that she would still fight. She could not just sit back and let this cataclysm continue, she added as she observed the surrounding landscape. Godzilla looked with her, and the sheer scope of it finally sank in.

    From horizon to horizon, death. Gnarled husks of plant life crumbled beneath their own weight, many still burning and casting smoke into the air. The soil beneath was totally dry, cracked and bereft of vital nutrients that sustained life. Countless corpses of animals laid like macabre decorations, their rotted faces warped in the anguish of their last moments.

    Mothra hung her head low, letting loose a subtle, mournful call. She had let this happen. This was all her fault, for failing to destroy the demon, for—

    A bellow above her cut off this train of thought. Godzilla’s rough, menacing face wore a warm expression as he looked at his partner, softly calling to her. She had tried, stood before what would make most titans flee in horror. He had failed to stop it as well on his own, it was not her fault. Now was not the time to wallow.

    Now was the time to stand up and fight, together.

    Mothra stood tall, and left the ground with the beat of her wings. Hovering before her partner’s face, she thanked him with her shrill cry. Godzilla thanked her, for always being by his side.

    Gently landing on top of the leviathan’s head, the guardian insect rubbed the side of her own head against his. He returned the favor the best he could, basking in the warmth of her presence. The two stayed like this for a few more seconds, enjoying each other’s company.

    Mothra flew back, and let out a harsher cry. The rumbling, harsh growl of the alpha joined it. The time was now, to purge this evil from the face of the world.

    And with that, the King and Queen of the Monsters moved as one towards the destroyer.

    Miles away, eruptions of flame joined anguished roars. Desghidorah stood within an abandoned city, trumpeting in outrage as he pulverized buildings with his horrid power. Walls of dust and debris rushed through the streets with each demolition. His tail ripped through a structure, launching the top half of the structure across the block.

    Why did he not feel the pleasure of destruction? The trees surrounding the city withered and died, but he did not feel the small joy of watching them fade. Dead people lined the streets, but they brought nothing to him.

    Nothing, nothing, nothing!

    The cosmic demon felt hollow despite the fullness of his stomach, but he knew that was not what was empty. For he had been forcibly reminded of what he had dove head-long into sadism in an attempt to bury.

    No, he had no proof for this. Desghidorah could not prove that the two foes he had faced were connected, any number of coincidences could explain what he had witnessed! But, that did not matter any more. Whether it had been them or his own subconscious, the fact was, it had been dredged into the light before his eyes. He could deny it no longer.

    Desghidorah had nothing.

    There was no communing with friends, no kind reassurance or tutoring from parents, and no warmth of a mate’s presence. The only warmth he felt was that which he spat forth upon the worlds and that which was spat upon him in return. He could not remember even seeing another of his kind.

    Were they all dead? Was he the last of his species, the pitiful wretch pointlessly spreading death across the cosmos? Would they have reviled him, or would they have been just as horrid as him? Perhaps they would attack him, for perhaps it was his, and their, very nature to be cruel and vile.

    But he could not stop draining worlds. It was needed for him to live, without draining life his own would wither away. The suspended animation he had been placed under was the only reason he had survived all that time without feasting. But he had just realized that he hated living, so why bother continuing it?

    Desghidorah’s memory flashed back to the pain that wracked him upon reawakening.

    Oh, so that was it.

    He was selfish, willing to purge worlds and cast countless billions into oblivion just because he did not like the pain. A pitiful creature of instinct was all he was, living from moment to moment doing as his impulses compelled him.

    Shrieking in rage, he torched a city block into ash, just trying to find some catharsis from destruction. But it was all he had ever done, wasn’t it? Tried to fill the holes in his heart and soul with carnage, deciding that if he could not enjoy life then none else would get to. It was only after a trip into hell and battles with the Earth’s guardians that the cancer in his subconscious spread into the conscious.

    He stared into the heavens, cursing them with his trumpeting call. Closing his eyes as he lowered his heads, he stood there for a time, how long he did not know. What was he supposed to do? His mind was clouded beyond belief, unable to decide on anything. No course of action seemed pleasant, so he just locked up.

    The mental fog was parted by a duo of calls, one a deep, rumbling roar, the other a shrill, piercing cry. Desghidorah’s eyes snapped open, his three jaws clenching so hard the teeth almost cracked. Steam left the gaps in his teeth as his breathing grew heavy and rough, leaving in a snarl.

    Godzilla and Mothra charged towards Desghidorah as one, the queen flying above her king. The destroyer turned around, locking his gazes with theirs. Crimson eyes narrowed as they met the piercing blue and yellow sets.

    The demon saw only one course of action. Seeing them filled him with a hatred that hurt with how intensely it flared in his mind, the world around them blurred and turned red in his vision as the two were the full focus of the destroyer. He shook, boiling saliva leaking from his jaws as he stared at the two that had fully driven into him how worthless his existence was.

    Godzilla and Mothra prepared to let loose another war cry, only to be stopped when Desghidorah opened his maws and released a hellacious noise that could barely be called a roar. Such bile and wrath filled the call that the duo backed away, rattled to their cores.

    Desghidorah’s heads flailed as he madly, blindly unleashed Pyroclastic Shots, charging forward meanwhile. Mothra flew higher into the air, seeking to avoid the blind assault as Godzilla braced himself. The projectiles hammered into his torso, but he grit his teeth and rushed forth, enduring the scorching assault as the distance between them closed.

    The flames stopped soaring, the three faces of the demon twisting in concentration. Godzilla’s hands crashed into the outer heads, creating a shockwave which sent nearby rubble flying. The two pushed, trying to dislodge the other. The leviathan’s feet began to slide back, especially as he jerked his head back to avoid the snapping jaws of the free head.

    Mothra swept down, scoring a shot with her silk onto the center head. It let loose a muffled screech in rage as the web bound its mouth shut, the surprise allowing Godzilla to push his foe back. Desghidorah planted his feet in the ground as a small fireball shot forth from his jaws, searing away the silk.

    Mothra landed on one of the necks being throttled by her ally, and began bashing away at the center neck with her claws. Sparks soared as the blades fell upon the ebon scales, drawing the enraged gaze of the demon as the central head tried to crane around to look at her.

    Godzilla lunged forward with opened jaws, clamping them onto the distracted throat. Instead of flailing his head back and forth like a rabid dog, he just put all his focus into biting down. Scales began to crack, failing before the teeth. The demon’s trumpeting calls echoed as he shouted his rage, then began building power within. The subtle increase of heat on the skin made the divine moth immediately take off, shouting a warning to her partner.

    From the destroyer’s body came a pulse of blue power, still stinging the leviathan’s front even though he had released and begun backing away. Marching forward, Desghidorah began beating his wings. Godzilla prepared to charge back in, only for a strong flap of the demon’s wings to carry him into the air. The leviathan was bashed in the face by the dragon’s tail as he passed overhead, sending him to the ground.

    As dust soared into the air behind him, Desghidrorah unleashed Pyroclastic Shots towards his airborne foe. Mothra dropped slightly, letting them pass over her head as she raced towards the dragon. Before the distance could be closed, she was forced to backpedal as the Heavy Flame Wave was belched forth from the demon’s main maw. The heat she felt just from being near it made her flinch, remembering the pain of the dragon’s fire.

    Desghidorah continued flying towards her, spewing hellacious conflagrations from his mouths. Mothra circled around her foe, but the demon twisted with her to ensure she could not go around his assault. A roar from the ground below drew both their attention as Godzilla’s backspines glowed with azure.

    Looking up, the guardian opened his jaws, spraying forth a geyser of nuclear energy. Desghidorah’s assault ceased as he madly flapped his wings, rising higher to avoid the attack. The twin ends of his tail were swallowed by the energy, singeing them and earning a cry of anguish from the dragon.

    Mothra shot forward like a bullet, crashing into the destroyer’s stomach. Her claws and stinger flailed forth wildly, scraping against the grey underbelly. Desghidorah and the divine moth flailed through the air as he tried to find an opening to attack her, the guardian being too low for his heads to properly aim fireballs at.

    A surge of pain shot through him as the stinger pierced his skin, squirming into the flesh beneath. Snarling, a cruel idea solidified in his mind. Folding his wings in, Desghidorah dropped from the air, Mothra still beneath him. His forelegs and backlegs moved inwards as much as they could, in an effort to pin her. The guardian shrieked in panic as the ground swiftly raced towards them, unable to free herself.

    Godzilla rushed forwards, full focus on what he was about to do. Before Desghidorah hit the ground, his partner crushed beneath the demon, the alpha titan twisted in place just behind them. His tail lashed out an upwards angle, crashing into the demon’s back thigh just before he landed.

    The dragon was flipped over, his bellows of shock echoing loudly. Mothra pulled her stinger free before flying up, traces of molten blood dripping from it. A cluster of buildings was reduced to rubble as Desghidorah crashed into them, casting up walls of dust and debris.

    Mothra landed on a skyscraper, trying to catch her breath. Godzilla stood nearby, bracing himself for the next attack. Tens of seconds passed, feeling agonizingly long as they waited for their enemy to make a move. There was no way that had put him out of commission, they murmured between each other.

    Rubble flew like it weighed nothing as Desghidorah stood up, releasing no call. The look in his eyes was haunting, almost giving the guardians pause. Suddenly, he unleashed the Heavy Flame Wave onto the pavement before him, calling upon his unholy power once more within the earth beneath.

    Buildings and ruins began to fall in droves as the ground split open, gushing molten rock up into the air above even the tallest buildings present. Columns of smoke began to rise as well when concrete and steel were cast into the hellacious fluid. Godzilla and Mothra ran in opposite directions as the unholy disaster reached them, avoiding the chaos unfolding as Desghidorah dove headfirst into the grand sheet of smog.

    The leviathan frantically looked around, trying to find where his foe had gone. The ground beneath him began to rumble, another quickly widening crack in the ground crawling towards him from the one that had just formed. He lunged forward, avoiding it by a moment. He took a moment to look back, seeing the chasm he had almost fallen into, barely seeing the glow of the magma past the churning smoke.

    Then three draconic heads lunged forth, clamping onto his tail.

    Godzilla’s roar of shock echoed across the desolate city, alerting Mothra. Desghidorah flew backwards, trying to drag the alpha titan into hell. Concrete split apart as the leviathan tried to hold his ground, but each passing second took him closer to the smoke and magma his foe lurked within.

    Desghidorah was not foolish, he had purged many worlds and faced many foes. His madness had blinded him for a moment, but now it fueled him as he set about using strategy. Divided foes were so much easier to rip asunder and slaughter than those joined together.

    There was a piercing, shrill cry. A moment later, too quickly for the dragon to react to the call’s meaning, a wall of light filled his vision. All three jaws unlatched from the tail, the destroyer staggering back and dropping onto the lava beneath him.

    Smoke was parted and dissolved, revealing Mothra standing there in all her luminous glory as she banished the darkness with her divinity. Godzilla thanked her with a growl, before suddenly the ground shook once more.

    Desghidorah, feet planted on the sides of the cavern, split the earth once more before him. The leviathan quickly ran, keeping away from the growing canyon. Mothra, no longer glowing brightly, flew with him. Their minds raced as they tried to figure out some way to overcome this new tactic.

    The echoing hatred escaping the trio of mouths sent chills down their ancient bodies. He shot straight into the air behind them, leaving a gap in the smoke as the wind generated pushed it to the sides.

    Every moment they lived made him want to vomit. No matter what, they were always there for each other, separating them was impossible.

    Descending at an angle, Pyroclastic Shots escaped the destroyer’s maws. Mothra shot up to avoid them as Godzilla endured those that landed upon him, turning around swiftly to roar at the dragon. Desghidorah ceased the mad firing and began to gather power, his jaws filling with flame as he hovered above his foe. Godzilla charged his atomic ray at the same time, prepared to overwhelm the dragon’s assault with his own.

    Three spheres of blazing, crimson energy were released at once, a geyser of scorching, azure power racing up to meet them. The Atomic Breath crashed against the Flaming Dragon Whirlwind, and for a moment they struggled against one another as the forces behind them clashed.

    And then a colossal blast of red and blue rippled outwards.

    Desghidorah was sent flying back by the shockwave, hurtling through the heavens like he did not weigh seventy five thousand tons, until he smashed into a city block and sent it collapsing upon himself. Godzilla was lost in the blinding flash, his roar of shock not rising above the mighty crash of the explosion. Buildings were flattened for miles around, the canyons carved open by the dragon shaking further apart. Even Mothra found it hard to remain airborne as the walls of force washed over her.

    When the chaos faded, she scanned the landscape. Neither of them was visible, which had an immediate effect on the moth as she felt her heart thud within her abdomen. Trepidatiously she called out, trying to get a reply from her partner. None came.

    Descending, she attempted once more, to the same result. He was unconscious, clearly, but where? How did someone one hundred twenty meters tall just disappear? The guardian’s frustration came out in another shriek as she searched low to the ground. This time, there was a reply.

    Only it was not the one she had sought.

    Mothra cried out in anguish as a fireball slammed into her body. She bounced off the ground, rolling as she groaned. Her eyes went in the direction the attack had originated from, and what she saw stole her breath for a moment.

    Desghidorah practically shook as he charged towards her, eyes fixed upon the divine moth with a rapturous joy that she had only seen once before. And just like then, it was three sets of eyes affixing her with that horrid happiness.

    Mothra raised her wings, ready to flap them and enter the air. Until one of the hellacious spheres seared off a massive portion of one of her wings, prompting another anguished wail. Frightened, she turned to witness the colossus bearing down on her.

    And in that moment, she locked up as she saw no path to take.

    As the center set of eyes locked onto the divine moth’s own, the side mouths lashed out, sinking their teeth into the gossamer limbs and shredding through the membrane with the utmost ease. A thick, elephantine foot came down and snapped one of the goddess’s legs like a blood filled twig.

    Far away, within darkness, the alpha slumbered. He drifted in dreamless sleep induced by physical trauma, and would have likely taken several minutes on end to awaken.

    Yellow eyes snapped open in the darkness as the most haunting, piercing scream he had ever heard filled his ears. Wasting no time he arose, revealing the shade of the heavens to him as cascades of rubble fell from his wounded body.

    Godzilla had seen many things in his long life, witnessed tragedies that would break the constitution of most beings. Been exposed to horrors that would send one into a spiral of either madness or depression. But still he carried on, his heart sometimes heavy with the memories, but never enough to drag him down.

    The sight awaiting him made his heart sink and his pulse race like nothing else. Mothra, suspended off the ground by her wings held within the jaws of the foul beast. Ichor profusely spilling from the shattered remains of one of her legs. Her face locked in a state of horrid sorrow and agony, which nearly brought him to his knees when her eyes locked with his.

    Desghidorah’s eyes widened at the scream that echoed from the Alpha Titan, telling him that he had incurred a wrath and power the likes of which he had never encountered.

    Jaws reaching down to the bases of the divine moth’s shredded wings, Desghidorah locked eyes with the barreling forward leviathan. Another bellow from the witness to his forthcoming atrocity, another shudder of joy and fear at once coursing through the dragon.

    He did not know why he derived pleasure from this, his mind a swirl of shifting emotions rolling over one another like chaff caught in a storm. But, why stop now?!

    Neck muscles strained as they pulled in opposite directions, Mothra shrieking once more as the sinews connecting her wings to her body were pulled taut. Godzilla’s footsteps hammered the ground, splintering the ground with each crash. Power was flowing up his body, racing towards his throat.

    But the mightiest beast Earth had birthed was not fast enough to save her.

    Despite being a dull, soft sound, the shearing of the queen’s wings from her body filled his ears like thunder. Mothra dropped, a pitiful whimper leaving her mandibles. Shakily, she tried to get onto her feet, shaking with each breath.

    Desghidorah stepped past her, looking the monster king dead in the eyes. He curled his tail away from the moth, and drinking in the hatred that filled Godzilla’s voice, he swung it like a whip.

    And sent Mothra’s broken body soaring.

    Godzilla watched her bounce against the ground on impact, leaving splatters of blood. She did not get up, remaining unmoving aside from twitches of her remaining legs. The moment of silence dredged up a grotesque thought.

    Had she laid an egg? Or, was she permanently…

    His world spun for a moment, refusing to finish this and consider such a thing. Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed Desghidorah’s fire building up in his jaws, as the heads looked at the leviathan and aimed at her. And in that moment, Godzilla’s head became clear, the atomic energy built up inside him still waiting.

    And all of his wrath was vomited upon the destroyer of worlds.

    Desghidorah howled in agony, his jaws turning towards the king of the monsters. The side heads fired bolts of molten wrath as the center spewed an inferno. Godzilla’s nuclear breath faded, but despite the burns being laid upon him, he charged forth. His opened jaws crashed into the left neck, teeth clamping down hard on the ebon scales. The other two heads prepared to fight back, only for the alpha to snap his head up as he stood tall, sending Desghidorah’s feet off the ground.

    A crater was formed as the leviathan slammed his foe into the concrete, the impact digging his teeth in deeper. Both hands grasped the throat, squeezing tight as he shoved his fangs into the flesh. Explosions rippled across his abdomen, the other heads trying to save their other third, but he ignored it as he continued trying to pull out something vital.

    The blue shockwave rippled out from Desghidorah’s body once more, scorching Godzilla’s face as its full brunt washed over him. The Raging Sky Burst forced the alpha titan’s jaws from the neck, leaving behind two deep gashes that geysered blood, but it did not cease his assault.

    Hands shooting to the head currently screaming in agony as gore fled its throat, Godzilla grasped the upper and lower jaws. Adrenaline fueled his weary muscles to pull in opposite directions, spreading the maw as wide as it could naturally open. The other two heads screamed in spite, demanding to know why his foe had suddenly become so resilient.

    The pressure prying open a third of his mouths ceased for a moment, allowing it to close slightly. Godzilla’s eyes were shut as the restrained head looked upon him, preparing to unleash a gout of flame.

    A blue, burning gaze filled a third of Desghidorah’s vision before suddenly, the pressure returned in full force and then some.

    And with a moist popping and cracking, the head’s lower jaw was ripped clean off. A torrent of gore filled saliva flowed from the grotesque cavern left behind, the neck seizing up as the eyes rolled back into his head.

    Casting the bloody mass of bone and scale in his hands aside, Godzilla went to attack again, only for the remaining heads to respond in kind by shooting forward and digging their teeth into his gills. Immensely powerful amps flowed into his throat, earning a choked cry of misery from the king. His hands smashed into the necks, dislodging them at the cost of burning chunks of his gills being pulled free. Smoke poured from the alpha’s mouth as he tried to suck in massive gasps of air.

    With a snarl, he declared that Desghidorah had taken everything from him. The most important thing in his life, ripped asunder and cast aside like garbage.

    And with a hiss, his foe proclaimed that Godzilla and Mothra had shown him how futile life was. Right now, he only lived to destroy them, because nothing else brought him anything beyond another day in this wretched waste called a life.

    Energy began to build within their bodies, flowing simultaneously just like before.

    The darkness dragon had done all this to carry out some personal crusade? This was all the result of self-reflection revealing his faults, so he responded by committing these horrors?

    The alpha titan knew nothing of suffering. This pain he felt now was only part of what the demon had felt in his perdition for uncountable eons.

    Muscular hands shot out, grabbing the useless head with a grievous wound. Fire crawled out from the corners of jaws, four sets of eyes focused on the slits of the foe’s throat.

    Both thought the same thing at that moment.

    Only fire could cleanse the stain before him.

    Godzilla’s nuclear beam shot down the mutilated mouth, traveling down the serpentine throat and into the main body. Unprotected organs popped and sizzled as the radioactive flames seared them. The black neck in his grasp burst apart at the seams, crumbling away as it was destroyed from the inside out.

    And a second later, twin Pyroclastic Shots tore into the gills, blasting them apart. Godzilla wheezed as his assault faded, falling down limply as he struggled to breathe. Desghidorah backed away, writhing as his innards flared with unyielding pain. Blood-tinted steam flowed from his maws and the smoking cavern that had once been a third of his consciousness.

    Standing over his foe, Desghidorah breathed in deeply. The nuclear colossus was at death’s door, and all he needed was a good push. Opening his center jaws, the right head still reeling from the pain, the Super Darkness Dragon tried to call upon his power once more.

    Suddenly, crawling over top the body of Godzilla, Mothra hissed at the lurking demon. She bared her forelimbs in an attempt at intimidation, not quite achieving it with how she still swayed. Opening her mandibles, she showed that her ability to spit silk was undamaged as she landed a blob of webbing upon the center head. The mouth was still able to open, revealing the embers in his throat.

    Mothra leaned down, rubbing the side of her head on the rough, burnt scales of Godzilla’s face. His eye shifted to look at her, a tear beginning to flow from it. She chirped softly to him, trying to reassure him.

    Why did they still comfort one another…

    The divine moth spoke to her partner, a tender coo leaving her mandibles. She would always be with him. No matter the foe; no matter the circumstances; no matter anything. They were one being in two bodies, forever connected.

    How could they both face death like this!?

    The Heavy Flame Wave that poured from the dragon’s maw was nowhere near the intensity of those he had unleashed before. Yet, it was enough to destroy Mothra’s body, reducing her to ash atop her partner’s body. Blue dust fell upon the limp Godzilla, disappearing into his form.

    Desghidorah felt like someone had carved his heart out and crushed it beneath their foot. Not because his actual heart still stung with the heat that had grazed it, but because once again, he felt hollow. They had not died in terror, begging for mercy that would never come. Instead, the guardians had only become the closest they ever had.

    He turned away from the corpse, trying to purge it from his mind, but still it remained in his thoughts. They had something he could never understand. Earth’s chosen defenders had a joy that would elude him for all of time. When he passed, it would be nowhere near as peaceful. Either he would be ripped asunder like he almost had here, or would just pass away out of sight from the whole universe.

    The void in his senses also haunted him. Could he ever recover from such a grievous loss? Would this be his end, him dying of these severe wounds on the world that he considered hell? What would await him on the other side?

    Lost in his morose retrospection and pondering, Desghidorah failed to notice the orange glow beginning to form on Godzilla’s body. Subtle light peeked out from his scales and wounds.

    The demon wanted there to be nothing on the other side, like what he had been through before but without thought. Or, would there be further torment, punishment for all he had done with life? Reward, for truly appeasing this barbaric cosmos?

    Fingers twitched as the nuclear behemoth began to shift, the light intensifying. The concrete beneath him began to glow and melt away, surrounding piles of rubble doing the same as they became one.

    There was a heat on Desghidorah’s tail, prompting him to turn around. He shrieked in panic, mind racing at a million miles per hour yet reaching no conclusions as his worldview imploded and contorted before him. The air warped around the slowly rising guardian, his body now fully glowing with brilliant light.

    One thing tore through the smog of Desghidorah’s mind, the most primal instinct found within all life. For all his pondering of death, the urge to survive was unbreaking in the face of very real mortal peril.

    Turning around as a city melted behind him, the dragon’s wings began to beat.

    Above the sounds of melting slag and roaring heat, a violent crackling of power filled the two sets of hidden ears. Desghidorah did not turn, he refused to look back. The future and past were not present in his mind, only the very here and now.

    An advanced warning would have done him no good regardless.

    Burning Godzilla, spines flashing madly with the divine power within his core, opened his maw. A lance of crimson, nuclear death shot forth from it, incinerating one of the destroyer’s wings. Desghidorah hit the ground, falling over and flailing as his mind was overwhelmed.

    Four eyes watched the molten god approach, wide as possible with utmost terror. He could not muster the power to fight back, but something in his madly spasming mind told him that it would do no good. What was fire to a being who had become the embodiment of incineration itself?

    Godzilla bellowed mightily, a familiar screech manifesting alongside it. From his glowing form came a dome of crimson energy, adorned with the elaborate pattern that had decorated her wings. It washed over the demon, peeling off skin and boiling muscle beneath.

    The destroyer had proclaimed to himself that death would be preferable to returning to purgatory…

    The alpha felt no remorse as another pulse reduced Desghidorah to a screaming skeleton with melting organs. He drew closer, standing over the being who had brought about mass death and destruction; the demon who carried on the legacy of his most hated nemesis; and the bastard who had sought to destroy the god and goddess of the Earth out of spite and envy.

    Desghidorah’s last coherent was of the other side. Whatever it was, it would be better than mortality had been. Especially in this moment.

    Godzilla’s foot imploded Desghidorah’s rib cage, reducing the heart to nothing. And with one final pulse, one which swallowed the entire city, ensured that there would be no chance of a return.

    Standing in a crater of his own making, surrounded by a now blazing forest, the alpha titan slowly looked up. The shade parted above him, revealing the night sky. Stars twinkled in the natural darkness, around the beautiful orb of yellow humanity labeled the Moon.

    It was the second most beautiful sight he had ever witnessed. He would seek out the first whenever he next could, not knowing if it would even be there. Could he go on living if the egg was non-existent?

    She would want him to, regardless of her own fate.

    With that, Godzilla hit the ground once more, eyes slamming shut. The clean air felt good to finally breathe in.

    Winner: Godzilla (Legendary)

    K.W.C. Kaiju War Chronicles

    K.W.C. // July 19, 2021
  • Author: Connor Clennell | Banner: Andrew Sudomerski

    It was inevitable. It would have happened sooner or later, this conflict between legends. With reputations spanning half a century, it was impossible that, on such a small world, the two would never come into contact. And when they did, the very Earth would tremble in awe. A proud city would fall, millions of lives would be lost, and the rest of the world was left to question the future they strived for.

    Dark smoke coated the skies, shielding the metropolis from the sun’s warmth and light. Towering structures crumbled into ruin, unable to withstand the destructive forces imbued upon them. Hundreds of streets were crowded with people seeking to escape death. As Tokyo burned, a titanic shape emerged from the gloom, bringing with it destruction and despair. A relic from the past, given new life from the arrogance of mankind. Charcoal-grey scales, toughed by decades of radioactive exposure, acted as armour for its rippling muscles. The rows of enlarged, white dorsal plates adorning its back clattered against each other with each step the titan took. A thick tail dragged behind it, occasionally whipping around and striking the buildings around it. Its general shape was like that of a dinosaur, one that the world had never known until its first appearance over sixty years ago. It was the first and last of its kind. Palaeontologists were quick to label the natural form of this creature as a Godzillasaurus. To the world, it was known by a much more familiar title.

    Godzilla.

    The atomic saurian let loose a howling, ominous cry. The sound travelled across the city, forcing millions to cover their ears in an attempt to not be deafened. Many fell to their knees, unable to continue running as Godzilla’s roar tore into their ear drums. They refused to stand, accepting their coming fates. Few stopped to help them. Yet amidst the surging crowds, one man stood, unafraid. He stared up at the approaching destroyer, awaiting the challenge that lay ahead. Normally, the self-defence forces would have been here by now, attempting to fight off Godzilla while the civilians escaped. But something was wrong. In its darkest hour, Tokyo’s defenders were absent. Not a single tank or maser trundled through the streets. The sky was devoid of jets and helicopters. Not a single warship or submarine occupied the waters of Tokyo Bay. The man wasn’t sure what could have caused the Japanese military to not defend its capital in its time of need. Even if there were other threats to contend with, they should have been able to send something. But alas, there was no support given. As far as it seemed, Tokyo had been abandoned to the chaos of Godzilla.

    But there was still one last hope.

    The man broke into a run, charging through the crowds. People called out to him as he raced towards the very thing they sought to escape, urging the man to turn back before it was too late. The man ignored their pleas. The crowd began to become thinner and thinner as he neared Godzilla. Soon, he was the only one standing in the middle of a crossroad. Blocks away, Godzilla’s shape towered over, ignorant to his presence. No human could stand against his infamous power. But Shin Hayata had not been a mortal man for many years. He reached into the pocket of his jacket, pulling forth a strange, silver, cylindrical object. He looked at the object, then back at Godzilla with uncertainty. For the first time in many years, he had doubt in his abilities. The stories of Godzilla’s feats and conquests were well known to those inside and outside the kaijutology community. A look of determination crossed his features as he pushed these thoughts aside. The lives of an entire city depended on him. Even if his strength was not enough, lives would be saved by his actions. At the end of every day, that was his goal. Hayata thrust the Beta Capsule into the air and pressed the button on its side.

    Godzilla stopped in his tracks. His head tilted, sensing a disturbance in the air. Energy rippled through the air around him. The scale of this power made Godzilla wary. He scanned the area, seeking the source of the anomaly. Several meters away, a bright flash appeared in the city streets. As Godzilla’s gaze was diverted to it, the light began to grow. He watched, growling lowly as the light increased in size, morphing into a familiar shape. In just a few seconds, it had nearly matched Godzilla in size. The light faded, revealing to the atomic saurian the warrior beneath. Silver, armour-like skin coated its humanoid form. Patterns of red highlighted portions of its body. A pair of bulbous eyes, glowing with benignity, made contact with Godzilla’s savage orbs. On the being’s chest, a jewel-like object glowed a healthy blue. Godzilla reared back in alarm, taken aback by the new arrival. Its appearance triggered long forgotten memories of similar warriors. Godzilla recalled the encounters and conflicts he had shared with the two. But Jet Jaguar and Zone Fighter could not compare to Ultraman’s majesty.

    The two stared off in the middle of a burning Tokyo. Godzilla’s hands flexed and his lip curled, exposing twin rows of teeth. Ultraman tightened his fists, gathering his power. Across the city, millions watched on in anticipation. Rumours and whispers had passed around since the two had first made their appearance. The legends of Ultraman and Godzilla extended past the limits of Earth and to the stars. No one would say it, but many had wondered, when Godzilla and Ultraman would finally meet in combat after fifty years of co-existence, who would emerge victorious from such a legendary bout.

    The question asked for half a century would finally be answered.

    Godzilla’s head turned to the sky, unleashing his infamous battle cry. Ultraman shifted into a fighting stance, letting out his own signature sound. Both broke into a sprint at the same time. City blocks shook as the two shattered the earth with each step. Buildings trembled as they ran past, seeking the other’s destruction. The two met in the middle of an intersection, Godzilla slamming his bulk into Ultraman as the latter drove his shoulder into the nuclear spawn’s chest. Shockwaves from the impact ravaged the area, sending buildings crashing into the streets. Tremors could be felt from halfway across the metropolis.

    Godzilla and Ultraman stumbled backwards, taken aback by each other’s strength. Neither gave the other a chance to recover. Godzilla turned and swung his tail, missing Ultraman as he ducked low. As Godzilla spun to face him, Ultraman leapt forwards, delivering a chop to the titan’s neck. Godzilla stepped back, fighting to keep his balance. Ultraman capitalised on this by planting another chop on his chest. Growling in frustration, Godzilla swiped at the warrior, missing as Ultraman moved to the side. Godzilla’s mistake was punished by a strike to his right side. He snarled as he looked down on Ultraman. At first glance, Godzilla appeared to have the advantage in size and strength. But these two factors also worked against the king of monsters. His blows meant nothing if they could not find their target. Ultraman possessed the agility and speed to match his strength, expertly dodging and deflecting Godzilla’s slow, predictable strikes whilst delivering his own blows.

    As the one-sided battle dragged on, Godzilla’s rage intensified. To his fortune, Ultraman slipped up, misjudging a strike meant to block the nuclear menace’s fist. It smashed into Ultraman’s head with the force of a bunker busting bomb. Ultraman shouted in pain as he shot back. Godzilla strode forward, giving Tokyo’s defender no time or room to prepare. His claws clamped onto Ultraman’s shoulders and he shoved his weight against the warrior, forcing him backwards. Grabbing hold of the saurian’s shoulders, Ultraman dug his heels into the street, pushing against Godzilla to halt the atomic titan’s advance. Wide trenches were carved into the tarmac and concrete as Godzilla continued to force Ultraman back. However, his pace began to slow, struggling to overcome Ultraman’s strength. Eventually, Godzilla was forced to submit to Ultraman’s intentions and came to a halt, unable to progress further. His frustrated roar boomed for miles. Bolts of nuclear energy coursed from his hands, zapping Ultraman’s hide. The warrior of light went rigid as the energy assaulted his shoulders and neck, relinquishing his grip on Godzilla’s left shoulder. Godzilla’s brow furrowed, unsatisfied with this result. His left arm moved to deliver the same shocking energy to Ultraman’s other arm. The warrior responded to his intentions by raising his free hand. Energy channelled into the limb, strengthening it. Then, with extreme strength and precision, he thrust it into Godzilla’s gut. Layers of flesh and internal organs gave way to the hero’s sharpened hand. Godzilla’s hands fell from Ultraman’s body as he screamed, lost in a world of agony.

    Ultraman removed his hand from Godzilla’s abdomen, then thrust it in again with greater force than before. Regenerating tissue was forced to give way to his sharpened limb. Over and over his arm delved into the depths of Godzilla’s body, inflicting focused internal damage. Godzilla gritted his teeth, refusing to allow the pain to impede his actions. As Ultraman pulled his arm free for another strike, it was caught in Godzilla’s claws. The monster king’s gaze met Ultraman’s as the hero struggled to remove his arm from Godzilla’s grip. It was like trying to break the grasp of a python. Godzilla’s head shot down, jaws crunching Ultraman’s shoulder. The giant’s shout of pain pleased his ears. With Ultraman secured, he lifted him off the ground. Ultraman fought to break free, kicking and punching at the saurian, to no avail. With a flick of his head, Godzilla tossed the harbinger of peace aside. Ultraman crashed into a deserted street, rolling to a stop. A shroud of dust was kicked up, attempting to hide his form from Godzilla’s wrath.

    Through the gloom, a bright blue glow caught Ultraman’s attention. The dust settled to allow him a glimpse at Godzilla’s illuminating dorsal spines. The atomic titan’s reptilian orbs were filled with hatred, which he spat at the alien warrior as a stream of concentrated thermonuclear fire. It closed the distance within milliseconds, warping the air surrounding it with heat. Ultraman’s advanced reflexes saved him from destruction, but not from Godzilla’s wrath. The beam caught his left shoulder as he leapt to the side, earning a loud yelp as he crashed to the ground, rolling on impact and landing on one knee. He groaned as he clutched his scorched shoulder, feeling the sizzling heat upon his palm. This was not the first thermonuclear weapon he had endured, but it was unquestionably the worst. The heat and force behind Godzilla’s primary attack was astounding. It reminded Ultraman of Ragon and Gabora’s radioactive rays, only far greater in power. He didn’t need to be told to avoid a direct hit at all costs.

    Tremendous heat warped the air. Now familiar with the energy, Ultraman cast his gaze upon Godzilla’s flickering spines once more. There was little time to escape. Ultraman made full use of it, taking to the air as the second atomic beam was launched. It detonated on the spot where he stood previously, erupting into raging flames that consumed the entire block. The flames raced upwards, seeking to consume Ultraman in a fiery inferno. Flying at supersonic speeds, Ultraman easily escaped the flames. He hovered over the city, looking down at Godzilla and the destruction he had wrought. Godzilla averted his gaze to the airborne warrior, growling softly in frustration. Placing his hands horizontal to his Colour Timer, Ultraman gathered energy for his next attack. He threw his right hand forward, discharging a jagged disk of energy. The Ultra Slash carved into Godzilla’s torso, cutting and burning through flesh before dissipating. The irradiated saurian’s painful howl shattered windows for miles around. Onlookers brought their hands to their ears, deafened by the volume. Godzilla stumbled backwards in pain. Scorched flesh dangled from his chest. The putrid smell of his cooked body made him nauseous. The regenerative properties of his cells worked overtime to repair the damage.

    Ultraman launched into Godzilla from above, knocking the distracted mutant to the earth. The force of the impact sent both skidding down city streets, leaving a trail of ruin in their wake. Pinning the atomic king beneath him, Ultraman smashed his fists across Godzilla’s head. Godzilla voiced his fury as he attempted to remove his attacker. This only increased the severity of Ultraman’s blows. Blood and teeth flew from the frenzy and stained the streets as the champion from M78 shattered Godzilla’s skull. Consciousness began to leave Godzilla’s body. His unbreakable will and savage fury barely kept him from slipping into the void. As they began to slow, Godzilla’s dorsal fins shone with nuclear power. Ultraman was not oblivious to this phenomenon. His hands wrapped around the saurian menace’s throat, preventing the discharge of his atomic beam. Godzilla writhed in his grip, unable to break free. As the two skidded to a stop, the nuclear titan’s scutes still pulsated with eerie blue energy. Ultraman’s gaze stopped on them, confused. From Godzilla’s nearly repaired chest, the same glow emanated from his wounds. Ultraman’s head snapped down at it in horror, realising the saurian king’s true intentions.

    A wave of energy was released from Godzilla’s body. It tore Ultraman off and launched him across the city. Buildings crumpled from the destructive force. Smaller structures were annihilated in their entirely. Masses of people, thinking they were far enough from the conflict, were reduced to atoms as the shockwave washed over them. All this in a matter of seconds. Gravity captured Ultraman’s flying shape, dragging him to the ground. The earth trembled from the impact as several residential structures were flattered beneath the fallen hero.

    In the aftermath of the nuclear pulse, Godzilla pulled himself onto trembling legs. Bone cracked and flesh pulsated as his skull began the regeneration process. Through blood-soaked vision, Godzilla located Ultraman’s form amidst a grey haze. Part of Godzilla’s mind hoped that the warrior would stay down. Another wanted Ultraman to rise and continue the fight. Like his monstrous subjects, Godzilla identified with others through combat. The motivation for battle is what separates friend from foe in the kingdom of monsters. From the beginning of the battle, Godzilla had sensed no animosity from the alien warrior. Only a strong desire to protect. Godzilla could relate with Ultraman’s noble cause. He too had fought to defend his family, extended and biological, from harm. The similarities to Zone Fighter and Jet Jaguar were unmistakable. But unlike them, Ultraman had done nothing to garner his respect and trust. To Godzilla, the warrior of light was the enemy, and would learn what happened to those that stood against the King.

    Atomic fury flashed on Godzilla’s back. Ultraman dragged himself from the rubble, groaning with pain and dizziness. Godzilla’s brow furrowed, annoyed and pleased to see the giant still had life in him. Lingering internal energy from the nuclear pulse was gathered and added to Godzilla’s blossoming power. His dorsal plates shone brighter, crackling with enhanced power. Assuming a defensive stance, Ultraman prepared for the worst. From Godzilla’s opening maw, flashes of light emerged from his throat. A different kind of atomic beam was fired, composed of blue and purple and coated with a spiralling wave of energy. Melting the streets beneath it with its heat, the spiral atomic ray raced to ensure Ultraman’s destruction. It never succeeded in its goal. Ultraman extended his arms and traced a rectangle of light in the space before him. Between the glowing lines, a shimmering wall of energy materialised, catching Godzilla’s enhanced beam. The barrier doubled as a mirror, reflecting the spiral ray back at Godzilla. The atomic mutant’s eyes widened in surprise as his own ray crashed into his chest. A miniature nuclear explosion enveloped his torso, ripping away skin and meat in an instant. For the first time since the bomb, Godzilla’s body was raked with fourth-degree burns. Godzilla’s responding roar was mixed with a variety of emotions, of which pain was the loudest.

    Through the dense smoke, immense energy rippled in the air. Godzilla recognised the power instantly. Far opposite the atomic dragon, Ultraman aligned his arms to form a cross. Vast internal energies were diverted to his vertical hand, launching from the side as a powerful stream. Molecules of energised Specium moved through the air at incalculable speeds, appearing to the naked eye as numerous lines. The energy attack lanced into Godzilla’s damaged sternum, forcing his body to absorb its energies. Destructive power flooded his cells, resulting in mass combustion of organic matter. An explosion of fire and gore removed Godzilla’s upper half from view, but his painful shrieks proved the titan still lived. Ultraman lowered his hands, surprised that the saurian had survived the attack. For most monsters, a single shot would have ensured their destruction. But tougher foes had proven resilient to Specium energy in the past. The monster king’s tough exterior was irrepressible, but not impregnable. He had been weakened by the blast. If he wore him down further, Ultraman may have a chance at besting the scourge of humanity. As the smoke cleared, Ultraman’s hopes died swiftly. Godzilla’s torso was nearly devoid of flesh. Ribs and organs could be seen through exposed areas. The nuclear titan’s breaths were wheezing and ragged as his damaged lungs attempted to draw air. Despite the suffering, Godzilla refused to fall. Even now, his body was regenerating at an astounding rate. In a few minutes, his strength would be fully restored. Ultraman did not share this advantage. His time in battle was limited, requiring expert control of his finite reserves. To triumph over the irradiated dinosaur, he would require more power than he currently possessed. He cast his gaze to the ruined streets. Humanoid shadows stained the pavements. Thousands of corpses remained lost under rubble. Ultraman could feel the life forces of people fade all around him. Countless lives had already been lost as a result of their clash.

    Instinctively, Ultraman knew that many more would lose their lives today.

    Rejuvenating charcoal scales sealed the gaping wounds in the dinosaur’s chest. Deeming the repairs sufficient, Godzilla fired his nuclear beam. With only a second to react, Ultraman jumped high into the air as the streets were consumed in a sea of flames. Ultraman leapt over the towering monolith of flesh, driving his heel into the radioactive destroyer’s head. Godzilla growled as he was forced to look at the streets below. Fierce flames reflected off his reptilian eyes. The stretch of city resembled a scene from the apocalypse. He cared for none of it. Ultraman kicked off the leviathan’s head and landed behind him. As he turned to face Godzilla, the saurian’s thick, muscular tail whipped out. It swung into his side, creating an audible sound as it cracked ribs. The warrior was pushed across the pavement as he yelped, ripping up concrete and tarmac as he gripped Godzilla’s wormy appendage. At last, Ultraman gained control of the situation. He began to rotate, dragging Godzilla across in surprise. The hero spun faster, rapidly increasing momentum. Ultraman shocked Godzilla and the world by lifting the monster king off the ground and tossing him across the city. A skyscraper caught Godzilla’s falling shape, embracing him in a tomb of granite and steel. Through the cloud of dust kicked up by the impact, flashes of blue appeared. Godzilla burst off of the rubble, eyes burning with atomic rage as he bellowed. Atomic fire blazed out of his maw. In quick retaliation, Ultraman joined his wrists, channelling energy to fire the Specium Ray.

    The two sets of energies collided in a flash of intense light. People too slow to avert their gaze were permanently blinded. Unfortunate civilians foolishly close to the action felt their eyeballs burn in their sockets. Infuriated by Ultraman’s resistance, Godzilla funnelled more power into his stream. Ultraman continued to fire, fuelling its growing power with what energy he could spare. The sphere of light moved back and forth between the clashing powers, unable to be overcome by either attack. The energy fed into the orb eventually became too much, and it exploded. Powerful shockwaves annihilated city blocks, leaving a scar on the capital of Japan. Both titans remained standing in the face of the tremendous force, unable to be bested by its power. The light from the explosion was a different matter. Its blinding glare filled Godzilla and Ultraman’s vision. Evolution had granted Godzilla eyelids to save himself from blindness. Ultraman was not so fortunate. His bulbous eyes absorbed the light, temporarily robbing him of the ability to see. His hands sought his face, protecting his sensitive eyes as he groaned in agony. The earth shook as Godzilla charged, seizing the opportunity. Like a raging bull, his forehead crashed into Ultraman’s chest, launching the alien defender across the district. The pavement caved as Ultraman slammed into the earth, the imprint of his figure now forever embedded in that street. The Colour Timer’s healthy blue glow was replaced with a blinking red light, as a warning chime alerted the giant to his decreasing energy. Time no longer favoured the warrior’s mission of justice.

    The ground shuddered as Ultraman moved to stand. Godzilla’s chaotic roar echoed as he kicked Tokyo’s saviour down the street. He followed after, polluting the air with his radioactive essence. Godzilla turned with an elegance unfitting of his form and slammed his tail into the recovering Ultraman’s back, knocking him to the floor. Ultraman struggled to rise, only for another spine shuddering blow to hammer him into the ground. A third blow would surely snap his back in two. Before the strike could connect, Ultraman rolled to the side, allowing Godzilla’s tail to pound the pavement. He pulled himself to his feet, but Godzilla’s reptilian appendage was not finished with the hero. It swung up at an angle, slapping Ultraman across the head. Losing his balance, Ultraman stumbled into the side of a skyscraper. Godzilla whipped around to face him. His clawed hand slashed across the giant’s chest, drawing violent sparks. Ultraman retreated from the pain, allowing Godzilla’s fist to plough into his face. The warrior smashed into the earth, burying his form in the street. Ultraman frantically struggled to free himself as Godzilla’s massive heel came down, pressing him further under the street. Ultraman cried out as bones cracked under the pressure of the monster’s weight. Lifting his foot, Godzilla prepared to repeat the process. Ultraman could only watch on, forming his own tactic. The champion’s strength was not limited to his body. Concentrating his psychic powers, Ultraman disappeared in a cloud of particles as Godzilla’s foot shattered the road beneath.

    The nuclear mutation reared back in confusion, scanning the streets for the warrior. A burst of Specium energy struck his unprotected back, destroying tissue and spinal nerves alike in a violent explosion. The painful shrieks of an injured giant flooded the air as sixty thousand tons of saurian flesh and bone collapsed, unable to communicate with his lower half. A distance away, Ultraman lowered his hands, dropping onto a knee and panting in exhaustion. The teleportation technique was a severe drain on his reserves. Coupled with excessive use of the Specium Ray, his power was dangerously low. The pitch and speed of the Colour Timer’s ringing increased, warning Ultraman that his time was up. Ultraman ignored it, too focused on Godzilla’s rising shape. New nerves grew before his eyes before vanishing in an embrace of flesh. Godzilla’s constant cries informed the hero of the excruciating process. In no time at all, the creature would be ready for combat once more. Ultraman cursed his limitations, wishing he should stay and finish off the icon of destruction. The only death that would occur if he did not recharge would be his own.

