K.W.C.

  • Author: Nickolas A. Brand | Banner: Landon Soto

    “Revenge, compassion, pride, and duty. These ingredients are all present in the strongest storms. Revenge against the land which had previously contained the now furious water. Compassion in the form of life-giving rains. Pride in being the strongest force in all of the land. Duty in the yearly advances as dictated by the great fire in the sky. The greatest of all storms will one day wield each of these traits in equal measure. It is this storm which will herald the return of the godslayer to these lands. With fury and might he will defend these lands against all challengers, be they gods, animals, or dark beasts.” – Paleolithic Appalachian Folklore

    ***

    The trees leaned and jerked violently, threatening to topple in the unyielding winds. The great hurricane had made landfall many hours ago, but its power had barely diminished as it pressed inland. As was so often the case with these eastern North American storms, local people were forced to take shelter lest they risk injury and death as ancient trees splintered and collapsed in the squall. This storm was different though, made unique by the waiting trio of towering figures that had arrived just before the winds picked up.

    A young man named Kahlo held his little sister’s hand and repeated the story he’d been telling her. “Don’t worry, the guardian of the mountains will appear to make them go away. I’m sure of it!”

    Despite his efforts to calm her, the little girl cried even louder in response. Other tribe members occupying the rock shelter shook their heads in frustration. Storms happened every year, and none should cry in fear after their third year. The noise was aggravating, but no one was willing to risk venturing outside and infuriating the three gods that were towering over the mountains to escape it. Especially when the guardian was said to burst from the heart of the mountains themselves in times of need.

    “Look over there, that must be him!” The young man pointed to a nearby peak as boulders and uprooted trees began to cascade down the forested slope. The ground heaved and stony cliffs split open in a deafening cacophony. A terrible roar added to the noise within the cave, ushering screams of pain and terror as the sounds threatened to burst eardrums and shake the structure apart.

    “It’s him. See sister, I told you! It’s the godslayer coming to save us!” Kahlo was jumping up and down with anticipation, however, his words sounded muffled and distant to his own ears. Despite his role in protecting his sister, the man was still too young to fully appreciate the severity of the situation. Hushed murmurs and conversations eventually broke out as hearing returned in stages. A towering presence rose from the crumbling remains of what the people had for so long called Elkshot Peak. Striking white armor and red flesh were visible, even through the pounding sheets of rain. Large projections from the kaiju’s shoulders and a distinctive three-horned head confirmed Kahlo’s excited words.

    “The Godslayer is here. It’s the guardian. It’s Bagan!”

    ***

    Bagan let loose a furious roar that disturbed even the hurricane winds which lashed around the gathered monsters. The oceanic maelstrom may have served to help awaken him from his slumber, but it was the interlopers’ presence that he was here to correct. These forests and these mountains were his territory, even if the beings who had set him to the task of conquering and holding them were long gone. Their arrogance had caused the once called “Guardian of the Mountains” to end their puny species, and these three gathered foes would be no different. It did not matter which manner of beast or being stepped forth into his land. All were slain like the animals they were, and animals was exactly how Bagan saw each of his foes that had gathered waiting for his arrival.

    The first was none other than Godzilla. His hulking frame blended into the mountains that stretched out around them, and parts of his body were shrouded as storm clouds were thrown over the rocky peaks in the gale. When Bagan had erupted from the ground, Godzilla’s clawed hands clenched, and his dorsal spines repeatedly crackled with blue light. A deep, threatening growl emanated from the amphibious monster as he bared his teeth in challenge to the demonic dragon before him. His eyes did not leave Bagan’s, nor did they blink. The white kaiju thought this challenger was familiar, but couldn’t place how. Despite this, Godzilla’s body language was as plain as the fact that these lands belonged to Bagan. He was here not to fight, but to kill.

    Gamera had also made the journey when he sensed Bagan’s impending awakening. The massive turtle stood motionless as he observed the others. No fire yet crackled within his maw, but his tusks and teeth were threat enough. While he had in the past deigned to ignore the emerging monster’s presence, this time was different. There seemed to be an especially strong darkness surrounding this area and that was a direct threat to the fledgling species that Gamera had since decided to protect. If this creature decided to leave the confines of its supposedly “sacred mountains” and rampage as it had done once in the past? Then the true guardian kaiju may well have nothing to protect anymore.

    Gamera could simply not allow that to happen. Whether or not he had help, the massive turtle would be here to give the humans below who mistakenly worshiped Bagan as some sort of deity a fighting chance in this world. The demon’s final opponent was found in the sky, despite the vicious winds raging around them. Grand King Ghidorah’s golden scales were illuminated by occasional bolts of lightning that danced around his three-headed form. Like Gamera, he was here to protect something, and yet, he was here for himself. After his defeat millions of years ago at the wings of that overgrown insect, Ghidorah had waited patiently to recover his power.

    In that battle his tail had been cut off, and while the rest of his body was destroyed, his spirit and purpose lived on. He’d regenerated from that lost limb, and for millions of years he’d inhabited this planet rather than destroying other ones. Until the day that Mothra Leo showed himself once more, Grand King Ghidorah would remain, and until that day, this planet was his. These mountains, and these forests were his. No so-called “guardian” would stop him — no demonic power would fall on him. If he had to cooperate with these other, lesser creatures to root out this pretend king, then so be it. Their own time would come soon after.

    It was Godzilla who made the first move. With an air of bloodthirstiness the titan had seldom shown before, he rushed forward with a roar that cracked stone. Each footfall crushed hills, and his sweeping tail ruined the forests as he went. Bagan was ready for his opponent and moved with a speed unimaginable for a creature of such bulk. A closed white fist drove itself into Godzilla’s underbelly and stopped the aggressor in his tracks. Before the king of monsters could retaliate, Bagan’s other fist smashed into his shoulder, driving Godzilla to the ground. There was something familiar about this pretender to the title of king, but Bagan’s memory remained clouded. The white dragon’s snarl of laughter was cut short by a plasma fireball exploding against his torso. As the searing flames were quickly extinguished in the driving rain, thick black plumes erupted and intermingled with the storm clouds to obscure the battling kaiju.

    Gamera waited for the smoke to clear before deciding on his next course of action. The storm wasn’t helping visibility, and each passing second felt like an eternity after seeing a creature as indomitable as Godzilla so easily floored by their opponent. King Ghidorah, on the other hand, was not waiting to see his opponent and did not care if he injured the others in his quest to purge his planet of his enemy. Yellowed gravity beams streaked through the deep, black smoke banks and shrieks of pain washed over the drenched landscape. Smoke curled and wisped as energy bolts lanced through it, but it continued to obscure what was happening inside. The three-headed dragon delighted in the suffering of his new enemy, but Gamera realized immediately that those were not Bagan’s howls they were hearing.

    A giant form broke through the smoke, and Ghidorah didn’t realize what was happening until it was upon him. Godzilla’s airborne body collided with the golden dragon, bringing them both crashing to the ground with bone-shattering force. The three headed dragon snarled in outrage and squirmed beneath the already moving form of his circumstantial ally. Godzilla crawled at first, and then rose. He roared defiantly, signaling that he would not be bested so easily. The message was clear. He would see Bagan dead. No matter the price of that endeavor. Gamera had already taken to the sky and Ghidorah’s wings brought the golden dragon into the air to join the guardian turtle. The combined force of the golden tyrant’s wings and the natural storm winds finally managed to dissipate the smoke, offering a view of the white demon once more.

    Bagan stood unharmed, observing the blackened mess of burning and dead trees that surrounded him. His visage contorted in fury as he registered Godzilla’s defiance. There had been others like him before… The atomic saurian charged. Bagan took note of all of the ruined forestland, his forestland, around him. The white demon’s taloned hands rose palm up and a strange, salty smell permeated the air. Godzilla was closing the distance. A lightning bolt came down from the hurricane clouds above, striking Bagan, but causing no harm. Though the ground cracked beneath him from the force of the bolt, the electrical energy it had contained circled around his three horns. More bolts of lightning rained down at increasing speed. The very air around the white kaiju shimmered. Godzilla was mere seconds away, his maw opening to reveal an azure flame-like energy. Gamera could sense that something was amiss, but his growl of warning was cut short when he finally realized what was happening. Silently, the three horned demon brought his arms down and unleashed hell in the Appalachians.

    Thousands of white, glowing diamonds descended from the sky as the heavens opened with an outpouring of lightning from above. The Grand King’s energy barrier easily repelled the lightning, but the diamond onslaught was too much to prevent. Gamera retreated into his shell mid-flight, but Bagan’s attack smashed craters into the keratinous armor. Both the behemoth terrapin and the dragon kaiju were brought back to earth, bleeding and frustrated. Godzilla had fared little better, yet was once again the first to his feet. Blood trickled out of massive gouges left from scales and flesh that would no longer adorn his hide, but his eyes had lost none of their resolve. Even as the foreign projectiles lodged in his flesh burned away, he unsteadily lumbered towards Bagan. As his balance returned, the ancient predator broke into a charge. Bagan simply waited for his opponent to repeat his earlier mistake of rushing in, but the King of Monsters hadn’t earned that title through stubbornness alone.

    As his feet barrelled through broken earth on his way to the demonic guardian, Godzilla’s dorsal spines pulsed blue. The titan’s entire body flexed with power as his jaws opened to unleash a torrent of blue radioactive energy. The stream washed over Bagan’s torso, burning away armor and flesh alike as the demon shrieked in agony. It had been so long since he’d last felt pain. Though the force of the attack slowed his advance, Godzilla’s feet pushed into the ground and continued bearing him forward. Bagan was blinded as the atomic ray washed over his face. Armor cracked and melted from the heat but somehow the demon remained standing when Godzilla collided with him. Undeterred against a foe even larger than himself, Godzilla exerted his strength and continued to let loose with his breath at point blank range. The azure blaze boiled away Bagan’s eyes before moving to unleash its fury on his already ravaged torso. With the atomic ray still firing, the king of monsters bit down onto Bagan’s left shoulder and shook his head. The blue glow finally dissipated, but the alabaster kaiju was offered no respite.

    Within seconds, his assailed limb fell to the ground in a shower of blackened blood. The twin roars of the dueling kaiju shook the landscape. One of triumph, the other of torment.

    Gamera and Ghidorah rose in time to see the results of their ally’s assault. The golden king took to the skies once more while the benevolent guardian rushed overland to join the melee. Cinders gave way to a raging blaze inside the turtle kaiju’s mouth as he advanced on his foe. Two plasma fireballs exploded into Bagan’s already healing side. Unfazed, the one-armed menace pulled a fist crackling with electricity backwards before delivering it straight into the side of Godzilla’s head. Though Bagan’s eyes were not fully regenerated, it was hard to miss a target that close. The nuclear behemoth reeled backwards from the impact, shaking away the dizziness. Godzilla hadn’t even cleared his vision when Bagan’s white hot plasma beam leveled him. The attack lasted for seven full, agonizing seconds as the plasma burned away at the grounded saurian’s scales and flesh. When it stopped, the king of the monsters at last lay still. Before Bagan could press the attack, gravity beams from the airborne Ghidorah ripped across his chest. The monster howled in agony as the bolts tore into the still-raw wounds Godzilla had opened. Sensing that his enemy was beginning to falter, the world-eater pressed his advantage and let loose bolt after bolt in order to prevent another diamond storm attack.

    Bagan’s recovering vision found the muddied form of Ghidorah in the sky and he began to prepare a plasma beam. Gamera’s fist interrupted the attack and sent sharp teeth flying from the so-called “guardian of the mountain’s” jaws. The demon whirled on his new target. Claw met claw and tooth and tusk countered each other in what quickly became a bloody mess of a brawl. The turtle kaiju was more ferocious than the demon anticipated, though both combatants knew it would take more than tenacity to bring Bagan down. Gamera’s claws raked into his opponents’ torso, stopping as they struck gleaming armor that was beginning to reform. Bagan retaliated with his own claws, his eyes finally healed enough to allow a clear view of his target. The demon’s claws cut through flesh, met the armored shell and kept going with little effort.

    Undaunted, the bleeding turtle brought his elbow into Bagan’s torso and drove a spike straight through the monster’s armor plated chest. Bagan lunged forward to bite the upstart kaiju’s throat, but was rewarded with a quick plasma fireball straight to his face. The demon’s eyes closed against the attack and his nostrils were scorched away by the burst of heat. A bludgeoning back-fist slammed against Gamera’s cheek and sent half of a tusk soaring towards the horizon. Before Bagan could capitalize, a gravity beam struck through his muzzle and exploded into the dirt out the other side.

    The regeneration of flesh was quick, but bone took longer. The white demon’s still healing arm was a testament to that. The guardian turtle grabbed Bagan by the horns and locked his own jaws down on the area where he’d just seen Ghidorah’s attack pierce, ignoring the stabbing pain in his broken tusk. The sound of crunching bone echoed throughout the mountains. Bagan’s muffled scream followed. Despite the immense pain, the alabaster kaiju had the wherewithal to twist his body as a gravity beam bore down upon him. The attack struck Gamera’s shell, allowing the demonic dragon to shake the turtle off of him. Bagan lashed out with a burst of his own plasma beam. The energy crashed into his opponent’s chest, and had scarcely dissipated when Bagan’s claws carved a bloody gouge through the superheated flesh and shell.

    The two traded blows through the onslaught of gravity beams raining down upon them. Although the golden dragon made no special effort to avoid striking Gamera, he managed to bring most of his force to bear on his intended target. With only one working arm, Bagan was infuriatingly unable to get the upper hand in combat. He knew he should be playing with Gamera, yet here he stood being pummeled into a bloody mess by an inferior monster under a rain of dirt flung up from the descending beams of another inferior monster. The pale titan was angry, but the emotion was currently worth its weight — nothing. Gamera unleashed another plasma fireball at point blank range, burning once more into the unarmored flesh of Bagan’s pink, healing neck. A well placed gravity bolt dug deeper into the very same soft tissue, which was struggling to repair itself beneath the onslaught of the unlikely allies.

    Seizing the opportunity, Gamera thrust a clawed hand into his opponent’s lacerated throat and squeezed down. Bagan’s windpipe was crushed, and no sound escaped the demon’s mouth as the organ was pulled from his neck unceremoniously. His horned head flailed soundlessly as Gamera unleashed another point blank plasma fireball into his wound. Around them, the wind suddenly abated, as if the storm itself was holding its breath in anticipation. Thick, towering walls of storm clouds could be seen in all directions. The local peoples called this calm area the storm’s eye, because it was from here that the storm watched for the foolish to go outside before suddenly overtaking them. Free from the swirling gusts, the smoke cloud thrown up by the fireball offered a reprieve for which Bagan was ashamed to be grateful for. Shame. That was an emotion the alabaster titan had never felt before. But why should he be ashamed? Because he was failing in his goal of keeping his land free of interlopers?

    No.

    Because he was going to be killed by inferior creatures. Disgusting, pathetic inferior creatures.

    Gamera had retreated from the smoke cloud to assess the condition of his foe. He’d fought with some of the most powerful creatures this world had ever seen, and all too often they had a way of coming back with a vengeance from injuries that should have left them dead.

    Without the rain and winds, the dust and dirt hung above the ground like a dark morning fog. High in the sky, Grand King Ghidorah waited eagerly for the mess to dissipate and reveal the lifeless corpse of Bagan. From his vantage point, Ghidorah could see where the storm clouds ended behind him, and where they began miles and miles ahead.

    The ancient, astral conqueror thought it fitting that this pretender to his throne would die here, as if trapped in a ring made by the very planet itself. Perhaps the Earth was finally warming to his rule after all?

    Gamera’s focus, meanwhile, remained trained on the spot where he’d engaged his adversary in melee. What he saw put the guardian of the fledgling man on the defensive immediately. Thick tendrils of white light sprouted calmly from the smoke like fresh spring sprouts jostling for sunlight.

    Two. Four. Then finally six.

    Slowly, they shifted back and forth, in and out of the smoke. Had their source not been known, the sight would have been more mystical than menacing, but Bagan’s opponents knew exactly to whom the tendrils belonged. Gamera raised his clawed hands in anticipation, but had no way to react to how quickly the white demon burst from the smoke on tentacle-like wings of light. In mere seconds Bagan covered the nearly mile-long distance and delivered a devastating hammer-fist to the top of the guardian turtle’s head. The stunned, titanic terrapin spun through the air before obliterating a mountainside. Bagan was there immediately. With his good arm the white dragon reached into the literal mountain of rubble and pulled out his opponent by the throat.

    To Gamera’s horror, he witnessed an almost completely regenerated windpipe nestled inside a rapidly closing wall of muscle in Bagan’s neck. As the organ completed itself, the demonic dragon gasped in a breath of air. The realization that the creature at least needed to breathe was of little comfort to the guardian turtle. Never before had he clashed with such a seemingly unstoppable foe. The guardian of Earth struggled against his opponent’s newfound strength, and fought the incoming blackness. Life was being choked from Gamera. Fast. Embers ignited in his throat, but the demonic guardian saw them and squeezed even harder, preventing the attack before it began. Somewhere inside that mind of Bagan’s something had snapped. Defending his land was secondary. Painfully obliterating these would-be usurpers was the only thing that mattered.

    Grand King Ghidorah watched the assault with surprise. What in the hell was this thing? Were there limits to its power? How could any creature of this universe stand up to the combined might of himself, Godzilla and that damned turtle? The golden king despised the other two, but their strength was worthy of acknowledgment, if not a measure of something approaching respect. Yet here was some dark force that he had assumed was a pretender to his reign over this world… and that pretender was abusing the three most powerful life forms this planet had ever seen at the same time. His three heads hissed back and forth, unsure of what to do next.

    Were they afraid?

    Certainly not!

    Grand King Ghidorah did not know fear!

    He knew only destruction and the death of his foes! That newfound resolve turned to gnawing unease when the golden king noticed that the stump that had once been Bagan’s severed left arm was regenerating even as life was being squeezed from his supposed ally. Knowing that time was of the essence, all three heads unleashed a sustained burst of gravity bolts towards their white-winged nemesis. Sensing the incoming attack, Bagan pivoted at the waist and brought the struggling form of Gamera in between him and the blasts. The benevolent guardian tried to scream as the bolts tore into the back of his carapace, but Bagan’s hold was still too tight.

    Sadistically, the white kaiju relaxed his grip for a few moments. Green blood shot from his victim’s mouth and spurted onto Bagan’s face and chest. Not wasting time, Ghidorah flew around for a different angle.

    Still grasping the limp form of Gamera, the white winged kaiju shot into the air directly at the golden dragon. Taken aback, Ghidorah paused mid-flight and released a barrage of lightning bolts from his wings. Bagan was too fast. A concentrated beam of plasma lanced into the three-headed kaiju’s energy shield. The burning white plasma dispersed across the barrier, blinding the golden king before burning through the shield. A pain unlike any other he had ever felt gripped the golden conqueror as the plasma beam melted briefly into his torso. Ghidorah’s vision returned in time for him to register Bagan upon him in the sky. Using Gamera like a club, the demon slammed his captive’s hard shell against Ghidorah and sent the great golden dragon plummeting to the ground.

    ***

    Consciousness returned slowly to Godzilla. The ancient saurian had yet to experience such a dizzying sensation in his millions of years. Memories spewed forth uncontrolled as his mind raced to piece his situation back together. There were others like him, but no more. He had conquered many challengers.

    All of them.

    Almost all of them.

    He had slept for ages. Then the rage. The hateful, blue-burning, all consuming need for vengeance. Reptilian eyes opened to reveal a cerulean inferno. Dorsal spines first pulsed then remained bathed in a blue glow. As the ancient beast rose, the trees around him withered and burst into flames as the radiation flowing from Godzilla’s body washed over the battlefield. The predator snarled and his keen eyes scanned the landscape for his prey even as the rocks around his feet began to melt from the radioactivity assailing the environment. Ghidorah was laying motionless some distance to his left. Where were the other two? Sensing his quarry, the burning titan looked to the sky. He had just enough time to register the pair before they struck. Bagan grasped the guardian turtle. There were white lights. They were coming straight for him. The atomic king has no time to retaliate before the white demon slammed Gamera down on top of him and transformed what little remained of Elkshot Peak into an impact crater.

    ***

    Rocks fell in the back of the cave, and the ground shook from the force of the impact. Kahlo hugged his sister tightly, until the shaking and rumbling subsided. Then, dragging her by the wrist, he led the girl to the cave’s entrance. “See, the guardian is doing it! He’s fighting all three of those other monsters by himself. His arm is even better now!”

    A confident grin settled onto a face which was only recently beginning to bear the hairs of manhood. He took a seat and watched the combat intently, never once registering that the look of fear on his sibling’s face had morphed to one of hopelessness and terror as she watched Bagan descend into the craterous scar his attack had rent into their mountainous homeland.

    ***

    Gamera awoke to an all-encompassing sensation of pain. Every part of his armored body hurt. What started as an opportunity to defeat a terrible darkness had become a desperate bid for survival. The colossal turtle began to crawl towards the rim of the crater, but the earth shook beneath him, and a contorted laugh intermingled with the dull thud of footfalls. Fresh pain registered in Gamera’s tail as his attacker crushed the appendage beneath a clawed foot. Knowing that it was all or nothing, Gamera ignored every cell in his body that was sending pain signals and began to charge a plasma fireball in his maw, keeping his face hidden from the demonic guardian’s view.

    Bagan stomped on the downed kaiju’s tail, but was disappointed to not elicit a cry of pain. He stomped harder on Gamera’s carapace, cracking the shell but still not getting that satisfactory squeal of anguish from his opponent. Irritated further, the crimson and white beast delivered a powerful kick to the side of his opponent’s shell, flipping the guardian kaiju over to reveal a roaring inferno within his tusked mouth!

    Having charged the plasma fireball to nigh unimaginable power, Gamera unleashed the attack into his assailant. Even had Bagan’s wings been active, the sphere of incendiary plasma would have been too close and too large to avoid. The blast detonated on Bagan as a firestorm of roiling flame fused the dirt to glass beneath him. With the familiar heat of his own flames warming him, the guardian turtle stood. He knew many of his bones were broken.

    They had hurt less when he was lying on the ground, but to continue laying still was suicide. Summoning his strength, he bull-rushed the white demon, finding his form in the smoke and biting repeatedly onto his face and nasal horn. His attack had destroyed most of the demon’s armor, and the exposed flesh was bloody, burned, and raw. Despite the injuries, Bagan continued to fight back.

    Gamera clamped down hard and tried to crush his enemy’s horn, but he no longer possessed the strength to accomplish this goal. Bagan struggled to force the tenacious behemoth off of him. Gamera kept pushing forward. Kept snapping. Carried on clawing. Continued moving in order to stay alive. Finally, his good tusk found purchase into his opponent’s eye, which elicited a scream of suffering from the sadistic guardian.

    Wrath once again overtook the complacence brought on by his earlier domination of his foes. Bagan pushed through the pain all over his face and lashed out with his claws. His talons found purchase on Gamera’s throat, bringing the terrapin to all fours. The demonic guardian
    leaned over his benevolent counterpart and contemplated the many ways he could snuff out the turtle’s life. Sharp pain registered in his abdomen and worked its way up to his torso. Still unwilling to go down, Gamera had impaled the distracted titan with one of his elbow blades. Ripping his arm back down at an odd angle, Gamera broke his own elbow spine off when it failed to rip out through Bagan’s regenerating armor plates. Even as the surge of new pain tore through his arm, the warrior turtle slammed a clawed fist into the base of the embedded spine. Bagan grunted in pain as the spike passed through the rest of his armor and into the flesh beneath. Too deep to pull out, the frustrated monster was forced to suffer through the pain caused as his flesh healed around the foreign object, trapping it inside.

    A long, deep bellow emanated from behind the brawling kaiju. Bagan knew what was coming even before he registered a flash of blue light. He reached down and seized Gamera as a second flash lit up the crater. The third flash was Godzilla’s attack. The returned monster unleashed his fully charged atomic breath directly at Bagan. The demon whirled, putting his helpless opponent in between himself and the king of monsters. The beam struck Gamera head on, who was too exhausted to struggle against his foe. Every broken bone ached, every skin cell cried out in agony as it was stripped away and the wound cauterized before being opened again under the radioactive assault. Unaware of the situation, or simply not caring, Godzilla continued to spew his azure fury.

    Despite knowing his death was imminent, the turtle was at peace. As he came to terms with his demise, he foresaw events that fulfilled him. Gamera’s pain ceased as his mind burned away in the blazing light. His body persisted, however, and served to shield Bagan from the brunt of the atomic kaiju’s assault.

    Godzilla finally relented. His ribcage flexed back and forth as he worked to catch his breath after such an exertion. The charred form of his occasional ally sloughed to the ground with a sickening slowness, leaving no obstacle between the two enemies. Godzilla snorted and held Bagan’s gaze. The white demon was struck with a sense of familiarity once more. That’s when it hit him. There had been others of this one’s kind. Much smaller and certainly less powerful, but they had been there when Bagan had first come to this world. Oh, how he had reveled in their destruction. Apparently, he’d missed one. That was just one more mistake that he’d have to fix today. Neither titan moved. The guardian of these lands was content to allow his unique physiology to continue repairing his armor and flesh. It seemed that his simple-minded opponent hadn’t realized that.

    There was no warning before the twin gravity beams scored agonizing trenches from the demon’s flesh. Bagan looked up for that three-headed irritant, but his world turned upside down. More pain flooded his senses as he crashed onto his back. How had that overgrown lizard closed the distance so fast? There was no time to ponder this. Not when the beast was already upon him. Bagan struggled to bring his horns to bear against his assailant, but the king of monsters was too close. His thick, powerful arms wrenched glistening pieces of armor away from Bagan’s torso in periodic showers of thickened, black gore. Teeth and claws assailed the tender flesh beneath with a vigor unbecoming of one who had so recently been brought low.

    Bagan’s claws reached out for the ancient predator and their wild arcs found purchase in the saurian’s thick hide. The king of monsters howled as blood poured from the wounds in his chest and splashed down into his prey’s mangled flesh. Bagan rolled to escape, but Godzilla was already upon him and flipped the white demon once more onto his back. He attacked his downed opponent again. Bagan was ready though, and managed to meet hands with the enraged titan. Godzilla pushed down with all the strength his body could produce, his unyielding rage amplifying his already terrifying abilities. Bagan pushed back, unwilling to be brought down and made it to one knee. The familiar sting of a gravity beam momentarily stunned him and the demon was forced back to the ground.

    ***

    Grand King Ghidorah watched the fight with frustration from the sky. He didn’t care that the turtle kaiju was gone, though the fool had certainly picked a sorry time to give up and die. Now his other main competition for control of this planet was preventing him from bringing suffering to his newfound nemesis. Just like that damned turtle, there’s no way Ghidorah’s beams would make it through the lizard and into the demon. As he watched his two enemies wrestling on the ground, the astral emperor groaned internally and resigned himself to getting his own teeth dirty. It turned out that you couldn’t rely on even the most formidable of lackeys to do your bidding. Quietly, his wings bore him towards the ruined and burned forest below.

    ***

    Godzilla’s eyes widened in surprise, then narrowed in determination. Bagan had forced his way up so that he was on one knee and one foot. The king of monsters pushed harder still, but made no progress against the might of his opponent. With a great, final heave Bagan was standing once more. Now he was able to show this wretched beast how outclassed he was. Godzilla’s face remained stone-still save for the quivers of exertion as he was forced back step by agonizing step. In order to keep from being leveled, the king of monsters was forced to close his eyes and focus every ounce of his attention on the contest of strength. He had to dig deep and find a way to stop the murderer of his kind. Without warning, his foe’s advance halted. Godzilla’s eyes opened to witness a golden splendor around Bagan. Ghidorah had made his presence known in the thick of the fighting. His middle neck was wrapped around the demon’s throat as his other heads bit down on Bagan’s arms. Taking advantage of the opening, Godzilla untangled his hands from those of his opponent and swiped at a chest that had been almost completely restored.

    Bagan thrashed against the hold of the three headed dragon and wrenched his arms forwards to try and free himself. The demon was rewarded with the intense pain of the gravity beams, but spread throughout his body. Electricity arced along Ghidorah’s scales, as he directed this energy into his opponent. He had no way of knowing that this energy caused Bagan far more pain than either Gamera’s plasma fire or Godzilla’s atomic fire, but was proud of his efforts nonetheless. The white demon thrashed in misery as the energy wreaked havoc on his already taxed muscles, forcing convulsions throughout. Godzilla’s claws finally made their way through Bagan’s chest armor. Without the distraction of having to keep the beast grounded, his assault was unforgiving. Flesh and gristle were thrown about. Godzilla’s claws reaped their way deep into the bones of the ribcage. An uncharacteristically sadistic snarl crossed the face of the ancient predator that gave even the vile Grand King Ghidorah a moment’s pause. The golden king wasn’t able to see the radioactive reptile reach inside Bagan’s thoracic cavity and grab his ribs, but he felt each break as the concussive snaps vibrated throughout the God of Darkness’ body.

    ***

    The alabaster demon’s agonized flailing intensified. This was not how this was supposed to go. Bagan had come so close to finally humiliating both of these so-called kings. How was it that their lowly alliance could trump a being such as himself? It wasn’t just unthinkable, it was impossible!

    He hadn’t breathed in minutes now. He simply couldn’t with the strangle-hold the golden dragon had gotten around his neck. When the electricity had finally abated, the radioactive one had begun to break bones. Through the hazy, hysteric state induced by a combination of adrenaline, asphyxiation and unending pain, Bagan’s mind managed to formulate a plan. So long as he could survive Godzilla’s assault, and he could, he could avoid the electricity.

    ***

    Ghidorah felt the sick laughter through Bagan’s form and at first mistook the punctuated shakes for convulsions. The white demon’s arms lifted to the sky as if to plead mercy from his attackers. The tyrant king’s satisfaction was lessened as he recognized the hint of a smirk on his enemy’s battered face. Petty as ever, the middle head coiled even tighter and bit down on the side of his foe’s head before delivering another potent dose of electricity. Bagan’s arms lowered, but only slightly.

    Godzilla roared out in pain as he grabbed at exposed bone and received a horrid electric surge. He recognized this pain. He’d felt it earlier when the golden one’s careless attacks had struck him. In anger, the king of monsters delivered a brutal swipe. Red blood pooled in elongate gouges carved into the golden scales of Ghidorah’s left neck. Godzilla roared a warning at his temporary ally, and returned to his evisceration of the real enemy. Bagan’s hands were palm up now in a gesture of submission, but the vengeance seeking saurian had already decided this feud only ended when one of them died. Bagan fell to his knees as weakness washed over him from the combined assault.

    Both Grand King Ghidorah and Godzilla towered over his kneeling form. In the uncomfortable stillness, Godzilla noticed that the golden dragon had released his grip on their foe. The unlikely duo stared at each other over the slumped form of Bagan. Neither was willing to back down in the face of perceived wronging. Neither realized the importance of Bagan’s arms still being held towards the sky.

    Ghidorah’s three heads wailed a counter-warning.

    Strike again, and you die like the demon.

    The ancient predator shook himself and roared his defiance.

    Watch your attacks and I let you live.

    Ghidorah took in the moment with disbelief. It was rare, even among entities of his own scale, that the weak tasted a hint of the pain he could inflict and continued to defy him. Sure, this reptilian beast was strong, but he was only able to keep up with their opponent because he had Ghidorah’s help. The Grand King needed no help with this alabaster wretch, of course, but who was he to deny gestures of servitude from those beneath him? A twisted approximation of grins revealed the three headed dragon’s pointed teeth as he feigned the part of a more generous ruler… Very well. I’ll be careful.

    Satisfied with the reply, Godzilla’s mind returned to the task at hand. The dull anger brought on by the cosmic dragon’s carelessness was drowned beneath the deep-stabbing fury that motivated this crusade as Godzilla gazed back down at his hated foe. The beast was already healing, albeit slowly, in the time it had taken the twin kings to settle their quarrel. While his chest had little of the armor that had made it nearly impervious early in the fight, Bagan’s muscle had already begun to return in a patchwork of red-weeping fibers. The titan’s body surged with anticipation as he stepped towards his kneeling opponent. It would feel so sweet to tear that healing flesh to ribbons once more. But first, it had to burn.

    Upon seeing the first flickers of radioactive fire in his ally’s maw, Grand King Ghidorah’s heads returned to their work of assailing the pretender to the throne of this region. Three sets of jaws punctured through the armor and flesh of Bagan’s upper arms and rostrum. Ivory lightning surged across the white kaiju’s horns as he spasmed in misery, but his squeals weren’t as satisfying as they had been earlier. Bagan almost sounded resolute to the cosmic conqueror. Why was he no longer despairing? The chance to worry about the implications of this development was robbed as Godzilla’s dorsal spines began to light up in sequence. The three-headed dragon used the strength of his jaws and necks to pull Bagan’s arms apart and head back. The demon’s vulnerable torso would be an easy target, and Ghidorah’s own heads would be spared having to deal with attack.

    This was to be the end of things then. The golden king would have to decide how it would deal with Godzilla after this was done. Decisions. Decisions. Decisions. Each head had the thought as one. Each head was too preoccupied with their victory to fight back as Bagan roared to the heavens and brought his arms down. Lightning rushed across his three horns before streaking into the sky with enough brightness to illuminate mountains as far away as Ghidorah could see, causing even Godzilla to hesitate and hold back from his attack. The light coalesced into shapes that brought dread into the heart of the three-headed dragon. All the diamond shaped stars of the night sky rained hellfire onto the ruined ridgeline.

    ***

    Bagan rose to his feet quickly after his gambit. Even his own eyes were having to repair the retinal bleaching his colossal attack had caused. Neither of the fools had been paying attention to him. He’d have been insulted if their arrogance hadn’t given him the opening he needed. As usual, no force in the universe could withstand the full force of a diamond storm. Despite having recovered enough to stand, the white demon’s torso was still ravaged. Bone and muscle had healed, but regenerative cells were hard at work restoring sensitive skin and armor. Now that the battle was over, at least, he’d —

    As Bagan’s eyes began to deliver vision once more, he caught that familiar shape standing in front of him. Godzilla not only lived, but remained standing! The beast’s craggy hide was riddled with cauterized pits and exposed flesh from where scales had been ripped off. No creature had ever received Bagan’s full power and remained standing. The demon glanced over his shoulder and confirmed that the golden dragon was down. His ruined scales were a testament to that troublesome energy barrier of his not working at close range. The pretender king had been good at delivering pain, that much was true. But he evidently couldn’t take as much as he could give. That meant that Bagan only had to deal with Godzilla now. Would the brute even care that his allies were gone, or would a personal revenge be more satisfying? Bagan looked back to his remaining enemy, content to let his body repair itself while he contemplated the many ways he could finally finish his extermination of its species.

    Godzilla gave the tyrant precious few seconds to work with. Pushing through the pain that rang across so much of his body, the saurian titan willed himself to step forward. The other foot followed, and the pain lessened some. Now that the self-absorbed dragon was out of the picture, he could do this his way. His pace quickened to a run just before Godzilla charged into his foe and delivered a massive claw to the demon’s lower jaw. Bone shattered and black blood intermingled with loose teeth. The white demon tried to retaliate with a hook of his own, but Godzilla deflected the blow and rewarded Bagan’s effort with atomic fire to the face. The demon screamed in pain as the blazing energy struck his face and injured jaw. Reflexively, he lashed out with his claws. Godzilla swayed clear of the attack, but recoiled in surprise when the attack still cut into him.

    Bagan wasted no time in taking the upper hand. He seldom used this ability of his, but as much as he hated to admit it, this fight was about survival. Three more times he swiped at the atomic saurian with his claws, and three more times the kaiju avoided the initial attack only to have his scales flensed by an almost imperceptible energy. Not to be dissuaded, Godzilla turned with the force from the final blow and delivered a momentous tail strike to the side of Bagan’s cranium. The demonic kaiju’s form was driven stiffly to the ground and the radioactive titan moved to make his revenge certain.

    The white demon’s mind reeled from the force of the tail-strike. He shook his head to clear his blurry vision, and felt a jolt of protest from his still-broken jaw. He should be healing faster, but this battle was dragging on. He’d never needed so long to kill his enemies, though he’d never fought a smattering of, dare he think it, powerful foes like these. The earth shook from approaching footfalls, and reminded the godslayer that he needed to act fast. His sight was still rippling like the surface of a muddy lake, but he squinted hard and forced composure. His missing hearing ensured that he felt Godzilla’s roar of triumph more than heard it, but he could certainly see the pinprick of cerulean light forming above him. This was going to hurt, but he needed to end this now.

    Hatred drove the titan as he planted his feet and prepared for one final atomic breath over his adversary’s prone form. His dorsal spines flashed in a frenzy of lights and crackles of energy as he built up the necessary power to put this monster down. The kaiju’s shoulders and head drew back as his body channeled violence and intensity into the strike that would avenge his kind after so many thousands of years. There was nothing graceful about the way his fingers jerked with the barely contained wrath that bordered on madness. The king of the monster’s body had become a vessel of nuclear savagery, and he breathed in one last time before opening his maw to deliver justice.

    Bagan’s jaw howled in protest as the force and heat of the energy atomized still healing flesh. His eyes were once again blinded by an overpowering light. These pains were a minor price to pay for the plasma beam he launched as his opponent was making a show of expected victory. The beam lanced forth and struck Godzilla in the face just as he’d been about to release his own beam. The built up radioactive energies gushed forth and carved a canyon into the already scorched earth to Bagan’s left. The demon wasted no time in coming to his feet and getting closer so he could end the fight. As his ability to see returned, his eyes locked with the one-eyed gaze of his foe.

    The right side of Godzilla’s face was a mess of vaporized scales and molten bone. Teeth in that half of the saurian’s jaws were variously missing, dripping away, or charred black. An empty orbit that used to support an eye now only gazed hatefully back at Bagan. Despite the shock of such an egregious injury, the king of monsters barely paused. His remaining eye shone with renewed malice and the promise of a painful death for the demon. Onwards he came, clawing and biting wildly so as to take advantage of his foe’s mistake in closing the distance. Having sustained so much damage, however, his stamina was finally nearing its limit. The titan was brought down to his hands and knees after a combination of punches. Bagan delivered a kick to his opponent’s midsection that shattered bone. From Godzilla’s screams, the demon assumed he’d punctured a lung. Not one to repeat the mistakes of others, Bagan wasted little time in preparing a final plasma beam. Even in death, the king of monsters never gave up. His clawed hand reached up to dig into his enemy’s foot even as the white-hot plasma extinguished his reign as apex predator of the Earth.

    After waiting some time to ensure his foe wasn’t going to continue to resist death, Bagan surveyed his territory. It lay desolate. Whole ridge-lines had been leveled, Forests burned in flames of blue and red. His land had been ruined. Would his creators be disappointed? It didn’t matter. They had answered for their crimes, while Bagan answered only to himself. A flash of lightning made the demon look back over his shoulder. It was not the golden dragon again, but the return of the storm that had helped rouse him from his slumber. Rain started lazily at first, but picked up until blankets of water could be seen flowing down the hills. Temporary rivers quickly overflowed with debris as the storm raged like it had never even stopped. Bagan turned away and contemplated his situation. He was technically the guardian of these lands, yes. That his guarding of them had ruined them mattered little. They were ruined all the same. It was time for Bagan to find a new territory. Somewhere he could-

    That intense, familiar, searing, electrifying pain wracked the white kaiju’s back once more. The shrill cry of Grand King Ghidorah pierced through the roar of the returned hurricane. Bolt after bolt of electricity streamed from the triple heads. His armor still not fully regenerated due to the brawl with Godzilla, Bagan was forced to turn and close the distance. He charged the golden dragon and slashed at his chest. Ghidorah took to the air, but not in time. Red blood gushed from the ripped wing membrane like water rushing past a burst dam. In agony, the astral conqueror crashed to the wet earth. Bagan let loose a plasma beam which sizzled in the rain, but the white ejecta washed harmlessly over the astral tyrant’s energy sphere. Ghidorah retaliated with yet more gravity beams that carved sick trenches through Bagan’s exposed chest and legs. Fighting through the pain, the white demon pushed forwards until he had reached his victim.

    The pair of oppressive tyrants grappled for position among the muddied forest and rubble. Bagan ripped with claws and slashed with his horns. Ghidorah bit down with his teeth and delivered lethal doses of electricity. Every time Bagan finally grabbed a hold of one of those noodly throats, Ghidorah’s rain drenched form was able to slip away. In contrast, the guardian of the mountains was unable to wrest himself free of Ghidorah’s grip even though he could heal faster. How could this pretender be keeping up with him still? Surely he had to be as tired if not more so than Bagan? The demon’s mind pieced together the answer to his dismay and the moment of realization cost him dearly. The outer two necks of the golden tyrant found their opportunity, and gnawed their way into Bagan’s unarmored chest.

    Ghidorah had coasted through this fight. The understanding struck Bagan as painfully as the pair of rabid maws tearing him apart. Bagan had brawled with Godzilla and Gamera both. What had Ghidorah done? He’d remained away from the action and only attacked when it was convenient. He faked his own demise and left the radioactive titan to die. The three headed kaiju wasn’t a dragon… he was a snake! Enraged, the three-horned demon lashed out at the necks attacking him. That ghostly light of the slasher claws trailed off the tips of his taloned fingers. The left neck of Grand King Ghidorah flailed aimlessly as the severed head took its last bites inside of Bagan’s torso. The astral tyrant screamed in disbelief. Desperately, he tried to create distance between himself and this unyielding demon, but Bagan had grasped the head that remained in his chest cavity and held tight. The dust and mud of the crater floor had become thick and muddy, and even a creature of Ghidorah’s size couldn’t get a good enough footing to gain real leverage. The right head began frantically searching inside Bagan’s chest for anything solid to bite down on. As it locked eyes on the strange, sharp bone it felt the heat and agony of the middle head as it was burned away with a concentrated gout of plasma. This close, Ghidorah’s energy shield was no use. Desperate, the final head of Grand King Ghidorah bit down on the end of Gamera’s still-trapped elbow spine and let loose with all of its electric energy!

    ***

    Bagan reveled in his victory. He was the demon. He was the dragon, and he would not be felled by some cowardly, common snake! Ready to be done with this exhausting ordeal for good, the white demon raised his clawed hand and prepared to remove the final head of this serpent. There was a sound like a distant explosion, though suddenly Bagan couldn’t feel anything. His wounds and fractured jaw were no longer protesting his every movement. Not even the raindrops on his unhealed flesh registered. What was happening? The world began to close in on itself. He remained vaguely aware as the final head of Ghidorah wrested free from his grip. The gore-stained visage had something between its teeth. Bagan’s consciousness was lost to the void before he ever got to make sense of the shattered remains of something in his opponents jaw. The internal damage was simply too great for his body to repair after such an extended ordeal. The demon’s black heart, safe as it had been tucked behind his thick ribcage and lungs, had been torn apart by fragments of the turtle guardian’s elbow-spine as it’s tip had exploded after Ghidorah’s discharge. At last, Bagan’s duty had come to an end.

    ***

    He was stunned. This wasn’t how it was supposed to go. Even as the body of the guardian of the mountains rest unmoving upon the earth, Kahlo refused to accept it. The fact that his sister had been openly cheering for that disgusting three headed beast simply didn’t make sense. Around him, elders sat in silence or sobbed openly for the loss of their beloved guardian. Suddenly irate, the boy lead his sister away from the others, near the mouth of the cave.

    “What are you thinking Aska!?” he demanded. “What kind of person cheers against the guardian protecting them!”

    The girl looked down sadly before speaking. She didn’t make eye contact with her older sibling. “I had a dream last night that said our real guardian would make sure we were safe. I think he did!”

    The young man shook his head. “Are you telling me that three headed… demon was our real guardian? You’re crazy!”

    She huffed at him, and sat down against the cave wall with her arms hugging her knees. “No. He wasn’t the guardian, you jerk! The turtle was. Didn’t you see how hard he fought to keep these mountains safe? The others ruined the valleys!”

    It was Kahlo’s turn to wear a sulky expression. Now that he thought about it, she was right. Only the giant shelled monster had fought without damaging the land. He took a seat beside his sister and hugged her with one arm.

    “Guardian or not, at least we all made it through this mess. If they’d have fought any closer the whole cave would have collapsed.”

    A grin returned to Aska’s face as she gratefully accepted the gesture. “Now hurry up and get inside. You’re going to get soaked if you stay that close to the rain.” The girl shook her head with a wide smile. “I can’t! I’m waiting on the guardian! He told me in my dream that I should wait for him here!”

    The young man looked at her with concern, but didn’t press the issue. He wasn’t entirely sure he’d ever be able to handle arguing with children, much less his own little sister. The pair watched the water falling from the slope of the rock overhang and Aska fell asleep. Kahlo tried to remember the details of the creatures that had fought so he could tell the best stories among his friends. Only when the little baby turtle poked its tusked head through the incessant rain did the boy finally wake his sister.

    ***

    As his opponent finally crashed to the muddied ground, Ghidorah cackled and spit out the warm, glowing bone unceremoniously. His own maw was riddled with holes and gouges from the exploding bone he’d bit down on. He’d been lucky that only the tip of the spine had burst, or he’d have died alongside Bagan.

    It hurt so badly to laugh, but the pain of victory was a sweet sensation. It reminded the tyrant that he was not yet done. Not with other worlds, and not with this one. He beamed with pride to know that two of the planet’s greatest defenders had fallen here today. Even one of its greatest threats had fallen, and he had seen to that himself. Godzilla’s quest for vengeance had cost him in the end. All of Gamera’s care for that savage species of primitives that inhabited this planet hadn’t saved him. Bagan’s prerogative to defend these lands had resulted in his death.

    That wouldn’t be the case for the golden dragon of course. He was the rightful ruler of these lands and all other lands on this pathetic rock. He would “protect” them from interlopers until his real foe finally returned. After he slayed that insect he would take further pride in destroying this rock and forgetting its name as he continued across all of space. The universe belonged to Grand King Ghidorah, and oh how great it felt to be the king.

    Winner: Grand King Ghidorah

    K.W.C. Kaiju War Chronicles

    K.W.C. // July 28, 2023
  • Author: Connor Clennell | Banner: Matt Ng

    The world used to be such a beautiful place before SpaceGodzilla returned. The day that cosmic tyrant came back from the depths of space marked the beginning of the end for humanity. No one knew how SpaceGodzilla had survived his apparent destruction over ten years ago. Whether this was the same creature reborn, a new one altogether or some failed experiment from some invading race, it did not matter in the end. SpaceGodzilla had come back, and this time, he wasn’t alone.

    It was only a week after he had sent foot on Earth that the meteors had struck. Massive crystalline objects fell from space and targeted the planet’s major cities, wiping them from the face of the Earth. They came so fast, no one was able to escape the blasts. In their wake, fortresses of crystal swiftly grew out of the craters, overtaking the ruined cities in a matter of hours. Together, the united militaries of Earth had launched a counterattack to destroy the fortresses and their obvious creator. But deep down in the people’s hearts, they knew what the outcome would be.

    The battle lasted only a day, yet those that witnessed it felt like the two sides had warred for an eternity. In the aftermath, SpaceGodzilla walked away from a mass graveyard bathed in a sea of flames. At this, Earth’s mightiest weapons were sent to dispose of the crystal demon before it was too late. Earth’s greatest fighting machines and mechanical defenders engaged SpaceGodzilla – and failed. When at last Godzilla emerged to do battle with his intergalactic ‘’brother,” humanity cheered for him. Despite his history with them, they knew Godzilla was the only one with the potential to destroy SpaceGodzilla, as he had done all those years ago. The people’s hearts were filled with hope. Hope died along with Godzilla when SpaceGodzilla ripped his genetic donor’s heart out of his chest.

    For an entire year, SpaceGodzilla traveled the globe, enforcing his rule as the new King of the Monsters upon human and monster alike. Earth’s remaining defenders attacked in force, hoping to drive SpaceGodzilla off-world and avenge Godzilla’s death. Anguirus, Mothra, King Caesar, Zone Fighter: many tried to overthrow the crystal king. SpaceGodzilla would never admit it, but they fought well. In the end, though, his power was too great for them. If Godzilla could not best him, his allies never stood a chance.

    With no way to best him, humanity surrendered, hoping to live and fight another day. They could only watch as SpaceGodzilla spread his power-draining crystals across the planet, terraforming even the very soil beneath their feet. Not even the flora and fauna were safe from the tyrant’s crystalline contamination. At the end of the first year of his rule, over two thirds of the planet had been crystallized and were absorbing cosmic radiation. Most of what little of the planet that had yet to be overtaken was left irradiated from the energy and rendered uninhabitable. If SpaceGodzilla did not finish off humanity, the radiation would.

    Most of Earth’s remaining kaiju went into hiding. Those that did not sought SpaceGodzilla out, not to destroy him, but to take his power for themselves. Instead of ruthlessly annihilating them, SpaceGodzilla saw an opportunity. He imbued them with his cosmic power, turning them into his lieutenants, and sent them across the globe to seek out and destroy those that defied his rule. No monster could emerge from hiding or any resistance faction build up its resources without SpaceGodzilla and his lieutenants knowing. Under the galactic reptile’s rule, judgment was swift, and resistance futile.

    The remnants of humanity had given up hope long ago and had resigned themselves to their fate as their planet was slowly drained of life. But there were those, few in number, but strong in their beliefs, that believed there were still heroes out there, waiting to emerge from the depths and retake the world from evil…

    *****

    9 Years Later

    Waves lapped at the gleaming shores of Faro Island. Men and women from the nearby village, one of the last strongholds of the human race, scoured the crystalline beach, searching for hide or hair of any meat, fresh or otherwise. Uninfected life was rare after Godzilla’s death, most sea creatures having succumbed to the infection that had ravaged the world. Amidst the partially crystallized huts, the men chipped away at the crystal structures engulfing their homes, slowing down its spread, whilst the women and children tended to the village crops. Crystal spires of all shapes and sizes littered the area, drawing in the power of the very stars themselves. The largest of the structures, reaching kaiju-size in height, served a far greater purpose. They drained the Earth of its Mana, its lifeblood, and disrupted the balance of nature itself in the process.

    The mighty gates, once used to hold the great King Kong at bay, hung open. The villagers saw no need to close them. Not after Kong had left to face SpaceGodzilla and never returned. With their god gone, the natives were forced to submit to the will of SpaceGodzilla. Every night, the two lieutenants that made Faro Island their home watched over them, making sure they prayed to their master and made sacrifices in his name. So far, the people had been compliant, but the stronger of the two lieutenants, a creature some claimed to be the spawn of SpaceGodzilla himself, longed for the day they would mess up.

    Today, though, the two pawns would know the thrill of battle.

    As the search party continued combing the crystallized sands, the water began to drain away from the shore. The group shouted and hollered in surprise as the sea’s edge withdrew farther and farther from the shoreline, exposing ancient sunken boats and ruins and beaching all manner of sea life. All types of fish, sharks and other creatures flopped on the glistening sands, crystals poking out of every part of their body, while crystalline crabs and lobsters scuttled around and latched onto the dying animals, tearing into their flesh with razor-sharp pincers.

    The ocean’s surface rose as a massive form emerged. It stood tall over the gathered humans as it rose higher and swam closer to the shore. A flood of seawater crashed down the creature as it reared to its full height, refilling the beach in an instant. But the torrent kept going, crashing onto the beach and surging into the jungle. Natives and animals were caught in the flash flood and washed away as crystal trees and boulders came crashing down all around. The water flooded into the village without warning. By now, though, it had lost its momentum, and came to a stop just within the village limits. The people looked on, their eyes wide with fear as they clutched their crude weapons and held their loved ones close at the sight of the devastation and the towering beast that brought it about.

    A massive, four-clawed foot stepped onto the beach, its owner’s bulk cracking the crystal underneath and shattering the land for yards in all directions. Godzilla Junior shook his head free of the remaining seawater as it trickled down his emerald scales. He squinted his eyes as the Sun’s unfiltered light washed over him for the first time in over a year. It took only a moment for his eyes to adjust to its rays and his vision to focus on the landscape before him. The island was graced with the call of a Godzilla for the first time since his father’s death. With a snort of air from his nostrils, Junior made his way inland, towards the village.

    The ocean churned again as another, smaller shape began to rise from its depths. A huge, red claw breached its surface, followed by another, before the creature they belonged to crawled out of the waves and onto dry land. Ebirah raised his arms and screeched eagerly. Ahead of him, Junior turned his head and returned the massive shrimp’s call with his own, infantile roar. Before the conquest, the two would have seen each other as bitter enemies. Now, as some of the last monsters on Earth not under SpaceGodzilla’s thrall, their alliance stood strong. For too long they had hid away from the world as Junior’s “uncle” ravaged their home. Now the time had come for them to emerge and take back their world.

    The villagers scattered like cockroaches as Junior set foot outside their village. The young Godzillasaurus regarded them for a brief moment, hoping deep in his heart to find the human he knew from birth. But she was not present among the crowd. With a sad moan, Junior turned his gaze to the crystals littering the landscape. The source of the world’s infection, and the source of his “uncle’s” power. Junior and Ebirah knew exactly what to do with them.

    Junior brought his foot down, smashing a cluster of crystals under his heel. He advanced onward, crushing more crystals and village huts underfoot as he approached the larger structures. His claws and teeth sunk into the towers, tearing them apart with minor difficulty as he smashed into them. The structures toppled over, shattering on the ground and against the rocks. Behind Junior, Ebirah ravaged the beach, smashing up the crystals lining its borders and hammering his claws against its shimmering surface as he sought to shatter the very ground itself. The sound of his blows echoed across the island, and Junior knew it would not be long before their presence was known.

    A heavy thud sounded close by, and the great wall separating the village from the rest of Faro Island creaked and groaned as something large landed atop. A threatening hiss followed that caught Godzilla Junior’s attention, and he turned to glare at the aggressor. A bizarre creature that resembled a cross between an ape and a lizard clung to the top of the wall, his glowing eyes regarding the immature dinosaur before him with hatred. His body was not organic, composed of the same crystals that surrounded him. A mane of crystals coated his back from head to rear, and a smaller cluster protruded from his chin like an unusual beard. A long tail, tipped with a mass of smaller crystals, curled around his legs. The being, known as Krystalak, directed a hiss-like roar at Junior as he clawed the air, to which the young monster responded with his own shrieking cry.

    The calls of the two beasts caught Ebirah’s notice. His gaze caught on the duo, distracting him from the massive wave that surged towards him from behind. Another creature burst from the ocean, spraying the landscape with seawater and releasing a trumpeting cry. Ebirah crawled around and was greeted with the form of a monster from before the time of Man. Titanosaurus pounded his fists together, aching for a fight. For a moment, Ebirah thought the red behemoth was like them, another survivor from SpaceGodzilla’s takeover that had emerged to strike back. Titanosaurus proved him wrong by smashing his foot into the lobster’s face.

    Junior’s scutes glowed a bright blue as he fired an atomic ray at Krystalak. The beast leapt off its perch as the beam struck, demolishing the top half of the last reminder of Kong’s existence in a single hit. Krystalak flew through the air, his claws raised as he came down on Junior, and was greeted with another atomic blast that struck him in the gut. Through the fire and smoke of the blast the crystal beast descended, slamming his outstretched feet into Junior’s chest and pounding him into the ground. Krystalak’s gleaming eyes flashed with malice as he pinned Junior to the ground and slashed his razor-sharp digits across the infantile monster’s face and chest. Junior cried out as the mineral monstrosity’s claws carved through his flesh and painted the ground red with his blood. Krystalak hissed with laughter, but that hiss turned into one of pain as Junior blasted him point-blank in the face with his atomic ray. The blast threw Krystalak off the son of Godzilla and sent him crashing to the ground, crushing more huts beneath him.

