Authors: Andrew Sudomerski & Matthew Freese | Banners: Dao Zang Moua & Matthew Williams
In the darkness of the night, the crisp and tender winds kept him company. How long it had been was lost on him, for he had wandered the ends of the Earth in utmost patience. The elder wizard clutched the demon sword at his side, one he had struggled to procure from the blessed shrine of Amaterasu’s White Bird of Heaven. Walls were blood soaked from those that protected the Sword of Dark Clouds, a task deemed impossible for any feeble fool that dared to try. The spellcaster, the warrior, and the priestess laid upon the defiled grounds, drenched in their own blood.
Tsukinowa stepped away from the sacred temple, altering his appearance to fit that of the former priestess’ guards that resided there. He knew that, even if he was of Orochi’s lineage, he could not wield the sword as Tsukuyomi could. Certainly, only the Lord of the Moon could wield it, as the blade was salvaged from his dragon’s flesh and forged by the moon god’s almighty power. Its destructive might could bring about the end of the world, but only when held by its progenitor.
“Tsukuyomi, surely destiny will guarantee your return to the mortal world,” Tsukinowa spoke aloud, even if no one heard him, “For your ambitions reach as high as the stars the gods placed. And it is those great heights that’ll bring the world to ruin.”
Tsukinowa spotted a swath of guards rushing up the hillside and bypassed them without being spotted. Even if he had been found, they’d be none the wiser to truly know what happened. As he vanished between the darkness of the trees, Tsukinowa could only think of the great victory that was to come, one that would make him a worthy successor to his predecessor.
Now, it was a matter of waiting.
He sat alone in the stone-cold room, only surrounded by the comfort of magic candles and the Moon God Mirror he had reconstructed. Stored in its sheath was the deadliest weapon known to the world, yet one thought forgotten to time. He continued to pray, awaiting to serve his Master once more. But that time wasn’t now, for destiny had not foretold of His return. For the time being, isolation would be more than sufficient.
Gunkanjima was, in many respects, isolated from the rest of Japan. Although it had long since become a tourist spot, very few were permitted to enter at a time–and even so, that time was limited. For this place harbored many demons; a stute reminder of Japan’s horrendous war crimes and forced child labor during the Second World War. For Tsukinowa, it was a convenient hiding spot from the public eye. Yet even he had to be careful, lest he risk exposure in an untimely fashion.
The billowing wind aimlessly threw loose paper and debris across the desolate floor, flung into the open air surrounded by buildings. For countless human lifespans, Tsukinowa vanguarded the legendary Sword of Dark Clouds with his clearest intentions; to return it to its rightful wielder as to bring an end to all of it. And to those who tried to steal it from under him were punished by his wicked spells.
Among his daily prayers for victory, something pricked in the back of his mind, a presence on the island. An odd one, seemingly not man or beast. He gazed into his mirror, a relic which allowed one to see things from miles away as if they were in the very room.
Yet this was unseeable. Only a haze of blue lights flickering and swaying. ‘What in my lord’s name?’ His eyes widened as he tried to parse out this information. “Damn it,” he cursed beneath his breath before leaving the room, staff held before him in anticipation.
He crept close to a wall near the shore, each step measured to make minimal noise. Once he had been the advisor to a great emperor, feeding him lies to further a foul agenda. He had never needed to skulk about like a common criminal, he strode through the finest halls with unceasing confidence. But he swallowed his pride, he would never need to lay in the shadows again when this all came to fruition.
Suddenly, a pale light shined from around the corner before him, startling him. He suppressed a gasp of shock or, when his head was clear a second later, a scream of wrath. ‘What the hell is this!? On all nights, it’s this one?’ He internally shouted, before putting his back to the wall.
Even a man who had seen as much as he had in his long life was absolutely baffled by the sight awaiting him.
A blob of luminous azure sparkles waving back and forth, hovering above the ground. Tsukinowa gently stepped towards the anomaly, mind racing as he considered the situation. His mirror had not deceived him, the nature of the entity was just so odd that he had not believed the truth until it stared him in the face. No one was nearby, and if the shimmering gelatin lighting up the night was not drawing attention, his words would not either.
“What are you?” He spoke calmly, trying to learn as much as he could. “Why are you here?”
