Author: Matthew Freese | Banner: Landon Soto
The Monzen district was particularly busy today.
The streets were clogged with crowds, thousands of individuals trying to carry out their tasks and desires at the same time leading to a chaotic, noisy day. People pushed past others to get to the market, trying to get there first to get the freshest food. In a world where luxury was scarce, people being born in the same village they died in with most never getting a chance to leave it for even a short time, any small pleasure was craved desperately. To the point where fresh food, something that had once been casually expected in the time before this, was something that people shoved and clawed for.
In an alleyway, secluded from the crowds, one man was finding out how far some people were willing to go.
“Just give us the damn meat, and no one gets hurt. It’s so simple.” Said a burly, disheveled man as he cracked calloused knuckles. Next to him, a scrawnier man with a wide grin cracked his neck. Before them, curled up on the ground and clutching a bag in his hand, was a young man.
“I need this for my family, they’re so hungry. Please, just, let me go. Take the rest of my money, take anything, just not this food.” He moaned in terror, keeping it close to him like it was a bar of gold.
“We don’t want your damn money, we could rob a schmuck with more than pocket change if we wanted that!” The demented looking man replied. “Give us that bag! If you do that, your family gets to still have you!”
“Someone,” The victim yelled out, “please help me!”
“Shut the hell up!” The bulkier criminal demanded, cracking his knuckles against the family man’s face. “I’m done talking, I’m taking that damn food now!”
Another strike filled the young father’s mouth with a coppery taste, leaving him to just moan pitifully. For days on end he had saved the money from his meager job so he could purchase this proper meal, instead of the rations he and his family had been living off of. For a few minutes he was the happiest he had been in years, only to suddenly be dragged into an alleyway and having his world flipped upside down.
“Please, my family…”
“Maybe you shouldn’t have been so weak, huh?” The thin thug almost cackled as his partner sent another brutal strike into the victim’s face.
Pulling his arm back far, the criminal prepared to break the nose with this punch. But when he went to swing, something grabbed his arm. A confused sound left the man’s mouth as he turned to see what it was, only to get a taste of his own medicine as a strong punch slammed into his cheek. He stumbled, crashing into his partner in crime and almost sending both to the ground. Cursing, they both looked to see who had barged in on their assault.
Short, black hair framed a chiseled face as a man in commoner’s clothes stood tall, a look of fury on his face as he settled into a martial arts stance.
“I’m going to give you two one chance. Get the hell out of here, or I’m going to drag you to the cops myself.”
“Oh shit, it’s Dan!” The scrawny felon barked out in terror, scrambling to his feet. His comrade joined him, not wanting to go a round with the man who had just swung the hardest punch he’d ever taken in his life.
Dan Moroboshi’s features grew softer as he sighed, before turning to the curled up man and offering him a hand.
“Thank you sir, thank you!” The young father accepted the hand up, getting to his feet. He was still shaking and breathing heavily, but the arrival of this savior was quickly relieving his anxiety. “Whatever you want in return, I’ll—“
“Don’t. I don’t do this for pay, keeping people safe is the only reward I need.” The vigilante replied. “Now go to that family you were talking about, they’re probably worried sick.”
“Yes, you’re right. Again, I can’t thank you enough, Dan.” The family man bowed, before hurrying away. Dan watched him leave, a weary smile on his face. He looked past him towards the distance, to see the towering walls surrounding everything. He still couldn’t look at those constructs of twisted steel and concrete without reflecting on better times.
Over a hundred years ago, he had been a hero for all the world. Numerous kaiju and aliens had been defeated by him to ensure humanity was safe, constant battles which eventually took too much of a toll on him. After one last battle that pushed him to his limits, he was forced to leave this world that had become a second home to him.
Yet when he had returned decades later, he came back to a totally different world. Humanity was no longer a flourishing civilization spread across all the globe, but instead it had been shoved into a tiny space. Trapped behind walls which could never be ventured past, in fear of what?
Ultraseven has ventured out there, and what he had seen was nightmarish. Ruins infested by naked, deformed giants. He could only assume that were it not for the walls, they would have ripped through the remnants of humanity like wolves to a flock of sheep with the way they flailed about and lunged when he tried speaking to them.