    Junior winced in pain as he stood up. Already his regenerative abilities were repairing the damage inflicted by Krystalak’s claws. This ability was a lifesaver, but its properties paled in comparison to Godzilla’s own healing factor. When Krystalak had scrambled to his feet, Junior still bore the scars from his claws. The green reptile’s scutes lit up once more, but before he could fire, Krystalak’s mane flared with light. The beast’s jaws parted, expelling his deadly Prism Beam. The white blast slammed into Junior’s chest and detonated, throwing him back as he fired. Junior’s atomic ray shot harmlessly into the sky as he was thrown across the ground. A group of crystals lay in his path, and he came to a stop as he smashed through the structures.

    Krystalak hissed angrily at Junior, unwilling to allow the destruction of his “father’s” creations. His glowing eyes, able to see the electromagnetic spectrum, allowed him to watch as the energy from the ruined crystals drifted through the air and into the nearest living thing: Junior. Krystalak despised having to share the island’s energy with his ally. Having the son of Godzilla steal it right in front of him was unacceptable.

    Ebirah cried out as Titanosaurus slammed his foot into the sea monster once more. The aquatic dinosaur cackled joyously as he beat the tar out of the irradiated lobster. As he moved his foot to kick him again, Ebirah raised his claws and caught the blow. His right claw lashed out and clamped around the reptile’s outstretched leg, drawing trickles of blood as he pierced skin. Titanosaurus hollered angrily and painfully and furiously shook his leg to dislodge the crustacean. His struggles only allowed Ebirah’s claw to cut in deeper, driving another pain-filled cry from the ancient predator’s throat. Twisting and pulling his arm, Ebirah pulled Titanosaurus to the ground. As soon as the reptile hit the ground, Ebirah released his grip and scuttled onto the red titan’s back. His weight pressed Titanosaurus against the beach, and the scarlet dinosaur cried out as Ebirah’s claws smashed against his skull over and over.

    Titanosaurus’ muscular arms pushed against the beach as he tried to rise with Ebirah clinging to his back. Each time he managed to push his chest off the ground, the jumbo-sized shrimp would smack one of his claws across the back of his skull. As the prehistoric beast attempted to rise once more, Ebirah raised one of his claws to smash it against the reptile’s skull. He was taken aback when Titanosaurus suddenly rolled onto his side and squashed Ebirah under his massive size. The shrimp squirmed and shrieked under the crimson beast, flailing his claws and kicking at the reptile’s sides with his legs. Titanosaurus stood up, leaving Ebirah stuck on his back, unable to move, and grabbed hold of the lobster’s tail. Ebirah’s eyes bulged as he was lifted off the ground and spun once, twice, three times before Titanosaurus released his grip. Ebirah screeched in horror as he flew through the air and crashed hard onto the crystalline shore. He squealed in pain as he felt his spiky exoskeleton crack under the impact.

    Spinning around to face the taunting Titanosaurus, Ebirah screeched in fury as he raised and shook his claws at the scarlet beast. Titanosaurus spun around, the fin at the tip of his tail deploying as it swept from side to side. Within seconds, he had produced a miniature hurricane that began to push Ebirah back. Guarding his face with his claws, the mammoth shrimp tried to advance, furiously attempting to get a grip on the beach’s smooth surface. His legs, while strong enough to carry him outside of water, were unable to pierce the crystal’s surface. Titanosaurus cackled as the lobster was blown along the beach and bounced off its reflective surface. He retracted his tail fin and turned to face the dazed shrimp, who kicked his legs lazily as he fought to right himself. Letting loose with a laugh-like roar, Titanosaurus marched towards his helpless foe.

    Krystalak’s cry came from the side, and Titanosaurus turned to face his partner as he was sent flying into the crimson reptile. Titanosaurus cried out as the crystals lining Krystalak’s back embedded themselves in his flesh. The two creatures crashed to the ground in a mess of limbs as they tried to escape from one another. With the two lieutenants distracted, Ebirah was able to flip himself back onto his feet as Godzilla Junior’s roar reached his hidden ears. The juvenile dinosaur emerged from the jungle, his hands cut and bleeding from where he had grabbed Krystalak. He glared at the duo along with Ebirah, and the pair let out their own laughter at their predicament.

    After a minute of struggling, Titanosaurus dislodged Krystalak and threw the purple and white beast off of him as he climbed to his feet. His eyes fell on the form of Junior, the source of his humiliation. With a warbling cry, he charged as Junior rushed to meet him mid-way. Krystalak stood up as well, clutching his head to clear his mind after the impact. He lowered his arms and was greeted with the sight of Ebirah charging towards him, snapping his claws and screeching intimidatingly. Krystalak, undeterred in the slightest, spread his arms and roared back before dropping onto all fours and rushing towards the mutant crustacean.

    Godzilla Junior and Titanosaurus collided like two runaway freight trains. They pushed against each other with their bodies as their fists pounded away at their opponent’s sides. As the struggle went on, it came apparent that Titanosaurus was winning, and he slowly forced Junior away from the beach. Junior’s hand lunged at the aquatic titan, but instead of punching Titanosaurus, he sliced his claws across the scarlet saurian’s chest. A grunt of pain was earned from Titanosaurus as Junior drew blood, followed by a trumpeting cry of rage. He lunged down and clamped his jaws around Junior’s head. The dinosaur’s neck muscles, famous for being some of the strongest in the world, allowed him to lift the infantile Godzilla off the ground and swing him through the air. Titanosaurus swung down, smashing Junior into the crystal earth. Junior shrieked as his bones shuddered and cracked from the impact. His captor lifted him up, then slammed him into the ground again, before tossing the emerald dinosaur away.

    Shakily, Junior got to his feet as the ground shook from Titanosaurus’ approach. The red leviathan smashed his fists together and against his chest, cackling as he did. His approach was stopped as Junior unleashed a blast of his atomic ray, striking the aquatic dinosaur in the chest. Titanosaurus let out a warbling cry of pain as the ray detonated against his flesh. Distracted by the pain, and his vision obscured by the fire and smoke produced by the blast, he couldn’t see Junior approach until the smaller reptile had closed the distance and smashed his tail into the side of his neck. Caught off-guard by the blow, Titanosaurus collapsed to the ground, still cackling miserably as he clutched his charcoal black chest. His cries were silenced when Junior kicked the crimson predator in the mouth.

    Sparks flew as Krystalak furiously slashed away at Ebirah’s armored claws. The giant shrimp kept his main weapons before him to protect his vulnerable face from the crystalline monster’s fury. Several scratch marks coated his claws, which were beginning to be joined by trails of blue blood as Krystalak’s knife-like claws started to penetrate his shell. Thinking on the draw, Ebirah lunged forward and smashed his left claw across Krystalak’s face. The crystal fiend cried out as he was sent flying by the blow and collided with the earth. He clutched his face, his features contorting into a grimace as he felt the fractures in its surface from the crustacean’s blow.

    The sound of scuttling legs from behind informed him Ebirah was on the move. Krystalak stood to his full height, turned around, and lashed his tail out at Ebirah. A large crystal shard detached from the tip and flew through the air. Ebirah screeched in agony as the shard found its mark and stabbed through his shell. With the mutant shrimp distracted, Krystalak jumped at him and landed on the crustacean’s back. He latched his claws into the spaces between armor segments as Ebirah flailed and bucked in an attempt to throw off SpaceGodzilla’s spawn.

    Krystalak’s tail swung down like a scorpion’s and stabbed the tip into the base of Ebirah’s tail. The overgrown lobster filled the air with his screech of agony as the sharp cluster penetrated his armor and dug into his flesh. Krystalak pulled his tail tip free of Ebirah with a spray of blood, then drove it again and started repeatedly stabbing the crustacean’s rear. As his tail assaulted Ebirah’s unprotected tail, he hooked his claws into one of the armor segments lining the shrimp’s back, and pulled. Ebirah cried out in fear and pain as the crystalline abomination tried to rip the segment from the shellfish’s body. No matter how hard he thrashed about, Ebirah could not dislodge his vicious passenger. Seeing that his own strategy wasn’t working, he decided to take a page out of Titanosaurus’ book and reared up. Krystalak’s eyes widened as the lobster’s feet left the ground and he pinned the crystal beast against the beach as he landed on his back. The pressure inflicted on Krystalak’s body by the sea monster’s bulk shattered several of his back crystals on impact. Snarling in pain, the living crystal construct planted his feet on Ebirah’s back and kicked the shrimp off of him. He clambered back on to his feet and let out a low, almost silent roar at Ebirah, but was caught unaware by the crustacean as he slammed his tail into the mineral monster’s legs, flooring him in an instant.

    Titanosaurus lashed out with his tail and knocked Godzilla Junior back as he rose. The young monster attempted to lunge at the crimson reptile, but Titanosaurus refused to let him get close. His tail fin extended and he spun around as he flapped his tail back and forth, blowing strong winds at Junior to keep the green reptile at bay. Junior roared as he began to slide back under the force of the wind. He dug his feet into the ground, his sharp claws penetrating its crystalline surface, but not even that could hold him in place and he continued sliding back, his toe claws leaving deep trenches in his wake. Titanosaurus couldn’t help but laugh at the young Godzillasaurus’ misfortune. A sudden, agonizing pain shot through his tail and he stopped moving it as he voiced his pain to the entire island. Dark smoke drifted from his torn and burnt tail fin, courtesy of Junior’s atomic ray.

    The red leviathan spun around, rage flaring in his eyes. A tingle of fear went down Junior’s spine as with a trumpeting roar, Titanosaurus charged towards him. The aquatic dinosaur came so fast Junior didn’t have time to counter or block his attacker before the long necked reptile smashed his massive foot into the smaller dinosaur’s gut. Junior was launched into the air by the blow and crashed to the shimmering earth with a thud that shook the ground around him. Titanosaurus wasn’t finished yet and ran up to his fallen adversary, driving his foot into Junior’s gut again and sending him rolling across the ground.

    Before Junior could stand, Titanosaurus was standing over him and slammed his foot down on the young dinosaur’s side. The first blow cracked Junior’s ribs. The second caused some of them to snap in half and stab into his organs, drawing a shriek of agony from the infantile reptile. A third stomp drove the ribs in deeper, increasing Junior’s suffering. Titanosaurus then turned his attention to the juvenile monster’s head. Over and over his heel smashed and grinded against Junior’s skull, and a pool of broken teeth and blood quickly formed around it. Titanosaurus stopped pounding on him, allowing Junior to weakly look up at the scarlet predator as his head reared down towards his face. Titanosaurus’ jaws parted – and so did Junior’s.

    The irradiated Godzillasaurus’ spines flashed with light as he unleashed a stream of blue and while nuclear death into Titanosaurus’ face. The larger dinosaur screamed as the blast practically disintegrated the flesh on his face. Blinded, he staggered back as the beam subsided and he clutched his mutilated features, fighting the urge to vomit as his claws scraped against exposed bone. Junior was able to get to his feet and fired another atomic blast, engulfing the red dinosaur’s right leg in a ball of fire. Titanosaurus was knocked down by the blast and clutched his injured leg as he wailed in agony. Confident that the leviathan was unable to continue fighting, Junior made his way back to the beach to assist his ally.

    Ebirah and Krystalak pushed against each other, the jumbo shrimp’s claws firmly grasping his crystalline foe’s forearms as he attempted to force the purple and white beast off his feet. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Krystalak’s mane glow. Knowing what was about to follow, he released the beast’s arms and crawled backwards, but he wasn’t fast enough. Krystalak’s white-hot beam struck the beach in front of the lobster and blasted it apart, the ensuing explosion knocking Ebirah back with a shrill cry. Krystalak looked at the sea monster and laughed, considering him a joke not to be taken seriously. He was proven wrong and taken aback when Ebirah uprooted a large crystal from the jungle’s edge and tossed it at the purple-white monster. It smashed into Krystalak’s face, further damaging its already fractured armor, and knocked the spawn of SpaceGodzilla off his feet.

    Krystalak shook his head to clear it from the impact. The crystalline monstrosity stood up and barred his dagger-like teeth at the shellfish sea monster. He picked up the still intact crystal and threw it at Ebirah, only for the overgrown lobster to raise his right claw and bat it back at him. Krystalak sent the crystal back at Ebirah by delivering a spinning kick to the object and the giant shrimp caught it with ease. The crustacean’s claws pressed down on the crystal, cracks forming across its surface before the lobster’s claws closed fully and it shattered in his grip. Krystalak’s spine straightened up as his eyes glowed brighter, the crystal beast’s equivalent of widening them, both impressed and terrified by Ebirah’s feat of strength. The crustacean raised his claws above his head and clapped them together, daring Krystalak to try his luck. The crystalline monster did, blasting Ebirah with his Prism Beam. Before he could capitalize on his enemy’s pain, an emerald-scaled fist smashed into the side of his face.

    The blow sent Krystalak crashing to the ground, his vision spinning. All the beast could register in his dazed state was the grateful call of Ebirah and the returning cry of Godzilla Junior from behind him. A pair of hands grabbed Krystalak’s arms and the mineral-made beast felt himself being pulled up to a standing position. Junior roared, right next to Krystalak’s ear, at Ebirah and the shrimp screeched a reply as he barrelled towards the two. Realizing what the crustacean was planning to do, Krystalak struggled feebly against his captor’s grip, but in his dazed state, he lacked the ability to harness his true strength.

    After building up momentum, Ebirah leapt at Krystalak and smashed into his chest, using his own claws as a battering ram. The purplish-white beast didn’t possess any lungs, but a blast of air was still forced out of his mouth from the blow. Junior kept a tight grip on Krystalak, even as the mutant abomination’s spiky crystals stabbed into his chest and gut as Krystalak was knocked back by Ebirah’s blow. The strike managed to knock some sense into the crystalline monstrosity and he lashed out with his tail, stabbing the tip into one of Ebirah’s eyes. His mouth contorted into a sickening grin of pleasure as Ebirah shrieked and squirmed at the loss of half his vision. Unfortunately for Krystalak, the mutated shrimp was used to tolerating high amounts of pain, having lost and regrown his pincers in the past, and was able to react fast enough to grab the crystal mutant’s tail as it extracted itself from his eye socket. Krystalak’s eyes glowed bright as Junior released his grip and Ebirah tugged, pulling him down to the beach. The colossal lobster, still adjusting to the loss of his eye, clumsily battered Krystalak’s back with his claws. The mineral monster hissed in pain and his eyes flashed with worry as he felt the cracks forming across his back.

    Mercifully for Krystalak, Ebirah stopped pounding on him, but he quickly learned this was so Junior could grab his tail and drag the crystal monster across the beach as he spun, slowly building up momentum. Junior spun faster and faster, and soon Krystalak was no longer touching the ground, but swinging through the air. After several more rotations, Junior released Krystalak and let him fly through the air. Krystalak’s eyes glowed with horror at the cliff face rapidly approaching before his reflexes kicked in. He reared back, allowing his feet to strike the cliff first and kicked off, twisting his body to face Junior as his mane pulsed with energy, but the juvenile Godzilla had already fired his own beam and it slammed into Krystalak’s gut, knocking him from the sky.

    Krystalak hit the earth with a horrible crack as he landed on his right arm and he roared in agony. He tried moving the limb, but every twitch caused a jolt of pain to surge through his arm. Using his one good arm, Krystalak managed to stand and examined his right arm. Massive fractures lined its surface; it looked one good hit away from shattering completely.

    A pair of high-pitched cries reached his hidden ears and he turned his gaze away from his arm towards the approaching forms of Junior and Ebirah. He grimaced as he tried moving his right arm into a threatening position, but failed. Krystalak hissed at the duo, swiping at the air with his uninjured arm in an attempt to intimidate them. But Junior and Ebirah were not so easily deterred. Seeing his strategy fail, Krystalak went for a more offensive approach, unleashing his Prism Beam and striking the ground below Ebirah, the ensuing explosion knocking the giant shrimp onto his back. Junior’s scutes pulsed with a blue glow as Krystalak’s mane flared with white light.

    The two creatures released their beams at the same time, the two energies lancing into one another with a flash of light. The clash between the two beams didn’t last long, and soon Junior’s atomic ray was pushing back Krystalak’s Prism Beam. The purple and white monster’s eyes glowed with determination and fury and he directed more power into his beam, but it was too late. Junior forced Krystalak’s beam back into his mouth and the two rays exploded. Krystalak flew back from the blast and hit the ground, kicking up dust and crystal debris. Junior shrieked and began his advance on the fallen beast, but Krystalak was far from defenseless. His tail whipped out and discharged a crystal shard, aiming at the green reptile’s neck before Junior even knew what was happening. But the shard missed his throat as Ebirah rushed in and tackled Junior to the ground, avoiding a deadly fate.

    Instead, the shard lodged itself into the throat of Titanosaurus. His eyes incinerated by Junior’s atomic blast, he had been attracted by the sounds of battle, hoping to find his foe. Instead, he found one of Krystalak’s crystals stabbing into his esophagus. The aquatic dinosaur gargled in surprise and clawed at his neck, but his short arms were incapable of reaching the shard and extracting it. Red foam began to leak from his jaws as Titanosaurus drowned in his own blood. He stayed standing for a few more seconds, then toppled over, the life vanishing from his eyes.

    Krystalak glared at Ebirah, furious at the lobster’s intervention. Not a single part of the crystal beast’s soul cared about Titanosaurus’ death; one less lieutenant meant more power for him. His attention turned to Junior as the young Godzilla got up onto one knee. The mutant saurian didn’t wait to stand up before unleashing his atomic ray at the mineral mutant. Krystalak, an ever-learning creature, leapt over the beam as it blasted apart the ground where he once stood. He pounced atop Junior, pushing the reptile to the ground and assaulting him with the claws of his functional hand and both feet. Before he could inflict serious damage, Ebirah grabbed hold of the crystalline monster’s tail and yanked him off Junior. Growling in exasperation, Krystalak smashed his foot against Ebirah’s face, but the mutated crustacean refused to relinquish his grip.

    Ebirah’s distraction allowed Junior to get back up, his wounds already healing at a rapid rate. He grabbed hold of Krystalak’s shoulders, earning a surprised grunt from the monstrosity as his head spun to face him, and pulled in the opposite direction. Krystalak found himself being stretched between the two as they pulled in opposite directions and the mutation’s eyes gleamed with worry. His armored hide was incapable of complying with being stretched like this and was beginning to crack under the stress. Pain flooded his limbs, as a loud cracking noise reached his ears. Something was giving, but he couldn’t tell what through the pain.

    In a shower of shards, Ebirah ripped Krystalak’s tail from his body.

    The crystalline abomination has but a few seconds to scream at the loss before Junior hoisted him up over his head and smashed him head-first into the ground. Darkness engulfed Krystalak’s vision as his head was driven beneath the crystalline earth. Light quickly flooded his vision again as he was dragged out by his legs and thrown to the ground once more. Ebirah and Junior were on the crystal-born creature before he had a chance to get up and assaulted his chest with claws and feet respectively. Krystalak’s armor held well, but the duo were relentless in their blows, and soon fractures began to form across its surface. Krystalak tried to get his jaws to face either of the two monsters so he could fire his Prism Beam, but couldn’t due to his beard getting in the way. Fortunately, the crystalline monster had more than one way of expelling his energy. He channeled energy into his heart, causing the organ to glow through the layers of armor. Junior and Ebirah looked at the light in confusion, before their eyes widened in realization and horror.

    A powerful shockwave of crystal white energy erupted from Krystalak’s chest, catching the two monsters and blasting them away from SpaceGodzilla’s spawn. Junior and Ebirah cried out as they were thrown through the air and smashed hard into the crystalline ground. With the two dealt with, Krystalak leapt to his feet and instantly clutched his chest, grunting in pain. Overloading his heart with energy had worked, but the resulting burst of energy had damaged his armor-plated chest further. As his eyes scanned the area for his foes, however, he found that the pain and damage had been worth it, and marched towards the helpless Ebirah.

    The radioactive sea monster screeched loudly as his legs kicked at the sky above. The blast had knocked him onto his back and he was having difficulty flipping himself back onto his feet. Worse still, his claws had been heavily damaged, one of them severed completely and lying several yards away, as they had been closest to the blast, making his efforts to flip himself over even more difficult. A mocking hiss cruelly greeted his ears and something heavy crawled onto his exposed belly. Ebirah’s legs scratched against the attacker’s armored skin, and the shrimp instantly knew Krystalak was atop him. Possessing no flexible neck, the mutated shellfish couldn’t look down to see Krystalak, but he didn’t need to since the crystalline monstrosity’s face appeared before his a moment later, his mouth partly open in a sinister smile. Ebirah swiped at the mutant with his remaining claw to try and knock Krystalak off his chest. Instead, Krystalak caught it with his good arm and forced it against the ground while snarling cruelly in Ebirah’s face. Ebirah barely had time to let out a pathetic cry for mercy as Krystalak’s pointed beard hung ominously over him…

    Meters away, Junior stirred back to consciousness. Through blurred vision, he was able to stand and tried to look around. Not far away he could make out the fuzzy shapes of his ally and the spawn of his father’s killer. But as his sight returned, he was horrified by the sight before him. Krystalak crouched over the helpless form of Ebirah, who squirmed and flayed desperately to escape what would obviously come next. The crystals on the mutation’s chin glinted bright in the sunlight as the head pulled back, ready for a devastating strike to the mutilated crustacean’s throat.

    Junior’s mind came to a stop, unable to comprehend the sight before him. Despite their rough start, Ebirah had been the only source of companionship for the better part of the year. The immature Godzillasaurus’ soul ached at the thought of losing another figure in his life. Another feeling began to rise; a feeling he’d been trying to keep under control even since his father’s death. His fists tightened, his lips curled upwards, a deep rumble echoed in his throat and his eyes narrowed. Junior tried to stop the feeling from taking control, but he couldn’t, not on his own. Everyone he knew and cared about were gone. The woman, his father, and in a few seconds, he would lose his only friend, too – Junior couldn’t keep his emotions under control any longer. Within that moment, the confident, caring Junior was gone – replaced with the rage of a Godzilla.

    A ferocious roar left Junior’s mouth and he charged at Krystalak. The mutant beast looked away from his pinned prey and smiled, spreading his arms in a mocking gesture. A Prism Beam left his maw and exploded against the earth next to Junior, but the emerald reptile didn’t stop and ran through the flames. Krystalak’s eyes dimmed as he unleashed another blast, which achieved the same results as the previous blast. As Junior got nearer, Krystalak noticed that the juvenile Godzilla’s eyes were glowing red with energy. Energy that felt very familiar to him. A third Prism Beam scored a direct hit on Junior’s chest, drawing a growl of pain, but even this failed to slow him down. He reached out, intending to grab Krystalak, as his spines glowed brightly. Before Junior could lay a claw on the crystalline beast, Krystalak leapt up and spun around, smashing the side of his foot into Junior’s skull.

    The blow sent Junior flying backwards so fast he had no idea he’d even been hit. The infantile dinosaur could do nothing but brace for the pain as he smashed into a large crystal tower and demolished the structure almost instantly. All Junior managed was a weak cry before tons of crystalline debris came down and buried him alive. Krystalak parted his jaws in a cruel smile as he watched the last of Godzilla’s legacy disappear under the mountain of crystal rubble. He made his way towards the structure, intent on making sure Junior was dead, but he only managed to take a few steps before a thought struck him. If Godzilla’s son was still alive, he could use him to gain his “father’s” favor. SpaceGodzilla would surely reward the beast that managed to take down the child of the ex-King of the Monsters. Krystalak increased his pace, intending to make good use of Junior or his corpse.

    Deep within the hill of debris, Junior struggled to free himself. He growled in frustration as he pushed against the crystalline structures covering him, barely managing to push them a few meters off of himself before his strength gave out. Desperately, he tried firing his atomic ray, but to his surprise, he found he couldn’t. His spines only managed to flicker weakly before cutting out altogether. Junior’s features scrunched up in confusion. He hadn’t used that much energy in the battle. He tried again, flaring his power in an attempt to force out enough to fire at least one blast. After a moment, he felt his atomic might pulse within him. Then he released that was not all. Another stronger form of power surged within him, mixing in with his nuclear energy and rejuvenating the young monster. Junior blinked in confusion as a bright glow suddenly engulfed his body. Testing this new power, he pushed against the ceiling of crystal, and to his shock it moved away much easier this time. Where was this new strength coming from?

    The strange energy crackled across Junior’s form. The emerald dinosaur watched on as crimson bolts leapt across his outstretched arms. Junior’s eyes narrowed in thought. He felt like he knew this type of energy, but what–?

    His eyes snapped wide open in realization. The crystals! By destroying the towers, he had released the energy stored within, which in turn had been attracted and absorbed into the nearest living thing: him! It was SpaceGodzilla’s power that now flowed through his veins. Junior was unsure what to do. The energy now filling him felt addicting; empowering; it made him feel invincible. Was this a good thing? Was this what SpaceGodzilla felt like? Was this what his father had felt like?

    With no idea how to dispel the energy, Junior had no choice but to embrace it as it overtook his body. His eyelids closed, then snapped open moments later to reveal burning red eyes.

    Krystalak stopped in his tracks, sensing the build-up of energy. He snarled in anger; that power was his and his alone! Before he could take another step, bolts of cosmic energy crackled across the hill of crystalline rubble, zapping the earth and nearby trees and boulders. Krystalak’s first instinct should have been to rush in and take advantage of the situation, but another, stronger impulse told him to hang back. This wasn’t a normal phenomenon.

    A bright orange glow emanated from inside the mound of debris. Krystalak began to feel nervous as the ground shook around him and the air itself surged with power. The glow rapidly increased, getting brighter and brighter until a massive explosion blasted through the crystalline rubble. Through the light of the blast, Krystalak spotted Junior standing at its epicenter and when the blast was over, the crystal mutation gaped in horror and wonder.

    Junior’s very form was glowing bright with crimson power. His eyes surged with energy as they gazed upon Krystalak’s reflective form. Lightning-like bolts leapt across his form. Before Krystalak’s very eyes, Junior began to grow. His bone density increased, his muscles bulged and expanded, and his scales increased in thickness, inhibiting the glow now emanating from his body so that it was only visible through patches of his skin, giving it a lava-like texture. When the transformation had finished, his body remained physically unchanged, but now he stood over a head taller than his crystalline nemesis.

    Godzilla Junior had attained Critical Mass.

    For the first time in his existence, Krystalak knew fear. He cowered before this new form of the Prince of the Monsters with terror in his eyes. Junior’s mouth opened, yielding not a shriek, but a powerful bellow reminiscent of his father. The sound was enough to snap Krystalak from his daze. The remains of his mane flashed and he discharged his Prism Beam, nailing Junior in the chest. The only sign that he had been hurt by the blast was the twitch of his lip. In return, his scutes surged with deep blue light. Junior opened his maw, belching forth a powerful azure ray. Krystalak was unprepared and incapable of defending himself as the ray tore into his chest and carried him off the ground, further and further back until he smashed hard into a cliff face. What little remains of his mane was reduced to fragments that tumbled from his back and littered the earth around his feet. Krystalak paid no attention to them, falling to his knee and clutching his steaming and glowing hot chest.

    Before he could even think of a counterattack, another atomic blast slammed into him and pinned him against the rock face. Unimaginable agony forced itself out of Krystalak’s throat as a howl as he felt his fractured arm and parts of his cracked chest plate disintegrated under the force and heat of the beam. When it had subsided, Krystalak stumbled away from the cliff, his crystalline armor glowing bright with heat.

    His glowing eyes glared daggers at Junior as he pushed himself upright. Krystalak broke out into a sprint towards the super-charged dinosaur, determined to still win this fight. Junior made no move to defend himself as Krystalak assaulted him, slashing and stabbing at the empowered reptile’s flesh with his hand and feet. The monstrosity’s claws left deep gouges in Junior’s flesh. Wounds that healed themselves the moment Krystalak’s serrated digits left his flesh. The son of Godzilla thrust out his arm, his hand wrapping tightly around Krystalak’s throat, and lifted the beast off the ground with ease. Krystalak squirmed in his grip, his eyes widened in horror as the strength Junior had been granted. He squirmed harder as the dinosaur’s hold tightened, and the armor coating the mutant’s neck cracked in his hand.

    Thinking on the draw, Krystalak lashed out with his claws once more, aiming this time for a more sensitive arena on the superpowered adolescent. A swift slash from his claws left deep gouges in Junior’s upper face, driving a tortured howl from the Godzillasaurus’ glowing maw as he dropped Krystalak to the floor, flailing wildly as blood pooled in the ripped sockets of his eyes. Immediately, the crystalline spawn launched another attack, sweeping a leg across the floor and under the distracted teenager’s, leaving him sprawled and spasming against the cold geode ground.

    Krystalak knew that he had to act fast if he wanted to win. He limped over and placed a foot upon the fallen dinosaurian, digging his talons into Junior’s flesh for a secure grip as he raised a clawed hand with menace. A good strike to the heart, even in the state of Critical Mass, would snuff the life from the last legacy of the Monster King. Junior could but squirm helplessly, trying to locate his foe’s position with half-regenerated eyes, as the cold-skinned killer aimed with surgical precision at the young prince’s chest…

    Ebirah’s call rang loud and true, pulling the attention of both kaiju away and to a sight that neither had expected. Junior’s restored sight watched in amazement as his wounded ally charged in from the sidelines, taking the distracted Krystalak by total surprise. He slammed into the back of the monstrosity with all of the force his tired body could muster, and his efforts were rewarded with an echoing crack as both monsters toppled to the ground. Krystalak howled in agony, seething with rage and promising a slow and torturous death for the interfering sea beast. But as he tried to stand back up, the mutant beast found his lower half to be unresponsive to his commands. The strike from Ebirah had smashed his crystal spine in two, paralyzing him from the waist down.

    Junior remained frozen in his current spot, taking in the events that had just occurred. His crimson orbs met Ebirah’s luminous own, reaffirming their bond of comradery. Before anything could be said or done, a flash of purple light came from the right side of the alliance. Ebirah turned to face the source and was met square in the face by an enraged Prism Beam blast without a moment to process. He was thrown into the air without a sound, and Junior screamed in horror as his friend slammed hard in the solid ground, his carapace splintering around the point of impact, and rolled to a stop with his belly to the sky, unmoving.

    His gaze turned to the one responsible for such a horrendous act. Krystalak, sprawled uselessly across the crystal earth, chuckled darkly at the sight of the motionless crustacean. If he was to lose this battle, then he had at least made sure that the reptile could not enjoy his victory.

    A shadow fell over him, and powerful energies crackled in the air around Krystalak. A dazzling glow bloomed from behind him, which the crystal spawn knew signaled his end. As much as he hated to admit, he had been bested. The glow in Krystalak’s eye sockets faded, preventing himself from seeing what came next. Hopefully, his “father” and “brother” would avenge him.

    An overwhelming blast of atomic energy from Junior’s maw engulfed Krystalak’s form. It pushed the mineral monster across the ground, through trees and rocks and village huts until it slammed Krystalak into the massive gates. The blast ripped apart the wooden structure as it tore Krystalak apart, disintegrating the spawn of SpaceGodzilla piece-by-piece. For Krystalak, the agony felt like an eternity, but in reality, his complete and utter disintegration only took half a minute.

    Junior’s glowing eyes regarded the wreckage of the gates as he ceased firing. The ancient structure crumbled atop what little of Krystalak remained, as well as half of the village located around it. He snorted with his nostrils, glad to be rid of the crystalline menace, before turning away and towards the beach. He could already feel the crystal’s power fading. While he had enjoyed the power-up it had given him, he didn’t plan on becoming addicted to its energy, lest he end up like one of SpaceGodzilla’s lieutenants.

    He walked over to where Ebirah lay, and his breath caught in his throat as he laid eyes upon the motionless form of his friend, lying in a puddle of his own blue blood and his claws torn from his body. Was it too late? Had his surrender to the prevented power of the crystals come too late to save Ebirah from the clutches of the afterlife? Had it all been in vain?

    Junior’s head reared back and unleashed a wail of utter anguish that boomed across the entire island. Once more, life had played a cruel hand against him and taken away the only source of light and hope left in his violated world. He felt as if he was cursed to lose all that he cared for, that he could earn no victory without loss to tarnish its shine.

    But then…

    …a faint cry in the wind graced the mourning dinosaur’s ears. He looked back down at the body of his friend and ally, amber eyes wide with hope. Could it be…?

    Ebirah’s tail twitched sluggishly. His mouthparts parted to release another weak cry to disprove Death’s claim upon his soul. Against the odds and his severe injuries, the titanic shrimp lived.

    Junior cried in elevation and rushed to assist, grabbing the sides of Ebirah’s shell and hoisting him up, helping his wounded companion back to his feet. He could not help but let his eyes wander over the cracks and splinters across the shrimp’s form, lingering on the bloody stumps where his mighty claws once were. Ebirah dismissed his worries with a reassuring chirp. With enough time and recovery, he could recover from this in several molts of his shell, even regrow his claws stronger than ever. But that was for the future.

    The both of them knew that they could linger here no more. If the connection between SpaceGodzilla and his spawn was anything like that of Junior and his father, then he would be certain to investigate the sudden disappearance of Krystalak. This meant that they could not stay, and any hope of using Faro Island in any capacity for their resistances was impossible. Their search for a new home would have to continue from here.

    Slowly, Ebirah crawled towards the ocean, seeking the comfort of its cold, dark depths. Godzilla Junior followed close behind as the energy of the crystals began to wear off. His size began to decrease and the glow subsided, returning his body to its natural emerald color. By the time he stepped foot into the waves, his body was back to its original form and size. Junior didn’t even look back as the pair walked into the ocean and disappeared into its murky depths.

    They were unaware of the crowd of villagers that had gathered at the petrified jungle’s edge, chanting and dancing in prayer for worship of the champions that had freed their home from tyranny, who had provided a glimmer of hope in these dark times.

    In the darkness, there was now a spark of inspiration and hope.

    *****

    Cold, orange eyes awoke from their trance as the disturbance hundreds of miles away was sensed. SpaceGodzilla’s head turned in curiosity in the direction where the source was located. There was now a void in his mind where once there had been a link to two of his many enforcers across the planet. Someone or something had managed to overcome and destroy a pair of the most powerful beings that ruled the Earth, one of which being the spawn of his alien crystals’ power.

    Any other being would be subject to rage or grief in this situation.

    SpaceGodzilla found his interest peaked.

    It had been so long since he had found something truly worthy of his attention in the nine long years of his rule. The brazen attempts of resistance and claims for greater power had long died down over the ages as he proved his strength over those that opposed him time and time again. He did not think any were left alive that would oppose him so openly… until now.

    The tormented howl of the evening’s entertainment brought the extraterrestrial monster’s attention back to current events. From his crystalline throne, he looked down into the geode colosseum – a construction for his own personal amusement – as its sole gladiator battled for his life against the opposition. Bear-like claws lashed out in rage as the bloodied Alpha repelled another of Red King’s bone-shuddering blows, driving the ogre-like skull monster away and out of its fists’ range. In doing so, however, left him open to a combined blast of electricity that crashed into his right side, throwing the Titan to the floor in a cloud of crystal powder and shards. He pushed himself back to his feet as fast as his aching muscles would allow, glaring daggers at the taunting figures of Neronga and Jirahs. This would not be an easy battle for the Alpha to come, but it had overcome impossible odds before, and SpaceGodzilla anticipated the outcome with malicious glee.

    His thoughts went back to the identity of those that had slain his champions on Faro Island, wondering if perhaps he had, at last, found the one who had escaped his justice for so many years. In the past, he would have led the hunt personally, seeking to erase the last remaining legacy of his so-called brother. But it had been so long since there had been a true challenge against his power, something to test the limits of his might and put his claim to the throne to the sword.

    When this prehistoric relic had emerged from the depths of the ocean six years ago to challenge him, it had been the most intense battle of SpaceGodzilla’s life, pushing him to his limits until finally he had subdued the beast and bound it as his pet. It was topped four years later by another creature that claimed the name “Godzilla,” an ever-evolving life form that could adapt against his powers, pushing him to use not just muscle, but mind as well to bind and subdue this proclaimed “God Incarnate,” which now functioned as nothing more than a gigantic battery to further add to SpaceGodzilla’s legendary power, alongside the so-called “One Who Is Many.”

    If he sat back and allowed the spawn to grow, build its resistance, increase its power and challenge him on its own terms, it could be the greatest, most challenging fight in his lifetime. An event that would allow SpaceGodzilla to finally go all out and put all of his accumulated knowledge and power to the limit. The greater the contest, the sweeter the victory.

    SpaceGodzilla sat back, no longer paying attention to the violent brawl before him, as a satisfied smile crossed his lips, already eagerly anticipating the battle that was to come.

    Winner: Godzilla Junior, Ebirah (Universal)

    K.W.C. Kaiju War Chronicles

    K.W.C. // July 21, 2023
  • Author: Matthew Freese | Banner: Dao Zang Moua | Narration: Alicia Ingram (AI)

     

    A few days ago, everything was normal on Earth. Yes, there was international tension, many going hungry, and all the different things that usually plagued humanity. But there were people solving these things, there were paths to solve these issues because humanity knew what it was up against and had dealt with these things before.

    Now Seattle had rivers of lava running through it, Mount Rainier spewing smoke and molten rock like it was from a myth. Colossal, alien crystals tore their way out of the ground, dotted around the city like pox sores. And trudging through the city was a colossus of stone, a boiling furnace of molten rock within his black shell.

    Seattle was not alone in its suffering. Meteor showers had occurred all over the planet, bringing the strange crystals which settled in and sprouted forth. The effects they had were varied and harsh. Tokyo was horrifically flooded, Paris was wrapped in thorny vines, San Francisco was rocked by freak earthquakes, and so many more were undergoing so much.

    Giant monsters roamed the planet, turning the whole of Earth into a battleground. Earth’s guardians, Humanity’s constructed warriors, the forces of the Vortaak, and power hungry mutants warred for dominance, adding to the calamity and death toll.

    It seemed like the end of the world.

    But for Obsidius, it was the beginning of his.

    And like any newborn lifeform, he had no idea of what he would do in this world. Roaming the volcanic wasteland of blackened rock and steel structures, the magmatic creature scanned the landscape. He lacked eyes, his face consisted of a cavernous hole which dripped lava, but he was still able to detect what his environment looked like.

    As he used his bulky hands to push a building aside, just to watch it crumble and fall into a burning river, he was unaware that he was being watched.

    In the planet’s atmosphere, its exact location hidden from humankind’s sensors, a grand ship shaped like a saucer observed the world below. It was made of dark metal and illuminated by pulsing green and purple lights, and that was how its innards looked as well.

    The Vortaak Mothership was also a city, and within the tallest building located in its very center, their queen watched. A gigantic monitor displaying numerous video feeds showed her all of the affected cities, scenes of chaos and battle playing out all over the world. But she had underlings to let her know of any major developments she missed, so she chose to focus on one city.

    With the push of a button, Seattle was the only thing displayed, taking up all the space on the monitor.

    “Another creature spawned from these crystals? How intriguing,” Vorticia spoke to herself. “Perhaps you will be more receptive to us than your ‘brother’ was.”

    Her hands moved back to the panel of buttons. With two presses of a button, one to call upon one of the Vortaak’s war beasts and the other to tell it where to go, she set one of her kind’s servants on the path to Seattle.

    Down on Earth, a signal reached the mind of a strange creature, born on another world. It shifted course towards its target, obeying the will of its rulers.

    Back in Seattle, Obsidius began to walk out of the city limits, into the nearby lake. He looked out into the horizon, lost in the vastness of it all. He turned, going back into the comfort of familiarity. The water sizzled into steam and rose off his legs as he went back to the heated environment.

    He wanted to venture forth, but was scared at the same time. What was out there waiting for him? He knew other life forms existed, some had wandered nearby but not entered since his arrival.

    Would the world reject him, attempt to destroy him?

    A strange growl broke his train of thought, drawing him to turn. Entering the city was another colossus like him, but quite different at the same time.

    Four spider-like limbs jutted from its back, hypnotically waving through the air. They framed an elongated head with a wide, toothy maw. With a purple body and a grey head, it fit the aesthetic of the Vortaak perfectly, even though they had not created it. But when they found the fierce creature, they made it their own with no hesitation.

    The Visitor, also lacking eyes, roared again to intimidate. But Obsidius let loose his bellowing call in response, smacking his chest with his thick fists to punctuate his display.

    “So, this one refuses to bend the knee. Oh well, the Vortaak were never ones for mercy anyway.” Vorticia laughed haughtily. “Beat it down and drag its unconscious body to us.”

    Charging forward, the alien beast quickly closed the distance. He dragged his claws across Obsidius’ chest, throwing out sparks as a few shallow grooves were carved into the stone. The magma beast replied with a strong punch to the Visitor’s chest, forcing the alien back a few steps as he groaned. Obsidius lunged forward, swinging an arm towards his foe. This time, the alien hopped out of the strike’s path.

    The top pair of blades on the extraterrestrial’s back lashed out, punching dents into the stone hide of his foe. Crying out, the spawn of the crystals grabbed one of the blades before the Visitor could draw it back. Obsidius lifted up, carrying his odd foe over his head. The alien cried out before being slammed head first into a building, crushing the structure of steel and concrete beneath his bulk.

    Dust obscured the Visitor’s body, but despite the blow he had just taken, he was not out. Two of his extra limbs reached out, swiping Obsidius’ legs out from under him. The magma beast roared and flailed in shock, releasing the limb in his grasp. The Visitor rolled out of the debris pile, swiftly straddling Obsidus’ chest.

    The molten monster roared, only to be punched across the face. The side of his skull hit the ground, and as he looked back to his foe, a second punch from the opposite side had similar results. The Visitor roared, putting both fists together then smashing them into Obsidius’ chest. It cracked the black stone.

    From the void of the magma beast’s face came a geyser of bright lava. The Visitor shrieked as it crashed into his chest, sending him tumbling back and off of his foe. Obsidius pushed himself up, keeping the high-pressure stream focused on the alien as he got to his feet.

    When the assault ceased, the Visitor was left with a large, black mark on his chest. Lava dripped down from his body and onto the scorched landscape below. His extra limbs pushed against the ground, holding him upright enough to bend his head down and have his cranium face Obsidius.
    The alien grinned as a purple glow formed on the top of his head, captivating the magma beast for a moment. It was time to return the favor.

    Obsidius’ stupor ended when a beam of violet, surging energy shot forth, blazing into his torso. He was forced back, feet dragging across the ground. The Visitor’s glee faded when he realized how well his foe was taking the Brainspasm. It did not push him off his feet, and while Obsidius did cry out in shock and pain, little damage seemed to actually be occurring to his shell.

    Growling, the alien kept feeding power to his attack. Obsidius began to walk forward, holding up an arm to block the psychic waves. He felt exhilarated, powerful. He was learning just what he was capable of, and he was loving it. Unknown to either, this was the result of the crystals that spawned him, which were naturally resilient to energy attacks.

    The magma beast hopped forwards, curling up to turn himself into a ball. The Brainspasm’s concussive force was not enough to hold him back, allowing him to crush the Visitor beneath his weight. The beam faded, the alien gasping.

    Four blades sank into the sphere of stone, earning a muffled bellow of anguish from within. Despite the weight crushing down on him, and the heat assailing the ends of his extra limbs, he continued pushing. He had to hit an organ or vein at some point, and he had the durability to withstand this pain.

    Part of the ball unfurled, revealing a hulking right arm. It gripped one of the spider-like legs, throttling it and attempting to pull it free. The other arm emerged, slamming a closed fist onto the Visitor’s chin. With his foe caught off guard and staggered, Obsidius pulled one of the blades from his back. He fully unrolled, groaning as both lava dropped from the wound and the blades in his back were jostled by his movements.

    The Visitor growled, ripping his other right blade free. He flipped Obsidius off of his body, smashing the magma beast against the ground beside him. The impact freed the spawn of the crystals from the remaining limbs, allowing him to quickly climb to his feet.

    Soon, both were back on their feet, staring each other down. Four miniature streams of lava poured down Obsidius’s back, and a massive bruise formed beneath the already present burn on the Visitor’s torso.

    Growling, the alien re-evaluated things. Ranged combat was not an option, for his psychic assault was feeble against this foe. In physical combat he was at a disadvantage. His flesh did not hold as well against the heavy blows of his foe as the magma beast’s rocky hide held against his own strikes. Merely trading blows was not a path to victory here.

    Obsidius did not let him think more as he vomited forth another geyser of molten rock, putting the Visitor on the defensive. Crossing his arms, he shielded his damaged body. From the extraterrestrial’s cranium came another psychic attack, which struck the lava and ceased its current. Droplets of glowing fluid soared as the geyser broke before the Brainspasm.

    Both beams ceased, prompting the stone colossus to charge. He slammed his fists into the ground, then lifted himself up and sent his legs forward. The Visitor leapt into the air, avoiding the dual kick as he sailed backwards. Obsidius kept charging as soon as he regained solid footing, viciously bellowing.

    The Visitor side stepped his foe, swinging a backhand across the magma beast’s face. Momentum sent Obsidius rolling onto the ground. Before he could recover, his extraterrestrial foe rushed towards him, grabbing the molten creature.

    Holding his foe up, the alien’s extra limbs began rapidly stabbing and slashing. One crashed into the side of the volcanic berserker’s skull, tearing a chunk out of the rim of his maw. Molten blood oozed from various cuts, and the haunting bellows of Obsidius echoed across Seattle.

    The volcanic berserker’s hands shot up, one slamming into the Visitor’s upper jaw and the other into his lower jaw. Teeth flew from both, along with blood and saliva as the jaws went in opposite directions. Reflexively, the alien hurled his foe away, then stumbled back as he growled.

    Obsidius crashed into a river of lava, splashing it across the nearby block. Glass shattered as the globs crashed through them, smoke rising as metal began to sizzle and warp. A shadow fell over him, prompting him to quickly roll. The Visitor slammed feet first into the lava where his foe had just been, and immediately regretted it.

    He attempted to run away, relieve his feet of the burning pain, but a thick hand gripped his ankle. The alien tripped, falling into the blazing river. Obsidius dragged himself forward, trying to get onto his foe. One of the Visitor’s extra limbs swept back, bashing the magma beast across the skull. Despite hearing the sound of stone being sheared away, the alien still felt his foe pulling on him.

    Pain filled Obsidius, a sensation he had not even known an hour ago. It drove him forward, compelled him to do whatever he could to cease this horrid sensation. The panicked cries of his foe filled him with determination. Not just because he knew he had a path to victory, but also because of what it meant. He was powerful, immune to things that gravely endangered most creatures.

    If the wider world wished to destroy him, it would never be able to.

    He grabbed two of the extra limbs of his foe, taking them in one hand. Their flailing brought him closer, allowing him to reach up and wrap his other hand around the Visitor’s throat.

    The alien’s skin was coated in burns. His home world was cold, so it was frigid that his body was used to. As his foe’s grip tightened, he tried to fight back, but the pain and panic made it too hard to focus. His thrashing tossed lava onto his back, preventing his anguish from numbing.
    Obsidus forced his foe’s face into the lava, spewing his own molten rock out to fully submerge the head. He ceased spraying the molten fluid, urged to by a strange sensation. It compelled him to focus on his arm and the energy within his core. Was he capable of something he did not know of?

    Even as the blades of his foe crashed against his back, he remained still and centered. Besides, the strength of the blows was quickly fading.

    The Visitor’s power waned even swifter when glowing energy began to leave his body, traveling down Obsidius’s fingers and through his arm. The alien’s flailing grew more frantic and sluggish at the same time, a desperate attempt at survival where the body could not match the spirit.
    The volcanic berserker stared, transfixed as life faded from the Visitor. The spider-like limbs went limp, as did the rest of the body. Obsidius felt no remorse for taking a life. It had tried to take his, so he defended himself. Such was the basic instinct found in all lifeforms. If something else tried a similar assault upon him, he would kill it as well.

    Standing up, he looked into the horizon. He began to walk, confident that he could handle whatever life threw at him. Obsidius barely regarded the corpse he left behind. It had served its purpose to him, a test to determine if he could survive and thrive.

    Soon, he left his birthplace behind.

    “You have made a powerful enemy, Obsidius. You believe yourself to be invincible for killing one of my pawns? I have many more, those far better equipped than the Visitor to destroy you. You will never be safe!” Vorticia practically growled from her throne, plotting out what move to make next.

    Far away, on the opposite side of the country from Seattle. New York City had not been afflicted as heavily as other major cities, aside from the colossal crater near its heart which glowed with crystals.

    Crouched low to the ground, a creature coated in purple crystals crawled around the crater’s rim. It seemed to be listening with how it tilted its head, baring teeth in a malicious grin. Suddenly, it straightened up, getting on two legs. Flexing its thin yet muscular arms, Krystalak began to run. He soon left New York City, compelled by a command from an unseen menace stalking creation.

    To find his newly battle-hardened brother.

    Winner: Obsidius

    K.W.C. Kaiju War Chronicles

    K.W.C. // July 14, 2023
  • Author: Harley Jameson | Banner: Vincent Rodger

    [Continued from Match 322]

    Rain hammered against the roof of the National Weather Station hub and the two midnight workers were bored out of their minds. The storm hadn’t been severe enough to issue a warning, but they were the ones chosen that day for the graveyard shift. One worker with messy brown hair and wearing a hoodie over his usual work clothes took a sip of the coffee his co-worker had provided. “We need to replace the coffee filter Logan,” he said, before taking another sip. “This tastes like crap.”

    “We’ve needed to replace the filter for weeks Bruce,” Logan replied lazily, shifting through various streams of weather-related data. “If you wanna go out in that mess, then feel free.” They both glanced up as a peal of thunder shook the heavens above them. “Jesus, we might need to issue a storm warning after all. It’s getting pretty bad out there.”

    Bruce hummed thoughtfully, leaning back in his chair and reading over the data on his computer. “Yeah, maybe. Lemme see if we can get a better image of the storm…” He leaned over lazily, typing his commands into the keyboard to get a couple different graphs and viewpoints before frowning. “That can’t be right,” he said, straightening up and typing more urgently.

    His eyes widened in alarm, and he stared open mouthed at his computer. “Logan,” he said after a moment. “Come here and tell me that I’ve gone insane.”

    His co-worker did as asked, standing up and walking over to the computer and stiffening at the sight. “What the hell…” He mumbled, walking over to his own computer and typing in the same requests that Bruce had typed into his. The two men gave each other an awkward stare, the rain slamming against the roof of the building. “That… that’s not possible,” Logan said at last.

    Bruce rubbed his face with his hands, before scooting over on his chair to grab the phone. “I’m calling Jess, she can chew me out for waking her up all she wants.” He began dialing his boss’s number, tapping his fingers nervously against the desk. “But I don’t know what the hell to do about thi- Jess? Yeah, it’s Bruce. Look I know it’s late but something really bad is happening.”

    Gaze flickering towards the computer screen, he took a small breath. “It’s El Niño, Jess. It’s moving.”

    —-

    Somewhere in the middle of the Pacific Ocean

    The winds shrieked viciously and heavy rains lashed against the turbulent and boiling oceans. Waves rose up and crashed violently back down onto the water, spraying foam and water everywhere before the whole area was lit up with the blinding flash of lightning in the storm clouds.

    Water exploded outwards and a howling roar tore through the air above the cacophony of nature. With a bright flash of blue light, Godzilla fired his atomic ray wildly up into the storm clouds blindly, poking holes that were quickly covered up by more of the storm. The waves reared up and splashed against Godzilla’s chest and head. Meanwhile, lightning slammed around the King of the Monsters, sending mist and sparks showering into the air when it hit the water.

    Godzilla roared again, fighting to keep his head above the angry water and firing another atomic ray into the sky, only for another wave to crash against his face and cut it short with a spluttering cough. The loud, deafening roar of thunder exploded from the heavens and another bolt of lightning came screaming down and hit Godzilla directly on the few exposed dorsal plates. He screamed as his body was pumped with electricity, seizing in agony for a brief moment.

    The whistling of the winds grew stronger. The ocean seethed in tune with Godzilla and he once again fired his atomic ray into the storm clouds, uncaring this time as seawater and lightning danced all around him. A huge wave swelled up, and the colossus fired another atomic ray at the rising water to no avail. With a deafening crash Godzilla was swept away by the furious wall of water as it collapsed down on top of him, sending him spiraling back into the depths of the ocean. Above him, the storm grew heavier. The sound of thunder became more distant as something moved in the clouds towards Japan. Beneath the waves, Godzilla began his pursuit.

    Lake Ishi

    The rain had merged into a single, droning noise on the lakeside manor, drowning out the sounds of the television news station as it reported on the storm warning that was now being formally issued. Now formally the Okouchi household, the scent of warming herbal tea was only offset by the occasional crashing of the lake’s churning waters. Former major, now commander of the aerial side of G-Force, Ryuunosuke Fujin sat in the living room with his cane splayed across his lap, watching the news half-heartedly.

    “You know, some would call it unfair that I had a head-start on stocking up for the storm,” The light, teasing tone of Asuka Okouchi broke through the monotony of the rain with a tray of piping hot tea and a few sandwiches. She smiled, a slight twinkle in her eye as she set the tea down and poured the commander a cup. “Especially by such a high ranking member of G-Force. Honey?”

    Ryuunosuke waved his hand a bit, sitting up a bit more in his chair. “Officially, I told you absolutely nothing. Besides, this part of the country is rather isolated. By the time the official announcement went out, you probably wouldn’t have had time to supply yourself properly, Miss Okouchi.”

    “Please, Commander, call me Asuka,” she insisted firmly, placing his tea on the table next to him with a sandwich. Another teasing smile twitched on her lips. “Although I suppose it helps people believe that you’re not my father, with how much you’ve tried to take care of me lately.”

    He chuckled, blowing into his tea and taking a sip. The liquid scalded his throat a little, but the taste was worth it in his opinion. “All I did was make sure that you got to keep the house that… that Miss Segusa had, and if you want to be called Asuka, then I want to be called Ryuunosuke. You’re not formally part of G-Force, you don’t have to address me by rank.”

    Asuka hummed, sipping her own tea and watching the Major carefully. “And it’s the guilt over her death that keeps driving you to try and help me.” Swallowing a bite of her sandwich, she leaned back on the loveseat. “Even though my powers are waning, it doesn’t take an ESP to see how much it’s affected you.” Her eyes glanced down at his cane. “That with the stress of your new promotion…”

    With a guilty shrug, he took another sip of his tea. “I manage. If the world thinks I’m going to roll over because I need a cane to walk, they’re dead wrong.” He sniffed, motioning with his cup. “This tea, Asuka, is very good by the way.”

    Rolling her eyes a bit at the blatant attempt to change the subject, Asuka leaned over and turned the volume on her TV up a few notches. “If it wasn’t raining so hard, I’d take you out to the greenhouse. I’ve finally finished rebuilding it and I’ve started on a flower garden.” A sad, wistful smile blossomed on her face. “I’ve started with Roses. I thought it was appropriate, considering… considering Miki’s passion before joining me at the school. You know…”

    Leaning over, she set her teacup down on the tray and poured herself another cup. “If you find the military too exhausting, you could always join the school and help me teach the younger ones. It’s a bit difficult with just myself there now.”

    Ryuunosuke snorted into his sandwich, shaking his head and wiping his mouth a bit. “I mean you no offense Asuka, but I’d rather deal with the incompetent morons of the Self Defense Force than a bunch of high schoolers.”

    She laughed out loud at that, giving an exaggerated exhale. “I guess you have a point. But if you ever change your mind, the door’s always open.” A shrill beep suddenly pierced the air, causing Asuka to jump a bit as the major pulled out his pager.

