Author: Michael Allen | Banner: Andrew Sudomerski
Gamera growled deeply in his throat before he swiped. The head of the Titan on the receiving end of his blow did not so much get its head knocked off, rather that its head popped from the impact. Gore splashed the ground and the gray, malformed corpse swiftly began to dissipate into nothing. Gamera had learned since his re-awakening these creatures dissolved upon death once the head and neck were obliterated.
He knew these poor, drooling, and seemingly mindless Titans had once been human. It was something instinctual, his connection to the Earth itself that told him this. And even more unfortunate was the fact that saving them was impossible. Death was their only release from the eternal hunger that gripped them in its deranged throes. He took comfort in the knowledge that they did not seem to possess any true awareness of their situation.
Rubble of civilization long since dead trembled and was kicked about like pebbles as the remaining Titans scrambled toward him. Gamera roared back in fierce determination and charged them. A swipe from his wrist claw beheading a stupidly grinning Titan, grotesque gray skin pulled tautly over a tall lanky frame. It fell past him, dissolving. He crushed a small one underfoot, unaffected for the crunching of bone and fresh blood that exploded out beneath him as a result.
A glow built up in his tusked mouth, heralding the unleashing of his plasma fireball point blank in the face of the last Titan.
His green eyes scanned the surroundings of the ruined city. Architecturally, he could deduce a familiarity in the modernity of the structures, what remained at least. It must’ve only been a few decades after his final battle with the Gyaos that these Titans had risen to drive humanity to the brink of extinction. And he had been fighting them for a very long time. Gamera’s perception of time was not like a mortal beings’ conceptualization of it. He understood the cycle of change and repetition, the fact that as long as there was life certain things had the possibility of occurring again. No matter the era.
He breathed out deeply, smoke billowing from his mouth. He did not know the full story of how these monsters had risen, but he could piece together the fact that humans were certainly in part responsible for it. Toying foolishly with powers beyond their comprehension as they had eons ago.
But as always, he would fight. Fight for the Earth. Fight for those who had the power and hope to change the world for a better tomorrow.
The guardian’s head shifted, a sudden wind stirring dust and trees and their summer leaves. He felt a call to the north.
Go there. He was needed desperately.
Taking flight, he would answer the call.
Shikishima strode through the wastes of Monzen in his Armored Titan form. Beneath his left arm he hefted the last bomb comfortably. He found it humorous how humans of old would decorate their weapons of death with pictures, ranging from grim to silly. This one had the picture of a blonde woman and the sea. Amusing. A behavioral quirk one would be hard pressed to find in the subservient wastes that called themselves human in today’s hollow mess of a world. His armored face formed a hard scowl at the thought of these beaten down masses as he continued his lone trek toward his destination: the second wall. He would breach it and allow the Titans to swarm the dull eyed masses. Happy to live in slavery as long as it meant “peace.”
Shikishima felt no pity. Apathy was as punishable as the wanton malice and greed those in power demonstrated. Orchestrating terror and tragedy to further their control.
Without thought he passed through the remains of destroyed homes, businesses, and public gathering places. Dust swirled through the air and the sky was perpetually gray. Had it really only been two years since this wretched little place had been annihilated? Two years was indistinguishable from two hundred.
He growled when a strange sound unlike anything he had before reached his ears and for once, he turned his eyes to the sky.
A figure broke through the gray clouds; azure plasma fire carrying him through the air as he rapidly descended toward the Armored Titan.
It couldn’t be…
Shikishima was a knowledgeable man, especially when contrasted to others. He knew much of the world’s long history. Both the conventional nonsense they were taught and the secret history that swam beneath it like blood in the veins of an organism.
He had seen the footage from the latter half of the 1990s. The time period humanity lived in was not the first time the human race had almost been brought to extinction. He’d seen what footage remained from the very being who approached him now, and his final battle with the beasts known as the Gyaos. In fact, the idea that the human race had come so close to destruction that year had been what prompted hundreds of illegal human experimentation that had spawned the Titans.
The irony was not lost on Shikishima, who always appreciated a good joke, even if it was black as pitch. The humans of the past had repeated the errors of an even older past. The Atlanteans had created the Gyaos and that had been their undoing. Humans created the Titans. A poetic eternal recurrence.