He could also only assume that humanity was responsible for their existence.
He loved the people of Earth like his own kind, but he knew full well they were capable of horrid things. Humans had a lust for wealth that led them down dark paths, producing brutal wars and grotesque atrocities all in the name of profit. Their sciences produced both humanity’s greatest feats and grimmest cruelties. It all depended on whose hands it was in, and it appeared as if it had fallen into the wrong hands once too many.
As Dan walked down the busy streets, he found himself contemplating another thing due to information that had been given to him recently. He was not a member of the military or police, they were overall far more concerned with protecting the walls and keeping the status quo than they were with actually helping people, but he did have contact with certain members of it.
He knew that plans to form a scout corps to explore what lay behind the walls were going underway. When he had first come back to Earth some years ago, he had considered scouring the wastelands to find other human life, or even traveling the Earth and trying to purge all the monstrosities to let humanity spread once more. But ultimately he had decided to stay here, to protect what remained of humanity. If he was out traipsing about the lands on a mission which would take years on end, only for the people in these walls to be killed while he was gone, he’d never forgive himself.
With hands in his pockets and a head in the clouds, Dan chose to reminisce on happier times, when he was part of a team instead of going it alone.
Far away, on the other side of the walls, a lone figure walked. An elderly man in a black military commander’s uniform, his hair thinning and grey. He looked up at the towering barriers, a sly smile forming on his weathered features.
Kubal was the leader of the Military Police Brigade, the enforcers of the status quo and the will of the elites in the innermost wall. Despite how much he enjoyed his lofty position in society, what he did not enjoy was the squawking of his peers. Of noblemen who had never lifted a finger and royal guards who could not protect a basket of fruit.
Oh how they whined on and on about fears of the peasants of the outer walls growing too comfortable and getting ideas of revolution. The walls were supposed to keep the populace safe from something that might as well not exist, so what was the point of this whole system?
Kubal wouldn’t mind watching some of those pompous bastards be trampled by crowds of the people they so reviled, but it did not take him long to realize that he would much rather keep his own privileges than anything else.
From his jacket he pulled forth a knife. He examined it briefly, weighing it in his hand. Nice, clean blade, well-made grip, all around excellent craftsmanship. Yes, this would work just fine.
He was surrounded by walls of stone decorated with the finest drapery and paintings that money could buy. Most people would kill and backstab just to be in this room, yet the general was trying to get out of it as quickly as possible. Especially with the simpering fool behind him.
“Kubal, where are you going?” A nobleman who Kubal did not even remember the name of questioned him. “What if the common folk make their rise today, and you’re not here?”
The elderly general turned, his eyes cold as ice. “What do you do with cattle when you have too many of them?”
“What?” The elite was dumbfounded at the question.
“I should have known a pompous prick like you would have no clue. Perhaps if all of you noblemen and women put your heads together, you could figure out the answer. Or perhaps you’d still need to ask someone who’s gotten dirt under their nails.” He walked away again, ignoring the stammering confusion of the royal.
“Did you get hit on the head during training, what are you on about!?”
Kubal opened the chamber door, then turned his head back to speak to the nobleman, uttering words that made the elite’s blood run cold. “You slaughter them. And sell the meat.”
The door shut hard, but the nobleman barely heard it over his heart beating in his ears.
Kubal thrust the knife into his chest, piercing cloth and skin. Bones erupted from his back, resembling a pair of angel’s wings, as orange light shined from his form. Strings of muscle and sinew flailed out and began to connect as Kubal was lifted into the air. He looked up to see clouds swirling in the heavens above, and a manic grin formed on his face. Muscle and bone began to form from the coiling madness encircling him, a humanoid body taking shape around the old general.
Skinless hands that could crush a house in their palms flexed. Legs of pure muscle like a castle’s towers supported the colossus. And now, peering over the top of the wall, seeing the scared hordes of cattle before him, a face permanently affixed with a spiteful grimace.