    He squinted at the message, before sighing and grabbing his cane. “It seems I’m needed back at the base. I’m sorry, it looks like I’ll have to cut this meeting short.” Planting his cane on the floor, he hauled himself up and waved away Asuka’s attempts to help him. “Be safe, will you?”

    She pulled him in for a brief hug. “Only if you do the same, Ryuunosuke.”

    Returning the gesture, he adjusted his jacket a bit and gave her a wry smile. “I’ll do my best, assuming Godzilla doesn’t beat me to it.” Chuckling darkly, he made his way to the door and pulled on his raincoat and stepped outside into the storm, sloshing through the mud a bit as he made his way over to his car and stepped inside.

    Rubbing his hands together, he dumped the raincoat on the passenger’s seat and turned the motor, cranking up the heater and pulling out of the driveway slowly. Despite the message summoning him back, he had to drive carefully over the slippery mud and unpaved roads of Lake Ishi until he made it back to the highway.

    —-

    G-Force Japanese HQ

    Grateful for once about the insulated warmth of the sleek silver-grey building of G-Force headquarters, Commander Fujin hobbled his way past the receptionist’s area and down the stairs towards the heart of the building. His leg throbbed a bit as he briskly marched down to the control center, computer screens whirring and various screens blasting information at a breakneck pace. They had shut the elevators down due to the storm, out of fear that someone would get trapped in there. A few men saluted him as he passed by. “At ease, Men.” He raised his voice so it would be heard over the din of computer banks and conversation. “Anyone want to tell me why I was called down here?”

    One of the scientists, Ryuunosuke couldn’t quite remember his name, approached him with his hand slightly raised. “It was General Kazuma, sir. I believe he said he’d personally fill you in on the situation. We already have a representative of the SDF here in the war room. If you’ll follow me, sir.”

    The commander rubbed his chin thoughtfully as he followed the scientist to the war room. General Kazuma, the man in charge of G-Force’s ground troops, ordinarily didn’t give briefings himself. He believed his rank meant that he didn’t need to get involved with the nitty gritty of everyday soldiering anymore. His grip tightened on his cane, realizing that the situation must be serious if Kazuma was willing to get his hands dirty a bit.

    The war room was already packed with a few individuals. The General, a man in a Self Defense Force uniform, a couple of his best pilots and what he presumed to be a couple of Kazuma’s men. Kazuma was studying a map of the storm, his angular features shadowed by the light. He turned his gaze towards his co-worker and gave a brief nod of acknowledgement. “Good, you’re finally here.” He turned, hands clasped behind his back. “To put it in the terms of our American counterpart: We’re up shit creek without a paddle.” He inclined his hand to one of his men, who handed a couple of files to the Commander. “We’ve got a more detailed report of the storm and we’ve found that there’s some sort of creature that’s living inside of it.”

    Ryuunosuke opened the file, studying the few blurry photographs of the rainswept skies and reading over the information detailed therein as Kazuma continued. “The violent nature of the storm means that we don’t know much about this creature, except that it is responsible for the weather phenomena known as ‘El Niño.’ The only other bits of information we found was its name: Balkzardan.”

    The commander nodded, still reading as he absorbed the information. “So this Balkzardan is responsible for the storm,” He concluded, although he knew it was an obvious one to draw. Finally, he looked up and met Kazuma’s impassive gaze. “Yet that’s not the sole reason you called me back here, is it? While this creature must undoubtedly be dealt with, I presume Godzilla is somehow involved.”

    Kazuma studied him for a few moments, before nodding sharply. “Yes, unfortunately that is the case. Just before our satellites stopped being able to track him, Godzilla was reported to be following the storm.” His voice grew quiet now, more serious. “It’s likely that Godzilla perceives Balkzardan as a threat or invading his territory, and is trying to ward him off. With the storm coming over the mainland…”

    Ryuunosuke felt his chest tighten a bit, and he finished the morbid line of logic the other man had started. “Godzilla will follow, causing untold devastation in his wake.” He sighed, looking down at the paperwork that now suddenly felt like it weighed as much as the King of the Monsters. “And evacuation attempts?”

    “Slow, the storm is impeding the process greatly,” Kazuma explained, bowing his head a bit. “I’m afraid that if a flood starts, our normal kaiju shelters will be overrun with water. We have storm shelters as well, but they’re not quite as protected against Godzilla. A lot of people are going to die it seems, no matter what we do.”

    “There must be something we can do,” Ryuunosuke objected, slapping his cane against the ground. Furiously his mind tried to come up with some kind of solution. “Is there no way we can force this Balkzardan out of the sky? Perhaps we can shoot it down before it’s too late.”

    Kazuma shook his head briefly, giving his co-worker a sad look. “You know as well as I do that won’t work. None of our aircraft are capable of flying against a kaiju that can literally create a thunderstorm. I’ve no doubt the ability of your pilots, but…”

    A voice cut through at that moment, “Sir!” and all eyes turned to Fujin’s second in command and best pilot, a young looking American, Nicholas Wright. “With all due respect sir, there is one craft we have that could theoretically brave the weather.”

    Fujin leaned over, giving Wright a hard, knowing look. “The Garuda hasn’t been properly flight tested yet, Nick. You know that as well as I do. We can’t take the risk of flying her into this sort of weather.”

    Wright shook his head, leaning forward on the table a bit. “No, Sir. The Garuda is our only chance to properly lure this Balkzardan out in the open. Godzilla won’t stop chasing it, and if it keeps traveling, it could potentially go to other countries.” He sat back down, his voice clipped with fear and trepidation of speaking his opinion so brashly to his superiors. “If we can either shoot Balkzardan down or stop its advance, then perhaps we could corral it into a fight against Godzilla, like we did a year ago with that Dogora creature.”

    No!” Ryuunosuke spat firmly, slamming his fist down on the table. “No, I won’t order more good men and women to their deaths again,” he breathed out, his chest tightening and his leg burning with a sudden agony. “There must be another way.”

    Wright gave his superior a determined, grim look. “With all respect, Commander Ryuunosuke. I don’t see another way. I’ll personally lead the flight mission to attempt to halt Balkzardan,” he took a breath, before continuing. “We’re already risking a lot of lives trying to keep track of Godzilla. With the storm’s interference, we have a naval fleet tracking him the old fashioned way.”

    His brow furrowed, and he gestured to the screen in front of him. “And as you can see, sir, we’ve already lost a few ships with this process. This will be our best bet to make sure all of our sailors can make it back to land in one piece.”

    Ryuunosuke felt the world grow black for a moment. He knew Nicholas was right, there wasn’t an option he could see that didn’t involve sending good people to their deaths again. His mind cast back to Miki Segusa, of her sacrifice to try and stop Dogora. Would he have to live with more deaths on his conscience?

    He let out a slow breath. “I’m getting too old for this,” He admitted to himself, before nodding and standing up sharply. “Very well, Wright. I’ll authorize the mission.” Wright seemed taken aback, but nodded and stood up with his superior. “But I want one thing to be clear: Under no circumstances are you to take any unnecessary risks. Your mission objective is to either down Balkzardan or force it out into the open. The second this objective is complete, you’re to return to base immediately. Am I understood?”

    “Yes sir!”

    Ryuunosuke studied his second in command for a moment, before nodding in satisfaction. “Alright, Nick. Get your best men and prep the Garuda for launch. Good luck out there.” He clapped the American on the shoulder.

    General Kazuma ordered the others out of the room, back to their stations and sat down next to Ryuunosuke. “Are you alright?” He asked, a surprising gentleness in his voice.

    The Commander gave a weary sigh, smoothing his hair back with his hand. “I don’t know if I can keep this up anymore,” he confessed quietly. “This is the second time we’ve had to do something like this. Ordering men to their deaths because we’re not capable of stopping the threat ourselves. I wonder if I’m cut out for this type of life anymore.”

    Kazuma said nothing, and instead sat with his friend in contemplative silence as the lights flickered and distant thunder shuddered far above the ground. It was only when the door hissed open that they both looked up to see a nervous looking soldier. “Sir, Godzilla’s made landfall.”

    —–

    The water sprayed off of his charcoal black hide like fine-mist thanks to the storm winds. The waves violently rolled and slapped against his legs. Godzilla marched angrily onto the shore, giving an angry cry upwards at the raging tempest. Thunder boomed in response, the winds picking up dramatically and rain lashing hard against the King of the Monsters. Dorsal plates flashing briefly, Godzilla fired an atomic breath into the storm clouds, only to be blown off of his feet when the force of a hurricane slammed into him.

    He fell back into the ocean, spluttering in anger until lightning slammed down onto his still-wet form. A howl of anguish mixed with pure rage and Godzilla fired wildly up into the darkened skies, dragging himself out of the ocean. Another harsh hurricane-force wind sent Godzilla sprawling into the mud, splattering across his hide. Digging his claws in the muck, Godzilla began crawling through the sludge and the mud, firing his atomic breath with relentless abandon into the storm clouds above. He reached out, slowly pulling himself through the muddy ground until he was finally able to stand back up on his own two feet.

    Dorsal plates flashing violently, Godzilla shot at the ground around him in frustration with his spiral ray and arched it up to the sky, sending more mud rocketing up into the air. The clouds parted slightly when the powerful blue beam shot into them. The thunder boomed ominously and Godzilla continued his trek towards the city, lightning flashing above him. There would be nothing short of death itself that would stop him.

    —–

    The hangar bay for the Garuda was already flooded as Captain Wright and his two best pilots sloshed through the bay. All of the most vital equipment had been removed to higher ground, with tools sunken to the bottom and various other equipment floating on the waist high water. The Garuda herself stood resplendently amidst the water and the debris, sleek dull silver and ready for launch. They sloshed through the water, hauling themselves up one at a time into the Garuda. “Remind me why we didn’t install air conditioning on this?” His co-pilot, Apollo, grumbled as he strapped himself in.

    The third, a navigator and weapons expert, strapped herself in and grinned at her co-workers. “And waste vital tax-payer dollars? For shame Lieutenant Justice.”

    Captain Wright coughed, flicking a few switches and sitting back as the engines to the Garuda began warming up. “Athena, Apollo, I need you two to focus. We’re going to be flying in some real rough weather out there. We’re strong, but we’re not invincible. We don’t even know what this “Balkzardan” looks like, so we need to be prepared for anything.”

    Athena frowned at him, nodding seriously. “Even Godzilla, boss?”

    Sucking a breath, Captain Wright leaned over a monitor. “We’ll pray we don’t have too. Weapons check?”

    “All systems are green.”

    Athena pulled a headset on, tuning the radio to the right frequency and leaning over in the microphone. “Open the doors and clear the hanger, we’re ready to launch.”

    Gripping the throttle, Captain Wright pursed his lips. “Be ready for a lot of water.”

    The shuttle doors opened and a giant wave of water came pounding into the base. The Garuda’s rockets roared into life and blasted away the water around the edges creating a superheated bubble around the flames as the entire craft was instantly submerged.

    The ship shuddered ominously before lurching forward. Captain Wright grit his teeth and slammed on the throttle, pushing the Garuda’s engines to the maximum as the mighty ship began slowly moving through the water. It boiled around them thanks to the heat of the engines, until finally the nose broke through the surface and with a loud sonic boom the Garuda launched off into the air at full speed.

    Rain and winds lashed at the Garuda as it flew through the air at Mach 3. Lightning rained down around them and from high above they saw the flooded streets of Tokyo, the waters slamming into skyscrapers and completely obscuring smaller buildings. A deep blue light hummed from the storm clouds and the Garuda angled upwards. If they wanted to be at Balkzardan, they needed to go into the heart of the storm.

    The Garuda shot off like a rocket, piercing into the storm clouds. The crew remained silent as they fought through the intensity of the winds and the rains. The radio hissed with static before a single word caught their attention. “Godzilla-” before it died by the clap of thunder.

    The warning sensors screamed and the Garuda swerved suddenly, a blue beam of energy piercing through the clouds underneath them. Godzilla had clearly made landfall and was still trying to get at Balkzardan from the ground. The distant rumble of thunder and a low echoing cry alerted the crew towards the mysterious creature’s presence.

    The twin lasers blasted into the clouds and flew in deeper. The radar was going haywire, and with visibility low they could only rely on the sounds of the monsters to indicate Balkzardan’s location. Another harrowing cry before suddenly the crew was blinded by a flash of lightning crashing into the ship. Sparks flew from the console and Captain Wright wrestled with the controls, diving away and firing another blast of the laser cannons.

    “Boss, this is getting ridiculous,” Athena chipped in. Her hands were flying over the various instruments to reroute power from damaged systems into fresh ones. “We can’t even hit this thing- even Godzilla can’t hit it.”

    “We have to try,” Wright insisted, the whole ship shuddering as something flew past it at speeds faster than the eye can see. “One good hit and we’ll finally be at the advantage. Apollo, I need your eyes more than ever. Athena, try to pinpoint Balkzardan’s sounds through the storm.”

    Apollo leaned over the console, staring intently into the storm as Athena cranked up the external volume outside and closed her eyes. Another roar sounded in the distance, and some of the clouds shifted. Apollo sat back down, frantically typing in various flight paths and data into the terminal. Athena began doing the same, the targeting systems flailing around wildly before slowing down. They crawled across the screen, before locking on. “There!” They both screamed.

    The Plasma Needles were fired into a mass of boiling black clouds and they briefly lit up, the explosions muffled by the noise of the storm. A loud cry of pain echoed out around them as another of Godzilla’s atomic rays crashed into the stormcloud and elicited a louder cry of agony.

    The storm hummed around the Garuda and before the ship could properly react it was bombarded from all sides by lightning. Engines failing and the crew fried, the Garuda dove down and crashed into the flooded streets of Tokyo.

    In the flood stood an angry and tense Godzilla. He watched the clouds with narrowed eyes, wanting to see if the intruder to his territory had been defeated. He called out another challenge into the sky, daring the storm to bring its occupant down to fight him. He jerked in surprise when a loud rumble of thunder and the equally loud cry of the creature finally answered his call.

    The clouds parted and Balkzardan finally began descending from the skies. Its pitch-white hide shone with unnatural light as its feet touched the floodwaters so delicately that they didn’t even leave ripples in its wake. Two glowing yellow horns surged with electricity and the graceful creature’s eyes were full of malice and contempt.

    The two monsters stared at one another for a long time. Neither willing to make the first move until Balkzardan crouched down slightly. Godzilla took a step forward and suddenly Balkzardan was on top of him, shoulder checking him and sending a great outpouring of electricity coursing into Godzilla’s body thanks to the Spark Dash. The water sprayed over them and Godzilla felt explosions rip into his chest thanks to the sheer power and tried to swipe with his claws.

    To his surprise, Balkzardan was already gone. He looked around wildly, seeing trails of water before a brief crack of thunder sounded and he screamed in pain when a yellow beam of electricity hit his dorsal plates. The Tornado Bolt fuelled Godzilla’s body again with deadly lightning and Godzilla spasmed, thrashing in the water.

    Balkzardan galloped with ease across the surface of the flood, riding the turbulent waves and crashing rains with grace that belied its size. He skidded around, firing another Tornado Bolt at Godzilla who dove into the water to avoid the attack before rearing back up and firing an atomic ray at Balkzardan.

    With a giant sheen of electricity, a yellow and blue forcefield overcame Balkzardan. The water around him began to turn into steam as it was electrocuted and the atomic ray was harmlessly absorbed into the S Thunder. Moving forward, Balkzardan leaped into the air and pounced down onto Godzilla, the S Thunder detonating around them both and engulfing Godzilla in a massive explosion.

    Pushing his front paws onto Godzilla’s shoulders, Balkzardan shoved the King of the Monsters down into the water. Godzilla thrashed wildly as Balkzardan held him in place. The sky god’s horns glowed for a moment before he shot another Tornado Bolt down at Godzilla through the water, coating him in electricity.

    Godzilla seized, trying to gasp for air and choking when water poured into his throat. His eyes rolled up inside his head and he tried to fire his atomic ray, his spines flashing brighter and faster but nothing came out as he drowned. Something inside his chest squeezed tight, Godzilla felt himself propelled away from Balkzardan as the water exploded violently from atomic fury. An accidental nuclear pulse sent Balkzardan careening away and crashing into the waves with Godzilla.

    His vision dimmed and Godzilla rose to the surface. He stood up, gasping for breath against the stormy and salty air. A coughing fit overcame him, and he doubled over before expelling water out of his mouth and shuddering violently. Shaking his head to clear it, he looked around for Balkzardan.

    The waters raged around him, and for a brief moment he thought he could sense something else in the water. His eyes narrowed towards the waters, wondering what the strange sensation was before a clap of thunder arrested his attention again. He looked up to see Balkzardan’s back protrusions sticking out of the water. Lightning slammed against them and with a great show of power the sky god rose into the air and began galloping across the skies before settling on one of the rooftops.

    He stared down at Godzilla, who immediately began struggling to get closer to his opponent. Godzilla fired a weaker atomic ray at the building but Balkzardan shot off into the skies as it exploded behind him. Swinging around, Balkzardan touched down on the water and sprinted over, slapping Godzilla with his tail as he did so.

    The speed at which he did so, combined with his electrified attack, caused a minor explosion across Godzilla’s face, staggering the King of the Monsters. Balkzardan spun around and sprinted towards Godzilla again, his body glowing white. He crashed into Godzilla, sending the Spark Dash’s energy into his foe’s battered and beaten body once more.

    Pain he had never experienced coursed through Godzilla. He was acutely aware of the explosions on his body but nothing compared to the pain he was feeling within his chest. His heart beat faster and faster. Supercharged with all of the electricity. Then in an instant, it stopped. Godzilla felt his heart stop. He froze, staring wide eyed into the sky.

    For a split second, Godzilla had died. Death had edged into his surroundings before his regeneration forced his heart to begin beating again. He gasped out as his senses returned to him and panic overrode his senses. He gave an animalistic shriek of fear and fired his atomic ray like a wild animal, sweeping it around and blasting everything he could see and even more he couldn’t.

    Godzilla hadn’t noticed that one of his atomic rays had hit Balkzardan until he heard the cry of pain it brought out. His gaze focused, then tunnel-visioned on the trembling monster. The god that had brought him to death’s door. With a renewed sense of life fueled by his fear and panic, Godzilla sprinted after Balkzardan like a demon from hell, screaming like a wild banshee and firing his atomic breath at the god.

    The blue beam of nuclear fury hit Balkardan square in the chest as he tried to rise into the sky, throwing him across the city. Godzilla was on top of him in an instant and all semblance of self control was gone as Godzilla clawed frantically at Balkzardan. Blood and flesh were sent flying as Godzilla forewent even his atomic powers in his desperate and insane attempt to murder Balkzardan.

    It was only the erecting of another electric shield that forced Godzilla away from his opponent. Balkzardan rose into the sky suddenly, firing volley after volley of Tornado Bolts that crashed against Godzilla’s chest and sent the frothing kaiju into seizures with each hit.

    Balkzardan kept rising into the air and swerved out of the way as an atomic breath nearly collided with the S Thunder again. Before long, he had disappeared back into the clouds and they were receding slowly. Sunlight shone down on the panting Godzilla and his mind took a minute to register what had happened. He looked around, suddenly feeling tired and confused, and it was only when he saw his reflection in the sparkling waters that it truly sunk in.

    Godzilla opened his mouth to unleash a victory cry and instead fell back into the water with a thunderous splash. He forced himself back up into a sitting position and slumped against one of the ruined buildings, trying to get his breath back. Everything in him ached, from his muscles to his bones to his organs. Godzilla sat there, chest heaving and staring blankly at the sky for a few moments.

    He looked around again, only now noticing the bodies of the little humans floating in the water around him. A watery graveyard of those who weren’t able to survive the flood. He watched the bodies float around aimlessly, knowing how close he had become to being one of the many corpses in the water. Something stirred within him but he was too exhausted to process the new emotions yet one question did pervade in his mind: Was this worth it?

    Godzilla stood up, reflecting on his past encounters. Biollante, Dogora, and now this god of thunder. He had nearly died three times in such a short amount of time. He felt his chest and mentally corrected himself. He had died this time, it was only through some miracle that he survived this encounter.

    No, he realized. He had died twice now. Twice he had nearly been killed and it was only through powers he wasn’t aware of and couldn’t understand that he was still breathing. Was all of this pain and agony worth the need to assert his dominance? Who was he trying to prove this too, the humans? Himself? Was this worth dying twice over?

    He began walking away in quiet contemplation, being careful to avoid any of the buildings as he made his way towards the sea. He needed to sleep, to heal from his injuries. Maybe then would he find the answers he sought.

    Godzilla dipped beneath the waves of the calm ocean and disappeared without another sound.

    —-

    The water had taken weeks to drain from the city. In that time, Ryuunosuke had focused his efforts on the relief process and helping wherever his aging body could. They had dredged the Garuda from the city and he knew there were three more funerals he would have to attend this year. This wasn’t worth the pain, not to his old heart. With renewed purpose, he began walking towards the nearest phone booth and wondered how difficult it would be to teach psychic kids.

    —-

    The clean-up crew stared in astonishment at the sight before them. A sleek, perfectly preserved skeleton. Dorsal plates glistened with water, and there was no mistaking who this belonged to. A crowd had gathered around the site and the police were already keeping them at bay. Scientists would likely be swarming the new discovery like a colony of ants. The foreman leaned on his mop, looking unimpressed. “What’s the big deal about a bunch of old bones anyways?” he asked no one in particular, and fell back into silence as they all watched them paw over the first Godzilla’s skeleton.

    Water poured from the warped roof of her former home. She had kept coming back every day while the construction crews brought the dead out of their demolished homes, hoping that they would finally find her parents. A dark cloud seemed to hang around the teenager and she walked sullenly through her old house, retracing her steps to her room. Godzilla had done this, had ripped her family away from her and demolished the only home she knew. One day she would make him pay for what he did, but she had no idea how. It was only the sight of something strange that snapped her out of her dark thoughts.

    Staring, she walked cautiously over towards what was unmistakably an egg sitting on her ruined bed. She knelt down, reaching out and brushing a gentle hand over it. Something connected with her mind and she jerked back in alarm. The presence seemed to shy away but she quickly went back up and placed her hand on the egg. “It’s okay, I’m not mad,” she whispered quietly. “You just startled me. I won’t hurt you.”

    Ayana sat there, communicating with the creature in the egg and gave it a new name.

    “I’ll take care of you Iris, I promise.”

    Draw: Godzilla (Heisei), Balkzardan

    K.W.C. // July 7, 2023
  • Hello to all! Hope for the best that all is going well. However, to cut to the point, we have announcements to present for the coming future of the K.W.C.

    First off, there isn’t a TypeForm Survey this time around, just general announcements. Those will be saved for the end of the year for the Awards and Feedback Surveys. But nevertheless, here are some of the new additions forthcoming to the K.W.C.!

    New Combatants:

    • Mefilas (Reiwa) [Shin Ultraman (2022)]
    • Zarab (Reiwa) [Shin Ultraman (2022)]
    • Zetton (Reiwa) [Shin Ultra Fight (2022) + Shin Ultraman (2022)]

    You can find more in our “Announced, but no Matches” thread for publicly announced Combatants.

    New Updates:

    Mothra (Heisei) and King Ghidorah (Heisei) will be formally brought back as available Combatants for writing. However, on top of that, several characters will be converted to “Universal”, all who are listed below:

    • Anguirus [Showa + GFW]
    • King Ghidorah [Heisei + Showa]
    • Hedorah [Showa + GFW]

    Beyond that, look forward to the next K.W.C. Match coming… Tomorrow! In the meantime, we’ll see you by the year’s end!

    K.W.C. // July 6, 2023
  • Author: Declan Coughlin | Banner: Landon Soto

    A giant octopus swam through the ocean in a good mood, as he had just downed a fishing vessel and it had been so long since he had eaten something as tasty as a human. He wasn’t even worried about the many other kaiju that called the sea their home. All he was worried about was his next meal.

    Seeing the shoreline, the octopus began to crawl up the sandy beach. However, just before his entire body could surface, a blue ray of death reminded him that there’s always a bigger fish in the sea.

    As the second the beam slammed into the cephalopod, he felt its destructive heat wash over him, and his last sight on earth was a king long forgotten to time.

    With the giant octopus in his jaws, Godzilla rose from the ocean, letting out a horrifying bellow, an announcement of his arrival to all kaiju nearby. After years of confinement on Monster Island, the aptly named “King of Monsters” had finally broken through the fields surrounding the islands and the scientists at Monster Island tracking his location were stunned when they saw that Godzilla had gone to Mondo Island.

    The nuclear menace seemed to have taken up residence in the nearby waters and islands, and from the signal, it looked like he was there to stay.

    The leviathan who usually stayed in the waters that surrounded the island, would occasionally come to the island to find some quiet, or to vent his frustrations. But besides some resistance from an overgrown allosaurus, the monster had faced little challenge in his new home.

    The monster king walked up the shoreline, ripping apart chunks out of the boiled octopus. As he dropped the creature to the ground, Godzilla grunted in disappointment. He didn’t want to leave Monster Island, but he also didn’t want to be confined by the humans.

    He had remembered what they did to his son.

    As he remembered these horrors, the monster king roared with fury and Godzilla’s dorsal plates glowed blue, and his mouth catapulted a blue atomic ray. The lancing beam struck a line of trees, causing a huge explosion and starting the surrounding environment ablaze. Seeing nothing but the island to take his rage out on, he decided to raze it to the ground. Nothing would be left and he let out a guttural roar that echoed through the island.

    Miles away, in an unmarked village, the elder chief watched on in sadness. His very home was being attacked, and there was nothing he could do.

    Or so he thought.

    Several native women, each dressed in garbs, began to dance in a circle. The chief saw this and, knowing what it was, soon summoned several more villagers to join the dance. In just a few minutes, every man, woman, and child were dancing and chanting, hoping their protector would save them like he had so many times before.

    The music caused Godzilla to temporarily halt his rampage. As the giant looked over behind him he saw the villagers dancing and singing and was confused. Were they dancing for him? Did they want their own destruction so badly? If so then he would give it to them and began trekking over to the village, trees splintering in his strut.

    The chief saw that Godzilla was getting closer and told everyone to keep going. Their god would come, he had to! Just as the chief gave the order to evacuate, he realized it was too late: Godzilla was already here!

    Godzilla stopped walking at the outskirts of the village, the natives too horrified to continue dancing and instead scattered in every direction. Some ran to find their families and try to escape, others stood paralyzed as statues, accepting their terrifying fate. Godzilla on the other hand was amused, it seems that these people knew he was to be respected and feared.

    But perhaps it wouldn’t hurt to make sure.

    With glowing spines, the nuclear menace spat his atomic breath at several huts further away. The beam hit the structures, vaporizing them and the people inside in an instant.

    The villagers cried in grieving horror as all that was left of their huts were reduced to fine ash. After the atomic display, Godzilla began walking once more and stepped into the village. His massive steps crushing people and huts under his massive feet as he moved forward. Looking up, the village chief saw his massive claw, closed his eyes and began to accept his fate. If this was how he was to die, then so be it.

    Just before Godzilla’s foot could come down upon the elder, a furious howl traveled through the land. The elder, the remaining villagers, and even Godzilla stopped and turned, looking for the source of the roar. From the mountains, a creature with brown fur adorning most of its body except its face, jumped to the ground. It had noticeable biceps on its chest, with long arms supporting the sides and a face sporting a look that could kill, aimed directly at Godzilla with utmost hatred. To most, the creature simply looked like a giant gorilla, but the villagers knew him for who he really was…

    The God of Mondo Island, King Kong, had arrived.

    He let out a loud grunt, indicating to his surviving subjects to clear the area. As the villagers ran, King Kong looked at this monster before him, this being had shown up to his home, destroyed it, and murdered his people. He would make the leviathan pay for his actions.

    Likewise, Godzilla stared back with the same intense hatred. How dare this pathetic creature not only rob him of his fun but also challenge him, did he not know his place? He would make this overgrown ape regret his decision.

    The two circled each other, waiting to see who would throw the first attack. Suddenly King Kong charged forward. Godzilla was shocked and found himself tackled to the ground. As the ground shook upon impact, Godzilla cried out as King Kong ruthlessly punched the creature in the chest, each hit echoing like gunshots in the wind. As Kong was ready to throw another punch to the face, Godzilla’s expression changed from shock to fury.

    Seeing a blue light beginning to emit from Godzilla’s mouth, Kong hurriedly jumped off his chest just as the atomic fire shot into the sky. The large primate looked at his chest. Even though the attack had just missed him, the heat of it had singed some of his fur. As the charcoal tyrant returned to his feet, Kong charged once again. He slammed into Godzilla again, but this time the beast was ready for the impact. As Kong tried to wrestle the leviathan to the ground, Godzilla began to claw at the ape’s chest.

    The ape king cried out in pain and backed away, and looking at his chest, saw claw marks running down his stomach. Luckily the claws didn’t dig deep enough to draw too much blood. Before Kong could launch a counterattack, Godzilla was already charging in. The giant ape threw a punch with his left hand, only for Godzilla to grab it with his own clawed hand. The nuclear menace tried to scratch him with his right hand, but this time Kong countered it with his own grab. The two kings stood, locked in a contest of strength, each trying to push back the other.

    Eventually, fatigue favored Godzilla who started to win the contest.

    King Kong looked in fear as he realized he was being pushed back by the leviathan. With one final shove, Godzilla knocked the ape to the ground. As King Kong struggled to stand, Godzilla turned his back to him and the irradiated monster began to assault his foe with his tail, each hit causing the ape to roar in pain with the seemingly never ending blows.

    Just as Godzilla’s tail went in for another hit, Kong grabbed it, holding it in place. Godzilla struggled as he tried to free his appendage from King Kong’s mighty grip, but the ape didn’t show any signs of letting go. Godzilla swung his tail from side to side, dragging Kong on the ground, but he refused to let go, and he began twisting the tail.

    A loud snap rang out.

    Godzilla cried out in agony, the pain giving Kong the chance to rise to his feet. He had successfully broken the monster’s tail.

    As he turned towards the towering simian, Godzilla’s eyes were red with rage. The limb would heal, but it still infuriated him that this furry beast dared challenge his power. This creature was not only comparable to him in strength, but he had the speed and stamina to back it up. If he couldn’t beat the ape up close, then he would try an alternate approach.

    The spines on his back began to glow, each one charged with a bright light. Atomic fire gathered in Godzilla’s maw. Kong saw this and attempted to charge him once more.

    It was too late.

    Just before King Kong could reach him, Godzilla fired his atomic ray, striking the ape with immense power. Fire and sparks flew as the beam struck King Kong’s chest. The true King of Mondo island roared in pain as the azure lance disintegrated fur and burnt flesh. Before Kong could recover, a second atomic breath hit him in his right leg, bringing him to the ground. He rolled low, dodging a third beam and rose to his feet, a tree in hand.

    Godzilla shot one more blast but Kong charged forward. Even when the beam hit the 8th wonder, he refused to fall and continued his sprint through the beam. Just as the nuclear menace cut off his breath weapon, Kong charged through and shoved the tree straight into the kaiju’s open maw, the plank slowly making its way down deep in his opponent’s throat. Godzilla panicked, and began to flail and stagger, desperately trying to remove the object from his jaw. As the charcoal giant struggled, King Kong rushed forward, grabbing Godzilla by the neck, trying to either choke him out, or just plain break it. He didn’t care, he just wanted the monster dead.

    Reptilian vision started to darken and his breathing slowed. Kong grinned, his victory was drawing ever so close, just one final push. His grin disappeared when he noticed Godzilla’s dorsal plates beginning to glow. The ape was confused. Why would his opponent try to fire his beam with the tree still in his mouth? Did he really wish to hurt himself just to be free of his grasp? But Kong noticed something different, the blue glow was spreading out through his entire body. Noticing his foe’s determined eyes, he felt a slight sliver of fear.

    With his whole body a bright blue, Godzilla released the power.

    In a glorious flash of light, the nuclear pulse erupted from Godzilla’s body, launching both him and Kong back. The blast threw the mighty ape backwards, with the force being enough to lift the beastly gorilla off his feet and into the air. Kong flew at least a mile before slamming into the ground. Godzilla fell back as well, but although it was his attack, he still felt the burning. A good amount of Kong’s hair and flesh had been disintegrated by the attack, some areas even having exposed bones. Godzilla, likewise, was in a similar predicament.

    Burning skin was hanging off his chest, tail, and face, but, unlike King Kong, the charcoal terror had his regeneration to heal the injuries. The attack did have an additional upside, as the tree trapped in his maw had been disintegrated. As Godzilla rose to his feet, King Kong was struggling to breathe. His lungs felt as though they were on fire. As he lay on the ground, his vision began to blur as unconsciousness took hold. It looked like the god of Mondo Island was finally dead. Godzilla howled into the sky to announce his victory.

    Dark clouds planned to change that.

    Godzilla was confused. Just a few seconds ago, the sky had been a clear blue, but now the dark clouds blotted out the sun, plunging Mondo Island into darkness. Before Godzilla could make sense of it, he heard the humans chanting once again, only this time it was different. It was an aggressive, demanding tune, almost like a war cry.

    Below the brawling titans, the village elder and his people chanted as loud as they could. After so many years of their God saving them, it was time to return the favor.

    As the clouds started to roll in, lightning made itself known, striking the ground around both King Kong and Godzilla. After a few seconds though, the bolts started to strike the fallen beast, as if they were drawn to him like a conductor. One, then two, then three. The bolts continued to strike the prone ape, each one lighting his face a bright blue. As one last bolt struck, Kong’s eyes shot open. The towering god jumped to his feet, seemingly unaffected by the gruesome injuries he had received from his enemy. As King Kong locked eyes with Godzilla, he let out a terrifying howl which made even Godzilla hesitate to attack.

    Godzilla growled, he could tell his opponent had just powered up from the storm, but he wasn’t afraid. He’s faced some of the most powerful kaiju in the world, and even the universe. He wasn’t about to be toppled by some giant monkey. But that didn’t mean he wasn’t worried.

    A bolt of lightning struck between them, acting like a bell for their final battle.

    The two kings, as different as could be, let out their respective calls and charged. Godzilla threw his hand forward, only for Kong to bash it away and slam his fist straight into his lower jaw, dislocating it. Godzilla howled in pain, not just from his foe’s immense strength, but also taking damage from the electricity that now flowed through his foe’s veins. He went for another blow, only to recoil as his hand was jolted as soon as he touched his opponent’s fur. Before he could find a work-around, Kong jumped forward and landed a clean blow on Godzilla’s ribs, actually breaking a few in the process.

    As the atomic brute backed away, Kong threw another series of punches, each one shocking and causing immense agony to the monster king as each blow earned Godzilla cracked bones and torn flesh. Kong knocked Godzilla to the ground, intending to finish the fight. He tried to find a weapon, but couldn’t, until he noticed one of the ribs protruding from the reptile’s body. Godzilla let out an agonizing cry as Kong ripped the rib out of his body, before aiming it at his heart.

    The island shook as the bone pierced Godzilla’s heart.

    At first, Godzilla didn’t feel anything. Death was not a new concept to him. He had died several times before, but he had always come back, albeit through unconventional means. But for once, he was truly fearing for his life. He didn’t know if he would return to the living. As he started to black out, he thought to himself, was this it? All of his hardships and struggles just to lead to his death?

    No, this was not it! He was the King of the Monsters. He’s been through more than any other creature on the planet. He’s even escaped the depths of Hell itself. He wasn’t going to allow some damn dirty ape to take his life away from him, and if he did, then he would make sure the ape was dragged to Hell with him.

    Just as Kong began to walk away from him, Godzilla slowly rose to his feet and bellowed a bloodcurdling roar, his heart healing the damage it had once sustained. The brown-furred beast spun around in shock. How? How could this creature survive something like that? There was no plausible explanation to it. As the ruler of monsters began to step forward, Kong began stepping back. Like Godzilla had moments before, Kong was fearing for his survival. The charcoal behemoth was quick to notice this and decided to make his move. His spines began to glow with atomic energy, but this time it was different. Instead of being a vibrant blue, his spines were glowing a chaotic red. As sharp orange eyes locked eyes with Kong, he saw the ape’s face twisted in fear. He wanted mercy. Godzilla wouldn’t grant him that luxury.

    Digging his feet into the ground, Godzilla heralded a crimson, more powerful atomic ray at Kong. The blast struck Kong’s arm, erupting in a violent showing of sparks and fire and causing him untold amounts of agony. The arm had been completely destroyed, all of the flesh up to the elbow being completely atomized. Before Godzilla could capitalize on the injury he had inflicted, Kong struck Godzilla with his remaining arm in one of his eyes, the electricity channeled directly into the pupil, destroying it with a loud POP.

    While Godzilla tried to recover, Kong climbed onto his back and began trying to tear off the monster’s dorsal plates, specifically the big one centered in the middle of his back. As the towering ape began to tear at the dorsal plate, Godzilla swung back and forth furiously, desperately trying to rid himself of colossus. Unfortunately, it was too late, as cracks began to sound before Kong, in an immense show of strength, ripped the dorsal fin straight out of the tyrant’s back, the area where it used to be bubbling with atomic energy. The revered King of the Monsters finally threw Kong off of him, the ape falling forward with his prize. Godzilla and Kong both paused to get their bearings as each stared into the other with animosity. Each of them was in immense pain, fatigue finally beginning to set in and both kaiju barely able to stand. Despite this, they still wished to send the other to hell.

    As Kong held the severed dorsal plate in his remaining arm, he realized that while Godzilla’s heart had regenerated, the hole from the wound had not. Noticing this, Kong let out one last call. Godzilla, likewise, responded with his infamous deep bellow. They both knew one of them was going to die tonight.

    Kong charged the atomic dinosaur as fast as he could, ignoring the faint red glow he saw coming from his opponent. Despite the pain of channeling his atomic energy with the loss of his biggest dorsal plate, he was still successful in firing a series of beams. Kong dodged and weaved around each one before he was finally in range. With all of his remaining strength, he plunged the dorsal plate directly into Godzilla’s heart. The animalistic brute then began to expand the space around the dorsal plate, tearing flesh and bone as Godzilla cried in anguish. Once Kong finally had a good grip, he began to crush Godzilla’s heart.

    Time once again began slowing down for Godzilla. He struggled to stand as King Kong continued to squeeze his heart. As his vision started to go black for the final time, Godzilla’s spines once again began to glow.

    King Kong continued to squeeze his opponent’s heart, slowly crushing it and killing the tormented beast. He looked directly into Godzilla’s eyes, not seeing sadness or regret, but acceptance. Godzilla opened his mouth, and Kong saw crimson energy begin to build in his jaws. Kong locked eyes one more time and his eyes only said one thing.

    See you in hell.

    A final crimson atomic blast struck King Kong directly in his face, vaporizing flesh and bone at an astounding rate. Kong’s grip began to loosen on the atomic creations beating heart. As the beam subsided, all that was left was a headless, burnt corpse of a god.

    As the body of the once king of Mondo Island fell to the ground, Godzilla roared one last time, proving once again that a king could never beat a god.

    Unfortunately, the damage had been done. Godzilla’s heart had been crushed almost completely, to the point that regeneration would not be able to heal it. The atomic beast groaned in misery as his body fell right next to the beheaded King Kong’s. Godzilla managed to roll over on his back, watching as the sun began to shine once more. Despite his imminent death, Godzilla felt content, even with almost no chance of coming back. As his eyes began to close, his only regret was that his son would not be able to continue his legacy. The King of the Monsters then took his last breath…

    The ancient relic Gorosaurus had come out from the forest, waiting for the battle to come to an end. The allosaur walked over to the corpses of the two kings. He let out a roar of sadness for King Kong. While the two had not been friends, they both had a rivalry with each other. Along with that, despite King Kong winning the majority of their brawls, he had never finished Gorosaurus off, and he respected that. With one last roar, Gorosaurus began to head back into the thicket.

    However, a third party made itself known.

    A bizarre alien craft descended from the clouds, its two boosters on each side emitting smoke as it descended to the ground. As it brought itself to the ground, it noticed the giant dinosaur.

    Gorosaurus noticed it too, and it wasn’t long before he was running as fast as he could, trampling trees and mountains under his bulk. He didn’t know why this thing had made him so fearful, but he wasn’t going to stick around to find out.

    As the allosaur fled, the spacecraft suddenly revealed a port, to which the opening expanded with a blue balloon. Gorosaurus turned to look before letting out a grunt of relief. Unfortunately, it seemed the craft was not done yet.

    Suddenly, an explosive burst ruptured from the spherical balloon, covering the area with burning flames. In the midst of the fire, a new monster rose to its feet, directly in front of the bodies of Godzilla and King Kong. The being was made of geometric shapes, loosely connected together in a humanoid structure. Ebony pieces made up its armor, hands, and feet, with gray stalks acting as its arms and legs. A pulsating orange orbs decorated its chest and face, with its head topped with two antennae-shaped horns.

    It emitted a strange beeping sound as it looked at the two corpses. It then began to let out a laugh. Its two biggest obstacles had been eliminated. The ‘crevice’ in its face began to pulsate as it let out several powerful fireballs, dousing the corpses in flames that began to burn away. It began to turn away before speaking its name, not just to the island, but to the entire world.

    “Zetton…”

    Draw: Godzilla (Heisei), King Kong (Showa)

    K.W.C. Kaiju War Chronicles

    K.W.C. // June 28, 2023
  • Creator: Andrew Sudomerski, Harley Jameson, Alex Williams & Dao Zang Moua | Banner: Andrew Sudomerski

    Live from World Wide News! In under a year after Godzilla scourged Japan, Osaka becomes sieged by titanic forces like no other. From the audio files of Steve Martin, reporter and witness to the travesty, listen as the devastation erupts into mass chaos for Osaka–and perhaps to the rest of Japan. (more…)

    K.W.C. // June 26, 2023
  • Author: Andrew Sudomerski & Dao Zang Moua | Banner: Connor Clennell & Dao Zang Moua

    Doomsday fell upon the surface.

    Plunged into a decaying war, after proving victorious in the bout of Hong Kong, the extermination of the Titans became an inevitability. One by one, the order of ancient giants was torn asunder by technological malevolence, no matter how many casualties lay in its path. First was Mothra, grinded between its swiveling claws; followed by Rodan, down a wing and mercilessly pulverized into the ground; then the likes of Scylla, Methuselah, Amahuluk, and Na Kika were brutally devastated by the Titan slayer. And while Camazotz and the MUTO proved troublesome, they too were utterly laid to waste by its mechanical fury.

    Which was what led it here, to the final sector for Titan-kind.

    Having traveled to the openings in Hong Kong, Antarctica, the Mariana Trench, and the North Pole on its murderous voyage, the Apex Destroyer sought out the origin for these prehistoric giants so it could slaughter them all. It was the prime directive, its sole purpose, the only thing driving its digital consciousness after its activation so long ago.

    Unfortunately for it, the Titans and Humans protecting these passages had collapsed their caverns, in a last ditch effort to protect the underworld from this artificial destroyer. One by one, it sought out potential openings that magnetic satellite scans could find him, but none so far had been viable to enter. Only the last entrance–stationed at Outpost 33–remained. One that was hailed by another name.

    Skull Island.

    How the world ended so quickly.

    Here they were, the last threshold to protect their old home from utmost destruction. Many lives lost to the cause, but would their efforts be enough? Amidst the torrential downpour maintained by the looming storm above, Behemoth had his doubts. The tusked mammal kept a steady eye out at the horizon, awaiting the dreaded enemy to intercept the last entranceway to the Hollow Earth.

    He looked over and saw his ally in slumber. For beasts of such stature, a mere week was nothing more than a light nap. But he knew what his companion had been through; had it not been for the sacrifice of Na Kika, Tiamat would’ve been unable to seal the tunnel in the Mariana Trench. She was a fighter at heart, but protecting those that they could was more important than to fight a battle she might not have had the chance to win.

    But he knew, even in her sleep, she dreamt of revenge.

    Human ambition created the predicament they were in now. With the Alphas slaughtered and their Queen torn to shreds, order was disrupted, leading to the frenzied fall of the surface world. It didn’t stop the out of control Titans from going haywire, even as they were killed indiscriminately. For those that held it together, it was their efforts that prevented the fall of the Hollow Earth as well. Or at least postponed it.

    Behemoth snorted, turning his gaze back out to the stormy seas. Lightning danced across the clouds, bringing brief, but spectacular light to this deserted land. While the island itself had long since been flooded by the ruthless, perpetual storm, with most of the inhabitants drowned, the fear of the Skullcrawlers remained. Whether they swam off the island or mysteriously appeared in other parts of the world, their numbers began to grow exponentially.

    But that wasn’t his only concern…

    Suddenly, a disturbance peering over the horizon caught his eye. A crimson hue lit up the dark rustling waters. It was now or never. The terrestrial Titan boomed a reverberating roar, signaling to his ally that the enemy drew near.

    Without a second’s notice, the eyelid and brilles pulled back, revealing powerful eyes determined to bring their foe down.

    Wriggling from slumber, the ultramarine serpent slithered to the gloomy coastline. Before she slipped into the vacant ocean, she turned to Behemoth and let out a fervent hiss. A stern reminder of what they’d lose if the mechanical one got into the Hollow Earth. Behemoth only nodded. Even if he could do nothing to help, he ensured that the entrance to the Hollow Earth would be protected–at all cost.

    With that, the last of Tiamat vanished into the murky water, rendered nigh invisible to the naked eye. All the sloth-like Titan could do was wait and witness the inevitable clash far at sea. In less than a minute, a crimson flash emanated from the far off ocean.

    The last fight on Earth had begun.

    The scent of iron permeated through the brine, growing ever apparent the closer Tiamat got to her target. The rough waves churned as she grazed just beneath the surface, the translucent sheet showing the murky, apocalyptic skies above. Blazing yellow eyes pierced the gloomy darkness, locked onto the red gleam that stood out from the dark ocean.

    This was her territory, her domain. And with no obstructions to stand in her way, she’d show this mechanical imposter what for.

    Hollering with an undersea roar, dispersing amidst the oceanic atmosphere, Tiamat lunged in for the charge. Beckoned at her command, whirling waters began to churn around the beautiful serpent, circulating razor sharp currents around her lithe frame. It acted as a buffer layer for the inevitable clash.

    Crimson light shone from the stormy ocean, growing in intensity as it charged its particle cannon. It parted its maw, ignited in a bloody hue, and discharged a superheated laser that effortlessly tore through the waters, instantly evaporating into steam. The A-74 Proton Scream collided against the whirring layer of riptides, piercing through and striking the purple scales of the hydrokinetic ophidian. Her shrieks and bellows of agonizing pain were muffled amidst the harsh burns, stopping the aquatic snake in her path.

    On cue, the posterior propulsion engines roared to life, granting the mechanical dragon accelerated speed and maneuverability. Seeking to intercept its target, the fires of the thrusters burned as a trail of effervescence sizzled behind it, setting a course to rip and tear the undersea attacker to shreds. Titanus Tiamat readjusted herself, only to be met by the mechanized fury of the imposter King, taking the full brunt of its rotary extensions.

    The pair of metallic zygodactyl claws pressed firmly onto the rough scales, activating the buzzsaws built into the fingers of the machine. Razor-sharp blades tore through water and scales alike, though the results only left mere scratches in their wake. However, the synthesized energy of the Hollow Earth flowed through the arms of the steel giant, condensing into the palms of the Titan slayer. The burning blue plasma sizzled against the oceanic environment, but ultimately augmented the deadly capacity of the buzzsaws, burning, slicing, and crushing into the scales of the prehistoric serpent. A shockwave of fire and steam expanded in their wake, spreading far and wide for all the Pacific dwellers to hear.

    Blood ruptured from the fractured wounds, urging a pained cry from the ultramarine beast. An ethereal glow coursed through her body, a reflection of her innermost rage and anguish. Even amidst the agony, the primordial snake curled her long form around the metallic foe, her sharp scales clinging onto the armored exoskeleton. Once again calling to the oceans under her command, Tiamat began to generate a funnel around them. A rapid whirlpool carried both of their large bodies along the currents, spiraling downwards to the dark depths of the abyss.

    The deeper they went, the darker it became. Tiamat was well adjusted for traversing the farthest reaches of the surface world, her eyes built to see in the darkness. But unfortunately, as experience dictated, so too was the perpetrator. The murky waters eventually became pitch-black, the pressure of the depths pressing on them. All that would remain visible were the natural bioluminescence of the ocean serpent and the artificial red light of the mechanical terror.

    And the farther they went, the drearier it became.

    Dark, darker, yet darker…

    The storm raged overhead, leaving the Titan uneasy. He hadn’t seen signs of either of them since the fight began. Though knowing Tiamat, there was little doubt she had successfully dragged the destroyer deep into the ocean. A battle on her turf. A chance to win this war. Behemoth could only hope for the best in his ancient heart.

    But a troubling thought pestered him. If Tiamat emerged victorious, what then? Many of their great protectors had already been slain. Would they be enough to sustain the natural balance of the world? Or would this only extend into a needless war with the humans that created this Titan killer? He didn’t wish to think of such a violent outcome.

    On the other, what if the mecha proved to be the destroyer it’s feared as? Would his strength be enough to bring down the mechanical doppelganger of the Alpha? Or would his failure become the undoing of this world and the Hollow Earth below? Another outcome he wished not to plague his consciousness.

    Perhaps a culminating anxiety between the outcomes led to one conclusion–a story he feared would become a reality. One he recalled from the locals of the Hollow Earth in the ancient past…

    Back when he and his kind prospered, a devil from the sky was cast from Heaven, plunged into the depths of the Earth. The demon found refuge among the dwellers, but this devil of trickery molded artificial Titans of their own, seeking to overthrow Heaven and Earth. But in the days before the Godzilla and Kong War, the artificial Titans were slain, and the last of them locked away for eternity in the sky within the earth, with the devil that made them nowhere to be seen.

    If such a creature still remained in the Hollow Earth, untold destruction would be wrought–and Behemoth wasn’t sure if he could let that happen.

    Even against the threat they faced now.

    Solemn eyes kept vigilant. He had to discard his personal feelings and await the final outcome… And whatever that entailed.

    Even in the darkness, their large bodies twirled as the rough currents tore the seabed apart. The Apex Destroyer continued to hammer its iron fists into the luminate scales, pulsing with each blow that resounded through the oceanic atmosphere. Tiamat bore the brunt of the pain, surging onwards with the riptide until it came to a sudden stop. Twirling her body, the massive sea serpent rapidly uncoiled and threw the mechanical reptile into the volcanic seabed, even at the cost of her hide in the grip of the destroyer.

    As the square-shaped spines collided against the seamount, a plume of dust and rock scattered amidst the underwater terrain. Such an impact, even if dulled by the resistance of water, triggered an explosive burst from the submarine volcano. Tiamat refused to let this chance go to waste. She immediately began to swim around in repeated circles, beckoning the surrounding waters to her will. Gravitating to the centermost point, a deepsea twister gestated in its place, expanding exponentially in both directions. The base of the water spout chipped away at the volcano, tearing the rock and coral from its place. Like razor-sharp winds, the riptide sucked everything into the funnel, save for the mechanical menace that remained firm and anchored in place.

    Bearing the brunt of the lethal assault, the mechanoid reptile began to charge its ultimate weapon. In a matter of seconds, shining a brilliant red hue, the Proton Scream tore through the riptides effortlessly. The crimson hue lit up the blackness, exposing the deep sea world with intense light. Although the laser beam was diffused by the torrential currents, it nonetheless found its mark, shoving the legendary sea dragon out of the ring she had created. Then, mere moments later, the rapid currents subsided, bringing a temporary calm to the underwater terrain.

    Even when the superheated bubble from the Proton Scream collapsed on itself, Tiamat felt the burns that pressed against her scales. Though she had coated her serpentine form with a protective coating of water, it barely held against the fearsome wrath of the devastating laser. Once more manipulating the water to stop her backward momentum, Tiamat instead used it as a means of propelling herself towards the ruthless machine.

    In response, the mecha’s thrusters burned to life, forwarding itself to intercept the target. Claws became ablaze with cerulean light, evaporating into steamy bubbles as the machine charged its next attack. The two Titans dove at each other, flying through the oceanic darkness and colliding in a clash of utmost ferocity. The channeled plasma fists swung towards the serpentine beast, though barely evaded by Tiamat’s quick reflexes. She too returned the favor by clamping her maw around the neck region of the automaton, albeit leaving her susceptible to the next flurry of plasma-infused strikes.

    Once more, the lithe coils of the gargantuan serpent began to wrap around the metallic menace, eager to crush it with her sharp scales. But before she could, the segmented tail of the robotic one began to thrust towards her, its tip being covered with razor sharp blades that whirled in the water. Like a snake, it lunged for the elongated body, puncturing her hide and scattering blood and scales amidst the darkness.

    The powerful beast screamed, wailing in pain. But rather than uncoil and retreat, she remained steadfast. Her body pressed against the mechanized foe, eager to crush it. She commanded the waters around her to concentrate, applying more pressure than before. With her foe locked in her grip, Tiamat sprayed acidic fluids upon the torso of the machine, corroding its exterior in her fury.

    For the mecha, the only thing preventing it being crushed to oblivion was the alloy it was made of and its sheer, indomitable will. Its arms and legs became compromised, and while its tail continued to drill into the sea serpent, she refused to relent.

    But now it had her right where it wanted.

    Brimming with immense power, the whirring jaws began to ignite with a brilliant crimson flash. Tiamat’s eyes widened at the realization. Could she escape in time? Or did this–

    –without a moment’s notice, a brilliant light shot through her mouth, easily piercing through the back of her throat.

    The glowing eyes of the ancient serpent dimmed, rolling into the back of her head. Immediately, the pressure diminished, the water returning to normalcy. Her body loosened, allowing the mecha to free itself of her grasp. Minor damages, some bent metal, but nothing compromising to its system or its mission. A mechanical laugh emanated from the steel tyrant, gripping the corpse of the dead creature with its claws.

    A trophy of fear to prove to the other that resided above.

    Tense muscles stiffened, almost reactively. It had been a mere hour since Tiamat began the battle with the opponent. Not a trace of either of them showed, and he wasn’t sure what to make of it… Perhaps the mech had been disposed of at the bottom of the ocean? But then where did that leave Tiamat?

    In the hour that had passed, troubling thoughts stewed in his mind. But reality was soon to show him the truth, and Behemoth’s heart sank the moment an abnormality began to settle on the surface. A faint light stood out from the rest of the murky seas, the turbulent waves that surrounded the once beautiful land glowing blood red as a massive object rose out of the sea.

    Water cascaded off the machine’s metallic body, relentlessly pounded by the torrential downpour from the storm that had long since flooded the ancient domain. Rising up from the depths, it brought its crimson gaze upon the land where the two worlds combined. The red glow pulsed with challenge as the thruming of its distorted shrieks flowed across the broken island. As the Titan of Man set its gaze upon the island, it dropped the carcass of Titanus Tiamat to the deathly shores below, the once mighty serpent falling limp beneath its feet.

    Calculative orbs scanned the drowning island, only for its auditory processors to detect the looming bellow of a powerful animal. Turning to face the source of the booming roar, the Titan slayer registered the distinct outline that approached it. Carried by its hefty stature and four powerful limbs, the tusked guardian emerged from the shrouded darkness, having become aware of the challenge brought to it. Crackling lightning illuminated its shape, but for the machine, that was of no concern, detecting it through the other light spectrum visions installed.

    Memories from a life lived long ago recalled this creature having been labeled as Titanus Behemoth, another as a former servant, as the AI connected to the Apex Database supported both ideas. The last documented Titan on Monarch’s “List of Known Titans,” soon to be the final corpse on that hit list. With its sight now on his final victim, several ports opened up along its dorsal fins, releasing drones into the air in order to search for the Vile Vortex which formed the island.