Gamera landed, the ground cracking and trembling thunderously beneath him. Green eyes bore into milky white as the two opposing giants stared each other down. To Shikishima’s surprise Gamera was taller than him by a good fifteen meters. The Armored Titan was hulking and powerful, but even he was dwarfed by Gamera. Last he had read, Gamera was eighty meters. Many speculated Gamera’s body evolved and perfected itself and evidently that was true. His gradual change in appearance and increase in power throughout the 90s had demonstrated that.
“Gamera?” Shikishima spoke; though his tone was amplified by his great size in Titan form he addressed the guardian as one might speak to a new friend. He knew exactly who he was but he wanted to see confirmation for himself.
A subtle nod from the tusked face. Barely noticeable, but within the nape of his armored body’s neck he grinned.
“Come to stop me?”
He set the bomb that would assure a new future aside, tall grass whipped against its unfeeling metal form.
Gamera growled, sensing the evil emanating from this unusual Titan. An evil that was conscious in nature rather than mindless beings simply devouring in primordial need. His clawed fingers tensed.
“Then let’s see if you live up to the legends, Guardian of the Universe!”
The two charged at one another, fully prepared to die for what each individually fought for.
Gamera’s powerful legs carried him forward until they collided in a grapple. A boom reverberated the air around them, rippling like a lake’s surface. Steam billowed hellishly from the Armored Titan and the skin visible between the plates of armor pulsed from red to purple.
The Armored Titan yelled as he found himself being driven backward by his foe’s superior strength. Growling, he threw his elbow into the side of Gamera’s jaw, stunning him. Pressing his attack, the Titan delivered several rapid fire punches to Gamera’s plated chest, but this only succeeded in making him stumble. Gamera roared, swiping with a wrist claw, but the long haired humanoid merely ducked with an exclamation that sounded similar to a laugh.
“Too slow!” Shikishima jeered.
An uppercut jerked Gamera’s head back and he allowed himself to take a few steps away in a feigning act of being overwhelmed. The Armored Titan was fast and skilled, but overconfident. And his following actions were easily anticipated.
The humanoid swung his right leg at Gamera’s skull in a kick…and in a blur the guardian’s jaws locked onto the limb. Rumbling in his throat Gamera heaved, lifting the Armored Titan into the air and spinning him about and flinging him like a mere toy. The Titan’s plated armor glinted in the sunlight that peeked through the dreary clouds, his skin pulsating in mounting rage. He adjusted his massive frame quickly, acting on reflex. Tucking and rolling and popping up back on his feet gracefully. The remains of buildings trembled and rattled apart pitifully from the greatness of their struggle.
Gamera pressed the advantage and closed the distance with a frightening speed. Though he would never openly admit, in that exact moment, Shikishima doubted his chances against the shelled warrior, unstoppably determined. Green eyes held the fire of battle, a battle he would never stop fighting as long as he could breathe.
The Armored Titan blocked the impending swipe with his strong forearms, grunting in the strain against his opponent’s unambiguous superiority in might. But that was an easy way to predict an attack, and Gamera had not won countless battles by being predictable. Another swipe followed and claws tore deep, steaming gouges in the Titan’s nightmarish visage. Bellowing and half blinded he leapt back, wiping blood from his eyes. Gamera snarled, taking notice that this Titan could heal like the lesser of its brethren.
He rushed the Armored Titan, slamming into him and lifting him off his feet and into the hollow remains of a building. Their roars rising to the sky, dust and rubble flying about in a great cloud. Like apparitions in the shadows, they fought on.
Exploiting Gamera’s momentum, the Armored Titan seized Gamera’s left arm and, in a heave that required more strength than he knew he possessed, he flipped Gamera over his head.
Hunks of earth shot skyward and the ground shook from the massive shell that now smashed hard into it. Wasting not a second, he began ruthlessly slamming Gamera’s head into the ground, wanting nothing more than to crack it into a million pieces. The Armored Titan’s head snapped to the geysers of hot exhaust that erupted from where Gamera’s legs had once been. The exhaust became plasma fire in the blink of an eye and he roared in rage, as with no alternative, he released Gamera.
The Guardian of the Universe flew by and up neatly before landing a distance away, flattening the remains of a public market square, untouched for two years.
Gamera roared in defiance and again met the Armored Titan head on. Glaring into his opponent’s eyes, he gripped his left shoulder, unharmed by the Titan’s high body temperature. His other hand grabbed hold of Shikishima’s left arm. One decisive yank was all it took to tear it completely out of its socket. Strands of flesh dangled and bone jutted from the injury.