Was he even talking to a lifeform? It had done nothing to suggest it bore a mind, much less one capable of understanding his words. He saw no reason to keep speaking to it if it would do nothing, and thus he turned and began to walk. The plan was as it should be, this minor distraction aside. He was genuinely tempted to just blast it into dust for interrupting him.
“You…” an echoing voice chimed through Tsukinowa’s head, causing him to whip around and look at the blob as it shifted with conscious movement. “Speaking to you requires a different… frequency than the other residents of this planet.”
“What do you want?” Tsukinowa ignored the statement, seeking answers as soon as possible.
“We are Yog. We are all of one mind and of many bodies, the pinnacle of evolution.” If the entity had any reaction to Tsukinowa’s scoff, it did not reveal it. “Instead of being bound to one form like the rest of existence, we may become whatever body we desire.”
“Then why have you come to me?” The wizard found himself clutching his staff harder than he was before, whether out of fear or anger he did not know.
“Unfortunately, in our current form we cannot actually do much. Cannot enforce our will. We need a powerful body to make our own, to act as the unstoppable emissary of Yog. That… is where you shall come in, holder of mysterious and awe-inspiring power.”
Tsukinowa flinched. Did this thing mean the Sword of Dark Clouds? Did it truly seek its divine power? But without a body, it could not possibly wield it. Wait, this Yog needed a powerful body to…
When the blob of sparkling lights lurched forward, Tsukinowa was paranoid enough to swiftly reply. From his staff came a bolt of lightning, illuminating the darkness of the night as it carved Yog into two pieces, large swathes of their body being reduced to lifeless vapor in the wind. The two remnants rolled back, unmoving beyond a subtle swaying.
“You seek to become a god!? Yet you fall so swiftly before even my might. A true god like my master would rend you asunder with all the effort of crushing an insect!”
“God… such a limiting term.” One of the clusters of Yog lunged backwards, diving into the waters below. Almost immediately, the same light emanated by the space amoeba intensified drastically from beneath the waves, making the wizard stumble back in shock. “Prepare yourself. Behold our true power and see if your ‘divinely gifted’ strength still compares.”
Long he had waited for this day. A chance for reckoning, an opportunity to prove his might. Tsukinowa planted his magical staff into the wedge of the stone, keeping it firmly in place. Clasping his hands together, the soothsayer uttered a series of indecipherable hymns from a language lost to time.
“O powerful moon, lend me your strength; O souls of the damned, conglomerate into a being of wickedness; for you, I present an offering,” Tsukinowa invoked as he transferred his conscious goal into the minds of the collective spirits. “Eliminate this threat, and the prized possession shall be yours for the taking.” Almost as if they had heard him, Tsukinowa listened as the wails of the dead responded in kind.
They graciously accepted.
Tsukinowa’s eyes shifted to the stormy skies. Rumblings off in the distance came ever closer, swelling under that of a dark cloud. The storm flashed with erratic lightning, draping the sky in a sheet of condensed vapors. Torrents of heavy rainfall poured over the broken island and the two living beings that stood there.
Tsukinowa was drenched, his long, shaggy hair matted together rather uncomfortably. The being that called itself Yog, on the other hand, was seemingly unfazed by the presence of rain, as the droplets passed right on through. Even so, Tsukinowa couldn’t help but grin when he saw a similarly pale green light opposing the Yog’s creation.
“Space fiend, let me show you that your pitiful attempts will be for nothing!” the servant of the moon haughtily proclaimed.
“If that is how you feel, then by all accounts, allow us to demonstrate,” the alien virus retorted in kind. “With that power, we can save this world, Tsukinowa. We can save all planets from self-destruction by assimilating them to the will of Yog.”
There was no saving these mortals. They had to perish, so his master dictated. Breezing past them, harsh winds rolled along the ocean, tossing powerful waves in their wake. All the while, green and blue lights pulsated as the oceanic seas prepared to give birth to twin abominations not of this world.
Their bodies gestated in the aquatic environment.
The first among them illuminated in a pale blue light, coated in viscous smear that encased the mata mata turtle. Its body contorted unnaturally, its chromosomes manipulated and altered by the alien virus. The shell split open with each molt, growing larger and larger in the process. Growth accelerated exponentially, protruding new teeth and fresh armored ridges for the battle to come. Its eyes shined a vacant sky blue, sneering at the ethereal entity that would oppose the will of Yog.