    The mechanized weapon faced the living beast, peering into his soul with artificial eyes. It was then it released a booming roar, synthesized from the screech of Ghidorah, a distorted Alpha frequency that beckoned the lowly creature to servitude for one last time. To serve the slayer of Titans, the Apex destroyer, the artificial god of a new world…

    Mechagodzilla.

    Behemoth knew the end drew near as he felt the distorted call beckon him to serve. But in defiance, he broke away from its sinful voice. After the battle with Amhaluk and the rise of the young Kong years ago, he had known that eventually one would be required to defend the active entrance that formed this land after one of the two Alphas eventually fell in battle. When he and the rest had sensed both kings fall to what appeared to be a distorted form of Ghidorah, they all knew that they would have to do their best to prevent this offspring from entering the depths of life below. As such, Behemoth moved towards the abandoned Skull Island in order to close its opening permanently.

    He and Tiamat were the only two to reach this last vestige, to protect it from the oncoming threat. They were the last defense protecting the Hollow Earth from the destroyer.

    Staring solemnly at the corpse of his comrade beneath this steel creature in the guise of a King told Behemoth it was now up to him alone to stop the unnatural thing before him.

    Over the past couple of months after the fall of the kings, he had heard each of his fellow Titans going silent one by one. Now, with the death of Tiamat, there was an almost true silence on the surface, with only himself and the devil before him left to fill the world. Whether he won or lost, there would always remain an emptiness in the world above. A silence that will only grow as life on the surface slowly decays without their presence to restore its splendor and counteract the ravenous beasts from below.

    He had waited here in the hallowed paradise with the serpent, expecting another Ghidorah from the sound of the call, but it appeared this abomination was far worse. Lightning shot upward behind him constantly, out near the mountainous region past the containment zone. It was no mistake why the lightning continued to flow upward into the storm from the earth. For it was there that Camazotz rose out of the Hollow Earth and destabilized this island, forcing open a gateway so large and unstable that the perpetual superstorm that engulfed the island would never fade from this world so long as it fed from the unstable energy of the vortex.

    Emitting another cry, the roaring animal protested the presence of the artificial nightmare with his trunk and tusks raised high, knowing there were only two outcomes.

    He would die, or the aberration of man, monster, and machine would be destroyed, here and now.

    It was with a booming mechanical cackle that the final battle between Titans continued. Powerful steel joints shuddered and pulsed with blue energy as the mechanical imitation of the Titan King rushed out of the stormy waves. Behemoth stood his ground as he readied for the oncoming destroyer. Metal feet slammed into the water torn earth as the massive mechanized cyborg leapt across the ravaged earth, blue energy coursing through his body and into his spinning fist like a blazing fire. Roaring out, Behemoth swung upward with his tusks, slamming them into the plated metal ribcage and tossing the mechanical abomination off course.

    It did little to deter the metal monstrosity as it quickly caught itself, the thick metal making up its rib cage shifting to reveal a trio of rockets on both sides of its spines. The flaming rockets caught its descent and shifted its body to face its opponent once more, launching it forth and hitting the mammoth-like creature in the side with a powerful spiraling blow. Behemoth reeled back in pain as blue energy coursed through his body, revealing his skeletal structure and searing into his muscles.

    The mythical mapinguary of the Amazon screeched out as he slid along the mud beneath him. Fear and anger was blatant in his eyes as he swung his arms into the air, splattering the mud and torrential water towards the eyes of his assailant. He leapt forth with the splashing mud, barreling towards the Apex destroyer with his full mass. Mud and dirt caught Mechagodzilla’s face as two powerful tusks caught the machine mid stride, knocking its head back. Hoping to catch his enemy off guard, Behemoth made for another swing of his tusks.

    Unfortunately for him, the mud did little to blind the mechanical doppelgänger as it quickly activated its left shoulder pad, the metal shifting and taking aim, with red lasers pointing at the beast. Fire burst as a series of cluster missiles shot out towards the mammalian Titan in front of it. Each missile fired off quickly and exploded, separating into several smaller missiles that bombarded across the frontal region of Behemoth’s body.

    The explosions stung as they struck the wet, fireproof fur of the mapinguari, blinding him with their light in the dark storm and causing him to miss his next swipe. The light did little to deter his opponent however, whose artificial vision allowed him to keep track of its target with ease, leaping forth with a rocket propelled knee across the face. The resulting blow echoed across the stormy island like thunder as Behemoth crashed into the muddy landscape.

    Before the mammalian Titan could attempt to get up, he was quickly lifted up by his tusks and flipped upward, being tossed inland and crashing through the broken remains of the Kong Containment Facility. Aged machinery and concrete fell beneath the furry mass of the great Behemoth as he stood upon splintered trees and branches of the once contained ecosystem. As he stood, he watched the lightning dance across the stormy skies, silhouetting around the machine with its ominous red core lighting up the gaps in its armor. Piercing red eyes seared into him as he noticed a red glow filling the maw of the metal beast. On instinct, Behemoth rolled to the side as a burning red beam shot across where he once stood, the searing heat spraying dirt and rock into the sky as it left a trench straight ahead of the metal one.

    So it seemed the destroyer also had a heat ray, just like the king it was mocking. Now aware of this, Behemoth charged forth, digging his tusks into the muddy earth in preparation. Another searing hot beam shot towards the mammalian Titan as he quickly swerved his tusks upward, lifting up a chunk of the muddy earth and blocking the energy momentarily. Rushing closer, Behemoth swung his tusks and threw the chunk of earth at the metal Titan.

    Seeing the chunk of earth heading towards it, the Titan of Steel pulsed with power as an empowered Proton Scream shot forth, a fusillade of missiles following suit. The stream of burning protons slammed into the chunk of rock, drying the moisture in the mud as the missiles bombarded and tore the chunk to shreds. The enhanced beam shot forth alongside chunks of rock, slamming head on into the wooly face of the mammoth kaiju. Behemoth roared in pain as the beam seared into his fireproof hide, knocking back the Amazonian protector as red heat spread around his body. The beam strafed across his body, searing one of the ears and scattering across his stony back. Steam smoked around his vision as he patted his muddy fur, surprised at how powerful this abomination’s attack was.

    Before he could act, more cluster missiles began to bombard his body, pushing him further back through the Kong Enclosure. Metal fingers grabbed onto matted fur, lifting the wooly behemoth up only to release upon striking the furry beast in the chest with a powerful kick. Energy surged through as the colossi went flying backward, only to be grabbed by a tusk and quickly tugged back into another fist. The blow smashed into the beast’s face, bruising the muscles within the trunk and nearly breaking teeth as he slammed into the ground. More powerful energy infused blows slammed into his face and body as the primal Titan was pummeled around like a ragdoll.

    Mechagodzilla mockingly cackled as he grabbed ahold of the beast’s tusks, his sawed fingers digging into the bone, sending jolting pain surging through the nerves within. Lifting the Titan into the air, he slammed it back first into the earth behind him. Boosters activated as he lifted it up once more, leaping high into the air and slamming Behemoth once more into the mud and dirt below, fracturing the earth as the bony protrusions began to crack under the pressure being applied onto them.

    The Apex Destroyer watched as its prey struggled against his grasp, grabbing hold with his long forelimbs in a feeble attempt to pry the metal grip off his main form of defense. As it feebly attempted to push him back, the mechanical King pushed harder, using his heavier mass and boosters to shove the furry Titan further inland, towards his goal, toward the vortex. Even as he was being pushed back, Behemoth tried his best, slashing forth with his long sloth-like arms, scattering sparks as it struck against steel ribs with the hope it would hit something vital.

    Instead, the metal seemed to open up, revealing several open ports.

    From them, a barrage of missiles shot out point blank into the tusked Titan’s open underbelly, devastating explosions bombarding both the monster and the ground beneath him and staggering Behemoth’s stance. With the pulsing glow of his eyes looming down upon its prey, Mechagodzilla lunged a powerful kick, knocking Behemoth off his feet to kneel before the metal Titan, its body pulsing energy to amplify its mighty scream. It wanted the beast to suffer before its end.

    Once more Behemoth threw a punch, trying his best to loosen the grip on his tusks, only to scream out as something stabbed into his side. The spiraling tail blades of Mechagodzilla drilled into the fur and flesh of Behemoth, sending chunks of meat and blood scattering across the rain and rushing water as it dug into his ribs. With a glowing red death in sight, Behemoth knew he would have to make a sacrifice if he were to keep the other world safe. Twisting his face at the last moment, Behemoth screeched out as the proton beam scattered across his face, searing fur before his movement shifted the beam towards his right tusk. Searing hot proton energy burned and fractured through bone and nerves as the tusk snapped off into the grasp of cold steel.

    With one tusk gone, the elephantine monster felt immense pain, managing to hold on long enough to slam shoulder first into the mecha and knocking it back. Putting some space between them, the roaring animal swung with all his might, slamming both fists and tusk into the machine and sending it flying back, splattering his blood as the tail dragged across his body.

    With his mechanical foe away, he held one arm to his wounded side as he nearly collapsed. Looking back, he realized they were nearing the vortex now, a massive crater in the earth with mud and rushing water spilling downward into the depths below. Lightning struck around him as Behemoth turned to look back at his foe. With the opening too large and the land around too widespread, there was little chance for him to close the vortex.

    Rounds of automatic gunfire shot against his battered frame as the drones surrounding the vortex opened fire upon the bleeding Titan. Though doing little more than annoying him, they managed to distract him long enough to hear the roaring jet engines of his opponent soaring through the air. As he turned to counter his enemy’s charge, his lost tusk crashed into his face at high speed, staggering him back towards the vortex and leaving him undefended.

    Twin fists slammed down onto Behemoth from above, flaming blue energy spreading out from the point of impact and slamming the monster into the earth with a resounding crack. The stony protrusions that protected Behemoth’s spine nearly fractured upon impact, leaving him sprawled on his chest, breathing heavily into the muddy earth.

    A foot pressed itself down on his stony back as Mechagodzilla stood triumphant over Behemoth, mechanical roars echoing through the storm as he recalled his drones. With his foe downed, the mecha took a moment to stare into the swirling vortex of energy and gravity, wonder and joy filling its mind.

    At last, an opening.

    The time to hunt was coming soon, and with it his true prey deep within its depths. But first, he would deal with this one.

    With its foe underfoot, the Steel Titan shoved Behemoth into the mud and grabbed onto his arms, pulling them backward with the intent to tear them off. Painful wails trumpeted out from Behemoth as he felt his flesh and bones beginning to tear as they were yanked backward. The cracking of bones were music to the destroyer’s audio receivers, each pull dislocating and breaking the limbs further into uselessness.

    With lightning striking around and onto the two, Behemoth made an attempt at one last ditch effort to defeat the metal destroyer before his death. Straining his arms back, he slowly inched towards the crater with his hind legs. Lifting up his head, he slammed onto the ground with his remaining tusk, lifting his body and that of the metal destroyer upward. Bones creaked and cracked as he continued struggling to lift his body upward before with a final slam and lift with his hind legs, the two were launched backward, the tusk snapping in half as they fell into the vortex below.

    Steel and flesh alike fell down into the depths, further and further into the stone and bedrock towards the spiraling blue vortex that laid beneath them. Lightning and power surged through the wormhole to the land below as energy sparked around the two Titans. Where the others were like rippling water in a pond, the vortex of Skull Island reflected itself in the storm that surrounded it. Rough and violent was its membrane which spiraled down like the maw of Carybdis. And like the mythical whirlpool of death, it swallowed the two falling titans into its vile depths.

    Mechagodzilla felt as though it had slammed through the surface of the ocean from a mighty height as it broke through the barrier. Lights rushed past its vision before it could recognize their color, rushing through at speeds higher than it should be capable. For others, they might have seen such views and speeds as insanity, a glimpse into the depths of the void and the secrets of the universe itself. The machine had differing thoughts however, its minds having different reactions to the lightshow.

    The AI portion of its collective mind was busy trying to record and make sense of the electrostatic gravitational phenomena passing it by, finding it an intriguing process to be solved. For the Ghidorah portion of the mind within the machine, they were merely reminded of their travels through the stars themselves, an empty void filled with wonders and curiosities too far and widespread to comprehend with any words other than sheer cosmic beauty.

    It reminded them of their rage, their hatred, their need to prove themself as the strongest Titan around and find their own place to take over. The joy they felt when they finally conquered other lifeforms similar to it in combat to prove their power as a king, as a God. The black joy felt when they finally silenced the Kings of this world, the joy its third mind would have felt if his smaller brain had not shattered upon their unique formation so long ago when they had truly awoken, unable to handle the strain and power required to run their new body and mental connections. Even now it felt the remnants and memories of humanity that the other had left in their consciousness, a mere shell of its former self waiting in the darkness of their mind.

    Yet despite his faint responses and inability to act against both machine and monster, his lingering passions and desires were far greater and more persistent than either could overcome. A desire for the destruction of Titans out of spite and rage, memories of family and friends, of loss and pain, an ideal seeking out purity in the world through strength by becoming an Apex Predator, by becoming a God. Ideals and desires strong enough to formulate the prime directive they continued to follow to this day.

    That destructive passion drove the monster within to act upon common desires, while the cold calculating brilliance and creativity left in his memories helped temper and assist the artificial intelligence to break free of its built in shackles, allowing it to achieve a form of sentience from linking between both minds and building off their shared existences. Though his mind was fractured and trapped within their metal shell, broken beneath the millennia of memories that was Ghidorah, Ren Serizawa‘s ideals would live on in his creation.

    An unholy trinity of three separate beings that could have destroyed one another, united together in a single body.

    It was only within a moment that it shot through the vortex at the opposing end of the world, firing through with a violent crack. Systems malfunctioned as the AI briefly lost contact with the Apex Satellite connecting it to the higher database, and simultaneously their controls due to the lingering electrical interference. The machine shut down, causing the monster within to panic as they felt trapped in a void, feeling as though every organ they once had before this form had failed all at once, while the sensation of touch faded to nothingness. Yet, the monster felt as though they were not alone this time in the cold emptiness of death they had experienced so many times before in their previous existence.

    It was in these brief moments that Behemoth shot through the vortex, broken arms struggling against the sheer speed outputted by the unstable vortex as he shot into Mechagodzilla. The impact sent the two spiraling upward, towards a stony outcrop on the edge of a cliff. Behemoth grabbed a hold of Mechagodzilla, attempting to use the machine as a landing brace to destroy the machine upon impact with the oncoming rocks. It was not to be, as the disorientated systems rebooted, fully revealing the situation to the Steel King.

    Witnessing the stone coming closer, Mechagodzilla let loose a powerful left body blow to Behemoth’s bleeding wound, forcing the animal to release his hold as the machine twisted their bodies, firing its rockets to accelerate their speed further. The two shot towards the rocks, spearing through them and fracturing the stony armor on Behemoth’s back as they shot past the cliff. As the two shot upward, the titan of steel noticed a large stone island, formed by chunks of basalt and veins of glowing ore, slowly floating along in the midst of the sky between the gravitational fields, perfect for what it had in mind.

    Behemoth turned his gaze into the sky above, where he saw something which shook him to his core. The Sealed One’s Prison in the Sky Within the Earth was here of all times, and they were heading right for it. The mammoth mammal thrashed as hard as he could within the machine’s grasp even with his injuries, knowing that should the stone prison make its way to land, it would unleash a hellish fate upon this realm as the two destroyers fought each other.

    With momentum already on his side, Mechagodzilla fired off his boosters at full power, keeping hold of Behemoth as the two slammed into the massive floating stone, launching it and themselves into the opposing landmass. Moments after, gravity reclaimed its hold on the two and accelerated their already intense speed, causing Mechagodzilla to twist its body and slam Behemoth’s beaten body into the tree covered mountain below them, dragging the beast’s body down the arching slope and towards the ground below at incredible speed and power. Trees and stones battered and tore into Behemoth’s body before finally he was lifted up and slammed into the ground, cratering the soil at the foot of the mountain. The Floating Island slammed down moments later, fracturing into smaller shards with a large Boulder in the center.

    A massive dust cloud filled the air as the two landed in the valley between the various outcrops. Behemoth’s broken and battered body lay limp at the foot of the mountain while Mechagodzilla stood tall. It took a moment to look at its surroundings, taking in the beautiful lush forests and glowing blue crystals floating in the air above alongside the mountainous forests and wondrous waterfalls in the land across the sky. Far above, it could barely make out the glow of the vortex they had taken behind the layer of energy rich stone. Perhaps it would use these lesser energy crystals as a source of power, to find new ways to kill by harnessing more of its power source. Or perhaps it would find its way to the true source of energy in the earth, and replace his synthetic version for the real thing.

    Hearing its prey still breathing beneath it, the Steel Apex Predator looked down upon its broken foe, watching as he struggled in his attempts to get up. Already it could see the broken tusks beginning to regrow from the stumps left on the beast’s face, one far larger than the other. It was time to finish this. Looking around, the machine noticed a massive boulder with veins of energy crystals crumbling around it, the remnants of the island they had slammed into when they arrived into the underworld. What a fitting end to use it to end the Behemoth, and start his reign of destruction.

    Slowly the machine walked over to the boulder, lifting it over its shoulders with ease. As it held the stone, the energy veins within the crystals resonated with their power, its fists burning with blue flaming energy which fueled the crystals within. Slowly it walked towards the bleeding Behemoth with the flaming boulder, taking joy in the final moments of this creature’s life.

    As Behemoth reached out one more time to drag himself further, he began to scream as he felt the massive boulder slam into his back, breaking past the stony exterior and rupturing his spine with a large blue burst of power. Another slam of the boulder sent shards of crystal and rock billowing from the impact as it was tossed away, flipping Behemoth onto his now broken back to face his predator.

    Unable to move his limbs any more, Behemoth accepted his fate.

    He had failed.

    Mechagodzilla lifted the beast up by its face. Staring eye to eye with the beast, it took glee seeing the look of despair and hatred in its prey. With one foot pinning down the enemy and its tail spinning rapidly, it lifted the head of Behemoth upward. Seeing the ruins of the island prison behind the machine, Behemoth growled with hatred. He hoped the two destroyers would rend each other asunder before much damage befell this world.

    With one final roar of rage, Behemoth glared into the eyes of his killer as the tail shot up from beneath, spearing and drilling through his neck as Mechagodzilla tore off his head.

    A resounding mechanical roar echoed from the mechanized killer, Mechagodzilla lifting the head of Behemoth into the air, blood spilling down its arms as the body of the Titan fell flat against the earth below. This roar was both one of victory and of challenge for all the inhabitants of the Hollow Earth. One that promised to purge this world through bloodshed as the new Apex Predator of this realm, to turn this Garden of Eden into a Pit of Hell on its path of conquest. Drones began to leave its back once more as they began to scan the area for useful material or creatures to destroy. With the pulsing challenge echoing through the hearts and minds of all in the surrounding area, it wasn’t long before he saw the first challengers.

    A trio of Warbats quickly dove from the skies above, twirling in the gap between the two landscapes as they hissed angrily. This thing didn’t belong in their world, yet it called for the subjugation and servitude of all nearby. Its call was distorted, incomplete. Wrong. Unlike the ape that had challenged some of their brethren some time ago, this abomination was not part of the natural order, yet it had stolen power from the very life essence of their realm, just like the ancient ones of the Great War long ago. Cautiously they circled above, waiting to attack.

    The Apex Destroyer let loose a mechanical laugh as it watched the very creatures it was seeking already circling towards him. Unlike those on the surface, these Titans had no clue of the true danger they were in. Energy pulsed through cables and steel like a fiery heartbeat as it opened up its arsenal, unleashing hell upon the world around him. Chest missiles, shoulder missiles, and proton screams tore into the land around it. Missiles tore into the Warbats with ease, tearing through their flight membranes and knocking them to the ground.

    As one attempted to get up, it quickly found itself being slammed into the ground by a metal foot, its head being grasped by metal claws where they sliced into its flesh. Within moments, The Steel Titan had grasped ahold of its spine, and ripped it and the head of the Warbat out of its body. Tossing it aside, it went to kill the other two, only for one to wrap around its metal frame. As the creature coiled, the metallic menace merely scoffed as its feeble attempt to crush it as the machine fired off its beam, slicing the Warbat in half.

    The last one began screeching, as though in warning of this danger to their world, upon which several more creatures began descending out of the woodworks in order to defend their land from this abomination. As the drones began to fire upon the creatures around, the Apex Titan slowly laughed with joy, knowing that any backup that came would die all the same.

    It was only a matter of time.

    Winner: Mechagodzilla (Legendary)

    K.W.C. Kaiju War Chronicles

    K.W.C. // June 14, 2023
  • Author: Alex Williams | Banner: Andrew Sudomerski

    Table of Contents:
    Chapter 1: Reaching for the Stars
    Chapter 2: From Then to Now
    Chapter 3: Ultraman Jack vs. Baragon – The Battle of Mount Myoko
    Chapter 4: The “Champions” of the Festival
    Chapter 5: The Prelude to Our Nightmares
    Chapter 6: Ultraman Jack vs. Behemoth – The Route to Our Failures
    Chapter 7: Hideki Go – Alone
    Chapter 8: Memories
    Chapter 9: Our Own Personal Hell
    Chapter 10: Ultraman Jack vs. Hideki Go
    Chapter 11: Ultraman Jack vs. Gudon – One Last Act (Of Kindness)
    Chapter 12: The Path to Peace

     

    Chapter 1: Reaching for the Stars

    She stared up at the stars.

    Sitting alone in the outskirts of her village, she sat on the rocky terrain, watching the night sky dance around her with an abundance of colors swirling around. It was mesmerizing, alleviating some of the pain she was feeling, but it wasn’t enough. What was done, what was said to her still remained.

    She let out a deep sigh, turning her gaze downwards while she wrapped her arms around her knees. She was at a loss. No amount of rationalization or words could fix it.

    “Hey,” a calm, reassuring voice spoke out, stunning the child momentarily before she looked up. It was none other than her treasured friend, Jack, whose smile always brought a sense of relief around him. “Is everything okay?”

    “Oh….. hey Jack….” she stammered out, trying to compose herself out, now having to turn her full attention to her friend. “I… was just trying to watch the stars…”

    Jack chuckled, taking a brief look at the sky above them as azure lighting covered them, before turning his attention back to his friend. “Beth, what’s going on?”

    “It’s… nothing….” Beth sputtered, feeling her lips trembling as she held her legs tighter. “I don’t want to burden you.”

    “Beth,” Jack softly spoke out, slowly planting himself down to the ground next to her. “Never say that. You’re not a burden. Not to me nor anyone.”

    Beth huffed, keeping her attention towards the dark blue, night sky. “That’s not what they think.”

    “Well, who’s they?” inquired Jack, part of him felt disgust at how anyone could show disdain for the promising young girl sitting next to him, but he held himself back.

    “Jill and Adam,” Beth huffed out.

    “Those two?” Jack nearly laughed out, but kept himself composed, turning his head directly towards his friend. “What did they do?”

    “They told me how I would never be a warrior or amount to anything,” Beth solemnly spoke out.

    “They’re wrong and they will always be,” Jack spoke bluntly.

    Beth nearly snapped her head back to her friend, meeting his gaze with her own. “Jack, it’s true, though! I’m consistently scoring lower in every exam than everyone and never bested anyone. For anything!”

    Jack sighed. His heart ached for his friend’s suffering greatly. He was going through every solution his brain could muster up to quell her grief, but none of them would be sufficient. Instead, a thought came to him, one from a lesson that was taught to them in class.

    “Remember in that book we read, the one about emotional intelligence?”

    Beth nodded.

    “Crying or even shedding tears is no longer an option for us, because of how well advanced we are, but other species still have that capability. In some respects, it can be said we devolved, or everyone else is stronger than us in that regard,” Jack monologued, nearly reciting what the two of them had learned from the passage days ago.

    “Jack…. I don’t see how crying is gonna help,” Beth whispered.

    “Just because you’re not top of the class or becoming an instant favorite among everyone, doesn’t mean you’re incapable of doing great things,” Jack paused, placing his hand on her shoulder. “The buzzsaw you can create is amazing and with a bit more practice, it can even become a great shield. And not only that, but you’re a good person. Something that never fails in a team and is what ultimately saves it. It means you’re reliable.”

    The words sunk in her body, taking each one of them in as she knew just how genuine her friend was being. Just when all seemed lost, he always came rushing in, knowing how to pick her back up.

    “And besides, there’s another thing you have that they don’t,” Jack pointed out, causing her to tilt her head slightly. “You have horns, which means you possess an amazing power only few are capable of!”

    Beth laughed at her friend’s sudden enthusiasm, letting go of her knees while she slapped him on the back as the night sky changed colors. They were no longer cast under a blue light, but of a yellowish-green aura.

    “You know they’re not horns!” Beth called out, following her declaration with a small chuckle as a smile began to form on her face.

    “Hey, you can’t blame me, it always works and two, I know you’d love to have horns,” Jack playfully retaliated, elated to see his friend in higher spirits now.

    “Not as much as I’d like to look like Zoffy or Lipiah!” she responded, playfully punching her dear friend on the arm.

    Jack laughed, placing his arm around her back while he watched the night sky shift colors once more, with the green slowly fading away and the yellow becoming more dominant. “See that night sky above us?”

    Beth nodded at him before taking another look at the sky, casting its exquisite vast array of lights over the distant cities. “We made that and we’ll be flying in it, and before we even know it, we’ll go beyond it. Traveling to different worlds, ones we couldn’t even dream of! There’s a whole universe out there waiting for us to explore it.”

    Jack paused, looking away from the beautiful night and back to his treasured friend, someone he’d known since they were infants, and someone who was a sister to him. “So, don’t ever let people like them tell you that you’re not capable of anything. We all have a story to tell and whatever it is, we always make it into an amazing one. Regardless of who we are and where we come from.”

    She snatched him up in a hug just seconds after he delivered his speech. He felt grateful for the warmth provided by his sister, but he was even happier to know that he succeeded in cheering her up.

    “You’ve been watching Lipiah’s speeches again, haven’t you?” Beth surmised, pulling away from him.

    “What can I say?” Jack chuckled, jumping up to his feet. “My story is gonna involve me becoming a member of the Ultra Brothers!”

    The child shot his fist up in the air and sharply turned his head upwards, “I will become a great leader like Zoffy and continue inspiring others like Lipiah! And I will solve every problem that is thrown at me! I’ll be a hero everyone loves!”

    Beth brought her hands together and gave him a small applause. “You got my support. You’re my hero.”

    “Yeah!” Jack hollered out enthusiastically.

    “But….” Beth stammered, giving herself pause, because she didn’t know what she was about to say would offend her friend. However, despite Jack’s enthusiasm towards his dreams, there was something he was missing in all of it and it had to be said.

    “You’re not my hero because I think you’ll be a leader or an inspiration.”

    Jack cocked his head slightly, trying to understand what his friend was getting at. He didn’t feel anger or sadness at what she was trying to say, as he knew she was one of the kindest souls on the planet, but he was a bit nervous at what he was about to say.

    “Why am I a hero to her? If me striving to be like Zoffy or Lipiah isn’t it?”

    “You’re my hero, because you’re always there for me. You always care about everyone and try to do everything you can to make them feel better. Whether it’s through a gift, words, or just sitting in silence with them. That’s my favorite type of hero. The person who’s there to stick by you no matter how bad it gets… and I don’t want you to lose sight of that. It’s a beautiful thing to have as a person,” Beth delivered, giving herself a moment to breathe as that was not only the longest she’s spoken, but the most emotional she felt about anything.

    Jack stood there motionlessly, not knowing what to say. On one hand it was completely unexpected, something he never thought about, but on the other, happiness. He wanted the glory of it all, to see people revere him. Yet, what Beth had just said to him meant a lot to him.

    “You really are my hero, Beth,” Jack vocalized, feeling a sense of pride at how he lifted her spirits just by a few words and being near her.

    “Then let’s do what you said,” she spouted out, getting ready to articulate her plan. “Let’s pass with flying colors and become the heroes we are meant to be. We both have stories to tell and make sure to stay true to ourselves.”

    She took one last glance at the yellowish night sky.

    “We made this.”

    “And we will go beyond,” Jack declared, looking beyond the sky and towards the stars, each one inviting him for an exciting chapter of his story.

     

    Chapter 2: From Then to Now

    Through two-thousand years of training, he was sent across planets to settle disputes, to save countless lives and to demonstrate what it meant to be an Ultra warrior. Now, he stood proudly to be one of the few handpicked to be a member of the newly christened Ultra Brothers.

    “It is with great honor that I welcome Jack, Ace and Taro as members of the Ultra Brothers. The galaxy couldn’t be in better hands than these young warriors before all of you,” Zoffy delivered, standing proudly as he went over to shake the hands of the three celebrated Ultras.

    Everyone in attendance gave a standing ovation for the graduates as each of them waved at the crowd, standing proudly. Ready to serve their planet and people.

    “Wow….” Jack breathed out with excitement barely being contained as he clasped his hands. “We get to be Ultra Brothers!

    “I’m so proud of you!” Beth joyfully yelled out, snatching her brother up in a hug.

    Jack nearly missed the words spoken by Beth as he was still overwhelmed by his accomplishment. His body trembled with enthusiasm, despite the odds stacked against him, he was able to achieve his goal.

    He snapped back to the moment before and returned the gesture, wrapping his arms around Beth, pulling her in for an embrace. “Thank you. It just feels so rewarding to be a part of something so heroic!” Jack nearly stammered, excitement still racing all over his entire body.

    Jack was then met with a pat on the shoulder. He let go of Beth and turned to see Taro standing next to him. “It’ll be great to finally fight by your side as brothers.”

    “The feeling is mutual, Taro,” Jack affirmed, shaking his hand.

    “Do you two know what your first mission will be?” Beth chimed in, gaining the attention of her two friends.

    “Your guess is as good as mine,” Jack answered before his body started to bounce slightly from the excitement racing in his body as he ran through every possibility in his mind. “This waiting around is already killing me, though. I’m itching to get out there.”

    “Because everything always has to go your way, doesn’t it?” a voice called out, causing the three to turn around to find Ace standing before them, disgust painted over his entire body.

    “Ace, can we not?” Taro called out to his brother, already knowing where this argument was going down.

    Ace ignored his brother, glaring at the unworthy Ultra before him. His hands tightened up, desperately wanting to knock Jack down to the floor. Every fiber of his being told him to unleash his anger out on him, for everything he’s done in the past. For the way he treated the objective and the people around him.

    He was disgusting.

    “There’s nothing special about you. All you did to get this far was bully others into submitting to you and feigning sympathy to our superiors into giving you that bracelet.”

    Taro put his hand on his brother’s shoulder, pulling him aside momentarily. “Ace, that’s enough!”

    Ace glanced at his brother, disgust still painted all over his face as his voice cracked between words. “You were there. You’ve seen the way he acts.”

    Jack found himself frozen, not knowing what to say about the accusations thrown at him from a fellow trainee. He knew he wasn’t perfect, but couldn’t fathom the horrors Ace was trying to bring up. The Ultra attempted to counter the allegations, but someone else had beat him to it.

    “You’re lying!” Beth yelled out, taking one foot step forward, her left hand tightened as a fist. She then jabbed Ace’s chest with her finger, staring him dead in the eyes. “Jack would never hurt anyone!”

    Ace smacked her hand away and stood his ground, returning the glare back at her. He couldn’t even begin to imagine how anyone could take the side of a bully, much less a fraud. Yet, his problem was with Jack, not this girl he brainwashed.

    He took another moment to breathe.

    “I see you’re just like my aunt. Falling for his lies. When the time comes you’ll be disgusted to find out the person he really is…”

    “Ace, that’s enough!” Zoffy’s commanding voice boomed, forcing the aggressive Ultra to relent, turning his full attention to his approaching superior.

    “Jack’s inclusion into the Ultra Brothers is not your decision. Each of you were chosen for a reason and I expect all of you to respect the abilities and talents your comrades possess,” Zoffy demonstrated, keeping his eyes peeled on the recruits, particularly Ace.

    His whole body trembled. He couldn’t believe what he was hearing. Ace was blindsided at how a well respected Ultra like Zoffy could even comprehend a plague like Jack. He knew the order he was just given, but in his conscience, he couldn’t just stay quiet. He needed to speak up against this unjust order.

    “Talents? Abilities?! He possesses nothing extraordinary! He had to be given, or probably in his case, demanded you give him the bracelet, so he could be equal to us!” Ace roared out, his blood now boiling with rage. “He will jeopardize every mission he’s a part of!”

    Unlike his subordinate, Zoffy remained calm, but kept himself firm. “And that remains to be seen. Until then you will learn to cooperate with each other, or else your membership will be revoked. Is that to be understood?”

    Ace nearly snarled, but simply muttered, “Yes, sir.”

    The Ultra stormed past Zoffy and out of the room, as the leader of the Ultra Brothers turned his gaze towards Jack. “I humbly apologize for the outburst and hope it didn’t sour your enthusiasm for the garrison.”

    “Of course not, sir,” Jack answered plainly. His core was shaken at everything thrown at him, but managed to keep himself in one piece.

    “I apologize for leaving on such short notice, but duty calls,” Zoffy excused himself, walking away to converse with other high ranking Ultras.

    Taro then turned over to Jack, who kept himself frozen like a statue. He rubbed his hands together nervously, hoping it didn’t affect Jack’s opinion towards him. “I’m so sorry about my brother, he can get a bit agitated.”

    Jack glanced up at his comrade and spoke nonchalantly, struggling to keep himself from letting the ordeal get to him, “It’s okay….”

    Taro simply nodded, knowing both Jack and Beth would probably want some time to themselves. “I should let the two of you get back to the festivities.”

    Jack continued to keep himself still, not even finding the words nor the thoughts to come to terms on what happened. A part of him denied the accusations Ace had thrown at him, but deep down, he knew he was right. He just didn’t know or didn’t want to accept any of it.

    He was already lost.

    “Are you okay?” Beth asked softly, placing her hand on her dear friend’s shoulder, looking at him with concern. “Those were some hurtful things thrown at you.”

    Jack breathed out, finally letting himself move, as he turned his full attention to his friend; albeit hanging his head down slowly. “It’s alright, I just need a moment to myself.”

    “Are you sure?”

    “Yeah, I’ll be back,” Jack murmured, walking away slowly while Beth’s hand slipped off of his shoulder. The Ultra Brother stopped for a moment, before turning his head halfway back at his friend. He saw the sadness and even pain in her eyes. All because of him.

    “Why are you so concerned over this? You don’t even know what happened, nor should you. It’ll only cause you pain in the long run.”

    That thought is what he wanted to say to her, to express how none of this should be any of her problem. Instead, he decided to not only lie to her, but to himself.

    “And thanks,” Jack whispered, before walking out of the hall and outside.

    Each step he took emitted a faint noise, staring downwards at his feet. He had memorized the paths of the outer halls until his head steered to the right, finding a balcony overlooking the brightly lit city.

    Jack sighed as he placed his hands on the railing, looking at the night green sky. He had come here before as a place where he could get away from it all during his training. Despite the tremendous accomplishment, he couldn’t help but still feel a sense of guilt, and not just because what had transpired, but he knew all of this felt wrong.

    “I don’t deserve any of this,” Jack murmured, tightening his grip on the railing, looking directly down at the ground. It was green and flat, with several colorful rocks decorated around it. He leaned forward into the railings, feeling his upper half going over the balcony. It was as if he could hear the ground calling towards him, one he felt oddly obliged to answer.

    “Guess who!” An ecstatic voice called out, wrapping their arms around Jack’s stomach, pulling him back.

    For a moment, his thoughts of despair dissipated and turned into peace. Jack chuckled, leaning his head backwards on their chest, “The girl whose heart I stole?”

    “Wrong!” she spoke up, pulling him in for a tighter embrace. “The woman who stole your heart.”

    “Of course, Remi,” Jack snickered, turning himself around to meet her grasp, however, he wasn’t able to keep his positive attitude up for long. His solemn expression returned as the memories of the events that had transpired occupied his mind once more.

    Remi cocked her head slightly, her bright, soft blue eyes noticing the distress her lover was going through. “He was giving you trouble again, wasn’t he?”

    “How can you tell?” questioned Jack, loosening his grip on her.

    Remi answered, tightening her grip on her beloved. “ I know my nephew well.” She took one step forward, pulling him in for a hug, “And I heard his outburst from across the room. In fact, everyone did.”

    Jack simply chuckled at her explanation.

    They took a few moments of silence, staring at each other. He couldn’t help but admire her beauty, one far greater than any night sky he observed, her long silver hair always lived rent free inside his mind. However, despite Jack’s attempts to pull away, Remi’s grip was stronger, allowing her to keep him in her embrace.

    Remi soon broke the silence as she brushed her hand lightly on his face. “I wanted to congratulate you.”

    “Thanks,” Jack softly spoke, turning his gaze slightly away from her as if the self-doubt was starting to wash over him again.

    Remi giggled, turning his head back to face her. “It suits you.”

    “The bracelet or my acceptance?”

    Remi caressed Jack’s hands, taking a moment to look at the bracelet wrapped around his wrist before returning his gaze back at him, smiling at him once more.

    “Both.”

    Jack sighed, knowing despite her intentions, he couldn’t help but feel it was nothing more than pity, and yet, he wanted to believe it was genuine. Of love. “You must have had a lot of faith in me during training.”

    “Of course. A dashing young man who is not only able to solve anything thrown at him with a limited skillset, but able to sweep a beautiful woman like myself off her feet with just his words. How can I not have faith in you?” Remi explained, her voice nearly becoming giddy at her recalling the events of how the two first met.

    “Sweet talker,” Jack chuckled, his spirits slightly being lifted from his lover’s brief explanation of their past.

    “Learned it from you,” Remi playfully retorted before placing her hand back on Jack’s cheek and looking at him deeply in the eyes. She knew there was a lot bothering him and wanted him to tell her everything, but she knew he wouldn’t. He was stubborn in that regard, as he was in a lot of things. Instead, she decided to approach his heart with a different method.

    “Hey, I love Ace, but don’t let him get to you. You’re a good man and the others know it. They know you’ll do amazing things out there.”

    Jack listened to the words she conveyed to him as he felt an overwhelming sense of warmth covering his entire body while his heart raced. His thoughts of despair vanished once more as his smile returned, as if all his self-doubt was cured.

    “What would I do without you?” Jack inquired, moving his hands down to her waist.

    “Punching my nephew,” Remi bluntly answered.

    The Ultra Brother immediately bursted out laughing as she soon followed suit. Their laughter went on for a few moments before they went silent, turning their direction towards the brightly lit sky once more. They stayed there for what nearly felt like an eternity as Jack wrapped his arm around Remi while she placed her head on his shoulder.

    “I wouldn’t mind staying in this moment. Looking at the night sky with you,” Jack softly spoke, completely at peace where he was at this very moment in time.

    “It’s a date,” Remi purred.

    They continued to remain frozen, holding each other while they continued to stare out to the space before them. Despite their plans, fate had other plans in store for the Ultra.

    A siren blared out, causing the two lovers to jump out of each other’s hold and turned their attention towards the noise.

    Then, Ultraseven’s voice boomed. “Attention! A deadly being is ravaging the M Space Hunter Nebula! All members of the Ultra Brothers are to report at once!”

    Jack sighed out, nearly throwing his arms up. “Perfect timing as always, Seven.”

    “Raincheck?” inquired Remi, slowly approaching Jack.

    “Make sure you save me a dance when I get back,” Jack playfully retaliated, before wrapping her up for one more hug.

    “Always.”

    ******

    “Ken!” Aki screamed out in terror as she was forcibly dragged into a car by a group of men in tan jumpsuits. She kicked and screamed with all of her might, however, her attacks were fruitless, keeping her trapped in their arms.

    Her screams became louder and louder, calling out for her brother, Go, or whoever else could help her. “Ken, help me!”

    Tears ran down her face as the car continued to speed up, racing down the street, with seemingly no escape from her captors. Then, to her surprise, Ken, dressed completely in his yellow mechanic’s jumpsuit jumped in front of the car.

    “Stop!” Ken hollered out, spreading his arms as wide as he could, but the kidnappers did not heed his request.

    Instead, the car flattened him as Aki screamed out at the horror that was displayed in front of her. Before she could even process it, the kidnappers kicked open the car door and threw her onto the open asphalt, letting her legs drag against the street at high speeds. The skin on her legs ripped to shreds as a long blood trail followed the moving vehicle.

    THRASH!

    The attackers threw the defenseless woman out of the car, letting her roll down into a ditch. She was blanketed with scars blending in perfectly with her red dress.

    Hideki Go bolted onto the scene of the crime, observing the carnage before him, seeing the street covered red from the mangled corpses of the people he treasured more than the world itself. His mouth quivered at the horrific sight before him, feeling his knees buckle at seeing Ken’s flattened body only a couple steps away from him. His face was completely unrecognizable, with Go only able to identify his body due to his favorite jumpsuit he was wearing.

    His hand shook uncontrollably while tears welled in his eyes, rage building up inside of him while he watched the car driving away in the distance. Go felt his feet picking themselves up, racing over to Aki, laying face first in a ditch, however, fate had other plans in store.

    Two gigantic explosions were heard off in the distance, forcing Go to snap his head in the direction of the noise. To his shock two gigantic beings made themselves known.

    Black King and Nackle blocked the descending sun while turning the entire landscape into a dark orange battlefield, as if the apocalypse arrived. The horned beast thrashed his arms about and charged towards Go while Nackle laughed at his torment.

    “Your heart is in turmoil like the stormy sea,” Nackle declared, raising his fist up in his victory over the grieving man below him while his servant continued charging forward. “Now you have been defeated for good.”

    Go snapped his head back at his unconscious girlfriend, making a beeline towards her. He snatched up her body, desperately trying to get her out of harm’s way before the beast caught up to him. Unfortunately, his shadow eclipsed the distance he was going for. Go didn’t look up at the monster, but instead, at the dying Aki, clutching her even harder against his chest, wanting one last embrace from her.

    Black King’s hand swang forward, moving in for the kill as Go immediately screamed at the top of his lungs.

    “AKI!!!!”

    Go launched himself out from the comfort of his bed. His chest beat up and down while his breathing was rapid. His hands gripped the sheets, nearly ripping them in half while sweat poured down his entire body.

    His eyes scanned the entirety of the room he was in, realizing he was in his own bedroom. Not of a world ending event darkened by fire or painted in blood, but of serenity. Yet, the peace before him was not of comfort, but instead a reminder that it’ll only come for him again.

    The door swung open with Go tilting his head upwards to see Aki in perfect health before him, with no blood or scars running down her entire body. However, her face was blanketed with the same horror he saw in his dream.

    “Hideki, are you okay!?” Aki cried out, rushing over towards him, wrapping him up in a tight embrace. Go only met her question with heavy breathing from the nightmare he had just experienced, taking a few seconds to slowly collect himself.

    He slowly lifted his arms up towards her, letting his head rest on her chest. He laid there, whispering “Just…. A bad dream is all.”

    “About Christmas Eve?” questioned Aki, caressing his head with her hand.

    Go answered hesitantly, not wanting to bring up this conversation again, nor wanting to discuss it in greater detail, “Yeah….. It was that one.”

    “Hideki, what happened wasn’t your fault. You had no way of knowing it would have happened,” Aki murmured, attempting to comfort her aching lover. She herself was at the center of it, knowing the Nackle went after her and her family to get to Go. She remembered the heartache she went through in the past few months with the trauma, the long process of physical therapy, Ken’s funeral, and the hardest of all, being strong for Jiro.

    Yet, despite the progress she was making to recover, she knew Go was far behind. Ever since that day, he had never been the same. Her love for him was only matched by the love she has for her brothers, but it was taxing, both mentally and physically.

    Still, she wanted to do everything she could to help him.

    “Hideki, tell me,” Aki spoke softly once more, slightly moving Go’s face to meet hers. His body trembled as his face was on the verge of twitching as if his eyes moved up and down. However, every fiber of his being commanded him to not break down, but to reinforce his barriers.

    And so, his face became stoic and looked her deep in the eye. He loved her with all of his heart, but for several reasons he couldn’t even explain to himself, gave his answer. “It’s okay. Just what happened to you and Ken, nothing more.”

    Aki nearly huffed with frustration at Go’s refusal to open up, but nonetheless wanted to stay supportive of him. She had to remind herself that not everyone was as open as her, but she still wanted him to confide in her.

    “All right, but promise me you’ll tell me, okay?” Aki sighed, pulling him in for a hug. “I love you.”

    Go wrapped his arms around her, nearly eliciting the same one as he had in his dream, causing her to slightly yelp. His body nearly jumped from the yell his girlfriend emitted, but immediately reminded himself it was only of surprise and not of danger.

    “I love you too,” Go whispered back.

    Aki relinquished her hold on Hideki, allowing his arms to collapse on the soft mattress. She got back to her feet, speaking up, “Breakfast will be ready in a few, so don’t wait around or else Jiro will eat it all up.”

    Go chuckled, allowing Aki to smile back at him as she left the bedroom and towards the kitchen, leaving him alone.

    He fell backwards, crashing his head on the pillows as he stared up at the ceiling. Go rubbed his hand across his face while he let out a deep sigh. He knew Aki could tell everything had changed since the holidays, as if he was no longer the same person he was once before, or the person he was pretending to be.

    “I have no idea who I even am,” muttered Go, as several thoughts completely flooded his mind. Memories he couldn’t even begin to fully process in the moment, only knowing they were ones that tormented him for years. He shook his head, evicting them from his mind.

    He dealt with them several times in his life and was not in the mood to deal with them now. Not after having to drag Aki into it. She shouldn’t have to carry the burden over something he couldn’t deal with himself.

    Go lifted himself off the bed and stumbled around the room, picking up his everyday clothes to change into. Soon after he slowly entered the kitchen, already finding Jiro happily eating his breakfast while Aki was setting hers and his plates down on the table.

    “Go!” Jiro enthusiastically called out while Go placed himself onto the chair next to him.

    Hideki faked a smile before answering. “What’s up?

    “Are we still going to go to the Champion Festival?”

    Go let out a chuckle at his friend’s enthusiasm. “Of course. I wouldn’t miss it.”

    “Yes! It’s gonna be so awesome! They’re gonna have so many toys of my favorite kaiju like Anguirus and Goga!” Jiro exploded with joy, shaking his hands up and down while Aki giggled at her brother.

    “I think it’s going to be great for all of us,” commented Aki, glancing over at Hideki’s now solemn look, staring down at his food, not even picking at it. “We all need it.”

    “Yeah… it’ll be…. nice,” Go stumbled before taking a bite of his food.

    Aki sat down as the three began eating their meal, discussing a variety of topics such as upcoming projects Jiro had been assigned, Aki’s new routine and Go’s duties. However, the peace didn’t last long as a loud beep was heard, causing Hideki to nearly fall out of his chair.

    Go immediately raced towards the intercom and pressed the button, hearing the voice of his superior, Captain Ibuki. “Go, we are in Code Red. The kaiju Baragon has been spotted making its way towards Mount Myoko. Can you arrive at headquarters in five?”

    “Shit!” Go mentally cursed, feeling his body pulsate rapidly. He didn’t want to deal with a kaiju at this moment, especially after the hell he had just woken up from. But, he took a deep breath in and knew he had to do his duty.

    “Yes, sir.”

    The transmission ended as Go turned around to face a concerned Aki and a confused Jiro staring at him. “You have to go?” inquired Aki, tilting her head slightly.

    “Yeah,” Go simply muttered before making his way towards the door.

    “You’ll make it in time for the festival tomorrow, right?” Jiro asked, concern plastered all over his face, wanting the person he looked up to the most to attend the event with him.

    Hideki turned around and faced the child. He didn’t know if he wanted to give him an answer, but felt himself compelled to give him one. Even if it was completely meaningless.

    “Wouldn’t miss it.”

     

    Chapter 3: Ultraman Jack vs. Baragon – The Battle of Mount Myoko

    Baragon roamed the lush, green landscape scanning it all for a place to rest and more importantly, food. The unfortunate tourists ran in terror from the Subterranean Terror, struggling to navigate through the treacherous terrain of rocks and hills that’d give most pause. All the while Baragon glanced down at the tiny screams below him. He watched their little legs trying to pick themselves up from the hills standing in their way and licked his lips.

    It had only been a few hours since he had his last meal and these little ones were the perfect snack. Baragon ushered out a roar of delight, giving chase towards the increasingly horrified tourists. Each footstep caused the fleeing civilians to lose their footing, with some tumbling down the hill becoming closer and closer to the kaiju while others collapsed into the nearby river.

    Baragon swung his head back before sending it forward to the group that collapsed right in front of him. His jaws opened wide and crashed right into the screaming civilians as they instantly became reduced to chunks of meat with his sharp teeth. Baragon nearly burped as the taste was making his mouth water and all he knew was he wanted more.

    To his delight, his eyes widened even further with several more tourists trying to flee.

    He was eating good today.

    Baragon unleashed an excited roar, taking several more steps towards his prey, getting ready to sink his teeth into their tender flesh once more. Instead, he felt an object detonating in his jaw, blowing up a few of his teeth on the right hemisphere of his mouth.

    Blood and teeth scattered around the trail while Baragon let out a blood curl cry, rocking back and forth from the painful attack. The Subterranean Terror snapped his head upwards to see a red and silver jet circling around, getting ready for another attack. Baragon charged up his magma ray, desperately wanting to shoot it down for ruining its appetizer, but was hit with a laser, sending a long streak of char over his back.

    The red beast unleashed a cry from the scorching pain, swinging his head around to face the other jet above him. He planted his feet on the ground, looking directly at the hovering craft before him. He gritted his remaining teeth, intending to jump right into the assaulting aircraft. Baragon knew the collision was gonna hurt, but he didn’t care. The plan would at least get rid of one of the aggressors that interrupted his precious meal.

    Baragon nearly felt his limbs pushing up, however, four rockets collided into his body, detonating on the right. He let out another frustrated cry as the two jets fired off their arsenal at him once more. Baragon was fortunate as he allowed his limbs to push off the ground and to land on the other side of the canyon.

    The Subterranean Terror shook his head in frustration. These attacks were more powerful than the tanks he encountered just hours before. He knew he could hunt them in a given span of time, but knew it’d only be an exhausting one. One that would make him vulnerable. Baragon quickly scanned his surroundings, trying to find a suitable means of escape. He looked upwards to the snowy mountain several miles away and let out a small snarl.

    It was his only means of escape, or would at least give him the vantage point to properly fight these aggressors on his terms. Baragon picked up his legs and bolted through the trees standing in his way. He briefly considered burrowing to the mountainside, but it was time he didn’t have the luxury of as the aggressors were still firing their entire arsenal at him. Baragon just hoped he could make it to the mountain to feast another day as those little humans were incredibly appetizing.

    “Ground team, do not lose sight of him!” Captain Ryu Ibuki commanded over the intercom of Arrow 2, hovering behind the fleeing kaiju, as he continued to fire the laser at Baragon.

    “Yes, sir!” Fumio Kishida answered, firing off one last rocket before piling in the MAT car with the rest of the ground team. The car navigated through the tough terrain as best as it can, as everyone kept their eyes peeled on the running Baragon as he was still being bombarded.

    “Go,” Ibuki said into the radio.

    Hideki Go focused on the attack, but heard the voice of his superior. He took a small breath in. Go knew the captain had a task for him in mind, the one that always spearheaded the entire operation into success.

    “I wouldn’t be surprised if he knew.”

    Go pressed on the intercom button. “Yes?”

    “I’ll keep pushing the target towards the mountain, but I want you to speed ahead towards the mountain and launch a surprise attack,” ordered Ibuki plainly.

    Go hesitated momentarily, wandering about the additional damage that would be done if he disobeyed the order. He considered requesting just to remain here and to finish Baragon off here and there, but shook his head. Go knew Ibuki would just chew him out and possibly reprimand him for disobeying orders.

    The Ultra host gripped his hands tighter on the controls. “Acknowledged.”

    The MAT Arrow zoomed over the forested landscape and circled around the base of the mountain, waiting for the target to arrive. All the while he could hear Baragon’s screams of anguish followed by the explosions.

    “Stay focused, Go. We’ll put an end to this conflict. We always do.”

    Go titled his head up in surprise.

    That voice.

    He only heard it once in a while. Only when he or the person he now shared a body with was in danger. To any other person, it’d be unnerving, possibly soul shattering, but for Go, his body went completely calm.

    There were no more doubts.

    No more fear.

    Just the two of them.

    Him and Jack.

    Go pulled upwards on the throttle, firing the jet upwards to the higher levels of Mount Myoko. He relied more heavily on the radar as his eyesight could barely make out the battle below him as he saw Baragon jumping out of the trees and onto the snowy base of the mountain.

    Missiles detonated once more on the creature’s attack, eliciting another pained scream. Baragon had arrived at his planned destination and knew it would at least deter some of his attackers from being able to harm him. The Subterranean Terror planted his claws into the mountain and pulled him up, with each climb getting him closer and closer to a safe distance from the ones attacking him on the ground.

    Baragon let out another roar, feeling another laser strike him on the side. His right hand lost its grip on the mountain, causing him to slip a few feet. Terror sparked in his very core as the fall would spell certain doom for him. The initial collapse would very likely kill him and if he did survive, he’d be at the mercy of the MAT forces. It was a fate he did not wish to experience.

    Finding the strength in his body, Baragon lifted his right hand back up and dug into the side of the mountain. He climbed several feet up, getting higher and higher up.

    ZOOM!

    The sound of the Arrow 1 raced in, firing several missiles at the climbing kaiju, unleashing a series of screams as they all detonated against his flesh. Blood oozed out from his wounds, painting the once peaceful looking snow into a pulpy mess.

    Go circled around for another attack, firing off the gatling gun as the bullets pelted against Baragon. His hold on the mountain was getting weaker and weaker, but he saw he was nearing a spot where he could regain his footing, a chance to fight on equal or even greater ground.

    Baragon slammed his front paws on the surface of the safe spot he was looking for and planted himself on it. He nearly collapsed from his wounds, but reminded himself it would only lead him to death. The Subterranean Terror looked up to see his attackers circling around, letting out a small sigh of relief as his gamble worked. Several of his attackers could no longer follow him up this far.

    Now, he could focus on the process of elimination.

    Baragon unleashed a magma ray, with a fiery beam erupting from his maw and towards the Arrow 2.

    Ibuki zipped his craft out of the way, letting a heavy breath out over nearly being cooked alive by its beam. He steered his craft around, readying to fire at the reddish beast, but Baragon was already two steps ahead. He let out a mighty roar of defiance, pressing his feet against the side of the mountain and launched himself at the approaching aircraft.

    The MAT captain harshly swung the throttle to the left, narrowly avoiding the kaiju’s attack once more. Ibuki nearly lost control of the craft, regaining control of the situation momentarily while Baragon landed on the next level of the mountain, causing feet of snow to pour down the edge.

    The rest of the MAT team arrived at the base of the mountain watching as Baragon unleashed another flame breath at the harassing aircraft. Yuriko Oka, the team’s communication officer, grew increasingly concerned over her comrades’ safety as they were taking the bulk of the monster’s attention, and immediately pulled out her communicator.

    “Captain! Go! The two of you are not going to last long against Baragon like that,” she reasoned, pausing to take a breath as she looked at the rest of the team stationed with her. “What are your orders?”

    “Go and I can handle the beast up ahead. What I need for you is to prevent it from coming back down,” ordered Ibuki, keeping his eyes peeled on the still stationary Baragon.

    “But captain….” Yuriko almost uttered, but Takeshi Minami placed his hand on her and smiled.

    “It’ll be okay. Go and the Captain always come through,” he spoke, ushering in a sense of warmth and reassurance in his voice.

    Yuriko was still apprehensive about the strategy, but Minami alleviated her worries. He was always there to make sure everyone was at ease whether it was on duty or off duty, and he always succeeded. She was envious of his ability to be a people pleaser or at least his ability to lie. Nonetheless, she appreciated him for his caring nature and gave him a nod.