The Armored Titan bellowed in both pain and rage. Despite the power this white, armored form gave him, Shikishima could still feel pain. It seared his human body’s side down to his bones and his teeth gritted as he waited for his body regenerate. Hot blood spurted in gouts, dousing the earth as he hurriedly stumbled back snarling his hatred at Gamera. Without sparing it a glance, Gamera tossed the arm aside and pressed on. The Armored Titan’s body rapidly began generating a new arm, but not fast enough. Gamera effortlessly blocked the punch and jabbed the Titan’s gut. A wheeze. A hard left swing battered the Titan’s head and blood spurted from the dented face. Another punch cracked his chest armor and a harsh shoulder sent him sprawling.
Eren, Mikasa and Armin watched the duel, slack jawed. They had pursued the Armored Titan through the remains of their dead home. Where they had spent their childhoods, where their loved ones had met horrific deaths at forces beyond their control. They had seen the figure descend from the sky and oppose Shikishima.
Mikasa most of all.
“Gamera,” she whispered. In her heart she felt a strange swelling. An emotion that could only be called relief. She remembered all the stories her grandmother had told her before bed when she had been just a small child. Stories of a great guardian god: Gamera. She had been told that one of her forefathers had been saved by Gamera when he had been but a little boy. The concrete name of the place eluded her somewhat, but she could have sworn she’d heard the name “Shibuya,” a place in a Japan that no longer existed. She remembered hoping and praying that Gamera was real. That he would deliver them from the Titan’s and the cold, unfeeling walls that penetrated even in her dreams.
After all this time…were those childhood prayers being answered?
“Mikasa?” Eren gripped her cloaked shoulder, looking at her questioningly.
“It’s nothing,” she composed herself, “we need to get that bomb.”
The Armored Titan coughed blood, Gamera’s wrist claw slashing his throat wide open. In spite of this he swung, his punch finding purchase to the side of Gamera’s jaw and he promptly followed up with a hard kick to the side of his left leg. Gamera grunted, moderately unbalanced, and Shikishima saw an opportunity.
Stooping down, he took hold of Gamera’s ankle and jerked the leg, and with a roar gave an enormous twist of the limb in hopes of breaking it.
Gamera shrieked and toppled over, the abused joint now throbbing. But he had suffered far, far worse than that. He loosed a plasma fireball and the Armored Titan only narrowly avoided its full wrath. Plates on the side of his body melted into disgusting sludge from where it had grazed him. The Armored Titan glowered in a deep rage that was beginning to encroach on something existential.
Gamera stood upright once more, undaunted.
“Why are you fighting to save these people?” Shikishima at last spoke again. “Certainly you must be aware they caused all of this?” The sneer on the giant’s face mirroring the one he gave in the confines of its body.
No answer. Gamera stood as a shelled monolith, bathed in sunlight that seemed divine in radiance.
“Time and time again, humans cause tragedy and perpetuate these horrors for their own gain! Apathy breeds this and only those with the will to tear it all down have a chance at changing anything!” Shikishima was genuinely frustrated at, in his own views, his inability to reason with someone who had every reason and more to hate them. To want to destroy them.
“Is what you’re doing any different?”
The thought entered Shikishima’s head in a voice that was not his own. Deep, ancient, and reverberant.
The Armored Titan howled, body steaming.
“I am nothing like them, I’m going to save the world!”
To the trio that had at last found the bomb knelt by it and watched on. Unable to look away, Eren thought Shikishima insane at his attempts to communicate with the being that he battled so fiercely with.
“Die with the rest of them.” The Armored Titan snatched up a large, blade-like object from the remains of a destroyed building.
Gamera understood now. Shikishima was evil at the present time, but he found there was little that separated him from Ayana Hirasaka all those years ago. Angry, misguided. Hate born from a world where she felt she had lost everything to something outside of her control. Grief contorting her heart. This man was much the same.
He ducked beneath the swing aimed for his neck, grunting when a ferocious kick nailed his abdomen.
Gamera swiped and the Armored Titan pivoted his weapon, thrusting it forward with a yowl. Gamera caterwauled as the blade pierced into his right hand and pushed through the palm with venomous spite. Green blood trickled down his wrist and arm, staining the metal.