Kubal inside the Colossal Titan cackled like a madman, feeling divine as he prepared to enact unholy punishment upon the people of the Monzen District.
Screams filled the air in a cacophony, people scrambling away in panicked hordes. Dan’s demeanor changed as if a switch had been flipped, going from a calm and casual nature to a determined man of action. With the grace of a practiced professional he slipped into an alleyway devoid of people as the crowds stampeded by, reaching into his coat pocket.
He pulled out what looked like red swimmers’ goggles, except without the strap to keep them attached to the head.
“Dyuwah!” He shouted with determination as he thrust the Ultra Eye over his own eyes, causing a shower of sparkling lights to erupt from the lenses and spiral out. From them emerged skin as white as porcelain which encased Dan’s head, the Ultra Eye having turned into glowing, blocky eyes of yellow. A curved blade rested on top of his head like a Mohawk, and in his forehead rested a green orb like a shining gem. His shoulders were covered with red paneling, that same red coloration going down and covering his whole form like armor.
With the transformation complete, Ultraseven was back in his original form instead of his human disguise. A warrior of light hailing from Nebula M78, a righteous defender of the innocent, Earth’s protector had returned after so long. It had been years since he had assumed this form, it felt good to finally be in his own skin once again.
He flew into the air, swiftly growing in size until he was eighty five meters tall, his true height. Stealing a glance down below at the people, he saw equal parts terror and wonder on their faces. He just hoped his actions would be enough to convince those afraid of him that the defender was here to save their lives, not to end them.
Landing before the walls and the Colossal Titan, sending waves of dust rolling out, Seven stood proud before the obviously confused giant. There was a moment of tension, silence falling like a sheet over the lands. It was banished by the Ultra warrior putting his arm across his chest, and with a shout firing a thin ray of emerald light from his forehead. The Colossal Titan bellowed as a hole was torn into his head by the Emerium Ray’s detonation, sending him falling backwards.
Seven leaped over the wall in one bound, drawing gasps of shock from all watchers. Landing on the other side, immediately getting into a defensive position, he watched his skinless foe.
The humanoid monstrosity stood to his full height, tendons already flailing about inside the crater in the skull to reconnect and reconstruct. Seven found himself recoiling slightly at the sight of just how much the Colossal Titan towered over him. The hero came up to the bottom of his foe’s chest.
The damage to his construct’s face already practically healed, Kubal glared daggers at the interloper from within his fleshy pod. His privileged position had given him knowledge on the past world, and right now, he recalled the tales of towering warriors of light who fought for humanity to stave off horrid threats.
“But when we destroy ourselves, you are nowhere to be seen?” He laughed to himself. “Get out of my sight, and stop interfering with humanity’s internal affairs.” He growled as he commanded the colossus to swing a punch.
It was a slow punch, one such that Seven was able to easily cross his arms before it connected. Yet when it crashed into his forearms, it shoved him back, tearing up the soil beneath his feet. Letting loose another reverberating scream, the Colossal Titan kicked up, smashing into the hero’s leg, nearly sending him spilling to the dirt. Seven managed to retain his balance, before lunging forward, slamming several punches into the skinless nightmare’s gut.
Exposed muscle reverberated with each strike, splits in the flesh spewing steam into the air. The perfect darkness swung a palm down, smacking it on the top of the hero’s skull, forcing his head down. Another sluggish but immensely powerful punch soared towards Seven, but he ducked beneath it, sweeping a kick into the Colossal Titan’s legs. Staggering, a haunting groan escaped the skinless humanoid as he struggled to remain standing.
The warrior of light shoved his foe back, trying to put as much distance between him and the wall as he could. He kept pushing, digging trenches in the earth with the Colossal Titan’s feet. Superheated steam erupted from the perfect darkness’ chest, but Seven cared little even as his hands sank into the thinning muscle mass, plunging them into scorching heat. An Ultra’s skin granted them resistance to heat beyond that of most metals, much less organic beings.
Kubal cursed. “Do you even care about heat? This thing’s a living furnace and you don’t give a shit. Fine, I don’t mind bloodying my knuckles some more.”