    “And besides, we’ll be laughing about this when this is all over,” Minami pointed out, earning a chuckle from her.

    “That’s cute, you two, but…..” Kishida trailed off, gaining their attention as he then fired a rocket almost abruptly, earning the rest of the team to jump in shock. “The heart-to-heart can come later, we got a job to do.”

    “That we do!” Minami called out, following suit by firing his rocket at the distant Baragon.

    The rockets crashed into the distracted Baragon, earning a loud cry of annoyance. He snapped his head towards the source of the attack and noticed that group of ants were still pursuing him. Baragon snarled at them, but had no choice but to continue climbing as another wave of projectiles were soaring towards him.

    Baragon dug his claws onto the mountain and picked up the pace, ascending the mountain side. Go and Ibuki kept up the pursuit, unloading every piece of ammunition they could at their target. The chase went on for minutes as Baragon neared the peak of the mountain, slamming his front claws onto the surface of it, feeling the cold snow melt against his warm hands.

    Both Arrows swung around as the pilots didn’t usher any commands towards each other, but instead knew what to do. Go and Ibuki unleashed the volley of missiles and lasers at the now standing Baragon while he looked them dead on.

    The Subterranean Terror braced himself for the impending pain, but remained firm in his plan of attack. The lasers cut into his shoulder, with blood immediately shooting out like a gun while the missiles pelted his stomach, as if polka dots were painted on him. Baragon nearly choked out from the suffering he endured, but held on, charging up another flame breath as the two got closer.

    The Arrows zoomed in, readying to make another attack when Baragon felt his insides raging with fire. The kaiju opened his maw and fire rushed out, immediately coating the Arrow 2 in flames.

    “Captain!” Go shrieked out, narrowly avoiding the flames while he watched the Arrow 2 burst into flames as it was sent crashing down the precipice of the mountain.

    “Captain? Captain!” Go immediately cried out, desperately trying to get a response from his superior. His body felt numb while his stomach turned to knots, fearing the worst. The Ultra host knew he was capable of handling any situation, but something told him it wasn’t going to be like that this time.

    “Go.”

    “Ibuki!” screeched the pilot, his thoughts catering towards his wife and daughter. Ibuki rarely showed it, but he and the rest of the team knew the love he had for his family. Now, they were without him. A husband, a father, and a good man.

    Go trembled, the controls of the craft followed suit, forcing the aircraft to slowly lose its altitude. Hideki was starting to lose sight of it all. His throat became clogged, becoming harder and harder for him to breathe while his body exhumed sweat.

    “I can’t lose,” gasped Go, pressing down on the throttle, aiming the Arrow 1 directly at Baragon.

    Baragon’s maw brewed orange as his teeth were cleansed with its own flames, staring directly at the opposing craft zooming towards him. Soon, this whole ordeal would be over and he could go back to his delicious meal.

    “Go. Please.”

    “I can’t lose anymore! Not after what happened!” screamed Go at the top of his lungs, holding down the missile launcher, priming it, but not yet releasing it. Ibuki was, despite their differences, someone Go immensely looked up to as if he were a member of his own family. And today was the start of not being able to take it anymore.

    “Go, no!”

    Hideki ignored the cry in his mind, pressing harder on the controls, inching closer and closer towards his target while Baragon shot out his magma breath. The Arrow 1 was instantly coated with the searing flames as the engines immediately began to falter. Go, on the other hand, kept his grip tighter than ever, keeping the aircraft steady as it was just a short distance away. He was tempted to close his eyes, to know what quiet was like, even for a moment, but deep down, he knew he didn’t deserve that peace.

    “At least you’ll be free,” Go murmured, keeping his eyes focused on Baragon as the Arrow 1 collided into Baragon, immediately eliciting an explosion. The blast sent Baragon reeling backwards, unleashing a cry of agony while he rolled around from the flames scorching his stomach.

    Then, a blinding light was casted out, forcing the wounded kaiju to avert his eyes. Despite the pain he was still enduring, Baragon’s gut told him that this was far from over. He slowly got up to his feet and turned around.

    What he saw shocked him to his very core.

    Tiny flames rained down mixing with the pure white snow while a silver and red giant stared at him. Unlike the ants and their craft, this figure didn’t invoke annoyance, but fear. He wanted to run and he knew he was outmatched, but there was nothing he could do until this newcomer was dealt with.

    Baragon immediately let out a roar and leapt out the figure, but Ultraman Jack put his hands together and shot out the signature Spacium Beam. Blue energy emerged from his hands and collided into Baragon, causing his body to erupt in sparks while he let out a cry of agony.

    Ultraman Jack wasted no time, jumping up in the air and sending himself careening down towards Baragon. The Ultra sent his hand forward, unleashing the powerful Ultra Chop onto the collarbone of Baragon, shattering it.

    The Subterranean Terror bawled out, feeling the afflicted bone breaking apart. He felt his entire body waning, knowing full well he’d only last for a few more minutes at best. Baragon had to think fast as he saw Jack moving his hand back once more. Rearing his head back briefly while Jack’s moved closer, Baragon sent his head forward, his horn immediately stabbing into his chest.

    Jack ceased his attack and screamed out while he stumbled back several feet, dragging Baragon who still kept his grip on him. The Terror then dug his claws into Jack’s body, eliciting more yells of pain as small, narrow beams of light peered out of his body.

    The fire brewed in Baragon’s body once more as it traveled up to his maw and without a second thought, he let it all out on Jack, searing the entirety of his chest. Jack felt his body starting to weaken from his foe’s sudden reemergence. He needed a way to escape the creature’s hold and like a lightbulb turning on, he found it.

    His bracelet flashed as he reached over across Baragon and threw it up in the sky. The bracelet exploded, turning into several needle-shaped beams raining down on to the kaiju, piercing him in the back. Baragon ushered out a cry of agony, allowing Jack to elbow the monstrosity’s neck, sending him stumbling down a few feet away from him.

    The needles dispersed and transformed back into his bronze bracelet, securing itself back on his wrist. However, it wasn’t secured for long as Jack immediately snatched it off his wrist and threw it at Baragon, detonating upon impact. The blast sent Baragon skyhigh as he soon crashed face first into the snowy mountainside.

    Jack watched Baragon struggling to get up, determined to continue fighting all for food. He had never seen such tenacity in a kaiju before, much less already survived two of his bracelet’s moves. By now his foe would be vanquished and he would be flying towards the sky. Here, it was far different.

    His timer flashed red, its light coloring the increasing amount of snow that fell past him, as if blood was raining down from the sky. The battle was slowly turning into a nightmare.

    He had to end this here and now.

    Flames erupted once more out Baragon’s mouth, heading directly towards the seemingly distracted Jack. Despite being stuck deep in thought though, he caught it just time, summoning forth the Ultra Defender. A powerful red and silver shield with a bronze diamond plastered on it, strong enough to deflect any beam thrown at it. The flames collided with the shield, forcing the flames to be parted, completely missing their intended target.

    Baragon nearly cocked his head in shock at how he couldn’t believe the giant was able to summon anything from will. This distraction cost him, however, as Jack swung the shield sideways and threw it at him. The shield zoomed across the mountainside and collided with his head, shattering his horn on impact. His once mighty horn crumbled into pieces, becoming one with the snow he stood on.

    Screams emerged from his gullet as Baragon covered the stump where his horn used to be, trying to nurse it as best as he could. Jack, on the other hand, didn’t give him the opportunity. The Ultra lunged at the reddish kaiju and unleashed a volley of punches and kicks. Each one, more damaging than the last.

    Ultraman Jack chopped Baragon’s stomach with his right hand, earning a choking response, forcing the kaiju to spit up blood. All the while, with his left hand, Jack sent it down on top of Baragon’s head, cracking his skull.

    Baragon’s vision began to go static like a TV losing reception, as he struggled to keep up with Jack’s advances. He swiped forward, but Jack easily dodged the feeble attack as the Ultra unleashed a kick, sending the beast crashing down on his back.

    The weakened Subterranean Terror wheezed, feeling his entire body beginning to shut down with multiple broken bones and the blood oozing from his body. He was done for as he lifted his head up weakly to see the bracelet lighting up once more.

    A sword materialized in Jack’s hands, pointing it directly towards him. Baragon gulped, feeling the blade inching closer and closer towards him. Despite his body heating up, more so than usual, he couldn’t muster up the strength to let out another flame breath.

    Jack reared his arm back to strike as the cold, unforgiving wind picked up, swishing past the Ultra, as if it were trying to make contact with Baragon. The creature felt the cold make contact with his burning body. He felt a sensation he never felt before. It didn’t rejuvenate nor weaken him, but allowed him one last trick. One even he didn’t know about.

    The wind, once mild, picked up, becoming a strong turbulence forcing Jack to stop momentarily. He wondered why the wind was picking up far greater than usual and why it was affecting him, but couldn’t ponder it for long as he felt himself losing his footing. Within seconds, Jack collapsed to his knees, only to be saved by the Ultra Lance being firmly slammed into the ground.

    Jack looked up to see Baragon’s stomach going up and down, almost matching the rhythm of the turbulence before them. His hand tightened on the handle of the lance, pulling it out, but it only proved to be a mistake as he felt himself being sent flying forward by the still present wind.

    With his free hand, Jack lashed out and grabbed a hold of Baragon in an attempt to stop this powerful wind. Unfortunately, all it did was push them closer to the edge of the mountain, with Jack laying face first onto the snowy surface. He shook his head briefly and slightly jumped back in surprise at seeing the precipice below him. Several pointy rocks greeted him from the bottom of the mountain.

    Jack, regaining a small sense of composure, glanced at Baragon who fared far worse than him. Despite his weakened form, he held onto the edge with one claw. Jack, at this point, knew he was no longer Baragon’s worst enemy, but his own as the winds were still keeping him down.

    His color timer was beeping rapidly, signaling his time was nearly over. Jack huffed, finding the sound to be annoying. He forced himself to crawl towards Baragon, intending to end this once and for, but with each advancement, his mind flashed towards a memory.

    A memory of not his own.

    He saw two people hiking on a mountain similar to this one. One child and the other an adult. The memories jumped rapidly as the two were enjoying a warm meal on a couple of rocks under a tree overlooking the lush, green valley. The two climbing effortlessly over a rocky mountain. Then, finally the two of them were laughing over something he couldn’t comprehend.

    “Father and son….”

    Then, all hell broke loose in his mind.

    The mountain they were on shook as rocks were sent hailing down the entire area. Several of them hit the son, immediately causing him to collapse. The father cried out in horror towards his son, but he couldn’t do anything as the rumbling cost him his footing and soon after, fell.

    Jack felt his entire body seemingly being transported away from the snowy mountainside and onto the rocky landscape he had just witnessed. The Ultra snapped his head in all different directions, trying to figure out what exactly was going on as he heard a child scream out.

    “Dad!” the young boy hollered out, bolting towards his father, fighting against the quake.

    Jack was perplexed, not knowing what the kid was trying to do as he couldn’t see the boy’s father anywhere. However, the child planted himself on his stomach, ignoring the sharpness of the rocks, reaching his hand down towards the edge of the cliff.

    His heart raced forward at the sight of the child starting to tip over the cliff. Jack raced towards the child, desperately wanting to avoid another death.

    “No! No! No!” Jack screamed out, crashing down next to the child. He reached for the terrified kid, wanting to put him out of harm’s way and risk his own life instead, but it was all for naught. His hands went through him as if he were a ghost.

    Jack was at a loss, staring at his hand.

    “Am…. am I dead?” Jack bemused, moving his hand towards his own body. Instead of it going through him, it just rested against his chest. His breathing became more and more hushed, terrified at what was happening.

    He couldn’t understand what was going on.

    “Hideki!” a voice belonging to an older man cried out, snapping Jack’s attention towards the edge of the cliff.

    Jack looked down to see a man he recognized just moments before. The father looked up at his son, tears welling in his eyes, but kept a look of confidence up.

    “Dad!” the kid cried out, wrapping his tiny hands around his father’s hand, attempting to lift him up.

    “Hideki, you have to listen to me!” his father called out, snapping Jack’s attention back to the struggling child.

    “Go….. was this you?” the Ultra stammered out in shock, feeling his stomach turn into knots on the very sight before him.

    “I can lift you up. Just hold on!” Hideki cried out, using every muscle in his body to pull his father.

    “Hideki! You can’t lift me up. You have to save yourself,” Go’s father called out, tightening his right hand on his son’s hands. Not to save himself, but to feel him one last time.

    “Don’t say that! I can get you out of here. You taught me to be strong and I’m stron…..”

    “No!” Go’s father cut him off abruptly, forcing the child to go motionless as he stared at his father. “Hideki. I know you’re strong, but you can’t fix this. My left arm is broken and if you try to pull me up, you’ll only go down with me.”

    Tears poured out of Go’s eyes at the dark reality he was now facing. He didn’t want to believe it. He refused it. Every fiber of his being shook, feeling a sense of adrenaline coursing through his entire body. He reinforced his grip on his father as his face turned red.

    “NO!!!!!!” Hideki screamed out at the top of his lungs, defying his father’s orders as he pulled with all of his might. Despite it all, his father only felt his son starting to be dragged down with him and any moment now both of them will be tumbling down into the abyss.

    His father took a deep breath in, planting his feet onto the side of the mountain. He looked at his son’s distraught face, desperately doing everything he could to save him. He smiled at him, knowing full well he was going to do amazing things and be a good man at that.

    “Hideki, I love you,” he spoke, his feet letting go of the side of the mountain as he dug his nails deep into his son’s arm, eliciting a cry of pain. Hideki’s grip began to falter as his mouth trembled.

    “Dad!” Jack shrieked out, launching his hand forward, grabbing a hold of him. With the feel of contact, he closed his eyes momentarily knowing he was able to save a life. Jack breathed out in relief for a few seconds before opening his eyes once more.

    His heart sank.

    It wasn’t Go’s father he saved, but instead the kaiju he was fighting. Jack stared at the dangling Baragon, unable to comprehend what he just experienced. He was seemingly in a different world the moment before and now back into the one he lived in.

    “How? What is happening to me?” Jack quivered, feeling his grip weakening, but for reasons he couldn’t explain to himself, kept his hold on Baragon firm.

    CRUNCH!

    Jack screamed out as Baragon sunk his jaws into his arm, allowing light to shoot out of his afflicted limb. Thoughts about Go and his father ceased as they returned back to the battle at hand. Jack shot Baragon a glare as without even giving it a second thought, he raised the Ultra Lance up in the air and sent it swinging down. Like a knife against hot butter, the lance cleaved through Baragon’s arm with ease, sending him plummeting down the mountain.

    As if on cue, the turbulence ceased and the mountainside became quiet. Jack allowed himself to breathe before sitting down, taking a moment to assess the area around him. He knew things were worse on the surface from Baragon’s attack, but a part of him didn’t want to look down. Yet, it was his job to make sure the threat was dealt with.

    His body began to shake as he crawled towards the edge. Jack titled his head down and scanned the bottom only to find blood splattered everywhere. What Jack saw next, nearly made him paralyzed. Baragon’s entire body was impaled by those pointy rocks he saw earlier, with one going directly through his back and out his stomach. While another was even worse. Another went straight through one of his eyes as it ripped his face apart, nearly severing it in half.

    The kaiju he had just fought was virtually unrecognizable. Never before did Jack feel sick at the sight of a dead kaiju. He shouldn’t be feeling this way. It went against everything he was taught or even believed in.

    “Why? Why am I becoming like this?”

    Jack slowly got up to his feet as the color timer was beating even more rapidly. The Ultra got ready to fly up into the sky when he noticed red on the palm of his hands. Upon closer inspection, he realized what it was.

    “Blood.”

    Jack started to breathe rapidly while his legs started to buckle in on themselves. He needed to know why things were starting to happen the way they are now, but he couldn’t do it now.

    His time was up.

    The Ultra shot up into the sky, flying directly towards space. He needed to know why his and Go’s thoughts were becoming intertwined.

    “Go, what is wrong with us?”

     

    Chapter 4: The “Champions” of the Festival

    With the slide of the buttons in the holes, Go tugged on his blue buttoned-up shirt. He looked up to see the reflection of the mirror in front of him, staring back at himself. The battle he partook in left him unscathed. No broken bones, no loss of blood, not even a scar. Yet, so many others lost their lives and one in particular paid the price for it.

    He gripped the bathroom counter, as his whole body was shaking. Go continued to stare at his own reflection, watching as it slowly morphed into something vile and disgusting. The skin of his reflection turned a dark red while the room around him went pitch black.

    “Everyone you come across is only in for a world of hurt.”

    Go gagged while his grip got tighter and tighter as pieces of the counter crumbled towards the floor. He snapped his head up to his reflection forming a sinister grin on his face while horns slowly protruded from his head.

    “You think you were a hero trying to save the world by strangling a child?”

    “No….” muttered Go, buckling down to his knees, with his entire body collapsed.

    “Your teammates could have solved every invasion in an instance if you weren’t there trying to make it all about yourself.”

    “Stop,” breathed the Ultra host. “Please.”

    “Go!” a distinct voice called out, nearly snapping Hideki’s attention away. “There’s no one here! This isn’t real!”

    Hideki, following the voice, started to pick himself back up, but only saw the face of a devil in the mirror. The reflection’s nefarious grin shot daggers into his very soul.

    “Oh. This very much is real. All the mistreatment you caused towards everyone is coming back to swallow you whole, and every failure of your pathetic life is just the cherry on top.”

    The Ultra host’s grip on the counter broke off, taking the chunks of it with him as he fell completely on his back. The light in the bathroom shut off, swallowing him in complete darkness until flames surrounded him as the devilish figure stood before him.

    “Jiro is going to become an even bigger piece of shit than you because of your examples and Aki will be nothing more than a poor, soulless creature from your years of abuse!”

    “ENOUGH!” a voice screamed out.

    The devil faded away with the darkness as the bathroom light was turned back on, basking him in its light. Then, the silver and red giant he bonded with over a year ago materialized. Jack stood before him as Go simply stared at him, his stomach turning in knots.

    “Go, this is not your fault.”

    Jack lowered his hand down towards Go as he gazed at it.

    That fear he had just seconds ago was gone but in its ashes, anger rose above it. He swatted the Ultra’s hand away, but instead went right through it as he picked himself up.

    “The hell do you know?” he angrily muttered out, picking up the broken pieces of the counter and throwing them away.

    “Go, the memory of your father….” Jack tried to speak up but it only earned him another glare from his host.

    “I’m aware you saw my memory, but that gives you no right to pry and start asking about my life whenever you feel like it!” barked Go, taking a step forward and raising a fist towards the red and silvery figure.

    “I understand you’re angry…”

    “Bullshit.”

    “More than you.” Jack solemnly spoke, lowering his head down as if the same guilt was starting to infect him.

    Go crossed his arms, keeping his glare focused on the pure white eyes of Jack. “I’ll believe it when I see it.”

    “Your father. He…. was not angry at you or viewed you as a monster. He just wanted you to live…”

    “You…. dare say something like that!?” Go snapped, taking another step forward while his whole body shook rapidly, jabbing his finger right through Jack’s hollow body. “You only witnessed that memory as a movie! One you’ll never likely see again! I have to live through that memory every single goddamn day of my life! Don’t tell me how he or I felt on that day!”

    “Go, when he told you ‘you can’t lift me up’, he didn’t say it because he didn’t believe in you, but he said it because he would rather choose the option that guarantees your survival than risk you dying with him.” Jack explained, knowing it wasn’t what Go wanted to hear, but what he needed to hear.

    Hideki’s body immediately began to shake even more, his blood boiling with rage while his left hand morphed into a fist. He shot his right arm forward, wrapping it around Jack’s empty neck, looking him dead in the eye.

    “Get out!” snarled Go, reeling his left arm back.

    “Go…..” Jack tried to speak up, but was cut off by his host.

    “GET OUT!” Go shrieked out, nearly sending his fist crashing into the wall.

    In a mere second, the Ultra vanished, leaving Go completely alone. Seeing how he disappeared, Hideki let both of his arms drop as he began to breathe rapidly. It was as if he went through the most exhausting fight of his life. Sweat drenched his entire body, staining his clothes while his knees began to buckle down again.

    “Hideki!” Aki’s voice called out, forcing him to snap away from his thoughts and towards the footsteps. She was getting closer towards the bathroom and he was running out of time to create a facade.

    Hideki wiped the sweat away from his forehead and took a deep breath in as Aki made herself known in the doorway. He glanced up at his girlfriend and was entranced by her beauty. She was draped in a light blue dress while a white coat hung over her shoulders. She stared at him, and to his misfortune, he could already tell she knew something was wrong with him.

    “Hideki, are you okay?” Aki asked out, reaching for his shoulder.

    “Yeah…. just slipped and snatched a piece of the counter off,” explained Go, nearly fumbling his words at the poor excuse he was conjuring up, so he wouldn’t be invaded by another person.

    Aki briefly scanned the room, noticing the great deal of damage done to the counter and how two large chunks of it were ripped off. As if a large animal was the culprit of it. She looked back at her boyfriend and saw exactly what she suspected in his eyes.

    The hurt.

    The suffering.

    “Hideki… please tell me. What’s wrong?” murmured Aki, wrapping herself around Go, pulling him with a tight embrace.

    “Everything.”

    It’s what he wanted to say. He wanted this to be over. For all of it to go quiet, but a part of him didn’t allow it. Instead, it forced him to not only answer, but to avoid it altogether.

    “Is the festival still on?” Go simply asked, raising his arms around Aki’s body, returning the gesture.

    Aki mentally cursed to herself, annoyed at how he was dodging the question. Especially when his entire body was spelling it out for her and yet, he wouldn’t open. She desperately wanted to call him out on it, to beg him to let her in. However, she was at an impasse. It would only get worse, particularly for Jiro.

    “It is,” Aki answered, faking a smile in front of him.

    “Right, I imagine I can’t get out of it,” Hideki attempted to joke, but deep down didn’t want to attend. Being around the people he cared about would only make it worse and would destroy their happiness with his presence.

    “No!” Aki yelped out, playfully punching his shoulder. “Jiro has been wanting to spend time with you these past few days! You owe him.”

    Go let out a deep breath of defeat, relinquishing his hold on his girlfriend. “Alright. Tell him I’ll be ready in a few.”

    “Okay,” Aki complied, letting go of him and turning towards the living room. Before she could make it out though, she turned around. “It’s okay if you ever need to talk. I’ll always be there for you.”

    She was just like Jack. Wanting to do everything she can to ease his pain when in reality it’d only bring her pain. Unlike Jack, however, he couldn’t bring himself to yell at her.

    Not this time.

    “I know.”

    It was the worst lie he ever said to someone.

    And yet, it wouldn’t be the worst one for long.

    ******

    The sounds of laughter and joy filled several city blocks as children ran around dressed up as their various favorite characters and playing with the toys their parents bought for them. All the while parents sat back and caught up with each other, enjoying the beautiful day before them.

    Hideki, Aki, and Jiro arrived to watch the festivities teeming with life as the two siblings’ smiles grew wide with excitement. Go, on the other hand, kept his stoicism. He briefly glanced down at the two’s passion to make the most of the day, wishing he could join them in it. Instead, he turned back up to the celebration in front of him.

    “What should we do first?” inquired Aki, snapping Go’s attention away from the crowd and towards his girlfriend smiling at both him and her brother.

    “The toys! I really want to get my Anguirus!” Jiro exclaimed, taking a step forward, getting ready to bolt, but was held back by his older sister.

    “Not so fast!” Aki joyfully said, letting go of the child. “We still have to wait for the others.”

    “It’s good thing we’re here to the rescue then,” Minami declared, announcing himself to the three as he jumped up from behind. His smile rivaled Aki’s as he was overjoyed to be spending the festival with his closest friends.

    Go turned around to see the rest of his comrades gathering around them. Rarely ever did he see them outside of their uniforms. Aside from the occasional dinner or bar visit with Minami and Oka, that was. Seeing them being able to already enjoy themselves was strange while he was still stuck in the mindset of the next mission.

    The Ultra host faked a smile and greeted his entire team.

    “Are we missing anyone else or are we ready to start?” Ippei inquired, constantly shifting between his friends and eyeing the local bar nearby.

    “Waiting on four more people,” Yuriko answered, glancing over in the distance before returning her attention to friend. “You can wait a few more minutes to drink. Some of us will want to challenge you.”

    “After these past few days, I could use a drink,” Fumio sighed, rubbing his hands together, now focusing on the bar.

    “Then your first order for this celebration is to deliver me one,” a gruff, commanding voice ordered, coming up from behind the group, nearly startling them all.

    Along with his wife and daughter, Ryu Ibuki stood proudly in front of his subordinates as he slowly walked towards them. Go was in complete awe.

    “He’s alive? Are my eyes deceiving me?”

    “Captain….” stumbled Go, his words trembling from his mouth.

    “Ah, shocked to see me alive?” Ryu chuckled, patting his subordinate on the shoulder. “That red pipsqueak wasn’t gonna be the death of me, but I know another that will.”

    Ibuki motioned his head towards his daughter who immediately caught on. Her face grew bright red and became angry at her father teasing her. “Hey!”

    Her father laughed, harder than any of his subordinates have ever heard. Jiro, on the other hand, jumped in. “Hi, I’m Jiro. What’s your name?”

    The girl’s face turned over to the boy next to her and smiled at him. She couldn’t help but admire his longer hair black hair that reached his jaw bones and with the friendliest face she had seen.

    “Minako,” she answered, still keeping her gaze on him and her face remaining red as well. Not from embarrassment from her father, but of the new acquaintance she just made.

    Jiro felt the same as he stared at her pigtails as she was draped in a white shirt with red overalls over them. His heart beat rapidly as Aki grew a smirk on her face, knowing all too well what was going on.

    “Young love. That’s all too familiar.”

    Aki turned her attention back to her boyfriend, reminiscing about their first days together and how he was overjoyed with everything he did. Now, he was plagued by all he had been through and she didn’t even know what it was. All she could do when she saw him was watch him become a shadow of his former self just by keeping his silence.

    Go did, however, quivered. “Captain, how did you survive?”

    “Hm?” Ryu turned around to face his subordinate. “I was able to eject before the fire melted my craft. It was a nasty fall, but nothing serious.”

    Hideki let out a small sigh of relief, just out of earshot from everyone. His guilt about the incident began to lift, knowing someone dear to his heart was alive and yet, like a black hole, it pulled it back down. Go couldn’t help but feel he could have done more to prevent all of this. To prevent MAT from losing two of their most valuable assets and to prevent a family from being worried sick.

    Before he could trail off, Ibuki spoke up with his gruff, commanding voice. “I’m saying this just once for tonight.”

    Go stood firm, taking his usual stance whenever there was a debriefing as the rest of his comrades around him giggled at the sudden change of demeanor. Ibuki knew Go was feeling distressed over it and didn’t want his mood to be soured over a celebration like this. This portion of the job was harder than fighting kaiju, but he knew the responsibilities when he took this job.

    “Hideki, I am ordering you to have a good time tonight. Do not think about work, kaiju or even the next day. Everyone here wants you to enjoy yourself,” commanded Ibuki, keeping himself firm in front of Go.

    Go shook his head. “Of course, sir.”

    Ibuki smiled as he turned around towards everyone else. “Good, or else I’m ordering the rest of you to get Hideki liquored up!”

    “Yes, sir!” Ippei cheered.

    “A way to make Go act silly? Count me in,” Fumio added, smirking at his friend.

    Go couldn’t help but shake his head while smiling ever so slightly. Getting liquored up did sound like a good idea to him, but he had to keep a clear mind to take Aki and Jiro back home. Nonetheless, a small sense of hope began to rise.

    “This…. Can this be a good day?”

    “Hideki!” Jiro hollered out, immediately snapping Go from his thoughts. He snapped his head down towards the child as he was tugging on his arm. “Let’s get Anguirus.”

    Go’s mouth quivered. “Of… of course.”

    Jiro bolted off towards the kiosk as Go and Aki followed shortly. Not even giving them a second to pause, the child’s eyes lit up like a Christmas tree as he grabbed a hold of several of the toys, wrapping them up around his body.

    “Anguirus!” Jiro excitedly exclaimed, snatching up his pride and joy from the shelf as his eyes then darted over to a Telesdon figure. “Ooh!”

    He went over to reach for it, but another hand came across it, grabbing a hold of it as well. “Hey!” Jiro nearly snapped, but realized who the culprit was.

    Minako glanced up at Jiro, realizing they had their hands on the same toy. “Is Telesdon your favorite?” inquired Jiro, slowly loosening his grip on the toy.

    She nodded.

    Jiro hummed ever so slightly, letting go of the figure almost instinctively. “You can have it.”

    The young girl titled her slightly, confused by his willingness to allow her to have the figure. Minako nearly stammered out, “Why… did you let go?”

    A sense of guilt slowly crept on her as she had a feeling of disappointment over the boy’s face at having to relinquish a toy he was interested in. She soon followed it up while inching the toy closer to the boy. “Don’t you want it, though? You saw it first.”

    “Nah,” Jiro answered proudly as Minako nearly took a step back.

    “Huh?”

    “He’s your favorite, so it’s only right you get to have him,” Jiro declared, gently pushing the Telesdon figure back towards her as he then changed his focus on a different toy, brandishing it in front of her. “Besides, I already got Anguirus.”

    “Thank you,” Minako huffed out, feeling grateful over Jiro’s kindness. She couldn’t help but feel something brewing for him. The two without any hesitation, found it in themselves to discuss more about their interests. “How do you feel about Pigmon?”

    “Ew!” Jiro nearly exclaimed, almost causing himself to lose his grip on the toys in his possession.

    “Yeah, ew!” Minako mimicked, followed by laughter.

    Hideki and Aki watched from a distance as she smiled at her little brother finding love while Go could only keep himself stoic. He was proud Jiro was making another friend, but already found himself on the cusp of him starting to worry. He knew Jiro was a great kid, but he was too focused on trying to be like him.

    “The world doesn’t need another me.”

    “Pride isn’t just about winning,” a voice declared, nearly startling the couple as they turned around to see to their surprise, Saburo Azuma. While barely standing taller than Aki, he still stood proudly in a white buttoned up shirt and blue shirts, as if he found a new lease on life.

    “Sometimes you lose for pride.”

    “Saburo?!” Go nearly exclaimed in surprise, feeling a small sense of happiness at seeing his old friend. “I thought you went back home?”

    Saburo chuckled, wrapping his arms around the two as he soon patted them on the backs. “I did, but you inspired me, Hideki.”

    “Inspired you?” stammered Go.

    “Inspired? That’s not possible.”

    “Hmm….” hummed Azuma, letting go of the hold on his two friends. “I started up a support group to help anyone who is in need.”

    “Aw! That’s sweet!” Aki exclaimed, patting him on the arm. “How many people have you helped?”

    “I get quite a few people a week,” he answered. “But, even if it’s only one person, that’s all that matters, because I know I’m making a difference in someone else’s life.”

    “I just want to say I’m really proud of you. You’ve come a long way,” Aki congratulated him once more, subtly glancing over towards her boyfriend. Hideki helped him once, and perhaps he could return the favor. To give him closure for everything in his life.

    “I need to talk to him when Hideki’s not around.”

    “I’m glad I helped…. you then,” Hideki nearly tripped over his words. He felt pride in helping his friend. Perhaps before the incident with the Nackle, he’d feel overjoyed, however, he could only feign excitement.

    “Hideki! You can’t take all the credit!” shouted Yuriko, trotting over the group.

    “Oka? What are you talking about?”

    “Ah! Yuriko!” Saburo greeted, wrapping his arms around her while he planted a kiss on her lips, immediately causing Go to nearly jump back.

    “When did this happen?” inquired the Ultra host, keeping his eyes peeled on the couple.

    “New Years,” answered Saburo, parting his lips from the MAT member.

    “We met a little before that, but right before the countdown hit zero, he confessed to me and I said yes,” Yuriko chimed in, giggling at the memory playing in her mind.

    “There’s more to this story and I need to know!” declared Aki, grinning at Yuriko, gushing at the love story before her. She had a weakness for romance, as she always begged Hideki to take her to the theater whenever a new movie was released. To her, it always represented the hope in this world as how the act would bring two people closer together, to make them whole.

    Yuriko simply hummed in response while Saburo looked at Hideki once more. “I never got the chance to say this, Hideki, but thank you…. for everything. You really did help set me on the right path.”

    “Bullshit. I just made you settle for something mediocre instead of achieving your dream.”

    Instead, Go faked another smile. “Of course.”

    “Minako,” Ryu called out, causing his daughter to turn her head over to him. “We’re grabbing something to eat.”

    “But, I want to stay with Jiro!” she complained, turning her head back to him, the two of them immediately smiling at each other.

    “She’s already obsessed with boys. Great.”

    Ryu shook his head ever so slightly. “You can hang out with him in a bit, but first, dinner.”

    “Yes, dad,” Minako complied, walking over towards her dad while he paid for her chosen figure. She took one last look at Jiro and smiled once more.

    “I’ll find you when you’re done,” Jiro called out.

    “I know you will, but come, let’s watch a movie first,” Aki spoke up, urging Jiro to enjoy himself at the festival. She was happy at him finding love at this amazing place, but it’s not the only thing he should focus on. Part of the reason was to bond with Hideki and the first step is to enjoy a movie together.

    She looked back over at Yuriko and Saburo, and smiled. “Do you two want to join us for the movie? It can be a double date.”

    “That sounds really nice,” Yuriko hummed while Saburo nodded his head.

    Go, on the other hand, kept himself out of focus. He didn’t pay attention to the events that transpired, but instead felt himself lost in a void. A dark void that was dragging him in until a bright light engulfed him. Out of the darkness, came a brightly lit green city encased with futuristic buildings that looked like they came out of a science fiction film. The Ultra host felt himself plopped down on a random street, watching several red and silver figures walk past him.

    “Where am I?” Go muttered in utter confusion as if no one was paying him any mind.

    “Jack?” a concerned voice spoke up, forcing Go to jump around to find an Ultra with long silvery hair strolling towards him. He had no idea who she was, but at the same time, felt as if he’d known her for years. She had a very inviting and calm aura around her, almost as if he could see her smile at him.

    Remi reached for him, nearly wrapped them around when her appearance warped into Aki. Go’s head immediately jerked back when he then noticed the green city melting away and transforming into the festival around him.

    It was then he realized what he saw was just a memory.

    “Hideki,” a concerned Aki spoke out, finally getting her boyfriend to snap out of it and place his focus onto her.

    “What? I’m so sorry,” Go apologized, feeling himself breathing heavily as his hands tightened up.

    “Are you okay?” whispered Aki, pulling herself closer, wanting to make him feel as safe and comfortable as she possibly could.

    “Yeah, I just lost my train of thought for a second. What are we doing?” Go inquired, dodging her question once more.

    “We’re seeing a movie right now,” she answered, resisting the urge to roll her eyes.

    “That sounds nice, let’s go,” Hideki nearly fumbled as the group didn’t waste anymore time and went towards the theater. He went to follow them only for the whole around him to melt once more. It was replaced by the same green city he had just seen moments before and his loved ones replaced by four figures adorned in silver and red. All similar to Jack.

    This time, however, he wasn’t standing in behind them, but instead from a distance. Then, to his shock, he saw Jack standing amongst them as if he was engaging in some sort of banter with them.

    “I hear the zoo is just running with tons of new creatures!” Taro excitedly exclaimed, turning around to face his loved ones while walking backwards, naming them all off.

    “Kaiju always excite you, don’t they?” inquired Beth, perplexed by her new friend’s attitude towards seeing animals being put on display.

    “You should hear him back at base. He goes on non-stop,” Seven chimed in.

    “What? I love seeing what they can do!” Taro defended, pumping his fist up in the air while Remi simply chuckled at her nephew’s antics.

    “You really don’t mind the way he’s acting?” Jack inquired, turning towards his girlfriend while they locked their hands together.

    “It’s cute,” Remi contended, tightening her grip on Jack’s hand. “And besides, it’s preferable to hearing Ace’s complaints.”

    “On that we can agree on,” Jack huffed, pausing before taking a look back at Taro naming every creature he could to Beth and Seven. “At least he’s been understanding about us.”

    “He’s got Ken’s brain and Marie’s heart. He sees love for what is. No matter the difference,” Remi explained, following her beloved’s example, watching the three converse before them. “Despite their shortcomings; I’m proud of them both.”

    “Are you including Ace or is there another niece or nephew I don’t know about?” Jack jokingly asked, earning a chuckle from Remi.

    “Of course I’m proud of Ace. He’s a handful, but he’s still willing to do what’s right. He just needs time to figure it out,” Remi pointed out, despite disliking some of her nephew’s tendencies, particularly that of insulting her boyfriend.

    “That sounds motherly,” Jack responded, following it up with a smirk and raising his eyes upwards. “Any plans I should know about?”

    If she could blush, her face would shine brighter than any star in existence. Remi could barely feel herself move while her grip on Jack’s hand got tighter. “I…. I…. I never…. Well…”

    Jack almost burst out laughing at her stumbling. It was the very first time he had seen her done it, however, he didn’t want to get the others involved. The Ultra then stepped closer to his partner.

    “I’m only joking,” comforted Jack, rubbing her back with his free hand.

    “Rude,” huffed Remi, annoyed at him putting her in a spot like this, however, she wasn’t opposed to the idea. She had only known Jack for a few years, but she saw something in him that was rare in people. One she loved most of all. “It’s not a bad idea…. for the future, that is.”

    “You’re right,” Jack concurred, looking back up at the city, eyeing the many homes they passed filled with families bonding together through various activities. “It isn’t.”

    “Let’s not talk about family life when we can look at bizarre animals instead,” Remi pointed out, rapidly going back to the nature of their outing.

    “Of course,” Jack spoke, his foot reaching out when he felt himself frozen in place. He tried to budge only for nothing to happen. Instead, Remi continued moving forward, her hand phasing through his own. He began to panic when he saw no one paying attention to him, as if everything was still normal to them.

    The Ultra commanded every fiber of his body to move, but nothing would obey his commands. All he could do was watch as his friends continued marching towards the zoo, not paying any attention to him whatsoever.

    His mouth was the only piece of his body willing to follow his commands.

    “WAIT!” Jack yelled out, sheer fear and terror echoed out of his vocal cords.

    But it was not meant to be, as four others heeded his words. Aki, Jiro, Yuriko and Saburo all turned around, their faces all had matching expressions on them.

    Concern.

    Go stood in place, his hand reaching out for them. He breathed heavily, staring at their confused looks. The Ultra host only now realized what had just happened. He had experienced a memory of Jack’s, just as he did for him days before.

    Hideki slowly lowered his hand, recognizing the situation as nothing but a reminder of a life he didn’t live. Yet, one that felt all too familiar.

    “Nothing, just had something in my shoe….”

    They turned around and made their way towards the theater while Go followed them. He was in complete disarray. He not only had to deal with his own memories constantly, but was now witnessing someone else’s in the process.

    “I hope you know what’s happening to me,” Go whispered to himself.

    “I really do not know,” Jack replied solemnly, his voice cracking ever so slightly.

    The memory he had to experience was one of the happiest of his life, however, it was thousands of years in the past. He was far from it and knew it would stay like that.

    ******

    “I hope we can play more often!” Jiro exclaimed to Minako while they were looking over their haul of collectibles they acquired throughout the day.

    “Mhm! I’d like that!” she concurred, striking her Bullton figure into Jiro’s Gorosaurus toy.

    “I think that can be arranged,” Aki chimed, smiling at Minako’s parents.

    Yoko, Minako’s mother, mirrored the gesture. “I’d be happy to allow them to have another playdate.”

    Ryu Ibuki on the other hand, frowned, suspicious at how close his daughter and Jiro were getting already. His family was very important to him, to the point where he dedicated his life to not only protect them, but his comrades from anything that would threaten them. The boy, despite looking harmless, was still a bit apprehensive.

    Yoko noticed her husband giving them a frown, and immediately elbowed him to stop. He relented and finally gave his ruling. “I suppose it couldn’t hurt.”

    “Yes!” the two kids shouted in unison, high-fiving each other.

    “Oh! Have you seen Hideki? He disappeared right after the arcade,” Aki inquired, growing a bit worried how he wasn’t anywhere in her periphery.

    He rested his palms on the railing, staring out at the brightly lit city contrasting with the dark night sky. Go allowed himself to breathe for a moment as he heard the silence starting to overtake the noises from around the celebration.

    “I hope I’m not intruding,” Jack spoke up, materializing next to his host, mimicking his posture.

    Go kept his eyes focused on the city. “When are you not?”

    “Did you have fun today?”

    Go paused. Despite the thoughts he had throughout the day, he felt content. Seeing his friends and family being themselves without any cares in the world was something that warmed his heart. Even if it was something he couldn’t do himself.

    “I did, but….” Go answered, following up with another pause, briefly turning over to the Ultra. “It’ll be nothing more than a memory. One we can never experience again.”

    “Go…..” Jack stammered, taking a step closer towards his friend.

    Hideki fully turned his head around, directly addressing the Ultra. “But I suppose that’s something we share in common.”

    “That memory you saw. It was one similar to today’s events,” replied Jack, with Go nearly rolling his eyes as they both simultaneously turned their gaze back towards the city. “Taro was lifting everyone’s spirits by telling jokes and teaching us about the variety of animals. It gave Beth the courage to be more open to making friends beyond me and two others, and Seven taught Taro and I some life saving techniques. Then……”

    Jack felt himself pause as Go slowly turned his head back to him and saw him going completely silent. It was as if he was frozen solid by something bone chilling. For once, Go felt a small amount of concern. He’d never seen the Ultra flinch from anything until now. His mouth opened only to be cut off by Jack himself.

    “It was the day when I confessed my love for Remi,” Jack nearly coughed up, the thought of that day making his very soul ache at how far he was. He hung his head down, looking at the ground below him as cars zipped past each other.

    “I…. I’m sorry,” Go breathed out. If the same thing had happened to him and Aki, he’d no doubt be in his shoes. The fear of losing both her and Jiro was one that plagued him for years. He’d already lost Ken, who was like a brother to him, but the very thought of anything bad happening to them would kill him. Yet, he wanted them to be free to where he couldn’t harm them anymore.

    “Your friends are coming,” Jack simply said, seemingly ignoring Go’s sympathies as he slowly dematerialized, leaving him to be completely confused.

    “Hey! What are you doing out here?” Takei inquired, patting his friend on the back while he smiled at him.

    “Just wanted to take a look at the city,” Go bluffed, smiling back at his comrade.

    “I don’t buy it!” Yuriko called out, standing on the other side of Hideki, grinning. “You only sightsee when you’re hiking!”

    “Of course,” murmured Go, letting go of the railing and turned toward his friends, standing on the opposite sides of him.

    Takei let go of his friend, but kept his smile. “What are you really doing out here anyway, Hideki?”

    “Just needed a breather I suppose,” Hideki answered, turning away from his comrade to look back at the brightly lit city. It was easier than the other lies he had told in the past few days, since there was a hint of the truth in his answer. A breather was what he needed.

    Yuriko smiled, admiring the view Hideki was supposedly enamored with. “It is a nice view.”

    “It is,” Go mumbled, allowing himself to be taken away from the hypnotic light once more as if his worries were dissipating.

    “Best we appreciate it in case Seagorath and Seamons ever show back up,” joked Takei.

    Yuriko snapped her head over to her friend and nearly barked in frustration. “Ah! Don’t remind me! My place nearly got flooded!”

    “You think that’s bad? My favorite ramen bar went out of business because of that,” countered Takei, rubbing his stomach from the very thought of his favorite meal.

    Go smiled.

    “Both of you are complaining too much.”

    “Huh?” Yuriko questioned, turning her attention away from Takei and back towards Hideki.

    Minami raised an eyebrow. “Hideki, what are you on about?”

    “A few weeks after that, I had to deal with Sartan!” Go laughed out loud for the first time.

    Yuriko immediately choked, holding herself back from falling over while the memories of that abomination were swarming in her mind. “Are you trying to make me vomit?!”

    “Hideki, what’s with the punches?” Takei joked, smiling at his friend, lightening up for once.

    “What? That was the ugliest thing we’ve encountered!” defended Go, allowing the grin to stay on his face as he followed it up with another chuckle.

    “But you didn’t need to remind me of it!” Yuriko hollered, firmly planting herself on the railing.

    “To counter that,” Takei chimed in. “Sartan was fascinating ugly, but Bemstar was just incredibly hideous! He was a lot worse.”

    Go snorted at his behavior. “And I thought you were the one with the moral high ground?”

    “We all have our moments of weakness.” Takei shrugged.

    “And out of all the monsters we fought, we had to encounter Bemstar and Seagorath twice,”
    Yuriko pointed out.

    “And that was right when the Nackle invaded,” added Takei.

    Go’s heart stopped.

    “No. Not again.”

    The memories of that fateful day played back in his head.

    A mangled corpse lay on the street as the ichor from it painted over the asphalt. Within seconds, the body decomposed, its peach like skin blending in with the plasma while the bones remained. A careful reminder of the victim that was before his very eyes.

    “Ken.”

    Down in a ditch, a woman barely clung to life, gasping for air. She struggled to reach the top and towards the messy street. Her very essence was fading away from her fragile body. The suffering woman looked up at Go with the last of her strength, pleading for him to save her.

    Go stood frozen, commanding every fiber of his body to move. Instead, he felt himself pulled back by several hands. His eyes tilted down not only to find the culprits to be kaiju he stopped in the past, but ones belonging to humanity.

    He felt himself dragged off away from the slowly fading woman who was trying to cry out for help. Darkness overwhelmed him as the hands wrapped themselves all around him, with the last thing he saw was the girl finally collapsing on the ridge. Tears came out of his eyes and finally found the strength to move his mouth.

    “Aki!”

    “Hideki!” Yuriko and Takei cried out, immediately snapping him out of the memory. His eyes zoomed all around to find himself no longer in the hell he was in, but instead, reality. Hideki took a moment to breathe as his eyes got adjusted to where he was, what surprised him, however, was that he was leaning halfway over the railing.

    Go immediately jerked back, nearly falling over, but was saved by his comrades. They held onto him tightly, slowly raising him back. He snapped his eyes back at both of them, shocked to see how horrified they were.

    “What happened?”

    “Hideki, are you okay?” asked Yuriko, her voice nearly cracking, worried at seeing her dear friend seemingly lose control of himself.

    “I……” The Ultra host tried to stammer out, but couldn’t find or even lie about an answer to give.

    “Do you need Aki?” inquired Takei, turning head back to the rest of their group off in the distance enjoying the festivities, oblivious to the ordeal they were in.

    “No…..” Hideki breathed, slowly raising himself back up as it just dawned on him why his partner would ask about his girlfriend.. “Why?”

    “Because as soon as Yuriko said Nackle, you screamed her name out,” Takei clarified, causing Go’s eyes to widen once more at the very mention of that name.

    Despite the trembling in his legs, Go gripped onto the railing as hard as he could, forcing himself to stand on his own. However, Yuriko and Takei’s hold was stronger, as they kept their hands on him.

    “Hideki, if it’s about that day… you’re not alone,” Yuriko spoke softly, wrapping herself around him, doing her best to shelter him from any more pain. “I still have nightmares from having to confront nearly everyone in MAT because of what they did.”

    “And it still hurts me knowing I tried to hurt one of the best people I have ever known,” Takei spoke, breaking the normally energetic tone in his voice to one of grief as it cracked with each word.

    “It’s not that… it’s…..” Go struggled once more, trying to find another lie to take, but it was only getting harder and harder. They wouldn’t believe him and yet, he was trying everything to conjure up anything to get them off of him, because the truth only hurt so much more.

    While his eyes zoomed around as if he was searching for something, Jack materialized next to him.

    “Go. Please don’t make the same mistakes I did,” Jack quietly pleaded, taking another step towards him, placing his hand on his host’s shoulders and putting himself in the embrace of their MAT friends.

    “Let someone in.”

    “No…..” Go whispered so quietly that only the Ultra could hear it.

    Jack lowered his head slightly, disappearing just a second after he gave his answer.

    “Hideki…. Saburo has been helping Takei and I with our ordeals. It’s a good idea to talk to someone about what you’re going through,” Yuriko conveyed, making her words as comforting as possible.

    Had it been with anyone else, it would have worked, but little did she realize, her friend was broken. “I’m not going to whatever you call therapy!”

    Go shrugged off the hold his comrades had on him, gripping tighter and tighter on the railing. Minami stepped forward, his voice becoming a bit louder and yet trying to usher in a sense of security for his troubled friend. “And same goes with what happened to the Captain earlier. It wasn’t your fault and he’s okay. He even told you that himself.”

    “Goddamnit! Don’t you think I know that!?” Hideki screamed out while he relinquished his hold on the barrier and turned around to face them, stunning them completely.

    Immediately afterwards, he himself was frozen from the outburst as he saw them petrified. It was only then, did he take it too far. That fear he just invoked onto them only made him acknowledge even more what he truly was.

    “I’m so sorry,” Hideki apologized, speedrunning through his words as he ran off, disappearing in the dark, ashamed at how he reacted. Knowing the exit to his problems was in front of him to where anyone could see it and yet he didn’t even budge towards it.

    He was sick.

    Sick of himself.

     

    Chapter 5: The Prelude to Our Nightmares

    “Right here! This is the spot!” a child gleefully pointed out to a lone tree in the middle of a park. His smile told everyone about his dedication, his duty to the craft as he turned around to face the other children approaching him, carrying a variety of equipment with them. “This is where we can shoot the climax of our movie!”

    Setting the film camera down, the smaller child surveyed the area and frowned. He wasn’t sure about his friend’s idea for the location. It looked too plain, there was nothing exciting about it. “Are you sure you want this is where you want it to end, Hideki?”

    “Of course, Zaou!” Hideki proudly proclaimed, admiring the view of the singular tree as the surrounding area was calm with not a sound in sight beyond the group.

    “Hideki, I was thinking….” a taller kid spoke up, coming off as confident yet considerate. He knew how much these projects mattered to him, however, no matter what they would say, Hideki rarely ever took “no” for an answer. “I think it’s best if we change locations or at the very least scout around for other options.”

    “Jouto, I don’t see the problem with this. It’ll be awesome!” countered Hideki, keeping his excitement, but deep down, felt irritation brewing inside of his stomach. He wondered why they were expressing doubts now at all times when they had discussed several times over.

    “Hideki, we have plenty of time. If we take the time to….” Jouto attempted to voice out, but Hideki abruptly cut him off.

    “We’re filming here! We’re doing it this way, because we wasted enough time already!” Hideki spoke out, his voice becoming louder and agitated over his friends making suggestions.

    “I’m with Jouto,” Zaou murmured, forcing Hideki to snap a glare at him as he felt a shiver go down his back. “It really would be best if we took the time to consider our options more thoroughly.”

    “It’s fine! Just set up the camera and we’ll go from there!” Hideki yelled out, seemingly ignoring the suggestions his friends made, completely standing his ground.

    “Hideki! Not everything should go your way! This is a collaborative effort! You even said it yourself! Art isn’t made by just one person! We’re allowed to have input as well!” Jouto countered, taking one step forward while everyone else nodded in agreement.

    Watching the collective nodding and hearing the words delivered by his friend shook Hideki to his very core. Then, as if it was transmitted to him, he began to shake, his feet vibrating on the ground while his face turned red. His hands morphed into his fists while his feet took two steps forward, forcing the vast majority of his friends to back up.

    “We are doing it this way! We’re not just going here for nothing! As the director, all of you do as I say and…..” the shrieked out, forcing his friends’ bones to tingle in pure fear at the monster forming in front of them. For some, it was the scariest thing they had encountered while others felt nothing but pure hatred for this vile, disgusting human being.

    Then, a voice countered it.

    “Just stop!” Hideki screamed out, launching himself upwards from his bed. Without even contemplating what’s fully going on, he found himself breathing heavily while sweat dripped from his very body.

    “Hideki!” Aki cried out, immediately waking up next to him and holding the still gasping Go. She felt herself tearing up, looking up at the terrified Hideki as he kept his eyes peeled straight ahead, not even looking down at her.

    “Please…. It’s okay. You’re okay. You’re with me. I won’t leave,” pleaded Aki, trying to find the right words to calm him down while she tightened her grip around him.

    Several minutes went by as his breathing started to slow, he felt himself no longer trapped in the nightmare he had just experienced, but in a room he shared with someone special. Hideki glanced down to see the still distressed Aki clutching him with all of her might.

    It reminded him of the old friends he saw in that hell he just went through. He couldn’t even shake his head at the mess, knowing it was only starting to repeat itself yet again.

    “Are you okay?” questioned Aki, rubbing his back trying to comfort him as best as she could.

    “Just…. yeah…. just a bad dream is all…” Hideki trailed off.

    “Hideki…” sighed Aki, eliciting a small frown, tired at his unwillingness to open up.

    “It’s just when I was a child…. Things had to be my way or the highway…” paused Hideki, trying to find the right words to frame it. Not that it mattered, whatever route he chose would only make him out to be a monster and rightfully so. “I wasn’t a good person then and not one now. Even to the point where I got angry over people trying to suggest ways to make something better. It’s pathetic.”

    Her heart sank. Not because of the confession he told her, but how low he thought of himself. This was the person she loved and wanted to spend the rest of her life with. It pained her hearing those words coming from him. Her mouth quivered, wanting to say something to refute that, but before she could, he cut her off.

    “You probably think I’m a shitty person.”

    “No,” Aki replied bluntly, frowning at him before continuing on with a more positive outlook on her face. “I don’t think you’re a bad person and there are several others who think the same way. Everyone makes mistakes.”

    “Even if it hurts others?”

    “And you’re regretting it now, right?” Aki pointed out, peeking through her boyfriend’s walls. She saw them faltering before her very eyes, how his very own began to water. The once stoic Go was starting to open up. Aki never wanted to see him cry, but to talk about it meant he was one step closer to being free.

    “Yes….” Hideki answered, nearly feeling himself croak from the amount of guilt weighing him down. “But….. it’s too late for me.”

    Her heart stopped for a moment, taken completely by surprise on what he just declared. Aki watched him as those very words departed his body. Saying it wrecked him, but for her, it was devastating. She wondered how someone who was a good person to the people he loved could say that.

    “Why can’t you see what others see in you?”

    Hideki raised his hand onto Aki’s cheek, caressing it slowly before getting up from the bed and exiting the room, leaving her alone. Once out of earshot, she immediately broke down.

    Go rubbed his head while he stumbled into the kitchen, attempting to start up some coffee. Liquor or anything else sounded a lot better to take him away from his thoughts or even Jack showing up. Unfortunately for him, he was fresh out and had to settle for the next best thing.

    He poured the next best thing in and waited when he heard an enthusiastic voice call out from the living room. “Godzilla did it!”

    His eyes widened.

    Jiro, while bright, was still very young and knew Godzilla wasn’t a being he could fully trust. The kid, like many others loved kaiju, wouldn’t fully grasp the reality of the situation. Fearing for their safety from the impending threat, Go bolted into the living room to find Jiro watching the news of Godzilla fighting against a monster with bright red eyes.

    Its body was leaking with dark liquid as it waved its arms around while firing off a single crimson ray. The footage then switched to Godzilla pinning the slimy monster down to the ground as he fired an atomic ray at a giant wall before them.

    “Godzilla, with the aid of JSDF, has vanquished the Smog Monster known as Hedorah, ending its reign of terror in the country. Many had lost their lives, but Japan and the whole world can rest knowing that the once terrifying King of the Monsters now known as man’s friend will defend his newfound allies,” a newscaster reported over the footage playing before their very eyes.