    With his spinal column still exposed, Godzilla rose to face the weakened warrior. Radioactive might surged on his dorsal plates, eager for release. Gathering what energy he could spare, Ultraman tossed a shimmering buzzsaw into the monster king’s skull. Scalded flesh dangled over Godzilla’s eyes, working with the intense pain to distract the saurian. Taking the opportunity, Ultraman ascended into the skies, rushing to reach the stratosphere. Regenerative properties allowed Godzilla to overcome Ultraman’s distraction and cast his gaze upwards. An atomic ray fired, refusing to allow the champion to escape. The power of the thermonuclear weapon diminished as he travelled farther and farther from its projector. By the time it caught up to the fleeing hero, most of its kinetic force and heat had been lost. It struck Ultraman with a fraction of its true power, delaying him for only a second. Dark smoke shielded him from Godzilla’s prying eyes as he vanished into the clouds. Godzilla roared in anger, commanding the wielder of light to face him.

    Booming thunder and howling winds sounded as Ultraman ascended through the dark clouds. Bolts of lightning zapped his shimmering form, useless in deterring the warrior’s flight. At last, the clouds gave way to an empty void, peppered with specks of light. The vastness of space greeted the interstellar defender as he left the comfort of Earth’s atmosphere. Raw solar energy engulfed Ultraman’s form, recharging his celestial power. With this time, Ultraman observed the blue planet below him. This was not the first time that he had seen the Earth like this, but the beauty of the sight still remained to this day. Many religions believed in a higher power, watching over the planet and its people with love and compassion. Despite the power he wielded, Ultraman was no god. He has been born with the power of light, but the warning light on his chest was a constant reminder of his mortality and the goal of peace that his kind strived for.

    Ultraman and his kin had been watching Earth for more than fifty years. In that time, they had seen, fought, rescued and destroyed a whole array of monsters, demons, aliens and automatons. Yet out of all of them, Godzilla was an enigma they could not solve. It was after his service that Ultraman had learned of the monster king and his origins. The genetic urge for man to wage war was something that Ultraman feared would ultimately destroy them, and Godzilla was the closest thing to personifying those fears. Yet despite his destructive nature, the child of atomic warfare had been responsible for protecting the world on numerous occasions, only to threaten it once again. The titan’s uncertain allegiance was something that had captured Ultraman’s attention. It was not something that could be explained by animalistic intelligence, yet Godzilla had never demonstrated anything close to an intellect like that of King Kong or Gamera. His supreme commander, Father of Ultra, had once described Godzilla as a force of utter chaos. But chaos did not form alliances or father offspring.

    The blinking light on Ultraman’s chest returned to a solid blue. With his energy restored, Ultraman started re-entry, accelerating through the atmosphere at incredible speeds. Far below him waited an entity that Ultraman could not accurately describe. Out of all of Earth’s protectors, Godzilla was the most complex. Even as he laid waste to the city below, the silver giant knew that he would eventually return to protect the people he sought to destroy. If Godzilla saw Ultraman as unworthy, then he saw Godzilla as untrustworthy. He needed evidence that he could rely on the king of monsters to defend the planet in his absence. So far, he had nothing.

    Tokyo continued to burn. Pillars of black smog choked the sky, shrouding the desolate landscape in darkness. Emergency services used this brief pause in the clash of titans to rescue as many as they could from the wreckage, rarely finding people that had not been majorly harmed by the conflict. At the city’s epicentre, Godzilla stood motionless, his gaze cast to the far heavens. The ancient goliath knew that there was no point in continuing his rampage. Something in his mutated genetics told him that he would not have to wait long for the giant of light’s return. Godzilla knew he would return for the humans; that strange, indescribable species that had managed to capture the hearts of his previous humanoid allies.

    For the longest time, Godzilla had no care for the human race. They were a nuisance at best, tiny insects that attempted to match his might time and time again, and their distaste for him and his kin had almost lost any chance of ending this unwinnable war. Despite their hate towards him, though, Godzilla had been responsible for saving their tiny civilisation time after time. Even with their hate for one another, there was enough honour between Godzilla and Man for the two to make truces when peace was needed. Behind humanity’s anger and loathing was a kindness that Godzilla had never understood and never could. So long as the king of kaiju lived, humans and monsters would live in fear of each other. But when the opportunity came to end the war of the monsters, the humans showed their appreciation for his efforts at the worst possible time, and saved his life when he was prepared to give it away. He lost what he cared for, because humanity chose to be kind for once in their cruel existence. This was why Godzilla now despised humans. It was why, despite the respect he secretly held for Ultraman, he hated the warrior that the citizens of Japan held love for in their hearts.

    In the far distance, a speck of light glimmered. Godzilla’s binocular vision caught onto the approaching air-bound figure and his lips curled into a snarl. High above the waters of the Pacific, Ultraman shot through the turbulent skies at supersonic speeds, leaving a trail of disturbed clouds in his wake. He looked upon the city of Tokyo in the distance, preparing his newly-restored energy for his upcoming rematch. There was a sudden flash of light, bright and brief, between the towering structures of man. Seconds later, Ultraman sighted the azure wave of scorching nuclear death. With supreme reflexes, Ultraman maneuvered his course to avoid the atomic beam in the short pocket of time he had. The blast shot past, lighting up his reflective form with its bright radiance as Ultraman twisted around the cone of destruction. The attack had nearly taken the veteran warrior off-guard. He was still several miles from the metropolis’ shore, yet Godzilla had deemed the distance short enough to launch a premature and highly accurate assault, providing more evidence for Ultraman’s internal thesis on the dinosaurian giant’s intelligence.

    Now aware of the attack, Ultraman’s excellent vision homed in on his reptilian nemesis’ location. The luminous glow of the atomic dinosaur’s dorsal fins filled his sight, alerting the guardian to his next action. Ultraman swiftly decelerated, coming to a stop and hovering over the Sea of Japan. With his arms and legs still extended, he started to spin rapidly, flipping heels over head as streams of energy trailed from his hands and feet. As his movements became a blur, a shell of crimson power formed around the hero, materialising into his protective travel sphere. Now with protection against Godzilla’s thermonuclear might, Ultraman raced down to the capital in crisis as the second atomic ray launched. It struck the surface of the accelerating orb, but failed to inflict any damage, rolling across the sphere like waves of water. Scowling but undeterred, Godzilla spewed out another stream of atomic power, once again unable to damage or halt the travel sphere, his condensed atomic flames washing across its surface with no effect. With its course unaltered, Ultraman’s vessel rocketed towards the approaching city streets, surprising Godzilla with his incredible speeds that could match the velocity of Rodan, and seconds away from colliding with the king of kaiju. With no chance of halting or avoiding the orb’s course, Godzilla steadied himself for contact.

    The travel sphere collided with the atomic monster’s bulk, driving the air from his lungs and cracking ribs. The winded Godzilla drove his clawed feet into the concrete, refusing to yield to Ultraman’s force. Ultraman continued to push against the saurian, prevented from toppling the kaiju king by his impressive strength. Instead, Godzilla was pushed back through the streets, his colossal heels carving trenches into the tarmac and stone as Ultraman’s sphere forced him back into the depths of Tokyo. Rows of small businesses, residences and industrial warehouses were demolished without any impact on the two rivals’ path. Eventually, a larger structure looked to halt the duo’s battle. Godzilla’s heavy tonnage slammed into the skyscraper, ignoring the obstacle as he was forced inside. Concrete shattered, glass cracked and steel beams snapped as the monster of monsters came through the tower against his will and continued on, clawing away uselessly at the crimson shell. Snarling in aggravation, Godzilla grasped onto the orb as best as he could. Blue power surged through his spines, collecting power in his throat. As the gathered atomic fire was ready to be released, he swallowed it back down, directing the supercharged energies out of each inch of his body. The travel sphere was blown back by the nuclear pulse, spinning out of control as waves of kinetic and atomic force ravaged it. The orb burst apart, fading wisps of crimson energy waving through the air as Ultraman spun out of his control, plummeting to the ground not far below. The hero’s controlless period was forgivingly short, and Ultraman prevented a harsh landing by planting his palms against the street, flipping backwards to land upright without hazardous delay.

    Seconds passed as Ultraman and Godzilla stared down the other, assessing their next actions. Both knew that they could not underestimated their rival for even a second. Godzilla’s claws twitched impatiently as he considered what he knew about the warrior of light. Like Zone Fighter, the denizen of Nebula M78 was a formidable opponent, possessing strength near equal to his own and speed and agility to match it. However, Ultraman shared the same weakness as the Peacelandian warrior. Godzilla’s gaze drifted to the guardian’s glowing Colour Timer. Although Ultraman was powerful, he did not have a long period to harness that power. An average of three minutes was the longest he could spar in Earth’s conditions. It had taken almost that exact time to severely harm the monster king. In the first clash, Godzilla was unprepared, still understanding the warrior’s abilities and motivations. Now he had information to work on. A weakness to exploit. Ultraman was in the same situation. But while he had first-hand knowledge of Godzilla’s powers, his vulnerabilities were a different matter. Unlike himself, Godzilla possessed no inherent weaknesses to exploit. Humanity has found something akin to what Ultraman required: a secondary brain located near the saurian’s hips that controlled the functions of his lower body. While that factor had been exploited once, Godzilla had evolved and adapted since then. The chances of paralysing the nuclear menace the same way twice was slim. Ultraman would have to wait and see if further conflict revealed another exploitable trait. For now, he would have to try and take out the kaiju king through his sheer power.

    His hands tapped his chest once more, drawing the almost divine power of his inner light to his hand. Recognising the technique instantly, Godzilla’s atomic lust flared. With a toss of his hand, another churning Ultra Slash was launched at Godzilla’s reptilian visage. Halfway across the distance, the atomic ray slammed into the spinning buzzsaw. Sparks of nuclear fire spitted across the neighbouring structures as the beam fought to overcome Ultraman’s deadly construct, but the Ultra Slash managed to hold out, keeping Godzilla’s stream of death at bay. As the searing energies chipped away, the disc began to slowly crack. Godzilla’s ray eventually overcame the spinning cutter as it shattered, consuming its remains as it lashed towards the unguarded Ultraman. The noble warrior raised his arms in a cross, taking the full force of the atomic ray through them, and was pushed back, yelping loudly as the harsh heat penetrated his thick hide. As he tore through the roads, he focused his strength through his arms, imbuing his limbs with his psychokinetic power. Exerting his might, Ultraman swung outwards, ripping apart the nuclear beam instantly. Atomic fireballs rained down around and upon the buildings of Tokyo, erupting into towering columns of flame as Godzilla stepped away, awestruck. Against a wall of fire, Ultraman stood tall and triumphant, casting an imposing image onto the dinosaurian giant’s gaze. Godzilla drank in the sight, considering if, for the first time in years, he had poorly accessed his opponent.

    For Ultraman, time was of the essence. He sprinted towards the stunned Godzilla, taking advantage of every second the reptilian titan gave him. Godzilla snapped from his stupor, plates flickering and azure power firing at his humanoid adversary. With quick motions and quicker reflexes, Ultraman generated a fourth cutting disk. He held it out before him as he ran, aligning the flat edge of the saw with the incoming nuclear surge. It exploded against the makeshift shield, launching streams of sapphire heat to the sides of Ultraman. Trails of ravaging flame sparked up as the M78 veteran charged on, pushing back Godzilla’s continuous stream. No matter the strength put into his primary weapon, the irradiated reptile could do nothing to stop Ultraman from advancing. As the distance between Earth’s champions closed to metres, he shut off the atomic ray, preparing for close-quarters combat.

    It was a mistake.

    Ultraman’s agile reflexes allowed him to lash out before Godzilla’s claws could touch him. Aligning the side of the saw construct against his palm, he swung down through the dinosaur’s chest. The thunderous howls of pain from the king of titans choked the air as the whirling disk tore through organs and bones with minimal resistance. Blood sprayed from the gaping gash, increasing the crimson portions of Ultraman’s figure. He swung again, carving another laceration into Godzilla’s impenetrable scales. Harvesting as much focus he could muster, Godzilla lashed out. Claws hardened and sharpened by decades of combat lunged at thin air, unable to land on Ultraman’s vulnerable shape. Weaving between the monster king’s swiping limbs, Ultraman slashed and stabbed at the leviathan’s vulnerable chest and belly, carving his form up at a rate exceeding his regeneration factor. But despite the bleeding tears that now formed the saurian giant’s front, Godzilla refused to fall or falter. Ultraman reassigned the target of his assault, swinging his jagged disk at the reptile’s throat.

    Godzilla’s jaws snapped down at the oncoming saw, catching the weapon in his dagger-lined grip. Pulling back, he ripped the Ultra Slash from Ultraman’s telekinetic grip. Wild sparks leapt from the sides of Godzilla’s maw as the cutter continued to spin, grinding away at the saurian’s fangs. With a resounding crack, Godzilla’s jaws snapped shut, crushing the disk into glowing fragments. His claws lashed out and wrapped around Ultraman’s throat, hauling the giant from the ground. Fierce orange eyes glared into glowing domes with growing contempt and fury before Ultraman was struck by the reptilian’s other fist, launching him from the titan’s grip. Crashing to the asphalt, a spray of debris and ash covered all but the bright luminance of his eyes and timer from view. As he dragged himself up, Godzilla’s leg swung through the cloud, colliding with Ultraman’s chest to floor the great warrior once more. Godzilla’s amazing bulk pushed through the airborne particles, ash and dust rolling across his form in waves as his foot lashed out again, striking and sending Ultraman rolling with a cry.

    Pain surged through Ultraman’s limbs, affecting the warrior’s ability to recover quickly. As he reached his feet, Godzilla was on him, lashing out with clawed hands imbued with atomic energy. On instinct, Ultraman leapt back to avoid the swinging talons, awkwardly landing back on the earth. Godzilla pushed on his advance, striking out and driving the champion of light back before he could recover his balance. Eventually, the saurian’s augmented claws found their mark as Ultraman dodged at the wrong moment, slashing across the titan’s breast with a shower of sparks. Ultraman fell back, but he arched his body at the last second, planting his hands against the earth and flipping his body upwards. His feet slammed into the base of Godzilla’s jaw, causing the behemoth’s head to snap up with a shriek. As he stood upright once more, Ultraman adopted his fighting stance.

    The M78 being’s senses warned him of danger. Ultraman’s golden eyes kept watch of Godzilla, trying to determine the unseen danger. Then he heard it; the muffled sounds of fear and distress. It was not him who was in danger. Ultraman’s torso spun around so he could see the building filled with trapped civilians, scrambling to remove the rubble blocking their escape and banging on the glass as they called out for the giant of justice to save them. But Ultraman did not have the time. He silently cursed himself for allowing the battle to get out of hand. If he moved now, these people would die, and he would never allow that to happen. As he faced Godzilla, his fists clenched as he sought a way to continue the fight without spilling more innocent blood.

    Godzilla stepped closer, atomic light engulfing his clattering spines as he locked onto his adversary. Ultraman swiftly brought up his arms and placed his right hand atop the edge of the other. The Slash Ray shot forth, blasting Godzilla’s visage with golden, pointed bolts of energy. Smoke obscured the dinosaur’s head as he flailed in pain and roared in anger. Immediately, Ultraman took to the air, flying above the towering buildings and floated over his reptilian rival. Orange, cat-like eyes glared at the warrior, his skin shining in the few rays of sunlight that could penetrate the dark smog over Tokyo. Atomic fire blasted from the destroyer’s maw, targeting Ultraman as the airborne hero accelerated away. He soared over the city, keeping within Godzilla’s deadly range as blue lances of rage were spat towards him. It seemed suicidal, but Ultraman was willing to take the risks to his life to protect the metropolis’ people from the leviathan’s power. His incredible aerial speeds outclassed Godzilla’s swift reactions, preventing his fiery beams from landing their mark as the champion formulated.

    There was no way to face Godzilla hand-to-hand. The titan’s strength was too much for Ultraman to challenge directly with his time limit. His energy attacks were his best option, but Godzilla’s atomic power could counter most of what he could throw at him. As he continued to circle, Ultraman struggled to come up with a solution, but the answer never seemed to materialise in his mind…

    It dawned on the giant of light on what he must do. He instantly turned, ducking under another atomic blast as he rocketed towards Godzilla. The titan screeched in alarm as the warrior closed the distance, energising every fibre of his body to strengthen it as he rammed into Godzilla’s skull. Tons of decades-toughened scales and muscle crashed down as Ultraman impacted, shaking buildings apart in the process. Blood drained from his gashed forehead and pooled around his head as his vision blurred. Ultraman, too, hit the ground, feet carving through the asphalt before coming to a stop. As he turned, Godzilla pushed his bruised bulk up. A fading scar and fresh smears of blood were the only signs of his previous injury as he stood tall and snarled at the warrior. The effects of the cranial impact still lingered, yet the reptile king started his charge, picking up speed despite his skewed balance. Ultraman simply raised his arms, bringing them before his chest in an “X”. Uncertain of his intentions, Godzilla’s nuclear might flared in preparation for use.

    Ultraman’s fists clenched, but nothing seemed to happen. But with Godzilla’s next step, the titan suddenly stumbled as his foot failed to touch the floor. He lurched forwards, starting to fall, but stopped before he could. To Godzilla’s surprise, he was held upright. Surprise turned to confusion as he began to ascend, caught in an invisible force. The monster king cried out in rage as he tried to fight against whatever had him in its grasp, but his efforts were futile. Below, Ultraman’s gaze followed the immobilised saurian as he lifted him higher and higher through his psychokinesis. Godzilla may be able to match him in physical power and energy manipulation, but mental manipulation was an ability far beyond the evolutionary scope of the nuclear menace. Once the saurian had reached the desired altitude, Ultraman extended his arms towards his distant shape. Lasers shot forth from his middle fingers before he moved his arms once more to align them with Godzilla’s head and groin.

    A sharp tingling sensation overcame Godzilla as the lasers created a crackling barrier across the surface of his form. He thrashed around to try and halt its formation, to no avail. As he began to gather energy for a nuclear pulse, the dinosaurian titan froze. Godzilla’s eyes looked in every direction as the feeling suddenly disappeared from his body, leaving him paralysed miles above Tokyo. With the menace contained, Ultraman unleashed his assault without restraint. Glowing buzzsaws flew from his hands one after the other, locking onto and slashing the motionless titan, spilling floods of his radioactive blood onto the districts far below. Intense agony surged through every part of Godzilla’s form, but the king of titans couldn’t even scream or twitch in his current state. Though his regenerative abilities were impressive, his body was not able to keep up with the rapid damage and loss of blood. As he continued to be torn apart, his vision began to blur and fade from the immense loss of bodily fluids, his life slowly slipping away. For the first time, Godzilla acted out of desperation, his fading consciousness trying to cling on. Despite his efforts, his vision slipped into darkness, his mind fading away as his heart beat slower and slower…

    Somewhere in the city, an infant’s cries rang out. Godzilla’s eyes snapped open as his sensitive ears picked up the sound. In the recesses of his consciousness, a primeval instinct was reawakened by the noise. An irresistible instinct to protect and nurture offspring.

    An instinct Godzilla had failed.

    Anguish and rage overcame the bloodied king as the memories came forth of a situation similar to now, where Godzilla was weakened and helpless against a foe superior to him. Because of his impotence, a life dear to him was lost, unable to be replaced by the human’s actions. It was this event that taught Godzilla to never again be weak. To never submit to any other despite the great odds against him. To never allow this event to repeat itself.

    Burning emotions fuelled the nuclear giant’s atomic lust, the excess energy crackling across his scutes as they glowed bright and hot. The great power of his atomic energy forced his jaws open, spewing the spiral atomic ray at an unguarded Ultraman. The blast slammed into the interstellar warrior, detonating against his shining form with force greater than the bombs that had created Godzilla. Booming explosions drowned out Ultraman’s cries as he was thrown back, bouncing along the burning cityscape and rolling to a stop. With his concentration broken, the psychic prison restraining Godzilla flickered away, allowing gravity to re-establish its grip on the monster king and pull him to the ground. A featureless office building was the only cushion for the titan’s landing, crumbling like ash as Godzilla crashed down atop the structure feet-first. His soles smashed into the pavement with a loud and sharp crack, gaining a roar filled with agony from the reptile before he toppled over.

    A creature with Godzilla’s stature could never land on its feet from such a height without consequences. The ruler of the atomic age gathered his wits and pulled himself onto his feet. With his body weight channelled on both legs, Godzilla hissed as his right knee pulsed with pain. The landing had basically fractured the patella into pieces, sharpened fragments of the bone jutting from the flesh. A complex injury like this could not be quickly repaired even with Godzilla’s outstanding healing factor. Regardless of the injury, Godzilla hobbled on, set on ending this conflict.

    There were few times in Godzilla’s life when he had come so close to embracing death. The atomic dinosaur had always assumed he would be invincible, but the few and far moments where that façade was shattered… terrified him. The concept that there was something greater than him, something that could remove from his position at the top of the food chain brought genuine fear to Godzilla’s soul. In the past, he had used that fear to motivate him in his battles, to keep him from submitting and giving up. To keep on fighting for what he cared for. But now, with nothing for him to protect, how would this fear influence the king of monsters?

    Groggily, Ultraman made it to his feet. His head rang and his vision was blurred, but with lives still needing his aid, he could not afford to rest. Not far away, the wounded Godzilla limped towards him on a broken knee. It honestly surprised him how tenacious the atomic menace was. Other kaiju in the past had the common sense to abandon their fight against him when the odds did not favour them, yet Godzilla was dead set on continuing. Why? Was it pride? Sheer malice? Just determination to see this fight finished? Perhaps he would never know, but this battle had to be stopped before further escalation. A churning blade of light was hurled at the mutilated Godzilla, cutting into the side of his throat and only barely penetrating the toughened flesh. The irradiated titan flinched, gritting his fangs as blood drizzled from the wound, before opening his maw and spitting another empowered atomic blast. Rolling to the side, Ultraman avoided the deadly stream as it detonated against buildings in the distance, transforming them into a raging fireball. In the process of dodging, Ultraman caught sight of an interesting detail. As Godzilla fired, flickers of energy sparked from the gash in his neck, seeming to cause the dinosaurian giant pain in the process. If that wound could be worsened, it could perhaps turn the monster king’s own weapon against him.

    As his feet touched the ground and the atomic beam died away, the gleaming warrior sprinted towards Godzilla. Another Ultra Slash materialised in his palm, spinning rapidly but not released. Godzilla had already turned to face his charging rival, his eyes locked onto their form as his deadly power rose. The atomic light shining from his throat began to lessen as the wound began to seal shut, which Ultraman could not allow. As the next atomic ray fired, he narrowly managed to duck under the blast while keeping his momentum. As he dove past Godzilla, the hand holding his Ultra Slash lashed at the nuclear reptile, carving into the closing injury and tearing it open. Blazing blue energies burst from the wound, spitting onto Ultraman and coursing pain through Godzilla’s body. Flipping himself upright, Ultraman hurled his bloodied disc at the fiend’s wound, carving it open further and allowing more energy to be directed and spewed out of this new exit point. Intense agony consumed the monster king, only ceasing when the atomic ray stopped firing.

    As the sapphire flames decreased, the wound started to seal shut once more. Burning with anger, Godzilla limped around to face Ultraman. His scutes illuminated, knowing that the wound would have healed enough by the time he could fire. Ultraman was out of time, but knew he had to stop that injury from healing if he were to put a stop to this. His hands crossed, firing the Specium Ray at Godzilla’s throat. As the king’s maw opened, the beam struck, bursting into a cloud of flame and gore and splitting open the flesh as the spiral atomic ray fired.

    Godzilla screamed as his deathly ray exploded from the hole in his neck, shooting harmlessly into the sky as the extreme heat and force further tore apart the radioactive titan’s throat. Panic and fear overwhelmed his primordial instincts, fuelling his energy stores and keeping the beam firing. Fire-hot agony engulfed every fibre of his body. All other thoughts were replaced with the desire to stop this hellish pain as it consumed the king of monsters, sending him crashing to the ground spines first as his meaty thighs burned with torment. His ivory-white scutes disappeared into the earth, hammered in by the prehistoric giant’s titanic weight and pinning him down as the nuclear energies mercifully died down.

    The scaled fighter’s relief was short-lived. Bursts of bluish-white energy exploded against his body, aggravating unhealed wounds and opening up new ones. From crossed hands, Ultraman fired shot after shot of his Specium Ray, taking advantage of Godzilla’s position and mental state. Bursts of fire, sparks and blood erupted from wherever the beams struck, taking the monster of monsters apart piece by piece. The scent of burning meat filled Godzilla’s nostrils, but the leviathan could not even gag while he screeched through the blood filling his throat. Although his vocal cords were not in any state to produce sound, for the first time in his history, Godzilla gurgled out a cry for mercy.

    Ultraman continued to fire, his bulbous eyes unable to betray whatever feelings he held at this moment. Godzilla’s body was hidden by eruptions of smoke and fire, but the titan’s pitiful cries confirmed that his work was not done. He kept on firing.

    And firing.

    And firing.

    And firing.

    At last, the barrage ceased. The city was almost quiet, silence only prevented by the crackling of flames and the wheezing breaths of Godzilla. Ultraman marched closer, unsure to anticipate as the smog covered his enemy flowed away.

    Godzilla was a shell of his former self. Exposed tissues and blooded bone were visible over every part of his form. His lungs struggled to bring air to his bloodstream in their fragile state through his torn throat, and his closed eyelids signalled his departure from consciousness. It was so strange to see such a powerful and respected creature like him, reduced to this ravaged state. For Ultraman, it was the only chance to put an end to the world’s greatest menace. His hand raised towards the sky with a flash in his palm, transforming into an Ultra Slash. The champion of justice held his weapon high, preparing to bring it down on the nuclear menace’s neck. To end this cycle of destruction. To put an end to Earth’s greatest nightmare once and for all.

    So why did he hesitate?

    In his heart, Ultraman already knew the answer. King Ghidorah. Hedorah. Mechagodzilla. SpaceGodzilla. Destoroyah. Orga. Monster X. Ultraman was familiar with the threats that had plagued the Earth in his absence, and centuries of wisdom had given him the foresight to know that against creatures of such calibre, he would not have stood a chance. Earth had had many protectors outside of the Space Garrison’s members, and Godzilla was still one of the most complex. Through his entire history, he had gone back and forth between destroyer and defender, never sticking to one allegiance. But perhaps he had never strayed from his original goal in the first place. Godzilla was a by-product of war, but underneath those decades of agony and rage was the mind and body of a prehistoric animal, compelled by genetic urges to protect what belonged to it.

    Millions of years ago, Godzilla ruled the lands of Japan. When he was reborn in the twentieth century, his territory expanded to the entire planet. And ever since, he had continued to defend what belonged to him, which included humanity by extension. Yes, Godzilla was far from a benevolent ruler, but somewhere inside him was a spark of compassion that had led the king of monsters to actively protect mankind despites their attempts to destroy him. There was a conscience inside the nuclear menace, but at the beginning of the twenty-first century, that benevolent spark had faded as Godzilla cut all ties to humanity and retreated among his monster ilk. No one was sure of the reasons why he had abandoned them, but Ultraman, whose memory was longer than that of any human, could recall one event that would have destroyed Godzilla’s ties with Man…

    Regardless of his allegiance, Godzilla was a requirement for the continued survival of the planet. Even if he and humanity remained enemies, the Earth, his territory, would continue to be under his protection. Yet after witnessing his might and anger first-hand, Ultraman was uncertain if he could allow Godzilla to live on. If he ended his life here, millions of lives would be avenged and countless more saved. But could the planet survive with the absence of the king of the monsters? For Ultraman, there was little time to dwell on the future consequences of his choice. He glanced around the wreckage of Tokyo, reminiscing on his past experiences defending its people. Now he let it become this ravaged husk of itself. If Godzilla lived, he knew this would happen again. And the love and compassion in his heart could not let that occur.

    Earth could survive without Godzilla. He’d take that chance.

    In that time hesitating, Godzilla had slowly regained his senses. He knew he should be dead at this point, but the fact he was not confounded the ancient fighter. Perhaps Ultraman’s sense of right simply couldn’t deliver the finishing blow. In his position, Godzilla would not have given pause. Was it mercy? With all his deeds across the decades, Godzilla wasn’t sure if he deserved it.

    The monster king had committed many acts in his lifetime. Actions that had both instigated and halted the conflict between kaiju and humans. He regretted none of them. He was a combatant at heart. A fighter to the very end. He was never the kind to make peace, and he knew it. But all those years ago, he realised that if the conflict between the two species hastened, both would be driven into annihilation. To prevent this, as his life neared its end, he was ready to pass his title down to a successor. But kindness was shown to him on a crucial point, saving him from death and dooming his inheritor.

    Years of emotions bubbled within Godzilla, hastening his regeneration. The tear in his throat patched itself up, as his scutes blinked with radioactive light. As Godzilla’s strength recovered, the rhythm built up speed as uncontrolled emotions fuelled his recovery.

    There could never be peace so long as Godzilla lived. Until the day he died, he would continue to protect his kingdom and subjects. He would not show weakness. And he did not deserve mercy.

    Godzilla’s eyes snapped open, burning alight with a crimson aura. Ultraman flinched in shock, then raised his Ultra Slash. Beneath the dirt, Godzilla’s spines flashed brightly, illuminating the area surrounding him. Instead of neon blue, flaring crimson engulfed his back alongside crackling bolts. As the Ultra Slash was hurled down, his jaws parted, firing his rage and hate and pain as a surging, red nuclear blast. It swallowed the buzzsaw whole, atomising the weaker projectile in a second, and smashed into Ultraman’s chest with a breath-taking explosion. The alien giant screamed as the blast threw him back, slamming into the pavement. As he fell, Godzilla began to stand. His recovered knee assisted in his recovery to his feet, but he was a shell of his full might. Even with the enhanced speed of his regeneration, his body still bore the ravages of Ultraman’s assault.

    As he struggled up, Ultraman was hit by another spiral fire ray and launched away again. Pain filled his body as the Ultra warrior tried to recover. He groaned as smoke wafted from his scorched chest, but he still retained the strength to stand again. Godzilla’s spines flashed, melting nearby windows and scorching plant life as he fired again. Acting on instinct, Ultraman quickly erected an Ultra Barrier, catching the blazing ray. Unlike the spiral atomic ray, the crimson stream was not reflected and surged against the wall of energy. It did not take much effort to shatter the barrier, assaulting Ultraman’s body with its searing power for a third time.

    He fell to a knee, chest heaving in exhaustion. A familiar ringing graced Godzilla’s ears as the hero’s Colour Timer started to blink once more. It would be suicide to continue this further, yet he stood up, filled with determination. The end had to come soon for one of them as both fighters’ stamina began to drain.

    A familiar sense overcame Ultraman. He stilled, filled with dread as he hoped what he’d detected was wrong. But it was not. Behind him, a crowd of refugees cowered from the two titans, unable to escape. Out of the corner of his eye, Ultraman caught a recognisable crimson flare. Godzilla’s next attack could not be stopped or diverted. If he tried to block it, his death was certain. But if he dodged it… These innocents would die.

    Turning back around, Ultraman spread his arms, exposing his chest to the monster king. Though briefly surprised, he refused to hesitate like the warrior had, and spewed his spiral fire ray forth with nothing to stop it. Thousands of eyes watched as the enhanced beam struck Ultraman square in the chest. Its flaming energies blossomed over his shape, consuming his Colour Timer. Ultraman’s agonised screams filled Tokyo for the beam’s duration, and abruptly ended almost exactly as it did.

    Ultraman tilted back-and-worth, struggling to hang on as his domed eyes flicked. The direct shot to his Colour Timer had sealed his fate, though. He toppled back, crashing atop the asphalt. The light faded from his eyes, swallowed by darkness.

    The Warrior of Light had fallen.

    Silence nearly overtook the desolated city, interrupted only by the whistling wind as the event sunk into the consciousness of its observers. Godzilla’s thundering footfalls cut through the tension as he walked over to his adversary, each step straining his unrecovered body. His eyes wandered over Ultraman’s lifeless form to analyse his condition. Although the warrior’s eyes were dulled, the gem on his chest continued to flash. It would be so easy to crush the organ, to just raise a foot and stamp out the last of Ultraman’s light. A lesser, more malicious monster would have done so with hesitation. Godzilla, a monster with decades of memories, did not make the call.

    In a life that barely seemed like his own anymore, Godzilla had encountered other humanoid warriors. Like Ultraman, Jet Jaguar and Zone Fighter dedicated their lives to the protection of humanity. This fact alone should have made them his enemies. Instead, they became his strongest allies. Although they had never understood each other’s motives, there was respect and honour between the duo and the monsters that allowed them to fight and train at each other’s’ side.

    The battle against Ultraman had brought back memories of this better age; a time before Godzilla was consumed by anger. The Godzilla of that age seemed long dead, buried under the dark memories of his later years. Yet time and again, that side has resurfaced, where Godzilla had shown pity to a beaten enemy or lesser kaiju. Standing over Ultraman, seeing the giant in this weakened state, changed something inside the ancient ruler. Perhaps these memories ignited a spark of compassion within him. It could have been the respect he had for the mighty warrior. Or maybe he was just exhausted from the fighting, both here and across the years. Whatever his reasons, Godzilla chose to spare Ultraman’s fading life, hoping that he might recover from this battle and they would fight another day. Where the champion of light might finish the job he had started.

    Godzilla turned away and started towards the ocean. Every action shot pain through his form, but his immense willpower kept him moving. Once he was under the waves, he would allow himself to rest and properly recover. As he trudged across the acres of blackened concrete, a droning sound flooded the sky. Godzilla halted, head tilting and craning to locate the cause as the volume of the noise increased. Black smoke and fire suddenly blossomed from his back as small projectiles rained across its length. The titan stumbled and groaned as jet fighters soared overhead, dropping more bombs upon the wounded king. Across the ravaged landscape, military vehicles of many classes trundled through the ruins as they surrounded Godzilla. At last, the Japanese militia had returned from whatever task had delayed them to take on their country’s ultimate enemy once more. From the mass-produced Type 74 and Type 90 Tanks and the advanced MBT-92 and Type 90 Maser Beam Tanks, to the less common M24 Chaffee Tanks and Hyper Laser Cannons, every operational weapon targeted Godzilla’s weak shape, launching flesh far and wide with every impact. The leviathan stumbled under the barrage as he scanned the closing circle of firepower. Sapphire light flashed across his spines, but there was nothing the militia could do as the atomic power engulfed them. One wave of his attackers went up in flames, but the rest intensified their assault. These men knew of the risks when choosing this mission, but for the protection of their country and loved ones, they would give their lives and more.

    Never had the king of monsters understood this suicidal strategy. These scenario had repeated over and over in the sixty-plus years of his rebirth. What was gained from the deaths of these un-noteworthy humans? What was the point of giving up life if it could not protect what it was given for? Godzilla knew what true sacrifice was, but had been denied the chance to save what mattered to him.

    Far away, a crowd slowly gathered. People of all generations collected around the motionless Ultraman in mourning. For the majority, this was their first close-up experience with one of the giants that walked their world. To stand so close that you could reach out and touch the flesh of a legend. This was not how they had wished to do so.

    The Tokyo community had grown up around the history of Ultraman and his brethren. Many of the adults here had been children during the warrior’s first assignment on Earth, and passed on their experiences to their own children and grandchildren. If Godzilla was the shadow of Japan, then Ultraman was the light that drove it out. For every beast and invader that ravaged the country, there had been heroes like him to thwart the schemes of another. Now that light has gone, and so too, did the spirit of the people begin to fade.

    One parent held his son in his arms, comforting him even as tears trickled down his own cheeks. Whilst this scene played out, beams of sunlight leaked through gaps in the barrier of smog that choked the blue sky. Light flashed in the young boy’s face, causing him to squirm and moan as it blinded him. His father repositioned him out of the beam and checked him over before searching for the source, spotting the partly buried car reflecting the sunlight. The man covered his eyes as the light crossed his own face, hissing as he looked away from the annoying phenomenon.

    Something clicked in the man’s thoughts. He looked back at the car window as a memory from the past came back into focus. Light… it was the source of the Ultramen’s power. While starlight was their main resource, other types of natural and artificial light could recharge their strength. The man turned back to Ultraman, checking that his Colour Timer still flashed. There was a chance.

    He scrambled through the crowd, holding his child close while he pushed through to the wreckage. As he broke free, members of the crowd watched in curiosity as he placed his son down and dug away at the rubble with his bare hands. When the side had been cleared, the father called out for assistance as he tried to pry the damaged door open. People stared and murmured, unable to understand what he was attempting. Gradually, some began to catch on as memories similar to the father’s came to light. They joined the man and pulled at the door, while others smashed at its hinges with bricks and scrap metals. At last, it came away, and the group acted quickly to angle the reflective surface towards Ultraman. Sunlight was focused on his flashing beacon, but it was not enough. They needed more.

    Parties of people split off, seeking out glass and metal from the ruins and cleaning it to their best standard. As they positioned their crude mirrors, others scavenged lamps and torches from the untouched structures. Several vehicles pulled up, all in various states of disrepair, but still functioning. Their headlights flickered on at full beam, illuminating Ultraman’s body amidst the dull atmosphere. The crowd continued to grow, shedding more and more light and engulfing the hero’s body. No words were spoken as the people prayed in silence. This was not the first time in history that humans had saved an Ultraman, and surely would not be the last. His mission was not over. The people needed him to fight once again.

    Alone, a single man cannot hope to accomplish much. But united, humanity could achieve the impossible. Together, they could keep hope alive and fulfil their dreams. Their faith was something no monster could ever destroy. It was why Godzilla would never crush them. Now they placed their faith unto another.

    And hoped.

    Another lance of azure swept across the landscape, annihilating more of the militia and toppling buildings both ravaged and intact. The platoons spread out to avoid presenting larger targets before firing once more, striking at the tyrant’s exposed wounds. Godzilla groaned under the intense agony, retaliating with more nuclear fire. He could not keep this up for much longer. His radiation stores were greatly depleted from his battle and draining rapidly to fuel his regeneration. His body was slowly failing him.

    He was so tired from all the fighting, here and over the years. He had reached the end of his prime decades ago, and now he was far past it. Though he hid it well, Godzilla was no longer the monster he once was. His near-critical meltdown years back was meant to be the end of his era, the battle against Destoroyah the final tale in his legacy. As that century neared its end, he was ready to pass on his title. But in a miraculous twist, Godzilla’s meltdown had been prevented and his condition stabilised. Mankind had saved his life, but at the cost of another. They’d been foolish to save him, when he would only continue the war that had raged for a half-century. He was no longer meant for peace, and his former allies had prevented it from forming when they made the ultimate error. When they sacrificed the life of his son.

    Abruptly, the bombardment ceased. The platoon pulled back from their assault, leaving Godzilla perplexed. The weary dinosaur looked across his opposition as he tried to understand the situation. From behind, the sound of shifting debris caught his attention and made Godzilla’s eyes widen. That was not possible. But as he turned to face the cause of the noise, the monster king was forced to accept the reality before him in disbelief. Ultraman stood groggily from the rubble, bruised and aching, but alive. His Colour Timer remained blinking, but a second wind seemed to have engulfed the defender of peace. The crowds around him quickly scattered to safety, having learned to stay clear of the carnage. The two giants glared at each other from across city blocks, each holding the will to succeed. Their forms were broken and their power was sapped, but one last struggle would see an end to this conflict. A definitive answer to the half-century question.

    Crimson energy consumed Godzilla’s spines, flowing through his veins and illuminating the ravaged portions of his body. Steam radiated from the scorching patches to complete the pseudo-burning look. Opposite, Ultraman’s celestial power washed over his body as a blue aura, seeping across his torso and channelling into his arms. He crotched low, swinging his arms out as they shone brilliantly with intense Specium might.

    Surging emotions fuelled both combatants, improving their destructive power. For Godzilla, his thoughts were an odd mixture of joy and hate in what may be his final battle. Even if he won this bout, there was a chance that his wounds were severe enough to end his legacy. If that was the case, Godzilla was contempt with this worthy end.

    Ultraman’s thoughts were the opposite of sacrifice. He’d already given his life, and now saw the error in his judgement. If he fell again, if Godzilla succeeded, the country would be unprotected from his wrath. The people who had risked their lives to save his would be the targets of his wrath. Bound to the Ultra Code, Ultraman would not allow their destruction. This planet was young in comparison to the other populations in the universe. Their full potential had yet to be reached, the human race’s place undiscovered. If this, too, was Ultraman’s last fight, he would make sure that his light shone brighter than ever to ensure that the people could see the future that may await them in time.

    To remind them that they, too, could be Ultraman.

    At last, they fired. Godzilla’s jaws unleashed his spiral heat ray at maximum power, scorching the elements surrounding its path. Ultraman’s wrists crossed, diverting his energy to his right hand and unleashed a super-powered Specium stream. The shockwave of the blast tore apart the landscape and toppled buildings as it raced as fast as light. When they clashed, a miniature sun was generated between them. Waves and bolts of both energies shot in all directions from the sphere, further ravaging the landscape as structures nearly crushed evacuees and military weapons were vaporised in a second. Despite the growing carnage, Ultraman and Godzilla continued their struggle of beams. Every drop of power at their call was funnelled into their duelling streams, increasing the intensity with every second that passed. Even the very ground was ripped up and scattered by the tremendous shockwaves produced.

    At first glance, there appeared to be no victor. Both rays seemed equally matched in their clash, with the luminous sphere caught between them obscuring any struggle that may be taking place. Then the ball began to shrink. The sphere’s glow diminished as the equal energy output that fuelled it lessened. As the radiance cleared, Godzilla’s eyes widened in shock and disbelief.

    The spiral fire ray was pushed back!

    The scaled giant forced everything he had into his attack, fighting off the Specium Ray’s advance with what he could muster. Opposite, Ultraman did the same, his heels burying into the tarmac as he strained himself to keep the beam flowing. In this clash, there was a key difference. Godzilla only sought to save the life of himself and gain one last conquest. For Ultraman, victory held a different meaning than the destruction of his nemesis. It was not only his life he sought to protect, but the lives of every being in Tokyo. For decades, their city and country had been plagued by this tyrant, and now Ultraman had brought the weapon that could defeat the king of monsters. The one thing he once brought that the human race desperately needed.

    Hope.

    The struggle was for nought. Despite his efforts, Godzilla’s fiery ray was engulfed by Ultraman’s superior attack. Crackling atomic energies were replaced by rushing particles of Specium, striking the titan’s sternum. Not even a roar could be made before Godzilla was overtaken by flames and ash. A colossal fireball erupted from his position, overtaking the area where he once stood. Smaller explosions burst like fireworks, sparkling the cityscape with flickering embers. Like that, it was over.

    With all his strength drained, Ultraman collapsed. Falling to a knee, his chest heaved with exertion and the toll of the conflict. His body ached with an intensity he had not experienced in hundreds of years. And yet, he was not sure if it was worth it. Godzilla had been essential in the planet’s survival in his kind’s absence. With his life extinguished, what new problems would plague the Earth? Other monsters would arise to lay claim to Godzilla’s throne, destroying the world in their territorial disputes. Even in death, Godzilla brought disruption to Man’s society. Could Ultraman take the challenge to control the coming chaos? It did not seem within his power, but the task had to be taken by someone.

    The ground shuddered, dispelling the future possibility of a monster war. Ultraman’s head craned up, not believing the event happening before his eyes. From the smoke and fire, a bloodied and scarred king emerged. Despite the insane odds against him, Godzilla lived by a thread. His form was barely above a walking skeleton, covered by patches of flesh and tissues. Half of the reptilian’s face was burnt down to the bone, the empty socket staring blankly forwards. Even Godzilla was unsure how he still breathed. Little by little, his mass regrew at a snail’s pace, but he, too, was no longer in the condition to fight. He stopped before Ultraman, meeting the star warrior’s gaze as the wind whistled and howled. Neither moved or made a sound. They simply stared.

    Both had been pushed to their limits by this encounter. Not in decades had either experienced such an intense battle. Time would be the judge of whether they would ever fully recover. But they both lived despite the odds. Sheer will alone was not enough to overcome the damage inflicted to them. The only answer to their shared survival was a link to a higher power. Perhaps fate itself would not permit the deaths of these mighty defenders, but why? For what purpose did the hands of destiny need Godzilla and Ultraman for?

    There was a reason why Ultraman and Godzilla had co-existed for so long in the same environment. Like dolphins and sharks, they shared their territory by targeting enemies designed to suit their strengths. The foes of Godzilla were powerhouses, requiring extended combat to be effectively neutralised, while Ultraman’s enemies, though in a similar calibre, were more chaotic and simple, making their defeats much simpler and faster. The two possessed far different fighting styles that lapped over in areas, but should they swap their target groups, their chances of victory would be reduced. And yet every year, stranger and deadlier kaiju revealed themselves to the world in terrible fashion and increasing number. Eventually, some greater evil would emerge that would require both of Earth’s champions to put aside their rivalry and combine their might for the planet’s ultimate good. Godzilla and Ultraman, as strange as it seemed and sounded, were never meant to be enemies, but the characteristics that defined them had driven them into conflict.

    Now, standing in the aftermath of their duel, the two giants now seemed to understand the driving force that defined them. A king driven by pride and grief, unable to move on from the past and turned into a servant of mindless vengeance, and an alien more human than anyone had believed, who gave his light to protect the dream of a hopeful future. How could two so opposite work together? Only the sands of time would reveal that truth.