Ultraseven doubled over when a glowing fist slammed into his gut, leaving him open for the Colossal Titan’s hand to clasp around his face. The corrupt general fell forward, landing on his knees.
The earth cratered when the back of Seven’s head crashed into it, the Colossal Titan roaring as he lifted the hero up just to bash him back down. He pulled up once more, but the hero was ready this time as his hand rushed up towards the blade atop his head. Grasping the Eye Slugger, Seven swung it like a blade across the wrist of his foe, sending gouts of steam out.
Rearing back, the Colossal Titan and Seven both got to their feet, the former pausing to let the damage repair itself rapidly. The guardian hurled his weapon like a boomerang, carving a valley into the colossus’ side. As if it had a mind of its own, the curved blade circled around and tore another hole in the perfect darkness, this time in his calf.
Seven telekinetically manipulated his weapon to circle around several more times, each one dealing further damage. A hand was nearly cleaved off, hanging by tendons. Kubal stepped forward, enduring as the blade cut horizontally across his construct’s stomach, which would have gutted it if the Titans had any sort of traditional anatomy.
His foe did not know about the Colossal Titan’s weakness, a small nodule located in the nape containing the human host. The general laughed inside his fleshy cocoon, the alien could hack away at him as much as he wanted, without destroying the nape he would never fall.
A burst of steam erupted from the skinless humanoid’s arm, intercepting the Eye Slugger and sending it flying away with force. Seven flinched in shock, giving Kubal the chance to crash a punch with that arm into the hero’s face. As the Eye Slugger clattered to the ground hundreds of meters away, the warrior of light stumbled back and fell onto the wall.
The construct shuddered, but fortunately for all parties, remained fully intact. The general had no intention to rip the wall fully asunder, this would only make the survivors more desperate and would ignite a revolt for certain. There needed to be a relatively small hole, big enough for the titans to crawl through yet small enough to be potentially, but never, sealed.
The hero gently pulled himself away from the wall, flinching as chunks of rubble fell away from it with his movement. He watched the Colossal Titan diligently as he did so, seeing it make no moves despite his predicament. There were a few moments of silent tension.
Seven extended his hand towards his downed Eye Slugger, psychically drawing it towards himself like it was attached to a string. The perfect darkness lunged forward, but his slow movement prevented him from reaching the hero in time before the blade was back in his hand.
Slicing open the giant’s palm with a swing of the boomerang, severing a thumb in the process, Ultraseven placed his weapon back in its holster atop his head in one motion. But the wound failed to stop the steaming hand from gripping him by the face and whipping him away from the wall. The guardian staggered as he tried to remain balanced, the Colossal Titan walking towards the wall once more.
Seven held his hands forward, channeling his mental abilities. Kubal balked inside his construct as its feet left the ground, the immense body of the Colossal Titan being hoisted into the air with ease. The warrior of light was surprised at how light his foe was. Twisting his body as he thrust his hands down, Seven hurled the skinless giant hundreds of meters back, putting massive distance between him and the wall.
Dust and steam shot into the air as the Colossal Titan hit the ground back first, a reverberating growl leaving him.
By this point, Wraith Titans had been attracted by the chaos and the presence of a Titan Shifter in their midst. The naked abominations started flailing over each other, knocking each other down to clamp their jaws onto the flesh of the downed Colossal Titan. Flesh burned from their mouths, yet they kept chewing despite their saliva boiling away.
Kubal did not care at all about the buzzing gnats assailing him, he was far more focused on trying to get back to his feet. This body was cumbersome, not built for single combat but instead as a siege weapon. Moving his arms to place his hands on solid ground, a motion that sent scores of the mindless beasts in humanoid form falling over, took several seconds.
Ultraseven crossed his arms, one vertically and the other horizontally. With a shout, he unleashed a yellow stream of glowing particles, which moved so swiftly they almost looked like streaks, from the vertical arm. The Wide Shot tore into the Colossal Titan’s gut, causing a massive explosion which nearly tore him in half. The bellow of the behemoth only drew more Wraith Titans to him, adding an unceasing itch to the burning agony of his gut.