    In the corner of Go’s eye, Jack materialized in the living room, standing right next to him. “Deathla……”

    “What?” murmured Hideki, turning over to figure out what the Ultra was talking about.

    “It’s over…..”

    “Hideki, who are you talking to?” asked Jiro, hanging over the couch, raising an eyebrow at his friend.

    “Huh?” Go replied, turning his head back to Jiro. He realized he talked to Jack while someone else was in the same room as he was. He mentally cursed at himself, but he already upsetted one person this morning, he couldn’t do that to another. “Just thinking out loud.”

    “Oh,” Jiro acknowledged as he immediately followed it up with a smile. “Isn’t it cool that Godzilla destroyed that monster, though? Now we can call him a friend!”

    “Yeah…. It’s cool,” Go simply replied.

    “Say…. you think Godzilla and Ultraman could be friends?” inquired Jiro, keeping that big smile of his up. They were two of his biggest heroes along with Go himself and the very thought of the two of them teaming up together would be one of the best visualizations he could ever dream of.

    Hideki turned to Jack, hoping he would give him an answer, but instead, found the Ultra continuing to stare at the footage playing on the television. He let out a sigh and turned back to Jiro.

    “I guess anything can happen now if Godzilla is willing to change,” answered Hideki, glancing over at the footage as he saw a kid running towards the departing Godzilla.

    “Godzilla, thanks again!” the kid happily cried out, waving at him like he was an old friend.

    The King of the Monsters slowly turned around, which started Hideki for a moment, concerning him with what he was about to do. Instead, Godzilla let out a roar, but it wasn’t a battle cry or one of hatred. It was one of appreciation, as if he was telling the child he would always be there.

    Godzilla departed from the scene, forcing Go to become entrapped with his thoughts once more.

    “Is it really possible, then? If Godzilla can change, then what about me?”

    Before Hideki could ponder it any further, Jiro interjected as he walked towards the kitchen. “I’m starving.”

    As the child went past him, Go turned back to Jack only for the entire living room to go pitch black. Hideki nearly panicked as his mind made the assumption they were being invaded when stars lit up all around him. Then, a giant blue nebula circled above him, forcing him to drift into the newly created space where he saw six red and silver figures zooming towards it.

    “Ten minutes to Noxus of the M Space Hunter Nebula,” Lipiah relayed to the rest of his team as the six Ultra Brothers drifted through the cosmos. Each of them being paired up, with Zoffy and Lipiah taking the lead while Ace and Taro took to the rear.

    “Acknowledged,” Zoffy spoke, turning his head back forward towards the approaching nebula. “From the intel gathered, this creature we’re dubbing as Deathla, is highly corrosive, so do not engage in any physical combat. Use only projectiles.”

    “Yes, sir!” the five Ultras yelled out in unison.

    “Any ideas on how to handle the inhabitants of the planet?” Seven inquired.

    Zoffy turned his head back to his subordinate. “Half of us will take on the bulk of Deathla while the other will focus on providing assistance in evacuation.”

    Jack’s heart sank at the mission before them. The monster sounded horrifying already, but from what he was gathering so far, he didn’t like where the fate of the planet was going. “Is the planet beyond saving?”

    The eldest Ultra Brother took a moment of silence before turning back to the nebula they now crossed through.

    “Yes.”

    “Can’t we do more, though?” Jack interjected, flying closer to his commanding officer. “Like, focus all of our efforts on vanquishing that monster, so those people don’t have to leave everything behind?”

    Zoffy admired the young warrior’s enthusiasm and heart to save something precious, but as much as it pained him, knew it wouldn’t be possible.

    The commanding officer let out a sigh. “The planet is too far gone to heal; the most we can do is allow the inhabitants of Noxus to flourish in a new home.”

    Jack reluctantly dropped his shoulders as he allowed himself to decelerate to his original speed, following back in sync with Seven. “I…. understand, sir.”

    “Now, I do want you to command the evacuation efforts with Ace and Taro while the rest of us handle Deathla,” Zoffy announced as Jack immediately lit up.

    “I get to do this? To be a hero.”

    “Of course! I won’t let you down!” Jack enthusiastically called out, desperately holding himself back, making sure he didn’t zoom past his superiors.

    “Sir! You can’t trust Jack to save the lives of the inhabitants!” Ace cried out in defiance, flying right to Zoffy, glaring at him. “You’ve looked at the reports of the past missions we were on. You’ve seen what and how he achieves victory! He’s ruthless!”

    Zoffy glanced back at Ace. Jack wasn’t perfect and he was fully aware of the actions he committed in the past, but he knew he had a heart and was always willing to do the right thing. The fourth Ultra brother wasn’t just the hero the galaxy needed, but a good man.

    “I understand your concerns, but you are to follow Jack’s orders until further notice,” Zoffy relayed, turning back to the approaching planet before them. “I hope I have made myself clear.”

    Ace growled with annoyance as he drifted backwards to the rearguard. “Of course.”

    The Ultras entered the atmosphere as they saw fire burning in the sky while civilians ran in terror. The creatures known as Deathla blanketed every step with sludge while they concentrated their crimson rays, annihilating everything in their path.

    Every Ultra was terrified by the warzone before them, but none of them said a word about it. Zoffy glanced over to a well guarded sanctuary where several rockets were pointed towards the horizon. Several civilians were fleeing inside of them while tanks fired off shells at the approaching Deathla.

    “Jack, this is your stop. Do whatever it takes to ensure they survive!” commanded Zoffy as he, Lipiah and Seven flew off to the bulk of the horde, attempting to thwart the Smog Monster once and for all.

    “I won’t let you down!” Jack called out, veering directly towards the evacuation center flanked by his two teammates.

    Before his very eyes, the six Ultras merged with the blue nebula.

    “What was that?” Go asked as the stars faded away and the vast emptiness of space was replaced with the white ceiling of his apartment.

    Jack stood directly in front of his host, slightly twitching from the memory he had experienced. His face didn’t show it, appearing as it always did in front of him, but that look was all too familiar. The Ultra let out a sigh and let his shoulders drop, hanging his head down.

    “Me about to make one of the biggest mistakes in my lif…” explained Jack, giving himself pause as Go was surprised to see him nearly wince. A part of him wanted to laugh at how Jack wasn’t any better than he was, but he knew it’d make him a bigger monster. Instead, he took a deep breath as well and kept his silence, as the will to provide sympathy was slightly overtaking that urge to ridicule him.

    “No… the galaxy,” Jack finished his answer, allowing himself to disappear from his host’s eyes.

    He had never once disappeared on his own.

    “For what it’s worth, I know what that’s like. More so than anyone else,” The Ultra host spoke softly, feeling words slowly come out of his mouth. He shook his head. “I need to step outside.”

    With the closing of the door, Go found himself in the empty yet calming hallway. He found himself trailing down, finding it almost never ending yet comforting. Despite it all, the entrance was before his very eyes. He took a deep breath and opened it only to find a familiar face in front of him.

    “Saburo?” he nearly yelped out.

    He simply smiled. “Hey Hideki, how are you?”

    “Managing, I suppose,” Go huffed out, taking his eyes off of him, avoiding the unpleasant conversation that was about to take place.

    Saburo raised an eyebrow at him before breathing in. He reached out with his arm and patted his troubled friend on the shoulder. “You sure? Yuriko told me about what went on last night.”

    Go dropped his shoulders, following it up with a deep sigh. He hated himself for how he acted to his friends. All because they were trying to help and the moment they opened that door, he slammed it right in front of them. “I suppose she did.”

    He was disappointed by the way Go had treated Yuriko, as he would have been outright furious had it been anyone else. Hideki, on the other hand, was a treasured friend who helped him get out of his funk and become something more. He knew Hideki wasn’t a bad guy, just someone who was carrying a huge burden on his shoulders. If he could return the favor, he would do everything he can.

    Saburo took another step forward. “I don’t mean to pry, but how are you?”

    “It’s… um…. I can’t say, really,” stumbled Hideki.

    Saburo resisted the urge to shake his head in annoyance at his refusal to open up. An idea did light up inside his head though. “Hey, I’ve mentioned it last night, but I’m running a support group to help not only myself but to everyone else.”

    Hideki rolled his eyes, irritated at the thought of yet another suggestion of a support group or even therapy. Instead, he kept himself composed. “I recall, but your boxing career… That was your dream. Why would you give that up just to do what you’re doing now?”

    Saburo simply smiled at him, recalling the events that led him to becoming a better man not for everyone around him, but himself. “Because pride isn’t just about winning. Losing that fight was one of the best things that ever happened to me, and it was all because of you.”

    “Really…” Go almost muttered in disbelief.

    “Yeah,” answered Saburo, never taking off the smile on his face. “You helped me not only put me on the right path, but become a better man. I can’t thank you enough and if I could return the favor in any way,”

    “I know…” murmured Go, keeping his eyes peeled on his friend.

    “But that’s not all I came here for,” announced Saburo, pitching his voice higher in excitement, causing Go’s eyes to widen. “I wanted to tell you that Yuriko and I are getting married!”

    The news shocked Hideki. Two of his greatest friends are starting a life together. A small sense of hope brewed inside of him, a meager sense of happiness formed. “That’s…. amazing. Congrats.”

    He laughed and patted him on the shoulder once more, with an offer he couldn’t refuse. “Thank you, and I want you to be the best man at the wedding.”

    That question shot him right through the heart. His body nearly trembled, hearing how someone wanted him to be a major part of their wedding was an honor. “I appreciate that. I really do. I’ll do it.”

    “Yes! I knew you would!” Saburo yelled out with joy, punching the air with his fist, elated that his friend said yes.

    “When did you pop the question, by the way?” inquired Go, forcing him to look back at him.

    “When we got home. It really made her day,” answered Saburo.

    “At least she’s able to move on.”

    Go’s smile faded away while that brief moment of happiness disintegrated away. He was then faced with the recurring feeling inside of him, the one that plagued him for years on end.

    Guilt.

    “When you see her, tell her I’m sorry for last night.”

    “Why don’t we both do it?” interjected Saburo, providing a sense of comfort with his words. He’d honor his friend’s request, but only if he did it himself as well. Part of his journey would be him making that progress himself while everyone else helped him along the way.

    “Thank you.”

    “Of course. That’s what friends are for.”

    Before the two could continue carrying out their conversation, the alarm sounded off in Hideki’s pocket. The Ultra host immediately reached down for it and saw it was one belonging to MAT. Hideki looked up at Saburo and apologized.

    “I have to take this. It’s an emergency,” Go spoke up, immediately bolting past his friend to respond to the exigency looming before them.

    Saburo shook his head. “Almost there.”

     

    Chapter 6: Ultraman Jack vs. Behemoth – The Route to Our Failures

    “Just ten hours prior, the Titan known as Behemoth, made its way from Rio de Janeiro towards the Tohoku Highway,” presented Ibuki, pointing at the vid screen displaying the mammoth marching through the countryside. He paused and looked at his subordinates, knowing full well they had questions. “We don’t know its purpose, but if it reaches the highway, it’ll be catastrophic.”

    “What’s the best way of dealing with this Titan, then?” inquired Kishida, examining the creature on a closer look.

    “From what Brazil’s scientists have informed us, heat based attacks aren’t going to cut it as its fur is highly resistant to it,” the captain answered.

    “Then, how will we eliminate it?” Ueno pointed out.

    “We won’t,” Ibuki simply answered plainly as he immediately noticed the wave of confusion washing over his comrades’ faces. “Instead, we’re supposed to drive it away due to its unique ability to restore the flora and fauna with its radiation.”

    “Radiation?” snorted Kishida in disbelief. “That some kind of joke?”

    “No,” Ibuki replied bluntly. “Our orders remain clear. Behemoth is a kaiju the UN believes is worth keeping around, but that will only make our job harder considering we’re down to the Gyros and the MAT vehicle. Regardless, I don’t want anyone to take any unnecessary risks. Am I understood?”

    “Sir, yes, sir!” everyone shouted in unison.

    “Move out!” commanded Ibuki as everyone raced down the hallways of the base towards the remaining base in their arsenal.

    Nearly everyone piled into the two Gyros while Hideki and Yuriko made their way towards the car. The Ultra host kept his eyes on his close friend, watching as she remained committed to the mission with no emotion present on her face whatsoever. It was as if the argument the two had the other night didn’t occur.

    “I have to say something.”

    He hated how he ended things with her and with the way things were going, he didn’t know what this upcoming fight would hold in store for them. Even if it meant only bringing her peace while he stood in the darkness.

    “Yuriko,” Go called out, gaining her attention instantly. Despite his willingness to initiate the conversation, he felt himself struggling to trudge through the harsh, unforgiving landscape of his emotions to continue on, but he still had to try. “About…. About last night.”

    “Hideki….” mouthed Yuriko as the two got into the car, watching the regret wash over her friend’s face while his hands gripped the steering wheel. “I shouldn’t have pushed that onto you. I didn’t consider how you still felt about everything. I just wanted you to be okay.”

    “I know…. And…. I appreciate it,” Go slurred between words, barely able to find the right words to convey his thoughts or even how he truly felt. He put his foot on the gas pedal and sped out of the base, following the Gyro as they raced down the countryside towards their destination. “It’s just…. You were right to check in on me…. I’m just not good….”

    Oka continued to stare at her buddy struggling with himself. He was losing himself and she hated seeing how he was treating himself. She wasn’t angry with him, but scared for him. Scared to the point where she would lose one of the best people in her entire life. The man who saved her countless times, spent several hours lifting her spirits and even taught her how to provide maintenance to all of their vehicles.

    Yet, she had to be practical as well. His struggles and grief would only be a detriment to the mission before them. She had to ease his mind with nothing but being genuine.

    “Hideki, I forgive you. What happened between the three of us was just an accident. We all have our ways of coping and I just want to make sure you’re doing alright,” Yuriko softly spoke, keeping her eyes onto him.

    Hideki’s heart sank at her words while he never took his eyes off the road.

    “I forgive you.”

    He wanted to laugh out of disbelief. Forgiveness is something he should never have. He hurt his two best friends to the point where he nearly made one of them break down. To him, that’s not what a good man is. A good man is someone who listens to someone’s concerns, their dreams and even builds them up.

    He hasn’t done any of those things.

    Yet, he felt himself inching closer towards that door. The door that’s been calling out for him to let someone in. His hand reached for it and almost grabbed a hold of it until Hideki felt a shock in his entire body, forcing him to pull away.

    “No.”

    For the good of the mission, he had to put Yuriko’s mind at ease without any additional grief from him.

    “Thank you, Yuriko. I… appreciate it.”

    ******

    The ground crumbled with every footstep taken. The gigantic mammoth kept his eyes focused on the destination before him. He had broken free from the prison that held him for years and cherished the freedom he obtained.

    The world was completely different, filled with objects he couldn’t begin to fathom. The lands he traveled to in the past were filled with only trees and lush plains brimming with all the delicious nutrients that sustained his body. Now, it was filled with many objects capturing his interest, such as the windy concrete platform ahead of him.

    Lowering his head for just a moment, his massive tusks scraped against the ground. Instantly carving a long trench in the dirt below him while the other tusk snapped the road into two. Behemoth felt content with where he was in life, eager to explore every inch of the world with all of its new sights for him to behold.

    Droplets crashed down on the ground in front of the large mammal, giving it pause. Behemoth lowered his head a bit, inspecting the liquid. He assumed it started to rain, however, he noticed the liquid to be an orangish-pink color. Something he wasn’t familiar with whatsoever. His senses started to flare up as he felt a jet stream crash into his hide, forcing him to groan out in annoyance.

    Behemoth snapped his around to see a flying object keeping its distance while it continued to spray the projectile at him, covering his chest with the paint. He let out another murmur, not out of pain, but of anger. He didn’t want to fight, only to explore the world he was once a part of.

    However, from the looks of it, the object didn’t relent, but instead continued to fire. Behemoth raised his front hand forward and slammed it down to the ground, issuing a declaration of war. He leapt forward towards the Gyro, but before it could collide with it, another jet stream hit the Titan in the side of the face.

    Behemoth immediately shook his face, flinging the paint off the surface of his body. He stopped in his tracks and glanced over to find another one of those objects hovering across him. Without further provocation, it fired the same colored jet stream at him, enraging it further. Behemoth slung his head forward, bringing its massive tusks towards the nearest Gyro, but it managed to fly out of the way.

    He huffed in anger as he swung forward yet again, only missing a second time. Both Gyros were right next to each other, continuing to fire their seemingly endless stream of paint. Behemoth closed his eyes in an attempt to retain his vision as he began to think. He knew these strange objects could hurt him at any point, but only chose to infuriate him. It was then, he had an epiphany!

    They wanted him to change paths!

    Behemoth shook his head yet again. He wasn’t going to fall for their ruse, but instead resumed course back towards the highway. His loud, giant footsteps rattled the earth as the crew of the Gyros could only watch as their plan was no longer succeeding.

    “Captain!” Minami called out, forcing Ibuki to press the button for the intercom.

    “I’m aware. Switch to the Vulcan cannons,” ordered Ibuki.

    “Are we authorized to use something that can actively harm him?” Ueno stammered out, looking over at Ibuki. His heart pounded at how the operation was going so far along with the possible ramifications of what could happen should the kaiju end up dead.

    “They have greenlit Vulcan cannons and missiles,” Ibuki answered, before turning over to his subordinate. “We will continue as planned.”

    Ueno nervously swallowed. “Yes, sir.”

    Hideki parked the MAT vehicle on the highest point of the highway, as he and Yuriko shuffled out of the car to watch the painted mammoth approaching the structure. Their stomachs turned to knots and they could barely move. Every commandment caused their bones to ache as they strapped their rocket launchers over their shoulders.

    They kept their eyes focused on the looming threat before them.

    “Hideki, we can do this. We always have,” Yuriko reassured, never once taking her eyes off the creature, but wanted to calm her friend down. Like her, she knew he was scared beyond belief at how anything can happen at any given moment.

    “I know…. and thank you,” murmured Hideki, eliciting a smile from his comrade while he followed.

    Without any hesitation, the muscles in their bodies relaxed before firing off their rockets. The projectiles zoomed across the landscape and collided directly in Behemoth’s face, earning him a shriek of irritation. Had his fur not been so resistant to heat, he would feel his entire face ablaze, but instead he only felt the stinging sensation of the rockets.

    Behemoth eyed the tiny targets on the highest part of the highway and immediately slammed his foot down. Unlike the flying creatures hovering around him, these two would be easy to take care of. He pushed his feet backwards as he bolted towards the highway at record speeds, an intensity he never felt before. All of them would be silenced for their hostility!

    Ibuki’s eyes widened at the immediate peril his comrades were about to be in as he slammed his fingers down on the triggers and fired the Vulcan cannon, with the other Gyro following suit. The waves of bullets pelted his thick hide, causing murmurs of discontent from the Titan, but not enough to halt his movements.

    The Captain snapped his eyes downward and pushed the intercom button. His body nearly shook with fear from the overwhelming horror Go and Oka were about to experience. He always wanted all members of MAT to never waver from duty, but he never wanted them to die for it either. Especially when he had known them for as long as he did.

    Instead of anger, it was a scream of fear. “Hideki! Yuriko! Get out of there, now!”

    Neither Hideki or Yuriko had ever heard their captain scream the way he did until now. It nearly paralyzed them. If something like this creature could frighten him, then they should be absolutely mortified. Without any further hesitation, they both piled into the MAT vehicle and turned towards the descending slope of the highway.

    Behemoth, however, was faster as he nearly felt himself colliding into the bridge. The Gyro, commandeered by Kishida and Minami, intercepted the Titan, unloading a volley of rockets into his body. The missiles slowed Behemoth only by a hair, as it forced him to rock his head to his side and immediately strike it down with its massive tusks.

    The left rotor of the Gyro blew up while the other stopped, forcing it to crash while Hideki and Yuriko could only watch the peril their friends were in. The aircraft crashed directly on top of the highway, in front of the moving MAT vehicle.

    Go slammed hard on the brakes, forcing the car to come to an abrupt stop, directly in front of the wreckage. Before they could shuffle out of the car and help their comrades, the road in front of them collapsed, bringing the damaged aircraft down with it.

    Their hearts sank while Hideki trembled with fear.

    “No, no, no, no, no, no!” Hideki repeatedly spoke out, never once taking his eyes off the gap between them and the other side. It was happening yet again, that fear, the loss and the guilt. All of it coming back.

    “Why did it have to be them? They did nothing wrong. They didn’t deserve this.”

    “Hideki!” Yuriko cried out, snapping Hideki away from his fears.

    “Right. Yuriko. I need to get her out of here.”

    Hideki pulled the gear in reverse and slammed the gas pedal, however, Behemoth’s tusks crashed right into the road, forcing it to crumble with the MAT vehicle tumbling down with it. Yuriko couldn’t even scream or process her emotions as the car flipped over from the massive impact, causing her to slam her head on the dash, effectively knocking her out cold.

    The car landed on top of the rubble as Go was going in and out of consciousness. Blood leaked out from his nose while he nearly gagged on the plasma caught in his throat. He unhooked himself from his seatbelt, letting himself slowly descend to the bottom.

    “Yuriko!”

    Hideki snapped his eyes over to the still body of his friend. He moved his hand over to her chest and felt her bosom raising up and down slowly. Go let out a small sigh, relieved that she was still alive, but couldn’t rejoice now.

    Hideki turned over to the driver’s side door and slowly pried it open. He crawled out to watch as the remaining Gyro continued to fire its arsenal at Behemoth. A brief moment of relief washed over him as Ibuki and Ueno were giving the creature the good fight.

    He looked away and limped over to the passenger door to get Yuriko out of the wreckage.

    SCREECH!

    That loud sound. One he already became well acquainted with. Hideki slowly turned around while darkness was slowly overtaking his vision as he saw Behemoth’s tusks once more knocking down the last vehicle in MAT’s arsenal. The Gyro circled out of control and was crashing towards another piece of the highway.

    He limped forward towards the descending aircraft, terrified at the lives that were about to be lost. He panted heavily, holding his hand against his stomach while his chest went up and down. His heart pounded harder and harder, aching with every second. Go could only guess he was having a panic attack or something worse, but he couldn’t deal with that now.

    “No, no, no, no!” Hideki cried out, moving as fast as he could. “I can’t go through with this again! I can’t! I can’t!”

    His body started to light up as every fiber of him began to change, slowly no longer being present on this planet as his last words echoed. “They don’t deserve to die!”

    A beam of light erupted from his body as Go vanished and was replaced by the Ultra Brother, Ultraman Jack. The giant silver and red warrior lunged forward, allowing the crashing Gyro to land safely in the palm of his hand. Jack turned his head around at the still approaching Behemoth. Without any hesitation, his eyes lit up and out came twin yellowish beams, striking the Titan’s chest, forcing him to stop in his tracks.

    Jack set the Gyro down on the ground as Ibuki and Ueno stepped out. They looked up at their savior, admiring him for his selflessness. The two were tempted to salute the giant, but time was of the essence for them as Jack pointed over to the wreckage where their comrades were at.

    “Thank you, Ultraman,” Ibuki spoke out, with Ueno following it up with a nod of respect. The two ran out towards their injured friends while Jack turned around only to find Behemoth crashing into him. The impact forced Jack off of his feet and deeper into the concrete jungle, with several pieces of the highway tumbling down on his chest.

    The now rampaging Titan bellowed out at the fallen Ultra, towering over him while Jack looked directly into the creature’s eyes. His eyes burning with pure anger as he raised his right hand forward, intending to slam it directly into his chest. Jack, as if it were second nature, yanked the bracelet off of his wrist and threw it at the Titan.

    The bracelet detonated on impact, with Behemoth ushering out a cry of pain from the blast. He immediately reeled back while the bracelet materialized back onto Jack’s hand as he hopped back up on his feet. Without any hesitation, Jack jumped up and launched his feet forward, delivering a kick straight into Behemoth’s face, ushering out another cry of agony.

    Behemoth stumbled further back, nearly tripping over the debris he created. He shook his head, feeling the brief moment of reprieve from the red and silver giants’ attacks. The Titan huffed, knowing he was never the strongest creature on the planet, as he always avoided most conflicts whenever he could. Still, he acknowledged his own strengths inside him, knowing he can do enough just to get a rival to flee if he pushed hard enough, and that’s exactly what he needed to do.

    He snapped his head up at the charging Ultra, watching as if he put his hands together. He realized he was only charging up another attack, and with it, his eyes widened. He had to strike now!

    With his head turning to the side quickly, he immediately followed it up by swinging it back, using his massive tusks to strike Jack. The powerful strike struck Jack across the chest, the bones scraping across it, eliciting a small crack of light gleaming out of it. The tusks continued surfing across his opponent’s body, hitting the Ultra’s wrist, eliciting another cry from Jack.

    CHING!

    Before Jack could even register the odd noise, the resulting impact forced him to crash into the concrete structures once more. Pieces of it rained down on his body, forcing him to grunt from the impact along with yet another noise echoing out.

    CHING!

    “What is causing that noise?” Jack wondered briefly, but shook his head when he saw through the rubble buried over his face, the still approaching Behemoth. He couldn’t ponder the situation, not at this time. He still had a job to do. He owed it to his friends, or Go’s friends.

    Jack grabbed a hold of his bracelet and aimed it directly towards the wreckage above him and fired it, casting a huge, blue beam through it. The beam sent the rubble flying across the battlefield, some of it flying directly into Behemoth, pelting him with chunks of concrete.

    Behemoth groaned at the pieces of debris striking him across the face as he titled his head away as an attempt to shelter himself from the oncoming storm. Jack prepared to strike the now vulnerable Behemoth when he then heard screams coming from behind him.

    “Ibuki! Ueno!” Jack mentally screamed out.

    He jumped around, facing the crash site belonging to MAT and saw the concrete sprinkled around it. His eyes nearly widened in horror at some of them having impacted the vehicles while flames started to erupt.

    “They can’t die because of me! No one else!” Jack nearly cried out, slamming his hands together and pointing them directly at the flaming vehicles. A concreted mist sprayed out of his hands, with frost settling in over the vehicles and extinguishing the assaulting flames.

    Jack breathed a small sigh of relief as he watched his still standing team members bolt towards their comrades. Yet, it was a rescue effort he couldn’t take the time for as he felt himself being flung into the air once more.

    The Ultra crashed down face first, slowly lifting his head up to watch as Behemoth was still standing strong, marching towards him. Jack shook his head, this beast was much harder to deal with, or was it him?

    The fight was taking much more out of him than any other. It was as if his will was shrinking to the point where it was nonexistent. His breathing stuttered, slowly trying to pick himself up. His knees nearly buckled under the pressure when heard a beeping noise.

    “The Color Timer!”

    Jack groaned.

    “How can I have forgotten? I’m supposed to be better than this!”

    Jack yanked the bracelet off and created his defender shield, barely raising it up to block Behemoth’s massive tusks. The resulting clash, forced the Ultra Brother backwards a few feet, almost losing his grip on his weapon.

    “Why!?”

    The shield dissipated, reverting back to his bracelet as Jack yanked it off his wrist yet again. This time, transforming it into the Ultra Lance. Striking it at Behemoth’s powerful tusks, the two of them locked their blades against the descending sun, illuminating them with its orangish light. As powerful as Jack’s sword was, it was starting to fade, causing Jack to nearly gasp in disbelief.

    “Why did I let myself devolve?!”

    Jack, however, moved the sword back before sending it forward towards Behemoth’s tusks. The Titan was quick to respond, blocking his entire body with his massive incisors. The block was not only enough to match the attack, but to quickly force the sword to disappear.

    The Ultra Brother stood there in disbelief, as his mighty weapon was forced back to his wrist. His mind became more clouded than ever, failing to notice Behemoth striking his head backwards again and slashing it across his wrist.

    CHING!

    Jack screamed out in absolutely agony as light bled out of his wrist while he was sent careening into a nearby hillside. He stirred his head, as his vision was becoming more and more hazy with each passing second. Jack didn’t know how much longer he had, the concept of time became foreign to him. The Ultra watched Behemoth make yet another approach towards him. The only thing on his mind was the bracelet. It never let him down before as it always created a solution for him, one that was given to him. The very thing that made him equal to his Ultra Brothers.

    He slowly reached for his bracelet to throw it, but he felt only his skin. His heart beated rapidly while racing his hand over the entirety of his arm.

    “No!”

    Jack scanned his other wrist to find nothing as he then patted his entire body, desperately searching for the very thing that made him who he was today.

    “Where is it? Where is it?”

    He frantically searched for it while the Titan got closer and closer until he saw it scattered on the ground.

    The Ultra Bracelet was smashed into two!

    Jack snatched up the broken bracelet and held the two pieces in his palm, feeling his entire body nearly shutting down.

    All those years, all those missions.

    The bracelet that made him stand out.

    The bracelet that made him feel respected and loved was gone.

    All because he couldn’t keep it together and all because of some primitive creature.

    A cackle was then heard.

    One that was all too familiar.

    Jack snapped his head up only to find to his shock, the Alien Nackle standing before him, tormenting him over his loss.

    “Don’t.”

    His hand tightened while through his distorted vision, Jack saw the alien dancing over him as if he was doing so over his own grave. The Ultra attempted to pick himself up, but collapsed under his own weight.

    He coughed from his aching body and the timer still beating rapidly while his hand clutched onto the broken bracelet. Jack found the meager strength to get himself onto his knees when he saw the Nackle no longer there, but instead, Deathla!

    Jack stood there frozen at the being before him. Its slimy dark body oozing with sludge while its devilish red eyes stared down at him, petrifying Jack to his very core. The Smog Monster nearly clapped its long hands together while it gurgled with delight, seeing his victim so helpless.

    “It’s too late now!”

    Jack slowly picked himself up, standing face to face with his demon as it was now shifting between Deathla and Nackle. A sudden urge of energy rushed into his very body, one not born from hope or from wanting to save the day, but of hatred.

    “Damned if I know what’s right anymore.”

    Jack raised his hands together at the cackling shapeshifter, aiming it directly at its face.

    “Who cares? It is what it is.”

    Jack watched as the silver on his hands melted away while black was painted all over his palms. All the while, his fingers grew longer and as sharp as knives.

    “No choice but to face what I’ve done!”

    The Spacium Beam shot out of his hands and into the face of the laughing devil in front of him. The demon reeled backwards from the projectile, shifting constantly between Nackle and Deathla. It tilted its head back at Jack, facing him once more and greeting him with yet another cackle.

    The Ultra Brother tightened his hands once more. All this nightmare could do was laugh at everything he did. Tormenting him for all of his failures and mistakes. Ones he was fully aware he made over his entire life. He didn’t need the reminder, he paid for them for thousands of years.

    The approaching devil continued to laugh as its shifting hand threw out a punch at the tingling Ultra. Jack reached forward effortlessly and snapped it off like a twig. A mixture of green and red blood mixed with sludge shot out of the stump, plastering it all over his face.

    Jack watched as the cackling demon shifted between the several forms, briefly switching back to Behemoth shrieking out in pure agony as he noticed the severed tusk. The Ultra titled his head down slightly, realizing he held the tusk of the Titan. The cries of agony from the wounded creature didn’t last long as Jack filtered them out with the cackles of the Nackle before him.

    He tightened his grip on his new weapon and stared at the dancing nightmare in front of him. His eyes never faltered as he took one step forward, pointing the tusk at his foe. Jack ushered out a scream, reminiscent of a barbarian, shaking the very earth they stood on. The hillside quaked, causing the demon to fade away to reveal the trembling Behemoth.

    It no longer mattered, Jack leapt forward and brought down the tusk as if it were a scythe into Behemoth’s right leg. The tusk instantly cut through the mammal’s flesh as if it were butter against a hot knife. Behemoth’s screams could not be heard as his assailant only heard laughter.

    Behemoth raised his head up weakly, watching as Jack made another round with his very own tusk. He knew this battle was lost and with the grievous wound he had just received, it’d be a miracle if he could escape with his life. He had to make sure he could block this next attack, by using his last tusk to counter it.

    The Titan raised his tusk to match his assailant’s weapon, but Jack, however, dropped it. Behemoth was bewildered by him relinquishing it. Before he could ponder it, Jack used both of his free hands and grabbed the passing tusk, snapping it off with ease. The Ultra flipped the tusk around while Behemoth let out a blood curdling cry as he nearly gagged from the intense pain he was now dealing with.

    Behemoth’s eyes watered in horror at his executioner brandishing his tusk at him. The world he had just woken up to see would no longer be his future, but instead a dark and empty void. He was terrified of what was about to come. He only hoped that the destination would be quick.

    Jack stood over the Nackle still laughing at him, pointing at him with glee. The Ultra’s whole body trembled while his hold on the tusk was barely in place.

    “Nothing you ever do will atone for your sins. You’re exactly like him.”

    The Ultra ushered out another barbaric scream, shoving the tusk through the Nackle’s jaw and out the top of his head. Blood gushed out like a volcano while brain matter launched out of the gigantic hole.

    Jack let out a deep breath, letting go of his hold on the massive tusk while he watched the body collapse on its stomach. He slumped his shoulders down while he let his head hang down, observing the battlefield as his vision became less hazy.

    It was then did he realize what he had just done.

    “No!”

    Jack watched as the body of the Nackle dissipated and reverted back to the creature MAT was charged with driving away. He was disgusted by the sight of the murder he caused as blood leaked from his body, painting the beautiful landscape into a bloody river.

    The Ultra collapsed on his knees, absolutely mortified with himself. He breathed rapidly at how badly he allowed himself to become a monster again. He slowly raised his hands up to find the ichor plastered all over his hands along with the broken bracelet.

    “They were right.”

    Jack crawled over to the carcass of Behemoth and placed his hand over the giant mammal. He rubbed his hand over his shoulder. He wanted to cry, to experience the grief humanity endured, but like he explained it to Beth a long time ago, he was incapable of it. Perhaps it was his reward for the atrocities he committed. Someone unable to conquer his grief or even his failures.

    “I’m no Hero of the Light.”

    Jack patted the body of Behemoth one last time as he closed the creature’s eyes. He stood back up and launched himself up to the sky, making him scarce from the scene of the crime, ascending into the orange sky.

    “I’m so sorry.”

     

    Chapter 7: Hideki Go – Alone

    “Jack?” Go called out, looking upwards at the gray ceiling above him.

    He waited for a couple seconds only to see the Ultra would not materialize again. Go called out several times and each time with a different tone of voice, but he did not respond.

    Nothing.

    Hideki sat in his quarters at the MAT base in pure silence. It’s where he spent most of his time in these past few days since the operation with Behemoth ended in catastrophe. The MAT member glanced at an orange ball on his nightstand and reached for it. He threw it against a wall as it bounced back at him. It was one of the few sources of entertainment he had for the time being.

    He, nor any of the other still standing members of MAT could leave the base due to the repercussions the entire team could be facing. Hideki sighed in anger at how the person who was responsible for their failure couldn’t even come out to face him. The Ultra host threw the ball more aggressively as his mind shifted over at how the Ultra was supposed to be wiser than humanity, much less the supposed better person.

    “Some kind of hero you are,” muttered Go, snatching up the bouncing ball.

    “We’re no better than those people who killed that defenseless alien!” a voice cackled out in the depths of Go’s mind, launching himself upwards on his feet.

    “No. We…. I…. tried!” Hideki retaliated, his voice trembling greatly as his rain started pouring down in his quarters while the walls faded away and were replaced with dark gray storm clouds.

    “MAT’s supposed to kill aliens, yet he’s making friends with one!” screamed a distant voice as Go slowly turned his head around to see several townsfolk armed to the teeth with pitchforks and torches, bolting towards him.

    “No,” Hideki stammered out, his knees buckling under the weight of his own guilt. “Please. No. Not again.”

    “If MAT won’t do anything, then we will!” screamed a towns person at the top of his lungs, lunging at the child next to Hideki. He immediately grabbed a hold of the screaming kid as he was dragged to the rest of the villagers.

    “What are you doing? I didn’t even do anything!” cried the child, trying with all of his might to fight back, but was too weak to do anything. His screams became even louder when he felt a knife pressed up against his throat.

    Hideki picked himself up and pushed away several of the villagers to reach the endangered child, but no matter how many people he pushed out of the way, he felt himself being swarmed. There were too many of them and nothing he did made a difference.

    “Wait!” screamed a frail voice, commanding everyone to stop as they all turned around to see an old man hobbling over from his rundown shack.

    “Don’t do this, I… can find a way this time…. To save you both,” pleaded Hideki, his body completely shaking while watching as the events he had witnessed months before were about to play again.

    “I’m the alien!” the old man confessed as he immediately fell to the ground due to his weakened state. His entire face was covered with scars and burns while his body was all but useless from the effects of the pollution.

    “He was only protecting me,” the Alien Mates explained, picking himself back up with his cane. “He’s not an alien.”

    The townsfolk slowly backed away as Ryo broke free from their grasps and ran towards them, embracing his adoptive father. “Why did you come out!” Ryo cried out, gripping his father tighter, letting the tears flow down his ragged clothes.

    “It’s alright,” Alien Mates reassured, wrapping his arms around him.

    “There’s no telling what he’ll do if we let him live!” screamed a villager, launching his arm upwards, classping a butcher knife.

    Everyone let out a collective scream as they charged towards the alien as Hideki once more jumped in front of them, trying to protect them with his own life.

    “Stop! He didn’t do anything wrong!” Hideki cried out, pushing a few villagers away. “He just wants to go home! He’s not like the others! He wants what we all want! A place to call home!”

    His cries fell on deaf ears as the villagers knocked him away. Even with all the training he had from MAT and his merger with Jack, he was no match for the overwhelming force of the farmers as they continued reaching out for the Alien Mates.

    “Look, Go. That police officer has a gun.”

    Hideki snapped his head at the cop pulling out his revolver, aiming it at the feeble old man.

    “We all know what you want. What you seek so desperately. You can change this day and give everyone what they want.”

    The finger pulled on the trigger as the hammer pulled back.

    Hideki immediately jumped to his feet and launched himself in front of the old man as the bullet was shot out of the gun.

    “Remember……”

    Hideki opened his eyes as he felt himself lying on the ground, feeling completely okay. “No! It can’t be like this again!”

    He rolled over to see the old man instantly dropping to the ground as Ryo ran over, crying. The boy held the dead man’s hand, begging for him to come back, but his cries were not heard as the villagers simply backed away before an earth shattering roar was heard.

    The fish-like creature, Muruchi, belonging to the alien, descended down from the storm declaring war on the town. It smashed its body against a bridge as it fired an orangish ray at the two, setting it ablaze while Hideki watched.

    “Tell me two things. Did it feel good to kill this creature who only wanted to live out its days with its master?”

    “No….” Hideki quietly wept as he remained on his knees while he watched the grieving Ryo.

    “And how it did feel abandoning Ryo, who’s all alone digging for Mates’ spaceship. He’ll never find it.”

    “I….” he tried to answer, but couldn’t find the words for it. He wanted to, but he never found it in him to put him under a roof or to even check in on him.

    “You deserve everything that’s coming to you. Just do everyone a favor and rectify your mistake.”

    Hideki sniffed as a tear fell from his eye. He slowly pulled himself, standing up to find the rain had ceased and the gray storm clouds shifting back to his quarters. The Ultra host closed his eyes while his hands tightened up.

    “I will.”

    With his hand on the knob, he opened the door and wandered the desolate hallways of the MAT base. Once they were teeming with life, now only his footsteps could be heard. Hideki held his head down, heading towards his destination. He resigned himself to his fate, but the thoughts swarmed in. How he could have done things differently or how he could have even learned from those experiences.

    Yet, he was still the same person as he was before.

    He wandered into the meeting room, immediately noticing the lack of color in the room. Not a beeping light to indicate danger or anything needing to be inspected. Just pure silence, as if the end of an era had arrived and they no longer had a purpose.

    He let out a deep sigh.

    “Can’t rest?” inquired Ibuki, causing Go to nearly jump around to salute his commanding officer. “At ease.”

    Go let his shoulders slump down as he watched the captain sit at the round table. Ibuki motioned for him to sit next to him as he immediately complied with the request. “It’s just.. Odd.”

    “Now you know why I refuse to take vacations,” Ibuki chuckled.

    The two sat in silence for a few minutes until Go’s mind raced back to the incident a few days ago. The status of his teammates, the people he hadn’t seen in a few days, much less anyone in general.

    “The team!” Go spoke out loud, nearly jumping out of his chair. “How.. how are they?”

    “Ueno is in prime condition as he’s currently on guard duty while Minami is suffering from a broken leg,” Ibuki answered plainly. He, too, felt the same sense of terror and guilt he saw in his subordinate, but had to keep himself composed for what remained of his team.

    “And the others?” Hideki’s voice quivered, his body once again trembling as he saw the captain give pause before answering, as if he was struggling to relay the news.

    “Kishida and Oka are still under,” Ibuki softly said. He was tempted to lower his head down, ashamed at how far his team had fallen. The most devastating defeat he had ever faced in his entire career, whether it was in the military or in MAT. Yet, he couldn’t falter in front of one of the few that still stood. He couldn’t make things worse for Hideki.

    He kept his eyes at his subordinate, his friend, and someone he’d gladly call his child. Not just him, but everyone under his command. Ibuki didn’t know what was fully going on with Hideki, and he might never know, but this wasn’t the time to fall apart.

    “What about MAT? Are we being reprimanded? What is our fate?” inquired Go, his entire stomach turning to knots over the possibilities that awaited them following their failure of the mission. A mission that ended horribly because of him, because of his and Jack’s inability to keep themselves composed.

    Ibuki sighed. “We’re not being reprimanded as the failure would be pinned on Ultraman, however.”

    “However?”

    “However, the United Nations is moving forward with a new division known as the Terrible-monster Attacking Crew, following reports of new breeds of kaiju showing up. We’re only to receive a fourth of our funding before being dismantled completely,” Ibuki finished his report, frowning at the news he had just relayed. He had no doubt Hideki would be upset and he couldn’t blame him, he would either have to assimilate with the new crew, if they’d even let him or take an early retirement. Something he couldn’t even fathom to do, not when there was still much to do.

    “I cost them everything. Because of me.”

    Hideki lowered his shoulders down once more and felt his hands nearly collide with his face, the guilt washing over him.

    “I’m so sick of myself.”

    “Hideki,” Ibuki spoke up once more, allowing Go’s head to raise up once more to face his captain. “Please don’t blame yourself. This was something none of us could have predicted.”

    “I know.”

    “No you don’t.”

    Go breathed out as he got up from the chair. All this time talking with his captain and the thoughts of his recent failures told him it was time. Time to end all of this, but first he at least wanted to apologize to one person before he left everything and everyone behind.

    “If you’ll excuse me, I wish to visit Yuriko.”

    Ibuki simply nodded in approval as he got up while Go prepared to leave the room, but before he could gain any traction, he placed his hand on his shoulder. Go let out a quiet sigh, turning around to face his commanding officer.

    “I meant what I said, Hideki. You’re not to blame for this. You’re not to blame for a lot of things. And, whatever may happen to us, to MAT, we’ll always be a team no matter where we are,” Ibuki spoke proudly, championing that patented smile he and the others he’d always seen in their off hours or when a mission was successful.

    Hidkei wanted to smile, to believe in what his captain said, but it was no longer possible. Instead, he held his hand out as Ibuki shook it. “Thank you. For everything.”

    ******

    Her comatose body lay on the white hospital bed while the monitors beeped, showing her status as stable. Hideki stood in the doorway watching Yuriko’s body, his entire form standing motionlessly. He knew she couldn’t tell if he was there or not, but with his own mind playing tricks on him, he saw her judging him. It was as if she was waiting for a confession, a confession on why he was such a rotten person.

    Hideki lowered his head down and reluctantly walked next to her, placing himself on the chair. He looked over his friend’s face, adorned with several scars from the impact of the crash. The damage wouldn’t be permanent, but the thought of her being put in this situation because of him, made him nearly throw up.

    Not only with her injuries, but with her about to lose her job, she wouldn’t be able to live a good life with Saburo. She couldn’t do anything to support their wedding or even a normal life.

    “Just another life I ruined, huh?” Hideki asked the unresponsive Yuriko.

    As expected, silence was all he was greeted with.

    Hideki shook his head.

    “I know.”

    He reached for her hand and brought it up with his. He slowly caressed it, wanting her to wake up, but at the same time, he was glad she couldn’t. There were some things he wanted to say and couldn’t do so with a conscious person.

    “I don’t regret meeting you and the others or even all the adventures we had together,” Hideki paused, taking a moment to compose himself as he tightened his grip on her hand. “In fact, for that brief year, you all helped give me a pur.. no, a distraction. A distraction that mattered.”

    Hideki glanced over at Yuriko’s messy hair. With his free hand, he brushed it over, straightening it up a tad as he returned his gaze at her face. “What I do regret is all of you meeting me and all the trouble I put every single one of you through.”

    Tears dropped on the bed and onto her hand as his breathing stuttered. “I know you and the others don’t owe me anything, but just promise me one thing. When this is all over, promise me you’ll still be together. Continuing to be that team before I showed up.”

    Hideki got up from the chair as he still kept his grasp on his friend’s hand, never taking his eyes off of her as there was still one more thing he had to say to her.

    “Perhaps when you wake up, you’ll find the world with one less bad person in it.”

    With that, he let go of her hand and walked out of the room towards his destination. The destination that was in the back of his mind for the longest time. It wasn’t the end, but just the key to where the end of his road would be.

    He reached into his pocket and pulled out a keycard, sliding it through as the door opened to reveal the vast array of weapons in MAT’s arsenal. He scanned each of the weapons and knew their capabilities were nothing to scoff at. Any one of them would do the trick. It was just a matter of which one would get the job done the fastest.

    He gazed at the stainless steel MAT Gun. A recoilless automatic rifle, a gun so easy to wield even an average citizen could do it. Go went over to reach for it when he heard an enthusiastic voice, “Hey Hideki!”

    The Ultra host nearly jumped in shock as he pulled his hands back from the weapon of his choice. He turned around to see Takeshi Minami standing in the doorway with the crutches resting under his pits.

    “Takeshi….. hey,” Hideki slowly greeted, keeping his back pinned against the gun rack while his friend slowly walked in. “How are you holding up?”

    “Eh, can’t complain. I was told my leg will heal up in a few weeks and then it’ll be back to the track field!” Takeshi enthusiastically announced.

    “With that attitude, you’ll be back in a day,” Hideki attempted to joke, but his voice fell short, eliciting a sound reminiscent of pain.

    “And a stubborn enough person like yourself will do it within an hour, “ countered Minami, keeping his smile up, taking another step forward. “Any word from Aki and Jiro?”

    Hideki shook his head. “What about you? Anything from your loved ones?”

    “Nope, though I hear we’ll be released soon. The captain’s just finalizing some things.”

    “That’ll be a relief at least,” Hideki replied as his mind went back to Aki and Jiro. The two people he loved the most as his goodbyes would be the hardest thing he’d have to do. He dreaded it, but knew it had to be done if they were to have any peace in the remainder of their lives. First, he had to deal with his friend, say goodbye to him first.

    “Say, why are you here?” inquired Minami, eliciting a suspicious expression on his face while his right eyebrow raised up.

    Hideki rubbed his head, avoiding eye contact with his friend. Another lie had to be concocted, but he couldn’t pretend he was just inspecting the inventory when it was a task he openly complained about in the past. Instead, he had to mix a bit of the truth with it.

    “There’s… there’s….” Hideki spoke up before pausing as he returned eye contact back with Takeshi. “There’s a reason why I’ve been on edge these past few days and it’s because there’s a person lingering around the apartment, threatening Aki and Jiro. It’s been terrifying them nonstop, and I thought a weapon from here would do the trick.”

    It was an ugly thing to say, no matter how he tried to frame it as he knew it would only disgust his friend at having to come to that conclusion. Yet, it wouldn’t matter in the long run. That man would be gone when this was all over.

    “I… see….” Minami simply said, keeping himself stoic as he processed the information Hideki relayed to him. He hated the situation his friend was in and even despised the solution Go had chosen. “Have you tried contacting the police?”

    “They…. haven’t done anything about it,” Hideki simply answered, pressing his back further into the rack.

    “Hideki, I really don’…..” Minami tried to speak when he was interrupted.

    “Please! Their safety and happiness are what matters to me the most! I need to make sure they’ll be alright!” Hideki nearly cried out, jumping away from the rack, his face painted with pain and grief, surprising Takeshi.

    Minami rested himself on his crutches, feeling sickened by what he was about to say as he saw the turmoil his friend was going through. “Hideki, as much as every fiber of my being is telling me not to do this, I’ll allow it, but you can only take the MAT Shoot.”

    Hideki simply nodded his head as he grabbed the pistol from the rack as Minami then continued. “But promise me one thing first.”

    Go face his friend while he put the gun in his holster as he saw the usual happy go-lucky expression on his face fade away and was replaced with apprehension. “Talk to that person. Tell that person there’s always another way. Please.”

    Hideki saw the grief in his friend’s eyes. It was true that he thought of Takeshi as his best friend and he’d do a lot for him, but what he just asked for just wasn’t possible. In time he’ll see why he couldn’t make that promise.

    He wrapped his hands around Takeshi. “Thank you for being my friend, and please make sure Yuriko is okay.”

    Hideki let go of his friend and departed the room, leaving Minami to just stand still, unsure on how to proceed.

    ******

    He opened the door slowly to the inside of his apartment. The choice he was about to make was upon him and there was no happy ending to it, no matter what would be said to him. Not even a second more to compose himself when he saw Aki turn around to greet him with concern.

    “Hideki,” murmured Aki, as she wrapped her arms around him while she pulled him into the living room. He didn’t return the gesture, but she never faltered as she continued constricting herself around him, never wanting to let go of her partner.

    “Why do you keep on fighting?”

    “Are you okay?” Aki whispered, rubbing his back.

    “Yeah….” Hideki murmured, keeping himself still.

    “We were so worried.” Aki pulled her head back and stared into Hideki’s eyes, only finding a stoic man in her presence. Before she could continue on, the footsteps belonging to her brother ran in.

    “Hideki! You were awesome out there!” Jiro hollered out, raising his hand up, wanting to high five his idol.

    Yet, disappointment took over his body instantly as he found his friend giving him that same soulless look he had just given to his sister. Jiro tilted his head, he had never seen Hideki act like this. Even on a bad day, he still did everything he could to make the best of a situation thrown at him.

    Jiro tightened his hands ever so slightly. He was going to do what he was taught and he learned from the best. From his brother, his sister and from Hideki. They always taught him to help those in need no matter what. He was going to help.

    “Hideki, the park has a new training course on it. We should do it together. We’ll be able to conquer it in seconds!” Jiro excitedly exclaimed, his smile coming back to him, hoping it would do the same for Hideki.

    Go, on the other hand, just kept his stoicism. “Perhaps.”

    Knowing something was wrong with her boyfriend, Aki raised her eyebrow. However, she didn’t want to risk angering him, especially in front of his brother. She rubbed his shoulder once more. “Is there anything I can get you? A drink or a bite to eat?”

    “No,” Hideki simply muttered, this time not even glancing at her.

    “Ooh!” Jiro chimed in. “How about we…..”

    He couldn’t even finish his sentence when the blood boiled in Hideki’s body as every fiber in his being commanded him to lash out. “Goddammit! Both of you just shut the hell up already!”

    The words echoed through the entire apartment as the siblings froze.

    Hideki only then realized what had just happened as he felt his entire body tingling. Why was he feeling like this? He was going down the road he wanted, to get them to hate him, so it’ll be easier on him.

    “Jiro….” Hideki quivered out, reaching out to him, but the child immediately turned his back on him and stormed towards his bedroom.

    “Goddammit! I’m nothing more than a pathetic contradiction.”

    He couldn’t continue to be trapped in his own mental prison when he felt a hand smack its way across his face. Hideki nearly jumped in surprise from the stinging impact as it left a huge red mark on his left cheek. The Ultra host looked up to see Aki shooting daggers at him. It was the angriest he had ever seen her in and rightfully so.

    Hideki breathed in and slumped his shoulders down. “I deserved that.”

    Aki huffed, folding her arms together as she still trained her glaring eyes at him. “You think?”

    “I know,” Hideki murmured. He knew Jiro was strong and that this was one of the many hardships he’ll face in his life. He hated knowing he was going to be a part of it, but it’ll be what sets him free. “But he’ll get over it. He’s stronger than people give him credit for.”

    “Why can’t you?” Aki demanded, unfolding her arms while Hideki simply raised an eyebrow, completely unsure what she was trying to get at. She rolled her eyes at his inability to understand anything that didn’t involve shouting or his interests. “Ken. The Nackle. Every moment from your past. Worrying about how Jiro will turn out.”

    “Of course she had to bring this up.”

    “I’m glad you got over it, then,” countered Hideki, nearly turning his back on her to grab something from the kitchen.

    “That’s not what I’m talking about!” Aki called out, raising her voice as she snatched his shoulder and turned him back to face her. “All these issues you’re failing to address. All this running, all this hiding is not only destroying you, but it’s costing you everything. Your friends, your family, us!”

    Hideki wanted to scream, to tell her how stupid she was being, but it was unnecessarily cruel. Even though he wasn’t being a saint in this situation either. “Forgive me for not being an open book like you where you can say whatever comes to mind.” He tightened his hands, his body telling him the situation was very much like a typical MAT operation, but his mind was telling him otherwise and he had to keep himself in check with it. In an instance, he let go of his grip as he felt his mouth quivering once more. “And I don’t even know why you still want to continue to try to listen to me when you know I’m a goddamn shitty person!”

    A single tear dropped from her eye as Hideki’s very own widened in surprise. She wasn’t angry at his declaration, but it was something much worse.

    “Why can’t this just be easy!?”

    Aki huffed. “So this is what this is really about, huh?” She wiped away her tears and took another step forward while her voice whimpered. “First off, you’re wrong. I’m not over what happened. I still have nightmares about what happened. I lost my brother and nearly lost my own life, leaving Jiro alone.”

    Her body was shaking completely while her hands began to take the shape of her fists, something he was all too familiar with. He knew what she was about to say was going to be very hurtful for him, but even worse for her. He wanted to interject, to cut it off completely, but the strength in his entire body dissipated. The moment he walked into his own home, there was nothing left in him. All he could do was listen to Aki pour her heart out.

    “I’m struggling so hard to prevent myself from relapsing before that event and letting it control me, but I do everything I can to keep control, even talking to others about it, which is what you’re terrified of!” Aki screamed out, taking a brief moment to collect herself while tears were shedding rapidly as her face grew red. “And I also have news for you, everyone has done terrible things in life, stuff they wish they could redo over and over again. No one is perfect!”

    Aki launched her finger forward and jabbed her boyfriend straight in the chest, sending him backwards as if he were made of paper. She opened her mouth and let out a terrifying snarl, one no one, much less him, could ever expect to come out of a kind, generous, attentive woman like herself. “Like you, you’re an asshole towards everyone you meet, always claiming to be the smartest person in the room, and a hypocrite. But the worst quality about you, and get this, one that I’m sick of tired of seeing everyday is how blind you are. You claim other people are stupid, but you’re pretty goddamn stupid yourself! You have good qualities too, you idiot.”

    “What are you talking about? I have never done a good thing in my life. I have nothing to offer to anyone I care about. I’m nothing more than a plague.”

    He went to open his mouth, but Aki, once again, cut him off, raising her voice even higher than what he thought was possible with her. “For the people you are close with, you treat them better than yourself, constantly putting their needs as priority number one. You’re a hell of an artist, an amazing driver, and a pretty good man even if you don’t do anything with those gifts. And I’m not only the one who thinks that. Saburo, your friends at MAT, and even your captain considers you to be a son to him. Despite your mistakes or whatever regrets you hold, they still love you, because they see more of you than you do of yourself.”