The Armored Titan’s nearly lipless mouth pulled into a smile, satisfied at finally drawing blood. But that was far from what it would take to stop Gamera.
The guardian lashed with his free hand and the Armored Titan felt the breath leave his body, coughing and choking on a flood of crimson that bubbled up in his throat and dribbled from his mouth. Gamera’s left hand broke through the plates protecting his gut and pierced through, bursting out the back. Without hesitation the guardian headbutted him squarely in the face, practically destroying the head entirely. The mutilated body stumbled weakly, desperately repairing the damage. Bony plates clattered to the ground and entrails wetly plopped to join them, sizzling in the increasing sunlight. From a distance, the two appeared to be bathed in the light of a supernova, and somehow the ruins of Monzen seemed alive once more.
Gamera growled in suppressed pain as he pulled the weapon out of his hand. Momentarily he inspected it, his fingers tensing. The irony of the injuries mutually inflicted not lost upon him.
Again, the battle was rejoined, the Armored Titan aiming another kick to his side. Angling his side, the kick harmlessly bounced off the serrated edge of his shell. The plates on the Titan’s belly absent, evidently the more heavily armored parts of his body took longer to restore themselves. Gamera grunted, eyes narrowing as a plan formulated.
He caught the right arm that swung at him and squeezed, plates rubbing together audibly until the limb splintered under his vice grip. The Armored Titan roared in agony, that roar becoming a gurgle as claws ripped open his belly once more. Entrails dangling and Shikishima’s strength began to fade, his face twisting in an odd concoction of anger and despair.
Gamera’s hands plunged into the fresh wound and his arms began to work. Muscle and bone fought hard to stay together as Shikishima realized with horror that Gamera was ripping him in two, tearing faster than he could heal. With a titanic roar, Gamera pulled up and an explosion of blood and gore followed. The upper body of the Armored Titan flew and twisted limply, the legs lifelessly toppling at Gamera’s feet.
The upper body landed in a heap, groaning and gurgling feebly. Futilely clawing at the earth and gouging into the soil and grass, dragging himself away, slowly leaving a shining red trail in his wake, chunks of his own body rending from him. Was this all his ambition led to? A bestial struggle for his own life that ended with him pathetically dragging himself across the ground?
Powerful footsteps followed him and he registered the gore smeared claws plunging into his nape. His world became black when Gamera tore him free of his maimed Titan body.
The guardian looked at the vestigial mass that held within it a man. Unconscious and vulnerable. Angry and misguided, but with aspirations of changing the world. Turning his gaze to the three humans that still watched them, he slowly marched his way toward them.
“He’s coming this way!” Armin gestured frantically at the approaching giant. He clutched at Eren and Mikasa, tugging at them fearfully, wanting nothing more than to run.
“Wait,” Mikasa murmured, softly gesturing for them to wait and release their fear. Something about Gamera’s intent resonated with her. At the moment, she was not entirely certain if it was something metaphysical in his attempt at communication and stemming from the stories of him that had given her hope years ago or simple projection. She doubted the latter interpretation.
Gamera stood before them and they were engulfed in his shadow, it spilled across the land like a wave. Sunlight hung behind him and burned like a halo. A gentle, hissing growl rumbled from him and slowly he knelt down to them, extending his blood caked hand carefully. Eren kept a brave face, not entirely certain of the giant’s intent. Mikasa unflinchingly looked him in the eye as he laid Shikishima before them. Alive. Unconscious, but alive.
Mikasa looked at the captain who had trained her, and then she looked up at Gamera. He unmistakably nodded toward her.
“I understand,” she spoke clearly to him and her voice felt small in his presence but she knew he comprehended.
A beat of silence and Gamera set off once more, she still watched him.
Once he was a considerable distance away, he took flight into the sky. He still had work to do. It would be a long road ahead but he knew with certainty humanity would have a future, in no small part due to those four.
“Mikasa?” Eren spoke, awed, but confused.
“He’ll come back when the last of the Titans are exterminated,” she doubted that likely would not be in her lifetime, but she understood the chance he had given them all. And the chance he had given Shikishima. Mercy was a rare thing, even rarer in the world they knew.
They had work to do and like Gamera’s own mission, it was monumental. But in that moment of clarity, the three of them had a distinct knowledge that they would succeed.
A roar of triumph and battle sang through the sky, ushering in a new era.
This time, they would make sure it was not wasted.
Winner: Gamera (Heisei)