Suddenly, he went limp. The life left the humanoid’s eyes as all movement ceased. Steam rose from every inch of its body as the muscle began to decompose, swiftly revealing bones within.
Seven wanted to celebrate, but he held back his joy. Something about this was immensely wrong. His eyes shined even brighter as he tried to use his X-Ray vision to see just what was happening, but the flowing steam and immense heat of the process made things too blurry. He began to step closer, arms raised defensively for any sudden movements.
Kubal breathed deeply, trying to catch his breath as sweat poured down his whole body, mixing with the moisture of the steam and of the fleshy veils still attached to his limbs. He heard the rumbling of the beasts outside, clamoring over each other to try and devour him. Shrouded in darkness, he waited within the decomposing nape of his ejected Titan, a demented tent over his head protecting him from view.
He wanted to pass out, but he refused. The stubborn will that it took to be a general prevailed as he drew the knife once more, not bothering to have a moment of hesitation or reflection. It was clear as crystal.
Kubal needed to destroy his foe, and this body was not enough. He needed something grander, a form to crush any opposition.
Steel pierced skin and drew blood, scraping against bone.
A flash of orange lightning slammed down upon the corpse Titan’s face, causing a tremendous force of wind and heat that sent the Wraith Titans flying back like chaff in a storm. Seven recoiled in shock, trying to see past the immense flash.
A skeleton larger than him flew forth from it, still releasing steam as it crashed into the hero’s body and pinned him to the ground. Ribs pierced into the soil, forming a makeshift cage around his torso. His elbows tore through the weakening bones with ease, allowing him to swiftly climb to his feet, just in time for a Wraith Titan to slam into his skull at immense speeds. The mindless creature exploded into a cloud of viscera as Seven stumbled back, mind racing to try and retain clarity of the chaotic situation.
The hurler of both makeshift projectiles made himself known as the Colossal Titan stepped out of the walls of steam, making Seven do a double take. Where once he had been one-hundred twenty meters tall, now he was one-hundred fixty. In one step, swinging forth an arm he had pulled back, the newly reborn colossus closed the distance and wrapped a hand around Seven’s face.
The hero was too dazed to even properly react, his millennia of experience being worth nothing in the face of this baffling opposition.
Kubal lifted Seven into the air before throwing him back down, forming an impact crater with the hero’s body. Ignoring the flying dirt, the Colossal Titan slowly raised his leg up before bringing it down on the warrior of light’s back. The crater only grew, smoke rising from it with grass burning away.
The perfect darkness’ leg ascended once more, only for Seven to fight back with an Emerium Ray which lanced up the calf muscle, shredding it with a line of detonations. The Colossal Titan groaned as he fell backwards, kicking up more steam and dust.
Shakily getting to his feet, the green orb upon his forehead now glowing red, Seven grabbed the Eye Slugger and readied himself to deliver a killing blow. He’d slice this thing in half, that would kill it, it had to.
Before he could throw his weapon, the Colossal Titan’s elbows crashed into the ground, lifting his upper half up. The torso and head were still as tall as Seven’s whole body, so when steam suddenly erupted from the front of the juggernaut, bathing the warrior of light in it, he stumbled back and dropped the Eye Slugger. He was not burned, but his growing exhaustion meant the force behind it, along with the shock of the sudden burst, meant it was effective enough.
Not fighting for years on end had made him rusty, he kept getting surprised in this bout and letting his guard down. The undamaged leg of the Colossal Titan smacked into his heel, dropping him to the dirt.
Seven tried to get up quickly, only for a hand to wrap around the back of his head. The Colossal Titan lifted him up high as he stood back up, the perfect darkness’ other arm rearing back. An immense uppercut to the guardian’s jaw, which released a shockwave which disturbed the clouds of debris they were standing inside, sent him flying upwards and over the wall.
Screams of horror filled his ears until he slammed into the ground, crushing houses beneath his mass, the world going dark. Kubal stepped forwards, leering over the wall again. This time he absolutely towered above it, his shoulders and chest visible. Was that all the mighty warrior of the past had to offer?