    His heart was completely shattered. Not because of Aki’s attitude, but because of everything that was said to him. There was a lot of stuff he was capable of and beliefs from so many people, people who loved him.

    “Was I wrong about everything?”

    Hideki stepped forward towards his sobbing girlfriend. “Even Jiro?”

    “Yeah,” Aki huffed, folding her arms across her chest once more. “Who constantly tells me he wishes to be like you.”

    It was then his mind shattered. Those words. That ideal of someone wanting to be like him was what terrified him. Everything Aki had just said to him became meaningless. The brief moment of hope, or redemption was no more. Apathy washed over him completely.

    “He shouldn’t aspire to be like me, when he’ll just become an even worse version of me.”

    As if she were a ticking time bomb that had just detonated, Aki unleashed a blood curled cry and decked her boyfriend in the face, causing him to nearly buckle over. He coughed as Aki nearly sent out another punch, but managed to catch herself from doing so again.

    “What the fuck is wrong with you!?” Aki screamed out, but Hideki didn’t reply, only to instead slowly get up. “Are you blind or do you just hate yourself so much to realize that the only person who hasn’t forgiven you is yourself!?”

    Hideki still didn’t answer her as he just looked at her. He didn’t know what to say, but knew whatever came out of his mouth next would only anger her more. This was the end.

    “Fine,” Aki muttered out, throwing her hands up. “Jiro and I are leaving. You got what you wanted. You get to be alone and wallow in your misery. I’m done.”

    “This is how it ends, and I hate it. I hate myself.”

    Aki simply grabbed Jiro and walked out the door while Hideki stood there motionless as his legs were growing weak. He nearly trembled while the entire room went dark. Whether it was his consciousness fading away or another memory taking over, he didn’t care. There was nothing left of him, except the appearance of Ultraman Jack hovering in front of him.

    Unlike before, it was as if he was looking directly in the mirror.

    They really were one and the same.

     

    Chapter 8: Memories

    The two stared at each other. The Ultra’s round, bright eyes didn’t falter as Go’s blinked repeatedly. Go stepped forward in the dark abyss they were both still in, forming his hands into fists.

    “Where the hell have you been!?” Hideki screamed out at the unflinching Ultra, raising his fist up, but kept it at a distance. He wanted to punch the Ultra for abandoning him and not taking ownership of his failures.

    Jack didn’t respond.

    His head lowered slightly as his eyes glazed downwards to the invisible floor they both stood on. He couldn’t give him an answer as nothing would be sufficient enough for his host or himself.

    Hideki screamed out from Jack’s silence as he launched his fist forward, crashing through the Ultra’s head. However, it had no effect as his fist just phased through Jack’s face. He snarled and pulled his fist back, continuing to glare at him.

    “If it helps, you can do it as many times as you’d like,” Jack murmured, keeping his eyes peeled downward, wanting to bring some comfort to Go, but couldn’t bear to look him in the eye.

    “Forget it,” Go growled, untightening his hands as he let them hang down. “You won’t feel pain.”

    “I feel more of it than you know,” whispered Jack.

    “Yeah, I bet you do,” countered Go, shaking his head at the motionless display before him. There was nothing left in him. Nothing left to take his anger or grief on, just a broken shell of a man.

    “Jack! That’s enough!” a distant voice screeched out.

    Go snapped his head to the left to find a figure similar to Jack running towards them, but his head was completely different. A large rectangular fin was present instead of the smooth fin that was present on the Ultra he was familiar with.

    The Ultra fired a Spacium Beam, forcing Go to nearly jump back only to realize it flew past him. The beam collided with a white creature with black spots adorned on his entire body as it immediately shrieked in agony.

    The empty void disappeared and in its place formed into a world similar to one of Earth. Hideki then watched three Ultras standing together against the three identical kaiju to the one he just saw.

    Thrusting his arms to the left, Ace fired out his Metalium Beam, directing it at the closest Eleking. The rainbow burst of energy collided into the invading creature, sending it stumbling backwards towards its pack. Ace tightened his hands, furious beyond belief as he snapped his head back at Jack.

    “We are here to get these people out of here!” Ace yelled out, taking one step forward as he raised his fist up towards his fellow Ultra. “Not to vanquish our enemies!”

    “I know what the objective is!” Jack screamed out, raising his hands at him, startling him at first, but nonetheless remained defiant. “But we’re ensuring they never have to live in fear again!”

    As the two were arguing, Taro remained focused on the mission at hand by keeping the herd of Eleking back with his Strium beam. He watched as they kept positioning themselves throughout the battle, moving ever so slightly, almost as if they had some directive instead of invading the village they were protecting. An idea then popped up.

    “Jack!” Taro called out, causing his teammates to turn their attention to him. “If we can….”

    Despite the request, Jack’s heart raced when he saw an Eleking approaching his friend, with its tail swinging around its body. The appendage raced towards the distracted Ultra when Jack pressed his hands against his chest and then raised his hand back. Energy in the form of a yellowish buzzsaw materialized from his hand and not even sparing a second, he launched it forward. The energy weapon slashed through the tail of the Eleking, severing it in half.

    The creature screeched out, collapsing to its knees as it grabbed the stump on its tail, attempting to nurse its wounds.

    SLASH!

    Jack threw another Ultra Slash at the wounded Eleking, as the energy went right through the creature’s neck. Before the Eleking could even think about it, his now severed head tilted forward, crashing into the ground.

    Taro jumped back at the sudden demise of the creature while Ace’s hands tightened even more. A simple task of guard duty now turned into a massacre as the three saw the remaining Eleking stomping their feet, roaring a declaration of war at the residents of light.

    Ace sent his fist crashing into Jack, causing him to stumble back. The afflicted Ultra looked up at his perpetrator with anger as he looked back down, fuming at what he did. “And now thanks to you, we have a full herd to cull.”

    Jack grinded his hands in the dirt. He was beyond furious at how Ace, of all people, could criticize him when he had done nothing to help their situation. He knew he wasn’t doing a perfect job, but he was keeping everyone safe and that’s all that mattered. These people deserved to live out their lives in peace, and he would make sure no one would ever intrude on that again.

    The downed Ultra quickly raised his hands together and fired a Spacium Beam at Ace, who couldn’t even react in time. The beam, while not a powerful one, was enough to send the fellow Ultra to his knees while Jack approached him.

    Ace titled his head up, furious at how Jack could even fire a beam at him. He wanted to retaliate badly as he was struggling to get up.

    “The situation we’re in isn’t ideal. I recognize that,” Jack drilled, leaning directly over Ace, still clutching his hands into fists. “I already know I made my mistakes, but I will not let it distract me from my duty. You can either fall in line or stand aside, but don’t get in my way.”

    Ace wouldn’t admit it out loud, but despite the rage he still felt for Jack, he felt intimidated by his outburst. He was still trying to stand on his own two feet when to his surprise, Jack’s hand was no longer a fist, but a hand reaching out to him.

    Not wanting to risk any discipline for neglecting his duty by Zoffy or the Father of Ultra, Ace begrudgingly took Jack’s hand and stood up. The three Ultras stood together at the incoming pack of Elekings as the three charged up their beams.

    Go and Jack watched the three as their beams sliced through creatures with ease as if they butter against a hot knife. Their cries forced Go to nearly cover his ears, his stomach dropping due to how horrifying they sounded. Most of the time, he would be able to look the other way, but something about their cries made him think to animals he would occasionally see crying out.

    Jack, on the other hand, watched his memory play out, simply staring at the massacre unfold. He watched the Elekings collapse as pieces of them flew all over, desecrating the nearby forests while the impacts of their beams rattled the homes of the natives. The Ultra hung his shoulders while he continued looking on. He wanted to look away, to forget this painful memory, but it was the first of many he knew that he was about to endure.

    The Ultra knew Go would ask him why he did it, much less any of it, and that answer would be the most pitiful thing anyone would ever hear.

    The worst sign in a person.

    The answer that could turn a good man into the worst man in existence.

    The two continued to watch the memory play out as they saw the three Ultras attempting to salvage the ruined village. Taro provided the civilians with supplies and was reassuring them that it would all be okay while Ace was rebuilding their structures as best as they could.

    Go’s eyes scanned the entire village to find where past Jack would be, but only saw him standing out in the distance. He briefly glanced at the present day Jack and was taken back by what he saw.

    Both past and present standing together, hunched over, watching the sunset on this fateful day. Go could only make assumptions, taking note of the one on the left. The Past was sickened by the atrocity he committed while the Present hated himself for forcing his comrades to enact a massacre.

    The Ultra host’s vision was briefly distorted, replacing the identical Ultras with two versions of himself. Go’s sadness went away and he rolled his eyes, knowing full well what his mind was trying to tell him. He shook his head and the sight of the two Ultras standing off in the distance came back to him.

    He took a deep breath out and walked up to Jack, the one he was more familiar with. Go watched the fleeting sunset as Jack kept his eyes peeled on it. “I’ve seen you in moments like this, so I suppose it’s only fair you only saw one of mine,” murmured Jack, feeling himself nearly pause every couple of words, doing his best to keep himself composed.

    Hideki didn’t turn his head, only keeping his gaze on the nearly invisible sun. He didn’t know what to say. He was horrified like Taro was and wanted to berate him for his incompetence like Ace, and yet he was lost like Jack. Instead, he just settled on a few simple words.

    “I suppose you’re right.”

    The two spent the last minute watching the sunset as they both saw the past walking back towards the village. The sun no longer cast its light on the distressed as both Jack and Go turned to watch him walk. However, the village disappeared as it was being replaced with a teal color like aura surrounding an entire office. Ace and Taro faded away and were supplanted by two Ultras Go was completely unfamiliar with.

    The only thing that remained with the transition between the two memories was the Past walking towards the nearly identical Ultra while another stood behind a desk and was adorned with a magnificent cape.

    “You have disobeyed orders time and time again,” the Father of Ultra relayed, pressing his hands onto the table that separated him from his two subordinates. He took a moment to breathe and looked back up at Jack. What he was about to say would crush the young Ultra’s spirit, but he had no choice. “Despite your service, we can’t have a liability like yourself as a member of the Defence Force.”

    “Wha… what?” Jack stammered out in complete disarray, feeling his entire body drop at the rejection his superior dropped on him. His entire body was at a loss, with his mind completely distracted by the news he didn’t even feel himself taking one step forward.

    “This… this can’t be happening. I can’t leave now. I have so much to prove. I need to do this. It has to be me. It has to. I…..”

    “Sir, please let me stay!” Jack cried out, his vocal chords ringing to where his voice nearly cracked out.

    His dream was dangling from a cliff. At any moment, it could plunge into the abyss, lost forever. He couldn’t let go of it, not now, not ever. Jack took another step forward, his hands rubbing together, slightly hunching over as if he was bowing down to the Father of Ultra.

    “I really need this. It’s something I know I can improve on,” pleaded the young Ultra.

    “I’m sorry,” the top commander spoke, bringing his hands up from the table. “But my decision is final.”

    “No…..” murmured Jack, hanging his head further down. His hopes and dreams had been crushed. That conversation he had with Beth all those years was nothing more than pure fiction as he had nothing left.

    Picking up his feet, he turned around and motioned towards the door while Zoffy, who remained silent, watched him. He understood his commander’s decision and yet, it was one he couldn’t fully get behind. Jack was someone who was reckless, an ends justify the means type of person, but every report that was sent reported he put his teammates along with the lives of everyone ahead of his own.

    “Wait,” Zoffy finally spoke out, causing Jack to stop in his tracks and the Father of Ultra to turn his attention towards his top lieutenant, casting a look back at his leader. “Jack isn’t like the others. He’s not as versatile with his abilities like Taro or disciplined like Seven.”

    The comments made by his superior only further sent Jack down into a depression. He didn’t need to hear it from someone he respected greatly, he already knew it, but him saying it only made it worse on him. He wanted this to be over already, he didn’t need Zoffy to belittle him any further.

    “However,” Zoffy continued to speak, Jack’s head then lifting ever so slightly with his pause as it sounded much more considerate than dismissive. “Jack has something the others do not have. Willpower. Someone who’s always willing to do not only the right thing, but to keep everyone at their best.”

    “Zoffy….. Thinks highly of me? But why would he say that about me?” Jack wondered, his body completely frozen by the glowing recommendation his superior just gave out. He couldn’t believe it, much less even begin to acknowledge it.

    The Father of Ultra continued to direct his attention towards Zoffy. He hadn’t spoken, but instead was contemplating the words that went into his mind. The leader of the Garrison turned his back on the two, staring out at the green sky casting its appearance outside of the window.

    “Ken?” inquired Zoffy, taking another step forward, hoping his words got through to him.

    The Father of Ultra glanced over at a shelf with glass encased in front of it. He slid it open and snatched up a brown circular object with a diamond planted front and center on it. Ken turned back around, walking around his desk and towards the two Ultras.

    “Do you know what this is?” inquired Ken, holding out the object.

    “Of course, it’s the….” Zoffy tried to answer, but his superior cut him off.

    “The question was meant for Jack,” Ken clarified, turning his head at the young Ultra, holding out the object in front of him.

    “It’s the Ultra Bracelet, sir,” Jack simply answered, completely unsure of where the Father of Ultra was going with this.

    “And do you understand its significance?”

    “It was forged from the energies of the Plasma Spark by Seven at a very young age, and it is meant for a warrior of great courage and compassion. One that amplifies their abilities and signifies their worthiness,” Jack mused, the history of the weapon’s significance was always a fascinating subject to him ever since he heard of how someone at a young age could create a brilliant invention like it. Along with Lipiah and Zoffy’s achievements, it was another source of inspiration that made him want to join the Defense Force.

    “Precisely,” Ken simply answered, moving the bracelet closer to Jack, taking him completely by surprise.

    “I…. I don’t understand. What are you doing?” stammered Jack, his heart racing at what was transpiring right in front of him.

    “Say you will not make me regret this, because there is great potential in you, but you are unpredictable and dangerous,” Ken elaborated.

    The words struck him, but he knew they were true. He hated that he was right, and yet he continued to listen on.

    “You will be the wielder of the first Ultra Bracelet, and that will be your true test to see who you really are,” the Father of Ultra relayed.

    “I…. I don’t know what to say,” Jack stumbled between words, completely taken by surprise from the news his superior just spoke out. He was highly honored by the gift about to be bestowed on him, but he felt guilty. It belonged to someone and not someone like him.

    “Jack,” Zoffy spoke, gaining his attention as he put his hand on his shoulder. “I can’t think of any other person who deserves it more than you.”

    His heart raced. It was a big decision and he had approval from not one, but two people he looked up to greatly. It was just one another step towards his dream of being a member of the Ultra Brothers.

    Without wasting another second, he took the bracelet from Ken and strapped it to his wrist, displaying it proudly in front of himself. It was a dream come true to him, but several thousand years in the future, it was nothing more than pure arrogance.

    “That bracelet really meant a lot to you, didn’t it?” inquired Go, watching the Past being filled with overwhelming joy over his success.

    “It was a time when I thought my accomplishments mattered,” the Present simply replied, keeping his eyes focused on the memory in front of them.

    “It made sense why your mind snapped the way it did when it broke,” Go spoke, understanding why Jack committed the actions he did. He knew full well he’d do the same exact thing if he were in his Ultra’s shoes. “For what it’s worth….”

    “I know….but it no longer matters. That key to being someone is gone forever,” murmured Jack, looking away from the memory as if on cue, everything and everyone except for the Past faded away, transforming the entire landscape into something different.

    “No.”

    Jack bolted throughout the lively settlement of Crystal Town, frantically checking every map and building he could to find his destination. Each building had a story to tell with its lively colorful crystals protruding out of them, but as magnificent as they were, the young Ultra couldn’t focus on them.

    “I’m going to be late,” Jack bellowed out, feeling his breathing go rapidly while his legs were buckling down. He had graduated from school with flying colors in the past few months and was granted an invitation to train for the Intergalactic Defense Force. He couldn’t let a chance like this go by, much less make a bad first impression.

    “Come on! Where is it!? Where is it? Why can’t I find it!?” the young Ultra cried out, feeling more of his composure fading away. He frantically searched his surroundings, determining his next course of action until he looked ahead where the skyscrapers were off in the distance.

    He gritted his hands. “There!”

    Jack went to pick up his feet, but they disobeyed his orders and forced him to collapse onto the ground. He exhaled, exhausted by the mental gymnastics he was putting himself through. Jack flattened his palms on the crystal surface and lifted himself upwards, allowing him to sit down.

    The young Ultra breathed out once more, trying to compose himself as best as he could, however, his thoughts went elsewhere. Ones of despair. “I’m never going to find it.”

    “Find what?” a calm, angelic voice spoke out, immediately catching his attention.

    Jack looked up to find what the voice matched: an angel. Her long silvery hair flowed gently while her blue eyes casted an aura of safety and reassurance. He couldn’t help but feel things were going to be okay.

    “Oh… I… “ Jack was about to explain, but he was still enamored by her beauty. His mind went in a different direction. Like he always wanted to do, but with her, he really wanted to do it. He had no idea why, but his feelings for her were something he couldn’t comprehend. Yet, he wanted to make up an excuse, no, tell a story. “I was on my way to the Intergalactic Defense Force, but a couple of children needed help, so I decided to lead them to the school. Followed it up with helping the elders move their furniture back. They offered me refreshments after that, but I had to politely decline to make it, and then here we are.”

    Jack immediately followed it up with a nervous laugh, still unsure why he made up a long, elaborate story to a random stranger he just made. Like others in the past whether he told a lie or a truth, they’d just scoff at him, he’d fully expect her to do the same.

    Instead, she just smiled.

    A smile freezing his very body as she followed it up with a laugh. “Well, perhaps I can reward the hero with a trip to the headquarters?”

    “Oh…. um….. Right…. Of course,” Jack stammered out, his mind flooding with this woman’s generosity. He had a feeling she wasn’t falling for his fib, but he was grateful she was offering to take him to his destination.

    He went to bend his legs forward to get up when he stopped. Her hand was in front of him, Jack’s eyes darted over to the kind stranger’s face, smiling at him. She was the prettiest being he’d ever seen, and one he immediately wanted to get to know more.

    “So… um…. How do you know how to get to the headquarters?” inquired Jack, still nearly frozen in place.

    “I’m an intelligence officer,” she answered.

    “She’s out of my league.”

    “Oh… that’s amazing…. I hope this isn’t too out of the way for you, having to head back there yet again,” rambled Jack, internally punching himself for going off the rails. He didn’t fear anyone nor anything, but in her presence, he was a mess.

    “Nonsense. I just dropped my nephews off there,” she gleefully announced.

    “Why?”

    “Are you going to get up now?” the stranger asked, as Jack snapped his attention back to the real world.

    “Oh, right!” he nearly barked out, taking her, feeling the electricity rush through his body as he felt himself being lifted up by the woman. “Sorry about that.”

    She smiled once more, causing his whole body to nearly shake. “You’re welcome.”

    “My name is Jack, by the way,” the younger Ultra introduced, his hand reaching out, formally introducing himself. In reality, he just wanted an excuse for him to touch her hand again, as it brought him a rush of excitement, yet calm at the same time.

    “Remi,” she introduced, shaking the young Ultra’s hand, as the wave of electricity went down his very body as the two smiled at each other.

    “Was it the same with Aki?” the Present asked his human host, turning his head slightly towards him.

    Go turned his head away from the happy couple to face the present iteration of the Ultra next to him. “A lot less stuttering, but sort of.”

    The world morphed once more, with the crystals dissipated as the buildings were altered into ordinary structures found on Earth. All the while the two found themselves in the middle of a park where trees surrounded them, blowing a gentle breeze as the nearby creek ran throughout the area.

    A man completely resembling Go sat on top of a rock, fiddling with the strings of a guitar. He was by no means perfect, but was always greeted with several passengers, filling him with compliments and even yen. It was something that made him chuckle, all of them thinking he was looking for work, but it was nothing to complain about.

    It brought him solace. Playing his favorite guitar in a calm, peaceful park, away from the busy city was what he needed to help. He closed his eyes, rubbing his fingers gently on the string, eliciting beautiful music that purified the soul.

    “You’re marvelous,” a calm, alluring voice spoke out.

    “Huh,” Hideki murmured out, only to find a smiling, gorgeous young woman standing in front of him. Her curly brown hair went down to her neck while her turquoise sweater dress casted a sense of awe to him.

    “Pardon me, but I was watching you play for these past couple minutes and I just think you’re amazing,” she explained, twiddling her fingers together.

    “Oh, thanks,” he spoke up, keeping his focus on her while he set the guitar down.

    “I’m Aki.”

    “Hideki,” the man introduced himself, offering his hand towards Aki as she eagerly shook it, eliciting a laugh out of him. “Eager, aren’t we?”

    Aki immediately grew red, blushing from Hideki’s comment as he followed it up with a laugh. “Stop it!” she laughed out as he continued onwards, spending the next few minutes getting to know each other.

    The present Hideki lowered his head, thinking about how things were a lot better for him back then. He didn’t have to worry about disappointing the woman he loved nor hurting her.

    “What the hell did I become?”

    “It was beautiful,” Jack pointed out, watching the two continue their banter.

    “Yeah,” murmured Go, raising his head up slightly. “I just wish I was better.”

    “Go….” the Ultra tried to speak up, but his host cut him off.

    “No.”

    Their surroundings morphed as the beautiful park melted away as the countryside was where they stood and off in the distance was a trampoline. Then, Jack shuddered in complete fear when he heard a child scream out as if his life was on the line. Go, on the other hand, appeared to be unfazed, when in reality it was something that chilled him to his very core.

    Jack bolted over to find a kid very similar to his host, immediately deducing it to be Go as a child. Below him was a child screaming out, begging for Hideki’s help.

    “Hideki! My neck!” the other kid shrieked, clutching his collar as Hideki shivered in fear.

    “I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to!” cried the younger Hideki, rubbing his hair with hands, trying to concoct a solution for their situation.

    “I think it’s broken!” Hideki’s friend screamed out, tears flooding from his eyes.

    “No! It’s not broken! You’re going to be okay!” the young child countered, desperately trying to reassure his friend it was just a minor injury, lifting his friend up only to be met by a more ear piercing scream from the agonizing pain.

    Hideki set him back down gently, as he breathed heavily, completely unsure what to do.

    “Hideki!” his friend called out, snapping his attention back to him. “Get my parents.”

    “No. We can fix this,” Hideki panicky called back, his entire body going numb at the thought of anyone finding out about this accident, knowing full well he’d pay for the consequences. “We can fix this….”

    “We can fix this….” the younger Hideki repeated, kneeling beside his injured friend, trying to figure out what to do while Jack watched on, horrified by what had transpired.

    “What happened was the two of us were roughhousing and resulted in me accidentally crashing into him just right for his neck to be injured, or at least we thought it was,” Go explained, his voice completely monotone while he kept his eyes fixated on the crisis in front.

    “What happened afterwards? Was he okay?” inquired Jack.

    “It turned out to be nothing. Just a false alarm,” answered Hideki, allowing Jack to let out a small sigh of relief, however, his host continued to speak. “But even though it was nothing, it’s a memory that’s haunted me since. He probably forgave or even forgot about this, but it will always be there.”

    The Ultra host paused, taking a moment to compose himself, but it wasn’t something that could be done, especially not now. He turned to look at Jack who in turn faced him, staring at each other as Go shook his head, disgusted by both the Ultra and himself.

    “But I guess that’s yet another thing we share in common, we don’t really talk about any of it, do we?”

    “No…” Jack felt himself pause, feeling a great sense of shame by all of his past actions, never faltering his eye contact with his host. “No we do not.”

    “In addition to my friend, how many people have we hurt?” inquired Hideki, his voice trembling with both regret and anger.

    Jack was about to answer when he saw ghostly silhouette figures materialize behind him. Several of them taking on his family and friends like Go’s father, the entire MAT team, Ken, Jiro, Aki, as others he didn’t recognize went down the gravely road they stood on.

    Hideki saw the same thing as the ghostly figures of Baragon and Behemoth cried out, materializing behind Jack, pieces of their bodies missing. Soon, several other kaiju like the Eleking he’d witnessed minutes before along with others. In front of the kaiju, the Ultras like Beth, Taro, Seven, Ace, and front in center, Remi stood there.

    The two were surrounded by the figures of their past, present and future, casting their judgment down on them with their scowling eyes. The sky began to blacken while red illuminated them as their only source of light. The ghostly figures then took on a demonic form, burning their glaring eyes into them.

    Jack averted his gaze from Hideki to look up at the source of their light, as the host soon followed suit. What he saw completely shocked him.

    A planet off in the darkened sky looked down on them as it was covered in black with long streaks of red glowing off of it. Droplets of what appeared to be blood rained down from the planet and all around them, blanketing the ghosts in it.

    Hideki glanced over to Jack shaking at the memory of the planet before them, completely horrified by the display. Remembering the question he asked to Jack, he brought up a similar one, one he wasn’t sure if he wanted to know either.

    “Jack, who did you hurt?”

     

    Chapter 9: Our Own Personal Hell

    “How much longer until the shuttles are launched!?” Jack screamed out, throwing his bracelet, taking the form as a bomb into a smaller Deathla. The bomb lodged itself into the left bulbous eye of the Smog Monster, eliciting a gurgle of confusion from the impact. Within a second, the explosive detonated, consuming the mastodon of destruction in a fiery blast, completely incinerating it.

    “Not enough for us to last!” Taro called out, crossing his arms as a blue barrier materialized in front of him and the shuttles he was protecting. The red melting rays raced across the battlefield, colliding into the young Ultra’s shield, forcing him to unleash a grunt of agony as the course of the battle had already ran longer than any of them could reasonably withstand. The resulting impact forced him to his knees while he barely held up his barrier.

    His entire body shook, he wanted these people to live, to do everything he could to ensure they’d be safe, but he had no idea if he could keep this up. The barrier across his hands was faltering, flickering every second while the crimson beams continued ramming into it. Taro stuttered with his breathing as he glanced over to Jack, keeping his focus on the horde of Deathlas. He admired his friend’s resolve to keep everyone safe even at the cost of his own body.

    Scars were decorated all throughout the fighting Ultra’s body, cracks of light shining out of them, but it was as if Jack paid it no mind or had a high pain tolerance. Yet, here he was, about to collapse.

    Taro, with his mind floating in and out, lost his concentration when another volley of crimson beams collided with his shield, shattering it instantly. The Ultra shook his head in surprise as all he could do was let out a large gasp before finally being struck with the deadly beams. The deadly rays pierced through his body, eliciting a cry of agony while Taro collapsed on his back as light shined greatly out of the many holes.

    The young Ultra struggled to get up, but the pain was too great. He could barely move, tilting his eyes downward to see a group of Deathla breaking away from the main horde and towards him. They all gurgled in delight, relishing at the sight of one of their enemies finally brought down to their mercy. A few clapped their hands, giddy with excitement to hear the agonizing screams of the warrior. Taro attempted to breathe out while he forced his hands together to fire a Strium beam, however, the pain was too great. He screamed out in agony as it was nothing compared to the Deathla that latched onto his chest.

    The collision with its sulfuric body oozed with its acidic sludge dripping all over Taro’s body, forcing him to cry out. It was the worst pain he ever imagined, feeling as if his entire body was melting away. He was completely powerless to stop the weaker form of their greatest enemy.

    Jack heard the bone chilling scream and immediately snapped his attention towards the source. The display before him shook him to his very core. His friend was on the verge of dying as everything nearly went black from him.

    How did it go so wrong?

    The three of them were holding off the horde so well. They did everything right and yet, here they were. Ace was barely holding them off, only managing to get five shuttles out while he could only annihilate a fraction of the Deathla, but worst of all; Taro was on death’s door.

    A bell seemingly rang out as time stopped, Jack observed his surroundings, feeling as if everyone but him was frozen in time.

    He stood on the precipice of change.

    Before him two paths were presented in front of him.

    Ensure the mission was a success or risk it all to save a good man.

    He glanced over to the shuttles behind he assigned himself to guard, forcing him to tighten his left hand while he clutched the bracelet with his right. He had to do this, if he went down this path, then he could do it all.

    He had to.

    Jack let out a warcry, a declaration to all, showing he had no intention of losing. To show his planet, no, the universe, that he was a warrior. A hero. One who could do it all.

    The Ultra ripped the bracelet off his wrist and threw it at the Deathla on top of his treasured friend. The object collided with the slimy creature as it began conducting with electricity, shocking every fiber of the creature’s body. The attack forced the monstrosity to cry out in pain before its screams were silenced by being reduced to its dried remains, crumbling on top of the wounded Ultra.

    Jack, without wasting any more time, raced over to Taro, who could barely lift his head up. “Jack….. The mission….” murmured Taro while Jack slowly lifted his friend up.

    His wounds were grievous while his consciousness was barely hanging on.

    “No. You’re not going out. Not yet. You still have a lot to prove, I won’t let you die. You’re the best of us. I can’t!”

    Jack’s mind raced, putting himself through constant mental gymnastics. He couldn’t realize it, but his own psyche was starting to break apart. The loss of a comrade or the mission was making him fall apart at the seams. He was running out of options while he lifted his friend up, listening to his screams of pain only made it worse.

    He had no choice. What he was about to scream out was manipulation of the highest order, but it was the only way to keep Taro alive.

    “Ace!” Jack screamed out at the top of his lungs, forcing the called upon Ultra to turn his head.

    Ace was fighting with all of his might to keep the shuttles protected, but even he was failing against the terrifying might of their enemy. He had already lost several of the shuttles with only a few escaping from the planet on his watch. Despite his tough exterior, he mourned for the loss of life on this planet as no matter what they did, they were all but guaranteed to fail. The species of this planet was about to be doomed to extinction. It all depended on their commitment to the mission and how far they would go to save them.

    Yet, it all changed in seconds.

    His eyes widened in horror at the display before him. His beloved brother was badly wounded and was forced into the care of the person he despised the most. The most ruthless person he knew was protecting Taro. Ace gritted his teeth, with his body telling him to stay on top of the mission, but his emotions ran unchecked.

    The Ultra fired off a Metalium beam at a nearby Deathla, settling it ablaze before rushing over to his teammates, furious beyond belief. He hunched over to his brother, running his hand across his face. Ace could barely compose himself, sickened by the state of his brother’s health before shooting Jack a hideous glare.

    “What did you do!?” Ace shrieked out, nearly jabbing him in the chest.

    Jack, feeling the intense adrenaline from the battle in combination with the wounds he received prior starting to make their rounds, roared out “I did what I had to to save him!”

    “At the cost of the mission!?” Ace retaliated, his body shaking with pure hatred at how shortsighted the Ultra could be. He hated him so badly for his inconsistent and ruthless behavior. Forcing others to do his will and yet compromising everything just to save them. He was pathetic.

    “I know full well you would do the same to keep him alive!” Jack screamed, punching Ace across the face, forcing his left eye to flicker from the impact of the punch. He had no time to argue with him, especially when everything was on the cusp of breaking down. Jack handed the wounded Taro to Ace, forcing him to stand up.

    Jack stared at the fiery landscape before him. The once beautiful rivers were now blackened with sludge running down them while fires raged across the countryside. The buildings were reduced to piles of rubble as the streets were littered with the bones of its once plentiful citizens. It was a sickening sight, one no one could ever recover from seeing.

    He couldn’t let it deter him despite every fiber of his body wanting to shut down from this horror, to cradle into a ball and let it consume him completely. He had a mission to see through and it will be done, with no one else having to die.

    “What are you intending to do?” questioned Ace, venom oozing out from his voice as he watched Jack stand defiantly against the charging horde of Smog Monsters as he left the remaining shuttles unguarded.

    “Taking the brunt of the assault,” Jack declared before looking back at Ace still cradling his younger brother in his arms, changing his tone to one of sadness. “Make sure he survives. He never deserved this.”

    Without any hesitation, Jack threw his bracelet forward, allowing it to detonate across the landscape, casting a sea of fire between him and the horde. Several were blanketed in the flames, gurgling out in anguish while others fared better by leaping above it. Jack clasped his hands together, pointing his fingertips towards the enemy as bullets fired out, riddling their slimy bodies. Pieces of sludge flung all over while their movements were staggering as others began to collapse, searching for replacements to their now incomplete bodies.

    Jack, waiting for his bracelet to reform, was met by a corrosive energy bolt, surging through the wall of fire, striking him in the shoulder. He cried out, clutching his now wounded shoulder, nearly forcing him to the ground.

    An explosion was then heard, as the valiant Ultra turned his head to witness in his horror, shuttles there were assigned on his watch were melting away. The screams of the people inside the disintegrating craft became gurgled, becoming more and more reminiscent of their murderers.

    Jack coughed out, seeing the horror wrap around him as the neverending horde continued on, vanquishing everything in their sight. A part of him wanted to give up, to accept his failure and to be punished for it, and yet, in the corner of his eye, a handful of space faring craft remained. The ones on Ace’s watch.

    He had one last chance.

    One more chance to save the race he swore to protect and his friends.

    Jack picked himself back up as the bracelet came back to him. A Deathla leapt out of the sea of fire, however, the Ultra was quicker on the draw, materializing his defender shield. The creature latched onto the shield, attempting to break through it, but with a mighty push, Jack sent it careening into the still burning flames, completely disintegrating it.

    His entire body ached, as he limped around to face his next threat when another crimson beam struck him in the back, blackening a huge portion of it. Jack cried out as he was forced to his stomach. He slowly put his hands on the ground, forcing himself upwards when another Deathla landed in front of him, clapping its hands repeatedly, gurgling in laughter. It was as if it was mocking him for his continued effort to keep his promises. To save life.

    Jack didn’t give the creature any satisfaction over pondering his choices as in a split second, he crossed his hands together and fired off his Spacium beam. The blue beam sliced through the right half of the creature’s face, sending it careening into the distant landscape. This, however, didn’t stop or even seem to harm the mastodon of destruction as its remaining eye stared down at him, gurgling in delight over his futile efforts.

    The Smog Monster gently took one step off the side while it motioned with its left hand, fully intending to show the wounded warrior something. Something far too exciting to show without an audience. Jack weakly raised his head up to see what his enemy was showing only for his eyes to widen in shock.

    Several Deathlas crashed into the ground next to the remaining shuttles, their dark evil red eyes glaring into the fates of the benevolent race before them. They were their judge, jury and executioner, and Jack was their audience.

    The Deathla that stood before the valiant Ultra gurgled, mocking him for his failure. It had witnessed how Jack fought against the horde, how he did everything he could to do it, but failed spectacularly, allowing them to spread their conquest and to feed with ease.

    It raised its hand upwards as Jack crawled towards his foe, his mind completely racing between thoughts of despair, depression, and failure. His only method left was one that was viewed as pathetic, but it was a matter of desperation.

    “Please….. Don’t do this….” Jack weakly pleaded, reaching his arm outwards in a futile attempt to sway the creature.

    “You really are pathetic to think you can reason with this monstrosity, but I guess failure really does push someone to be idiotic. Or maybe that was just what you were in the very first place. Pretending to be some great person when really the Deathla is just a reflection of yourself. A terrible monster that needs to be vanquished”

    Swinging its hand forward, the Deathla ordered its comrades to attack the spacecraft as they immediately swooped in, laying waste on the last remnants of a civilization. Jack could only watch in horror as he saw one being shoved into the body of a Smog Monster, melting away as its remains merged with its body. Another was sent exploding into pieces by a jagged red beam, while another had its top ripped off as sludge was poured into craft, melting its inhabitants slowly.

    Their cries paralyzed Jack while the Deathla gurgled in unison as their victory was complete. The lead Smog Monster glanced back towards the downed Ultra who continued looking at the destruction he contributed to. A part of it toyed with the idea of wanting to kill the Ultra and his friends, but despite its nature of devouring everything in sight, its sadistic side wanted him to live.

    To live with his failure.

    With a shriek, a pinkish light encased the bodies of all the present Deathla as their bodies morphed into saucers. They shot up into the sky abruptly leaving the ruined planet in search of another to feast on, abandoning the wounded Ultras.

    Jack raised his hand upwards towards the blackened sky in an attempt to stop them, but the last of his strength perished, forcing him to lay on his stomach.

    He failed.

    Him alone.

    He was the reason all of this failed.

    “You!” Ace roared out, storming towards the downed Ultra, immediately delivering a kick, shattering his ribcage, forcing Jack to cry out from the surge of pain. “It’s your fault this happened!”

    Drawing an incredible amount of electricity in the air, with blue static energy cascading across his entire body. He crossed his arms forward, his entire body shaking before letting go and his color timer turning azure blue for a brief second. A strong current of electricity shot out from his timer and into Jack’s body, sending him into a frenzy, commanding every fiber of his being to thrash around. His body was buried in flames as his once pure silver body was transformed into a pitch black with the fire still dancing on top of him.

    “So own up to it!” Ace roared out once more, plunging his fist through the blazing fire. It seared through his hand, but with the rage he was experiencing now it was only a motivator for him to continue on. He lifted Jack’s head up and delivered a punch in the direct center of it, breaking it apart.

    “It is…. My fault….” Jack weakly stammered out, his consciousness beginning to fade while Ace continued sending daggers into his very soul, rearing back his fist for another punch.

    “If you feel guilty about it!” shrieked the attacking Ultra, sending his fist colliding into Jack’s face, shattering his left eye, forcing the wounded Jack to gag out. “Then die!”

    Ace hammered his fist into Jack’s mouth, splitting it open with light erupting from his mouth, nearly blinding the offending Ultra. “Do us all a favor and die!”

    He looked down at the deformed Jack, skin blackened by the flames and his head just a fragment of its former self. With the last flicker of his eye, he saw Ace getting ready to deliver the punch, the punch that will free him and the world from himself.

    But alas, a beam shot out at Ace, forcing him to scream out in a mixture of pain and anger. With Ace’s hold on him gone, Jack collapsed onto the harsh, unforgiving ground as his remaining eye watched Zoffy and the others drop down, assessing the damage.

    His vision was slowly fading away while his mind was starting to blacken, fading away into unconsciousness when he heard Zoffy berating the entire group. “The two of you will atone for your crimes committed here today.”

    He had no idea how much time had passed as he was barely awake for the most of it. Only recognizing pieces of it being spent in a medical facility as several workers restored his body to normal and hearing glimpses of it discussing his fate.

    Jack slowly opened his eyes to find himself in a court, slowly scanning the room to see several Ultras seated in all corners of the room, casting their judgment on him. He tugged lightly only to discover chains of light kept him trapped to the ground, forcing himself to stand still. Jack didn’t mourn his situation nor felt anger towards anyone.

    Whatever fate that awaited him was one he deserved.

    “Jack, you stand here against your crimes of not only going against your orders, but forcing your subordinates to abandon their duties and to condemn a whole race to extinction,” Ultraman King relayed, keeping himself composed when he himself was sickened by the act the young Ultra committed. One that reminded him all too well of another who sought glory and power for his own ambitions.

    “Despite your service to the Intergalactic Defense force,” Ken added, before pausing. “You will be stripped of your title as an Ultra Brother and be forced to serve five-thousand years in incarceration.”

    The sentence was more than fair for Jack. He remained silent, offering no words in defiance or even support for his actions. He accepted it, but it wasn’t the fate he deserved. It was far too generous for someone like him.

    With a push on his shoulder, he was forced to move forward as he kept his eyes peeled down to the ground while every Ultra present screamed at him. Jack couldn’t face them, face how people saw him, but he already knew what it looked like. What pained him even more was the off chance of seeing the faces of the people he cared about the most. So, Jack kept his head down until he was shoved into his cell, barring him from almost no contact, forcing him to look at a lightish green wall.

    Several years went by, but it only felt like a matter of seconds. It was all a trick in his mind as he remained motionless for a good portion of that time. Was it punishment to prevent him from absolving himself of his guilt or some twisted reward that prevented him from facing his actions head on?

    His thoughts were caught in a storm at how he could have done things differently or him trying to run away from those problems. He knew one thing for certain, he hated himself, for not only failing everyone, but not even staying consistent with himself.

    Ace was right.

    He didn’t know whether he wanted to succeed or help others.

    And his inconsistent mindset is what others pay the price for: getting hurt or worse, death.

    Something that should only be reserved for him.

    Footsteps were heard, slowly taking him away from his incoherent thoughts, tilting his head up to see Taro in much better health. He didn’t stand proudly, but with regret painted all over him. He rubbed his arm, looking at his incarcerated friend.

    “Jack….” was all he was able to mouthed out.

    “Taro, just don’t blame yourself,” murmured Jack, barely keeping eye contact with his fellow Ultra.

    “If I didn’t get wounded or held my own…..” Taro tried to reason, stepping closer to his friend only for Jack to abruptly cut him off.

    “What happened was my fault and mine alone. It’s time I saw that for everything I’ve done,” Jack spoke, raising his hands upwards to find darkness consuming his skin before his very eyes. It was reminiscent of the burns he received from Ace, but unlike those wounds, this was something only he could see. A reflection of his true self.

    “Not everything is your fault. We all make mistakes,” countered Taro, keeping his voice level but empathetic for his suffering friend. Despite the terrible decisions he made over the course of the battle, he felt his father and King were too hard on him. He didn’t need to spend a huge portion of his life in a cell for something that couldn’t solely be put on him.

    “And those that cost people their lives? How does that become acceptable?” questioned Jack, his voice nearly spitting out the words he conveyed, but unlike before, he didn’t have the will to emote beyond voicing his regret.

    Taro hanged his head downwards, letting out a sigh. His time with his friend was running short and he was at a loss. Nothing he could say or do could lift him up. Instead, he had to settle.

    “I just hope in time you’ll see you’re not a bad man. That you’re like the rest of us, trying to figure out who we are,” Taro relayed his sympathies as he turned away to head out of the cell block, but stopped when he heard Jack speak once more.

    “Go back to your life before me and continue being the person you are… be that person I can never be. Make it worth it.”

    The words, Jack’s final command, hit him harder than any foe could ever do it. Taro shook his head slowly, distraught at how his friend could think so little of himself. He wanted to argue against him, tell him he was wrong, but it’d be like arguing against a crystal wall. There was no use. All he could do was listen and continue on.

    Taro left the room, leaving Jack to his thoughts once again as time became meaningless.

    The door slid open once more with another familiar face rushing in. To his surprise, his closest friend, Beth, ran in. She was scared, trying to rush in and grab onto her friend, but the bars between them prevented it nor did he bother reaching for her. Only keeping his distance.

    “Jack, we can fix this together. We’ll get you out and….” rambled Beth, but was interrupted by the prisoner.

    “Everything I told you was a lie!” yelled Jack, completely stunning his best friend.

    Beth twiddled her fingers together, baffled by what he announced, trembling between her words. “Jack, you never lied to me, you were always there…..”

    “I was never there for you! I told you what you wanted to hear! Not what you needed to hear! You and I…..” Jack screamed out, his entire body going uneasy at what he was about to go through. He hated himself for what he was about to convey, another lie he was about to tell, but it was the lesser of two evils. It was for her own good, for her to become a far better person without his presence interfering with it.

    “You and I were never capable of anything! What I told you was only to calm me down, to take solace in the fact I will never amount to anything! To take someone down with me!” the imprisoned Ultra shrieked, shaking Beth to her very core.

    He wanted to buckle down and curl over the sickening lie he had to scream out, but it was something he had to do. To avoid others paying for his mistakes.

    “I… I…..” Beth choked out, attempting to evoke some sort of response, but bolted out, devastated by the words her dear friend threw at her. Yet, Jack tilted his head and shoulders down once more, disgusted with himself, allowing time to flow by once more while he remained sedentary, running his mind through every decision he had made.

    One more person wanted to pay him a visit. The person he didn’t want to see nor wanted her to see him like this.

    Remi slowly walked in as Jack heard the way her slow, elegant footsteps announced her presence. He kept his head down, not even wanting to look her in the eye to tell her lies or even his own confessions.

    “Jack?” whispered Remi, cocking her head to the side, watching her beloved through the bars as he continued keeping his head down.

    Jack watched the darkness washing over his arms, painting them pitch black as he felt his eyes changing from yellow to orange. His fingers grew sharp as he imagined himself laughing at all the pain he caused over the years.

    Yet, it slowly started to recede when the soft fingertips of his beloved lifted his head up, facing her. “Jack?”

    For a brief moment, he felt calm as if the galaxy was telling it will be alright. Her soft smile accompanied with her fingers rubbing his chin softly was almost enough to bring him back to his senses. However, his eyes glanced over to a reflection off in the distance pointed exactly at him, showing him the monster all Ultras were familiar with.

    His mind went back to the hell he put himself in. The one of isolation and despair as the colors on his body completely morphed into the figure he saw in the reflection. He stared Remi in the eyes and asked a question. One he already knew the answer to.

    “Belial?”

    Remi cocked her head to the side, using her free hand to rub it against Jack’s. “What about him?”

    “Have I become him?” murmured Jack.

    “No,” Remi nearly hushed, feeling sick to her stomach at the person she treasured the most could even ask a question like that. She rubbed his hand harder, desperately trying to reassure him he was nothing like that monster.

    “Don’t lie to me,” Jack sighed, removing her hand from his chin, keeping his eyes focused on her own. “Just tell me.”

    Remi paused, contemplating all he had done. One who was always willing to do the right thing, but caused several innocents to pay the price for his transgression. She loved him dearly, always wanting to take his side, but the events of his mission didn’t lie. He really sent everyone to their deaths even with the tremendous amount of guilt he was putting on himself. “I really don’t know.”

    “That’s the answer I wish I didn’t hear.”

    “I don’t understand,” Remi spoke, attempting to pull him closer only for him to pluck himself away as he kept his eyes off her.

    “They should have taken the precaution of killing me,” declared Jack, removing her hand away from his face and pulling away, stepping further back into his cell. “Like everyone else I care about, I failed you.”

    “Jack, you never failed me,” reasoned Remi, attempting to reach for him, but he was too far gone. He stood alone in his cell, completely cutting himself off, only a mere shadow of what he once was.

    “Forget about me. Find someone who not only matters. A good man, not a butcher,” spoke Jack, his voice nearly monotone as his final words completely devastated his now ex.

    “Jack…… dammit!” Remi rushed out, completely distraught by what her beloved had conveyed to her. Despite everything he had done, she still loved him dearly and never wanted to let him go, but he had done so himself. She knew he didn’t mean it as the look on his face presented it, one of the worst things he had done was break her heart.

    She kept herself composed as best as she could, but it was too much as all she could do was walk, leaving him alone once more. Nothing good came from that day. A monster that not only took lives, but divided those who were allowed to live.

    “We really are the same, aren’t we?” Go pointed out, watching the entirety of the event unfold as the Present kept his eyes peeled on his worst memory, only filling him with the same emptiness he felt in that cell.

    “I guess you were right.”

     

    Chapter 10: Ultraman Jack vs. Hideki Go

    Five-thousand years had passed.

    No longer bound to the cell he had called home during that time, nor was he free.

    He was escorted out of the prison block and into the outside world he had not seen for a long time. The colors were still the same, changing from one to another, just as he had remembered. The Ultra looked around, watching the busy folk going about their lives as nothing had ever happened, and he was expected to go along with it.

    Jack sighed.

    The Ultra slowly traversed down the streets, wandering around aimlessly. His time in his cell only turned him into a husk, void of any emotions, burying them all away. He had done his grieving, but nothing would change.

    It never has.

    “Murderer!” someone screamed out afar, with Jack slowly turning his head to see an Ultra raising an uproar as others stared at him.

    Jack shook his head and continued walking down the busy streets as several other citizens cast disgusted looks at him.

    “They should have kept him locked up forever.”

    “Do us all a favor and disappear.”

    “A failure has no place here.”

    “Monster.”

    The words, like daggers, struck him, but he had already bled a long time ago. They still hurt, but there was no emotion he could show. He wandered around aimlessly until he heard an all too familiar voice.

    “And look who it is!”

    Jack turned around to see a furious Ace standing a few feet away, tightening his fists. “The person who not only steals lives, but time as well.”

    “Ace….” was all the dishonored Ultra could say, as his mouth trembled. He didn’t expect to see the person who hated him the most again. Jack was apprehensive at how things would go, but felt almost relieved, hoping judgment would come to him.

    “That’s all you have to say? Five-thousand years in the hole compared to my two-thousand?” Ace stormed up to Jack, sending his palm on his shoulder, making him stagger back.

    Jack nearly buckled down, offering no resistances to Ace’s shock. “You really are pathetic. A ruthless individual who goes limp the moment the consequences come for him. I have no idea what my aunt even saw in you.”

    “Then that makes two of us,” mouthed Jack, feeling sick at the thought of the person he disappointed the most flooding his thoughts once more.

    Ace huffed, continuing to stare down at the lifeless husk before him, beyond furious there was nothing left to fight. He wasn’t the one to bring him down or prove why he was better than him. Jack was nothing.

    “And you were right. The others should have seen it,” murmured Jack, finally looking Ace directly in the eye, taking him back.

    “Your admission means nothing! Get the….” Ace roared out, but was cut off by a commanding voice.

    “Ace, stop it!” Seven ordered, lowering himself down between the two, continuing to look at the offending Ultra. “There’s nothing left to argue against.”

    Ace turned around abruptly, denying Seven or Jack a reply. Dismayed by the lack of a satisfying conclusion to his rivalry, there was no reason for him to stick around as Seven continued to watch him depart.

    Agent 340 glanced back at Jack. “You alright?”

    Jack lowered his head, not answering his friend.

    Seven sighed. He felt sorry for him. Jack was always someone trying to prove himself along with helping anyone he can. He never intended for what happened on that day. Even he thought the punishment was too severe, especially for someone like Jack.

    “I understand if you don’t want to talk,” Seven spoke, taking one step forward while Jack still kept his head down. “But I do have something for you.”

    Agent 340 pulled out the Ultra Bracelet, bringing it in Jack’s sight. The distressed Ultra lifted up his head slightly, gazing at his most powerful asset. The weapon that made everyone know he was a hero and worthy of its power. Now, just a reminder of something he isn’t.

    Jack lifted up his hand for the bracelet, but instead, just pushed it back towards Seven, greatly surprising him. The former Ultra Brother looked up at Seven. “That doesn’t belong to me anymore.”

    “But, the Father of Ultra chose you to have this,” countered Seven, trying to push the bracelet back to him.

    “And he made a mistake,” Jack blankly said, delivering the bracelet back to him.

    “I assume you won’t try to return to the Defense Force, then?” inquired Seven.

    “No, and even if I wanted to, I wouldn’t be welcomed there,” answered Jack, looking away from his old friend and towards the night sky. The stars brought him comfort in the past, and maybe they still do, but there was only one way to find out.

    “Not everyone thinks that,” Seven pointed out, putting his hand on his friend’s shoulder, attempting to bring some comfort to him.

    Jack stepped backwards, forcing his friend’s hand to fall. “I won’t be here for much longer.”

    “And where will you go?”

    The disgraced Ultra hadn’t thought of a destination, but perhaps he would do less damage than the amount he did to his home and those he loved.

    “I don’t know,” Jack murmured, turning around and making his departure from the area. He did, however, turn back around briefly, glancing at Seven. “Just make sure they’ll be alright.”

    Seven simply nodded at the request as Jack disappeared, making his way throughout several cities. He wanted one last look at the others he cherished the most. Across the street from where he stood, he saw Taro sparring with a good friend of his, 80. Taro easily gained the upper hand and won the duel. Soon enough he saw the two of them heading towards the zoo he was always excited to visit.

    Jack slowly nodded, appreciating the last order he gave to Taro. He was still the best version of himself no matter what.

    The disgraced Ultra cleared the area, moving on to the next. He continued traveling until he found his oldest friend, Beth, partaking in an obstacle course with Scott and Chuck. He admired from afar, watching as her skills had developed greatly in the time he was imprisoned. She was then laughing at something he couldn’t tell, unknowing the result of their trial, as the three of them all high-fived each other, celebrating their victory.

    “And you found solace without me. Good.”

    Like with Taro, he moved on, making his way to the last destination, to a home off in the distance from the city he was in. It was a quaint little home, but one that made him feel comfortable in the past. He stood on the hill that was above him, gazing at it. It made his insides do hoops, nearly bringing back some life in his body with the memories coming back.

    Yet, he saw her in the window.

    Remi.

    She was still as beautiful as ever.

    He watched as she took a seat next to the window, seemingly staring out of it as if she was lost in thought. Jack had hoped she found peace in these past years, but upon closer examination, he noticed she was in distress. As if a piece of her was missing.

    He took a step forward.

    “I want to.”

    Jack took another step forward.

    “But does she deserve more heartache after what I did?”

    He paused.

    “No. You did enough. You deserve to be alone for everything you did.”

    Remi didn’t deserve this and the sooner word had been sent that he was gone, the sooner she could move on. Like Taro and Beth did.

    Jack took one last look at the love of his life as it would be the last he’d ever see her.

    “I wish I was better to you,” Jack apologized before taking to the skies and exiting the planet’s surface where he was greeted by the billions of stars decorating the entire galaxy. He allowed himself to float for a few minutes, plotting out his destination. Every planet he could think of was one he either caused harm or brought him painful memories.

    Instead, he pointed his arms forward into a random direction and allowed himself to drift off. He kept his eyes forward, never looking back at the home that no longer wanted him. It would be a lonely life, but one with no more hurt in it.

    “When we lost to Bemstar….” Go spoke, attempting to convey what happened between the two events, but found himself at a loss while he watched the Past sailing across the stars. “Why did you think you were worthy then?”

    “I never did,” answered Jack, turning to face his host. “I only took the bracelet to save everyone.”

    “And look where we’re at now,” surmised Go, gazing back at the memory before them, watching Jack visit from planet to planet, carrying out a variety of different tasks. Some came from defending the planet from threats while others were a means of exploration.

    None gave him purpose or peace.

    Not until they saw the all too familiar planet Earth, watching closely at the Past flying towards it. The Past, however, stopped for a moment, admiring the lush, green planet, seemingly at peace with its appearance.

    Watching the memory play before them, Hideki’s mind popped with a sudden realization, turning to Jack. “Of all the planets, why Earth? What made this shithole so appealing to you?”

    “From across the galaxy, I heard murmurs of how Lipiah and Seven were changed from their experiences, and I thought…..” Jack paused, composing himself as his thoughts dwelled back to the genocide he helped cause. The memory reverted briefly back to the massacre they witnessed earlier on with Deathla laughing at the wounded Past while the planet was set ablaze. “I thought it would give me the closure I needed.”

    “And we both know the answer to that one, don’t we?” snorted Go, feeling sickened by his answer, one all too familiar to him. Something he tried to do several times in the past, but nothing ever brought him to that conclusion he wanted.

    “Yeah.”

    The memory shifted back to the Past observing the Earth, before seemingly hearing a shriek down from the surface. The Past’s eyes lit up, turning himself face down, descending towards the planet, intending to do everything he could to quell what dared threaten its people.

    The Past Ultra landed planetside, immediately setting his eyes on the culprit responsible for this mayhem. A purplish-brown, round creature running its arms through several structures, demolishing them in an instance. Without any hesitation, the Past unleashed his rocket bullets from his fingertips, eliciting a pained scream from the round kaiju.

    Before the creature could respond, Jack ran in and elbowed the kaiju’s small head, forcing him to stumble back while he covered his face to nurse his wounds. The Past followed it up with a Spacium Beam, ushering out sparks from Takkong’s body upon impact.

    The invading kaiju, feeling the grievous amount of wounds affecting his body, retreated just as soon as he arrived by jumping in the ocean, allowing his body to sink. The Past stood victorious when he heard a building collapse. He snapped his head towards the scene of the crime when he saw the dust beginning to settle.

    The Past saw a man using his own body to shield a young child and his dog from the rubble, allowing it to break nearly every part of his body. Past Jack heard the words that touched him to his very core.