    But one detail ignited the start of this potential alliance. Godzilla had seen first-hand the lengths Ultraman had gone to protect the people, who had returned that heroism in kind. That event was sparked old memories from the time when he was a protector. A violent agent of justice convinced of the benefits of an alliance with humanity. In that era, he had found happiness, even if his coalition with Man was strained and blurred. For decades, he had assumed those traits of positivity were long lost. But something gained is no so easily discarded. Yet now, the embers of the Showa age warrior flickered once more. In time, that hero could re-emerge and bring back the hope he’d once delivered.

    In some sense, he could understand the human’s decision to save his life over Junior’s. It was more than returning his times of service. It was a call back to arms. The current era was far from one of peace, his son unprepared to take the responsibilities of king. Humanity needed an experienced warrior to bring about the end of the war between Man and monster. To make a perfect future for the offspring of both sides.

    Darker forces loomed on the near horizon. Godzilla had seen and experienced Ultraman’s power and honour intimately. When the hour dawned, he would fight at the warrior’s side. It was up for the hero of light to return that invitation.

    Godzilla turned, heading back to the distant coastline. With his newly healed eyes, he glanced over the destruction wrought by their hands. For the first moment in a long time, he felt an ounce of remorse for his actions. It was not a complete shed of his hate for humanity, but it was a start. With confused feelings, Ultraman stood up and watched the retreating leviathan. When Godzilla turned his head and growled at the giant, he understood the parting of ways. They’d fight again, perhaps on better terms and not here, but a second chance to end this rivalry would come. Somehow, Ultraman anticipated their rematch.

    “Shuwatch!”

    Ultraman leapt up, soaring into the grey heavens as Godzilla sank beneath the polluted waves. Across the metropolis, people spoke to each other in many tones, high and low, about what had transpired. Many could not have expected this outcome, but all were uncertain about what the future would bring.

    What events would transpire on a world where atomic mutants and celestial warriors could find peace?

    Draw: Godzilla (Heisei), Ultraman

    K.W.C. Kaiju War Chronicles

    K.W.C. // July 10, 2021
  • Author: Brendan Sheehan | Banner: Landon Soto

    Odo Island was in chaos.

    After years of utter silence, their dreaded god, Godzilla, had returned. As the haunting sound of the bell echoed, the villagers stamped toward the shelters on the beach. In the chaos, a young man tried to help his grandfather run, holding him by one arm while telling him to move as fast as he could. He was so concerned with escaping, he missed where he was going, crashing to the ground. He pulled himself up, as his grandfather now took his chance to beg him to move, blinking sweat and dirt out of his eyes.

    Anything further was stopped when a metallic, hellish wail broke the air. The two men looked up to the hill that overlooked their village. There, the demon stood. It was almost a one-to-one replica of the creature that the boy had seen plastered in all the history books, perhaps only slightly slimmer. The kaiju turned its beady eyes down, almost as if it was looking directly at them, as it let out another howl. The boy hugged his grandfather and closed his eyes, waiting for his demise.

    The seconds seemed like hours as he waited still. Eventually, after such a large amount of time, he dared a glance. Godzilla stood immobile, his head now intensely focused on the sky. The boy followed the beast’s gaze, soon finding the entire crowd focused upon the sky above the village center.

    Floating in the sky was a metallic cylinder. It hung in the sky, almost as if it was examining the species before it. The boy turned to his grandfather, hoping for him to give an explanation, but the old man simply shook his head and gestured for them to keep moving. They hobbled over, going with some of the crowd, though most just stood, hypnotized by the mysterious object. The boy looked at those he knew, terrified to think what lay beyond that cold chrome exterior.

    On the inside of the ship, minds pulsed. They had found him. After all these years, Godzilla was once again in their grasp. Now, they would be complete. The ship opened up and a blinding light shot out. A gooey mass formed. Slowly, it stretched and molded, becoming a new form. The spell broke and the crowd began to run, screaming once more. The creature that eventually formed was hideous, a bizarre amalgamation. Leathery skin covered its body, misshapen like a child’s unfinished clay figure. Massive hands ending in long fingers stretched themselves out and twitched in anticipation. Stumpy legs trepidatiously firmly stood themselves on the earth. Finally, a head like a distorted viper looked up, amber eyes glinting and its mouth shaping itself into an evil grin. Orga, the ancient alien, slammed his fists into the ground and roared at his long sought desire.

    Orga did not wait for Godzilla to move. He charged forward, crushing huts and people underfoot. The ache to acquire the genome, to become whole, was the only thing that ran through his desperate mind. Godzilla screeched at Orga and shot at the beast with a blast of yellow fire. Orga leaped over the fire, soaring above Godzilla’s head, before slamming himself down onto the saurian, his fists smashing down on the creature’s head.

    The dazed Godzilla crumpled to the ground, so thoroughly discombobulated one could almost imagine the stars over his head. Orga lunged forward, his jaws ready to bite Godzilla, to take his very essence. Godzilla’s focus suddenly returned lightning fast, shooting up and smacking the leathery behemoth aside with a well-aimed elbow, knocking his foe into the cliff. Orga screeched and thrashed, wedged into the cliff. As Godzilla climbed to his feet he roared at Orga, rage contorting his features, but the alien merely sneered and crouched as Godzilla charged. The cretin believed he had him trapped. He was wrong.

    In a flash, the hole in Orga’s shoulder exploded with an explosion of plasma, slamming into Godzilla. The monster king squealed as he was sent flying across the village. Buildings turned into toothpicks as his tail and feet obliterated them. Finally, the king crashed motionless in the waves at the village’s end. The tables turned, Orga leapt once more and pinned Godzilla down by the chest with one hand. His claws tore through the monster’s skin with incredible ease. What remained of the Millennians in Orga’s savage mind noted this with curiosity. Godzilla had noticeably thick skin, and it should not have been penetrated with such simplicity. Their interest was drowned by Orga’s hunger for completion. He lunged forward, clamping his jaws onto Godzilla’s arm.

    Orga had expected many things. Blood, flesh, DNA, the sudden burning knowledge of true power, the feeling of wholeness, and the feeling of becoming the zenith of life. None of those came. Instead, his jaws clamped down on metal that dented under his jaws. Orga let go and looked closer at his pinned foe. The torn skin at Godzilla’s chest was not bleeding, but glittering, hints of a carefully constructed chest plate. And now that it had the beast pinned, Orga could see a cold, artificial light glowing behind “Godzilla’s” eyes. A primeval snarl came out of Orga’s mouth. Its mind could only come to one conclusion.

    He removed his hand and slashed the rubber off, revealing the sculpted skull of an android monster. Mechagodzilla shrieked and blasted Orga off of him with a blinding rainbow beam from its ocular devices. Smoke sizzled off alien flesh yet Orga arose with little care for the minor wound for he was steaming from the revelation both physically and mentally. This was not Godzilla. This was simply a metal construct, covered in a Godzilla-like false skin. Pure rage began to take hold. After all these years sleeping and the countless more searching, THIS was the result of their search?!? Some crude machine disguised as the one thing it needed to achieve perfection, as if someone was playing a cruel joke? Orga roared at the fake Godzilla. His UFO moved to ominously hover behind its owner. This construction had angered them and delayed their quest. It would pay for that!

    Simultaneously, both Orga and its ship blasted the mech with their Destructive Motion Rays. The robot was flung backward further into the sea. Smoke consumed that section of the ocean as it sank to the bottom, but Orga didn’t care. He turned and crawled over the remains of the village, beginning his walk to pastures new. He had hoped the search was over but this was clearly not the case. Now, it had to continue his hunt for Godzilla.

    Suddenly, a searing beam hit Orga. The beast turned around and roared to find a gleaming opponent rising from the surf. Rubber skin clung to its body as joints groaned and lights blinked behind its crimson visors. Mechagodzilla’s shrill screech echoed at its foe as the ultimate weapon stepped out of the ocean to oppose Orga. The millennial hive mind debated their options. They could leave and continue their search. Surely, this beast looked like Godzilla for a reason, meaning their query was still out there. But, a powerful emotional urge took over this rational thought, an emotion they welcomed with open arms.

    Vengeance.

    Their search had been delayed by this mech and now it had offered itself to them. They would enjoy destroying it. Nodding to itself, Orga slammed his fist in the ground, shaking the earth as he bellowed back at Mechagodzilla. He accepted this challenge. With that, the mutant ran forward to attack. He picked up speed in spite of his massive mass, knuckles slamming along as he charged. Mechagodzilla straightened up and with mechanical ease, stretched out its arms. They clicked to the side, and with a single command, an onslaught of missiles launched at the alien beast. Orga ground to a halt, as the missiles hit his hide to the point he was forced to simply crouch, hissing, his massive hand forming a makeshift shield. Fire and shockwaves ripped the environment around the alien asunder, turning flora to ash and sending the remnants flying but in the face of such overwhelming firepower, Orga remained steady, his rage pushing him through. The assault finally stopped after what seemed an eternity, and Orga dropped his hand, his cannon ready to blast Mechagodzilla. But to the creature’s shock, the machine was gone.

    Just as he was beginning to wonder if it had been driven off, from above, Mechagodzilla revealed itself flying above. A concentrated eye lasers split Orga’s skull in half, spilling green ichor across the abomination’s grotesque flesh. Orga screamed through torn vocal cords but only produced what sounded as a cross between gurgling and growling. The metallic imposter strafed over the wounded monster before making another pass with the deadly lasers. With the blast atomizing a chunk of the alien’s leg, the beast’s blind determination could not longer keep it standing. Orga collapsed as his insane regeneration tried desperately to heal the wounds, but it possessed only a fraction of the time it desperately needed. Mechagodzilla landed with a crash nearby, orange triangular eyes peering through the dust it created as the jets in its feet shut off. Not wasting a minute for its enemy to heal, a flap on Mechagodzilla’s chest opened to unleash a torrent of electricity. It danced wildly across the landscape before striking Orga, tearing open healed wounds and opening new ones. Orga howled, curling into a ball in an attempt to protect itself. The unfeeling machine did not care, however, and marched forward as it continued its all-out attack.

    However, this was a mistake.

    Like a massive frog, Orga suddenly launched himself forward. He slammed into Mechagodzilla, nearly toppling the mech. The millennial monster made quick work of his foe’s chest cannon, tearing it to pieces with its fangs. Mechagodzilla roared in simulated agony as its exposed circuitry was torn apart, thrashing in Orga’s grasp.

    The cosmic weapon began to spin its head at intense speeds, creating a force field that sliced straight though Orga’s hands! Shrieking in agonized surprise, Orga shied away like a beat dog. The two glared at each other through the force field as Orga’s hands grew new flesh, creating new bone and nerves in the matter of a minute. Cold, dead gold met primeval amber. If Mechagodzilla had the ability to create facial expressions, it would smirk. True, this brute was strong, but their weaponry was superior. All it needed was to hold out and keep pummeling it and soon, this organism would be no more.

    Almost as if on cue, Orga roared in primal rage and began to slam into the barrier, using his massive hands to try and work around it. Mechagodzilla mocked its foe as it screeched. It could not get through. Soon it would tire and then it would strike. The deadly doppelganger slowly moved its arms forward, its artificial brain already readying for the pleasure of missiles clicking into place and the death rattle that would soon follow.

    Just as the command was to be put in, Mechagodzilla’s mind exploded. He shrieked and thrashed about. What was happening? The shield fell as Mechagodzilla twitched and smoked. Its mind was filled with error messages and codes that it did not understand. By mere happenstance, the machine happened to look up. The Millennian ship hung above him. Realization just barely made it through the breakdown. Orga’s attack had only been a distraction, allowing for the brilliant savage to hack Mechagodzilla’s systems. System messages revealed it, everything was being shut down. Weapons, shields, combat programming, everything. While it still could, Mechagodzilla struck. It blasted the ship with his radiant Space Beams, causing it to fly off in an explosion of sparks. The damage was done though.

    Mechagodzilla turned and looked at Orga, helplessness and fear suddenly introducing itself to his artificial mind. For its part, Orga was stoic. His face betrayed no emotion, only a cold predatory gaze. Without a single roar, hiss or call, Orga began to prowl forward. Mechagodzilla quickly activated its only weapon as the Space Beams returned. Without an aiming system, they flew over the approaching monster’s head. Pure hysteria took over the mind of Mechagodzilla. Beam after beam was shot out, some hitting the smoking ruins of the village, others flying past all together, and a lucky few grazing Orga’s hide. Still, the hybrid kept coming. Mechagodzilla’s mind raced, searching for some solution, ANY solution that would kill Orga, that would let it get past-

    CRUNCH!

    The village’s bell tower was crushed to splinters, as an oblong shape crashed through it. It rolled on the ground before coming to a stop. Blank yellow eyes, with no more illumination shining to give them their menacing life, stared blankly, a jaw left permanently agape. With a single backhand, Orga had decapitated the robotic double of Godzilla, leaving a sparking stump. Orga stopped for a minute, watching the machine twitch. Then, with a deep roar, he lunged forward, jaws clutching the neck. Orga went feral on the mech, pure animal rage met with a calculating mind knowing just the right place to dismantle it. By the time he stopped, the mighty Mechagodzilla was simply scrap on the ground. Orga let out a final howl before he teleported back to his ship in a flash of light. As cathartic as that was, their mission still remained. They must find Godzilla. The ship took off, stuttering and smoking. The Millennians knew they had to start somewhere, and so they began to go through the data they had collected from Mechagodzilla’s brain before it had been destroyed.

    Slowly, the survivors of Odo emerged, awestruck. As the boy looked at his grandfather and tried to describe the godly battle that had just happened, he noticed movement further down on the beach. A group of men were walking up from the shore. They looked Japanese, clad in silver jumpsuits and were arguing among themselves. He ran toward them, assuming they were one of the people he heard came to fight these beasts. He was halfway down the beach when he fell to the ground with a crackle of air. The grandfather broke the silence and screamed as he saw his grandson, laying broken upon the ground. The leader of the group holstered his weapon and then nodded, before his squadron moved forward. By the time they were finished, the entire village had been slaughtered. A lone trooper walked back to the lone figure still on the beach.

    “Commander Mugal.” He gave a curt salute and stood at attention.

    Mugal did not respond at first. His gaze was focused on a piece of the wreckage in his hand; a shattered jagged piece of lens, all that remained of one of Mechagodzilla’s eyes.

    “Commander Mugal?” the soldier gulped. “Sir?”

    The commander finally turned his gaze to his inferior. Despite sunglasses obscuring his stare, the soldier still felt like he was face to face with a full-on death glare.

    “The council wishes to know what your next plan is,” he eventually squeaked out.

    Mugal sniffed and turned back to the beach.

    “Inform the science division that rebuilding efforts will begin immediately. Use the U-KEO 75 prototype so we can increase efficiency.”

    Relived that he and the rest of the troop had escaped another infamous breakdown, he began to make his way back to the ruined village.

    “One thing, Private Uchirados.”

    “Sir?” the Simeon asked.

    “Let me know when we’re done with Mechagodzilla 2,” Mugal chuckled, throwing the fragment back on the ground. “I want to make that thing’s skull into my next desk.”

    Mugal watched the inferior walk off, before giving the sky one final deep gaze. They were so close, but it still wasn’t enough. Still, always next time, as the apes say. For now, there was work to be done.

    Winner: Orga

    K.W.C. Kaiju War Chronicles

    K.W.C. // June 30, 2021
  • Author: Joshua Strittmatter | Banner: Landon Soto

    He dreams of monsters.

    Tiny, numerous, widespread, primitive yet cunningly intelligent, fragile in both mind and body, parasitic, destructive, sadistic, and arrogant. Monsters of miniscule size and pale hairless skin, clothed in strange uniforms, droning mindlessly in mass quantities amidst ever-growing ranges of concrete towers; always swarming out of their hiding places to fire their terrible weapons of war upon him. Pellets of lead and explosive projectiles that mercilessly bombarded his skin, eventually striking his neck and amplifying his already excruciating pain tenfold. Monsters that poisoned and eradicated the once beautiful ecosystems around the world, replacing the tranquility and beauty with their wretched waste. Monsters that drove countless innocent species that spent tens of thousands of years surviving unhindered in their respective ecosystems to extinction in mere centuries if not decades. Monsters that took his old life away, monsters that filled his once serene aquatic homeland with their nuclear trash.

    Monsters that made him the last of his kind… … …then turned him into the first.

    Haunted him all his life they had, these monsters. He had come to land, desperate in his never-ending quest to quench his painful hunger for nuclear energy–to his despair, the very power source for the miniature terrors. And the monsters came swarming out like attacking hornets, and there was little he could do to avoid them in the confusion. No matter how hard he fought back, how hard he punished them for causing him so much agony, they only evolved as rapidly as he. They only gathered their unified strength, came together from all across the world, and continued to bother him. To pester him. To torment him until his once mighty power ran dry and he was toppled like a statue. Fought to the end did he, but it was not enough.

    It was the finality of it all, that they imprisoned him. The last thing his conscious mind captured before plunging into the world of dreams was stiffening skin, a horrible cold that chilled him to the core like nothing had ever in his life, and a last agonized scream that vented from his gaping jaws just mere moments before reality suddenly faded away.

    It all began and ended the same way: with a cry. A final begging for all the pain to at last come to an end, to finally find peace after so much torture besieged him; for the monsters to go away and leave him be, let him go back to just being a simple animal looking for sustenance. But then ice encased his skin. His blood froze literally in time. And he became their prisoner.

    So, he dreamt of monsters. Advanced, yet so primitive. Monsters that seemed to cover the world like ants, destroying all that they touched and replacing it with their unnatural architecture. Over and over again, his mind relayed the same fearful scenarios for what felt like an eternity; all memory of the real world outside his brain suppressed by his deep sleep. The monsters kept evolving, kept multiplying, kept spreading. Through the seas, over the mountains, through the deepest and most sacred forests, around the entire planet itself, far off into space to colonize other planets, and further still. They would never stop spreading, and eventually they would cover the entirety of the cosmos themselves, with nothing to oppose them.

    But sooner or later, you always have to wake up.

    The scenario began to repeat once more in its strange eternity… … …until all of a sudden, the shadows fell. Mild at first, minor stains of blank darkness appearing in different spots of the corners of his mind. Then the stains grew into foggy clouds, and the once slow process began to intensify rapidly. The shadows descended, covering all that existed and seemingly erasing it one by one. Even the monsters were no match for it, and they were all engulfed by the soothing darkness that came falling in like a vaporous blanket. Retreating into the shadows they did, but somewhere deep down he knew that they were biding their time, and sometime in the future they would re-emerge when the shadows let up and would resume haunting him.

    But not now.

    The darkness deleted all, until nothing but blackness remained. And at long last the pain, the fear, the torment all came to a quiet end. No monsters, no destruction, no torment, just a gentle darkness that allowed him a moment of the only thing he ever sought in his life: peace. For a good few…what was it? Seconds? Minutes? Hours? He couldn’t tell. For every moment of it all existed in his mind, and his mind only, and it was soon rendered insignificant when he saw the first light that signaled the end of dormancy, the end of his nightmares. A light at the end of the tunnel. The memories all returned, the awareness snapped instantly into place, and the light slowly began to grow, banishing the darkness ounce by ounce as consciousness started to take hold. It was warm and calming, and he welcomed it gratefully. The darkness had served its purpose, and now it was free to take its leave.

    For the light was the reality–all else was just a dream.

    *****

    Date: October 11th, 2020
    15 minutes prior to reawakening.

    Yasuko Hashimoto sighed nervously as she downed the last of her coffee, the G-Force operator returning to her usual post as she let the effects of the drink begin its purpose of soothing her morning stress. Her eyes glued to the computer screen in front of her as she took a moment to re-evaluate the current circumstances of her job, ensuring that there were no abnormalities to catch her wary eye. Even having ingested such a sizable drink, the coffee did little to calm her nerves as she constantly switched between staring at the main screen before her, to looking at the date in the lower right-hand corner, to keeping track of time in hours, minutes, and seconds.

    Today’s assignment was the same as always: monitoring all activity of the frozen leviathan known to the world as Godzilla.

    Even before the big prediction in the past few months, Yasuko took her job very seriously from the moment she was first assigned to it. Yasuko herself would know on a personal level–four years ago, she had witnessed with paralyzed horror as Godzilla decimated Tokyo in an atomic blaze, killing her parents as well as her sister. It was a heart-shattering blow that she knew thousands more around the country felt just the same, and after Godzilla’s eventual defeat and the subsequent formation of G-Force, she eventually landed herself in a position where she could, even if in the smallest and weakest way possible, determine whether or not such a tragedy would ever befall any more Japanese civilians–or other civilians around the world–ever again.

    A mechanical vibration in her pocket, a faint hum resonating from within. Quickly, delicately, the G-Force operator flipped her phone into her hand to view the recent text. Her once tense frown was replaced by a small smile as she found that the text had originated from the person who just so happened to be her phone’s background picture. A beautiful woman no older than herself; flowing brownish-red hair, brown eyes, smiling for the camera as she held a clearly giggling three-year-old little girl in her arms… … …

    Yasuko closed her eyes as she held the phone close to her, taking a deep breath as the stress began to set in once more. Ever since Godzilla showed his scaly face to the world and brought the country of Japan to its knees, she and her family had lived in fear. While she and all of Japan had breathed a sigh of relief when Operation Yashiori proved successful in besting the nuclear reptile, the fear, however lowered, remained. Not a day passed by since she first took up this job that she didn’t wake up nervous, fearing that any day could be the day that Godzilla wakes up from his drug-induced coma; not a day passed that she didn’t dread the knowledge of how much danger her beloved and their pride and joy would be in if such a day came to fruition.

    Unfortunately, 2020 had proved to be a truly cruel year–a shocking prediction had come through that had given Yasuko and her co-workers terrible anxiety ever since. On May 16th, current Prime Minister Yukiko Takasu released to the public the last information on the planet that Japan–or the world, for that matter–wanted to hear.

    Godzilla wouldn’t be frozen for too much longer; it was hypothesized that by the end of the year, he would reawaken.

    Yasuko knew that the monster wouldn’t be frozen forever, but to now be living in the actual unseen countdown to the inevitable… … …to say it had put the fear of God in her couldn’t sum it up in the least bit. Yasuko and Chinatsu had recently begun talking about moving to Osaka, despite the immense respect and faith the G-Force operator held for her co-workers and their current Prime Minister. The fact that the country’s government was stronger and more competent than the one that had preceded it did nothing to stem the fear she held for the lives of her family–her wife and daughter were the lights of her life, and she would be broken beyond description if she lost them the way she lost her parents and sister.

    Then came July 29th, and in the early morning they were all besieged by a most horrific change.

    A swarm of hideous, Godzilla-like humanoid beasts had been spotted emerging from the dormant monster’s tail, frozen in place like statues as they seemingly reached out to the sky in preparation of their birth. But as teams rolled in to both investigate the new occurrence and evaluate the situation and its possibilities, the humanoids all but disappeared overnight. Gone, never to be seen again. How and when, nobody knew. As scientists and military personnel alike attempted to search for the missing beasts, the question of what they were or what purpose they served continuously lingering in their minds, the world’s leaders became increasingly anxious. It seemed that fate was sending them sign after sign that Godzilla’s return was inevitable.

    Then American political pressure strengthened, and tensions doubled for the already uneasy Japan. The current President of the United States had threatened to resume the countdown to drop a hydrogen bomb on Tokyo more than once, in embarrassingly ridiculous ways no President–or politician for that matter–should. Even after Prime Minister Takasu publicly called him out for such behavior in every way a true leader should, intelligently pointing out every flaw in such a concept and condoning a clear act of violence for the sake of violence without any true reason or strategy behind it, the President refused to listen as always. Even the former President of the United States intervened on the matter, pointing out how it was clear planning, unified scientific research and multiple countries working together that had ultimately bested Godzilla and not brute nuclear force by oneself. Furthermore, they also brought up the topic that an H-bomb strike might not even be effective against the monster, and that for all they knew he very well could emerge alive and kicking from humanity’s most destructive weapon all the while they needlessly wiped out countless lives and homes.

    But even the most heartful, desperate, intelligent, and pacifistic words fell on dreadfully deaf ears.

    Yasuko was more grateful than she could possibly put into words that Takasu was their Prime Minister, but the terror of an incompetent and unstable President threatening to bathe their capitol city in nuclear flames and add on to the already monstrous threat of Godzilla was becoming too much by the hour. No matter how hard Takasu stood up to the man, the only results her–and anyone’s–words got out of him were raging tweets of incoherent sentences and childish, even racist insults. All of which were eventually followed by public “speeches” consisting of the same embarrassing material as his Twitter feed.

    Yasuko sighed sadly. Unity. From the moment that man, who’s name she would not mention nor think about, stepped into the White House, the memories of many nations coming together as comrades and not as enemies to take down an ever-evolving threat seemed all but forgotten.

    Well, in the outside world of politics at least.

    Her co-workers at G-Force didn’t just comprise of Japanese. American, French, German, British, Russian, Chinese, Korean; all of some of the most brilliant minds of all ethnicities worked together to keep tabs on and, should it ever arise, combat a single common enemy. None of the needless in-fighting between the higher powers of the respective countries, none of the loathsome divisions that threatened to tear the world apart, just comrades in arms working side-by-side as if they were all one single tribe. Everything that Operation Yashiori had stood for, four years ago. Everything that Kayoco Anne Patterson, Rando Yaguchi, and countless more had opened the door for during an event that changed the world forever. Her work represented everything the world needed, now more than ever.

    A hand fell on her shoulder to give it a compassionate squeeze. Yasuko broke from her thoughts to glance at her fellow G-Force worker, smiling thankfully at him, before turning back to her phone and texting her reply back… … …

    Her computer screen began to blare, a sound that caught everyone’s attention. Her eyes bulged; her nerves lit up as if they had burst into flame. “We’re picking up a particularly large signal… … …it’s heading to the surface!”

    *****

    Thousands of gulls chirped and shrieked in terror as they soared across the overcast morning sky. Some accidentally flew face-first into windows or vehicles before stubbornly continuing on their way, while others sailed as fast as their wings could carry them unopposed through the skies as they fled for reasons unknown. All had gotten up out of their numerous hiding places and simply taken flight without a second thought, their numbers swarming the heavens like oversized bees on the wing. It was as if a biblical prophecy had begun to take shape; a divine warning that something a great deal above the average explainable phenomenon was about to take place.

    As if something big was headed their way.

    As the gulls eventually faded away to wherever their wings would take them, calm was restored–but the anxiety remained. Bewildered citizens, police, fire department, and military personnel alike looked about in equal parts awe at the spectacle they had just witnessed and suspenseful caution as they wondered what could cause such an occurrence–and if that was the end of it. A hopeful, but fatally naïve assumption that died as soon as it was born.

    The sea had begun to billow upward a mile away; the water swelling like a balloon on a pressurizer as it began to climb to seemingly unimaginable heights… … …and roll forward, picking up speed with every passing second. Soon, what was once heightened water became a most horrifying shape that had been burned into the minds of Japanese citizens who had themselves lived through such a terrible calamity: a colossal wave, speeding toward mainland Japan at a height nearly half that of Tokyo Tower itself.

    Another tsunami had come to visit them.

    The results were swifter than a cheetah catching its prey–and every bit as horrific as the day Godzilla himself first emerged onto land in the Kamata Ward. The giant wave crashed onto the shoreline with a force to rival the eruption of Mt. Saint Helens herself, instantly destroying any small buildings in its path and crushing cars and stragglers alike before sweeping their remains away. Those who hadn’t been crushed at close range were snatched and overpowered by the widening, slowly receding monster of a wave; buildings who hadn’t been destroyed were damaged horribly, while crowds of hundreds were covered and drowned en-masse. Power lines snapped and sparked like twigs as soon, the entirety of Kamata and Shinagawa was entirely flooded by debris-filled seawater that continued to run through the city in a newly formed river. Those who had been lucky enough to escape to rooftops of larger, stronger buildings watched in horror as the monstrous wave died into a makeshift river–and gasped as they saw multiple unmoving bodies floating at the surface, drifting with the hellish current as it carried them out of sight, but not out of mind.

    Before the earth itself suddenly rumbled… … …then trembled when an impact tremor vibrated through the mainland. And then another, and another… … …

    *****

    Yasuko trembled violently as she finished dialing Chinatsu, snapping her hand to her ear with breakneck speed all the while she continued to stare wide-eyed at the screen that had now been displayed before everyone in the room. Her breath came in rapid, repeated stutters of wordless terror as she waited for a response she feared may never come. She paid no attention to the doors flying open, and the Prime Minister herself trudging in alongside her respected cabinet… … …

    “Honey, are you there?!”

    Yasuko fought with every microbe that composed of her very being to stifle a cry of relief as she heard her beloved’s heavenly–albeit terrified beyond comprehension–voice fill her ear. “Chinatsu?! Baby, are-”

    “Yukari’s here in the car!” her wife finished for her, and Yasuko closed her eyes as she allowed herself a sigh of the sweetest gratitude on earth, an incomprehensible weight having been lifted from her shoulders with that sentence alone. “We’re at the park!”

    “Yasuko! This is no time for–!” Before Kouji Chujo could finish his sentence, Takasu snapped up her hand, stopping him in his tracks. “Let her have this!” she hissed firmly, causing him to fall silent as Yasuko averted her glare from him.

    “Honey, listen to me,” the G-Force operator spoke softly with undertones of urgency, “the city is going to begin evacuations soon. When they start, take Yukari and head along with them. Go straight for the shelters. Don’t go anywhere else–no other place will be safer. Okay?”

    “…Okay.” Yasuko’s stomach twinged at hearing the pain in her voice, her eyes closing as she took a deep breath. “How do you know the evacuations will start soon? I’ve heard the tsunami is dying…”

    A deep rumble that rippled through the Headquarters accommodated with her wife’s sudden cease of talking, and Yasuko didn’t have to ask whether or not she heard it too. Not that it mattered–for no one in the room was talking anymore. Instead, they were all staring wide-eyed, slack-jawed at what now lay in front of them on the screen. A spitting image of the dreadful nightmare who had changed their country forever, an entity weaved in a familiar outline–yet, at the same time, it was in so many ways very different.

    “Honey?” Chinatsu’s fearful voice crackled through the phone. “Honey…what’s happening out there…?”

    But Yasuko couldn’t form words, every attempt died in her throat before it could exit. Even Prime Minister Takasu herself couldn’t believe what she was seeing, standing up to her full height as she took in the sight before her. The signal had revealed itself.

    “No… … …” was all Yasuko could muster as her breathing began to increase. “… … …there can’t be ANOTHER Godzilla!”

    *****

    Seawater dripped in layers from his timber-gray body, falling into the hellish current he walked through. His ancient scales gleamed like quicksilver from the water still stained on his colossal form; three rows of rocky plates shaped like maple leaves ran across his back like a vertebraeic crown; a powerful segmented tail swung behind him like a biological war club, occasionally smashing into any undemolished buildings while the world itself quaked in terror from every footstep he took. His monolithic body rippled with prehistoric muscle as he walked; clawed hands attached to scaly, bear-like arms grasped and flexed as if anxious to engage in non-friendly conflict; blazing yellow eyes scoured the city with a gaze that sent a cold chill down even the most hardened war veterans.

    The beast towered above the buildings around him as if they were mere play structures, looming above the great city as the dominator of all. Giant nostrils flared loudly as he sniffed the air, lumbering in the direction his nose told him to go. The scent he craved was closer than ever now; its source drawing nearer with every step he took. A booming rumble that put the greatest thunder to shame boomed from his massive gut as his gills flared, several humans watching in dumbfounded terror as he waded past them without so much as sparing them a single glance.

    His eagle-like gaze focused up ahead, and even finally seeing it for himself he couldn’t help but feel a twinge of shock. But he brushed it aside–Godzilla had reached his destination at last, and he had a job to do.

    *****

    “Chinatsu, go to the shelters as fast as you can!” Yasuko cried. “Stay in there until this is all over. I’ll come meet you there, then. I’m going to have to hang up, soon!”

    “Okay…Yasuko, just… … …please stay safe…” she pleaded, failing to conceal the break in her voice.

    “I will, I promise,” the G-Force operator replied back. “Hey.” While no noise ran through the phone, the lack of any beeping made it clear that her partner for life had not hung up yet. That was all she needed.

    “I love you so much.”

    A long moment of silence… … …before being broken by a final reply.

    “… … …I love you, too.”

    Yasuko smiled, her hand beginning to drift away from her ear. “Tell Yukari mommy loves her.” Her thumb pressed the red icon, and her hand fell away as she finally re-entered her post. As she looked up at the screen, she met Takasu and Hayogata’s gazes, the two politicians staring empathetically at her. “The nearest shelter to Showa Kinen Park is less than half a mile away. Your family will be safe there,” Hayogata stated gently. “I know you’re worried sick for your family’s safety, Yasuko. Especially in times like this.” She looked about in the room, sweeping her powerful gaze across all before her.

    “But we must all keep our heads. If we have time for tears, we’ve got time to fight.”

    She looked back to Yasuko. “Operator?”

    “Ma’am?”

    “Take us to disaster level 3. We’re going to put our new weapons to the test–”

    “Ms. Prime Minister, we need to scratch that order and change priorities right now!” one of the fellow operators suddenly cried out. She turned her head sharply in her direction. “Why?”

    “The countdown just re-started!”

    All gazes jolted to the screen immediately, eyes wide with indescribable terror. The woman wasn’t lying–the timer, which had been frozen still for four years, had indeed begun degrading second by second. Takasu’s fingers curled into fists, her hands red from a mix of pressure and pure rage. “That deranged son of a bitch…” she seethed with a lethal fury. “He didn’t even give us so much as a warning. Or a chance… … …”

    Yasuko’s glinting eyes remained fixed to the now-moving timer. She was frozen to the spot, her heart threatening to stop at what she was seeing. At what it meant. “No…” her larynx finally built up the air to speak. “No… … …no… … …” she whispered grimly, her voice beginning to fail while she took in the now-inevitable outcome. The inevitable fate that would befall her wife, her precious daughter, the countless families that had barely even started the process of evacuation. At how little time there was left for anyone to do so… … …

    “Operator! Listen to me,” Takasu spoke quickly, snapping the anxious woman back to reality. Her expression softened, before continuing, “is the crew of the Super X3 on standby?” The G-Force operator nodded swiftly, taking a breath to stabilize herself. “They’re still in the hanger, awaiting orders.”

    “Tell them to suit up and wait for our signal. We’re at Maximum Disaster Level, now.”

    Yasuko nodded a second time, grabbing her microphone to adhere to the Prime Minister’s orders. As the operator proceeded to give the order for standby, Takasu turned away to stare hard at the screen with furrowed brows. “If that dictator loves violence so much, we can all find joy in denying him his wishes once more,” she assured. “Rando Yaguchi’s organization fought too hard to prevent another Hiroshima for such an exhausting battle to be rendered pointless by a spoiled man-child. If that excuse for a President thinks his term is equivalent to a monarchy, he has another thing coming.” She turned to her cabinet, who gazed at her in a way that spoke a thousand words in of themselves: they all agreed.

    “The shambled government before didn’t blindly follow America’s wishes when all seemed lost, and neither will we. They made a point. Yaguchi’s team did as they pleased. Goro Maki did as he pleased.” She smiled as everyone’s stares remained on her.

    “And we’ll do the same.”

    *****

    The prehistoric alpha predator grumbled as he drew ever closer to his goal, the anticipation of finally erasing what was quite possibly the biggest threat to life on earth fueling his primal instincts. But as he reached a nine-hundred-meter distance between himself and the frozen thing ahead of him, his ears were subject to a whooshing crack that thundered in the sky. He turned his head skyward, his yellow eyes furrowing into a glare. He should’ve suspected the humans would use their aerial constructs against him from the start.

    Five of the bird-shaped things descended rapidly from the sky, diving toward him in a V-shaped line. Godzilla winced a deep growl when lightning-like energy suddenly lashed forth from the strange tips of their wings and burned into his armored chest. The injuries were very minor at best and wouldn’t take long to heal, but nonetheless Godzilla was enraged. How dare these pests try to stop him from stabilizing nature’s balance!

    The metal birds swept over his head, circling around before coming back for another go. Godzilla prepared a swipe but winced again when another torrent of electrical bursts zapped against his scaly body. As the constructs swept overhead, the ancient reptile bellowed a challenge, demanding they face destruction at his hands like a real fighter. But the mindless drones only circled around again, preparing for another go. The legendary Godzilla sneered. Fine, if that was the way they wanted to have it, then they better not say he didn’t warn them.

    The old saurian stood still as a tree, completely ignoring the insignificant stinging of more maser blasts against his ancient skin. He watched as they circled around him again, before diving back and blasting him once more with their pathetic beams. They swooped away, circled, came back for a fourth round, rinse and repeat. And still he didn’t move.

    Wait for it… … …

    The metal birds zoomed over his massive skull, their filthy scent scourging his nostrils, but still he stayed in one place. Just a little longer, just a little longer, just a few more seconds and all that annoyance can be paid for, just a little longer and those little pests can pay with their lives for their grave mistake. Mercy, just a few more seconds… … …

    NOW!

    The legendary Godzilla bellowed a thunderous shriek as he whipped his lower body upward faster than anyone thought he could, his colossal tail snapping like an organic whip and cracking loudly upon smacking not one, not two, but four of the metallic vehicles out of the air. Two of them exploded from sheer impact; the other two plummeted away to crash to the watery ground below, never to fly again. The remaining construct did not circle around for another try–instead, it continued to speed away into the distance, fading away until it was but a dot that vanished in the horizon. The predator huffed in satisfaction.

    Yeah, that’s right. You better run!

    *****

    Takasu closed her eyes, her head bowing as a mournful scowl crossed her brow. She slowly, silently clasped her hands together, quietly praying for the now lost souls of the departed soldiers. She knew this job wouldn’t be easy; that when the inevitable came, lives would be lost. But that didn’t make it any less of a tragedy when it came to this point.

    “Ms. Prime Minister,” Hatogaya politely spoke up, “if I may.” The woman opened her eyes, her gaze drifting to him. She nodded in equal politeness, before muttering “Go ahead.”

    “It may be possible we need to let this creature continue on its way.”

    Takasu’s eyes widened, an incredulous expression on her face. Hatogaya noticed and immediately made way to explain himself. “What I mean to say is…!” he spoke quickly, doing sure as to be able to get his point across, “… … …look at that creature. Just look at the way he behaves.” Unsure of what the man was saying, but still willing to consider what she didn’t yet know, the Prime Minister did as told. She turned back to the screen, watching this… … …new Godzilla lumber about through the flooded streets of Tokyo. “Look at the way he moves… … …” Hatogaya continued. Takasu’s nerves began to flare slightly, still unsure of what exactly her aide was getting at.

    “But most importantly… … …where he’s going.”

    At this, the Prime Minister’s eyebrows rose. Even from the moment this beast had first revealed itself to them, not once did anyone in the room, including herself, bother to question why this second Godzilla had come ashore in the first place. In the back, Yasuko raised her head to look at them, her expression equal to Takasu’s. “You don’t mean… … …”

    “Operator?” Takasu turned to face her.

    “Yes?”

    “Does this creature appear to be headed anywhere specific?” But Yasuko was already on task, narrowing down the schematics until… … …

    “Yes, he is, ma’am!” she called. Everyone turned their eyes on her expectantly, waiting to hear the results. “He’s headed straight for–!”

    “Heartbeat!” another one of the operators suddenly cried. “I’ve got a clear heartbeat!”

    The entire room froze.

    *****

    It started with a pink glow from the frozen muscles on his back. Very faint, but the first glow to radiate from that body in four years. For a minute the glow remained there, faintly emanating from his dorsal region like a dying lamp. Trace amounts of radiation scattered to and fro around his back, no higher or further. But then the minute passed, and more obvious changes began to take place. The glow steadily began to brighten, changing from a faded pink to a more obvious blood-red. Steam began to billow from his brightening back as the ice that encased it melted, exposing his dorsal musculature to the world. The heat began to build, and soon his dorsal plates followed that same glow as the ice around them too, melted into water which in of itself evaporated into steam.

    The ice encasing his scarred skin began to shift with loud cracks. Fracture after fracture grew across every inch of frozen water that had entrapped his colossal being for so long, every crack echoing like a crumbling glacier. The glow of his dorsal region spread to the open sores and scars of his body; the exposed muscle tissue issuing the same crimson aura that began to melt whatever ice that hadn’t cracked yet. The same glow lit up the tiny gills on the side of his neck… … …just moments before, for the first time in ages, the ice encasing his hand cracked and his finger twitched. The frozen beast had moved!

    The twirled tail began to shift and contort, snapping off chunks of ice to reveal the bumpy skin underneath. More of the reptile’s fingers twitched and curled, breaking free of their subzero prison. Water began to run down the monster’s body in sheets, only adding to the effect of the melting ice as the glow of its internal fission finally reached its full state, and with a loud CRASH! All ice on the monster’s body shattered apart, falling to the ground to break into pieces that eventually melted into water. The water still clinging to the beast’s body evaporated, steam billowing off its glowing back, and the creature curled and uncurled its hands for the first time in what felt like forever.

    Then its eyes moved.

    *****

    It began the same way it had ended: with a calling.

    The light burst like a firework, encompassing all in its path and heating him to the very core. Warmth. It felt so nice, so soothing, so… … …real. Gone was the cold that had chilled him to the bone; ceased to be the nightmares that had once plagued his frightened mind in an incessant loop, banished by the darkness that subsequently gave birth to this heavenly light.

    And the monsters were gone.

    The light spread through every inch of his very being, warming him both physically and psychologically. So grateful was he for this light. It was as if one blanket had slipped off of him, only for a fresh and new one to whip in and wrap around him in a warm embrace. It reminded him of the sea, his place of ancestry, his peaceful solitude from the horrors of the surface world that frightened him so. The warm confines of the water, the ambient flowing that always permeated his ears and helped him fall aslumber whenever tiredness called.

    It reminded him of home.

    Then, through the light, different forms began to take shape. The warmth began to mix with a chilled cool as the morning air crept across his skin. The brightness dampened as the world around him took shape, his eyes refocusing as his brain finalized banishing the dreams and waking him back to reality. His vision cleared, and he was met with the last sight he had seen before being knocked into his long sleep. He was so taken aback at the fact he was back to the land of the living that his brain didn’t even allow his ears to register the earth-shaking roar that shrieked from his gaping jaws. It was no dream. It wasn’t a trick, a ploy of the mind. He was awake at last.

    Godzilla was finally free.

    The creature loosed a long sigh of pure exhaustion, his breath mixing with the cool morning air to form a wisp of short-lived vapor. The God Incarnate took a wobbly step forward, his body threatening to fall, but he held together as he focused his mind. Slowly, he took another step, reminiscent of the day he first lengthened his legs. The third step came without much trouble, and the fourth was as if he had never entered a coma at all.

    Godzilla stopped as quickly as he had started.

    His eyes had caught sight of a massive obstacle, headed directly his way with massive, loping strides. A huge shadow began to envelop the ground ahead of him as the obstacle revealed itself to be a hulking reptilian behemoth that towered over all in its path. Godzilla stood perfectly still as he watched the Titan approach, a deep rumble resonating from the pit of its scaly gut. Its heavy footfalls made mother earth tremble, so powerful they even rattled Godzilla himself; its golden eyes piercing him with a truly primal gaze, as if they were the eyes of a wrathful god. Eventually, the saurian behemoth came to an abrupt halt a good five hundred meters away from the evolved reptile; its final footstep sending chills through the earth’s crust.

    Godzilla’s long tail waved ceaselessly from side to side, the nuclear spawn continuing to hold still while he stared at the newcomer with his beady, shark-like eyes. As large as his brain was in capacity to his body size, Godzilla was still an animal. And like any animal, he relied a large majority on his instincts. To say he was mindless for doing so would be false, for relying on instinctual responses was an intelligent route to survival for all organisms. Nonetheless, there was always the capacity for cognitive thought going on through that brain, which opened the door for emotion. So it was that the lack of facial muscles prevented Godzilla from outright expressing the surprise he felt when he comprehended what he was staring at. Despite its numerous differences, this being…this creature… … …

    It looked like… … …him!

    So, the mutated beast made the obvious instinctual decision. He called to the elder creature, a greeting.

    And he waited.

    *****

    Godzilla never broke off his eye contact when the mutant abomination before him released a roar in his direction. The very utter of the call nearly made the alpha predator visibly wince. The ululation that flew from the mockery’s hideous maw was not the majestic, kingly cry indicative of his long-lost species, not the prehistoric shrill that told a story of a bygone age long forgotten by nearly all life on the planet; rather, it was a hollow, revolting shriek. A visible byproduct of the new modern age, a testament to a bastardized creation of the human race and its arrogant misuse of nuclear materials.

    There was not a single attribute about this creature that Godzilla didn’t despise with a thermonuclear passion. The body was a twisted, disgustingly deformed tumor; arms that were far too small for a creature like it protruded outward with no movements whatsoever; a ridiculously long tail at least three times the length of the body swayed behind it, the only other movement the creature presented aside from a few twitching of the fingers. The mockery’s skin was deeply, hideously burnt; rough and craggy like tree bark with countless bloody scars that exposed glowing muscle tissue and blood vessels. Scars of a very different sort from his own, gained from a body that both doubled in size without the skin growing with it and burned itself due to the nuclear fission in the body.

    And the eyes… … …evolution have mercy, the eyes alone threatened to take the title of everything wrong with this creature, other traits be damned. Just two beady white orbs with a single round pupil and iris, far too tiny for a mushroom cloud-shaped head that dwarfed his in size. There was zero personality in those eyes, zero character or soul reflected off those blank little orbs. They were the eyes of a lifeless corpse, staring back at him with no thought or intent of any kind–a fitting description for this abomination’s zombie-like appearance.