He stumbled in place, feeling a rush through his skull. He needed to do this quickly, transforming twice in rapid succession was taking a toll on him.
Rearing a leg back, he slammed a kick into the construct of steel and concrete, blowing a hole through it and sending chunks of debris the size of boulders flying into the city like the payload of a catapult. People were crushed, buildings burst apart, and cries of terror rolled over all the lands.
And like a thief in the night, making off with stolen goods, the Colossal Titan disappeared.
He awoke to bloodcurdling screams and sickening crunches of flesh and bone. Dan Moroboshi’s tired eyes opened to see a city in ruin, people running for their lives and trampling over each other. Wraith Titans grabbed people in their hands and tore into them with grotesque jaws.
Dan got to his feet, finding himself atop a pile of rubble surrounded by the carnage of his crash landing. He wanted to vomit seeing the destruction his own form had caused, especially when he glanced at a broken arm jutting forth from the madness. It was too pale to still be alive.
He watched as another person was grabbed up and consumed, sending a shower of blood falling with its bite. A Wraith Titan noticed him, shaggy hair flopping as it broke into a clumsy sprint towards him.
Thinking quickly, he grabbed the Ultra Eye once more and became Ultraseven. His Beam Lamp was still red, so he knew that he could only fight at human size, or else his energy would be drained too swiftly.
The hand grasped him, the demented fiend lifting him up as its jaws opened. Seven braced himself, firing an Emerium Ray down the beast’s throat. It exploded out of the back of its neck, the nape being eviscerated.
Immediately, the Titan dropped dead, Seven falling out of its grip like a toy. He was motionless for a few moments, waiting for it to get back up or for a new body to form.
Seconds became a full minute, and Seven felt his heart thumping in his chest. Was that all it took? A strike to the back of the neck killed these things permanently?
Another scream of horrid suffering as someone was pulled in half, the flopping of entrails upon the concrete sounding like a gunshot to him. Seven knew that scream, from this morning. He knew it meant a family just lost its father, if that family even still existed.
The warrior of light just remained still, lying prostrate. Preventing this would have been so absolutely simple, a quick slice with his Eye Slugger, or a precise shot with the Emerium Ray, anything!
But now the Monzen District burned, and its supposed hero just sat within wreckage and death of his own making. Seven shook with sobbing, no tears falling from his luminous eyes but the choked, sorrowful groans still leaving his mouth.
He reared up, screaming wordlessly to the heavens. Memories of happier times surfaced, but now they were just bitter reminders of a past he would never return to.
This was life now. Hell on Earth, all because of his rusty, pathetic self.
A day later
Kubal lay in a comfortable bed as he stared out the window at the untouched beauty of the inner walls. The exhaustion he was currently sleeping off did nothing to diminish his smile as he heard reports of the turmoil going on in the second wall’s confines.
Soon a long game would begin of pretending to try to fix the wall all while sabotaging the efforts, doubtlessly made much harder by the interference of the warrior of light who he knew still lived.
But for now, he would take pride in ensuring that nothing would change in regards to the corrupt system he enforced order for. The strong thrived while the weak picked up the scraps, and for a man who possessed nigh-divine power at the tips of his fingers, that system was working flawlessly.
Dan Moroboshi found himself another face in the cramped crowd, as people awaited rations. He did not really need food, as at any point he could just become Ultraseven and absorb the light of the sun, but he chose to eat to blend in. He used to eat to also enjoy the taste, but the food of this day and age was tasteless and bland.
Despair still wrapped itself around his heart like a vice, but he had grown more used to it. Instead of wallowing in it, now he vowed to fight until the last breath left his body. He would join the retaliatory force against the Titans that would soon be formed, endure the hellacious training they would no doubt throw his way, and he would fight.
Retreating and returning with the rest of the Ultra Brothers would make this immeasurably easy, but Dan refused to do such a thing. Why, he was not fully sure. Perhaps he did not want them to see his failure, or perhaps it was a matter of pride.
Regardless of it all, he would share the same spirit as the species he loved like his own. Indomitable and stubborn until the very end.
Winner: Colossal Titan