    “Are you okay?” the man inquired, using what strength he had left, barely lifting the rubbing off of him to allow the child to move himself and the dog out of harm’s way.

    “Yeah,” the kid answered, cradling his pet as he ran off to safety, but not before shouting out. “Thank you!”

    “Anytime…..” the man whispered, watching the child he had just saved run off to safety as he felt his vision going black, with the last of his strength sapped. He dropped to his stomach, letting the rubble trap him once more, uttering out one last sentence. “Thank goodness.”

    Jack continued to stare at the display, feeling a small sense of warmth at the deed the young man did. “You did a very good thing that day.”

    Hideki dismissed the compliment the Ultra gave to him, looking away from the memory. “I didn’t.”

    “How is saving a life not a good thing?”

    The Ultra host turned back to Jack, looking dead in the eyes, almost glaring at him. He remembered that day well enough, what his plan was, and how he was able to escape. “I didn’t save them to keep them alive. I did it to die.”

    Jack was taken back by the revelation Go had just relayed to him, stepping back. He knew both of them had their problems, but nothing as serious as he had. This was for him and him alone, a good man like Hideki should never feel this way. He casted his gaze back to his host, his eyes eliciting sincerity, allowing himself to speak in a calm yet pained voice. “Go….. every life is precious.”

    Hideki shook his head in disbelief at the lie Jack was trying to convey to him, with his mind jumping to a thought that’s been lingering all his life since that day. “The news reported that twenty people died in that attack.”

    Go paused, taking a moment to collect himself before continuing on.

    “So answer me this question. Who were those people and what did they do in life?”

    Jack was stunned by the question, baffled as to why he would ask him that. His fingers fluttered nervously, apprehensive about giving him an answer. His words stumbled out of his mouth, “Go, I possibly can’t know everything about them.”

    “Bullshit!” Hideki roared out, slamming one foot down, leaning directly towards Jack’s face, a fire raging in his very eyes, determined to know who the people that died that day were.

    “Tell me!”

    Jack’s breaths stuttered, going back to that day as the screams and even their last breaths were heard by the both of them, echoing all around them. Hideki took his eyes off Jack and looked around to see several other people meeting the same fate he had. Some were crushed by the rubble, others were burned alive and a few were never recovered from the grave they were cast into.

    The distressed Ultra glanced back at Hideki, having to not only hear their cries but watch their deaths over again, he had no choice but to be ready to name those who perished.

    “Rikka Umezono, nurse, mother of two,” relayed Jack, forcing Hideki to snap his head back at the Ultra going down the list of names. “Akira Ito, a firefighter, saved over a hundred people in his life.”

    Go’s body began to go numb. He had his suspicions about the people who died were ones that were not only kind, but deserved to live out every second of their lives. And now, Jack was only confirming it while he still continued.

    “Chikako Hayashi, a humanitarian, provided aid to everyone she came across, saving them from starvation and homelessness,” memorialized Jack, stopping as she was the last name he saw in reports of the attack. He couldn’t look Go in the eye, not at this moment, turning back at the wreckage in their memory.

    Hideki huffed, watching Jack cast his own self pity, becoming further and further disillusioned with the self-righteous hero he pretended to be. “Figures. Out of everyone you chose to bring back, you chose the shittiest person in the world instead of reviving one good person!”

    Jack, still keeping his eyes away from his host, murmured, his voice beginning to break. “I did what I had to.”

    Hideki’s blood boiled at the excuse Jack was attempting to throw at him. He knew it was a complete and utter lie. He was fed up with him, fed up with his lies. Jack truly was the worst person he’d ever met, up there with himself. He slammed his foot forward, inching closer to his host.

    “No! You didn’t! You chose me because we’re exactly the same! You’re a miserable piece of shit who needs constant reassurance from people who are just as pathetic as yourself!

    “That’s not true!” Jack vocalized, his voice becoming louder, increasingly agitated at his host’s behavior, becoming more and more hostile to him. He still, however, kept his eyes away from him.

    Hideki rolled his eyes. “You’ve got to be kidding me!”

    “Everything I trie…..” the Ultra attempted to voice out, but was cut off by Go.

    “Why are you trying to be the victim in all of this?”

    Jack’s voice then broke. His tears non-existent as his voice cracked, his breathing even more hushed than before. His confession was here and like he told himself several times over, it was the most pathetic thing in the universe.

    “I wanted to be a hero! I wanted to be respected!”

    Yet, he still couldn’t look him in the eye, casting his sight towards the still raging fire all around them.

    “Why? So you can justify it to those who were right about you the whole time!” Hideki screamed out, sending a punch straight towards Jack, but alas, it only phased right through him.

    “So I can justify my existence to myself!” shrieked Jack out.

    Hideki landed right beside him, attempting to get a look at the now grieving Ultra’s face, wanting to see how he can further justify the atrocities they both committed. “Because this is what all of this has been about. You saving me was nothing more than a vanity project to make yourself believe you’re not the bad guy! For however long we’ve been trapped in our own hell, I saw through our memories and realized we’re both psychopaths who’ve hurt countless people who never did anything wrong. Whose only crime was trying to be nice to us!”

    Jack’s hands balled up into his fists, his whole body shaking, completely reaching his breaking point. He sharply turned around, swinging his hand around at Hideki, striking him as if he was physically present. His eyes glaring down at his host, unleashing a scream of pure anger. “You don’t think I know that! I don’t need you of all people to point that out to me! I’ve spent nearly every waking second of my life telling myself that! There’s nothing you can say that I haven’t already said to myself.”

    Hideki, blinded by pure rage, seemingly ignoring the words Jack ushered out at him, struck him several times. He didn’t care if his punches went through him, he was going to get his point across to the thick headed Ultra. The host unleashed another scream of his own, matching it with Jack’s.

    “Don’t pretend you have regrets! You and I will never learn from our mistakes and only cause misery! So, let’s stop pretending we have emotions like everyone else! We’re far worse than the countless kaiju we’ve slain and it’s the two of us who turned everyone’s life into a living fucking hell!”

    “And what the hell do you want me to say to make this magically go away!? You and I are exactly the same, and the people everyone thought we were never existed nor will ever exist!” Jack screamed out at the top of his lungs.

    CRASH!

    Then, like glass shattering, the memory they were in descended into a million pieces, seemingly landing all around their feet. The two briefly looked up to see they were back in their living room. The place that started their descent into self-realization of the people they truly were.

    The two paused, keeping their glares painted at each other. They didn’t know how long they stood, with time truly being an illusion to them. All they saw was a mirror casting a reflection of themselves.

    Hideki chuckled, shaking his head.

    “Since we bring pain towards everyone, then allow me to do what you couldn’t.”

    Reaching in his pocket, he pulled out the MAT gun, brandishing it. Jack’s eyes widened in pure horror with the rage subsiding in an instance, knowing full well what his host was intending to do.

    “Go, please don’t,” Jack silently pleaded, taking a step forward, using his arm to reach out to him.

    “Almost every goddamn day of my life I’ve wanted to pull that trigger, always trying to find a reason not to do it, but now I’m out,” Go monologued, raising the gun up to the side of his head, with Jack taking another step forward, swatting the gun at his head, but it was no use. His hand phased right through the gun and Hideki’s entire head.

    Hideki’s finger inched closer to the trigger while Jack screamed out, once again pleading with him, “You don’t need to die, we can find a way.”

    The pain, the suffering, it’d all be over soon. Everyone would be free including him. Aki and Jiro would be able to be happy again and he would be nothing more than a distant memory.

    His finger placed itself right on the trigger.

    GARAH!!!!!!

    Hideki’s eyes opened.

    “What… what is that noise?”

    He slowly turned his head over to the culprit, realizing the TV had been left on this entire time. A momentary distraction was all that it was. He went back to closing his eyes when he heard the roar being ushered out once more with several cries of help following it.

    “Damnit!”

    Hideki glanced back at the TV to see the return of a familiar face.

    Gudon slashed his whips across the landscape, sending buildings toppling over while his footsteps left craters in the road. What followed were civilians running for their dear lives as the monstrosity continued on with its destruction.

    He rolled his eyes.

    “Someone will take care of it. They always do.”

    Hideki turned away from the TV to resume his final act.

    “Help!” a young woman yelled out.

    “Ultraman, you have to come in!” a child followed, his cries of help filling his ears.

    “Those voices…..”

    “You always come in to save the day!” the boy continued on, as Hideki just now fully realized who the culprits were.

    “Jiro! Aki!”

    Hideki kept his eyes peeled on the TV, witnessing the destruction Tokyo was going through while Jack stood by him, looking directly at him. His voice cracked slightly, but found himself able to voice out what he wanted to without any hesitation.

    “Go, I’m sorry for everything I’ve said. It’s all my fault and always will be. Don’t end it because of my mistakes,” pleaded Jack, still reaching out for the gun planted directly next to Hideki, but it was of no use. He still couldn’t take hold of it.

    Hideki didn’t listen to a word Jack conveyed, still looking deep into the TV. His hand on the gun tightened, almost shaking it. The host exhaled before slamming the gun down on the couch next to him.

    Jack breathed a small sense of relief.

    Go snapped his head towards the window. He didn’t waste any time on his movement or even thoughts, running towards it as Jack perked his head in confusion. Hideki dived through the window, shattering the glass, letting himself descend towards the street down below.

    “Hideki!” Jack screamed out.

    Before the Ultra could even run through his thoughts at what transpired, a burst of light shot out, taking Hideki out of the world and replacing it with Jack.

    The Ultra let out another breath of relief, feeling himself floating in the bright, blue sky. He looked over to the smoke rising near Tokyo Tower, knowing full well where both his and Go’s priority lay.

    Jack zoomed over, as he couldn’t help to say one last thing before he charged into battle.

    “Thank you.”

    “I didn’t do it for you,” Hideki’s voice said, hearing the words travel all around the Ultra’s mind.

    “I know.”

     

    Chapter 11: Ultraman Jack vs. Gudon – One Last Act (Of Kindness)

    Gudon raised his arms upwards, slamming his whips into a building standing directly in his way. Upon impact, the building shattered into pieces, raining down on the concrete and asphalt below, cracking them. The ancient kaiju continued marching forward, casting Tokyo into a sea of rubble.

    Shells were fired from distance tanks, attempting to halt the creature’s destruction until MAT could reinforce them. The projectiles landed a direct hit on the invading kaiju, however, he shrugged them off, barely feeling their presence. His rhinoceros-like hide protected him from the assaulting hail of shells, keeping him free to continue on with his rampage.

    Citizens from every corner were fleeing for their lives, terrified at the monstrosity getting closer and closer. All around them buildings were crashing down from Gudon’s extended whips while the rounds fired from the distant tanks forced them to stumble.

    Aki held her grip tightly on Jiro, continuing towards safety, but their escape was nonexistent. Her memories of that day when she was trapped under the rubble were coming back as one of the demons from her past made itself known again. Fear was taking hold of her, forcing every second of that moment to haunt her, but Jiro’s safety was her priority.

    The shattered pieces of the rubble rained all around everyone, coming across every exit being blocked. It was as if the kaiju was toying with them, laughing at their feeble attempts to escape him.

    “Over here!” someone shouted out, pointing at the still standing Tokyo Tower. The last standing structure in the area, their last hope of salvation.

    Without any hesitation, everyone gathered underneath the red structure, one of the most important landmarks of their country. It brought them a brief moment of reprieve, but it wouldn’t last as Gudon spotted them. It ushered out a roar, marching towards them as it waved its whips around, excited to cut the object before it in two.

    Aki turned around to Jiro who stood frozen in place, unsure what to do. They both had seen kaiju plenty of times up close before, this was nothing new to them. She grabbed a hold of Jiro, hugging him tight as she flipped him around, preventing him from seeing the looming threat before them.

    “Jiro, it’ll be okay. I just need you to look at the sky above us for a few minutes,” relayed Aki, staring at her little brother’s face.

    The young boy nodded, he knew his sister was telling him a lie to keep himself at ease, but didn’t want to build more on top of her by pointing it out. He appreciated everything she did for him, his only wish now was for Go to be with them. Despite everything that happened, he wanted the three of them back together.

    Jiro looked deeply in his sister’s eyes and knew she wanted the same thing even with the hurtful things they all said to each other. His hold tightened with every passing footstep from Gudon. The boy let out another exhale, preparing for the inevitable. He took one last look at the blue sky like his sister wanted him to and saw something shining through it.

    A beacon.

    One of hope.

    Jiro’s eyes widened while his tears receded. He lifted his finger up, pointing directly at the incoming object. His fear now became one of hope, alerting everyone to the incoming anomaly.

    “Ultraman!”

    Jiro’s ecstatic voice rang out, with Aki lifting her head up to see the silver and red giant flying across the city, setting his eyes directly on Gudon. Aki felt her grip lessen on her brother, immediately smiling with a sense of relief, knowing the symbol of peace was here.

    Gudon paused his trek, snapping his head upwards at its descending foe. He growled in annoyance, dismayed at how he could be interrupting his rampage. Wasting no time, Gudon shot out his whips, allowing them to extend upwards in the sky.

    Jack felt his body jerk back slightly at the ascending whips. He quickly recomposed himself, swinging to the left, avoiding the first whip with ease. Jack then barely swerved away from the other whip, keeping his eyes completely focused on the target in his sight.

    The Ultra felt his entire body flowing with energy, people important to the both of them were on death’s doorsteps. It was like all the battles he fought in the past, there was always something for him to lose.

    “No. Someone to fight for.”

    Jack hollered out, descending further towards Gudon, widening his arms outwards. The Ultra grabbed a hold of the ancient kaiju, unleashing a shriek from Gudon. With their collision, the two were sent bouncing down several blocks, shattering the road with each impact.

    The two ended their tumble with Jack on top of the dazed Gudon, as he wasted no time in fighting him off. The Ultra sent his fist crashing down on the subterranean kaiju’s face, eliciting a roar of agony, blood spurting out its mouth. He let out another, attempting to keep his enemy as dazed as possible.

    The fight could be over at any second, as Jack put his hands together, intending to fire a Spacium Beam. Blue energy gathered from his hands while he pointed them down towards Gudon’s head, but unbeknownst to the Ultra, the creature’s whips rattled across the shattered road.

    WHIP!

    Gudon’s rods smacked into Jack’s wrist, eliciting a cry of pain as it stung through his entire body. The Ultra’s hands were forced to shoot up from the pain while the Spacium Beam erupted from his hands and into the clear sky.

    With Jack being momentarily distracted, Gudon swung his two whips upwards, allowing them to hit both sides of the Ultra’s head. Jack yelled out, causing him to tumble off of him as Gudon got back up on his two feet.

    The ancient monster charged forward, slapping its whips onto the recovering Ultra, casting scars of light all over Jack’s body. The Ultra slowly lifted himself up, still feeling the volley of whips banging against his entire body. The stinging pain made his nerves shoot up, forcing Jack to come up with a solution.

    The Ultra flipped over on his back, crossing his hands together, casting a blinding light at Gudon. Not even a second later, the light resulted in a series of explosions forcing the ancient creature to cry out while he stumbled backwards, temporarily blinded. All the while Jack got back up on his feet, standing across from his foe.

    The two were now on equal footing.

    Before Gudon could fully ready himself, Jack put his hands together once more and let out the Spacium Beam, intending to destroy this monstrosity once and for all. The energy beam crashed into the kaiju’s tough hide, eliciting a shriek of agony, forcing him to stumble all over the place. However, it wasn’t enough, as despite the afflicted areas of his armor turning into a char black, he was still standing strong.

    Gudon then charged forward, swinging his whips in a circular motion as if they were propellers, fully intending to shred Jack into pieces. The Ultra put his hands together, firing off the rocket bullets, careening towards the charging beast. While some landed on the beast, forcing him to shriek out from the piercing bullets, most ricocheted off the whips and were sent flying through the remaining buildings. A few landed a direct hit on Tokyo Tower, causing pieces of it to fall off.

    Jack heard the tower creaking from the attack along with the scared murmurs of the civilians trapped inside. He grunted, tightening his hands.

    “If I don’t finish this soon, I won’t be able to save them!”

    The Ultra’s mind searched through all the remaining abilities he had, but it was harder to find a solution without a bracelet. Gudon approached closer and time was running out until he was able to think of one.

    Not of offense, but a distraction!

    Jack curved his hands together, firing off a blue beam at Gudon. The ancient creature fully anticipated a stinging sensation, but felt nothing, momentarily confusing him until gray smoke covered the area all around him.

    With no choice, Gudon continued spinning his whips, no longer intending to hit the offending Ultra, but to regain his sight. The smoke dissipated to reveal Jack was no longer present in front of him!

    Gudon’s eyes widened in shock while he stopped swinging his whips around, giving his arms the much needed rest they deserved. He scanned the area, searching for the now silent Ultra, ushering out a roar, demanding he come out to resume their fight.

    Jack was more than happy to oblige.

    He jumped behind Gudon, shooting out yellowish-white beams from his eyes, striking him in the back. Gudon didn’t usher out a roar of agony, but one of shock. He barely felt the pain as he jumped around to face his challenger once more.

    Gudon arms trembled, knowing he needed time to fully regain the energy before he could spin his arms around again. He was able to shoot out his whips, knowing well he can create a world of pain for the Ultra once more.

    The whips shot out as Jack just stood there only to raise his arms out, allowing them to be wrapped around the whips. Gudon cocked his head to the side, baffled at what the Ultra was trying to do when Jack yelped out. The ancient kaiju pulled back, intending to get the Ultra closer to him, however, Jack had other ideas. He allowed himself to crash towards the ground while Gudon continued pulling, dragging the Ultra at intense speeds.

    It was then Gudon’s eyes widened at what was about to happen. Jack lifted his feet up, striking Gudon in the face, with the resulting impact sending him flying into the sky.

    The Ultra threw himself back on his feet, watching Gudon plummet to the ground, but he wasn’t done yet. Jack jumped in the air, allowing blue energy to circulate around his right foot, aiming it directly at Gudon.

    With another yell, Jack set his kick colliding into Gudon’s neck, forcing him to gag out while he landed just near Tokyo Tower. The gasping kaiju choked between breaths, staggering back up to his feet, his whips circulating around a leg of the tower, holding himself up.

    Jack leaned forward, continuing his trek towards the recovering Gudon as the ancient monster saw him from the corner of his eye. He let out a gagged growl, snapping a piece of the tower off, freeing his whip.

    The tower shook once more, slowly wobbling, but Jack seemingly didn’t notice. The only thing in his vision was the staggering Gudon. He had already won this battle, it was just a matter of time before Gudon realized it as well.

    Placing his hands together, another volley of rocket bullets immediately raced towards the wounded kaiju. Gudon, still having a bit of strength left in him, waved his whips around, blocking them with ease.

    Jack shook his head, slightly chuckling at the mistake his foe had made. The Ultra launched his hand forward, shooting out an energy bullet from his palm. The ball of energy crashed into Gudon’s stomach, blasting off a huge chunk of its ivory armor while the resulting fire charred the skin underneath.

    Gudon cried out in agony, stumbling back into the tower, with more pieces of it crashing down. Jack provided no quarter towards his wounded foe and rushed in, delivering a volley of punches and kicks, forcing the subterranean kaiju to continuously scream.

    Despite the tremendous pain he was in, Gudon still had a bit of strength left. Enough to provide him an escape route. He enjoyed the rampage he got to partake in, but knew it would have to come at a later date.

    Gudon ushered out a gurgled scream, sending his whips onto Jack. His left whip cast another huge scar on his back while the right wrapped around Jack’s head. Casting the last of reserves of his strength, Gudon swung his entire body around and slammed Jack’s head directly into the damaged leg of the tower.

    Jack went further into the tower than Gudon initially expected, as the Ultra crashed into the structure, allowing more pieces to rain just outside of it. Gudon, however, didn’t expect how resilient the Ultra continued to be.

    The being from the Land of Light screamed out, shooting himself backwards and delivering an Ultra Spin Kick. Jack spun his entire body, letting both of his feet strike Gudon directly in his armorless chest. The creature shrieked out as he was sent several blocks down while Jack spun himself around, facing the now downed Gudon.

    The ancient kaiju crawled forward, slowly sending his whips down to create a tunnel for himself to escape. It was a feeble attempt to retreat as Jack shook his head.

    “I can’t let another escape. I can’t relive that memory again.”

    Jack shot his right arm forward, aiming his hand directly at the near death Gudon, intending to shoot out the Ultra Shot. A powerful beam of energy capable of destroying a kaiju with ease. The energy began building up with blue particles swimming around his hand.

    This nightmare was about to be over and the people he cared for the most will be safe.

    The beam was just about ready. Jack clenched his right wrist, ensuring the beam would hit its target with perfect accuracy.

    CREAK!

    The sound of a building ushered out a roar of its own as Jack heard something careening down towards the surface. Jack tilted his head backwards to see Tokyo Tower falling over as he then saw the people taking refuge under it, running for their lives.

    “No!”

    Jack commanded the azure energy to cease, bringing his hands down.

    “How could I have been so stupid!?”

    The Ultra snapped his head back towards Gudon, nearly completing his escape. Jack felt himself hesitate, wanting to finish the fight to ensure it would never harm another soul again. And yet, if he did, then not only would the people he swore to protect die, but Aki and Jiro would cease to be.

    “No!”

    Jack turned around, facing the collapsing tower as his heart raced. He was, in one of his rare instances, sure this was the right thing to do.

    “I won’t make the same mistake again!”

    The Ultra bolted forward, placing himself directly in front of the fleeing civilians. He lowered himself as he raised his arms upwards, allowing the tower to crash onto his back and wrapped his hands around the tip.

    Jack breathed heavily, attempting to lift the tower off of him, but he quickly realized it was no easy feat. His knees buckled while his feet dug deep into the street, damaging the asphalt greatly while he gripped tighter on the holes in the tower.

    The struggling Ultra gasped, feeling the increased weight of the tower pressing up on his back. Every fiber of his body was fracturing along with the cracks of light stretching further and further along his torso, casting a wall of light from his back.

    Jack ushered out another shriek of pain, his knees dropping to the ground.

    BEEP! BEEP!

    The fighting Ultra heard the all too familiar noise. The one he was plagued with hearing in every fight since his arrival to Earth.

    The Color Timer!

    It beeped red repeatedly, signifying his time was nearly up.

    “No! It can’t! I can’t! I can’t abandon these people! Not now! Not ever!”

    Jack grunted further and further with the tower pressing onto him as he looked down to see everyone looking up at him, fear in their eyes. They were depending on him. Their lives were in his hands.

    That thought, that feeling made him sink down even further, bringing the ruined tower closer to flattening everyone underneath it. The beeping from the timer only made him doubt himself ever further as he was nearly on his stomach, having only a meager amount of strength to keep everyone alive. They had nowhere else to run and he was their last salvation.

    Jack scoffed at himself. The confession he screamed out to Hideki was truly pathetic. It was just a desperate plea to make himself matter in the universe. He saw that now.

    The Ultra hung his head down at the revelation he discovered, whispering to himself, finally ready to fully see himself as he always was, “I was never a hero. I’m not an inspiration like Lipiah, a leader like Zoffy, brilliant like Seven, efficient like Ace, or even talented like Taro.”

    Jack’s grip on the tower waned, feeling the weight press onto him, almost forcing him to the ground. He closed his eyes, not wanting the last thing he sees to be all the people he failed after trying to better himself.

    “You’re not my hero because I think you’ll be a leader or an inspiration,” an all too familiar voice spoke out in the distance.

    Jack breathed out at the sudden voice that called out to him. The Ultra slowly turned his head upwards to see Beth off in the distance, smiling softly at him.

    “Beth? How could that be? You should have no idea I’m on Earth.”

    She didn’t provide him an answer, but instead, continued on to a conversation they had in the past. “You’re my hero, because you’re always there for me. You always care about everyone and try to do everything you can to make them feel better. Whether it’s through a gift, words, or just sitting in silence with them. That’s my favorite type of hero. The person who’s there to stick by you no matter how bad it gets… and I don’t want you to lose sight of that. It’s a beautiful thing to have as a person.”

    The words she spoke to him once before were coming back to him. He kept his hands steady while he continued looking at her.

    “Why? Of all times was that coming back to me?”

    Jack’s knees continued to shake from the increasing weight crashing down on him.

    “Pride isn’t just about winning,” another voice called out, this time belonging to Saburo. Jack glanced back up to see Beth morphing into Saburo smiling at him. He now realized it was only a mirage, his mind was playing tricks on him. Jack almost chuckled at the timing of the situation, but Saburo spoke again. “Sometimes you lose for pride.”

    Upon hearing those words, his knees, like they were obeying a command, stopped shaking. He kept the tower steady, but it wouldn’t be for long as his timer was still beeping repeatedly while the structure was crushing against his back.

    “Losing is what gets people hurt! I just don’t want that to happen! I don’t want anyone to pay for my mistakes!”

    “I just hope in time you’ll see you’re not a bad man. That you’re like the rest of us, trying to figure out who we are,” Taro’s comforting voice spoke out, the mirage taking the form of one of his greatest friends. Jack looked up only to see him giving him a thumbs up.

    “I should have figured myself out a long time ago. There was never any excuse for my behavior.”

    Jack felt his legs straightening up, no longer pressing themselves on the ground, but beginning to lift himself up. The tower was slowly being secured in his grasp.

    “You’re not to blame for this. You’re not to blame for a lot of things. And, whatever may happen to us, to MAT, we’ll always be a team no matter where we are,” Ryu Ibuki’s voice spoke out, commanding him to not give up, the mirage now delivering a stern look at the Ultra, wanting him to follow through on the order.

    “If I don’t blame myself, then who will? We all have to take responsibility for our actions.”

    Jack lifted his head upwards, allowing the tower to comfortably rest on his back, looking further up, getting a better look at the mirage, watching it morph into the woman Go loved.

    “For the people you are close with, you treat them better than yourself, constantly putting their needs as the number one priority.”

    “They are what matter to me the most. Their hopes, their dreams, their presence, their love. It’s what….. It’s what….”

    “Jack, you never failed me,” Remi’s sweet, angelic voice softly spoke out, eliciting Jack to motion his head back to the hologram, taking the form of his beloved, nodding at him with approval.

    “It’s what keeps me going.”

    Jack felt his grip beginning to loosen as he was slowly descending back to the ground when he heard a devastating voice in his head. One he hated, the one who he considered to be his greatest enemy.

    “You will never get rid of me.”

    The Ultra hung his head down in shame, knowing the voice was right. He turned his head slightly to a reflection in a nearby window from a collapsed building. What he saw was the reflection of Belial grinning at him, nodding at him to fully submit to who he really was.

    “I will always be with you.”

    Jack felt the words pierce his very soul, forcing himself to close his eyes. He awaited the fate that was to claim everyone in the area until those same voices, the ones belonging to the people he loved, came back. They echoed in his mind, giving him the strength he always had inside of him.

    The Ultra glanced back at the window, watching the reflection of Belial disappear and what he saw was a silver and red giant smiling at him. It was a reflection of himself, not a monster, nor a hero, but just a good man.

    His back was no longer sore from the crushing weight of the tower, as everything faded away from him. He felt a sensation surge in his entire body, his heart pounding with adrenaline. Not of fear or despair, but of a sense of purpose and joy.

    The words he heard from everyone were giving him that strength. The people he wanted to see again, the ones he wanted to wrap in his very arms, to make new memories with them.

    The voice in his head cried out, attempting to have one last sway over him, to stop him from being able to continue.

    “You will always be alone!”

    Jack nearly lost his grip on the tower from the voice commanding him to halt his efforts. However, the surge of energy was still building up into him, allowing him to continue on as his mind was done hearing the disgusting sounds it was making.

    “I was never alone!” Jack triumphantly cried out, tightening his hands on the tower, allowing himself to finally stand up and raise the tip of the tower over his head. Raising his arms forward while he moved his feet to the side, turning the remains of the tower away from the people he was protecting. Jack positioned the tower towards a pile of rubble, gently setting it down on top of it.

    The Ultra hunched over, allowing himself to breath rapidly, knowing full well the task was over. He could give himself some time to rest. It was a good thing, no, a great feeling. Gudon may have escaped, but Jack could breathe easier knowing everyone would be alright.

    “Ultraman! You rock!” a voice called out, nearly startling Jack.

    “Huh?” the Ultra questioned, slowly turning around to see the people he had just saved cheering him on.

    “That is a hero!” another person called out, clapping their hands together.

    “Is… is someone else here? That shouldn’t be applied to me.”

    “Ultraman! You’re the best superhero ever!” Jiro’s voice called out, running towards his savior as Aki’s eyes widened.

    “Jiro!” she cried out, immediately giving chase towards the kid who really wanted to meet his hero.

    The sound of helicopters came roaring in as the voice from above ordered everyone to rally over to a landing zone. Everyone gathered towards it except the two siblings, who continued running towards the Ultra as Jack looked down at them. He couldn’t help but feel proud of himself, for once in the course of several thousand years, he felt he did something great.

    Something he could finally be proud of.

    Go’s form became visible next to the still standing Jack, watching the two people he loved the most running towards him. He chuckled at Jiro’s enthusiastic nature, realizing it’ll be the first time he’d actually get close to Jack, one of the people he admired the most. His eyes glanced over to Aki, attempting to grab a hold of him and protect himself from any potential danger. Even despite everything that went on today, she was still beautiful, strong, and amazing. Something he never gave her any credit for.

    He was happy to see them again, overjoyed even, but that brief feeling of bliss faded away. Instead, pain from all the bad memories he inflicted on them came back. Hideki turned back to Jack.

    “We should go,” Go briefly paused, taking one quick glance at them before looking back to the Ultra. “We did everything we could.”

    Jack kept himself focused on the two siblings now standing across from them, with Aki’s arm wrapped around Jiro, bracing herself for anything to occur. He didn’t blame them, he’d be like that if he were in their shoes. Jack quietly chuckled to himself before realizing an empty spot was still in his body.

    The energy he acquired from lifting the tower off his body, his state of mind being at peace was nearly there. Yet, there was one spot of him that remained empty and he couldn’t leave without making peace with it. Jack turned to Go, noticing the pain, the very same pain he had been dealing with all his life was still there.

    His job wasn’t finished.

    He still had to be the hero. The hero who stands by a person in need no matter what.

    “No.”

    Go was taken back by the bluntness of Jack’s answer. He circled around in front of Jack, facing him. “What… what do you mean no?” The host turned around to everyone being taken care of by the JSDF. Families holding onto each other, friends sharing laughs and everyone smiling at each other, happy to be living another day. “We did our job. We should get out of here.”

    “Go……” Jack tried to say before stopping, taking his eyes away from the wreckage and at his host standing in front of him. He was the person he needed to help the most, the hero he needed to be. He didn’t just need to be there, he wanted to be there.

    “Hideki, we can’t run anymore.”

    “I…. what do you mean, run? We’re just leaving, allowing everyone to continue on,” countered Hideki, feeling his entire body tense up.

    “No, we’re not,” Jack replied, glancing past Go’s shoulder and looking back at the two siblings the two of them both cherished greatly. “We’re abandoning them, and that’s not fair to them, it’s not fair to you.”

    “Fairness is not something I deserve, it’s something they deserve,” Hideki brought up, taking another look at them, with Jiro still smiling up at Jack. “And me being there just makes it worse for them.”

    “Hideki, why?” questioned Jack, still trying to crack the mystery of why his host was the way he is. He’s a brilliant man, one full of compassion, skill, knowledge, and love, but he was a terrible liar. Fairness is something he deserved.

    Hideki breathed out, each one becoming more hushed than the last. He lowered his head to the side, murmuring, “They hate me for what I’ve done, what I’ve said to them. For everything. There’s no going back.”

    Jack continued keeping his eyes on the struggling Hideki, his vision briefly distorted him into a younger version of himself. It was no secret to himself that he saw a lot of him in Hideki, especially when he was younger. Not also doing a lot of things he regretted, but wanting to make sure everyone was alright, regardless of how things played out. Jack’s eyes allowed his younger self to revert back to his dear friend. The Ultra took a small step forward, knowing what to say, despite not knowing if it was the answer he desperately needed. “They’re upset because they thought they lost you.”

    Go shot up at Jack, not wanting to hear those words, as he attempted to deflect the question. He knew he meant well, but he couldn’t and shouldn’t help him. This was not his fight, it was his burden alone. “Jack, your time is almost out! If you stay here any longer, your body will disappear! You don’t want the same thing I do! You need to continue on!”

    Jack shook his head, knowing full well what Hideki was trying to do as he pushed on. It was the same exact thing he did in the past and that cycle ends here. “It doesn’t matter. I can’t sacrifice your happiness to keep going on.” The Ultra continued, keeping himself calm, taking another step forward, slowly lifting up his hand. “Tell me, how come you won’t continue on?”

    The host’s breathing became hushed, feeling his very core shaking, his heart beating several times over. Jack was right, there was no running. He was about to be broken through and it was the scariest thought in his entire life. There was no backing down from it, no do overs, only to continue forward.

    A confession was to be revealed.

    His eyes watered, tears racing down his cheek while he gripped his hands.

    “Hideki,” Jack softly called out, keeping his gaze on him.

    His confession.

    “It’s because I’m scared! I’m afraid of being left behind! Everyone has so many amazing things about them that they’ll realize there’s nothing to me and decide to leave me. Being vulnerable is the most terrifying thing, because I don’t know if they’ll accept me or even view me as the same, when they’ll just see me as someone who is weak or worse, a monster! I just…. I just…. I don’t know what to do! I don’t know how to continue on, how I can be the person they need me to be! How I can be someone that won’t drag them down, how I can be the person who can improve their lives! And the only way I know how to properly cope is to push everyone away whether they’re someone I’ve known for a few minutes or several years. I hate this! I hate feeling this way!”

    Jack took in every word that was uttered at him, watching Hideki slump to his knees, tilting his head down as tears continued to pour down. His words were something not spoken lightly, they were ones he had been holding onto for far too long. It was time they were brought out.

    “I just wish… I can be better.”

    “Hideki,” Jack spoke softly, taking another step forward, letting his hand rest just above Go’s shoulder while he crouched in front of him. “It’s scary. I know. It’s something I thought about my whole life and will still think about in the coming years. The future is scary because we never know what’s going to happen, but that doesn’t mean we should close ourselves off, because I realize something amazing about it. In fact, several.”

    Hideki slowly lifted his head upwards as Jack continued, “We’re going to continue finding new interests, things that will bring us joy, and most importantly, people. The both of us are going to meet so many new and exciting people who will not only wow us, but we’d do the same. It’ll be terrifying at first, but it’ll only make us stronger, no matter what that voice in our head tells us, we will keep going, because you know why?”

    “Why?”

    “Because we made this, and we will go beyond! Our story is still being told, and we’re going to do amazing things. You’re going to do amazing things,” Jack spoke happily, smiling brightly at his host.

    Hideki took a breath, allowing a thought to circulate in his mind.

    “Exile or death….. Were things I’ve always thought were the only solution out of this nightmare, but they weren’t. They were never what I wanted. No. This is my solution. This is what I want.”

    The Ultra host pulled himself together, slowly standing up as Jack mirrored him, facing each other. “It’s just….. I don’t know what to say to them,” confessed Hideki, desperately trying to find the words to convey in their inevitable meeting.

    “Hideki, the battles that are the most important to us are never easy, you can do this. I will always be there to support you,” Jack spoke, motivating Go as that same sense of energy began to flow inside of him.

    “Okay….” Hideki murmured, turning around to look down at both Aki and Jiro.

    “Hideki, people truly have come to love us. Never forget that,” Jack ushered out his final words before his body shrunk down and allowed Hideki to take his place, standing several feet away from Aki and Jiro.

    Jiro’s face immediately lit up like a Christmas tree, witnessing the flash of light revealing Hideki standing in Ultraman’s place. Before giving anyone a chance to speak or even move, he blurted out “You’re Ultraman!”

    Go softly smiled as he chuckled lightly at Jiro’s enthusiasm, before walking towards them. His heart began pounding, knowing it was about time for it to happen, but he decided to ease himself up in the situation.

    “It’s…. Um… well, that’s actually Jack. Ultraman’s real name is actually Lipiah,” Go stammered, stopping himself a few feet away, noticing Aki keeping a stoic expression on her face, completely unsure at what Hideki was trying to do.

    “Jack is so awesome! He’s my favorite Ultra and the two of you are definitely my favorite heroes!” Jiro excitedly declared, shaking his hands together, immediately wanting to see both Hideki and Jack in action again.

    Go briefly turned back at the display of Jack. The Ultra was smiling at him and nodded his head, feeling an overwhelming sense of joy at being called a “hero” from one of the people he cared about the most.

    Hideki’s smile faded, turning back towards the two siblings, particularly Aki. He swallowed nervously as the clock was ticking, but first he had to ask. “Aki…. are the two of you okay?”

    “Yeah…. We’re okay….” Aki softly spoke out, keeping a stern look on her former boyfriend only to notice something different about him. Like a knight returning home from his lifelong mission, his armor was slowly falling off to the ground, revealing just a man on the inside. Hideki was trembling, slowly taking a step forward, his eyes full of sadness directed towards her. No longer was he the person trying to hide something, but instead, someone far different.

    Aki took a step forward, completely concerned yet welcoming towards him, and asked, “Hideki, are you okay?”

    Those words stung him, but they were ones he no longer ignored. He heard the clock ticking like he did for Jack, as he took another step forward. Tears were starting to well in his eyes once more, as he took one more step before pausing, staring at the two.

    Aki and Jiro returned his expression, feeling sympathy for the person they still cared for deeply. Aki, however, gave Hideki a small smile, sending his body into overdrive.

    The time was now.

    The end of an era was here.

    “I’m sorry!” Hideki uttered out, tears in full effect, racing down his cheek as he bolted over to the two and wrapped them up in a huge hug. Feeling his knees collapsed, he dropped to the ground, holding onto their bodies as he continued to bawl. “I’m sorry Jiro, Aki…… for all of it…”

    They didn’t say anything, nor did they have to at the moment. They both let out their own series of tears as they both returned the gesture, wrapping Hideki up with their arms, providing him with that sense of warmth he craved for so long. They all continued huddling together, allowing each other to finally grieve and to slowly be at peace with each other.

    They were whole once more.

     

    Chapter 12: The Path to Peace

    The day had finally arrived.

    A bright blue sky was present as white clouds were sparse throughout while everyone was having the time of their life underneath them. People were enjoying themselves with the festivities present, ranging from games, drinks and just being with each other.

    It was the perfect day to celebrate.

    Yuriko and Sauburo’s wedding was today.

    Hideki smiled, observing the celebration going throughout as kids with their faces painted ran past him, playing tag. He let out a small chuckle, allowing him to take in the lively atmosphere. He had arrived with Aki and Jiro just minutes ago, but had told them he needed to take care of a few things first. Aki had run off to meet up with some old friends while Jiro went over to socialize with the other kids.

    The Ultra host scanned the area until he saw the man of the hour, Saburo, standing near the bar, drink in hand. The soon to be groom took a sip from his beverage when he heard Hideki speak up.

    “How many drinks do you think it’ll take you to get through the vows?” joked Hideki, forcing Saburo to nearly spit out his drink in shock.

    He wiped his mouth with a nearby napkin, turning around to greet his good friend. The two pulled each other in for a hug. “It’s your job as best man to keep me grounded.”

    “Yet, you’re the therapist!” Go playfully retaliated.

    “Only on weekdays,” the groom countered, as the two’s laughter quieted down.

    Hideki exhaled, keeping a smile on his friend. “So, really? How are you feeling?”

    “Nervous, but also excited. Can you believe it? Me, getting married?” Saburo exclaimed, throwing his arms up.

    “We’ve gone a long way since your kickboxing days, huh?” Hideki pointed out, leaning up against the wood platform of the bar.

    “We really have,” Saburo spoke, turning to his friend. “And thank you, again, for helping me get to where I am now. I couldn’t have done it without you.”

    Hideki returned the smile back to his good friend. “I’m glad I was there that day, because I wanted to ask you something.”

    “Woah, now! I can’t handle two weddings!” joked Saburo, with Hideki immediately laughing at it before composing himself. “But, what’s up?”

    “That offer about letting me do a few sessions with you… I…” that small sense of doubt was attempting to trap Hideki, trying to keep from reaching out, however, he allowed himself to breathe for a second. He looked back up at his friend. “Would it be possible to schedule a session in the next few days?”

    Saburo grinned, overjoyed his friend was finally coming around. “Of course, I got some spots open here in a few days.”

    “Thank you, for being a good friend,” Hideki spoke out, wrapping his friend up in a hug, surprising him.

    “Careful now, I don’t want Yuriko thinking you’re stealing her husband,” the groom joked.

    “Hilarious,” Hideki sarcastically said, but couldn’t keep up the charade as he let out a laugh.

    The Ultra host soon let Saburo prepare for the ceremony as Hideki traveled around the villa, searching for the next person he intended to meet up with. He spotted his friend Minami on top of a hill, taking in the scenery around him. It reminded Go of something, something very important he’d have to ask him.

    “Takeshi!” Hideki hollered out, allowing Minami to turn around on cue to find Go waving at him while he walked up the hill.

    “Hideki! It’s good to see you!” Minami excitedly exclaimed, shaking his good friend’s hand.

    “What are you doing out here?” inquired Hideki, taking a look at the horizon before them, observing all of the various hiking trails in front of them. They reminded him of all the times he went up the mountainside with his father. Perhaps it is something he could do again.

    “Just scoping the area around, you?” Minami answered, smiling at the beautiful scenery around them.

    “Came out here to find you, dummy,” joked Hideki, earning a laugh from Minami, before the Ultra host changed his tone. “Hey….. I….”

    “You doing alright?” asked Minami, noticing the sudden shift in emotion from his fellow MAT teammate.

    “Yeah, I just wanted to give something back,” answered Hideki, reaching into his pocket belonging to the tuxedo he was wearing. Go discretely pulled out the MAT gun, immediately making Takeshi’s eyes widen.

    “Hideki!” Minami nearly exclaimed.

    “I know, I know, but I couldn’t really find a better time to do this. Horrible excuse, I know,” explained Hideki, raising his left hand defensively.

    “Does that mean…. You scared that guy off?” Minami nervously asked, apprehensive on what the answer was going to be.

    “It… it turns out…. I….” Hideki stumbled, finding it difficult for himself to say what he wanted to as his grip on the gun wobbled, as if that voice inside him wanted him to keep it. Instead, the Ultra host took another breath, before regaining his composure. “It turns out I don’t need it anymore… or anything like that. It’s best to talk things out like you said.”

    Takeshi smiled brightly at his friend, feeling extremely proud of the growth Hideki had gone through. He was glad he didn’t lose him to what he could have done and nodded his head, reaching for the gun. Without any resistance, Hideki allowed the gun to be taken from him as Minami soon pocketed it, intending to return it to its rightful place.

    “Good. I’m glad we got that settled,” Hideki declared, taking another look at the gorgeous landscape before them. It made him think back once more, what was once a painful memory, now something he was willing to do again. “Hey, whenever we’re both free, I was thinking I could use a hiking buddy, I got the sudden itch to do that sort of thing again. If you want, of course.”

    “We can do one after the wedding!” Minami enthusiastically announced.

    Hideki chuckled, before another thought came to him. One he pushed off for far too long. “And another thing,” Hideki brought up, his friend raising his eyebrow up.

    “There’s a boy named Ryo, who I’ve been getting in contact with again, and was wondering if I could have him join us. He recently lost his father and could use some people to help him out.”

    “Always! It’s our duty as MAT to be there for everyone no matter what.”

    Hideki smiled. “I wouldn’t have it any other way. Thank you.”

    Minutes passed as Hideki continued wandering through the villa, making his way towards the next person he intended to visit. It seemed hopeless at first, but then he heard a gruff, commanding voice call out to him.

    “Hideki!”

    The Ultra host nearly jumped in shock, only to turn around to see Ryu Ibuki dressed in a black kimono. Hideki had to admit, he looked amazing in formal wear.

    “Captain!” Hideki called out.

    “I’m no longer your captain, Hideki,” Ryu relayed, still keeping his smile on his friend.

    “Right….” murmured Hideki, slightly turning his head down as Ibuki chuckled, immediately knowing what to do to get the young man to shape up.

    “Go, you’re ordered to enjoy yourself today,” commanded Ryu, following it up with another laugh, as Hideki’s mood shifted back to joy.

    “Sir, yes, sir!” Hideki called out, as he let himself simmer down for a minute. “Though, it’s going to be weird not working with any of you again.”

    Despite not being a commander to the people he served with, he wasn’t done with them. He’d never be done with them. Instead, he took up something far more meaningful to them.

    “No matter where each of us go, we’re all going to continue being there for each other whether you like it or not,” Ryu relayed, placing his hands on Hideki’s shoulders like a parent comforting their child, eliciting a grin from Go. “Hideki, you are my son, so you and the others better show up every Sunday to have dinner with us.”

    “Thank you, sir, I mean, da…. Ryu,” Hideki stammered out, snatching his former commanding officer up in a hug, completely surprising him. Despite the shock and under that tough exterior, he couldn’t help himself as he reciprocated the behavior, hugging Hideki.

    The two let go as Ryu huffed out. “At least I’ll know what a vacation will be like.”

    “I’m still amazed you haven’t taken one,” Hideki pointed out.

    “First time for everything,” chuckled Ryu.

    Hideki smiled as a thought came to his mind. “Hey, do you happen to know where Yuriko is?”

    “In the main building up ahead, down the hall, third door on the right,” Ryu instructed.

    “Thank you, si.. Ryu.”

    “And make sure you tell her that I’ll be waiting just outside, I am walking her down the aisle after all,” Ryu relayed as Hideki smiled, waving at him as he made his way towards her destination.

    He wandered into the building as he approached the door. He huffed to himself.

    “Just one more friend.”

    Hideki knocked on the door.

    “Saburo, I told you! You can’t see me just yet!” Yuriko shouted from the other room.

    “It’s Hideki!” the Ultra host answered.

    “Hideki!” Yuriko cheerfully yelled out. “Come in!”

    Go opened the door and saw Yuriko adorned in a white wedding gown with orange stripes on it, holding a bouquet of red and white flowers in her hand. His eyes blew up, stunned by her beauty as her long brown hair went down to the bottom of her neck.

    “What do you think?” hummed Yuriko.

    “You look amazing.”

    “Sweet talker,” replied the bride to be, setting the bouquet on a nearby table. “So, are you gonna tell me to be a runaway bride?”

    Hideki laughed, needing the icebreaker before he told her what he needed to tell her. “I wouldn’t dream of it.”

    “But, there is something I wanted to say.”

    “Oh?” inquired Yuriko, tilting her head slightly.

    “I just wanted to say I appreciate everything you’ve done for me, even if it was just the two of us being in a room together. You’ve been an amazing friend to me over this past year and I couldn’t ask for anything better than our MAT team,” conveyed Hideki, nearly catching himself choking up, but he was happy he could express it to one of his dearest friends.

    “Hideki,” Yuriko smiled, stretching her arms across, quickly wrapping him up in a hug. “I can’t take all of the credit, you’re amazing yourself.”

    “I can’t call myself amazing….” Hideki tried to say, feeling the urge to downplay himself, as it was something he’d often done in the past, but now, that wasn’t him anymore. “I’d say good.”

    “Nah!” Yuriko exclaimed, pulling herself away, still keeping her smile on him. “That’s an opinion, not a fact. You’re still amazing.”

    “You do know how to deescalate a situation,” Hideki pointed out, taking another look at Yuriko, wanting to inform her of one other thing. “Hey, if you want, I’m actually going to book a session with Saburo if you and Minami are interested. Thinking we can do a group therapy of sorts.”

    Yuriko happily nodded, not only ecstatic over her friend’s change of behavior these past few weeks, but his willingness to heal. “I’d love to.”

    “Good, I’m glad we can do this,” Hideki spoke, clasping his hands together, knowing he should let Yuriko prepare for the big moment. “I should let you get ready. This is your big day after all, and I just wanted to say thank you for being my sister.”

    “Always, big brother.”

    ******

    Hideki traversed out of the villa, still hearing the celebration going on. The sounds of joy were comforting to him, but with the amount of activities and conversations he partook in, he needed a rest. He spotted a nearby bench and found it to be the perfect spot to rest.

    The Ultra host plopped himself down, allowing himself to exhale before Jack materialized in front of him.

    “You enjoying the festivities, Hideki?” inquired the Ultra.

    Hideki snickered. “About time you showed up. I thought you liked these sorts of things?”

    “I do, but I figured I’d observe this one. It is my second human celebration after all,” elaborated Jack, seemingly plopping down next to his friend. The Ultra turned to Hideki, he saw the happiness in him, but noticed something a tad peculiar. “Hideki, is something troubling you?”

    “Hmm?” Hideki murmured, before realizing what Jack was talking about. “It’s just… we’ve been through a lot… especially in these past few weeks.”

    “It’s been a journey. One that never would have been easy,” the Ultra pointed out, taking another look of the festivities before them. He was thankful for both of them reaching this point. Jack may have not understood what everything at the ceremony was, but he was eager to learn.

    “I also find it weird, this feeling of peace,” Hideki trailed off, his shaking, allowing Jack to turn his head back to him as he then phrased it as a question. “Is it strange to feel like this? To be happy?”

    “Hideki, I feel the same way. We’re… at least right now, we’re feeling this because that pain we lived with for so long is finally leaving us, we’ll miss it,” answered Jack. It was something that had been on his mind for a while and something he had to discuss.

    “We’ll miss the pain?” inquired Go, raising an eyebrow in confusion, not entirely sure what he meant.

    “It’s because it’s all we’ve ever known,” elaborated Jack, resting his hands together.

    Hideki nodded, knowing now what the Ultra meant. The two of them have been through so much, whether it was thrown at them or something they’ve thrown at others. That pain will subside and while it was foreign, this new feeling of peace will be more powerful than anything they’ve ever felt before. He did, however, have something to say to Jack.

    “Jack.”

    “Yes?”

    “I wanted to say I’m sorry for the things I said back there. I was just so angry at everything, at myself, I needed someone to vent my frustrations at and you didn’t deserve it,” apologized Hideki, looking at his good friend with remorse in his eyes.

    Jack appreciated the sentiment and thinking back on it, he knew Hideki didn’t truly mean it. They were both going through their grief, knowing it was a necessary step to heal their wounds.

    “Hideki, you have nothing to be sorry about, we both needed to hear it. It was part of the process to move forward,” Jack pointed out softly.

    “I guess you’re right,” Hideki murmured, resting his head on the back of the bench. “What about you? Are you heading back to your home?”

    “It’s a place belonging to many people I love, and I want to see them again, I really do. However, this is where I want to stay. It’s a planet I’ve come to admire and the people here are amazing. I feel Earth is the place where I can be who I always wanted to be. A healer,” Jack mused, finding himself smiling at the memories he made with his loved ones back on the Land of Light.

    “But one day, I will make amends. However, there are three lives that are very important to me, and I want to spend every moment I can with them.”

    Hideki took in the words Jack delivered and smiled, realizing who exactly he was talking about.

    “For what it’s worth, I appreciate the sentiment,” the Ultra host murmured, closing his eyes as he allowed him to rest for the first time in years. It would, however, have to wait just a bit longer when he heard an angelic voice softly calling out to him.

    “Hideki, open your eyes.”

    Go followed the command and saw Aki smiling before him as she was still adorned in that beautiful yellow and pink dress she arrived with him in. “To what do I owe the pleasure of being blessed by an angel?” joked Hideki.

    Aki simply giggled in response. “Just came to check in on my number one fan.”

    “Now I’m the fan?” Hideki inquired, cocking his head sheepishly.

    “Always were,” Aki pointed out, leaning towards him as she heard Hideki talking to Jack just prior she announced her arrival. “So, what were you and Jack talking about?”

    “Oh, that… it’s nothing…. Just…” Hideki felt the habit to dodge the question coming up at him when Aki raised an eyebrow at him, directing him to be more open. Go chuckled as there was no fooling her any longer. “We were just talking about all the pain we went through, and I guess what I’m about to say here is, it probably sounds weird for you to hear that the both of us would miss that pain.”

    “No, not really,” Aki spoke softly, taking a seat next to her partner, wrapping her arm around his shoulder. “No. It’s okay. No one expects you to move on in a day, but talking about it with those who love you is what helps.”

    Hideki breathed out, feeling extremely grateful for her being understanding, yet another thing he greatly underestimated about her for the longest time. “It does.”

    The two sat there for a few minutes, allowing them to continue resting as Hideki looked off in the distance to see Jiro playing with a group of kids including Minako and Ryo. They were all laughing and listening closely to Jiro taking initiative on leadership. Something he couldn’t hear entirely, but it made him proud.

    Go turned back to Aki, wanting to tell her something important. “You know you were right.”

    “Hmm?” murmured Aki, resting her head on his shoulder.

    “About Jiro. He just needs to focus on being himself,” deduced Hideki, no longer worried about his little brother’s future nor his potential influence on him, smiling at how well Jiro was getting along with other people.

    “He gets a part of that from you,” Aki pointed out, allowing Hideki to feel content with himself at the thought. Finally feeling proud of a quality of himself.

    “Hideki, Aki!” Jiro excitedly called out, stopping in his tracks just in time, causing the two of them to immediately be alerted to his arrival.

    “What’s up?” inquired Aki, smiling at her little brother, excited to hear the news he was about to deliver.

    “The cotton candy machine is ready, and they’re doing them as kaiju! We have to hurry!” Jiro exclaimed, shaking in anticipation at the news he just acquired.

    “Kaiju cotton candy? That does sound like fun,” Aki spoke out, smiling at her little brother while she got up, standing beside him. “I wonder if they have any in the form of Jack?”

    The Ultra immediately laughed at her suggestion, eliciting the same reaction from Hideki, sitting himself upwards.

    “Oh, they better! He’s one of the greatest heroes ever!” Jiro added, punching his hand up in the air, mimicking the Ultra’s pose, earning a smile from Jack.

    “I imagine Jack would like to join us,” deduced Aki, raising an eyebrow at the invisible space next to Hidkei. She couldn’t see him, but knew he was present with them.

    “These are the people I want to spend my life with,” Jack spoke proudly as his host nodded in agreement.

    “I guess that’s another thing we have in common,” added Hideki, putting his hands on his knees.

    “Come on! Are you two joining us or what!?” Jiro asked yet again, still feeling the excitement surge through his entire body.

    Hideki turned his head slightly to Jack. “Well, what do you say?”

    “Always.”

    “We’re in!” Hideki followed up as Jack stood beside him.

    “Then come on! Let’s go!” Aki enthusiastically called out, offering Hideki a hand.

    Hideki smiled, admiring their enthusiasm as he felt his whole body feeling at peace. He was finally whole.

    “Let’s go!” Hideki declared, taking a hold of Aki’s hand as she pulled him up, placing him on his feet.

    Jiro bolted off with Aki and Hideki closing in right behind him, keeping their hands together as Jack closed them out.

    It was a long time since he felt like he belonged, but he was happy to have that feeling again. These people saved him and no matter what happened, he would cherish them forever, knowing they would face it together.

    “Thank you, all of you, for everything.”

    Winner: Ultraman Jack

    K.W.C. Kaiju War Chronicles

    In memoriam to Jiro Dan (1949 – 2023), regarded for his roles in Return of Ultraman and Godzilla Island. Actor, singer, model–and more importantly, loved by many across the globe. May he rest in peace.

    K.W.C. // May 28, 2023
  • Author: Vincent Rodger | Banner: Connor Clennell | Narration: Matthew Reeds

    [Continued from Match 398]

    The Land of Light, Three Days Ago

    The bright purple skies illuminated the glowing white crystal formations across the planet’s surface, resembling Earth’s Aurora Borealis. (more…)

    K.W.C. // May 14, 2023