    Godzilla gritted his teeth and snorted at the mindless husk, who–no, which–continued to stare into space in his direction. His claws flexed, his arm muscles knitted together, and he puffed out his chest and roared as loud as his lungs would allow.

    *****

    Godzilla felt his heart sink when the Old One bellowed at him, screaming at a volume that threatened to crack his unseen eardrums. It mattered not whether or not they were related in any way shape or form–he knew exactly what that sound meant. Understood what it conveyed.

    This creature had just challenged him. It wanted to fight him.

    And, quite possibly, kill him.

    *****

    Yasuko held her eyes closed and drew a quivering breath through her nose as G-Center rumbled from the intensity of the distant sound that unfolded on the screen for all to see. The G-Force operator knew what was to follow. She knew that the event that was about to occur would become one of the biggest moments in history, and she would be here to witness all of it. She was going to watch an occurrence that would go down in books, photos, and documentaries for decades to come. There was no way of avoiding it–the Super X3 could not be used for such a task. They needed it on standby, for the time when the countdown reached its end. For this matter here, they could only stand idle.

    And watch.

    “Orders, ma’am?” Yasuko spoke up, opening her eyes. The Prime Minister merely stood unresponsive; her eyes glued to the screen. Fixated on the sight of two saurian leviathans facing one another in a monolithic buildup to the unavoidable. Then she swallowed, closed her eyes, opened them once more, and spoke.

    “Nothing to be done. We wait for the countdown to finish.” Then she turned to her audience. “Conflict is inevitable.”

    Yasuko slowly nodded, feeling a chill from the confirmation. Allowing herself a brief moment to close her eyes and caress where her wedding ring was, the G-Force operator grabbed her head-mic and issued with certainty:

    “Threat Assessment: Conflict Inevitable. Repeat, Threat Assessment: Conflict Inevitable.”

    She declared the evaluation one more time, then cut the contact. And the room was filled with grim silence once more. Takasu nodded gradually.

    “Let them fight.”

    *****

    Crispy vapor blew from the gaping jaws of the second Godzilla as he bellowed another booming challenge, gills flaring and eyes seemingly glowing with primal rage as he started his march. The original Godzilla would prove to surprise his elder counterpart when he raised his head into the air, his shark-like jaws snapped open to thunder an equally powerful roar in response. His tail swished like an enraged cat as he too began to walk toward the newcomer.

    Footsteps that echoed with the intensity of an earthquake mixed with loud booms belonging to footfalls that sounded akin to bombs going off. Natural and unnatural marched toward each other, glaring prehistoric eyes locking with unblinking human-like orbs. Armored gray scales charged toward radioactive keloid scars, the soil of Japan rattling like never before as they neared. Ancient war cry mixed with modern-day howl, the Alpha Predator readied to meet the God Incarnate head-on.

    A mere half-second before they collided, a photographer snapped a picture. Perfect aperture, shutter speed and depth of field all in one shot, masterful symmetry of the two bellowing kings about to meet in mortal combat amidst a devastated central Tokyo; a photo that would go down in history before the dawn of a new tomorrow arose.

    And then the island of Japan itself shook when 99,600 short tons met 92,000 metric tons in a collision that, like the battle it represented, would echo through the ages.

    *****

    The mutant abomination howled when Godzilla slammed his palms into its shoulders and lunged, plunging his powerful teeth into the lower base of its neck just above the right shoulder. Black claws dug into scarred flesh and drew rivers of boiling radioactive blood, exerting enough pressure to crack bone and pop muscle with ease. The abominable beast shrieked and screamed as Godzilla shook his head before powering his columnar legs forth, catching it by surprise.

    The mindless (was it truly mindless?) organism shrieked as its legs failed to catch up with his stride, and before long it found itself being effortlessly pushed back by Godzilla’s legendary strength. Clouds of dust kicked up as one powerful body ceaselessly shoved another backward in an intense show of physical prowess. Every footfall put the loudest of thunder and the greatest of avalanches to shame as the Permian Titan continued his push, the abomination thrashing about with its upper body as it seemingly tried in vain to do something about its attacker’s stride.

    Godzilla screamed into the abomination’s face as he flexed his muscles, but before he could put all his strength forth into a shove that would certainly send the living tumor falling, the cancerous beast lunged like a crocodile and bit down as hard as its jaws would allow; every single one of those hundreds of ugly teeth plunging into his flesh like hundreds of knives through butter. Huge sprays of blood fountained from the injury and the King of the Monsters roared in indescribable agony.

    The abomination suddenly powered its chubby leg forth with speed he thought it incapable of and kneed him straight in the gut. Godzilla dry-heaved as he backed up–which soon turned to a grunt of pained surprise when the abomination snapped its head from under him and clocked him upward with its mushroom cloud-shaped skull. With a whale-like moan, Godzilla was sent toppling backward and falling to the earth with a deafening CRASH!

    Godzilla’s eyes widened at what had just occurred. NEVER had he been the first to fall in a fight!

    *****

    The mutated saurian stomped the ground and shrieked a warning at the elder. A warning that unfortunately went unheeded when the prehistoric predator reared his head and bellowed forth a cry for blood. His muscles rippled as he pushed himself off the ground, and before long the elder rose back to his full intimidating height, towering just a head taller than the evolved reptile.

    Godzilla slowly pawed the ground with his left foot, his tail still swaying. Otherwise, he remained still. The elder snorted vengefully and lit up his dorsal spines with a beautiful cerulean glow, a certain intimidation display. But Godzilla remained unmoved, an infrasonic rumble booming from his throat.

    The elder charged once again with a roar, his footsteps rattling his mutated opponent through the core. Godzilla took one step back, readying himself–but came unprepared for what happened next. The elder suddenly stopped short a mere sixty meters away and hunched his head and neck down, and with equally shocking momentum he whipped his massive body around and slammed his segmented tail into Godzilla’s stomach. The crack of natural flesh meeting mutated flesh shook the air with such force that even the distant Mt. Fuji quivered, some of its snow cracking and falling in sheets.

    Like a broken statue, Godzilla collapsed to the ground with an even greater impact.

    The Incarnation of God groaned as he found himself in the same predicament as he had when he last fought the monsters that froze him. His massive body in of itself was a heavyweight powerhouse, his arms were quite tiny and could barely do anything to help push himself to his feet, but most troubling of all was that his lower torso ached horribly from the impact he had just sustained. Godzilla could barely rear his head before he felt tiredness fight to keep him down–which then turned to sheer force when a clawed foot came down and stomped his skull back to the earth in a cloud of debris. A screech of surprise left his jaws as the elder repeatedly stomped his head and neck into the earth, bellowing mercilessly.

    But Godzilla was only down, nowhere remotely close to out.

    His gigantic tail suddenly reared up like a mythical serpent, and before the elder could comprehend its presence it swung like a baseball bat and struck the predator head-on, sending him sprawling. Seizing the opportunity, Godzilla straightened the appendage before slamming it into the ground with all his force, forcing him upward and allowing himself to find his feet at last.

    The elder bellowed again and again as he thrashed about on the ground, his tail ripping up trenches in the earth as he quickly gained his footing and began to push himself back to his full height. The old predator balled his hands into fists as he announced his return with a roar, an ugly glare crossing his scaly mug. Godzilla opened his jaws ever so slightly, uttering a defensive alligator-like bellow in response.

    The elder growled as he turned his body half-around, slowly beginning to circle Godzilla. The God Incarnate stood like a fossilized tree, the only sign of movement still being that of his tail. He didn’t need to see the elder, even after he had circled around entirely behind him; his internal phased array radar could detect him and his movements flawlessly, akin to the pressure senses on a crocodile’s snout, albeit several times more effective. The old one snarled loudly as he continued to lumber a circle around the mutated saurian, but the only response Godzilla gave was a low infrasonic boom from his closed muzzle. The reptilian predator continued to walk on, eventually going behind the mutant for the second time. Low growls quaked from the elder’s jaws as he tried to provoke Godzilla into making a move of any sort, but Godzilla wasn’t buying it.

    The elder suddenly exploded toward the still behemoth, intending to take him completely by surprise, but Godzilla’s survival instincts reacted just a fraction quicker. The scarred reptile thrust his lower body sideways quicker than the elder could’ve anticipated and smacked him with his oversized tail, flooring him for the second time. But unlike last time, the elder only fell to his knees.

    *****

    Godzilla loosed a painful groan as his palms collided with the earth, a mixture of pain and shock keeping him from making way to returning to his feet. His gills flaring and his nostrils exhaling wisps of vapor, the Alpha Predator took a breather from the impact as he attempted to both fight the pain scourging the side of his torso and recollect his strength to get back on his feet.

    A sharp, stabbing pain suddenly knifed through his neck as he felt himself being hoisted up to his feet by something. It didn’t take long for him to realize that the abomination had his neck in its jaws, and was holding him like a crocodile with its catch–and then felt himself slung roughly out of its grasp as the cancerous beast threw him like a ragdoll to the ground. Godzilla howled with a yearning vengeance, unwilling to let these misfortunes continue. A foot suddenly slammed down on his neck, holding him fast to the earth, eliciting an even louder roar of rage. The abomination had traversed the distance between it and him faster than it looked, but not that it mattered.

    It was time to turn the tide of the battle back in his favor.

    Thrusting his arms to the side, Godzilla suddenly grabbed the abomination’s leg and shoved it hard, sending the beast sprawling with a shriek. It didn’t take long for both combatants to return to their feet and bellow their respective cries at one another, loud enough to make small buildings crack. Godzilla charged the abomination, reacting just as it lunged in for a bite. Grabbing it by the jaw with one hand, Godzilla planted his other on the monster’s chest and began to shove once more. The abomination scratched feebly at his arms with its tiny claws, but to no effect. Once more, Godzilla’s physical superiority allowed him to dominate the fight.

    The abomination snapped its jaws together, puncturing his hand with several ivory barbs, but despite the agony, Godzilla refused to relent. Releasing a dominating roar, Godzilla shoved the abomination to the ground, painfully ripping his hand out of the mutant’s jaws in the process, before proceeding to wail on the pinned monster. The mindless beast’s teeth still embedded in his hand, Godzilla used the pain to heighten his aggression as he slashed, punched, and bit at his prey; screeches of anguish echoing from the abomination’s bloody jaws all the while it tried in vain to dislodge the attacker. The cancerous mutant tried whipping its tail at the Alpha Predator, but Godzilla saw it coming this time and reacted accordingly. With one swift grasp of his arms, he held the writhing appendage in his claws. Biting down on it as hard as his jaws would allow, Godzilla yanked his head to the side, taking the abomination with it. Growling like a frenzied dog, Godzilla dragged his helpless prey all around the earth in a rage, ignoring the tail’s feeble attempts to whack him in the side.

    The heat of the abomination’s nuclear blood was beginning to test the limits of Godzilla’s jaws, however, and he soon found his mouth feeling uncomfortably dehydrated. The saliva in his gums had dried out, and a stinging pain was beginning to creep through the roots of his teeth. Unable to take any more of it, the King of the Monsters let go, instead electing to briefly let go of the mockery’s tail.

    Seeing his prey lying on its belly, Godzilla lunged. Slamming his full weight on its back, the Alpha Predator snapped on the largest dorsal plate he saw, and with a few hard twists and yanks, ripped it off in a spray of boiling crimson. The howling scream that ripped from the abomination’s maw was so loud it made Godzilla’s ears bleed, startling the nuclear giant. The cancerous beast continued to screech its agonized cries to the world, the sound threatening to make Godzilla go deaf, but only temporarily did the King of the Monsters stop his assault. Lunging down to snag another dorsal plate in his tyrannosaur-like jaws, the predator twisted and yanked once more, ripping the cancerous bone from its post in another spray of red.

    The abomination tried to rise, but a foot planted firmly on its back, staying it.

    *****

    Godzilla shrieked in pain as he felt another of his dorsal spines being torn from his back. At that moment, something occurred. Something triggered solely on instinct. Survivability kicked into overdrive; generating a shift, a change in the creature’s very being.

    Godzilla’s genetic information was eight times that of a human being; such a massive web that even after his four years of being frozen humanity still hadn’t sequenced all of it. The nuclear giant was the most evolved living organism on the planet, and a walking mass of limitless potential. The God Incarnate was a living representation of the driving force of evolutionary survival: change. In order to survive, to adapt to new changes, life must evolve with those changes. And Godzilla was capable of self-mutation over a short period of time–not generational over thousands or millions of years. Right now, he was met at a severe combat drawback. Despite being lighter in weight, the elder outclassed him in the category of sheer physical might.

    So, Godzilla would adapt. Change.

    Evolve.

    Deep within the mutant reptile’s blood cells, the very fabric of his complex DNA began to rewrite itself. Began restructuring, changing some of its ways. Perfecting what needed doing so. At first, it was an invisible phenomenon; solely restricted to the internal workings of the animal’s deoxyribonucleic acid. Unseen by even the sharpest eyes and the deepest X-ray visions. But as the changes came into effect, visibility was inevitable.

    Godzilla’s back began to glow a bright red, much brighter than usual. Waves of heat began to permeate off his dorsal region, catching the elder’s attention. The heat was merely a prelude to what was coming, much to the Old One’s dis-knowledge. Only when a loud, organic crack echoed across the desolate battlefield did the elder get a glimpse of what was coming.

    *****

    “It’s happening again… … …” Yasuko whispered, her voice laced with terrified recognition. Memories began to flash through her mind, images snapping in rapid succession with one another, as if she were witnessing it all over again. She didn’t hide her attempts of shivering as she watched the original Godzilla stand to his feet on the screen.

    “He’s… … …evolving… … …”

    *****

    The mutant’s arms cracked loudly as the bones that composed them began to snap, their density increasing by the second. Burnt skin split to make way for the thickening humerus, ulna, and radius. The original Godzilla bellowed in pain as the bones grew to the needed depth, but just when the pain couldn’t get any worse, the arms lengthened. New musculature and the thinnest amount of skin regenerated over the arms, barely enough to hide the bones–and then the nuclear fission of the reptile’s blood took effect and the flesh burned itself, outlining the bones once more.

    The second elder Godzilla stepped back in shock at what he was seeing, his eyes widening like grapefruits. The mutated behemoth howled one last time as boiling blood ran down his arms to collide with the ground, steam following its impact. Then, his fingers twitched.

    *****

    Godzilla took another step back; not in fear, but in pure disgusted surprise at what had just transpired right before his 250 million year-old eyes. For countless millennia he had overseen the evolution and adaptation of many species throughout the endless sands of time; had seen many strange and unique adaptations animals and plants alike had formed over generations to cope with changing habitats and survive to carry on generations into the future. But what he had just seen violated everything he had witnessed beforehand, went against everything in the natural order of things.

    The abomination had grown larger arms right before his very eyes!

    Evolution was supposed to be a generational process, taking thousands if not millions of years to successfully mutate and change the species. It was not supposed to be a physical mutation on a single animal, and one that took mere seconds nonetheless! This horrid creature was even more abominable and naturally offensive than he had originally perceived.

    The changes to the abomination were very minor in terms of appearance–the beast was mostly identical to how it was mere moments ago, but the adaptations were still obvious enough. The creature’s arms, while still relatively thin compared to Godzilla’s own and still composed of burnt musculature and blood vessel outlines, were longer and bulkier than they had been beforehand. The hands were slightly larger, the claws sharper and a bit more curved. The animal’s skin, while still hideously scarred, was now a charred reddish-pink in color as opposed to its original blackish-gray. And at the end of the tail, the fleshy tip that once housed a malformed skeletal face now replaced by a mass of small, pointed vestigial spines slightly larger than the ones that ran down the creature’s tail.

    Godzilla both internally and externally growled before puffing up his chest and roaring fearlessly in the face of the so-called “God Incarnate.”

    Barely even opening its jaws, the abomination uttered a deep, near-infrasonic reptilian hiss.

    Godzilla thrust his arms forward, and as expected the abomination instinctively reached out to meet them with its own. Two sets of clawed hands met with a loud boom! followed by a bellowing shrill and a baritone howl. Godzilla snarled as he strained and pushed against the abomination… … …before his eyes widened in surprise when the cancerous beast planted its feet firmly in the ground and began to step forward, pushing him back!

    Godzilla was so taken aback at what was happening, he had merely a second’s worth to react before the beast raised its right hand and slashed him across the face, claws cutting deep. The Alpha Predator howled miserably as the claws just barely cut next to his eye, releasing his grip to step back while blood flowed down his face. The abomination roared at him, the meaning entirely unclear to him, but he ignored it and stood back up to face the beast. His left eye seeing a red haze that perfectly matched his rage, he glowered at the mutant as he snarled a dare for it to come get him. But the monstrous animal remained stationary, its mouth slightly open as it gaped defensively like a crocodile.

    So Godzilla lashed out like a big cat. The abomination raised its arms defensively, but Godzilla bit down on one with all his jaw strength while he grabbed hold of the other with one hand. The Alpha Predator used his free hand to slash and jab away at the mutant’s scarred flesh. Screaming in pain, the abomination lunged in an attempt to bite its aggressor, only for Godzilla to pull a retreat and yank himself back, ripping a chunk of flesh off the mutant’s arm. The scarred behemoth howled miserably as it backed away–and Godzilla took the opportunity to charge.

    This time, the ancient reptile took the abominable beast full force. While pushing with his legendary strength, Godzilla crunched and tore at the abomination’s torso like a hungry bear; sturdy teeth crushing and ripping chunks of bloody flesh with repulsive cracks only barely muted by the mockery’s cries of agony. A loud CRASH! echoed across the Chiyoda ward as Godzilla finally smashed the abomination through a building, ignoring the masses of debris and glass falling on himself as he whirled around and threw the mutant forward with all his might.

    Despite temporarily staggering, the mutant smashed its tail into the ground, steadying itself before it could fall. Godzilla bellowed as he attempted to rush the beast, only for it to turn to a groan of surprise when the abomination turned and whipped him across the head with its massive tail.

    *****

    G-Center.

    Yasuko felt her stomach twist when she heard the sickening CRACK! of the original Godzilla’s tail smacking the second one upside the head ring through the speakers, the room itself rumbling slightly as a testament to the force of the blow. Even Prime Minister Takasu and her cabinet visibly winced, unable to comprehend how painful such a strike must have been, even against a skull as thick as that of a giant monster.

    For a moment, everything was quiet; the only noises being the occasional mutters of the workers.

    “Ma’am?”

    “Operator?”

    “Countdown’s at nineteen minutes.”

    *****

    Godzilla slammed his tail into the ground as he lowered his head, taking a moment to catch his breath. The abomination slowly lumbered toward him, its bomb-like footsteps threatening to topple even the highest buildings. His eyes drooping open and closed as he fought the concussion that poisoned his mind, the old predator struggled to keep focused on his nearing opponent, determined not to let it take him by surprise.

    The creature was regaining the upper hand of the battle–he needed to change that now.

    It began as a deep crackling which then crawled to a hum, as the first spine at the end of his tail lit up. Then the one in front of it. And the next one, and so on. The hum grew louder and more deafening as each of Godzilla’s dorsal plates lit up like Christmas Trees until the very last one at the tip of his neck shone like a light. Godzilla’s eyes narrowed and a slight smirk crossed his jawline as he stood back to his full height, holding his arms back as he puffed up his chest and took in the deepest breath yet… … …

    A focused blast of pure atomic radiation launched from his jaws, meeting its intended target with precise accuracy. The abomination shrieked as it stumbled backward, the blast pushing its 92,000 metric-ton bulk with little resistance. Godzilla kept firing as the mutated mockery tried to put up with the heat ray’s power, but even then its feet dug trenches into the earth as the atomic ray did its work. The Alpha Predator wished he could smirk while firing; they may be somewhat similar in shape but in no way were they the same creature. He wielded the ancient power passed down from countless generations of his long-lost kind that solidified their–and as a result, his–position as the apex predator. The beast that faced him was a mere accidental imitation that possessed mere fancy tricks with the laws of physical mutation, nothing more.

    Its evolution ends here and now.

    Taking a moment to cut off his atomic breath, Godzilla regained some air as the abomination took a step in his direction–a mere second before he let loose again. The atomic ray smashed and burned against the mutant’s emaciated torso, and with another roar the beast continued to be shoved back by the sheer force of Godzilla’s legendary weapon. Blue sparks flew, cerulean flames burned off the ray’s continuous impact, and the unnatural “deity” tried and failed time and time again to hold against the superheated stream of atomic energy. Eventually, the abomination released a lasting bellow as it bent low, panting with agonized exhaustion.

    The King of the Monsters grunted mightily as he finally cut off his nuclear payload–and his eyebrows raised when he saw the crimson glow of the creature’s back beginning to change color.

    *****

    Godzilla gave a terrible howl of frustration as he bent forward, the last of the superheated river burning into his shoulder before finally shrinking and fading away in a puff of fiery vapor. The scarred reptile hissed for breath as he recollected a much-needed dose of oxygen, tail swaying quicker than before due to heightened stress. Despite aching legs and a few lightly blackened splotches on his torso from where he had been blasted by the elder, he wasn’t any more injured than his already disfigured body. His blood ran on nuclear fission, powered by the same radioactivity that the elder’s breath composed of, and his skin was already burnt to the bone.

    Trying to kill him with radiation was more or less akin to trying to douse a forest fire with a flamethrower.

    Godzilla’s lizard-like eyes shifted to focus on the elder, his head remaining lowered. The predator’s dorsal spines were still glowing, indicating he wasn’t finished wielding his most formidable weapon. The God Incarnate’s notion perception proved right as the elder puffed in before releasing one last burst of his nuclear arsenal–but this time, it struck the scarred mutant’s back. Thermonuclear flames burned into the softer flesh, and at first Godzilla bellowed in pain. But as the beam lasted, his body began to quickly absorb its radioactive properties, giving the irradiated reptile a meal more than anything.

    Eventually the atomic ray ceased to be, and the elder’s dorsal plates stopped glowing–however, Godzilla’s own continued to do so.

    No longer were they the usual blood-red, the saurian’s back had now changed to a bright, violet hue. Godzilla could feel the radiation within him begin to skyrocket, so much so that much of it already began to taint the area around him. His scars glowing with that same purple light, the mutant reptile uttered a silent warning as his jaws slowly gaped like a snake, his lower jaw splitting in half as the radioactive glow shone from his maw like a ghostly flashlight. The elder roared and began to speedily march toward him, but Godzilla paid him no mind. Remembering how he had used this weapon last time, Godzilla mentally prayed he would have perfect control over the conflagration he knew would follow as he let loose.

    Rearing his head back and snapping downward, Godzilla painfully vomited an explosive burst of purple gas that rapidly rushed forward like a wave to encompass the elder’s entire form. The elder bellowed loudly as he was nearly knocked off his feet, but strain as he may Godzilla continued to vomit a continuous river of the radioactive vapor. It wasn’t to last, however, for the gas was merely a prelude to something far more dreadful to behold. Instinctively, a membrane of protective skin sealed shut over his eyes, and Godzilla wished he could take a deep breath before the inevitable took form… … …

    With a loud roar, the gas ignited into a colossal blast of atomic fire. Every ounce of the glowing vapor was ignited, and the elder Godzilla had barely a moment to roar before he was completely engulfed in a massive wall of flame that drowned out his howls of agony. The fire spread in all directions, turning the entire ground for half a mile to molten slag while decimating any buildings in its path. For a good twenty seconds, Godzilla fought with every ounce of strength in his neck to hold his head in the direction of the elder, bathing him in nuclear flames. It was then that the main event showed itself; the Thermal Flame quickly condensed into the saurian’s most powerful weapon, the Radiation Heat Ray.

    Fighting harder than ever, Godzilla held his body stiff as he fired the ray into the elder’s chest with pin-point accuracy. A booming scream thundered from the elder’s jaws as the Radiation Heat Ray welded near-effortlessly into his chest like a hellish blowtorch, cutting and searing prehistoric flesh, muscle, and bone out of existence. The elder’s roars were half of indescribable agony and half utter determination not to be dominated. No matter the gravity of his wounds, the old predator would never surrender. Booming a quaking growl, the elder fell to one knee and presented his more armored shoulder to take the brunt of the assault. Unfortunately for him, such a move proved no better than before as the Radiation Heat Ray lanced into his body and out the other end in no time.

    Painfully snapping his toothed jaws, Godzilla finally cut off his primary weapon as he gave the elder time to contemplate his options.

    *****

    At first, Godzilla saw nothing but white. Terrible, molten, pure white clouded his once razor-sharp vision; his body was on the verge of going into numb shock from so much pain. Minutes felt like hours as the white slowly began to give way to forming familiar shapes, the background of the environment reforming in Godzilla’s eyes. Or at least, what was left of it. Rumbling as viciously as he could make himself, the Alpha Predator painfully lifted his head to look at the abomination with newfound horror and loathing. It was bad enough the abomination had taken on his species’ basic physical outline; now, this disfigured travesty had stolen fire from the gods!

    It had committed hubris–now, it was going to have to suffer judgement.

    Godzilla stood slowly to his full height, his dorsal spines beginning to light up one by one for the second time. The abomination boomed an infrasonic rumble and fired its Radiation Heat Ray once more. Godzilla held his hands up in defense, only for the beam to weld straight through them in two seconds and begin drilling into his chest once more. Loosing a cry of defiance, the Alpha Predator reached his full charge and let loose his atomic ray to match that of his opponent.

    *****

    Both beams had locked in a battle that was every bit as spectacular as the one waged by their respective owners. The molten battlefield was bathed in a spectral blue-violet glow that looked as if a portal to another plane of existence had opened in the very heart of Chiyoda itself; radiation levels had climbed through the roof in measurements unlike any Japan had ever seen before.

    Both Godzillas stood undeterred amidst the otherworldly carnage, pouring every drop of atomic power they could muster into letting loose their respective weapons as one attempted to overpower the other. But try as they might, neither could best the other, and the struggle seemed destined to go on for eternity. The second Godzilla, despite his crippling wounds, still held strong against the heated current of the beam lock, only occasionally swaying to and fro as he kept his balance in the push to overcome his evolved foe. The original Godzilla moved nary save for the rattling of his immense body and thrashing of his tail, due to the titanic power of the heated conflict. If anything, he seemed almost rooted into the ground like a divine tree.

    Even the occupants within G-Center had to narrow their eyes to protect themselves from the blinding lights given off by the outside struggle. Yasuko didn’t bother video-taping this footage herself; the crew here recorded everything. If–no, when this was all over, she would have plenty of footage to show to her family for the years to come. Not that any of it mattered, for her eyes were glued to the degrading timer, and the timer only. The G-Force operator wanted to give the order to send out the Super-X3 right now, wanted them to go out and make short work of the thermonuclear warhead before it got anywhere at all close to mainland Japan, but she knew she wouldn’t do it without the Prime Minister’s confirmation. She trusted Takasu enough to know that she knew they would need to give the order at exactly the right time.

    Yasuko erratically sighed. Man truly was more frightening than Godzilla.

    The woman sighed, keeping all that she knew in mental order to steady her mounting anxiety. The Super-X3 was already prepared, its crew stationed and ready to take off. Its cadmium rounds were all prepped and ready, its ULT Cryo-lasers at full power, its TA32 heat layer at full functionality. When Takasu did give the order, they would do the same thing to the warhead that they had been trained to do to Godzilla when he reawoke. But despite knowing this, there was always the ‘what if’ that bit mercilessly in the back of her mind, infecting her heart with its fearful poison.

    What if they didn’t reach the warhead in time?

    What if they got close but missed it?

    What if it was only a one and a million chance they could possibly hit it?

    What if they got in the way and it detonated on the vessel?

    What if blasting it triggered an airborne detonation?

    Yasuko closed her eyes and drew another breath as she watched the timer decrease second by second; every one that passed was an inaudible tick that poked in her mind and mind only, her ears only able to register such a nonexistent sound because her eyes were so focused on a subject that was so often its source. A subject that often made noise with a second’s passing.

    Tick, tick, tick, tick… … …

    The real-world silence, the fact that the noise was relayed only in her head as the decaying numbers signaled every moment closer to the fiery doomsday that awaited her, her crew, her beloved angel and the angel of their own, was far more horrific than any audible ticking a clock could make. Far more blood-chilling than the relentless rumble that persisted through the bowels of G-Center from the nuclear beam-struggle occurring right before her very eyes, yet so very far away.

    Tick, tick, tick, tick… … …

    She would’ve given anything for there to be an actual clock in the room to make some noise. At least it would make for a mildly more tolerable replacement for the psychological substitute threatening to break her mind to pieces with frightened grief.

    Her eyes opened. Her exhale loosed softly from her throat.

    This was what she had signed up for. This was what she trained for. This was why she had taken the job. There would always be fear for what lay before her–that came with this job. Everyone held it themselves, and some like herself made no effort to conceal it. But she wasn’t here to just sit here and give in to the terror that haunted her being. Wasn’t here to mourn her losses before they had even come to light. Not one of those instances came with this job.

    She was here to put an end to those losses before they could even begin. She was here to aid in a fight to put an end to further tragedy stemming from the one that took her parents’ lives. She was here to do as her nation pleased when a mentally unhinged dictator sought to obliterate their livelihood and expect them to sit helplessly and take it as a ‘last hope’ to destroy a threat beyond mankind’s understanding. The organization she worked for was founded on, had built means to protect themselves from, the very notion of circumstances such as this occurring. Its very existence was to resist events such as this in ways the old government couldn’t.

    Tick, tick, tick, tick… … …

    The G-force operator exhaled, allowing a brief second to remember the most joyful day of her life, just one precious second to reminisce the memory of the day her life changed in a way she would never trade anything else for in her life.

    Her eyes opened. That one second was all she needed.

    “Send them out.”

    Yasuko grabbed her mic. “Super-X3, you are clear for takeoff.”

    *****

    The second Godzilla was every bit as relentless as his mutated counterpart when it came to terms of not giving a care in the world. The temperature around them had begun to distort the air, the entire battlefield itself was all but composed of artificial lava, and yet both kaiju stood heel-high in the molten material and kept on with their atomic struggle.

    The Alpha Predator poured more energy into his atomic ray as he took a step forward, testing to see if he could get a reaction from the God Incarnate. But the original Godzilla remained still and steadfast as ever, protective membranes still sealed defensively over his eyes. The old predator’s eyes furrowed into a vicious glare, his patience being tested to its limit like never before; nonetheless, he continued to pour every drop of power from his gaping jaws in the seemingly never-ending effort to topple the unnatural deity. Despite keeping his focus on the struggle, the elder Godzilla allowed his gaze to fall upon the mutant’s tail, which had suddenly raised and pointed itself stiff in his direction. The Permian Predator raised an eyebrow at this, unsure of what exactly it meant.

    Then, the violet glow of the original Godzilla’s back rapidly snaked along the entire length of the appendage, reaching the very tip as a purple spark flashed in the spines… … …

    Another Radiation Heat Ray, equal in power to the one flowing from the mutant’s jaws, shot forth from the tail and lanced deeply into the armored flesh of the second Godzilla’s back. But as if that wasn’t bad enough, the tail began to drift along the old one’s back, and before the predator could anticipate the mutant’s plan, it was too late. The tail beam nigh-effortlessly sliced off all but the entirety of the old one’s dorsal plates in bursts glowing blue smoke, causing the elder to at last cut off his atomic ray and shrill in agony. Both Radiation Heat Rays then swept downward to cut into his torso, bringing the second Godzilla to his knees.

    With a snap of his jaws, the original Godzilla cut off both beams with a growl. As seconds passed, the flash protection membranes slid back into the sockets to reveal his eyes once more, fixing the old Godzilla with that same animalistic stare. For a moment, nobody moved. The heat billowed around the two giants; melted rock, metal and plastic pooled around their clawed feet; the first Godzilla uttering a deep, thunderous warning to the second. Once more, the scarred animal was giving his elderly rival a chance to back down.

    Trembling like a dying tree, the natural Godzilla pushed his palm on his knee as he slowly began to rise back to his feet, upper lip curling into a snarl as he rose to meet the mutant eye-to-eye. No matter the severity of his wounds, he still refused to back down or surrender. Masses of cerulean smoke pouring from the shattered remnants of his dorsal spines, the second Godzilla bellowed in reply to the original’s warning, letting him know it had gone unheeded.

    Both Godzillas visibly twitched in surprise when they heard a distant roar, but one of an entirely inorganic source entirely. The reptilian giants turned their heads to the original Godzilla’s right, and sure enough both easily scoped out the distant metal bird that had taken flight several hundred meters away. Large and green, and had it been closer it would’ve been around half their own size. But it paid them no heed, never so much as turned in their direction, only flew along on its way as it seemed headed out to sea. The original Godzilla watched it with a mix of curiosity and caution, his snout pointed at it as if locking on like a heat-seeking missile. Like any animal, he instinctively waited for any sudden change in behavior of the mechanical construct, perceived any oncoming attack. But it never came.

    Rather, another one entirely.

    The elder charged faster than his massive size seemed to allow, but the scarred Godzilla reacted just as quickly. His dorsal spines glowing lavender once more, he let loose his Radiation Heat Ray. Despite the atomic lance driving into his body, the second Godzilla kept running, screaming a defiant war cry as he neared the evolved reptile in seconds. The first Godzilla lashed out with his hands, but the Alpha Predator ducked under and hoisted the God Incarnate onto his steaming back. The mutated behemoth roared in defiance as he slashed away with his claws, cutting deep wounds into the elder’s side, but this did little to deter the old predator.

    Roaring a malevolent eulogy to the irradiated saurian, the second Godzilla unleashed a literal Nuclear Pulse from his back point blank on the first, sending him flying hundreds of meters into the sky with a screech that would’ve broken the eardrums of thousands of birds had they been present to witness the event. Burnt flesh cracked from the beast’s torso from the force of the concussive impact, nuclear blood leaked from the injuries as the mutant soared… … …then, after meeting a point of standstill, 92,000 metric-tons of reptilian bulk plummeted back down to the molten earth with yet another howling shriek.

    Artificial lava exploded upward in a superheated geyser composed of anything but water. The second Godzilla roared to the heavens, denouncing his fallen rival as the shower of magma fell back to the ground. Amidst the dying lava shower, the natural Godzilla was able to make out a familiar outline, and triumph gave way to caution. The first Godzilla’s dorsal region protruded from the makeshift magma, still retaining its crimson glow. A subtle hint of the possibility that the nuclear behemoth still lived. Treading as lightly as he could on his feet, the Permian King of the Monsters stalked toward the unmoving kaiju like a leopard stalking an antelope, ignoring the searing agony of his wounds that had begun to catch up with him. His claws tensed, his jaws opened slightly to bare his teeth as he prepared to pounce… … …

    … … …and a building-shattering roar screamed from his 250 million year old lungs when a volley of lavender beams erupted from the first Godzilla’s back! Cutting into all different sections of the second Godzilla’s body, the unexpected burst sent him stumbling blindly away in excruciating torture while a massive form began to rise from the field of melted rock.

    Still keeping up fire, the first Godzilla rose from his superheated tomb with a baritone roar. The New Century King of the Monsters kept fire on the elder for a good twelve seconds, allowing his built-in radar to do the work of “seeing” the predator while he let him have it. Only when his radiation levels began to lower more than he felt comfortable with did he pull the ceasefire. The moment he did, an atomic ray slammed into his back, sending him stumbling forward with its kinetic force.

    Eventually the stream of radioactive particles came to an end, and both combatants were free to face one another and look over their wounds. The original Godzilla’s cracked torso had long finished healing over, having been damaged by the concussive force of the elder’s nuclear pulse more than anything. Some of his dorsal spines, though, had visibly broken off from the elder’s surprise attack–and already, new ones were beginning to grow and take their place like shark teeth. But even despite his relatively stable condition, the scarred saurian hung his head low with visible exhaustion.

    To say the second Godzilla was in a far worse condition was needless. Grisly burns and cauterized holes covered his once majestic build; one of his eyes had been seared out, leaving its socket crisp black; glowing blue smoke continued to weep from his back, mourning the loss of his beloved dorsal spines. Looking at him now, the old Godzilla’s age seemed on display for all the world to see.

    Yet life still persisted in the old king. And as long as there was life, there was gonna be a fight.

    The Alpha Predator’s vocal cords expelled a defiant trill, his unbreakable will seeming to glow from his one good eye. The God Incarnate answered with a defensive bellow, warning the natural Godzilla to back off. A notion that went unheard once more as the Permian Monster King sucked in a breath and spat an atomic ray that smacked into the mutant’s face. While the heat did little damage whatsoever, the force of the impact sent the original Godzilla reeling with a screech of pain, having gained a painful headache from the attack.

    But as the old predator charged him like a maddened sumo wrestler, the burnt reptile recovered just as quickly and held his ground to meet him.

    *****

    “How are we doing?” Yasuko’s voice crackled through the headset of Major Akira Yuki, who’s indifferent expression remained unchanged as he merely raised one hand to grab the mic while holding the control pedals with the other.

    “Systems are working just like in the drills,” he answered. He motioned to the young man on his right, who nodded back as he switched on the necessary panels in preparation for their current objective.

    “ULT Lasers are ready for discharge,” piped Koji Shinjo, giving a thumbs up to his co-pilots. Kiyoshi Sato returned the gesture across from him, before proceeding to answer back into the mic. “You all just sit back and let us do the work.”

    A colossal hybrid of a C1-30 and an F-18 sheathed in sleek olive armor, the Super-X3 roared across the cold skies flawlessly, flames howling from its engine as it streaked dead-set on its goal like a comet. 40 meters long and spanning a wingspan of almost 60 meters, the Super-X3 was already living up to its nationalistic reputation as Japan’s shining pride of defense. The strongest turbulence could not stem its resolve as it powered through the atmosphere with the pace of a hurled stone.

    On the monitor, Yuki’s already stoic gaze darkened when his eyes caught sight of the peril that had hung over their country’s head for four years. The B-2 bomber responsible for carrying out the task of transporting the warhead had already launched the missile, the aircraft itself seemingly nowhere in sight while the warhead now streaked toward the center of Tokyo like the harbinger of apocalyptic destruction it was. Even Shinjo and Sato, who were usually more talkative, held hardened gazes toward the missile as their vessel rapidly shortened the distance between them. They may be of younger age, but they too knew just how incomprehensibly high the stakes were as long as that device remained in existence. Such was the very nature of nuclear weapons.

    Yuki’s fingers wrung around the trigger as they neared, his crewmates following the same course of action. “Targeting systems are locked on,” Shinjo reported. “Prepare to fire ULT Lasers.” In accordance with his words, the ‘nose’ of the Super-X3 had opened, revealing the dish that served its subzero purpose. In spite of the considerable distance between the coming warhead and the futuristic fighter-plane, the dish pointed just perfectly at its intended target, locking on target as flawlessly as its manufacturers had designed it to be.

    Yuki didn’t waste a second.

    Without a word the Major’s fingers clenched the trigger, and the nozzle of the Super-X3 screamed to life with a jagged, focused beam of utter cold. The lowest, most frigid temperatures of Antarctica itself all contained into a single narrow blast that closed the gap between its owner and the nuclear warhead hundreds of meters away in less than a second, striking it with exactly the right accuracy. In an instant, the warhead was demolecularized in midair, frozen at such temperatures it was destroyed at a microscopic level and replaced with a sculpture of ice weaved in the shape of the missile, a process much like that of fossilization–but far quicker and the object turning to ice instead of rock. A third of a second later, it exploded harmlessly into a cloud of glittering vapor.

    It was all over in a second. A future of millions of lives lost in a colossal blaze of nuclear fire, an entire city reduced to a smoldering ruin rendered uninhabitable for decades to come, all put to an end before it could begin. He may not have shown it externally in the slightest, but Major Akira Yuki would be flat-out lying if he denied the patriot within him screaming joyfully and growing proud at what he and his co-pilots had just prevented; about the dark future that had just ceased to exist with the press of a button.

    “I’m taking to Twitter when we get back,” Shinjo said with a grin as he reached over to give Sato a high-five, “300 yen says he calls us an enemy of the people.” Sato shook his head with a half-sad, half-grateful smile.

    “If close to half the country supports a man who pulls stunts like that, then I’m proud to be their enemy.” Shinjo nodded in agreement. “Let’s just hope the bigger half will vote,” he replied. “Otherwise, we’ll have to keep embarrassing them like this on a regular basis.”

    Sato sighed, this time an apparent sadness in his tone. “Oh, what does it matter? 400 yen says nothing happens, and his cronies turn another blind eye.” Shinjo gave him a weak half-smile in understanding, reaching out his hand as the co-pilots prepared to confirm their bet.

    “Shinjo,” Yuki’s gravelly voice cut through the humorous atmosphere like a shuriken. Both young men turned to gaze at him, watching as he lit a cigarette before blowing a puff that they tried their hardest not to wrinkle their noses at. For a good twenty seconds, he said nothing, only continued to turn the Super-X3 around to begin the course back home. And then… … …

    “600 yen says he gets investigated and calls it a witch hunt.”

    Shinjo’s face rose back into a gleeful smile as he turned to Sato, and the pair laughed. “Alright, you’re on!”

    The Super-X3 roared across the heavens as it sailed like a triumphant ship toward its homeland.

    *****

    Tyrannosaur-like jaws crunched a scarred neck with a bite force among the most powerful on the planet. The original Godzilla hollered painfully as his ragged skin cracked like an eggshell under the Alpha Predator’s diamond-crunching bite, his blood seeping from the wound like a nuclear egg yolk. The second Godzilla recoiled from the mutant’s superheated blood, but nonetheless continued to slash and tear away at the injury with swipe after stab of his claws. The God Incarnate roared in the elder’s face as he grasped him by the shoulder with one hand, while proceeding to jab his claws into the elder’s torso and rake downward. The natural Godzilla snarled viciously as he lunged forward, this time chomping the cancerous reptile’s shoulder and quickly shaking his head to tear the injury.

    But the evolved Godzilla fought back with just as much animalistic fury.

    Ululating a feral battle growl, the New Century King of the Monsters plunged his needle-like teeth through the second Godzilla’s neck–including his right set of gills. The Permian Predator howled in painful surprise as he felt droplets of his own blood begin to trickle down into his lungs, a situation which only worsened when the God of Destruction began shaking his head as well. As if that weren’t bad enough, the mutant began to scratch away at the other side of the elder’s neck with his right hand.

    Nature’s Fearsome Guardian bellowed defiantly as he thrashed with a newfound aggression, deciding to try his luck maiming the apex of evolution. All the while he snapped his jaws in an attempt to grab the mutant by the neck, he slashed and cut away at his foe’s torso with his free hands. The original Godzilla noticed, but still continued to maul his most vulnerable area. So the old predator improvised in the only way he knew how.

    The natural Godzilla kept slashing his enemy’s torso just enough to catch him off-guard when an atomic ray thundered forth from his jaws, striking the scarred behemoth’s chest and forcing him off. The Alpha Predator kept the flow going for an impressive twelve seconds before ceasing, falling to one knee from fatigue; the cerulean steam flowing from his back slowly lessening in mass as his wound slowly continued to mend itself from “bleeding” its precious radiation.

    The original Godzilla took a booming step toward the old timer; fingers twitching, blood dripping from his numerous oral icepicks. The second Godzilla looked up to glare at him through the haze of radioactive heat as he huffed and puffed, saying a thousand words just with that look alone. The Permian King of the Monsters hoarsed a raspy snarl at the cancerous saurian, his feet sinking further below the molten floor as he began to push himself back to his full height.

    *****

    Godzilla knew what was coming the moment he saw the elder rise to his feet. Once more there was no backing down, no resigning for the ancient leviathan. The burnt behemoth knew his multiple warning attempts were all but hopeless; he had tried time and again to ward the old predator off and attempt by attempt yielded the exact same results. If he was going anywhere, he was going to have to finish this fight. If he wanted to walk away, he was going to have to best the elder in the end.

    It was quite possible, in fact, that he was going to have to kill him.

    Trace fingers of radioactive smoke rising from his damaged back, the elder’s one good eye seemed to glow through the molten ruins of Chiyoda as he roared at Godzilla; the detrimental aspects of his age seemingly all but replaced by the beneficial. Godzilla returned the roar with one of his own, one shorter but just as loud and bone-chilling, laced with layers of infrasound that actually startled the elder stiff for a second, like a tiger roaring at a deer. The elder’s remaining eye fixed Godzilla with a predatory glare, a bird of prey eying its victim. But try as he might to intimidate the irradiated reptile, Godzilla’s feral, animalistic stare of warning delivered the same intention and succeeded just as much. A blank but clearly vicious look that seemed to bore straight through his ancient soul.

    Rays of azure light began to travel up the elder’s back, shining as replacements for his severed dorsal spines. Godzilla’s back and scars changed from crimson to bright lavender, heralding his intentions. The elder’s remaining eye lit up with the same glow as his back, the hum of his inner nuclear power growing in intensity. Godzilla’s flash protection membranes slid over his eyes as he opened his maw, his lower jaw splitting in half once more. The elder opened his jaws, his maw glowing a brilliant sapphire hue. Godzilla’s mouth lit up like a Christmas light, shining with a ghostly amethyst shade.

    At once, they let loose.

    The Atomic Ray met the Radiation Heat Ray. Nuclear pyroclastic flow met atomic blowtorch lance in yet another clash of nuclear power. Tails thrashing, feet digging into the melted ground, the two titans squared off with their atomic arsenals yet again. No faltering, no sign of weakness or giving in to the building pressure, they were as unstoppable in their conflict as they had been the last time. A literal nuclear arms race waged by two prehistoric radioactive behemoths beyond humankind’s understanding.

