Author: Thomas Fairchild | Banner: Christian Salabert

For days, unknown epicenters had been plaguing the deserts of Africa. Geologists believed the continental plates were shifting at an astonishing rate, but were ultimately baffled when they discovered it was moving in a straight line. It was as if something was moving beneath the ground, something gigantic…

War had broken out in the Middle East. Fighter jets soared high above the clouds, bombing structures that appeared like nothing more than miniature playhouses to them. Tanks tread across the deserts, bombarding fortified residences with their shells. Apache helicopters roamed above the city streets, avoiding enemy fire while at the same time exterminating them. Soldiers silently ventured into warehouses, underground caverns, palaces, and other buildings believed to be harboring the enemy.

No matter the call of duty, none could escape the Sun and the heat it wrought.

It wasn’t until nightfall did a platoon of soldiers and tanks arrive in a silent city. Military intelligence believed it was harboring a terrorist faction. Their orders were to seek and destroy. They found the city, but it appeared to be devoid of human life. Believing it to be an ambush, tiny sects of elite soldiers were ordered to sneak in. It took hours for them to report that their targets were hiding in the center of the area.

The tanks and infantry were ordered to move in. While the soldiers managed to sneak in, the ground shaking tanks would no doubt forewarn the enemy of their intentions. But then an unexpected explosion vaporized the complex. Its blinding luminance temporarily usurped the darkness. All of the terrorists were instantly reduced to ash. Soldiers radioed in, asking if an air strike was called in at the last minute. They were immediately told that wasn’t the case.

Black smoke drifted from the charred building. To the soldiers, it was nothing more but a smoldering skeleton.

Silence pervaded the area. The soldiers quietly wondered if the terrorists committed suicide. Maybe they were going to blow up the entire complex after the soldiers went inside, only to end up blowing themselves up by accident? These speculations ultimately concealed the real truth: the explosion came from beneath the ground.

The earth started to shake, heralding the arrival of a colossal creature. From the depths of Hell it had come, free to once again bring carnage to the Earth and its inhabitants. Nobody could believe their eyes. Soldiers quietly prayed, hoping their God would protect them from this blight of creation. It became clear that this demon was to blame for the sudden explosion and the massacre that was soon to come.

Kumasogami tried roaring its defiance. Only the sound became lost in its molten throat. The soldiers gaped at Kumasogami’s haunting figure. Its molten flesh writhed with pulsating fury. While its body resembled that of a humanoid, everything else was not of this earth. Its crimson eyes pierced the souls of every soldier. Encompassing its cheeks were twitching membranes. Kumasogami’s molten hide fueled the air with smoke.

It took a step toward the tank battalion. The ground beneath its feet rapidly melted. From within the tanks, machines clattered to life. In unison, the tanks started to back away. But it was already too late. One soldier watched in horror as Kumasogami’s right hand transformed its composition. Its fingers turned into three long pointed shapes. The other hand transformed into an organic bow. It quickly dawned on the tank commanders that they were going to become the unwilling targets of Kumasogami!

Seeking to avoid destruction, the tanks opened fire. Glowing shells departed the barrels. Loud, ear-piercing sounds boomed across the battlefield. The shells plunged into Kumasogami’s carapace, but dissipated upon contact. Kumasogami’s mocking laughter managed to bypass its grainy throat. It hushed its attackers, making them realize the hopelessness of the situation.

It was too late for the tanks to retreat. Kumasogami connected its arrows to the bow. In a sickening display of sadism, Kumasogami launched its exploding arrows and watched the entire tank battalion disappear in a sea of fire. Amid the flames and burning smoke, Kumasogami heard the cries of mortal men being burnt alive. To the demon, it was a haunting lullaby.

And only the beginning…

For days, an epicenter had been steadily moving in a direct path. At long last, its instigator had reached its destination.

The city had been burnt beyond recognition. Not one soul survived the inferno. Kumasogami stood silently, surveying its charred dominion. Kumasogami’s forsaken eyes stared off into the dark horizon, spoiled by its accomplishments. The deaths of a hundred mortals could not satisfy its chaotic lust. As it prepared to depart, a new adversary made its presence known.

From the bowels of the planet, it had come to cleanse the Earth of this vile demon. It cared not of humanity or its monstrous brethren. Its only obligation was to destroy anything that threatened the Earth. That was its purpose. Primordial energies flowed through its veins, carrying with it the essence of the Earth. Organisms affiliated with the Earth harbored the same life force.

And so Earth’s guardian split the land asunder. It rose up out of the ground, issuing a defiant roar. Kumasogami analyzed its new foe. It was not the armored reptile that defeated it on Monster Island. Kumasogami tilted its head, sensing an unseen aura. When it realized the purity of its benignity, Kumasogami’s eyes burned brightly. This was no ordinary titan. Earth’s guardian resembled that of a hybrid between a beetle and a caterpillar. Its carapace was black, but laced with yellowish textures. A long, golden horn pointed out of its forehead. Two long tusks protruded out of its cheeks, adjoining the serrated jaws. Kumasogami’s visage reflected off its crimson eyes. Agitated by the mere sight of Earth’s offender, Battra bellowed his rage.