Lime green light clashed with the brilliant blues of the Yog transformation, serenaded by the evil of the moon. Screaming souls of the damned were magnetically drawn to the celestial core, giving shape to the great sea beast that lurked within. At first it began in an embryonic state, but the more wisps absorbed into its very being, the quicker it grew in size and mass. Its scales hardened, formed more defined features, manifesting into a horrid eidolon of the deep. Uttering pained shrills from the cavernous trenches, the half-fish, half-beast monstrosity gleamed with spite and wicked intent.
The light died down as the two sea beasts reached full conception. Kamoebas’ sky blue eyes faded and revealed those of an animal, with a glint of intelligence. Kaishin Muba’s eerie presence was still visible in the ocean depths, its orange eyes and green crystal ball piercing the darkness.
Kamoebas challenged the sea god with a muffled shriek. Kaishin Muba happily obliged in a hideous gurgle.
Swirling water displaced as the sea god began to move, fluttering its fins to swerve amidst the oceanic skies. Leaning its upper torso front facing, Kaishin Muba lunged towards the rugged terrapin, outstretching its tentacle clusters. Kamoebas retracted its head into the catacombs of its shell, though the malevolent spectre’s constricting appendages grappled with the sea turtle’s forearms, pulling the rocky giant deeper into the waves.
As waters splashed against the island from the giants’ movements, Tsukinowa kept his smug grin. “Can you truly say that your overgrown turtle stands a chance after what you just saw?”
Yog remained silent as death.
Kaishin Muba’s teeth scraped against the rocky shell of its foe, leaving shallow grooves but not much else. Its tentacles squeezed the entrapped limbs of the mutated turtle harder, intent on breaking bone.
Kamoebas’ head shot from its shell out like it was attached to a spring, teeth clamping down onto one of the tentacles restraining the Yog-beast’s legs. Slime coated the limbs, making it difficult for Kamoebas to find solid puncture for its teeth.
The mutant quickly released its bite and retracted its head back into its shell to avoid the gnashing jaws of the supernatural leviathan. Kamoebas’ head then rocketed back out, bashing the top of its skull against the side of Kaishin Muba’s face. A surprised shriek left the demon, its tentacles loosening enough for Kamoebas to escape and begin to swim away.
The wizard found himself laughing. “It’s already running away? You picked a real warrior for your champion, I don’t even think I needed to summon Kaishin!”
“How foolish. The fight has just started and you already make such a bold claim.”
Kaishin Muba surged through the waters after its target, howling and gurgling with wrath. What was immediately obvious was that the fish-like demon was far faster than the turtle, the distance between them closing in a matter of seconds.
Kamoebas swiftly retracted all its limbs into its shell, stopping its retreat a moment before the bulk of the spirit beast crashed into it.
Tentacles flailed all across the shell, bashing and constricting as the leviathan searched for a weakness. The howls of the coalescence of lost souls echoed throughout the water.
As tendrils snaked along the underbelly of the shell, trying to find any opening they could, one of the forelimbs of the mutated matamata lashed out from its tunnel. Claws dragged across a slime-coated limb, failing to draw blood but still earning a growl of pain from Kaishin Muba.
The foreleg was already back in its sheath before the several tentacles that whipped towards it could strike. Kamoebas’ head launched out, jaws clamping onto the tip of a tentacle. Its grip held firm as it retracted its head once more, carrying the tentacle into the shell.
Kaishin Muba’s growls turned into screeches as it tried to wrench its limb free, but the turtle’s grinding teeth continued to wear down the flesh. The demonic leviathan rushed forwards once more, aiming both combatants at the rock wall of the nearby island. Its pace quickened as it felt blood began to leak.
Gunkanjima shuddered as one hundred sixty-four thousand tons slammed into its side.
Kaishin Muba’s scream of hatred and anguish made Tsukinowa’s hands rush to his ears.
Ichor leaked from the end of the severed tentacle, staining the blue waters. Kamoebas was partially embedded in the stone, its body shifting as it tried to dislodge its pointed back from it. The ghostly leviathan backed away, staring at its wound.
Lime-green fluid floated up from it, transfixing the entity. This pathetic creature had actually harmed it, made it bleed. The lifeforce of the dead was leaving the demon due to a simple turtle.