    And yet it was here into the battle that the inevitable catalyst began to show signs of existence. The ball of energy in the center of the colliding heat rays was building in intensity and pressure. With every second that passed, more and more nuclear energy built up nonstop into the middle of the heated clash; its stability plummeting by the second. Like a dying star the sphere of energy dwindled as its balance ever lost control due to too much atomic power clashing at such a rate, growing at a rate beyond the control of either of its users. Even if they wanted to stop, which they didn’t, both monsters couldn’t stop the unavoidable outcome that was to befall them at any moment now. They simply stood in place like statues hardwired on finishing the titanic battle, pouring every last drop of radiation they had into overpowering the other until at last the beam lock couldn’t handle any more and its balance spiraled dead out of control.

    *****

    The occupants at G-Center covered their faces with their arms as a blinding light filled the room, a light of which both Godzillas disappeared into. Nobody needed to look upon the screen to know what that light meant–they knew what would be coming in short order. So they shielded their eyes for as long as possible, letting the light passing through their eyelids inform them of the state of things; sure enough, it didn’t take long for the light from the rupture to fade in silence. But that didn’t stop them from standing their ground, knowing what would follow.

    The floor vibrated thunderously–the shockwaves arrived.

    The crew were lucky that the desks and computers were rooted into the floor, because had they not a great many of them would’ve fallen off balance and shattered apart. Not even all of the crew were able to keep their balance and fell to the floor in place of their digital devices from the force of the tremors. None could tell just how large the explosion had been but seeing it on the screen wasn’t necessary to know it was a powerful one, and such a burst would likely pack enough radioactive fallout to leave the Chiyoda Ward uninhabitable for a couple or more years. One Godzilla alone had been enough to do so in mere minutes; it was impossible to predict the aftermath of an all-out nuclear war between two such creatures.

    Yasuko held steady on the trembling floor, having been knocked off her feet by the shockwaves. She kept herself in a sprawled position, like a crocodile, keeping low so as to not so easily get flung about the ground by the roaring tremors. The G-Force operator tried to steady herself with deep breaths, but such an exercise did little to stem the near-paralyzing stress. Thankfully, the fates grew more merciful with every passing second as the shaking began to lessen in intensity.

    When the tremors died to the point where physical mobility was an option once more, Yasuko wasted no time snapping up off the floor and back into her post. “Super X-3, do you have a visual?” she spoke into her retrieved head-mic.

    “Negative,” Shinjo’s voice replied, “too much smoke and debris. We’ll circle around at a safe distance to wait.” Yasuko nodded slightly. “Understood. Switching to aerial camera now.”

    It was only a mere five seconds after Prime Minister Takasu recollected herself and stood to her feet that the screen above switched views, providing an aerial outlook at the fiery aftermath of the blast. The flames were already dying rapidly, but the battlefield remained molten and superheated; so much so, that a portion of it was actually beginning to pool downward in a wide, conical fashion. Meanwhile, what looked to be a 700-meter radius of what remained of the central Chiyoda ward was enshrouded in smoke, obscuring all view of whether or not either one of the two Godzillas had survived the rupture.

    A small vibration in Yasuko’s pocket temporarily drew her attention, and she stole a glance at her phone. Her eyes teared up a bit when she saw the text from Chinatsu, a sigh of relief leaving her.

    We’re okay.

    Yasuko stroked her ring finger softly, praying that they had seen the last of the nuclear titans. That after so long of living in anxiety and dread, the terror that took her parents’ lives and plagued her and her family with a fearful four years was at last at a close … … …

    A prayer that unfortunately evaporated like a snowflake on the sun when a distant roar echoed through the fading smoke. Distant, but familiar.

    The smoke was slowly clearing but had faded enough that on the outskirts of the molten field Yasuko’s eyes spotted a faint outline increasing in visibility. “We have movement in the area. It’s Godzilla!” she announced.

    “Which Godzilla?” Chujo called to her.

    “The first one, sir,” Yasuko answered, recognizing the body shape and design of the dorsal spines.

    Takasu turned to her with narrowed eyes–not out of anger, but clear growing anxiety. “Operator, can you get a visual on the second?” Holding her head-mic closer to her mouth, Yasuko reached out to contact the crew of the Super-X3 once more.

    “Super-X3, do you have a visual on the second Godzilla?”

    After a few seconds of silence, Yuki’s voice crackled through a reply. “Negative, operator. All we see is the first.”

    “And he looks a little worse for wear, too,” Sato spoke up. “If the second one didn’t make it, we could go down there and freeze the first while we’ve got the chance–wait… … …”

    Eerie silence took over, but Yasuko didn’t bother asking why he had ceased talking. Her focus was no longer on giving or receiving orders–no, her gaze was glued to the screen, as were the eyes of everyone in the room.

    “G-Center, are you seeing this?!” Shinjo’s raised voice crackled through the mic, but Yasuko couldn’t find the breath to give a reply. Words failed her as she stared at the anomaly gradually growing in visibility on the screen. The original Godzilla was now fully exposed from the fading smoke cloud, standing ankle-high in the molten rock.

    And, through the smoke, something massive–something glowing–was wading toward him.

    *****

    Godzilla shook his head with a bellow as he rose from the liquefied earth. His scars glowed brightly as he absorbed the high levels of radiation in the air, the explosion having given him a helpful boost of energy in of itself. His body was all but unscathed minus the keloid burns that already composed his form, his swaying stance attributed to dizziness and exhaustion more than anything. His throat inflated and deflated ever so slightly with air as silent breaths wisped between his teeth, the mutated reptile taking a much-needed breather from such fatigue. He was thankful for the high levels of radiation in the vicinity, the meal providing a big help in his recovery. If his internal fission levels stayed at such a state, he wouldn’t have to raid a nuclear plant to replenish like he had beforehand.

    Godzilla’s internal radar sensed a change. The wind suddenly shifted, his unblinking eyes staring ahead. It didn’t matter that thick levels of smoke still obscured his eagle-like vision–his phased-array radar instinctively told him everything he needed to know.

    His rival still lived–and yet, there was an anomaly. A new aura permeating off of the scent… … …

    The smoke was fading, and with it a glow began to shine through. A different glow than the artificial lava that surrounded him. Significantly brighter and packed to one spot, and said spot was moving in his direction. Godzilla boomed a threatening rumble as the orange illumination continued to grow, a familiar shape beginning to take form the closer it drew. A thunderous quake growled into the air as the massive shape walked forward, its glow beginning to penetrate the dying smoke. Godzilla instinctively took a step back as the true, terrifying result of the explosion revealed itself.

    The smoke all but blew away when the shape stepped forward and loosed a powerful roar that nearly cracked Godzilla’s eardrums. The elder was glowing like a star; cracks in his armored skin shining with an orange hue to rival the sun, his eyes all but pupil-less from the atomic radiance than shone through them, rays of light beaming through his back in place of his dorsal spikes; his injuries having completely healed, even his ruined eye restored to its former glory. The old predator looked as though he were made of heated magma, his insides fueled by a biological nuclear furnace so hot that it was visible to the human eye.

    Godzilla held his ground as the powerful form of Burning Godzilla bellowed forth another godly war cry, deafening enough to shake all of Japan itself with a miniature earthquake!

    His back lighting like a violet lantern, Godzilla snapped his jaws open and unleashed his Radiation Heat Ray. At the same time, his tail snapped into a scorpion pose, its tip alight with nuclear power, and unleashed its respective heat ray. But to Godzilla’s surprise, both beams struck Burning Godzilla’s chest with seemingly no harm done. And the burning behemoth continued to march toward the evolved creature as if his attacks never existed to begin with.

    Godzilla cut off his heat rays and turned about face, his back still aglow with the same amethyst light. In mere seconds, another volley of Radiation Heat Rays erupted from his back, striking the elder in multiple places.

    Burning Godzilla winced once, then continued marching. The molten earth trembling with every footfall.

    Godzilla whipped about face once more, the violet rays of atomic light dying away. Taking a step forward, he roared aggressively at Burning Godzilla, the near oxygen-less air distorting from the unnatural cry.

    The already blinding radiance of Burning Godzilla’s hulking form began to brighten, a loud humming rapidly building up in the pit of his body. As the light brightened, the hum grew louder and faster, rays of light shining from every orifice. Godzilla snarled as his flash protection membranes snapped over his eyes, bracing himself as the fearsome guardian unleashed his true power.

    A nuclear pulse exploded from Burning Godzilla’s shining form, quickly expanding like a dying star as it washed over Godzilla like an atomic tsunami. Magma blew away in waves, some of it even hitting both monsters; any smoke caught in its path evaporated into glowing radioactive vapor; large patches of fiery energy burned on every inch of Godzilla’s crimson skin. Burning Godzilla howled mightily into the sky as he let the unstable fusion within him grow out of control, and in seconds another pulse erupted from his fiery body. The second pulse was even larger, stronger and hotter than the last, and it exhibited enough force to push Godzilla back.

    The fiery leviathan roared his denouncement to the God Incarnate as he continued to lumber toward him–but even such a powerful battle cry died down when he saw the clear results of his handiwork. And while glowing, his eyes did not need pupils to express the disbelief that he widened them with.

    Godzilla had suffered little, if any, damage whatsoever.

    The mutated animal began to march slowly toward him through the sea of molten rock, the heat but a minor nuisance, his scars glowing brighter than beforehand all the while. The evolved creature rumbled a bassy growl, prompting Burning Godzilla to let the nuclear power within him run haywire once more and unleash a third nuclear pulse. The atomic blast washed over Godzilla like water, cinders and embers igniting on his crimson skin… … …and then, in mere seconds, said embers faded and died away while his exposed musculature flashed a bright scarlet once, then died down to their normal intensity of red.

    Burning Godzilla screamed in frustration, his claws balling into fists. It was time to end their aggravating game.

    Powering his legs through the molten rock as if it didn’t even exist, Burning Godzilla charged toward the God Incarnate like a maddened rhinoceros, his body glowing brighter than ever. Godzilla waited until the elder was close enough, then whipped his tail–only for Burning Godzilla to catch it in his hands and sling him to the molten ground on his back. As Godzilla bellowed fiercely at him, Burning Godzilla roared back before rearing his right foot off the floor, and brought it down hard upon his torso.

    The moment his claws met Godzilla’s body, an atomic aura exploded to life that proceeded to engulf both kaiju, expanding to cover the entire Chiyoda ward and muffling a pair of mighty roars.

    *****

    “What radioactivity!” Shinjo exclaimed as he watched the radiation meter climb to immeasurable levels in seconds. As Yuki steered the Super-X3 away from the superheated expansion that would surely wipe out whatever was left of the Chiyoda ward, Shinjo and Sato sighed to themselves. When this battle came to an end, they were gonna have to freeze every inch of the leftover crater for possibly hours on end if they were going to fight the radiation levels that would surely render the spot uninhabitable. It might even take days to do so–and that said nothing about whether or not they would truly be able to eliminate the potent radioactivity. It wasn’t implausible that they could only stem so much of the damage, and the rest would half to wait two or three years before it could finally fade away.

    Nonetheless, they were thankful that this was all the damage they would have to deal with. Had the warhead reached the mainland… … …

    Shutting off that horrid line of thought, the young pilots let their superior drive their prized vessel away from the blinding rupture, covering their eyes for the time being as they silently hoped that the radioactive titans had roared their last.

    *****

    Godzilla opened his eyes to pure brightness.

    It took a few moments for the Alpha Predator to realize he was laying submerged in the artificial lava field–after the blinding light of his final attack, he wasn’t certain what had changed. The old saurian’s eyes darted to and fro, seeing nothing but the complex ripples of the melted rock that flowed around him. It wasn’t long before he felt his leg muscles ache, half-numb from staying immobile for goodness-knows how long. His legs stretched pleasurably, as if eager to become mobile yet again, as he pushed himself up out of his igneous tomb. His tail powered a swing, like an alligator swimming through the marshes, and with a geyser of melted rock he burst to the surface with a mighty roar.

    Godzilla sighed a mixture of content and exhaustion. His ancient body, no longer laced with burning cracks, had healed of its former injuries thanks to the elevated levels of radiation released into the air; though still his majestic dorsal plates remained absent. Not that it mattered–they would regrow over time. This wasn’t the first occasion he had lost them in combat with another monster.

    The King of the Monsters took a step forward, grateful to feel his legs working just fine, with little pain accompanying his movements. There was still some afterburn in the pit of his chest that ached now and then, but he knew it wouldn’t last. Steamy vapor snorted from his nostrils as he tiredly circled around, his head now facing the distant sea. He could smell no scents on the radioactive air, a sign that the mutated abomination that had caused him so much trouble was no more, that he had achieved his goal and restored balance to the planet at last. Therefore, aside from the option to stay and feed on the leftover radiation, there was no reason not to return to his watery domain. For the world, the threat of the abominable New Godzilla had expired, and thus another blight on Nature’s plane had been erased. Nodding with satisfaction, Godzilla puffed out his chest and roared for all of Japan to hear.

    There was only room for one king.

    *****

    Yasuko didn’t know how to feel about what her eyes told her, whether on the screen above or her computer right in front of her; both told the same thing. There was only one signal still active on her scannings–and only one Godzilla remained amidst a field of melted rock that was once the Chiyoda ward.

    The nuclear menace that had changed her life forever was no longer; his signal had vanished amidst the atomic blaze. It seemed as though the very power that had created him, given him the limitless capabilities that it did, had destroyed him in the end–a fitting demise for the spawn of nuclear disaster. Yet, Yasuko’s heart didn’t cry out with joy, nor smirk with satisfaction, or marvel at the ironic karma. The G-Force operator stared at the screen with a somewhat blank sense of indifference. Why, she didn’t know either. Perhaps because it had all happened so fast, one minute the God Incarnate still walked upon this Earth as the toxic blight he was, and the next he and all the worldwide nuclear desolation he heralded had been whisked from the face of this good Earth. Perhaps her brain didn’t know yet how to handle such an occasion, one that was seemingly too good to be true, becoming reality; that her mind had only just seen that it was true for a few seconds, and that it needed more time to line it all up and go over the facts one by one, processing everything that had just transpired long enough for whatever necessary emotions to ignite and come out when need be.

    Or maybe, it was because she had something new to fear in the original’s place–a new presence to haunt her for the days to come, a new fight that she and the organization she worked for would have to partake in someday. There was no guarantee that this victorious second Godzilla was finished doing business with humanity, whether it be today or at a later date. None of the crew in the room had so much as a clue as to what was going on through the saurian’s head right now and had no prediction of what he would do next. Would he head back out to sea, now that he had defeated his enemy? Would he turn his primal eyes toward the rest of the city? And if not today, would he be back sometime in the future? If so, would it be to protect them from a similar threat?

    Or would it be to punish them, to wreak just as much fiery destruction and havoc upon their nation as the first Godzilla had done?

    Yasuko took her eyes off the screen, averting her gaze to the one human being whom everyone acted on accord. The one person in this room she trusted more than any other. “The first Godzilla’s signal has been lost,” the G-Force operator announced, “all G-Force units are awaiting your orders, ma’am.”

    “Wait,” the older woman replied back almost instantly. “Wait until he makes a move.”

    An aura of uneasiness settled in, the rest of the crew gulping silently as all eyes fell back to the primal leviathan looming triumphant on the video feed. Watching him stand there, little sign of movement present, as if he too was contemplating what to do next now that his hideous opponent had fallen. Or perhaps, in ways they didn’t know, he was fully aware that he was participating in a stand-off. Perhaps he was waiting on them, on humanity, waiting for them to make their next move.

    No course of action came from either side.

    Eventually, the victorious Godzilla just snorted, and with a heavy gait put his back to the city and began to wade through the cooling lake of molten rock, in the direction of Tokyo Bay. The entirety of G-Center breathed a series of audible sighs of relief, Yasuko being among the loudest-

    The giant saurian suddenly stopped, his nostrils flaring and his eyes raising with clear alarm. To make matters more distressing, a second blip had shown back up on the radar, causing Yasuko’s heart to suddenly freeze like ice and drop to the pit of her stomach… … …

    *****

    The second Godzilla turned his back to the sea upon hearing a heavy splash, as if something had just moved within the miniature sea of magma he stood in. His eyes enlarged with shock when his suspicions were confirmed, when a section of magma not three hundred or so meters away began to shift and bulge, like something was trapped deep within its igneous pits. Something fighting, something trying to break free… … …

    The bulging and boiling of magma erupted with a warped contrabass roar that threatened to shatter the heavens themselves as the original Godzilla burst tall and almighty from the lake of melted rock, his keloid-scarred body unchanged in spite of the Alpha Predator’s last attack. His open scars blazed not red, but with the same godly orange light that the second Godzilla had been during his ‘burning’ phase. His back and dorsal plates shone with the same fierce orange, his flash protection membranes still sealed shut over his eyes, his keloid-scarred body trembling violently as if yearning to unleash all the stored nuclear power he had obtained.

    The second Godzilla would’ve sworn loudly for all to hear had his mind been accustomed to such human concepts, taking a step back upon realizing how badly he had screwed up. Had he only known that his greatest weapon would not harm or cripple his evolved attacker, but feed him instead!

    The Doom Inevitable marched toward his dumbfounded rival, his footsteps making the world tremble even with the layers of lava beneath his taloned feet. Heat was no longer an adversary to him; that weakness had long passed when he evolved from his third form to his fourth. His blood, already burning hot, ran on nuclear fission, and his dorsal plates acted as heat vents for his natural internal cooling system. Burning Godzilla’s atomic pulses had done nothing but power him up–their million-degree heat harmless against that of his regular nuclear blood flow; their immeasurable levels of radiation feeding the mixotrophic reptile. The Alpha Predator could’ve never hoped to beat the evolved mutant by overheating him–his one key weakness was, in fact, the exact opposite.

    Something unachievable on the old timer’s part.

    The second Godzilla had unintentionally given all that stored power to his unnatural rival free of charge, and now dire consequences would await him because of it. It amazed him how much this creature was able to evolve, how much potential it held within itself. Its capabilities truly were limitless! No matter what weaknesses any adversary could find on the creature, it was always only temporary. When the creature had a flaw, it righted it in seconds; whatever had hurt him before wouldn’t do so again. Whatever held him at a disadvantage the first time, would be countered the second.

    This animal, whether he liked it or not, truly earned the title of God Incarnate.

    His exposed musculature shining brighter than ever, the original Godzilla held back no longer. His lower jaw splitting snake-like in half, the New Century King of the Monsters fired his almighty Radiation Heat Ray–this time not purple, but the same fiery orange as the glow that encompassed his scarred body. Composed of the very power his opponent had unleashed upon him many minutes ago, the carrot-colored lance of atomic radiation knifed effortlessly through the second Godzilla’s chest and out his back. Before the elder could roar out, the end of the mutant’s tail flashed to life and fired another beam that speared through his upper leg. The appendage was stricken by agony so great it went numb instantly, and the Alpha Predator screamed in more misery than he had felt in centuries to the heavens, falling to one knee with a quake. The ancient saurian was not one to go quietly into the night, and with a puff of his chest he released an atomic ray against his enemy’s stomach, pushing him back.

    It was a most valiant, yet ultimately futile effort.

    The original Godzilla’s tail fired another heat ray, this time lancing through the guardian’s stomach. Cutting off his most formidable weapon, the elder Godzilla howled in agony yet again as the mutated mixotroph pelted him again and again with Radiation Heat Rays made up of his own power. Old wounds that had healed were re-burnt, cauterized holes punched straight through nearly every meter of his monolithic body, and in seconds Nature’s Fearsome Guardian was fighting with every last ounce of strength in his ancient body to stay standing. Bellows of pain filled the superheated air as the original Godzilla unleashed another atomic ray, this one striking the old one’s left set of gills, frying them instantly.

    The Permian Predator reeled back, but the moment free of the fiery torture was short-lived.

    Whipping himself around to face his dorsal region toward the second Godzilla, the God Incarnate didn’t waste a second before firing a dozen columns of blazing orange photons from his exposed back. There was no dodging, no fleeing, to time to even block for the elder saurian–he was caught dead-center in the laser light show. Beam by beam sliced like a hot dagger through butter through his flesh, muscle and bone and out his body, and a sensation unlike any he had felt in countless millennia overcame him. His vision was white; pure, molten, unrelenting white and nothing more or less. An agony so great that even scientists themselves would argue that it didn’t exist enshrouded every cell, every fiber, every last ounce of his prehistoric being, and a roar the likes of which the world had never heard before vented from his gaping jaws.

    And as the roar faded to a rumbling drone, the Old Century King of the Monsters fell to the molten earth with a colossal, splashing THUD!

    Pain began to give way to a pregnant numbness, a numbness accompanied by an old friend he knew all too well. An old friend he counted upon to bring him into the realm unconscious. Darkness. Oh, hello darkness, his old friend. But in those last few seconds before he passed out, he caught a last glimpse of the original Godzilla, standing as the undoubted victor of this long, drag-out conflict, his jaws gaping to unleash a howl of victory. But strangely, he saw not the abominable wretch that stood as a boil on this earth that demanded to be lanced. Not the scarred deformity that mocked the shadow of his great, ancient lineage. Not the hideous imitation of a species’ former self, nor even a man-made mistake.

    He saw a descendant. A successor. An… … …heir?

    The briefest hint of a smile crossed his toothy mug as his eyes finally closed, and his old ally darkness finally ended the pain and allowed him to journey to the most sacred corners of his mind in the realm of sleep, and he passed out.

    He saw another Alpha Predator. Just like him.

    *****

    He did not have to rely on his nose or radar to know the elder wasn’t getting back up.

    Godzilla tilted his head to aim his toothed muzzle toward the heavens, his jowls parting to boom a quaking roar that would’ve made the fallen angel himself empty his bowels–but despite victory having been achieved at last, such a concept was not the foremost thing on the mutant reptile’s mind. It was no roar of triumph that howled from his fanged jaws; it was a roar that warned all for miles around to stay away, to not come near. Relief only partially graced Godzilla’s nerves as his roar faded to a bass growl, his breath coming forth in ragged waves when he at last took a moment to simply pant for breath.

    His phased-array radar reacted instantly; his brief moment of rest came to an end when he detected an object rapidly approaching his vicinity. Metallic in nature and almost certainly artificial–and approaching from the air. As soon as he began to move, a wave of pure cold chilled through his very being as a burst of subzero energy struck his calf, freezing it in sheets of snow and ice.

    An attack that triggered an instant reaction.

    Screaming in utter rage, Godzilla snapped his back toward his airborne adversary and fired off another volley of atomic photons. The metal bird’s protective heat layer was not as resistant to the attack as it had been designed to be; the stored power of Burning Godzilla was second by second melting the protective barrier from the God Incarnate’s atomic wrath. At first, the metal bird powered through the onslaught long enough to fire a second cryogenic blast that struck his shoulder, freezing it over instantly.

    But, like the elder’s last attack, it too was a futile exertion.

    Godzilla’s nuclear light show was cutting holes through its hull, and as if it had a mind of its own the metal bird suddenly veered away with the last of its strength, whatever manipulated it knowing that it stood no chance against the saurian’s upgraded power. But as it turned and headed away, Godzilla allowed his back to follow it, the beams actually slicing off its wings as it lost its once fluid airborne balance. As Godzilla continued to unleash the rest of his stored power, the metallic object fell away into the distance, its distant crash echoing amidst the faraway towers of concrete and steel that still stood.

    Only after the last drop of radioactive power drained from the monster’s body and the orange columns of energy shifted back to their normal purple before thinning out and dissipating, did Godzilla finally cease fire. Only then did the God Incarnate take a moment to catch his long-deserved breather, to calm himself down after finally losing his temper. Loud hisses rasped from his half-open maw, like a giant panting crocodile, as Godzilla finally allowed the fatigue of all that had taken place in the last hour to catch up with him. He was awake from his coma; he had made it through what was undoubtedly his greatest challenge in life as a terrestrial animal.

    He was so… … …tired.

    Godzilla didn’t want to stay here anymore. He wanted nothing more to do with this dreadful place. Four years being trapped in an unnatural sleep and a subsequent attack by a creature that resembled him had sent the message clear through his head that this place wasn’t worth the effort. It was far past time he put his back to this strange land and departed. That he took his leave for a place he had been absent from for far too long. A place he held in the highest of regards, a place he longed to feel claim him once more. His birthplace, his home that he knew so well, even after so long.

    The sea.

    Godzilla raised his head a little as he felt the energy he needed flow through him. Standing in the middle of the cooling lava crater, absorbing the plentiful radiation in the air to satiate an age-long hunger. His dorsal plates drew in the radioactive properties like a solar panel absorbing sunlight, his back sparkling every now and then with wisps of crimson electricity as he gorged.

    Microsievert by microsievert, the radioactivity was drawn into Godzilla’s colossal body, disappearing as it re-energized the nuclear reptile, until eventually the only radiation left was that given off by his presence in the area. His nostrils flaring, Godzilla at last turned in the direction of the great blue sea he so desired to be a part of again, and with thunderous footfalls began his march to freedom.

    He paid no mind to the unconscious elder as he lumbered right past him, his blank eyes staring off into space as he continued his walk.

    Every step he took, the shallower the artificial magma became, until eventually he felt his taloned foot stomp upon solid concrete for the first time in nearly an hour. The tar and rock cracked under his mighty weight as an impression of his foot formed on the surface, but it was a mere background occurrence for him. Nothing to pay any mind to. So he walked.

    And walked.

    And walked until he lumbered upon the edge of the endless stretch of water that waved and rippled before him, the roaring of the ocean waves calling him home. A call he accepted with open arms as he took a step into the cold, familiar substance. Deeper he waded, straightforward with no sign of falter, and let himself lean forward and plunge into the heavenly sea with a massive SPLASH!

    His glowing spines knifed further oceanward as he swam, massive ripples forming from the swishing of his colossal tail. And then they sunk below the surface, disappearing into the endless blue.

    He was home at last.

    *****

    “Goddamn lizard!” Shinjo snarled as he sat back in his chair. The Super-X3 had lost functionality, and there was no moving from here on out. The once proud aerial vessel built for Godzilla’s defeat now lay sprawled, crippled and helpless somewhere in the middle of Tokyo, somewhere far away from the igneous battleground. Whether their prized battleship had been damaged beyond repair, none of the trio knew. As of this very second, however, repair schematics could come later–they needed to re-establish contact with their peers at G-Center. God knows where Godzilla was headed now that he had disposed of the last of his opposition–plus, everyone at the center probably knew more than they did at the current moment.

    “Got anything yet?” Yuki asked as Sato picked up his mic, tapping it to test its functionality. The static he had heard seconds ago came to an end, and the young pilot capitalized on the given opportunity. “G-Center, can you read me? Super-X3 is crippled, incapable of further use. Damage levels unknown, target whereabouts unknown. Respond, over?”

    No response.

    Sato shook his head. “Damn it,” he cursed. “Pick up, why don’t you?” he smacked his headset again, attempting to trigger a change. But nothing came through. “Shinjo, why don’t you-”

    “This is G-Center, we read you loud and clear!” Yasuko’s voice nearly made the men jump out of their seats. “Godzilla has left Japan behind. He headed out to sea not thirty seconds ago.” At this, Yuki sighed and pulled out another cigarette, lighting it for a puff. His crewmates’ faces fell in defeat and frustration along with him as he inhaled the tobacco and let out an exhale. “How’s the Super-X3 look from out there?”

    “You’ve lost your wings and suffered large holes in the bottom of the hull, but it doesn’t seem damaged beyond repair,” the G-Force operator’s voice replied through the comms, eliciting sighs of relief from the pilots sans Yuki. “You three landed in Shiroyama dori Avenue, in the Itabashi ward. You can emerge from the vessel, and we’ll send a rescue to pick you three up.”

    Shinjo nodded in reply. “Roger that, operator. We’ll send a flare when you get close.”

    *****

    Yasuko leaned back in her chair as she cut off the communications, sighing with gratitude. “They’re okay,” she announced, resulting in her co-workers cheering gratefully. Prime Minister Takasu and her cabinet exhaled with relief at the news, grateful that no more lives had been lost. “Thank God for that,” Hatogaya murmured in reply.

    “Get those choppers in the air. Let’s get them back to base right away,” Takasu directed, “make sure those three don contamination suits before they’re transported. God knows how much radioactivity the Super-X3 absorbed from Godzilla’s heat rays.”

    “And what of the second Godzilla?” Chujo asked. “Now that he is at his weakest, what is to be done with him?”

    “Based on his behavior prior to the first Godzilla’s return” Hatogaya interjected, “I think the option is simple.”

    “And?” Chujo was getting impatient. A common characteristic of the man–and what Hatogaya replied with only heightened his relatively short temper.

    “Do nothing. Let him go.”

    “NO!” Chujo slammed his fist on the table. “Extermination’s the answer!” he turned to Takasu. “A few maser tanks?”

    “Even if we gathered them to one spot and opened fire while he was asleep, they would only do just as well as our previous assault,” the Prime Minister answered. “Even if they are equipped enough to injure the creature, they’d have to spend days chiseling at him to kill him. And that’s just saying if he stays asleep, which is unlikely.”

    “Furthermore,” she continued, “if they fire at him while he’s awake, it will only lead to further collateral damage that will extend outside of Chiyoda, not to mention the needless loss of more lives.”

    She turned back toward the old man. “I don’t always agree with him, but I’m siding with Hatogaya on this. Our resources are all but useless, and our only weapon capable of truly besting him is crippled beyond further use. As of now, there’s little to do but wait until he wakes, and heads back out to sea.”

    “What about the President of the U.S.?” Yasuko asked from the back of the room. “How do you think today will affect his public position?”

    Takasu smirked slyly at the question. “He tried to wipe out a city of thirteen million with the first use of a nuclear weapon on Japan since World War II, all in broad daylight, and we put a stop to it and embarrassed him for all to see, subsequently embarrassing America in the process.” Her smile grew broader. “How do you think everything will unfold for him at this point?”

    “I’ll put it this way,” the G-Force operator responded with a smile of her own tugging at her lips, “I hope Yuki wins his bet with his co-pilots.”

    “Don’t we all,” Hatogaya shook his head with a light grin. “Nowadays, I wonder if there even is a limit anymore.”

    “Oh, I think there will be,” Takasu said. “Attempting destruction of an entire city without giving so much as a warning is a far different matter than anything that son of a bitch has done in the past. Even those close to him know that full well.”

    “In the meantime,” Hatogaya piped up, “other countries must be careful on how they use nuclear power–if anything, all of us should look to using new energy sources. Godzilla is back on the loose, and he reportedly lives off radioactive material. If he ever gets hungry, he might target France or the U.S. next.”

    “Let them have it,” Chujo scoffed, “after all they nearly cost us today–”

    Takasu fixed him with an intense glare, cutting him off faster than the blink of an eye.

    “Don’t blame an entire country of innocent lives for the sins of a handful of those in power,” she spoke calmly, yet fiercely. “Otherwise, we’re no better than them.”

    Whatever was building in the man’s vocal cords died in an instant, even his pride knowing full well when to quit. Takasu lightly shook her head before continuing. “If Godzilla lands on American soil, we’ll gladly come to their aid whether the current dictator likes it or not. And once he’s been kicked out of office and replaced by a real president, then current political strains will be lessened considerably to say the least. But there’s one problem…”

    “Problem, ma’am?” Yasuko asked.

    “We only have a single anti-Godzilla weapon formidable enough to potentially match him, and it was downed in battle not fifteen minutes ago.” She sighed, turning back to the screen. “We can’t rely on the Super-X3 alone. We need more means of defense–especially given that there are two Godzillas in the world now. Lord knows what else may be waiting for us out there.”

    She closed her eyes for a moment and took a silent breath.

    “This all may only be just the beginning.”

    *****

    Puffs of vapor wisped loudly from two gigantic nostrils as a slumbering lifeform re-awoke. Lids of scaly skin lifted to reveal two weary, orange eyes that gazed tiredly upon the environment around them. With every muscle and nerve that re-activated through his massive body, Godzilla hissed as all the pain suffered in his defeat returned ounce by ounce. The King of the Monsters gazed around and saw no sign of the scarred mutant. He took a whiff through his nostrils, and found only a vague whiff of the creature remained behind. A sure sign he had long departed by now.

    Summoning his willpower, Godzilla fought against the horrible pain as he strained to push himself out of the cooling artificial magma. As he rose with a loud grunt, he noticed that some of his injuries were not in as poor condition as they had been when he collapsed. It seems like the radiation left behind had helped somewhat in his recovery–but that said very little. Every inch of his monolithic form hurt like the lowest plane of oblivion, and the trace amounts of radiation left over from their explosive battle would be nowhere near close enough to restore him to his full strength. His time on this island was over.

    It was time to head back home.

    Godzilla lumbered through the viscous molten rock, his stride actually leaving marks in the solidifying substance as he moved. But when he reached the edge of the crater-to-be, his eyebrows raised upon glimpsing an unexpected memento.

    A four-toed footprint, with a familiar scent to it.

    The Alpha Predator stared at the taloned track for a moment, letting his surprise linger. And then, very slowly, he took his left foot, reared it out of the last of the melted rock, and stepped in the footprint. He looked forward, seeing yet another track left behind by the mutated reptile. Rearing up his matching foot, he stepped in it too. Track by track, he followed in the departed creature’s footsteps, smirking ever so slightly as he allowed himself to dwell on all the possibilities that could open up from this day, about the potentials that could be brought forth in the future following his newfound respect for his irradiated doppelganger. If a threat ever showed its face to the planet in the not-too-distant future, he may not be its only hope of defense.

    Godzilla smiled again as he dove beneath the waves, letting the soothing blanket of the water cool him down.

    For the first time in 250 million years, more than one Alpha Predator drew breath on this earth.

    *****

    Showa Kinen Park

    Her eyes had begun to water before she glimpsed them from afar, spotting them sitting on their favorite bench. Even from a distance, Yasuko could make out their shapes instantly; the little girl huddled against her mother’s side while the former’s arm wrapped around her like a blanket as they waited. For half a second, they remained that way–vigilant, tired, frightened, and waiting.

    And then the next half of a second passed, and they moved in a way that told Yasuko they saw her.

    There were times when one deemed it necessary to not show weakness in front of one’s family in times of terror and hardship, to remain strong so as to ease the family’s pain and fear, to make them feel at least a little better while something frightful loomed in their minds. But now was no such time for Yasuko–and she knew her family would hold no judgement to her for it. The woman’s face contorted into one of heartbroken relief and she elicited a half-gasp, half-sob as she took a brief second to cover her mouth with her hand, before her walk sped up as they got off the bench. Then her walk evolved into a jog, and soon the was full-blown sprinting at them as the first tears fell from her hazel eyes.

    She closed the gap between her and her running daughter in less than ten seconds, nearly sliding as she dropped to her knees and clasped the weeping four-year old in her arms with a protective grip only a mother could deliver. As little Yukari Hashimoto tried to hug her just as hard, Yasuko stood up with her daughter in tow when she saw the second shape sprinting toward her at what seemed to be cheetah speeds. The most dazzling human being in the world, her partner for life, her soulmate, her other half; weeping silently as she dashed to meet her. Throwing one arm wide open, Yasuko only took a step forward as Chinatsu Hashimoto ran right into it with an ecstatically relieved cry. Sobbing, squeezing with all their strength, the three gently fell back to the grassy earth in a warm huddle.

    And they stayed there for a while, bound together as one, under the golden-leaved tree.

    *****

    27 days later

    The photographer sighed with content as he finally allowed himself to sit against a suitable tree, letting his legs turn to jelly as he relaxed from a long, exhausting, but truly worthwhile hike. The wind sang gently through the forests of Mt. Fuji, a light breeze nipping at the sides of his neck while the remaining leaves trembled their death throes before plucking from their branches, carried away by the wind.

    The man clicked the directional buttons on his camera as he looked through the different shots he had taken through the course of the day, reviewing each and every aspect of every one, judging which ones were exactly fit to stay in his album and which ones he would have to re-take; and to his pleasant surprise, he detected no true error among his collection. As far as he could tell, each shot was primed and ready to be printed into physical form and added to his album when he got home. Every image possessed exactly the right color, mood, and style that he had individually intended; for now, he was free to rest his feet and enjoy the serenity of these sacred grounds personally. For these calm next few minutes, the camera could wait.

    SNAP!

    The photographer’s eyes jolted open, his once-soothed nerves snapping awake instantly when the sound of branches breaking entered his ears. Whatever had made that sound, it didn’t sound like any bird or macaque; no, it sounded like something big. Far too big to make the ground vibrate the way it did. Whatever had just broken those branches didn’t just make considerable noise–he could feel a sense of great strength shuddering from it. Perhaps it was a rather large branch, and it had finally fallen off its respective tree?

    SNAP!

    The crack echoed a second time, stronger than the first. More branches had broken, and whatever made that noise sounded as if it had gotten closer. The photographer climbed to his feet as quietly as he could make himself sound, not wanting to attract the attention of whatever was moving through the woods. He switched his camera on, wondering if he could snap a photograph of the unseen entity should it pass into open view.

    SNAP!

    With a final twisting and crashing of bark, the source of the noise stepped out from the trees and into the photographer’s field of view, not ten yards away. His heart nearly stopped at what he was seeing, his mind failing for a half-second to comprehend the being that had just emerged from the undergrowth to lumber before his very eyes. At first, his mind registered it as looking very human; tall and lanky with a round cranium and mouth full of similar teeth. But then the other details set in, putting it as anything but. The beast was at least twenty-five feet tall; It possessed blackish-purple skin, tiny yellow eyes and large canine teeth. A skeletal tail dragged behind it, and a single row of pointed plates of bone running down its spinal column. Plates shaped like maple leaves.

    The photographer jutted his camera up, and acting as quickly as he possibly could, snapped three quick photos of the humanoid giant that walked before him.

    Crossing the threshold of the path, the Godzilla-humanoid turned its eyeless head to look at the photographer, and for that brief moment the man stilled as he felt time freeze. This was it; this was the end. The ghastly creature had caught him in its sights, its little yellow eyes seemingly fixing him with its predatory gaze. He knew it saw him, and he was but an unarmed and defenseless prey animal. No weapons, no means of escape, no distractions. He was as good as dead.

    And then the humanoid turned its head back forward as it continued to walk, time resuming its normal pace to the stunned photographer as the skeletal creature crossed the path and lumbered down the hill. Seemingly not having given a care in the world about the flabbergasted human being watching it.

    And the creature vanished into the woods, as if it had never been there to begin with.

    *****

    Aurlandsfjord, Norway

    When used as an offensive weapon, cold would normally hinder the mighty Godzilla. But as he waded through the shimmering mirror of a fjord under the overcast sky, chunks of ice occasionally bumping against his keloid-scarred hide, the God Incarnate paid it no mind. The cold here was just one of many comforting solaces that pacified Godzilla, informing him of the near lack of civilization in this particular stretch of land and water as he lumbered quietly, peacefully through the frigid fjord. The mountains around him quaked and trembled with every impact of his clawed feet meeting the cold depths of the water as he walked, but such vibrations could not be detected by the saurian mixotroph. To him, everything was peace and quiet. Birds chirping from the mountains, distant reindeer barking to one another in a language Godzilla didn’t know nor care to understand, the water waving and rippling with every movement of his massive hips. All exactly as he preferred it.

    Godzilla roared, listening to his call bounce off the mountains as it echoed down the snow-laded gorge.

    The unnatural deity stopped still as the inanimate mountains around him when a sound different from his own echo bounced lightly through the fjord, catching his ears. Godzilla’s natural radar detected something down the gorge, a presence not too far away, not even a mile behind the mountains. And if his radar didn’t confirm the existence of a lifeform, his sense of smell certainly did. A scent had drifted into his nasal passage, and his nose told him everything he needed to know. That scent didn’t belong to a being of artificial nature–everything about it screamed biological.

    There was another animal in the vicinity.

    Godzilla roared again, resuming his locomotion… … …and sure enough, the call wailed back.

    The irradiated reptile didn’t know what he was going to find when he discovered the source of the wailing cry. He didn’t know if the unseen beast was friendly–or ferocious. Until first contact, he wouldn’t be able to differentiate friend from foe. So he walked, inching further and further down the fjord as he sensed the presence drawing ever closer; his instincts warily preparing him for the possibility of yet another conflict. Emitting rumbling infrasound, he practically stalked down the gorge as he prepared to meet whatever it was that lay ahead.

    A splash of water acted as the prelude to a reptilian quadruped emerging from behind the mountain that covered the right turn of the river. A carapace of spikes adorned its back, with fierce eyes glowering fearlessly beneath a head topped by a crown of curved horns. A spiked tail swayed behind it, signifying its own caution. Opening his razor-toothed jaws, Anguirus honked at Godzilla. The God Incarnate was stunned to see yet another Titan; he was beginning to wonder whether or not the terrestrial world was full of them. It seemed that his evolution through the years into a creature as large as he was had allowed him to step into a larger world, the surface of which he had only just begun to scratch.

    Godzilla hoped that what he was about to do would prove a benefit, and not a fatal mistake. Hope in of itself could be a fatal mistake–Godzilla had learned that the hard way. Hope could get you killed, so it was a concept never to be taken lightly when faced with circumstances in which survivability could be on the line. So, after a moment of hesitation, the mutated reptile decided.

    Godzilla called to the spiked ankylosaur. A greeting. Thus, he waited.

    And Godzilla hoped.

    Winner: Godzilla (Reiwa)

    K.W.C. Kaiju War Chronicles

    K.W.C. // June 20, 2021
  • Author: Joel Forsberg | Banner: Dao Zang Moua

    It was the dead of summer in California, but the hot air was easily combated by the shade of the towering redwood forests. Hikers wandered the hills, photographers captured the scenery, and climbers rappelled down the slopes. Between the amazing weather and sprawling beauty of the landscape, it felt that nothing could ruin this beautiful day.

    Everyone in the park felt the earth spasm beneath their feet, dirt shifting and stones falling. The quake gave way to a fracture, which in turn gave way to a chasm. Tourists and massive trees alike fell into the ever growing tunnel, but only the latter hit the ground. Before the humans could fall any further, they were swallowed up by the creature within.

    Baragon, the subterranean scourge, burst from the ravine he had created. A mighty bellow escaped his tooth filled maw, its percussiveness rivaling that of the earthquake he had caused tunneling through the ground. For two weeks, Baragon had ravaged through San Diego, dining on all the tiny primates he desired; however, humanity was not so easy to surrender. They came with tanks, rifles and even missiles. They pelted the rampaging kaiju, stinging his crimson hide and forcing the crimson dinosaur to flee underground with a half-empty belly.

    Baragon did not appreciate his prey’s reluctance to be consumed. So he decided to snack on something that would not fight back; or, rather, something that couldn’t.

    The reptile followed his nose, and it had brought him here – the mighty redwood forests.

    As he finished announcing his presence, Baragon took notice of his surroundings for the first time and looked around in awe. Even on his hind legs, the canopy towered a hundred feet above the dinosaur. Back on Monster Island, he had used trees to pick his teeth. Now, the things looked like they could crush him!

    As he contemplated, Baragon moved where his nose told him to go. The dragon absent mindedly wandered through the forest, subconsciously hunting the mouth-watering scent. It wasn’t long before the feeling of cold water on his feet woke Baragon from his trance. He shook his head and gazed upon the river enveloping his feet, following the flow to find its source; a massive cascading waterfall, crashing from a high cliff. He grinned maniacally and pressed his scaly head through the water…

    It was more beautiful than he ever imagined.

    Behind the falling waters was a dark cave. The floor and walls were lined with thousands of white-yellow eggs, all taller than the tiny primates he feasted on before. His gaping mouth was filled to the brim with saliva as he stared upon his personal buffet.

    The kaiju shook his head and howled happily, then began moving toward his prize. But as he progressed, his snout bumped into something. Startled, Baragon snorted and pawed at his snout, rubbing the sore spot. It was strange. He had seen nothing there before.

    He looked up to meet a pair of brilliant yellow eyes staring back at him. Baragon froze in place. His mouth, despite being filled with saliva just moments ago, dried up on the spot.

    The creature in front of him let out a deafening screech as it tackled Baragon out of the cavern, forcing a squeal from the crimson dragon, who responded by slamming his paws against the creature’s back. But it had no effect; Baragon was slammed against a massive tree. The plant groaned in protest, and Baragon did the same. As his assailant hopped back, Baragon fell to the ground with a mighty crash, moaning with ache as he looked up at his opponent.

    Its body was covered in greyish scales, accompanied by massive, abating spines traveling from the shoulders to the end of its tail. Its long neck held a boxy head and dangling flap of thin skin. Large, prehensile arms were held against its sides, and powerful legs held it in an upright position.

    Zilla, the reptilian terror of New York, cried out, ready to defend his brood with all the might he could muster. Baragon hopped to his feet, and returned Zilla’s threat with a snarl. If this lizard wanted to give him an extra meal, so be it!

    Zilla charged forward at full speed, mouth agape and claws outstretched. Baragon, in turn, dug his feet into the ground, bracing to retaliate. The mutant jumped into the air, ready to crush his opponent underneath his dinosaurian feet, but Baragon was ready. The crimson wyrm left the ground and made impact with his reptilian assailant, clamping his jaws around the theropod’s neck. Zilla screamed as he was dragged to the forest floor, the impact bruising his frail form. The crimson kaiju released a cackle and began clawing at his floored opponent, blow after blow slicing through the irradiated reptile’s underbelly, causing Zilla to cry out once more.