Kumasogami responded in kind. Tonight, it would slay Earth’s guardian. Then tomorrow, the Earth would die screaming. Battra dove into the soil that gave him life. He tunneled his way across the city, until it was beneath his demonic foe. Kumasogami backtracked, surprised by Battra’s speed. But not even Battra’s speed could match his tenacity. Battra flew out of the scorched surface, ramming his body into Kumasogami. Not even the demon could remain standing. Kumasogami flattened the charred structures with its plummeting bulk.

Battra gazed at his fallen adversary. Bolts of amber glowing energy circulated around his horn. Kumasogami started to rise, only to witness an energy blast crashing into its face. A horrific howl escaped Kumasogami’s molten maw. But it would not let its pain prevent it from retaliating. Kumasogami used its organic bow to steady its aim. Waves of crackling energies embroiled Battra’s eyes. As Battra’s horn discharged another surge of his energy blast, lavender bolts emitted from his eyes accompanied it. Kumasogami stumbled back, clearly affected by Battra’s resiliency. Its molten flesh had been breached by Battra’s energetic assaults. Desperate to appease its damaged pride, Kumasogami shot its arrows at Battra.

The tips of the arrows shattered after striking Battra’s thick carapace, but it mattered little. An explosion enveloped Battra completely, obscuring its existence in a cascade of fire. But Kumasogami still sensed life in its foe. Not even the fires of Hell could vanquish Earth’s protector! Kumasogami expressed its rage as Battra emerged from the conflagration. Battra mocked Kumasogami’s failed efforts with a loud cackle.

Smoke sizzled off Battra’s burnt carapace as he departed its hellish prison. Battra may have been quick to mock the demon’s intentions, but it could not hide his pain. Kumasogami gaped at the wounded guardian, realizing victory was at hand. Three arrows were immediately replaced in Kumasogami’s gritty appendage. Battra moved closer, unable to harness his once great speed. Kumasogami fired its arrows without delay. But Battra swiftly fired his bolts at the arrows in midair, igniting them. A ball of fire materialized, flattening any structures caught in its explosive radius.

Kumasogami gazed into the fire, mesmerized by its beauty. On this planet, fire was essential to the ecosystem. With it, new generations of trees could inherit the planet. In a perverse way, Kumasogami could relate, for it was fire that gave its kind life. Perhaps it should seed the earth with fire and harvest the next batch of its demonic successors…

An orange hued bolt skewered Kumasogami’s abdomen. Kumasogami’s painful wails screeched the cold air. Molten blood oozed out of its injury. Kumasogami’s livid eyes glowered at the creature that injured it so. Battra moved closer, hoping to thrust his horn into Kumasogami’s heart. To satisfy his violent ambitions, his crimson orbs injected the demon with lavender hued beams. But Kumasogami ignored the pain, even when its molten flesh was blown off its body. Battra briefly watched the molten fluids flow out of the demon’s veins, melting the soil below. Kumasogami used Battra’s hesitation to its advantage. The demon’s bow shaped arm morphed into a long elegant blade. Light from the flickering flames glinted off its shiny surface. It was clear that countless creatures had been slain by it.

Crackling bolts enveloped Battra’s horn. But Kumasogami was quick to move in close enough to attack first. Kumasogami swiped the air with its blade, striking Battra’s towering horn. The collision between Kumasogami’s unholy blade and Battra’s horn generated a shower of sparks. At point blank, Battra’s horn released his destructive energies. It lanced into Kumasogami’s throat, ravaging it internally. Kumasogami thrusted its blade forward as it fell to its knees. To Battra’s dismay, the blade bypassed his mandibles and gouged the back of its throat.

Battra twisted his head back and forth, struggling to breathe. It wasn’t just the blade lodged in his mouth that was choking it, but the internal bleeding as well. It wouldn’t be long before Battra had died by choking on his own blood. There was only one way to avert such a fate.

Flames churned out of Kumasogami’s eyes. Its face molded into a hideous grin. The demon sensed Battra’s deteriorating life force. And should the Earth’s protector die, it wouldn’t be long before the planet followed suit.

Suddenly, Battra transformed into a cocoon of energy. Kumasogami sheathed its blade, perplexed by Battra’s sudden metamorphosis. Tendrils of energy circulated out of the cocoon and met high above the clouds. The once dark sky was brimming with celestial radiance. Kumasogami silently watched as the bright luminance heralded the arrival of Battra’s imago state!

Where energy faded, blood and flesh intertwined. The outline of a winged avenger was lost in the restored night sky. Kumasogami silently stared at the hanging blackness, disturbed it no longer had victory in its grasp. And now, Kumasogami’s once land based foe had acquired a new attribute: flight.