Kamoebas had wriggled itself free, and was now attempting to haul itself onto land, its front legs upon solid ground. Yog could already tell that the water held no advantage for it, but upon the land it could begin to make gain.
The water suddenly shifted, the waves churning around the mutant. Its loose grip grew even weaker as the water beneath it lowered into a whirlpool. Kamoebas looked back to see Kaishin Muba on the water’s surface, glaring daggers into the Yog-beast’s soul as its tentacles waved beneath.
Kamoebas fell back into the waters, causing a wave to wash over the streets of the island. By the time it reached Tsukinowa and Yog it was not even ankle deep, leaving the two unbothered.
“Did your creature just manipulate the waters themselves?” Questioned Yog.
“Of course. The power of my lord makes all things possible, fool.”
Yog made no comment after this, but the wizard could tell something was coursing through its gestalt mind.
Kaishin Muba descended back down, submerging itself as it approached the flailing Kamoebas. The leviathan was done playing games.
The gem upon its forehead glowed emerald green, channeling the power of evil and of the dead. A thin beam of energy raced forth, raking across the mutant’s shell. Explosions detonated across it, sending shards of the armored plating flying. Before Kamoebas could fully comprehend what had happened, another shot of the Water Mirror Ray sent cracks crawling across the shell as the triangular peak was blasted off.
A turtle’s shell was as much a part of their body as anything else on them. Despite the inorganic look, it was still made of bones and carried countless nerve endings. Were it not for the warping of its genetics, Kamoebas would have likely already died from this alone.
The Yog-infected creature raced forwards, screeching as it suppressed the agony flowing through it. Another strike from the pale blast tore off a large piece from the side of the armored carapace. Keeping its head in the confines of its shell, the mutant terrapin locked onto its target. With each passing second, the monstrous turtle was stripped of its natural defenses to the ethereal laser.
Coming within reach, Kamoebas launched its head from the safety of its body as it tore through the oceanic skies, trailing with riptides and bubbles. Extending its neck to the equivalent to its total body length, Kamoebas opened its jaws and clamped onto the exposed gills that aligned the sea demon’s neck.
The hideous fiend gargled as green blood oozed from the gills, its facial fins sparking with magical energies to retaliate. Yet before it could discharge, it felt an abnormal tug from its chelonian opponent. Rather than being dragged towards the body, it felt as if…
Before the wicked abomination knew what hit it, the colossal armored body of Kamoebas sailed through the watery abyss, being pulled in by the head. Within a second, the mutant slammed its broken shell against the leviathan’s chest, jabbing it with jagged armor. Kaishin Muba screamed as it was hurled back with tremendous force, blood flowing from severe lacerations and its neck gill dislodged under Kamoebas’ maw. The mighty fish-beast collided against the seascape, erupting with a blast of disheveled earth, temporarily stunned from the heavy blow. It felt its lifeforce seeping from the torn gill and snarled viciously.
Spitting the unnatural gill aside, the mutant terrapin turned and lunged forth, swiping with waving limbs and gnashing jaws. A tentacle cracked against its carapace, ripping away another chunk of the organic fortress upon its back and exposing flesh beneath.
Claws scraped against the armored chest of Kaishin Muba, the extendable neck of Kamoebas reaching for the fish demon’s throat once more. The spirit leviathan’s own jaws shot down, crunching onto the skull of its target. Teeth worked their way through skin and grinded against bone, earning a hellacious screech of agony from the mutant. Even Yog’s influence could not shut down pain of this magnitude.
One of Kamoebas’ claws sank into a wound on Kaishin Muba, widening it and spraying forth more ichor containing spectral essence. Instead of opening its maw as anticipated, Kaishin Muba only bit down harder from the pain. Its jaws slid forth, ripping the skin off of the mutant’s face. One eye was punctured, a spray of fluid being all that remained of it.
Spitting out the foul tasting skin, the water god looked back at its foe to see Kamoebas pulling its head and limbs back into its shell. A Water Mirror Ray to the front of Kamoebas’ armor shattered it like dry wood, revealing the degloved skull of the Yog-beast, limited facial expression locked into pure terror from the residual animal it once was.
Tentacles wrapped around the throat, pulling with all their might against a pathetic struggle of resistance from the battered turtle. The neck extended further and further, skin peeling away as Kaishin pushed it to its limits. The legs flailed futilely, accomplishing nothing.