    As the red dragon tore away at him, Zilla managed to get his legs positioned beneath the distracted dinosaur’s chest. Summoning all his might, he kicked up, pushing Baragon away and emptying the air from the burrower’s chest. The big-eared beastie gasped for breath and coughed, giving Zilla the opportunity to strike, snatching one of Baragon’s dog-like ears in his jaws, earning a squeal out of the kaiju as he tugged him along, testing the grip of his maw on the red monster. Tightening his grip, the false dinosaur swung Baragon through a group of trees, exploding their trunks and creating a pile of broken bark on the forest floor.

    In the middle of another swung, Zilla released his grip and sent his foe flew away, through even more of the towering vegetation and into the side of a massive overhang. As Baragon made impact, the redwoods on top of the overhang shuddered and shook, threatening to fall off. Baragon wheezed as he struggled to get up again, attempting to shake the blisters from his back. As he caught his breath, the burrower heard Zilla’s titanic footsteps coming closer, posed to strike once again. Panicking, Baragon realized he needed an advantage.

    While Baragon thought to himself, Zilla had gained ground. The radioactive lizard pounced, ready to drive his claws into the red kaiju, but instead was met with a cloud of dust and dirt. Zilla landed and stumbled, unsure of where the intruder went. Had it fled? Was it dead?

    Zilla got his answer when Baragon burst out from the ground behind him. The dinosaur found a foothold in Zilla’s massive dorsal plates and bit down on the reptile’s neck, forcing a scream from his foe. Zilla didn’t know why the attack seared his flesh, but it did – his flesh was being cooked!

    The titanic reptile bucked and flailed, desperate to throw this wily little monster from his back, but Zilla’s struggle only made Baragon hold on tighter. By a kaiju scale, his huge fangs were only inches away from severing the mutant’s spine.

    In a mighty show of desperation, the irradiated iguana kicked the cliff side, sending him and the red kaiju on his back flying through multiple redwoods. Baragon acted as a living piece of armor for his foe, inadvertently protecting Zilla from crashing into the trees whilst enduring the punishment himself. When the pair flew through a final tree, Baragon finally relinquished his grip. The subterranean monster was sent rolling across the forest floor and cried out when a boulder brought him to a halt. The pain from the splinters and stones in his back forced him into the fetal position in a feeble attempt to numb himself.

    An opportunity was available to Zilla, and he was not about to let it slip from him. The cold wind whipped against Zilla’s face as he charged forth, ready to strike. Just as Baragon regained his footing, the mutant pounced. Powerful arms wrapped around the red dragon’s head and neck, manipulating his movements and forcing him forward.

    Next thing Baragon knew, Zilla had rammed his head into a boulder. He felt the bones in his jaw and nose fracture, moaning from the pain. Bright spots danced around Baragon’s vision, taunting him as he pawed the air before him in a daze. He growled and attempted to face Zilla, but when he tried to turn, the reptile found himself stuck. The force from Zilla’s assault had stabbed Baragon’s horn into the stone. Stuck in place, the subterranean kaiju felt his rival clawing and kicking at his back and hind leg. If his skin wasn’t red before, it most definitely was now.

    Baragon grabbed a tight hold of the rock and lifted his haunches. Using his hind legs, he kicked Zilla in the chest, sending the iguana flying back. With his foe stunned, he began clawing at the boulder with his stumpy claws…

    After some struggling, Zilla managed to force himself back up. A quick scan of the area revealed that, where Baragon had been just moments ago, there was yet another cloud of dust. Zilla snarled and dug his feet into the ground experienced well with this subterranean ability. He knew what the small, red creature had planned.

    On cue, Baragon exploded from the ground once again, but Zilla was ready. The mutant lizard swung his tail, and it struck Baragon hard and true in the gut. The dragon struck another tree, but this one held its ground. The pressure felt like it would break Baragon’s back, the pain was so bad!

    Before he could even hit the ground, Zilla was on top of him. The pseudo-saurian’s legs pinned Baragon down while his mighty, four-clawed hands scratched at his chest and throat. Stinging pain resonated throughout the crimson reptile’s entire body, and his resulting squeals were enough to shatter glass. He had to think fast.

    Steam began rising from the mighty saurian’s belly. Zilla stopped his assault when a strange, yellow light began emanating from Baragon’s mouth. He blinked away the heat and light, unprepared for what was to come.

    Red hot fire blasted point blank into Zilla’s face, scorching his snout and drying his eyes. The heat was unbearable, and Zilla backed away with a roar of anguish. Rising back to his feet, Baragon continued his flaming assault, driving the spiny mutation back with his mighty beams, blast after blast striking the mutant’s face and chest.

    The final step drove Zilla’s foot off an edge. He just barely managed to balance himself and peered over his shoulder to the sight below. It was a massive cliff over a beach. Waves smacked against the sand, overcast by the rock face above. The fall was intimidating, even to a kaiju. Zilla let out a squeak of fear, then turned back to his opponent.

    Baragon was bloodied and bruised, but that maniacal smile still adorned his dog-like face. His nasal horn glowed, somehow amplified by his excitement, and he approached Zilla.

    This was the end. Zilla cried out, softly. A plea for mercy.

    Baragon’s chest inflated, puffing out as he took a massive breath. The glowing light once more took residence in his mouth…

    Zilla took another look at the drop behind. It seemed to almost grow deeper the more he looked at it. He looked back again, preparing to face death…

    But Baragon wasn’t there.

    Zilla looked around. Yet again, there was a hole in the ground where Baragon had stood. The iguana regained his footing on the solid ground. It felt so great to not be teetering over that cliff anymore, but the reptilian was bewildered. Why had the red creature spared him? The mutant checked around the area to make sure Baragon was not hiding in wait, playing with him; but his searches yielded no result.

    Zilla was bewildered. Nothing about this made sense to his reptilian mind!

    But then he realized.

    The eggs.

    Zilla cried out in a mixture of surprise and dread. His long legs moved faster than they ever had before, at speeds that had seemed impossible before. At first, the reptile tried to wind through the trees; but it wasn’t long before he gave up the delicate approach. The trees crashed and crumbled as he rammed through them, desperate to save his brood!

    Cold water splashed up on Zilla’s legs as he reached the river. As soon as he felt the liquid, he made a sharp left and made his way swiftly to the waterfall. He crashed through the water, splashing it all over the cavern.

    It was more atrocious than he ever imagined.

    Thousands of crushed eggshells were scattered across the cavern. Golden yolk was splattered on the floor and walls, and mangled parts of Zilla’s unborn were spread everywhere. The radioactive iguana shrieked in horror and ran in, trying to find any survivors, but there were none to be found. What few eggs that weren’t devoured had been crushed beneath Baragon’s massive feet. The dragon had massacred Zilla’s family; slaughtered them. They never stood a chance.

    Zilla let out a squeak of sorrow, mourning his children. He had brawled for them, bled for them, BURNED for them… But it was for nothing.

    In the middle of the cavern was the gaping hole where Baragon had came and left. Zilla saw this and let no hesitation plague him, jumping in immediately after the monster who had eaten his children.

    Baragon was in the middle of making his way to the surface. With a final strike from his shovel claws, he punched through the compact layers of soil. Light shone on his face, and he emerged at the edge of the forest. He couldn’t believe that trick had worked!

    He had considered killing Zilla. The putrid abomination had caused him excruciating pain, and probably hindered his hearing forever – plus, he may actually earn some respect from the kaiju back home. But as he prepared to blast that grey worm off the edge, Baragon had an epiphany. If he spared his enemy, he would have a steady food supply. He could track Zilla every year and eat his fill in delicious eggs. So, why not let it live? Baragon congratulated himself for such a thought, in whatever way ten-story monsters do. He was proud of his new found discovery, but after such a titanic battle, he was ready to retreat.

    The dinosaur took a step to leave, but was met with a fiery pain in his foot. He cried out, and turned to snarl at the source.

    The fire in the eyes that met him startled Baragon out of his narcissistic complex.

    Zilla had his boxy jaws placed in a vice grip on the red kaiju’s foot. Anger burned into Baragon’s soul when he stared at the father of his victims. He felt his heart beating hard enough to make him light headed. Maybe this idea wasn’t so great after all.

    Before Baragon could think anything more, Zilla launched from the tunnel and head-butted the murderer of his babies. Baragon felt his brain shake inside his skull as the lizard made contact and was knocked away. His grey matter was still bouncing when Zilla jumped and placed two well aimed kicks directly in Baragon’s snout, breaking bone and loosening teeth.

    Blow after blow, Zilla’s assault continued. Every bone in Baragon’s form was being broken and shattered, one by one, and he would not stand for it. The red dragon snapped out of his terrified daze, and pushed Zilla away. The hellfire in his belly awoke once again, growing bright enough to almost blind the lizard.

    Zilla couldn’t hesitate. Quickly, he spun around. His lengthy tail hit Baragon directly across the cheek, forcing the red dragon’s head to the right. The heat beam intended for Zilla burst from Baragon’s mouth, and exploded against the base of a particularly massive redwood. Baragon roared from frustration. Why wouldn’t this pest die!?

    The sound of creaking resonated through the forest, but in his blood rage, Baragon did not notice. Zilla, however, heard loud and clear. As Baragon let out a deafening roar, the theropod charged toward the distracted monster and leapt. His saurian feet made contact with the chest of the nest raider, who felt Zilla’s weight rest upon him. Then, with a final push, Zilla back-flipped off of the burrower’s torso. The blow sent Baragon somersaulting, but he was quick to hop back onto his feet.

    Zilla landed and observed the oblivious dinosaur. Baragon snarled. Determination to wipe that smug look of that lizard’s face consumed him!

    The creaking sound filled the forest once more, but this time Baragon heard. He slowly turned his head to the side, and was met with the sight of a gigantic tree falling on top of him.

    The trunk made impact with Baragon’s skull, crushing his cranium and shattering the horn atop his head. The scarlet saurian was forced to his knees, and then to his stomach. His scaly body sprawled on impact. Spasms plagued the corpse for no more than a few seconds, then halted.

    Zilla pointed his head to the heavens and roared in victory. The deafening cry was short however. Soon, he realized the cost of this victory. Somberly, he turned on his heel and fulfilled his march of shame back to the home of his personal tragedy.

    He pressed on through the waterfall and collapsed, tired and sorrowful. His forest territory had been massacred, his children eradicated, and himself almost killed. His depressed growl echoed through this graveyard he called home.

    And soon after that, a chirp.

    Zilla’s eyes widened and he frantically looked around. Was it his imagination?

    Another chirp. And another.

    He looked down to see a tiny hatchling, still covered in the slime of its incubator. It looked toward its parent and chirped yet again, hopping in its strange, newborn way. Zilla lowered his head to the baby and grumbled, and the little one responded by rubbing against his father’s snout.

    Zilla grumbled happily. Maybe this day would turn out alright.

    Winner: Zilla

    K.W.C. Kaiju War Chronicles

    K.W.C. // June 9, 2021
  • This article is an archived listing to all non-prose submissions for the Kaiju War Chronicles. Formerly the K.W.C. Animated Battles. (more…)

    K.W.C. // June 9, 2021
  • Author: Vincent Rodger | Banner: Landon Soto

    One hundred years ago, they fell; the Age of Heroes ended when the Titans suddenly appeared. They devoured those that could not escape, but those that did survive the hordes built three massive walls, preserving the lives of the few thousand humans remaining.

    Up until two years ago, the walls fell under siege, the small town of Mozen being lost in the chaos. The hordes poured in, eating the population like rats trapped in a cage. Those who witnessed the terror enlisted in the newly formed Scout Regiment, eventually finding a way to take back the home that they had lost.

    Overcoming internal corruption and traitors in the ranks, it felt as if a new era of freedom was finally blooming. The world had been so small to them for their entire lives, now it seemed as if humanity was given a chance to flourish once more. That was, if those that watched were ready to give this world up.

    Above the planet sat a colossal ship, gold in color, signifying that the warlords of Planet Mega had returned. They had waited for the age of heroes to fall and for the King of The Monsters to be destroyed; though it seemed that there was a domino effect. Once those that fought to protect the Earth had fallen to the hordes, Godzilla disappeared. The perfect chance to seize the planet as they sought fit had finally arrived, taking the planet and leaving the walls alone as they transformed the rest of the world.

    One eye laid on their face, the ears much larger than our own; their skin a dark red, fingertips resembling suction cups; their clothing looking like an astronaut suit, covered in blue and purple. The warlords watched from above as they had finally done it.

    “It seems that they have escaped the experiment zone.”

    “I was not expecting this result. What should we do?”

    “Send in Rhiahn. We have no need for Triax or Krollar for this mission. The boy will not survive our first wave.”

    With a subtle push of a button, one of the Mega-Monsters was unleashed. Flying toward the planet, the green-yellow space invader prepared to fight for his master’s will. The original and their brothers had failed in taking the planet, he would not make the same mistake.

    -Tokyo-

    The Scout Regiment had only been around for two years, and they had already taken back the world that was lost to them, discovering a civilization forgotten by their own people. The city lay in ruin, overgrowth covering most of the buildings. In the death of civilization, the Earth made life. A rebirth.

    The hero of the walls sat on his horse, deep in thought as he looked around him. Skeletons of men, women, and children paved the streets, the air stentched of death and decay. He knew what a warzone looked like, this city was the last stand against some outside force; perhaps the Wraith Titans that he had faced before or something beyond their understanding. Either way, this is where this age ended.

    This place felt familiar to the young man. Something about it, made fear crawl up his spine. As if… A distant voice of the past was calling to him. He closed his eyes as a memory quickly flashed in front of him. A single man stood among the crowd, walking toward the threat that stood before him with his fellow gods. Eren could tell they were one and the same, wanting nothing more than freedom. The man charged forward as he grabbed a knife from his side and sliced his hand open, lightning surrounding him as he leaped forw-

    “Eren?” The young man opened his eyes. His longtime friend and comrade, Armin, had broken his concentration on the memory, snapping him back to reality.

    “What’s up?”

    “Nothing, you just looked like you were lost for a second.” The young hero smiled before turning away from his friend, marching forward on his horse.

    “It’s nothing, I promise. Let’s move forward, I’m sure the others are going to want to make camp soon.” The pair moved forward, catching up to their allies. A small group of soldiers stayed on their horses as a large portion of the group took to the sky, using their Vertical Maneuver Gear to move around the city. They made it this far without encountering any Wraith Titans, it was best to secure the area before they were ambushed by the mutations.

    Humanity had already lost so much to the abominations, the lower the casualties, the less heartbreaks. Armin jumped off his horse, walking over to something that he spotted in the distance. The young man reaching down and attempting to pick it up, only for it to not budge at all. “Come on you stupid hammer, is it stuck or something?”

    “Armin lift with your legs, not your back.”

    Armin turned around, seeing Eren watch as he approached. “I would like to see you try then, genius.”

    The hero of the walls approached the object. Taking in a deep breath as he attempted to lift it from the crater that it sat in. The young man attempting to lift it, only for it to not budge like before. “Perhaps someday I will be like you.” Eren let go, backing away before looking at Armin.

    “Eren, what the hell did you mean by that?” Eren stared at his friend as he thought about his response.

    “It’s as simple as it sounds, I am not like the one before. The first host of my Titan form. This hammer, it’s the last remnant of the old gods. Warriors that fought for this very planet’s protection, but failed, and the world was consumed by the Wraith Titans.”

    “How the hell do you know that?”

    “Because I have the memories of the original host of the Attack Titan. He was their leader. The best of them.” Eren looked up in the starry night sky. He sensed something was on its way and that it would arrive from the heavens, from the great unknown. He didn’t know why he knew this, perhaps his memories played a factor, but he did know that he would need to put his all into stopping whatever threatened humanity.

    If only he was still here. The gods had failed, but if that beast was still here, things could have ended differently.

    “What happened to you, Godzilla?”

    “Who or I should say, what the hell is Godzilla?”

    “A reminisce of humanity’s past sins made flesh. A beast of great power, a destroyer and protector that walked this planet as the gods once did.” Armin stared at his friend, puzzled by all this information. Had Eren gone mad from the Titan’s power? Or was he telling the truth? He always had faith in Eren and he had seen things that most people wouldn’t believe either. Perhaps his friend was simply telling the story of those thought to be gods. Either way, to learn that even those with god-like power had fallen to the hordes was a disturbing thought.

    “Eren.” The two turned, spotting Mikasa approach.

    “Don’t tell Mikasa what I said. I’ll tell everyone when the time comes but they won’t believe me.” Armin nodded, vowing to keep the secrets of Eren’s memories.

    “I’m done surveying the area. Hange and Sasha will be here any second. The city seems deserted and devoid of life. Eren, why did you want us to come here?” The young man paused his train of thought as he looked up at Mikasa. Either way, his answer was going to sound crazy. Might as well tell her a part of it before they arrive.

    “Because we are going to stop the threat from above.” Eren pointed toward the sky, the hero waiting on a response. Mikasa’s eyes widened as she approached, wrapping her hands around his own.

    “Are you okay, Eren?” The young man blushed as he stepped back.

    “Yeah, I’m fine. I know that the answer was going to sound crazy, just… Know that we are here for a reason.” Suddenly a red flare was fired, causing alarm throughout the Scouts. Everyone looking up as the flare illuminated through the night. Their commanding officer waving her arms in the air before pointing at the sky.

    “Hey! Something’s coming!” Hange yelled as a shape began to take form in the darkness. Eren grinded his teeth as anger began to build.

    “Find Sasha and Hange. I will need you guys to stay back a bit while I do this. Make sure the area is secure. Who knows what will come through the night out here.” The pair of childhood friends shook their heads before taking to the sky, rendezvousing with their allies.

    The beast had a garish yellow colorization to it, the three blades behind it spinning, granting the invader the ability of flight. One golden eye glowed in the darkness, multiple arms hung from his torso, each of them tipped with a single claw, and a head that looked like a flying saucer.

    The second Rhiahn had arrived to Earth. Through his eye, the Megan warlord observed the situation, spotting the boy as they descended. This was the current host of the Attack Titan? Passed down from generation to generation, the power that made it possible for the Megans to create the serum for the Wraith Titans from the DNA of the Jaeger Titans. Stealing a vial of the serum from the gods themselves, dooming them in the process.

    The Megan Warlord pondered for a moment before pushing a button and issued a command, “Rhiahn, destroy them all.” The Megan beast cried out in rage as it charged at Eren. The Scout Regiment not having time to absorb what was happening as worry ran through their minds.

    Eren looked up as he lifted his hand to his jaws and uttered a single word: “Tatakai.” A golden flash temporarily banished the darkness. The Mega Monster screeched, blinded and covered its eye as it backed away. Smoke rose from the blast point, the hero’s form now changed. Their size grew exponentially, their skin glowing red like embers on a campfire, emitting an aura of hatred from their body. Eren stood up, cracking his neck and knuckles before getting into a fighting position. The hero of the walls taunting the alien to attack.

    The Attack Titan had arrived, his eyes red with a burning rage for his enemy. Ready to kill the one responsible for destroying this world. “I will succeed where you failed… I promise.”

    The Mega Monster stared down at the demon of justice as it circled around him before charging forward, preparing to kill their target.

    As Rhiahn opened his jaws, the mighty defender of the Earth sprung forward and grappled his hands on the top and bottom of the creature’s jaws, forcing the maw to stay open. The Attack Titan released a roar of rage at the beast, declaring one thing…

    Tonight, it dies.

    The Megan beast clamped into the flesh of the heroic Titan. From inside the nape, Eren’s eyes widen as Rhiahn quickly overpowered him. The Attack Titan fell on his back, blood flying across the alien’s face and ground as Rhiahn devoured his arms in a single gulp.

    This is bad. Blood flew from the freakish alien’s maw before quickly charging, the Titan rolling backward before sprinting on his feet into the ruins. He needed to let his arms regenerate before the invader gained the upper hand. He had never faced an opponent that had outclassed him so much.

    Rhiahn made a sinister grin as he approached, the alien readied himself to kill his fleeing prey. The blade attached to him sawed through the buildings around him, reducing the ruins into rubble and killing those unfortunate enough to be underneath the structures.

    Armin sat on a rooftop, the young man observing the situation from afar, trying to process what he was even saying. “Well… I’ll be damned. Alien life does exist.”

    “I wonder what it’ll taste like cooked.” Armin turned at Sasha, a confused gaze on his face as he looked at the young woman. “What?”

    “Eating it was not the first thought that came to mind when proof of extraterrestrial life appeared in front of us.”

    “Do you think this will work?” The two turned, spotting their commander with a rocket launcher.

    “It’s better than nothing. We need to give Eren time to heal his wounds and counterattack.” The four looked at each other, nodding in unison when they suddenly heard a scream. The small group looked down from their position to find some new arrivals…

    Wraith Titans grabbed unsuspecting soldiers, opening their maws as they broke both body and spirit. Agonizing screams from the recruits filled the ears of the survivors, while the Titans’ smiles left a feeling of unease as they devoured their comrades. Blood splashed across their flesh as they swallowed their meals whole. Any other creature fought to survive, ate so that they could fight another day, but these abominations ate for another reason… One lost to time.

    Mikasa sprung forward at increasing speeds, the Vertical Maneuver Gear making it so that she could keep away from the giant humanoid’s reach as she spun and sliced their nape in a single swing. Blood covered her as the corpse fell down, steam rising from the wound.

    Others of their kind turned their attention toward the young woman, their hunger consuming them as they all charged forward. Mikasa gripped the handles of her blades as they approached, determination filling her mind as the giants came closer… Suddenly, one dropped to the ground mid-charge. Sasha stood over, firing arrow after arrow at the Titans. Most of them missed the napes and instead struck their shoulders or missed completely.

    “Dammit! Why are these things so hard to hit!? They are gigantic walking targets.”

    Mikasa took in a deep breath before taking to the sky, spinning at rapid speeds as she cut into the arm of an approaching beast before circling around and slicing their nape, dropping the monster in what seemed like an instant. Another reached out to grab her, only for the warrior to quickly dodge and then stab the mindless brute in the eyes. Mikasa quickly backed away as the humanoid swung forward, attempting to grab her in a blind rage. The young woman quickly stuck on the side of a building, looking up as Sasha fired another arrow, this time landing its mark.

    “SASHA!” The huntress looked down, spotting her friend. “You need to breathe and then release. Calm your mind. It’s the same as firing a gun, just make sure you make more hits than missing the target. You will run out of arrows if you aren’t too careful.”

    Sasha nodded as she grabbed another arrow, breathing slowly as she took aim before releasing, slicing into the nape of another Titan. The young woman jumped up in glee as she screamed on the top of her lungs. Mikasa smiled, not being able to hide the pride she had in her friend.

    From a short distance away, Armin and Hange charged toward Rhiahn, the blonde strategist looking back at his friends fighting off the swarm. Though they were fully capable of defending themselves, he was still worried.

    “Hey!” Armin turned his attention toward his commander, the weapon’s expert catching his attention. “Have faith in them. We survived Shikishima and Kubal, we can survive this.” She was right, they had faced incredibly low odds of survival before, and they survived each time.

    The young tactician nodded his head before returning to the task at hand, looking past Rhiahn and spotting steam rising from behind a building.

    Eren looked around the corner of his cover, spotting Rhiahn searching for him above the ruins before looking back down at his regenerating limbs. They were half way from returning, but he still needed more time. The hero of the walls began to get up when he heard the alien scream, filled with fury, as he heard the echo of an explosive burst reach his ears. The young man once again looked past his cover to see Armin and Hange distracting the invader.

    “How do you like that, you perfect specimen!” Hange loaded the rocket launcher once more as she took aim and pulled the trigger. The explosive struck the monster’s body, earning a groan of annoyance as he turned his head through the smoke.

    “Oh shit…”

    Armin attempted to slice at the alien’s flesh as he flew by, only ending in the blades breaking in his hand. His eyes widened as one of the blades bounced back and sliced into his arm, earning a pained cry as he lost momentum and began to fall toward the ground. The anchors lost their grip, becoming entangled in the process, leaving Armin little choice… Time seemed to slow down as the young man fell thousands of feet, his life flashing before his eyes. His childhood memories with Mikasa and Eren, the attack on the walls from the Colossal Titan, the small group of friends eating at the dinner table after training. He was at least grateful for one thing… “I lived a good life.” The young man closed his eyes and smiled as he embraced his fate…

    Quickly Eren leapt forward, one of his hands regenerating enough to catch his old friend. The pair looked in horror as Rhiahn lifted a claw above his head before swinging it downward, striking the building that Hange stood on…

    “COMMANDER!”

    Rage quickly overtook the Titan shifter, putting Armin to the side as he jumped up and chomped into one of the arms of the alien. Rhiahn shrieked before swiping one of his claws across Eren’s eye, cutting into flesh and thrown to the ground, blood falling from his body as he collapsed onto his back. Armin quickly untangled the cords and used his gear to fly through the air, going to where Hange stood. He needed to make sure she survived.

    The Attack Titan screeched as he rolled to the side, aiming to dodge the extraterrestrial’s next claw swipe. The diligent warrior looked over to his other regrowing limb, the process of his healing factor was almost complete. Soon he could fight at his full strength. Eren put up his one fist as the monster charged forth, quickly ducking and, with all his strength, punched the alien’s underbelly. Rhiahn released a gigantic gasp as he felt the weight of the attack before the Titan sank his nails into the beast’s skin, keeping a grip before throwing the invader.

    As the Mega Monster flew, the blades which propelled it sliced in Eren’s shoulder, earning a roar of pain from the Titan shifter. Blood covered the propeller-like blades as Eren’s falling body collapsed, with Rhiahn crashing into a decrepit skyscraper.

    Steam rose from the newly made wound as his hand finally finished forming. The demon of justice stood tall, looking as the beast struggled to swat the rubble off of him. Eren scanned around the destroyed metropolis, looking for anything to find to gain an advantage when he spotted the hammer that he saw before. Perhaps he was strong enough to lift it now.

    From inside the nape, the young warrior smiled as he walked over to it. Grabbing the mythic item as he approached the downed alien. Rhiahn released a roar, the sound resembling that of an ear piercing cry and an animal gurgling in blood, as he finally was able to lift off. The last of the rubble fell from his body as he shook, turning to find his enemy…

    The cyclop’s one eye widened as the hammer was slammed straight into his eye, blinding the alien. Rhiahn unleashed a shrill of anguish, the cry sounding like a croaking frog. The sensitive organ was destroyed in an instant, purple blood flowing from the wound. The Attack Titan smiled as he circled around his enemy, glancing at a destroyed skyscraper.

    The demon dropping the hammer before lunging for the leaning tower, he wrapped his hands around the metal and began to climb it. The alien swiped at the air in all directions, using his speed to attempt to catch his smaller adversary, only to be met with chunks of decayed concrete.

    ***

    Armin panicked as he threw hunks of debris, attempting to find his commander and friend had only just begun, but that hope plunged for just a moment… When suddenly, he heard a thud before a scream. The blonde soldier turned around, his eyes widening as he saw his commanding officer struggling on the ground. A piece of rebar jutted from her stomach, coughing up blood as the wound oozed with ichor.

    The strategist began to breathe heavily, he had never removed someone with a wound like this. “Armin, hey, hey,” the blonde young man looked down, his superior officer, breathing heavily as she tried to keep a serious face.

    “I know that you are quite shocked right now, but I need you to man the hell up. You’re a soldier. You are going to see shit like this. I need you to lift me up and get this piece of metal out of me.” Armin snapped out of his trance, quickly putting his hands on her back and lifting her up. Hange cringed as the wound began to bleed, she felt the tearing of flesh before she was standing. The commander let out a gut wrenching scream as Armin kept her balance.

    “I’ll go get the others. You stay here for a sec.” Armin placed her on the ground as he took off, going to grab his other fellow Scouts.

    ***

    Eren stood on top of the skyscraper, the Titan shifter looking down on the alien. His burning red eyes of hatred scanned the beast’s position. He could feel the weight of the building giving out, he needed to make a move.

    The Attack Titan jumped forward, roaring with fury as the burning embers of rage reached the surface. The rogue hero brought his elbow up as he descended, slamming his bulk into the alien’s hide as his legs were sliced off from the spinning blades. Blood sprayed across the battlefield, the Titan’s legs crashing into the streets.

    Quickly, Eren wrapped his arms around the alien’s throat to keep hold, keeping a vice grip on them. The flailing alien began to slam into buildings in an attempt to free himself, suffocating from the stranglehold. The hero of the walls opened his maw and sank his teeth into the monster’s shoulder, ripping skin as if it were a pear. Purple blood oozed out from the wound, splattering against the ground like a rushing river. The alien screamed in anguish once more before managing to finally throw the attacker off with a violent heave.

    Eren rolled across the ground, managing to stop himself by anchoring with his stumps. The Titan shifter glared as Rhiahn attempted to listen closely for his prey. The Attack Titan roared as he crawled at speeds that caught the alien by surprise.

    The extraterrestrial swung at the direction of the roar, only to miss and strike the ground. It was no use. The Attack Titan finished his charge before leaping forward, opening his jaws before sinking his fangs into the Mega Monster’s throat.

    The alien shrieked in agony as blood filled his enemy’s maw, the experimental life form swiping at his attacker with his claws. Attempting to free himself from the Titan’s grasp when Eren quickly wrapped his hands around the alien’s neck, applying pressure before using all his weight to throw them down to the ground. The pair crashed through the streets before the demon was thrown off Rhiahn’s back. Blood rushed from his face as he crashed into concrete, a large splat echoing through the area before he got onto his back. The hero stared at the wounded invader, the beast struggling to move.

    The Titan crawled close before grabbing the top of his head. The hero growling as he shoved his hand through the sensitive organ, blood spraying onto Eren’s body as the dying alien let out an ear piercing cry of anguish.

    The Megan Warlord slammed their fist into the side of his chair, frustrated by the fact their weapon was defeated by a much weaker foe. “My lord, what is your next order?” The alien turned toward his helpers, pondering on his next move before smiling.

    “Prepare the other Mega Monsters.”

    From above the battle, Mikasa, Hange, Sasha, and Armin watched as their friend began to rip through the skull, pulling out flesh and covering the streets in gore before Eren stopped. The young man rolled on his back.

    “I kept my promise…” Steam rolled from his flesh as he exited the Titan’s nape, falling on the ground unconscious. Victory was his on this day, but he was lucky. And eventually… Everyone’s luck runs out.

    ***

    -Somewhere in the Pacific Ocean-

    Fish swam by a gigantic cave, minding their business as to not disturb what lied inside. A green goliath of ancient legend remained, staying within his own exile.

    The world had gone to hell, but Godzilla had stayed in solitude. He was no longer the King of the Monsters, but a beast that had caused too much pain, too much suffering.

    The radioactive saurian looked from inside the dark cave, his red eyes glowing through the ocean. snarling as he saw a rather large animal pass by his home. The nuclear behemoth was hungry, he needed to feed.

    Quickly, the animal launched from the cave, opening his jaws as his prey took notice of his presence. Their eyes widening as the last moment of their life slowed down…

    Winner: Attack Titan

    K.W.C. Kaiju War Chronicles

    A very special thanks to dopepope for some of the assets used in this banner for the K.W.C. Be sure to follow him on DeviantART, ArtStation, and Instagram.

    K.W.C. // May 30, 2021
  • Authors: Andrew Sudomerski & Matthew Freese | Banners: Dao Zang Moua & Matthew Williams

    In the darkness of the night, the crisp and tender winds kept him company. How long it had been was lost on him, for he had wandered the ends of the Earth in utmost patience. The elder wizard clutched the demon sword at his side, one he had struggled to procure from the blessed shrine of Amaterasu’s White Bird of Heaven. Walls were blood soaked from those that protected the Sword of Dark Clouds, a task deemed impossible for any feeble fool that dared to try. The spellcaster, the warrior, and the priestess laid upon the defiled grounds, drenched in their own blood.

    Tsukinowa stepped away from the sacred temple, altering his appearance to fit that of the former priestess’ guards that resided there. He knew that, even if he was of Orochi’s lineage, he could not wield the sword as Tsukuyomi could. Certainly, only the Lord of the Moon could wield it, as the blade was salvaged from his dragon’s flesh and forged by the moon god’s almighty power. Its destructive might could bring about the end of the world, but only when held by its progenitor.

    “Tsukuyomi, surely destiny will guarantee your return to the mortal world,” Tsukinowa spoke aloud, even if no one heard him, “For your ambitions reach as high as the stars the gods placed. And it is those great heights that’ll bring the world to ruin.”

    Tsukinowa spotted a swath of guards rushing up the hillside and bypassed them without being spotted. Even if he had been found, they’d be none the wiser to truly know what happened. As he vanished between the darkness of the trees, Tsukinowa could only think of the great victory that was to come, one that would make him a worthy successor to his predecessor.

    Now, it was a matter of waiting.

    ***

    He sat alone in the stone-cold room, only surrounded by the comfort of magic candles and the Moon God Mirror he had reconstructed. Stored in its sheath was the deadliest weapon known to the world, yet one thought forgotten to time. He continued to pray, awaiting to serve his Master once more. But that time wasn’t now, for destiny had not foretold of His return. For the time being, isolation would be more than sufficient.

    Gunkanjima was, in many respects, isolated from the rest of Japan. Although it had long since become a tourist spot, very few were permitted to enter at a time–and even so, that time was limited. For this place harbored many demons; a stute reminder of Japan’s horrendous war crimes and forced child labor during the Second World War. For Tsukinowa, it was a convenient hiding spot from the public eye. Yet even he had to be careful, lest he risk exposure in an untimely fashion.

    The billowing wind aimlessly threw loose paper and debris across the desolate floor, flung into the open air surrounded by buildings. For countless human lifespans, Tsukinowa vanguarded the legendary Sword of Dark Clouds with his clearest intentions; to return it to its rightful wielder as to bring an end to all of it. And to those who tried to steal it from under him were punished by his wicked spells.

    Among his daily prayers for victory, something pricked in the back of his mind, a presence on the island. An odd one, seemingly not man or beast. He gazed into his mirror, a relic which allowed one to see things from miles away as if they were in the very room.

    Yet this was unseeable. Only a haze of blue lights flickering and swaying. ‘What in my lord’s name?’ His eyes widened as he tried to parse out this information. “Damn it,” he cursed beneath his breath before leaving the room, staff held before him in anticipation.

    He crept close to a wall near the shore, each step measured to make minimal noise. Once he had been the advisor to a great emperor, feeding him lies to further a foul agenda. He had never needed to skulk about like a common criminal, he strode through the finest halls with unceasing confidence. But he swallowed his pride, he would never need to lay in the shadows again when this all came to fruition.

    Suddenly, a pale light shined from around the corner before him, startling him. He suppressed a gasp of shock or, when his head was clear a second later, a scream of wrath. ‘What the hell is this!? On all nights, it’s this one?’ He internally shouted, before putting his back to the wall.

    Even a man who had seen as much as he had in his long life was absolutely baffled by the sight awaiting him.

    A blob of luminous azure sparkles waving back and forth, hovering above the ground. Tsukinowa gently stepped towards the anomaly, mind racing as he considered the situation. His mirror had not deceived him, the nature of the entity was just so odd that he had not believed the truth until it stared him in the face. No one was nearby, and if the shimmering gelatin lighting up the night was not drawing attention, his words would not either.

    “What are you?” He spoke calmly, trying to learn as much as he could. “Why are you here?”

    Was he even talking to a lifeform? It had done nothing to suggest it bore a mind, much less one capable of understanding his words. He saw no reason to keep speaking to it if it would do nothing, and thus he turned and began to walk. The plan was as it should be, this minor distraction aside. He was genuinely tempted to just blast it into dust for interrupting him.

    “You…” an echoing voice chimed through Tsukinowa’s head, causing him to whip around and look at the blob as it shifted with conscious movement. “Speaking to you requires a different… frequency than the other residents of this planet.”

    “What do you want?” Tsukinowa ignored the statement, seeking answers as soon as possible.

    “We are Yog. We are all of one mind and of many bodies, the pinnacle of evolution.” If the entity had any reaction to Tsukinowa’s scoff, it did not reveal it. “Instead of being bound to one form like the rest of existence, we may become whatever body we desire.”

    “Then why have you come to me?” The wizard found himself clutching his staff harder than he was before, whether out of fear or anger he did not know.

    “Unfortunately, in our current form we cannot actually do much. Cannot enforce our will. We need a powerful body to make our own, to act as the unstoppable emissary of Yog. That… is where you shall come in, holder of mysterious and awe-inspiring power.”

    Tsukinowa flinched. Did this thing mean the Sword of Dark Clouds? Did it truly seek its divine power? But without a body, it could not possibly wield it. Wait, this Yog needed a powerful body to…

    When the blob of sparkling lights lurched forward, Tsukinowa was paranoid enough to swiftly reply. From his staff came a bolt of lightning, illuminating the darkness of the night as it carved Yog into two pieces, large swathes of their body being reduced to lifeless vapor in the wind. The two remnants rolled back, unmoving beyond a subtle swaying.

    “You seek to become a god!? Yet you fall so swiftly before even my might. A true god like my master would rend you asunder with all the effort of crushing an insect!”

    “God… such a limiting term.” One of the clusters of Yog lunged backwards, diving into the waters below. Almost immediately, the same light emanated by the space amoeba intensified drastically from beneath the waves, making the wizard stumble back in shock. “Prepare yourself. Behold our true power and see if your ‘divinely gifted’ strength still compares.”

    Long he had waited for this day. A chance for reckoning, an opportunity to prove his might. Tsukinowa planted his magical staff into the wedge of the stone, keeping it firmly in place. Clasping his hands together, the soothsayer uttered a series of indecipherable hymns from a language lost to time.

    “O powerful moon, lend me your strength; O souls of the damned, conglomerate into a being of wickedness; for you, I present an offering,” Tsukinowa invoked as he transferred his conscious goal into the minds of the collective spirits. “Eliminate this threat, and the prized possession shall be yours for the taking.” Almost as if they had heard him, Tsukinowa listened as the wails of the dead responded in kind.

    They graciously accepted.

    Tsukinowa’s eyes shifted to the stormy skies. Rumblings off in the distance came ever closer, swelling under that of a dark cloud. The storm flashed with erratic lightning, draping the sky in a sheet of condensed vapors. Torrents of heavy rainfall poured over the broken island and the two living beings that stood there.

    Tsukinowa was drenched, his long, shaggy hair matted together rather uncomfortably. The being that called itself Yog, on the other hand, was seemingly unfazed by the presence of rain, as the droplets passed right on through. Even so, Tsukinowa couldn’t help but grin when he saw a similarly pale green light opposing the Yog’s creation.

    “Space fiend, let me show you that your pitiful attempts will be for nothing!” the servant of the moon haughtily proclaimed.

    “If that is how you feel, then by all accounts, allow us to demonstrate,” the alien virus retorted in kind. “With that power, we can save this world, Tsukinowa. We can save all planets from self-destruction by assimilating them to the will of Yog.”

    There was no saving these mortals. They had to perish, so his master dictated. Breezing past them, harsh winds rolled along the ocean, tossing powerful waves in their wake. All the while, green and blue lights pulsated as the oceanic seas prepared to give birth to twin abominations not of this world.

    Their bodies gestated in the aquatic environment.

    The first among them illuminated in a pale blue light, coated in viscous smear that encased the mata mata turtle. Its body contorted unnaturally, its chromosomes manipulated and altered by the alien virus. The shell split open with each molt, growing larger and larger in the process. Growth accelerated exponentially, protruding new teeth and fresh armored ridges for the battle to come. Its eyes shined a vacant sky blue, sneering at the ethereal entity that would oppose the will of Yog.

    Lime green light clashed with the brilliant blues of the Yog transformation, serenaded by the evil of the moon. Screaming souls of the damned were magnetically drawn to the celestial core, giving shape to the great sea beast that lurked within. At first it began in an embryonic state, but the more wisps absorbed into its very being, the quicker it grew in size and mass. Its scales hardened, formed more defined features, manifesting into a horrid eidolon of the deep. Uttering pained shrills from the cavernous trenches, the half-fish, half-beast monstrosity gleamed with spite and wicked intent.

    The light died down as the two sea beasts reached full conception. Kamoebas’ sky blue eyes faded and revealed those of an animal, with a glint of intelligence. Kaishin Muba’s eerie presence was still visible in the ocean depths, its orange eyes and green crystal ball piercing the darkness.

    Kamoebas challenged the sea god with a muffled shriek. Kaishin Muba happily obliged in a hideous gurgle.

    Swirling water displaced as the sea god began to move, fluttering its fins to swerve amidst the oceanic skies. Leaning its upper torso front facing, Kaishin Muba lunged towards the rugged terrapin, outstretching its tentacle clusters. Kamoebas retracted its head into the catacombs of its shell, though the malevolent spectre’s constricting appendages grappled with the sea turtle’s forearms, pulling the rocky giant deeper into the waves.

    As waters splashed against the island from the giants’ movements, Tsukinowa kept his smug grin. “Can you truly say that your overgrown turtle stands a chance after what you just saw?”

    Yog remained silent as death.

    Kaishin Muba’s teeth scraped against the rocky shell of its foe, leaving shallow grooves but not much else. Its tentacles squeezed the entrapped limbs of the mutated turtle harder, intent on breaking bone.

    Kamoebas’ head shot from its shell out like it was attached to a spring, teeth clamping down onto one of the tentacles restraining the Yog-beast’s legs. Slime coated the limbs, making it difficult for Kamoebas to find solid puncture for its teeth.

    The mutant quickly released its bite and retracted its head back into its shell to avoid the gnashing jaws of the supernatural leviathan. Kamoebas’ head then rocketed back out, bashing the top of its skull against the side of Kaishin Muba’s face. A surprised shriek left the demon, its tentacles loosening enough for Kamoebas to escape and begin to swim away.

    The wizard found himself laughing. “It’s already running away? You picked a real warrior for your champion, I don’t even think I needed to summon Kaishin!”

    “How foolish. The fight has just started and you already make such a bold claim.”

    Kaishin Muba surged through the waters after its target, howling and gurgling with wrath. What was immediately obvious was that the fish-like demon was far faster than the turtle, the distance between them closing in a matter of seconds.

    Kamoebas swiftly retracted all its limbs into its shell, stopping its retreat a moment before the bulk of the spirit beast crashed into it.

    Tentacles flailed all across the shell, bashing and constricting as the leviathan searched for a weakness. The howls of the coalescence of lost souls echoed throughout the water.

    As tendrils snaked along the underbelly of the shell, trying to find any opening they could, one of the forelimbs of the mutated matamata lashed out from its tunnel. Claws dragged across a slime-coated limb, failing to draw blood but still earning a growl of pain from Kaishin Muba.

    The foreleg was already back in its sheath before the several tentacles that whipped towards it could strike. Kamoebas’ head launched out, jaws clamping onto the tip of a tentacle. Its grip held firm as it retracted its head once more, carrying the tentacle into the shell.

    Kaishin Muba’s growls turned into screeches as it tried to wrench its limb free, but the turtle’s grinding teeth continued to wear down the flesh. The demonic leviathan rushed forwards once more, aiming both combatants at the rock wall of the nearby island. Its pace quickened as it felt blood began to leak.

    Gunkanjima shuddered as one hundred sixty-four thousand tons slammed into its side.

    Kaishin Muba’s scream of hatred and anguish made Tsukinowa’s hands rush to his ears.

    Ichor leaked from the end of the severed tentacle, staining the blue waters. Kamoebas was partially embedded in the stone, its body shifting as it tried to dislodge its pointed back from it. The ghostly leviathan backed away, staring at its wound.

    Lime-green fluid floated up from it, transfixing the entity. This pathetic creature had actually harmed it, made it bleed. The lifeforce of the dead was leaving the demon due to a simple turtle.

    Kamoebas had wriggled itself free, and was now attempting to haul itself onto land, its front legs upon solid ground. Yog could already tell that the water held no advantage for it, but upon the land it could begin to make gain.

    The water suddenly shifted, the waves churning around the mutant. Its loose grip grew even weaker as the water beneath it lowered into a whirlpool. Kamoebas looked back to see Kaishin Muba on the water’s surface, glaring daggers into the Yog-beast’s soul as its tentacles waved beneath.

    Kamoebas fell back into the waters, causing a wave to wash over the streets of the island. By the time it reached Tsukinowa and Yog it was not even ankle deep, leaving the two unbothered.

    “Did your creature just manipulate the waters themselves?” Questioned Yog.

    “Of course. The power of my lord makes all things possible, fool.”

    Yog made no comment after this, but the wizard could tell something was coursing through its gestalt mind.

    Kaishin Muba descended back down, submerging itself as it approached the flailing Kamoebas. The leviathan was done playing games.

    The gem upon its forehead glowed emerald green, channeling the power of evil and of the dead. A thin beam of energy raced forth, raking across the mutant’s shell. Explosions detonated across it, sending shards of the armored plating flying. Before Kamoebas could fully comprehend what had happened, another shot of the Water Mirror Ray sent cracks crawling across the shell as the triangular peak was blasted off.

    A turtle’s shell was as much a part of their body as anything else on them. Despite the inorganic look, it was still made of bones and carried countless nerve endings. Were it not for the warping of its genetics, Kamoebas would have likely already died from this alone.

    The Yog-infected creature raced forwards, screeching as it suppressed the agony flowing through it. Another strike from the pale blast tore off a large piece from the side of the armored carapace. Keeping its head in the confines of its shell, the mutant terrapin locked onto its target. With each passing second, the monstrous turtle was stripped of its natural defenses to the ethereal laser.

    Coming within reach, Kamoebas launched its head from the safety of its body as it tore through the oceanic skies, trailing with riptides and bubbles. Extending its neck to the equivalent to its total body length, Kamoebas opened its jaws and clamped onto the exposed gills that aligned the sea demon’s neck.