Battra soared above the clouds, feeling the wind wash over him. He blended in with the night perfectly. If the Sun had miraculously risen, the light would’ve contrasted greatly with Battra’s black carapace. Alas, darkness was his keeper, and an asset. Battra’s crimson wings were laced with yellow textures. Atop his head was a crown of three horns. Attached to his abdomen were six legs, each comprised of sharp claws. Red glowing horns sprouted out of the abdomen’s side. For the most part, Battra’s outline resembled a giant moth. It was his hideous complexion that separated him from his kin.

It was an adequate way to strike fear in any that threatened the sanctity of his world.

Kumasogami spotted Battra flying overhead. The demon immediately fired its arrows, seeking to shoot Battra out of the sky. But the arrows whizzed off into the sky, exploding harmlessly in the distance. Kumasogami replaced its arrows with another set. It realized it never had been toyed with in such a manner. It was the hunter, not the prey! Kumasogami bellowed a violent roar. Battra’s response was blasting the demon’s backside with a barrage of prism beams. Kumasogami swung around, homing in on the beam’s source. Arrows were fired in its direction, hitting nothing but air. Kumasogami growled in despair. Losing its temper, Kumasogami fired its arrows at the surrounding area. Charred buildings were blown away by the explosive force. Pillars of fire consumed entire city blocks.

Battra descended behind Kumasogami, compelling the demon to turn around and face its foe. From only a few feet apart, both demon and dark warrior locked eyes. A defining hiss screeched out of Battra’s mandibles. Kumasogami growled, coughing up molten rocks. As the demon readied its blade, thermal energies embodied Battra’s horns. Scarlet eyes ejected prism beams, blasting a hole through Kumasogami’s skull. Kumasogami ignored the intense pain and embedded its blade deep into Battra’s gut. Battra’s painful screeches eased Kumasogami’s injuries. Even with its vision greatly hampered, the demon did not miss its target. Battra tethered Kumasogami with his legs, forcefully removing it from his body. Green blood oozed out of Battra’s wound, staining the soil below.

Arrows shot forth, impaling one of Battra’s wings. Battra tried pulling the arrows out with his legs, but couldn’t reach. This failed enterprise diverted Battra’s attention from the real threat. More arrows plunged into Battra’s other wing. Battra floated aimlessly above the earth, capable of only pelting Kumasogami with his prism beams. Though its limbs were dissipated by Battra’s vengeful assaults, Kumasogami cared not. It laughed maniacally as its arrows simultaneously detonated.

Large portions of Battra’s wings were incinerated. With his ability to sustain flight negated, Battra defied gravity no longer. Kumasogami watched Earth’s guardian plummet to the ground. Only then did Battra realize Kumasogami was between him and the ground. Kumasogami briefly analyzed the blade it had. The demon determined it was inadequate for the job. So it fashioned a longer, sharper blade. Kumasogami’s malevolent laughter disturbed even Battra’s tenacious spirit.

The seconds ticked by. It wouldn’t be long before Battra felt the stinging sensation of a long blade penetrating his flesh, shredding his insides, and rendering this body obsolete. Thousands of years ago, Battra was conceived in the heart of the planet. Whenever an epidemic occurred, threatening the tranquility of the planet, Battra was summoned to dispel it. Ultimately, Battra knew it was expendable. Should he ever die, then the Earth would recreate a new body for him to inhabit. But Battra was a selfless, prideful being. It would not tarnish its ego with such a dishonorable act.

Battra’s horns embodied its rage. Prism beams severed Kumasogami’s blade from its arm. Kumasogami watched its blade strike the charcoal at its feet. The demon wasted no time in forging a new blade, but its fate was sealed. Before striking Kumasogami, Battra reversed its evolutionary state by transforming back into his Larva stage. The momentum of Battra’s descent and its incredible mass helped it impale its horn deeper into Kumasogami’s twisted heart.

Kumasogami showcased its rage by hollering madly. With its heart damaged, the demon could no longer operate sufficiently. Unable to sustain its fiery makeup, fire blossomed out of every corner of Kumasogami’s body. Battra disappeared amidst the sweltering inferno. Before long, the orange hued flames converted to black, warped by an unseen supernatural force. The black maelstrom twisted and pulled, its unearthly purpose meant only to be sucked into a lifeless void, consuming everything around it.

Sunlight trickled across the horizon.

A large hole comprised the heart of the scorched city. In the murky core of the hole, there was no life. It looked as if it was a bottomless pit. Battra scuttled out of the hole, avoiding a fate worse than death. After a brutal fight, Battra could finally return to the Earth’s womb, where he would rejuvenate his strength and serve another day.

Hours later, army personnel arrived on the scene, surprised to learn that not a trace of their comrades could be found. But what perplexed them the most wasn’t the ravaged city, but the void that made up its center. For years to come, scientists would ponder its formation. But not even science could explain its existence, for if humanity ever discovered that the void was in fact a gateway to where demons and nightmares weaved untold horrors – then panic would grip the very foundations of the Earth…

And bring about chaos.

Winner: Battra