A sick, cruel grin decorated Kaishin Muba’s face as the neck no longer stretched, reaching its limit at the length of Kamoebas’ body. A limp, pathetic groan escaped its jaws. And with one last pull, Kaishin Muba ripped Kamoebas’ head clean off, a spray of blood tainted with blue lights spewing forth.
The howling winds and falling rain were joined by a boisterous laughter. Tsukinowa looked back to the gelatinous being next to him, awaiting some cry of sorrow or rage-filled roar. But none came.
“Have you been paying any attention?” Tsukinowa’s eyes widened. ”You have done nothing to us with the destruction of Kamoebas. Unlike you and your kind, we are not confined to a single form. It would be accurate to say that you destroyed a uniform of us, not our actual selves.”
“And what of it? You know that you cannot best me as you are now, so what’s stopping me from blasting you into ash?”
The sparkling lights in the mutant’s blood suddenly flew from the cloud, taking Kaishin Muba off guard as they entered its wounds. The leviathan bellowed as an awful sensation flooded its form, the pale blue light of Yog shining out.
“Because it would do nothing. For you have given us a new, far better uniform to wear.”
Kaishin Muba emerged from the water, fidgeting and letting loose grotesque gurgles, as if it were fighting with itself. Hellacious screeches spilled from its parted jaws, aimlessly discharging a ghostly laser into the watery surface. It swished and threw out its tentacles, contorting the vast body of water into vicious riptides and tidal waves, trying to fight against the spectral virus hijacking its body. In the end, the wild fish-beast came to a pause and fell deathly silent.
The old wizard nearly fell over in terror. His creation had fallen into the hands of the enemy. Did this Yog know no limits for what bodies it could control?
It looked towards Tsukinowa, the once blazing orange now a soft sky blue, then let loose a scream before discharging a Water Mirror Ray which lit up the night.
With a burst of adrenaline the warlock hurled himself out of the way, the ground where he had just stood being turned into boiling stone. The Yog cluster he had spoken to was erased without a word, uncaring of its physical destruction.
As a building behind him was incinerated by a cluster of explosions, the cacophony still not drowning out the deranged howl of his own creation, Tsukinowa prepared himself. “Then the time must be now,” the soothsayer muttered. Standing upright, he glared at his stolen familiar and firmly thrust his staff into the concrete. Crossing his hands in prayer, he uttered the incantation to complete the ritual.
“O Kaishin Muba, spectre of the deep, take my offering,” he proclaimed, keeping his mind focused, “For the one I offer you resides within you now! The star-dwelling one shall be your sacrifice to take to the other side!”
The Yog-possessed Kaishin Muba’s facial fins sparked to life, raising its tentacle clusters to command the waters. A monstrous tidal wave pulled from the surface, prepared to crush the wizard under its tremendous weight. Yet before it could do the deed, the sea demon halted its attack. The wretched green cretin began to illuminate in golden light, feeling its physical presence being erased from this plane of existence.
The wall of water immediately collapsed, dispersing the giant body into the ocean, only violently splashing against the concrete barrier of the island. Kaishin bellowed one last time, more so Yog than the beast or its souls, as its body dissolved into nothingness. As the souls escaped back into wherever they had once been, the alien amoeba found itself being pulled apart at the molecular and quantum level.
This was impossible! A being of this magnitude just fading away like this defied every law of physics. Confused and terrified at what their science-oriented minds could not comprehend, Yog was erased by the magics of Kaishin Muba’s dispersal.
Tsukinowa breathed in deeply, trying to regather himself. He would recommence the ritual for his master, he needed to. Shakily getting to his feet, shivering from the bone-chilling cold as every inch of him was soaked, he began to hobble back to his chamber.
Rest sounded so alluring, but not now. Rest could come when Tsukuyomi returned, when the old warlock’s goal in life was fulfilled. Until then, he would work himself to the bone in order to appease the rebel god and bring about his reign.
Miles away, their shared mind felt the disappearance of their other aspect. The mission to capture the mysterious power on the island humanity called Gunkanjima had been a catastrophic failure, and at the same time they had made a powerful enemy.
The conglomerate conscious saw few options, and each one carried its own risks and rewards. If what Tsukinowa said and if what they had gleaned from his mind were any indication, then the time for subtlety and subterfuge was long gone.
Now was the time for action.
Winner: Kaishin Muba