    The hideous fiend gargled as green blood oozed from the gills, its facial fins sparking with magical energies to retaliate. Yet before it could discharge, it felt an abnormal tug from its chelonian opponent. Rather than being dragged towards the body, it felt as if…

    Before the wicked abomination knew what hit it, the colossal armored body of Kamoebas sailed through the watery abyss, being pulled in by the head. Within a second, the mutant slammed its broken shell against the leviathan’s chest, jabbing it with jagged armor. Kaishin Muba screamed as it was hurled back with tremendous force, blood flowing from severe lacerations and its neck gill dislodged under Kamoebas’ maw. The mighty fish-beast collided against the seascape, erupting with a blast of disheveled earth, temporarily stunned from the heavy blow. It felt its lifeforce seeping from the torn gill and snarled viciously.

    Spitting the unnatural gill aside, the mutant terrapin turned and lunged forth, swiping with waving limbs and gnashing jaws. A tentacle cracked against its carapace, ripping away another chunk of the organic fortress upon its back and exposing flesh beneath.

    Claws scraped against the armored chest of Kaishin Muba, the extendable neck of Kamoebas reaching for the fish demon’s throat once more. The spirit leviathan’s own jaws shot down, crunching onto the skull of its target. Teeth worked their way through skin and grinded against bone, earning a hellacious screech of agony from the mutant. Even Yog’s influence could not shut down pain of this magnitude.

    One of Kamoebas’ claws sank into a wound on Kaishin Muba, widening it and spraying forth more ichor containing spectral essence. Instead of opening its maw as anticipated, Kaishin Muba only bit down harder from the pain. Its jaws slid forth, ripping the skin off of the mutant’s face. One eye was punctured, a spray of fluid being all that remained of it.

    Spitting out the foul tasting skin, the water god looked back at its foe to see Kamoebas pulling its head and limbs back into its shell. A Water Mirror Ray to the front of Kamoebas’ armor shattered it like dry wood, revealing the degloved skull of the Yog-beast, limited facial expression locked into pure terror from the residual animal it once was.

    Tentacles wrapped around the throat, pulling with all their might against a pathetic struggle of resistance from the battered turtle. The neck extended further and further, skin peeling away as Kaishin pushed it to its limits. The legs flailed futilely, accomplishing nothing.

    A sick, cruel grin decorated Kaishin Muba’s face as the neck no longer stretched, reaching its limit at the length of Kamoebas’ body. A limp, pathetic groan escaped its jaws. And with one last pull, Kaishin Muba ripped Kamoebas’ head clean off, a spray of blood tainted with blue lights spewing forth.

    The howling winds and falling rain were joined by a boisterous laughter. Tsukinowa looked back to the gelatinous being next to him, awaiting some cry of sorrow or rage-filled roar. But none came.

    “Have you been paying any attention?” Tsukinowa’s eyes widened. ”You have done nothing to us with the destruction of Kamoebas. Unlike you and your kind, we are not confined to a single form. It would be accurate to say that you destroyed a uniform of us, not our actual selves.”

    “And what of it? You know that you cannot best me as you are now, so what’s stopping me from blasting you into ash?”

    The sparkling lights in the mutant’s blood suddenly flew from the cloud, taking Kaishin Muba off guard as they entered its wounds. The leviathan bellowed as an awful sensation flooded its form, the pale blue light of Yog shining out.

    “Because it would do nothing. For you have given us a new, far better uniform to wear.”

    Kaishin Muba emerged from the water, fidgeting and letting loose grotesque gurgles, as if it were fighting with itself. Hellacious screeches spilled from its parted jaws, aimlessly discharging a ghostly laser into the watery surface. It swished and threw out its tentacles, contorting the vast body of water into vicious riptides and tidal waves, trying to fight against the spectral virus hijacking its body. In the end, the wild fish-beast came to a pause and fell deathly silent.

    The old wizard nearly fell over in terror. His creation had fallen into the hands of the enemy. Did this Yog know no limits for what bodies it could control?

    It looked towards Tsukinowa, the once blazing orange now a soft sky blue, then let loose a scream before discharging a Water Mirror Ray which lit up the night.

    With a burst of adrenaline the warlock hurled himself out of the way, the ground where he had just stood being turned into boiling stone. The Yog cluster he had spoken to was erased without a word, uncaring of its physical destruction.

    As a building behind him was incinerated by a cluster of explosions, the cacophony still not drowning out the deranged howl of his own creation, Tsukinowa prepared himself. “Then the time must be now,” the soothsayer muttered. Standing upright, he glared at his stolen familiar and firmly thrust his staff into the concrete. Crossing his hands in prayer, he uttered the incantation to complete the ritual.

    “O Kaishin Muba, spectre of the deep, take my offering,” he proclaimed, keeping his mind focused, “For the one I offer you resides within you now! The star-dwelling one shall be your sacrifice to take to the other side!”

    The Yog-possessed Kaishin Muba’s facial fins sparked to life, raising its tentacle clusters to command the waters. A monstrous tidal wave pulled from the surface, prepared to crush the wizard under its tremendous weight. Yet before it could do the deed, the sea demon halted its attack. The wretched green cretin began to illuminate in golden light, feeling its physical presence being erased from this plane of existence.

    The wall of water immediately collapsed, dispersing the giant body into the ocean, only violently splashing against the concrete barrier of the island. Kaishin bellowed one last time, more so Yog than the beast or its souls, as its body dissolved into nothingness. As the souls escaped back into wherever they had once been, the alien amoeba found itself being pulled apart at the molecular and quantum level.

    This was impossible! A being of this magnitude just fading away like this defied every law of physics. Confused and terrified at what their science-oriented minds could not comprehend, Yog was erased by the magics of Kaishin Muba’s dispersal.

    Tsukinowa breathed in deeply, trying to regather himself. He would recommence the ritual for his master, he needed to. Shakily getting to his feet, shivering from the bone-chilling cold as every inch of him was soaked, he began to hobble back to his chamber.

    Rest sounded so alluring, but not now. Rest could come when Tsukuyomi returned, when the old warlock’s goal in life was fulfilled. Until then, he would work himself to the bone in order to appease the rebel god and bring about his reign.

    Miles away, their shared mind felt the disappearance of their other aspect. The mission to capture the mysterious power on the island humanity called Gunkanjima had been a catastrophic failure, and at the same time they had made a powerful enemy.

    The conglomerate conscious saw few options, and each one carried its own risks and rewards. If what Tsukinowa said and if what they had gleaned from his mind were any indication, then the time for subtlety and subterfuge was long gone.

    Now was the time for action.

    Winner: Kaishin Muba

    K.W.C. Kaiju War Chronicles

    A very special thanks to dopepope for some of the assets used in this banner for the K.W.C. Be sure to follow him on DeviantART, ArtStation, and Instagram.

    K.W.C. // May 20, 2021
  • Author: Joshua Reynolds | Banner: Andrew Sudomerski

    The whole planet was in ruin. It took less than a week for them to tear through every defensive line and obliterate the world’s defenses. Now their masters were doing the cleanup, rounding up survivors to be processed for whatever means they wanted. The beasts that accomplished this were starting to be collected. Monster X looked over to the side, crimson eyes blazing as he watched his strange, bizarre looking partner get sucked up into a vortex of energy and pulled into the innards of massive, golden-hued, triangular spaceship. He then looked forward, seeing the twin suns through the thick clouds of smoke that blanketed the sky like a dark flood.

    How many worlds was this now?

    The alien weapon tried remembering. He could visualize his prior conquests, but there was never a beginning. He couldn’t even remember a life before this violence. All he knew was the blinding light of being dispatched, the days of carnage as he and his vicious comrades raided worlds and the swirling colors of being particlized and returned to his masters.

    What a life…

    Monster X looked up as one of the flying ships descended from the churning black clouds. He sighed, a thick cloud of mist escaping his jaws as the beam of light shined down. His body quickly began to atomize and swirl, becoming one with the light as he was sucked up into the bowels of the spacecraft… And all for the war beast went dark.

    A screeching sound made Monster X become active. He could hear the frenzied voice of his commanding officer barking orders in his head. How long was it since the last conquest? It felt as if just earlier in the day, but it couldn’t be. Without warning, Monster X was dispatched. The light that exploded in front of his eyes began to illuminate a new, blue world. However, carnage had already broken out. He was being sent in as reinforcement.

    The skeletal creature felt the softness of grass and soil underneath his feet. He could smell an unrecognizable scent of the sea, enjoying it. But he could also smell the burning of life, the unforgettable scent of war. Then he heard it. It was the roars of some of his comrades. Monster X turned around. Again he was partnered with the one known simply as the Visitor, a grotesque alien creature with additional, spear-like appendages bursting from his back. The other was a feline, white-colored thing with a field of razor-sharp crystals protruding from its back, this one he knew as Krystalak.

    Then he heard unfamiliar sounds. He turned to the side, spotting why he was summoned. This planet had beasts of their own it seemed. Challenging the alien forces was a bipedal, lion-like golem. Thick plates of armor clanged underneath dense fur. Ruby eyes flared in the sunlight and King Caesar’s floppy ears stiffened and stood on end. The other was a much simpler thing in appearance. It was but a generic dinosaur, only much taller. A dull green in color with a large, triangular head, tiny arms and a long tail that slapped the ground.

    “Monster X, team with Krystalak and Visitor. Kill King Caesar and Gorosaurus, quickly!”

    The words of the unseen master echoed in Monster X’s mind. The creature snorted, charging forth at the pair of enemy fighters. Just as he closed the distance, the ground in front of him sunk into a pit. His foot was caught, being swallowed up by the swirling dirt. Another monster suddenly erupted upward, Baragon. The subterranean kaiju howled, his maw parting and breathing a stream of burning fire at the skeletal titan. The flames washed over his body, smoldering his black flesh and exposed bone. The alien howled, pulling his leg out of the pit while Baragon lunged forward, jaws clamping on his wrist.

    “And that one too!”

    Monster X tried to focus despite his master barking obvious orders directly into his head. His free hand came up, skeletal fingers wrapping around Baragon’s cranial horn. The alien nightmare snarled, focusing all of his might while the subterranean dinosaur tugged and thrashed like an oversized pit bull. After several moments, a blast of crystal shards struck Baragon’s side. The beast was forced to relent and fell away, limbs kicking with bits of glass-like crystal stuck in his mid-section between his right, front, and hind limbs.

    Monster X climbed to a stance and looked over at Krystalak. His bizarre partner snorted before turning his cold gaze back to Gorosaurus. The giants charged one another. Falling onto all fours, the inorganic life form ran like a feline. He jumped, clearing Gorosaurus’ head and landing behind him. Just as the green dinosaur turned, the alien’s mace-like tail of crystals smacked the side of his face. Gorosaurus was sent crashing down with a thud. Krystalak wasted no time and leapt, coming down with razor-sharp claws. Trenches of crimson were carved into the reptile’s scaly hide, but the alien underestimated the dinosaur’s jaws. Gorosaurus’ maw opened and his head lashed. His jaws clamped shut on the elbow of the alien, triangular teeth cutting into the weird substance that made its skin.

    Seeing this, Monster X’s eyes flashed with light. A quick burst of golden energy was shot forth from his four crimson eyes. The beams struck Gorosaurus’ head, instantly causing him to release the alien.

    However, Monster X didn’t have time to see what followed. His guard had been left down. King Caesar took advantage. The living legend moved with the speed of lightning. His limbs a blur, he hit the skeletal kaiju numerous times with precise strikes to the face, chest, and stomach. X stumbled back, bringing up his arms to protect his face. However, King Caesar lunged upward with his knee, driving it straight into his gut. Instantly, every bit of air was forced from his body. X gasped, coughing while he hunched over. King Caesar leaped up and came down, driving his elbow into the back of his exposed neck. Once more, X was sent crashing down with a horrible sound.

    King Caesar bellowed his victory to the world, but suddenly his head was engulfed in a faint blue glow. His hands came up to the sides of his head, grasping at each side of his face. His mouth parted, but nothing came out. His eyes tried reflecting the attack, but whatever it was, it wasn’t the typical energy attacks he faced. Not far away, the Visitor stood tall. Its oblong head tilted forward, pulsating the blue light that was crippling King Caesar’s mind. The earth defender collapsed, gripping the sides of his head in utter pain.

    Suddenly, the Visitor ceased the attack and straightened back up. The bizarre thing once more looked down at X. The skeletal kaiju snorted, rubbing the back of his neck in pain. Before long, Baragon rushed in from the Visitor’s side, spewing a stream of burning hellfire that blanketed it. The alien’s strange flesh broiled, charring black before Baragon pounced. The Visitor’s many spear-like limbs acted with a mind of their own, protecting its body and swatting Baragon away like a baseball. The earthbound guardian flew back with a painful howl, vanishing into a cloud of churning smoke.

    At the same time, Krystalak’s body catapulted from the opposite side of the battlefield. While he crawled to his feet, Monster X spotted Gorosaurus standing, hunched up with his tail beating the ground anxiously. Krystalak landed on his back, rolling like a ball for several dozen yards before recouping and jumping back to a stance. The alien’s tooth-lined maw opened and a concentrated blast of alien power mixed with shards of crystal erupted. Gorosaurus leaped to the side, dodging the attack. Looking to join the attack, Monster X spread his arms and readied another volley of his destructive beams. Mere milliseconds before he could fire, King Caesar launched another surprise attack, striking the side of X’s face with his foot.

    The impact caused Monster X to spin just as he fired. His bolts ripped through the smoky air before finding an unexpected, unintended target: the Visitor. The alien war monster was taken by surprise and thrown back, a blistering explosion engulfing the front portion of his strange body.

    “You worthless moron!” X could hear his master screaming in rage.

    Monster X fell, protecting his face as a powerful stomp from King Caesar came down on his mid-arms. Krystalak howled, turning his attention away from Gorosaurus. He fired upon King Caesar with his weapon. A spray of sparks and shards shot from the guardian’s side, pushing him off of X. Pressing the assault, Krystalak charged. He ignored X, indirectly stomping on his chest region while pushing King Caesar back.

    Monster X wheezed, struggling to regain himself as his master continued hurling insults directly into his brain. He decided to remain lying, his head hurting from the impacts and the constant yelling he had to suffer from the Xillian leader. His head rolled to the side, watching on as King Caesar, Gorosaurus, and Baragon battled his teammates the best they could. Gorosaurus attempted his notorious kick, but the Visitor’s many limbs deflected the attack and sent him flying away. Once more Baragon lunged, this time at Krystalk, but found nothing but pain from balls of crystals launching from the alien’s whipping tail.

    Then there was King Caesar. With the skills of a martial arts master, the guardian was besting both aliens with his skills, delivering swift punches, kicks, and chops to various parts of their body. X’s crimson eyes focused, watching the Earth monster carefully. He had never seen something of their size using such maneuvers.

    “Get up and help your comrades you piece of-“ Monster X slammed his own fist into the side of his head, causing a temporary glitch that silenced the voice.

    The numbers King Caesar faced were too much. Just as he pushed Krystalak down, the Visitor’s spear-like limbs lashed out like demonic snakes. Two hits tore into each of his shoulders from behind. King Caesar howled in agony as the alien lifted him off of his feet, keeping him in a crucified state in midair via his spear-like limbs. The thing’s bizarre cranium pulsed and his crippling brain spasm attack erupted. King Caesar’s mouth opened wide to scream, but no sound came.

    At the same time, Krystalak had crawled back to his feet. He spotted Gorosaurus and Baragon charging in, but his maw parted and tail loomed over his head like a scorpion’s. A barrage of energy and crystals were fired at the dinosaurs, pinning them down in a blanket of razor-sharp shards that clung to their hides like glass.

    “If you do not get up, I am going to leave you here after we absorb all of this planet’s resources!”

    X snarled, eyes looking up at the smoky sky and seeing brief glimpses of the blue heavens. For but a moment that seemed like an eternity, he was transported back to the hundreds of worlds he helped conquer. How many had skies like this? How many did they leave in a perpetual state of ugly death after? He then looked at the ground, seeing remnants of the civilization that sprawled, the forests that surrounded it and the mountains in the distance. It was all so familiar. Soon it’d all be barren, nothing to exist but dust. His crimson eyes then looked back at Krystalak and the Visitor. The alien war monsters were cruel. They enjoyed what they did. They were bred killers, baptized in combat in the name of the Xillian Empire. X, however, just wanted it to end.

    Monster X began to climb to his feet. “Finally!” the leader’s voice shrieked in his mind. The beast struck the side of his head, once again causing a temporary glitch. Then he extended two of his fingers. The sharp nails of his fingers tore through the dark flesh between his skeletal armor. He knew it was in there, but he had no idea how deep. As he tore through his own skin, dark fluid starting to flow down the side of his head and neck, the voice came back. The leader cursed, demanding to know what he was doing and ordering him to stop.

    And then X found it. His nails scraped something metallic. Like tweezers, his fingers gripped it and pulled it out from his head. Upon exiting his skull, the voice ceased entirely. In the distance, X could see the alien war ships looming. And he knew that hotheaded leader was watching. Holding the circular, metallic device in his hand, Monster X crushed it with a fist…

    He reached the Visitor first. Without being noticed, Monster X charged his former ally. He grabbed the base of his bottom spear limbs, yanking with his might. The sudden impact caused the alien to lower his catch of King Caesar and cease his brain spasm attack. The beast was confused at first, but soon screamed in agony as the joints of his spear limbs were destroyed at the base. Monster X had fired point blank, shattering the area where the limbs attached to its body. The alien fell, allowing King Caesar to slide off of his spears.

    Upon hearing the Visitor’s cry of pain, Krystalak looked over. He was quickly smacked across the face by one of his partner’s limbs. The feline-like thing bellowed as he hit the ground with a thud. X lifted the limb like a spear, but Krystalak was fast to act. His mouth parted, shooting the weapon with his mixture of crystals and energy. The spear-like limb shattered in X’s hand.

    Krystalak’s tail snaked around his ankle, tripping him up while he recovered. With sheer malice in his eyes, the crystalline titan hissed. However, without its constant barrage, Baragon and Gorosaurus closed the distance. The two saurians pounced on the war beast from behind, pinning its body to the ground while thrashing its cream-colored hide with bites and slashes.

    X turned away from Krystalak and back to King Caesar and the Visitor. Both monsters were crawling back to their feet. The guardian looked at X confused, but then nodded. X returned the gesture, slapping the ground with his own tail as he approached from the side. The Visitor spotted X first and launched his remaining limbs, but his former partner ducked and delivered a stiff, swinging blow to his head. The impact caused the alien to spin on his heel, directly into a mountain-shattering kick from King Caesar. Bits of the alien’s teeth flew in every direction while he was thrown aside, completely unconscious by the impacts.

    Krystalak’s cries of pain came as he struggled to crawl away from the marauding dinosaurs. He reached up, begging his former ally to help. X snorted, remembering how Krystalak merely stomped on him without a care.

    Unnoticed by the warring monsters, the Xillian’s fleet of triangular ships zoomed overhead. With beams of light, they reclaimed their wounded beasts. The Visitor was sucked back into the ship. Krystalak, still whining and bleeding, was taken second. The ships remained in the air for a few moments, their pilots no doubt unsure what to do about Monster X. X crossed his arms and energy surged in his crimson eyes. He prepared to fire, but just before he could, the space craft vanished at light speed, heading back into the recesses of outer space.

    Baragon and Gorosaurus were unsure and glared at one another. King Caesar, wounded and sparking from his shoulders, nudged Monster X. The former invader looked over. The two giants starred at one another for what seemed like hours, possibly communicating by some unknown means. After a solid minute, King Caesar nodded and looked away. Monster X’s tail slapped the ground…

    Finally, it was over.

    Finally, he had found a true home…

    Winners: Monster X, King Caesar, Gorosaurus & Baragon (Millennium)

    K.W.C. Kaiju War Chronicles

    A very special thanks to Digiwip for some of the assets used in this banner for the K.W.C. Be sure to follow him on DeviantART, Facebook, Twitter, ArtStation, and Instagram.

    K.W.C. // May 10, 2021
  • Godzilla & Kong. A titanic pairing not on the big screen together in nearly sixty years returns with a climactic clash available in theaters and the comfort of your own home. Does Adam Wingard’s vision for Godzilla vs. Kong (2021) succeed in capturing the spirit of the 1962 original? I’d say it does and even exceeds expectations in a few areas but not without a few stumbles.

    (more…)

    Movie Reviews // May 4, 2021
  • Author: Dan Rogers | Banner: Andrew Sudomerski

    The sun was high above Solgell Island. The skies were clear. The isle’s native flora was in bloom. It would have been one of the most picturesque days in this island’s history were it not for the horrible pained screeches that could be heard from all across the island.

    Toward the center of the island, a Kamacarus had wandered too close toward the valley of Kumonga and now found itself entangled in the arachnid’s webbing. It called desperately to any member of its kind for assistance. It was shrieking for what felt like hours, yet its calls went unheeded. The eight-legged behemoth slowly crawled over to its victim. The mantis desperately attempted to break free of the webbing, clawing at the ground and fluttering its wings, but only found itself further entrenched. The predator was upon it now. It let out one final screech, as it felt something puncture its body. The mantis felt its limbs stiffen and lock into place, as its energy slowly drained from its body. It slumped on its side, as its bright orange eyes dimmed.

    Once the arachnid was sure that its prey was paralyzed, it began clearing some of the excess webbing so that it may get closer to its prey. The spider positioned itself atop its victim, and began spraying webbing upon it, gently rotating the frozen insect with its legs. Before too long, the mantis was encased in a web cocoon, perfectly preserved for the next time Kumonga hungered. The spider left its perch atop its food, and began crawling back to the center of its valley, so that it may lie in wait for the next unfortunate creature that wandered too close to its nest.

    A low rumble made the spider stop in its tracks. It slowly turned toward the noise. The earth began to rip and a mound of dirt began to rise from the opening. The spider was no stranger to battling burrowing creatures, so this would not be a challenge. If anything, this monster would simply serve as another meal. Kumonga backed away, taking a strategic position atop a rock, ready to fire web at its subterranean opponent as soon as it breached back onto land.

    To the spider’s surprise, it was not met with a large beetle or fire-breathing reptile, but with hundreds of scorpions. They were roughly a tenth of the spider’s size. They were hardly a meal. As they didn’t seem to be paying much attention to the spider, Kumonga did not feel the need to chase them off. It stayed atop its perch, studying these unfamiliar creatures that had wandered into its valley. They were a blue-ish black, with red accents adorning the center of their bodies. They seemed to be wandering around aimlessly, manically scurrying across the ground. Kumonga wondered what could have compelled these creatures to approach its home.

    The spider’s question was answered almost immediately, as one of the scorpions found its way over to the cocooned Kamacuras. The small scorpion turned around and called for its brethren, who all began to skitter over. Once they had all reached the petrified mantis, they began attempting to move its body toward the mound of dirt they had emerged from. Kumonga realized that it must have been its prey’s cries that brought these scavengers to its home.

    And now, they were stealing its meal.

    Kumonga fired a web into the air, the sound causing the small thieves to drop its food. They scattered, running in all separate directions. The brown and yellow arachnid jumped into the air, landing atop its food. It lifted its leg and repeatedly slammed it against the ground, crushing its foes. The spider must have crushed twenty before they regained composure and all started to head back toward the mound of dirt they had emerged from. Kumonga would not let them get away that easily though. It knew it could not kill all of them, but it could ensure that they would learn to never approach its home again.

    The spider leaped off of its food and began approaching the disrupted earth, making sure to step on as many scorpions as it could. Once Kumonga had reached the mound of dirt, it began repeatedly stabbing its leg inside of it, attempting to further frighten the intruders off. Suddenly, the spider felt a shock of pain as something clamped onto its leg. It felt its body leave the ground, as a giant claw burst from the pile of earth. The claw released hold on Kumonga’s leg, sending the spider soaring through the air. The spider let out a fearful screech, before landing on its back. Kumonga was dazed, but had the presence of mind to flip back over to view its attacker.

    The mound of dirt began to shake, slowly revealing a larger scorpion. It had the same appearance as its smaller kin, a blueish-black with red accents covering the center of its body. It snapped its claws and let out an enraged shriek. Kumonga, still reeling from the throw, roared in response.

    The scorpion quickly skittered toward its opponent. Kumonga realized that its opponent was much faster, and this would be a battle that would have to be done from afar. The spider leaped backward, creating a much larger distance between the two. The clawed creature, unwavered, continued its approach. The brown and yellow arachnid fired a blast of web, which covered the scorpion’s body, stopping its approach.

    Kumonga cautiously approached its webbed opponent. Normally, the spider would be certain that this would be the end of the battle, but this creature was unfamiliar. This had to be handled carefully. Once the spider stepped a little more closely, the scorpion fired a strange brown liquid from its tail. The spider jumped backward, but some of the liquid splashed onto its front left leg. Kumonga’s skin began to sizzle, as it roared in pain. It desperately began rubbing its leg into the dirt, trying to find some relief from the pain. Unfortunately, it did not notice that its web began disintegrating.

    In a blink of an eye, the scorpion was upon Kumonga. Its claw clamped down on the left side of the spider’s body, holding it in place. The spider let out another wail of pain. With its free claw, the scorpion began repeatedly hitting the face of its opponent. Kumonga’s vision began to blur from the flurry of blows. The scorpion opened its claw it had been pummeling the spider with, ready to snap it down on its opponent’s head.

    The spider’s vision began to return, only to watch helplessly as its fate rushed to meet it. With its last burst of strength, it shot web at the claw, forcing it shut. The scorpion let out a grumble as it attempted to reopen its grip, but the spider’s webs would not budge. It released the left side of Kumonga’s body as it took its other claw in an attempt to peel off the webbing.

    The spider, taking full advantage of the scorpion’s frustration, fired another blast of web, causing both its claws to stick together. Its stingered-opponent let out another grumble, as it attempted to pry its claws apart. It slammed them repeatedly on the ground, but Kumonga’s webs would not give way. The spider regained its footing, and began to approach its struggling opponent. It fired more webbing at its opponent’s legs to prevent it from escaping.

    It was a hard fought battle, but it appeared as Kumonga was the victor. While the scorpion could still fire its acid at the spider, it would merely delay the inevitable. The spider stared hungrily at its opponent. The spider felt pride in defending its home from this invasive species. It clicked its jaws in preparation. Kumonga proved itself to be the dominant force on Sollgell Island, and that’s the way it would always-

    Kumonga felt something pierce its abdomen, and suddenly rip back out. The spider turned away and began to stumble, slowly losing control of its legs. Kumonga had been too busy considering its stomach to notice that its opponent’s tail was still free. The scorpion lifted its tail and sprayed the brown liquid onto its claws, causing the webbing to melt away. It did the same to its legs, freeing itself from its opponent’s trap. It let out a triumphant roar.

    The spider turned to face it, but it just could keep its footing. Its body crashed to the ground. As it watched its opponent slowly approach it, it could see its kin slowly begin climbing out of the dirt mound they had escaped into. Kumonga felt its limbs stiffen and lock into place, as its energy slowly drained from its body. It slumped on its side, as its bright blue eyes dimmed.

    Now, Kumonga would be the meal.

    Winner: Ts-eh-GO

    K.W.C. Kaiju War Chronicles

    A very special thanks to dopepope for some of the assets used in this banner for the K.W.C. Be sure to follow him on DeviantART, ArtStation, and Instagram.

    K.W.C. // April 30, 2021
  • Authors: Vincent Rodger & Matthew Freese | Banner: Landon Soto

    -Hiroshima, 1964-

    Dr. Bowen and his colleague Dr. Togami had been studying the leftover scales of Godzilla from his battle with Mothra, trying to find out how Godzilla’s unique radiation worked. With that knowledge, they could learn more about his biology. So little was known about the mutant, that any knowledge would be a breakthrough in the scientific community, for Godzilla was an anomaly to life itself. His unique mutation granted him a regeneration ability and his famous “Atomic Breath.” (more…)

    K.W.C. // April 20, 2021
  • Author: Andrew Sudomerski | Banner: Matthew Freese

    Torrential rainfall pounded against the ruthless waves, churning riptides in their wake. In this place, there was no light, for a perpetual storm raged across the endless sky. Blotted darkness cast its shadow, reaching to the great horizon. Erratic lightning struck the violent ocean, acting as the only illuminating source in this treacherous void no sane man would travel.

    Howling winds shrieked at an untapped volume, a deafening wail no mortal earth-dweller could hear. Yet in spite of the fearsome gale, an ethereal light brimmed in the depths of the storm. Alluring blue hues gestated above the vast ocean, warping the space around it. It tore apart at the seams, revealing an infinite pool of unstable reality. Contrasting the crimson hued bolts emitted from the storm clouds, the portal ripped apart with sky blue electricity and emanated its own artificial cloud. Pulsating with jubilation, a wrathful beast was soon to emerge.

    Swooping in from the other side of the wormhole, a ferocious wyvern spread its wings out in the presence of the raging wind. Turbulence proved to be cumbersome for the dragon, but its skill and maneuverability could perform optimally in such harsh conditions. Several flaps of its mighty wings fought against the grazing wind, traversing the expansive skies. The wyvern’s natural senses guided it through this unfamiliar territory, following the swirling path of the clouds. Destructive hurricanes such as these held a natural-born pattern, one that required a skilled eye to notice. Using this, the wretched serpent navitaged onward.

    As it presumed, the raging storm died down the closer it approached the brimming veil. Certainly, the sun had longed since dipped behind the horizon, for the sheet of light was illuminated by the rays of moonlight. When the vicious dragon tore through the layer of rainfall, what it found was nothing short of a beauty that remained undefiled by foreigners. The winged serpent slowed to a steady flight, basking in the sight of the arcane island.

    Moonlight shone upon the natural beauty of Skull Island, with jutting rock formations, steep mountains, and canyons alike. The shining gleam from the foliage rustled with the nocturnal animals that roamed the night, yet it remained relatively undisturbed. Above the highest peaks, glistening lights of wonder descended from the skies, teeming with a spiritual presence. The aurora borealis gave the island an alien green hue, further complimenting its majesty.

    Primal slits locked onto a vaguely familiar shape that caught its attention. A village, and at its heart a smoldering fire from a ritual long passed, which led to the sight of an axe. The spiked blade was embedded into the ground, the calcified hilt reaching for the sky. The select few natives stood in prayerful silence as the rest slept comfortably for the day to come.

    At the perimeter stood an erect wall of protruding spikes, soaked in bloodied ichor. In the darkness of the night, lizard-like goblins rammed their lithe bodies against the wooden pikes, all in the vain attempt to satisfy their hypervoristic appetites. What a disgusting view.

    Furrowing its brow, the draconic beast’s maw fermented an orange blaze…

    Aloft on the highest peak that towered over the rest of the island, Kong gazed at the starry display. He had long since outgrown this peak, becoming too large to sit comfortably to observe its otherworldly beauty. This was his first hike in many years, simply revisiting to reconnect with the far heavens. He reached his large, furry hand to the sky, trying to grasp the stars themselves. It felt within reach, yet it remained so distant all the same…

    His sage eyes, carrying an ancestral wisdom passed down through the generations, gleamed at the sight of the sleeping village. They were his people, the only thing on this island he needed to protect, an oath he must fulfill. For what would be left if they perished? He had lost his parents in battle, a jaded memory that stung like a wasp. He refused to lose more of his family, no matter the cost.

    He tracked to the outermost walls of the Iwi village, noticing the voracious scavengers trying to pry the wall apart. While their efforts were ultimately futile, he did not take kindly to their presence. An embedded hatred from millennia of war and conflict between the Kongs and the Skullcrawlers. A seething growl escaped his lips. Then almost as if by divine punishment or happenstance, a trailing cluster of compacted fire soared directly at the foul cretins–but at a grave cost.

    An eruption of blazing flames unfurled at the point of impact, rising to the air like a fiery mushroom cloud. The Skullcrawlers caught in the blast were incinerated without a moment to spare; those caught in proximity were blown to bits, scattering their limbs and bony armor all over. Likewise, the once fortified gate had been demolished by the fierce burst of fire, leaving the Iwi village completely exposed.

    It didn’t take long for the mythic beast to notice the perpetrator, following the approximate trail of where the fireball had originated. Sailing the nighttime sky, a fearsome winged wyvern entered Kong’s sight. Adorned with sharp ridges that protruded from its body, the wicked beast soared the skies as its domain. The membranes that stretched across its wings were dressed in distinct patterns, an intimidation display for those who saw them. Attached to its theropodic frame, the wyvern beat its massive wings, circling around the scorched earth below.

    Kong grimaced at the danger his people were in. Rising to his thick, stocky legs, the mighty guardian king scampered down the mountainside, opting to take the quickest route to the endangered natives. Much to his bewilderment, he witnessed the fire dragon descend upon the wreckage–snapping at the lesser Skullcrawlers and shredding them apart with its razor fangs. However, the gaggle of skull-faced cretins marched into the former safe haven, seeking to consume all in their path.

    As he came to the mountain’s base, Kong pushed his large body into a gargantuan sprint. Heavy rumbling was felt throughout the island, disturbing the native fauna from their humble slumber. The mighty Kong aimed for the village, seeking to protect those retreating from the stampede of lizard-like fiends. Gushing a booming roar, Kong let his presence be known.

    Coming to a gradual halt, the monstrous man-beast skidded to a stop, acting as the sole blockade between the Iwi and the voracious goblins. Bringing his massive foot up, Kong stomped on an entire troupe of Skullcrawlers, splattering under his heel. The earth shook under his godly retribution, a stark reminder of his integral role on the island.

    Fearing the wrath of Kong, the Skullcrawlers diverted their gluttony from the pesky humans to the great god-beast. Clamping their serrated teeth, the flock of lizards tried to tear a piece of flesh off the mountainous primate. With a flick of his wrist, Kong swatted the diminutive reptiles like pests. The tremendous force of the giant’s hand shot the ravenous predators onto the swampy water, shattering their bones from the impact.

    After picking off the freakish ghouls, his wrath stared at the dragon that initiated this insurgence. Beating his chest with his fists, Kong boomed a deep bellow, proclaiming his status to the enemy.

    Kong, King of Skull Island!

    Slurping another of the hypervores into its jaws, the wyvern locked eyes with the magnificent deity. Shrieking a hellish screech, the beastly dragon returned the favor, spreading its wings out in an impressive display.

    Rathalos, King of the Skies!

    Flapping its membranes, the Greater Rathalos leapt into the air and circled around, tracking the man-beast’s every movement. Kong likewise vexed his frustration with a grunt, ready to throw down with this colossal invader.

    Fierce slits narrowed in on the beastial biped, flexing its talons. Compressing its wings, the vicious wyvern extended its claws in eager savagery, screaming as it dove toward the legendary titan. Raising his muscular arm in defense, Kong braced for the incoming strike, steeling his resolve. Like a bird of prey, Rathalos inevitably collided against the massive wall of shaggy fur and rough flesh, tearing its bladed talons into Kong’s musculature.

    A booming cry resounded from the mighty guardian of Skull Island, feeling the gushing ichor pour from the gashes left by the wyvern’s talons. Blood splattered against the swampy waters as Kong clasped onto the winged serpent’s hind legs, engaging in a violent tussle. Twirling around, Kong swung the ruthless tyrant into a nearby cliff face, its head carving a trail in its wake.

    Flapping ferociously, Rathalos tried to break free from the towering ape’s clutches, only instead to be overwhelmed by Kong’s brute strength. Heaving the squirming dragon over his shoulders, Kong slammed the vicious reptile into the odorous swamp, erupting in a splash of roaring tidal waves from the sheer impact.

    Without giving the extradimensional invader a chance to retaliate, Kong swooped his mighty hands around Rathalos’ beaked jaws, prying them apart. Another round of talons slashed at Kong’s gut, while its powerful wings slapped against the gargantuan ape. Yet before the pivotal moment, a sudden surge of dizziness overcame the guardian beast. A light-headed ringing disrupted his concentration, losing his once firm grip over the crimson dragon.

    Taking the chance, Rathalos slipped from Kong’s grasp, whacking the gorilla-beast in the face with its clubbed tail as it took to the skies. The hairy ape-man was thrown off his balance, sluggishly collapsing into a nearby mountainside. Erratic breath overtook the mighty king, trying to intake enough oxygen to remain conscious. Bringing his hand over to his wounded arm, he pressed against the gash with his pads. It stung, irritating the mighty ruler, but it was necessary. He held his blood-covered fingers to his face, struggling to focus on the abnormality present.

    Using the moonlight above, Kong saw his blood was an abnormal color. Rather than the crimson ichor that would leak from injury, what stained his hand was intertwined with a deep purple. The sensation felt vaguely familiar, recalling his many spats against the Mother Longlegs that injected him with their bambooed spurs. In that moment, it clicked to what this was.

    Poison.

    Its potency was far more intense than that of a Mother Longlegs, however. This was evident as he struggled to rise to his feet, stumbling over himself to maintain balance. Even so, he couldn’t back down; not in the face of this invader from beyond the storm. Gritting his teeth, Kong pushed on, grabbing hold of a large boulder nearby. The side-effects from the dragon’s poison made it difficult to determine spatial distance, but Kong knew he had to try. Catapulting the boulder with a heaving throw, the large rock soared through the night sky.

    Rathalos was quick to swerve out of the line of fire, allowing the boulder to harmlessly sail until it crashed onto the rocky shores of the island. Keen eyes observed as Kong readied another boulder, showing clear signs of fatigue. The beaked wyvern snorted, content with letting the poison do the rest of it. The more he fought, the more he would inevitably wear himself out. Then, he would be easy pickings.

    Shifting trajectory to the highest peak the great ape came from, Rathalos perched atop the mighty cliffs that peered over the mountains of the island. Snake-like eyes glared at the mighty Kong, who in kind responded with immense vitality. Kong unleashed a warbling cry, beating his chest in a display of dominance. Rathalos likewise returned the favor, screeching with a howling blast of air, claiming supremacy in their fight.

    Yet in their war cries, aside from disrupting the harmonious ecosystem with the swarms of the feathered and reptilian avians, sinister cackles responded in kind. The source came from neither Kong nor Rathalos, but instead the devils that dwelled beneath the island. Popping out of their dug holes like varmints, the Skullcrawlers emerged en masse, the hordes split between devouring Kong and ascending the heavenly mountain to confront the faux demon.

    The King of the Skies boomed another hellacious roar, so loud and pronounced that it popped the auditory receptors of the Skullcrawlers closest to the fearsome dragon. But even the momentary delay of the horde didn’t stop the army of fiendish lizards from swarming the magnificent reptile. Gnawing at its crimson scales with their inward curved teeth, the Skullcrawlers tried to tear it piece by piece. Yet the hard scaly armor made it nigh impossible for them to pry it apart, only irritating the draconic beast at most.

    An irked growl rumbled from its jaws, twisting around and trampling the insignificant pests. The lizard-like ghouls were splattered into paste under the dragon’s tremendous weight, smearing their mangled corpses along the rocky perch. A swing from the large barbed tail skewered the bone-faced cretins without remorse, leaving them shish kebabed against the bulbous tip.

    Scissoring with its beaked snout, Rathalos plucked the ravenous hypervores off its body, crunching their miniscule frames between its bony fangs. Reptilian eyes kept a passive eye on the ancient primate, seeing him struggle with the pests all the same. Kong tore the pint-sized lizards with his massive fingers, crushing their bodies in the process. As Rathalos slayed the horde under its might, a booming roar from Kong caught its attention.

    But it wasn’t what it expected.

    In tandem with the bellow, the shadowy shape of a large boulder blotted out the glimmering moonlight. Rathalos grunted in frustration, realizing the ape’s tactile thinking and taking advantage of the situation. Nearly the size of the dragon’s head, the boulder slammed against its crest-like crown, smashing it against the nearby rockside. Emitting a guttural growl, Rathalos clumsily rose to its feet as the reptilian swarm continued their relentless siege.

    With a vexing exhale, misty green gases slipped between the gaps of its teeth. Parting its mandibles, a sudden rush of incendiary smoke flowed from organic exhaust ports located in its lower jaw. The back of its throat illuminated with a fiery light, acting as the trigger to ignite its most lethal weapon. In a snap, the gases erupted into a stream of superheated flames, washing over its area of influence into a torching hellscape. Charred rock withstood the searing heat, though the gluttonous Skullcrawlers popped and melted into fleshy slag and stripped bone. With a clean sweep, the Greater Rathalos purged the mountainous cliffside of the pests–leaving only Kong and the residual Skullcrawlers on the slope to deal with.

    Crushing one of the many devils under his heel, Kong’s attention was diverted to the mountaintop, focusing on the explosive burst of fire and the plum of pitch-black smoke that came from it. Anger flowed in Kong’s veins, his territory–his home–being defiled by this invasive hunter and his enemies. So when he saw the dragon peer down the mountainside, the two titans locked eyes.

    The fearsome dragon screeched with malicious intent, brewing flaming heat in its maw. Flapping its gargantuan membranes, Rathalos lifted its massive form, several of the still-living Skullcrawlers falling onto the scorched mountaintop. Gliding from the peak, the crimson wyvern spewed an endless wave of sweltering heat upon the droves of ghoulish lizards. Their frail flesh blistered under its fiery wrath, and their calcified faceplate barely held under the torrent of fire. The mountain of the far heavens burned with a hellish light, tainting the sacred grounds and purging the devils that dared to climb its slope.

    Snorting his building rage, Kong braced his bulky arms around his head, shielding it from the living hell that was inevitably due to arrive. As Rathalos flew overhead, hellfire accompanied the winged demon. Scalding fire washed over his thick fur and rugged skin, eliciting a godly scream from the indigenous deity. Though Kong fared far better than the diminutive devils, the blistering pain proved to be relentless and overwhelming for his poisoned state. With the stress coursing through his body, so too did the poison kick into high gear, forcing him to lose breath.

    Even through the suffering, Kong persevered. As the inferno died out, the ape-beast kept himself supported by the nearby rock wall, trying to maintain consciousness. Glancing at the village, he found that the dragon had reduced even the nearby Skullcrawlers to cinders–incidentally saving the village in the process. Likewise, laid the scepter embedded in the heart of the settlement; his best chance at beating this monstrosity. However, before he could even move, Kong was suddenly pelted by successive bursts of coalesced flames, erupting into plumes of fire upon impact. A resounding scream echoed across the island as the guardian god succumbed to the wicked wrath of the Greater Rathalos.

    The burning flames combined with the lethal poison was what finally brought him down. Losing consciousness, the mighty king slumped to the ground, crashing with a splash of swamp water. His eyes closed, unable to muster the strength to keep them open. Seeing this from above, Rathalos circled the fallen god, awaiting the moment of his death. The winged serpent cried a victorious shrill, its dominion almost guaranteed.

    That was, until another roar emanated from deep within the island.

    Rathalos recognized it without a shadow of a doubt. The screech originated from another member of its kind, indicative of extradimensional subspecies across different universes. However, this did not leave the lethal dragon with any semblance of joy; rather, a primitive territorial urge. No other Rathalos would claim this island as its own, and having taken down the apex predator, the wyvern would be sure to do the same with this intruder.

    Swooping over the lush jungles, Rathalos unloaded a payload of condensed fire, setting the dense foliage ablaze. The native wildlife and florofauna scattered from their midnight sleep, fleeing for their feeble lives from the all-consuming flame. Yet the call continued to emanate a pained shriek from a distance, echoing from the heart of the island. Perhaps it had been injured by the native protector? Then disposing of it would be easier than anticipated.

    Finding itself honing in on the source, the mighty dragon hovered a graveyard, littered with bones which told of an ancestry that had long since perished. Upon hearing the resonant cry of the lesser Rathalos, the wyvern scanned the surrounding skies for it… And found nothing. Snarling, the fire demon churned gaseous mist that ignited into a searing blaze. Pumping out one fireball after the other, the Greater Rathalos bombarded the valley of the fallen gods into a fiery hellscape–hoping to silence it once and for all.

    Decayed bones shattered from the kinetic force, then reduced to charred stumps in the aftermath. The anguished souls cried out in misery as the land of the dead became defiled by torching flames. With the screeching silenced, Rathalos descended upon the burning landscape, hailing another screech of dominion. Frothing at the mouth with stewing flames, Rathalos reared up and unleashed a fiery display into the night sky, illuminating the darkness.

    This island had been besieged by the King of the Skies!

    A rumble caught its attention. Ceasing fire, the vicious wyvern peered at the ground below it, then it heard the noise; the cry of Rathalos buried beneath the ground… Then a sinkhole collapsed in on itself. Without giving the fire demon a chance, a bleach-colored skull emerged from the pits of hell, lunging straight for the dragon’s neck. The cry it emanated was one of Rathalos, yet its visage was anything but. The enlarged Skullcrawler clamped its curved teeth into the armored neck, applying as much pressure as it could.

    More of the two-legged lizard’s body slipped out of the subterranean tunnels, firmly gripping Rathalos’ torso with its claws. The lithe tail coiled around the dragon’s legs, binding them together. The crimson wyvern tried to take flight, but he added weight brought the magnificent reptile down, restrained by a ghoul that the Iwi natives refused to speak its name:

    Ramarak, the Devil of the Underworld.

    Left to the vile mercy of the underground monster, Rathalos squirmed under the giant Skullcrawler’s clutches, losing precious oxygen and strength in the process. Its winged claws battered the hypervore, yet no gash deep enough could pry the devil off it. Time was a wasting; the beauty of the moon veiled by torrent clouds of despair. Trickles of water evaporated against the scorched earth, followed by more in the process. If the dragon didn’t act fast, death would certainly come for it.

    Running low on options, Rathalos’ maw began to glow…

    Rain poured from the rolling storm, the dark heavens filled with illustrious red lightning. Exhausted eyes peeled open, stirring from his bout with unconsciousness. He twitched his fingers, numb from the poison that spread throughout his body. He could barely feel the rainfall bounce against his skin. Once blood circulated back into his arms, the mighty titan heaved his colossal mass until he oriented himself in a sitting position.

    Taking in and exhaling deep breaths, Kong oxygenated his blood to maintain consciousness. He brought his hand up to his forehead and rubbed against it, relaxing his overloaded nerves. After a time, he regained the strength needed to stand on his feet, cascading swamp water and raindrops rolling off his furry form.

    Peering over to the village, Kong sloshed through the rippling swamp before entering the riverside, crushing the corpses of Skullcrawlers on his way. At the heart laid an ancestral weapon, one forged in the midst of countless wars amongst titans, acquired during his escapades beneath Skull Island, where the devils resided. However, he saw miniscule movement out the corner of his eyes, and from the foliage came the Iwi tribe. In solemn prayer, they remained drenched in silence. In that moment, Kong felt the hope of his people and their belief in him.

    Kong nodded in understanding, then reached down and grabbed the calcified hilt. The residual radioactive stimulated the Royal Axe upon contact, which was revived in a reddish glow from the handle before the embedded spike illuminated a bright blue. Pulling the weapon out of its earthy altar, Kong did not proclaim a challenge; rather, he sluggishly moved in stride to where the demons of the sky and earth were fighting, hoping to fulfill the wishes of his people.

    Ushering a guttural cry, Rathalos exhaled a ferocious burst of searing flame in desperate hopes of freeing itself. Washing over the gluttonous dweller, Ramarak’s skin blistered and popped from the sweltering heat, forcing the deranged reptile to uncoil and release its hold. Scampering away with fumbled footsteps, the fiendish lizard scowled at the burning wrath of the flying wyvern. Tortuous and unbearable, the enlarged Skullcrawler cut through the flames with its serrated tail, thwacking the angular jaw of the Greater Rathalos with a bone-cracking smash.

    A freakish yell echoed from the skull-fiend’s throat, immediately sprinting into a stumbling charge. The rain stung its melted skin, but the disgusting fiend pushed on. Grunting from the sudden whiplash, the crimson wyvern heralded a rage-fueled scream, spreading its powerful wings out in an intimidation display. Standing its ground, Rathalos baited its enemy, waiting for the gap to be closed. In eager anticipation, Ramarak shrieked in gluttonous delight. But before it could once again attempt to pry the carmine armor, a swift and sudden twirl had the Rathalos’ barbed tail clobber the ravenous predator, throwing the fiend off-balance and near the outskirts of the boneyard.

    Slamming its serrated tail to regain equilibrium, the massive Skullcrawler quickly tried to reorient itself, but the winged enemy would give no such time. Rathalos charged headfirst into the lizard’s side, pushing it farther inland and grinding foliage in their path. Splintered trees crunched under their tremendous weight, their bark embedding into the crack of their armor or the outermost layer of flesh. Yet this did little to deter either monster, who only sought to conquer the other for dominion over the island.

    Ramarak paused, suppressing its urge to feed. This creature wasn’t going to be mere prey; rather, a fellow apex beast able to compete with its might. Focusing its eyes on the prize, the deranged lizard opened a mocking cry to the crimson wyvern, awaiting what it would do next. Almost as if following through with that taunt, Rathalos charged and heaved its body into the air with powerful flaps, but kept low to the ground. Outstretching its talons, the flying wyvern sought to rip the skull devil’s face clean off–its intentions made clear with a shrilling warcry.

    Poison-dripping claws bare and outstretched, the transdimensional dragon swooped over the grounded Skullcrawler, digging its claws into the bony faceplate in an overpass. Deep grooves embedded into the calcified armor, trickling with purple ooze over the vacant false eyes. Though such a fierce strike was unable to inject the toxins into the voracious ghoul’s bloodstream, the subterranean reptile could feel the strength behind its talons. This foe was nothing short of dangerous.

    Yet the instinct to kill it was all the more enticing to the devil of the underground.

    Bursting into an immediate sprint, Ramarak pursued the airborne dragon, the latter who was making a gradual ascent. Parting its cone-like jaws, the Skullcrawler shot a lithe tongue from its fleshy sheathe and wrapped it around the base of the spiked-tipped bulge on the dragon’s tail. Anchoring itself to the ground by slamming its tail and burrowing its claws, Ramarak readied itself to use all the strength as its disposal.

    In an instant, the fleshy tether halted the winged dragon’s flight path, coming to an abrupt stop. Trying to keep orientation in the sky, the Greater Rathalos flapped its mighty wings to maintain airlift, feeling the weight of its foe being dragged with it. The two great beasts vied for supremacy and entered a temporary gridlock in a conflict between land and sky.

    Before Rathalos could regain full control, a rumbling that overpowered the drowning rain caught both of their attention.

    The fire demon quickly located the source, and was immediately both infuriated and confounded by the sight before it. Rushing to battle, with a bluish bioluminescent axe acting as the sole light source, the large figure used a small ledge as a springboard. Soaring through the air, the bipedal ape brought the glowing axe up, screaming in furious determination.

    Then bringing it down, Kong cleaved through the membrane of the dragon’s right wing, shredding it apart with an atomic afterglow.

    Rathalos struggled to stay afloat, yet nothing it could do to remain airborne as it made a gradual descent until it crashed into the dense jungle below. Ramarak was quick to uncoil and retract its long tongue, peering at the sight of its ancient arch nemesis. Crashing with a tremendous explosive impact, Kong clumsily landed onto his legs, taking a moment to regain his breath. Rising to his feet, his fearsome eyes scanned the ravenous lizard and the wicked dragon, clenching the battle axe.

    The sleek reptilian shifted eyes from the fallen dragon to the weakened god, astutely noting Kong’s exhaustion from his bout with the invader; a toll that would cost the apex guardian his life. Shifting gears, the devil of the underground maliciously bolted for the weary king, eager to consume the carcass that awaited after the fight.

    Firmly anchoring his feet into the wet earth and spreading them apart, Kong readied his weapon. Swinging in a lateral chop, the azure hue blurred as the blade nicked the narrow snout, chipping bony fragments. Though this did not stop the relentless killer, who sought to use the opening before it to pounce against the large figure of Kong, toppling the hairy giant onto his back. The only barrier that kept the ravenous ghoul at bay was the bony handle pressed against the fiend’s neck. Slobbering jaws snapped shut directly at Kong’s face, resisting the vile demon with waning strength.

    However, when push came to shove, the gluttonous appetite of the Skullcrawler proved to be too much. In an effort to protect his face, Kong released his grip on the handle and blocked it with his scarred arm, allowing Ramarak to clamp onto the wounded limb. The seminal reminder stung with a burning sensation, as the poisoned blood dribbled into the maw of the wicked lizard. Kong felt the pressure, screaming in agony as the bite pressed against his firm muscles.

    Then off in the distance, Kong saw a hellish light soaring right for them.

    A massive fireball collided against the scrawny hypervore, tossing it off with an explosive blast that dispelled the rain. The result forced the skull devil to release its grip, lacerating Kong’s arm in the process with its curved teeth. Using his strength, Kong propped himself up and traced the source, finding Rathalos in the distance. The crimson wyvern’s yellow eyes gleamed from afar, screeching in utmost fury as droplets pelted its draconic form. Slamming the claws of its damaged wing against the earth, the Greater Rathalos vexed its frustration as its mouth glowed with an orange blaze.

    Pelting one after the other, the winged wyvern belched a burst of superheated spheres at the apex guardian, who could only react by blocking the incoming blasts with his arms and axe. The first came with an explosive ring, charring the calcified handle and the ape-beast’s thick fur. In the brilliant flash, Kong sealed his eyes shut as he endured the scorching blaze of Rathalos’ wrath.

    The second came as quickly as the first, hurling into the great behemoth at astounding speed. A monstrous, booming cry resounded from the beastly deity, one heard across the island. This triggered an awakening within the battle axe under Kong’s possession, an ethereal blue glow emanated a brilliant light, almost as if responding to his will. Taken aback by the events that transpired, Rathalos shot one more burst of fire to see if its suspicions were correct.

    Realizing the onslaught had ceased, he took the brief moment of levity to observe the battleaxe’s newfound power. With an assured grunt, the mighty king rose to his feet, regaining his breath. Instead of pulverizing the man-beast in a flurry of searing fire, the entire sphere was instead annihilated by a swing of the atomic axe. Resulting, in turn, was a sight nothing short of majestic; a rigid cleaver that trailed with the eccentric trail of an ancient lifeforce, with the core of the Royal Axe brightening like that of a blue sun.

    No matter the case, no matter the cost, the fearsome scream of the Greater Rathalos made its fury known. Lowering itself to the ground, the fire-breathing wyvern made a mad-dash toward the colossal primate, rapidly closing the gap between them. Baring its vicious fangs in a sneer, the bellicose dragon howled in fierce contempt.

    Responding in kind, Kong charged into a heavy sprint, armed with his enhanced weapon. Meeting head-on in their stampedes, Kong readied to bring his axe down, but Rathalos was quicker to the draw. With a hasty twirl, the clubbed tail swooped at the behemoth’s feet, toppling the island god mid-swing. A resounding thud echoed across the trampled tropical forest, with Kong on his side. Willing to take the risk, Rathalos used this chance to lunge toward the fallen beast and tore into his furry hide with its beaked maw. An agonizing bellow emanated from the god-king, who retaliated with a slash from his charged battleaxe.

    The dorsal ridges found themselves embedded into the scaly hide of the crimson dragon, instantaneously crackling from the tremendous overcharged force of atomic energies. Sweltering and expanding in an instant, the explosive blowback threw the gargantuan wyvern off the mighty king, left with a massive crater in its side. A thunderous yelp made it clear of the Rathalos’ dire situation as it mercilessly rolled and flipped over, crushing all the foliage in its path. When it came to a skidding stop, the ferocious dragon weakly got back on its legs, disoriented from the blast that occurred. Not only did it hurt to move, the great dragon could also feel its armor rattle as if it had been fractured. Even in its damaged state, Rathalos would push on; and wouldn’t stop until it claimed superiority over these apex predators.

    Kong was likewise in a similar predicament. While the burst was more than enough to toss the Rathalos off him, the encompassing explosion left his head ringing and his fur singed. He also felt the axe missing from his hands, only noticing it out of arm’s reach. The Royal Axe no longer glowed with the majesty it held, drained of the power it needed to sustain function. His numbed body made it hard to move, but he tried to crawl to where his weapon laid.

    Then, a pair of claws pressed against his weakened form.

    One against his elbow joint and the other on his head, Ramarak asserted its dominance over the downed guardian. Though it desired to kill Kong, the enlarged Skullcrawler instead crawled over his body and smacked Kong’s face with its serrated tail. Ramarak eyed the legendary scepter with a sickening curiosity, knowing full well what it intended to do. Its flexible and lithe tail coiled around the calcified hilt, clenching it tightly. Though awkwardly imbalanced, the Skullcrawler wielded the battleaxe as its own, the dorsal blade only emitting a faint glow. With a sadistic sneer, the ghoulish lizard cried out in mockery.

    Kong would suffer dearly.

    The great ape’s eyes widened at the horrific sight before him, panicking and screaming at his nerves to move. Pushing his mass to the side, the legendary ape rolled just in the nick of time–with the atomic cleaver scraping a small chunk of flesh and hair. Kong winced at the pain, but he knew stopping would certainly be a death sentence. For every time he pushed, he would barely avoid another handle strike from the axe-wielding Skullcrawler as it dug into the wet earth. All this came to a close when Kong found himself pressed against a massive cliff face, leaving him nowhere to move.

    A cackling cry of pleasure, Ramarak raised its tail above its body–eager to execute the heraclean behemoth once and for all! It emitted a deep laughter, one reminiscent to that of a Kong’s vocal patterns. A mocking taunt to the fallen king, for his title would be usurped!

    Kong watched on, falling into a pit of despair. He had failed his people, defending his home from wretched devils that came to defile it… Yet, in a stroke of fate, the mammoth reptile froze in place. Stomach-retching gurgles foamed from the depths of the demon’s disgusting throat, upchucking bile from partially digested meals. The tail fell limp, losing its grip as the axe handle slammed into the mushy ground. Its equilibrium was thrown in disarray, barely able to keep itself planted on its two forelimbs.

    Not wasting this second chance at life, Kong heaved himself off the ground, keeping a firm posture as to remain imposing. Yet before he could dive in to retrieve the battleaxe, a piercing scream closed in on the two. Kong saw the limping Rathalos barrel through the wreckage, the fierce determination in its eyes. The winged creature leapt atop the vulnerable Skullcrawler, pinning the wobbling fiend under its weight.

    When Kong tried to move, without even looking, Rathalos retaliated with a swing of its barbed tail, smacking him directly in the ribs, hurling the giant to the ground. Overtaken by the poison and exhaustion, Kong collapsed under his weight, barely holding onto consciousness. However, seizing the opportunity, he clutched the hilt of the axe and limped away–hoping the wyvern wouldn’t take heed.

    The subterranean devil squirmed at the mercy of the vicious wyvern, whose talons were pumping toxins into the malnourished flesh of the gluttonous reptile. Adding insult to injury, the sharp jaws scissored into the shoulder joint of the predator’s right arm, tearing at the frail flesh. Even when encountering bone, the strong jaws were enough to crush it with ease, and continued until the entire limb was severed from the body.

    Time passed as the tyrannical dragon tortured the horrid pest. Then, with wings spread out, the Greater Rathalos proclaimed to this world’s heavens, awaiting the deaths of the island’s apex predators. Then, the gases flowed from the organic exhausts, the back of its throat glowing in an orange blaze…

    The rainfall drowned out the dying shrieks of Ramarak and the heavy footfalls that sloshed through the mud. With the demonic dragon occupied with the deep-dwelling devil, the colossal beast used this chance to refuel his ancient weapon with a nearby source. The axe flickered a dim light when he closed in on the charred boneyard, more specifically the massive entranceway excavated by the large Skullcrawler.

    Muzzling the axe into the edge of the complex catacombs, the dorsal ridge began emanating a glow, soaking in the radioactive presence that laid beneath the island. As it recharged, Kong sagged in the heart of the boneyard, feeling only the hardened glass from the immense heat and the ashen bones. Water drenched his singed fur, the island god feeling uncertain how long it would be before the dragon would track him down.

    However, his exhausted eyes saw the remnants of his fallen forefathers–blackened and shattered from Rathalos’ rampage. A sting unlike any other irked the mighty god-king; not from the poison that flowed through his veins, but the fury that raged in his heart. Seeing his parents desecrated long after their deaths awakened the traumatic memory of their dying moments. A child mourning the loss of his family amidst an ever growing conflict; a child isolated to be the lone ruler of a forsaken island, where God didn’t finish creation. He was left time to mourn, patching the torn scars from the past.

    When he finished processing, he saw that the axe was at ready capacity to carry on the fight. Pulling it out of the ledge, Kong trudged to where the Rathalos had been, provided it was still there…

    The beast indulged in the cretin’s misery, but never once did it let its guard down. Its mouth brimmed with immense heat, but the target wasn’t intended for the poisoned devil. Turning around, Rathalos unloaded a hellish blaze that streamed from the back of its maw. Confirming its suspicions, the large frame of Kong was illuminated by the fiery fumes that rushed to consume the primal nephilim. Baptized by hellfire, Kong’s bellowing screams resounded across the island, the relentless onslaught ongoing. However, the searing flames were parted at a single point, splitting like a fork in a river against the radioactive axe.

    Sluggishly charging in for one last hurrah, Kong boomed a mighty roar as he marched on, readying his weapon. Seeing its combustible flames shredded by the ancient axe, Rathalos could only watch in predestined horror its final moments. As the atomic source began to overcharge once more, Kong swung it down directly at the dragon’s head.

    Then, a massive burst of fiery destruction overtook the landscape.

    Consumed in a growing mushroom cloud, the island fell silent. In the midst of the carnage, a limping Ramarak–carrying itself with only one functional arm–wheezed and fumbled toward the first corpse it could find. Its flesh was scarred with nasty boils, yet its demented mind lived on. Flickering its tongue, it found the slumped body of the crimson wyvern that had invaded the island. The headless stump was all that remained, its body busted and armor shattered from the aftermath. However, what the creature couldn’t find was its arch nemesis.

    Suddenly, Ramarak received an answer–with an unceremonious hack into its neck.

    It felt the intense heat steam off the dorsal ridge, but that was all it could register before its perceived world was turned upside down. For the last twenty seconds of its existence, it saw its headless body spastically twitch and contort as it violently keeled over. Its eyes intensely focused on the bipedal hominid, registering only hunger and hatred… And finally, Ramarak was consumed by a darkness unfamiliar to it, one unlike the dark subterranean tunnels to the Hollow Earth.

    Succumbing to the poison corroding his bloodstream, Kong limply staggered back to where the Iwi village resided, in hopes that they could cure him of these ailments. Taking one last glance upon the burned and ruined battlefield, he saw something in the distance. The storm warped unnaturally, with unstable tears in reality that struggled to sustain form. He grimaced, but proclaimed one thing to the threat that was soon to come with a booming bellow.

    He was King Kong.

    Winner: Kong (Legendary)

    K.W.C. Kaiju War Chronicles

    K.W.C. // April 10, 2021
  • Authors: Matthew Freese | Banner: Matthew Freese

    Humankind was terrified. Just recently, they had discovered that they were no longer on top of the food chain. The whole world witnessed the aftermath of a clash between titans, unable to see the actual battle due to the EMP waves output by the two fallen giants. They saw an absolute behemoth dip into the waters, its size making all other known animals look puny in comparison. But that wasn’t all. Leaks were released onto the internet, revealing a whole island filled with megafauna, ruled over by a bipedal ape almost as tall as Godzilla. Humanity’s greatest minds raced to figure out how to deal with the situation, how to calm the people down.

    Any plans they had were dashed to pieces when flying saucers descended, capturing the two in tractor beams and pulling them away to unknown places. There were expectations of broadcasts being taken over and replaced with a declaration of invasion. But none came, leaving humanity in the dark as to the fate of the titans. To many, this silence was almost worse than the alternative.

    But the aliens who had stolen Earth’s champions had not come to invade, not yet at least. Perhaps soon in the future, but they had other plans for now.

    The Vortaak mothership was a colossal vessel, a black and green saucer large enough to hold an entire city within its walls. Streamlined buildings filled the interior of the ship, jutting up in perfect uniformity, some ending with pointed tops. It accommodated the millions of inhabitants upon it well as it sailed toward whatever planets its masters deemed fit to conquer. There was only one major setback it encountered, boredom. The same scenery every day with barely any change was almost oppressive. So, the rulers of the intergalactic conquerors saw fit to put up entertainment to keep the masses from plunging into ennui-induced chaos.

    And what else would entertain a war-obsessed culture than blood sport?

    Grand crowds gathered near the center of the city, surrounding a circular zone with no buildings aside from several evenly distributed across the edges of the space. Thin pillars supported blocky dishes with arrays of lights within. These controlled the force field surrounding the arena, ensuring that the battle would not spill out into the crowd.

    Displays explaining the two combatants were scattered across the crowd’s gathering area. This fed into the fervor of the event, igniting many arguments throughout the masses about who would win between the two kings.

    “Kong is a thinking animal, doesn’t matter what fancy crap Godzilla’s got!”

    “One atomic breath and the ape’s dead!”

    “Better reach, better upper body strength, better strategy!”

    “Kong’s gonna get torn apart. Godzilla’s got claws, and armor that Kong can’t break!”

    “Wrong!”

    “No, you’re wrong!”

    The endless bickering of the crowd revealed their long-withheld desire for conflict, spilling forth in an earsplitting echo of pent-up aggression. These conversations only made things more annoying for those few who wished to just see the fight, uncaring of who stood victorious at the end. Then all took notice as one of royal blood made herself known as speakers buzzed with life.

    “My loyal subjects,” intoned the feminine voice of Vorticia, the queen of the pale skinned aliens. “It is time for the show!”

    A beam of light shone down from the ceiling of the mothership, transporting in the first combatant. “Feast your eyes upon Godzilla, the alpha predator of the primitive planet Earth!”

    Cheers and jeers echoed at the sight of the scaly colossus. He looked around, his tail dragging across the steel as he tried to understand what was happening. The leviathan shook his head, confused. One moment he had been sleeping peacefully in the ocean, the next he was in this strange, cold place.

    “And his foe, the ruler of Skull Island, Kong!”

    Another beam of light descended opposite Godzilla, making him stumble back, eyes widening. A gigantic, bipedal ape was there when the glow faded, looking just as confused as his “foe”.

    Kong jolted his head from side to side, scratching his head with his long, fur coated right arm. Where was he? This wasn’t his beautiful home! Where were his people?

    The giants kept their distance, scanning the area as they slowly began to walk around the arena. Murmurs filled the crowd, some yells rising. “Well, it appears as if our combatants aren’t in the mood to fight.” Both titans were startled by the voice, frantically searching for the source as it had come from all directions. “It appears as if they’ll need some motivation,” Vorticia added with a sinister tone to her voice.

    The gloved finger of the queen pressed down on a button on the panel before her, which lit up with a harsh green.

    Suddenly, the two tensed up, locking eyes with each other. Kong started pounding his chest, roaring in intimidation. Godzilla sucked in air, rearing back before leaning forward and letting loose a powerful bellow which made many of the Vortaak cover their ears. They charged, sending tremors through the metallic floor.

    Godzilla lunged forward, jaws open. The guardian of Skull Island ducked beneath the bite, then jabbed the alpha-predator in the chest several times. The king of the monsters swung his claws at Kong, landing only a glancing blow. Despite this, it still tore open flesh and stained the mighty ape’s fur with his own blood. Roaring in pain and rage, Kong swung a haymaker into the side of Godzilla’s face, knocking out several teeth and cracking some others. The alpha-predator spit out a glob of blood, glaring at his foe. Godzilla slammed his massive, elephantine foot against Kong’s stomach, sending the ape reeling back.

    Using the brief respite, Kong looked around the arena for anything he could use to gain an advantage. Nothing within the arena itself could be used as a weapon, nor was the flat, neutral terrain favorable to him. But if he could escape into the city, he might be able to…

    The ape’s train of thought was cut off as Godzilla shoulder tackled him hard, sending the ape rolling end over end. The guardian of Skull Island gasped for breath, the impact having knocked the wind out of him. The booming thud of his reptilian foe’s footsteps motivated him to climb to his feet, then run in the opposite direction. Getting to the arena’s bounds, Kong reached out toward the crowd. The ape’s fingers hit a previously invisible barrier, now glowing bright green where he touched it. Kong roared in pain as his hands were assaulted by powerful shocks, sending him reeling back as smoke curled off his fingers. Unfortunately for him, he did not feel any stronger, meaning his ability to absorb electricity was not compatible with whatever this was.

    Godzilla lunged forward again; claws outstretched. The mighty ape ignored the pain in his chest and fingers as he locked grips with his foe. Both fighters pushed against the other, their feet scraping against the ground. They were both locked in a stalemate, neither budging. Kong opened his mouth, baring his sharp canine teeth, before lunging forward. Godzilla roared in agony as the ape’s teeth tore into his left gills, the pain throwing off his focus enough for Kong to overpower the alpha-predator and throw him forward.

    The guardian of Skull Island spat out a chunk of bloody meat as his foe hit the ground, denting the cold steel beneath. Kong took a second to catch his breath, before bending down to grab the saurian’s tail. Pulling hard and straining, Kong lifted his foe off the ground. The guardian of Skull Island swung Godzilla’s body into the wall of invisible energy, sending a pulse of light flying along the perimeter. The alpha predator bounced off, slamming into the floor once again. Kong tried to lift him once more, but the saurian flicked his tail out of the ape’s grip.

    Godzilla got to his feet, deeply growling. Kong took up a fighting pose, beckoning the alpha-predator to come at him. The king of the monsters noticed the blood still staining Kong teeth, causing his snarl to intensify the more time passed. Godzilla charged forward, causing the mighty ape to brace himself for another clash of strength.

    Godzilla stopped, turning swiftly. Kong had barely any time to react as his foe’s whip-like tail came toward his shoulder. Kong shot his right hand up to catch the appendage. The eighth wonder of the world screamed in agony as the end of the alpha-predator’s armored extremity tore into his palm, the force behind it nearly shattering the bones in his hand. Blood poured from the ape’s palm, staining the black metal and the saurian’s tail as it retreated.

    Godzilla’s hand slammed shut around Kong’s throat, before the saurian lifted his foe into the air. The king of the monsters locked gazes with the guardian of Skull Island, his eyes narrowing. Godzilla roared at the top of his lungs, causing Kong to flinch as his ears were assaulted by the noise. As the guardian of Skull Island’s ears rang, Godzilla slammed him into the ground back-first. Kong was unable to focus on anything, the world becoming a blur and his ears still overcome by the noise. His surroundings solidified when something heavy pressed down on his chest, now revealed to be Godzilla’s foot. The alpha-predator grunted as he raised his leg, before stomping on Kong’s sternum. The mighty ape roared as he felt his ribs cracking from the blow. Godzilla raised his foot again, ready to break Kong’s ribs this time. The eighth wonder of the world swiftly rolled out of the way, leaving the monster king’s foot to harmlessly hit the ground. The king of Skull Island sprung up, jabbing his fingers at the saurian’s eyes, causing the leviathan to stumble back, howling.

    Kong ran to the opposite side of the arena, then stopped to catch his breath and recover as best he could. Godzilla’s eyes shot open, his sight returning to him. The guardian of Skull Island roared and taunted his foe, beckoning him to attack. The king of the monsters prepared to charge, but stopped. He had lived more than long enough to know when he was being lured into a trap. So, he stood in place, staring. He silently dared Kong to make the first move, but the ape refused to budge from his place as well.

    The audience watched, baffled. Some waited with baited breath for what the two colossi would do next, others slowly grew more angered as time went on. It hadn’t even been a full minute, but for the more impatient members of the audience, it was an eternity. They began booing, and even though they weren’t even a majority of the crowd, the sound of displeasure still echoed across the stadium. Both monsters tried to ignore the incessant noise, focusing on the other. But the annoying whining got to one combatant before the other.

    Kong roared at the crowd, but they still booed and booed. The guardian of Skull Island began pounding at the floor, releasing a great, clattering racket. Noticing his foe was distracted, Godzilla began rampaging toward the mighty ape. The crowd’s whining stopped, leaving Kong to hear the booming sounds of his foe’s charge. The eighth wonder of the world reacted quickly, preparing himself. Godzilla groaned, why had they stopped the moment he began running?

    The king of the monsters closed the distance between the titans, his claws bared and ready to shred. The guardian of Skull Island lunged forward, dodging his foe’s claw swipes. Kong wrapped his arms around Godzilla’s waist, shocking the alpha-predator, before heaving him upward with all his might.

    The audience cheered and shouted as Kong lifted Godzilla above his head, before stepping backward to the wall. The mighty ape thrust his foe back, earning a cry of agony from the alpha-predator as his back was slammed into the forcefield. Powerful shocks rocked Godzilla’s body as he was forced against the shield, the barrier unbreaking. Kong held with all his might, fearing the consequences if he let go. The king of the monsters spasmed and writhed as alien energies flowed through his form, a tortured scream leaving his ancient jaws. Fighting through the pain, Godzilla moved his claws to where he believed his foe to be, his own vision too blurry from agony to be certain.

    Godzilla felt fur, then felt flesh as he moved a little further down. Squeezing, he dug his claws into the flesh, drawing blood. Kong roared as his shoulders were shredded, the pain causing him to drop his foe. The booming sound of all ninety thousand tons of alpha-predator hitting the ground followed. The guardian of Skull Island backed away, clutching his shoulders to halt blood loss. Godzilla climbed to his feet, groaning in pain. Neither he nor Kong could see it, but the audience behind him could see the full extent of the damage dealt.

    His lower back was charred, scales and skin peeling off from the heat. Smoke curled off him, and the alpha-predator shook from the suffering. Not a single spine was broken, but some appeared to have light cracks in them. Pain wracked his form, but pain soon turned to burning rage.

    A loud crackling sound hit Kong’s ears, sending chills down the ape’s spine. The audience oohed and awed as brilliant azure light started gathering in the jagged spikes on the alpha-predator’s back. The light began travelling up the spines, more and more slowly filling with the omen of destruction. Wisps of atomic power leaked from the cracks, poisoning the air. Unfortunately for Kong, this wasn’t nearly enough to stem the tide of toxic doom about to come his way.

    Kong lunged forward, his hands aiming for Godzilla’s jaws. Before he could grab and shut them, a violent geyser of azure radiation poured from the maw of the alpha-predator, the mighty ape barely keeping his fingers from getting burned off. The audience screamed as a blue glow was cast over them, some in terror, others in excitement. Godzilla swung his head toward Kong, aiming the atomic breath at him. The eighth wonder of the world tried to roll out of the way, and though he avoided it, Kong fell on his back prone. Before he could get up, the alpha-predator stood over his body, staring at him. If looks could kill, Kong would have died then and there.

    Godzilla unleashed his atomic breath straight down toward Kong.

    The guardian of Skull Island threw up his arms and crossed them, the nuclear geyser crashing against his makeshift shield. The ape’s screams of anguish were drowned out by the deafening roar of the atomic breath, the fur on his arms being vaporized on contact, his flesh not faring much better. The blast ended as soon as it had begun, leaving Kong to writhe. Most of the hair on the front of his torso was gone, leaving burnt skin visible. His left arm, the one which he had put in front, had visible muscle charred pitch black where the beam’s epicenter had been. His other arm had horrific third-degree burns scarring it.

    The azure glow faded from Godzilla’s spines. Pulling a foot back, he crashed a kick into the ape’s side, sending the still writhing ape rolling away. Coming to rest at the base of one of the towers, Kong breathed in and out rapidly as he tried to regain equilibrium. A heavy drum beat echoed, snapping him back into reality as Godzilla approached. The island king’s mind raced to come up with a plan to survive.

    The alpha predator loomed over his foe, the corners of his mouth curling up. Kong noticed the structure beside him and smacked his fist against the base of the tower, sending cracks crawling across the steel. Chunks of it fell as the tower shuddered, leaning toward the two.

    There was an odd, electrical sound which echoed, like something being shut off.

    Godzilla observed the structure, tilting his head. Kong grabbed it, lifting it up and hammering the wide top of the tower into the leviathan’s face. It exploded on impact, forcing a cry of pain from the alpha predator.

    Kong got to his feet as Godzilla stumbled backward. The guardian of Skull Island paused, realizing that he had slipped his fingers past the point of the barrier to grab the tower.

    He stepped out of the arena’s boundary, unopposed. Scores of aliens were crushed beneath the ape’s feet, causing a mass panic. The screams of terror shook Godzilla out of his stupor, now surprised as everyone else at Kong’s escape. King Kong tore off the top of a building, tossing it at the alpha-predator. The chunk of alien metal broke as it crashed against his face, causing Godzilla to groan in pain. Growling in rage, the king of the monsters charged toward his foe, trampling the rubble.

    Massive dents formed with each footfall as the alpha-predator rampaged toward the guardian of Skull Island. Extraterrestrials not already trampled to death were reduced to paste. A booming roar left his maw as he closed the distance, Godzilla swinging his claws at Kong. He reared back, but the talons still scraped away flesh. Both colossi stumbled slightly from the uneven terrain, but they kept balance. The mighty ape swung a haymaker at his foe’s gills, the result being a choked sound of agony as the wound from the earlier bite bled further. Using his foe’s pain to his advantage, Kong circled around, spotting a particularly cracked dorsal spine. Gripping it with one hand, the ape began punching it with his other. Godzilla was still dazed by the punch to his gills, snapping out of it due to a great snapping noise.

    He swiftly turned around, only to scream once again when his own jagged scute was rammed into his chest, the make-shift shank going between his armor plates. Kong ripped it out, ready to stab the king of the monsters again. Godzilla punched Kong across the face with all his might, sending the ape flying back into the arena. Blood poured from the wound, staining the saurian’s scales.

    Kong groaned as he laid on his back, the sounds of panicked crowds still ever present. Godzilla stared at his foe, waiting for the ape’s next move. The guardian of Skull Island searched his surroundings, for anything he could use to win. His eyes drifted further into the city, seeing a massive, blocky building.

    That would work.

    Forcing himself to get up, Kong ran into the city. Godzilla waited for his foe to approach, only to grow irritated as the ape ran past him. Turning to face his running opponent, the alpha-predator’s spines began glowing.

    The ape reached a structure as tall as him, with a width that nearly matched. He crouched, grabbing it near the base. He strained and grunted, feeling it shift, but the foundation held strong. He growled, trying to move his hands to get a better grip, but stopped when a familiar noise sounded. Turning, Kong barely rolled out of the way when a stream of atomic fire raced toward him. The blue energy seared through the base of the building, then swept over the ground chasing Kong.

    As the structure fell forward, the nuclear beam faded. Godzilla stomped forward, claws swinging. The ape barely dodged the strikes, then shoved both hands out. As the leviathan stumbled back, the ape turned and grabbed the fallen building, straining to lift it up.

    Godzilla shook his head side to side, eyes shut. When he opened them, he was greeted by Kong leaping toward him, swinging the colossal structure over his head. The panel-like building cracked in half as it smashed into the leviathan’s skull, massive chunks of it falling upon impact. Red liquid poured down the leviathan’s body. Azure light began to climb up Godzilla’s spines as he grabbed the halves of the building, pulling it out of Kong’s grip and tossing them aside.

    The mighty ape lunged forward, his hands grabbing the king of the monsters’ jaws. He could now see the gaping wound on the saurian’s skull, blood flowing from it like a river, bone being visible. Instead of trying to shut his foe’s maw, the guardian of Skull Island instead pulled it further open. Godzilla’s atomic breath continued climbing to the surface, ready to finish this battle once and for all.

    Godzilla’s jaws broke, causing twin flows of blood to leave the outskirts of his mouth. The alpha-predator’s atomic ray followed, firing above Kong’s head. The ray hit the eighth wonder of the world’s fingers, burning them to the bone. The pain made both colossi go unconscious, limply collapsing. Neither was dead, but neither was in any condition to fight.

    Far away, massively safer than her people, Vorticia and her parliament watched. Instead of aggravation and hatred at the destruction and death, she smiled. People could be replaced, buildings rebuilt. But creatures with such power and ferocity were invaluable. Pushing a button, she spoke to her military commanders.

    “Remove Godzilla and Kong’s implanted devices and replace them with the mind control devices.” She released the button, leaning back. They would serve as excellent attack beasts, practically unstoppable. She pushed another button when a new idea came to mind. “Chart a course for Earth once the two are under control. Let’s see what else the planet has on it for us.”

    Draw: Godzilla (Legendary), King Kong (Showa)

     

    K.W.C. Kaiju War Chronicles

    K.W.C. // March 30, 2021
  • Authors: Patrick Alan Green & Connor Clennell | Banner: Landon Soto

    San Francisco was sent into a panicked frenzy as the once beautiful city suddenly became a primal warzone between two of the most savage beasts to ever walk the Earth…

    The thunderous roars of the mighty King Kong shook the metropolis to its very core as he fought for his life atop the city’s landmark bridge.

    Citizens evacuated their vehicles, looking to flee the swaying bridge as fast as they could. Kong loomed overhead, wrestling against a horrible winged-beast, a ferocious griffon, known to some as the dreaded Black Moth.

    A wake of cars and trucks were slung all across the bridge as Kong shoved his opponent backward through the vacant traffic, making his way to the edge. Black Moth let out a defiant roar, her eyes fixed on Kong as she sank her fangs deep into Kong’s shoulder, halting the great ape’s push. Kong let out a shriek before grabbing the beast by her front legs and tossed the hybrid animal over his shoulder with a powerful judo-like throw, slamming the predator to the pavement with tremendous force. The entire bridge swayed from the impact.

    Kong fought to keep his balance as he carefully watched Black Moth crawl back to her feet. Kong beat his chest and lunged forward, grabbing the feral beast by her snout and bottom jaw and forcing her back to the ground. Kong was on top, pinning the griffon beneath his weight and battering the feline’s face as she struggled to escape his clutches.

    For a split moment, it seemed the fight was to be finished instantly. Kong grabbed her gnashing jaws, pulling them apart with his incredible strength. Black Moth thrashed wildly, sensing she was inches away from death, she dragged her claws down Kong’s face, causing the Faro deity to lose his grip for a moment. That was all she needed.

    Black Moth shook her head violently, sending the beast-god flipping head over heels backward, crashing into a series of vacant vehicles. The sound of crushed steel echoed as Kong crawled to his feet, scratching his backside as he dislodged hundreds of tiny metal splinters from his flesh. Kong fought through the pain, which only enraged him more. Pounding his chest boldly, he attempted to intimidate an enemy that would not be terrified.

    Black Moth leapt forward as Kong moved back promptly. He cautiously circled the mix-mash creature, waiting for her guard to lower. His eyes glared at his opponent’s throat, and in a second, he sprung forward. His arm shot forward like a bullet, striking Black Moth in the throat, which took her by surprise. She stumbled backward, choking and gagging loudly. Kong did not pause in his assault, lunging again he caught the lion-beast’s rear left leg. Mustering up his strength, he twisted it violently as Black Moth let out an annoyed squall. Kong tried dragging the Frankensteined monster backward, but her hooked claws dug into the concrete, halting Kong’s game of tug-of-war.

    In Kong’s confusion, she managed to pull her leg free, whipping backward, she pounced, biting Kong’s shoulder. Kong wailed out in pain, but kept his composure, he lunged again, grabbing her head and rolling the griffon to the ground and on her side. With a furious roar, Kong hammered his mighty fists into the screeching lion’s ribs with acute accuracy. Beating fist after fist in the same spot as his foe helplessly cried out in pain, gnashing her teeth wildly as she tried to end the assault.

    As the two titans clashed, the bridge trembled beneath them. Each strike of their powerful fists and paws shook the pride of San Francisco like one of its famous earthquakes. Its steel supports groaned in protest as they were bent beyond their capabilities. Tensions cables went taut and snapped as the structure sagged, briefly whipping wildly like venomous serpents. If the battle continued, the bridge would not last much longer…

    Black Moth hissed through gritted teeth. The pain of bruised ribs sent her into a frenzy, seeking an end to Kong’s fury, she pushed against the beast’s stomach. The great ape’s stamina was not infinite. The speed of his strikes waned, granting Black Moth the mercy she required to retaliate.

    Her front clawed paws moved with unbelievable speed as they swiped Kong’s hairless, toned chest. Countless bloody rips instantly shredded the beast-god’s flesh, painting his light tan tone with streaks of crimson red. Kong howled out and clutched his chest. Black Moth moved like lightning, lashing out, slicing her claws into the ape’s sternum. Kong’s voice was drowned in agony as it boomed across the bay, sending a flock of seagulls flying into the horizon.

    Both mammalian titans moved back, determining their next course of action. Both sported scars as proof of their animalistic war. Of the two, Black Moth fared for the worse. She winced and moaned with each breath she took. She vowed to make Kong repay her bruises with more than what he delivered.

    Behind each shoulder, a brown feathered wing spread out to its full length. Her eyes narrowed and a sinister grin formed. They beat the asphalt with powerful winds, knocking away abandoned vehicles in a brisk windstorm.

    Kong raised his thick arms, protecting his face from the blinding hailstorm of automobiles. By sacrificing his sight for defense, he was not able to see Black Moth take off from the bridge and to the air. She flew straight at the towering deity, paws outstretched and pushing him down onto his back.

    Kong stared blankly at the sky above, seeking an answer for the surprise attack. A shadow fell over the fallen king, the roar of a lion echoing from above as Black Moth soared through the air. Kong’s rage intensified, but behind that, a tinge of curiosity about the arcane creature’s tactics formed.

    At first glance, Kong had assumed her as nothing but a mere mindless animal, driven by its instincts to survive. The fact that she could formulate calculated plans intrigued him. It had been a long time since he had encountered a beast with an intelligence that mimicked, or even rivaled, his. On his far away home of Mondo Island, he had only the likes of Gorosaurus and dangerous serpents, and the occasional migrating monster like a giant octopus or Ebirah, to defend himself from. They all lacked the intellect to match his, but perhaps Black Moth would be the true rival to test his status as a god.

    The thought worried him.

    He pulled himself to his feet and scanned the skies, mouth agape, awaiting the griffon’s next move. His large eyes locked onto her flying form as she circled overhead like a giant buzzard, waiting for the opportunity to attack. With a loud ferocious roar, she suddenly descended, taking Kong by surprise. The massive gorilla reacted too late to stop Black Moth from slicing her claws across his back. Kong’s hand moved to cover his wounds as he grunted in pain.

    Black Moth banked around for another pass. She soared toward the godly creature from behind, green feline eyes locked onto their target, forearms outstretched and claws unsheathed. Before her claws could find their mark, Kong spun around, his massive hands clenched together. Her eyes widened and she let out a surprised shriek, unable to stop. Kong’s hammer-locked fists bashed the side of her head, driving her into the asphalt with immense force. The bridge squalled and shook. Black Moth convulsed, her bruised brain running the last moments over and over.

    Kong grunted, proud of himself as he beat his breasts, roaring into the heavens. Black Moth clumsily crawled to her feet and with a single flap of her wings, she took off. Kong slammed his fists against his chest, roaring in a rage for the chimera to come back down and face him. Black Moth did not comply, and roared back at the ancient ape, her head stinging from her own cry.

    Snorting loudly in exasperation, Kong searched for a means to reach her. He looked over the supports for the bridge, a plan formed in his head. He walked over, placing his hands on the structure, then his feet, and began to climb. The metal groaned in protest under his weight, but Kong didn’t care. Before he could reach the top, the tower gave out and collapsed. Kong screamed as he fell and smashed into the tarmac, pinned under the mangled mass of steel. He pushed the twisted support off, grunting in exertion as he did. Before he had a chance to stand, Black Moth was on him.

    The lion-condor chimera lunged for Kong’s throat. Kong’s hands caught her jaws mere inches from his windpipe. He tried to shove the feline away, but Black Moth’s determination gave her the strength to resist the ape’s god-like might. Against Kong’s struggles, her jaws moved closer to his throat. Kong roared in panic as Black Moth resisted his efforts to deter her. If he could not repel her, it would be over for him soon.

    The two continued to struggle for dominance, unaware of the creaking and snapping coming from the bridge as their battle continued to destabilize the structure. In the midst of their struggle, their eyes met. Feline and simian orbs stared into one another, peering into the soul of their rivals. Kong couldn’t help but be entrapped by Black Moth’s eyes. There was something familiar about them. In the ape’s mind, it clicked.

    She reminded him of “her”…

    Kong’s eyes narrowed angrily, and he let loose a deafening cry of rage. Sorrow and anguish came flooding out as he remembered how she had left. He had played the memory back over and over until it had made him sick in the past. Why did this beast remind him of her?

    His gaze locked with Black Moth’s once more. He looked into her eyes, seeing the familiar sparkle that her eyes had had. But it paled in comparison. Black Moth’s eyes were filled with nothing but coldness. There was the sparkle of intelligence in them, but it was very faint. It was like this creature once had a consciousness, but it had been lost to time, and only a feral beast remained. In a way, Kong found himself sympathizing with her. But sympathy was not enough to spare her from his wrath. He had sought out to find what he had lost long ago, and this demon dared to stand in his way.

    With a defiant, deafening howl, Kong shoved Black Moth away. He got to his feet with astounding speed and smashed his fist across the hybrid’s head. Black Moth growled and backed away, preparing to take flight. Before she could leave the bridge, Kong grabbed hold of her left wing. Her eyes widened, and she cried out in agony as Kong ripped the appendage from her body. Tossing the spasming limb away, he pounded his fists against his chest in a display of dominance. Beneath him, the bridge buckled, causing the ape to stumble. He looked down, feeling the structure tremble beneath his weight.

    Black Moth pounced, sinking her teeth into the ape’s chest while Kong smashed his fists atop the beast’s back. The bridge swayed from the hectic combat. Wires broke. Metal creaked like a dying animal before the structure began to give. Black Moth realized it and released her grip, ready to take flight to escape the chaos, but Kong’s fury wouldn’t allow it.

    The ape raised his bloody right fist and smashed it against the back of Black Moth’s cranium. The impact buried the chimera in metal, trapping the beast as Kong ran to the center of the crumbling bridge. Kong wrapped his arms around the two main suspension cables and channeled all the rage he could muster. Then, Kong pulled.

    The muscles on Kong’s arms expanded and the beast yanked the human cables with all his might. His feet sunk into metal, his eyes expanded with adrenaline and a furious roar echoed demanding the human creation to kneel to the King. A final roar broke all resistance sending the Golden Gate Bridge tower falling forward. The structure smashed into Black Moth then continued through the bridge, taking the entire man-made icon into the ocean. Kong and Black Moth disappeared, allowing silence to encompass San Francisco.

    The water bubbled violently as the sun began to set. Helicopters swarmed the bay, scanning the rumbling waters for movement. There was none. A message came in over a base set up in the city. “No sign of targets, both are presumed dead.”

    As the waters settled, a cumbersome feeling swept over all the residents who watched the events on the news.

    As the sun finally set over the sea and dusk set in, Susan Watson took a moment of silence, she gripped Jiro’s hand, tears ran down her face as she stared out to sea. She had watched the whole thing. She covered her mouth as Jiro escorted her back to his car, sobbing as he opened the door for her. She stepped inside and the two silently left the scene. Head hung low, she whispered, “Goodbye, my King.”

    The two drove out of sight.

    Draw: Black Moth, King Kong (Showa)

    K.W.C. Kaiju War Chronicles

    K.W.C. // March 24, 2021