By C. L. Werner
Koumajutsu: The Coming of Bagan
8 - [Chapter 9] -
Bagan stomped across the jungle terrain, crushing ancient trees beneath his armored feet. The demon threw his head back and roared again, sending a blast of fire slamming into the brown shape desperately trying to find cover. The huge larva let an ear-splitting cry of pain echo across the ancient ruined city. Bagan halted for a moment, seeming to savor the sound before sending a second gout of flame searing into the infant Mothra's exoskeleton. Where the flame struck, grayish-blue ichor began to drool from an open wound.
Mothra turned, painfully raising her body from the ground. A ball of energy gathered between her foremost sets of legs, a swirling mass of blue light. Mothra sent the energy ball hurtling into Bagan. The lumbering demon did not even attempt to avoid the attack, the ball shattering against the beast's plated chest, smoke and sparks flying from the impact. Bagan grunted contemptuously and continued towards his prey.
Mothra began to scuttle away once more, but she could not outpace the mammoth steps of the dragon. Bagan brought his clawed foot down, pinning the caterpillar's tail to the ground. His fanged maw gaping widely, Bagan bent downwards, his black tongue licking at Mothra's wound, lapping up the taste of her agony. Bagan clutched the sides of the caterpillar, digging the claws of his hands into Mothra's flesh. The dragon began to let electrical shocks pass from his body into that of Mothra. The trapped caterpillar writhed and wriggled like a worm on a hook. Bagan let the voltage increase, a stream of fiery drool falling from his mouth as the demon's soul drank the increased agony of his victim. This was kin to one of those who had imprisoned him long ago. The demon could easily finish Mothra now. But that would be too easy. Bagan had thousands of years of empty darkness to repay. Before he had finished, the caterpillar would beg for death.
And even then, it would be long in coming.
Colonel Breen shook hands with the thick, muscular man who emerged from the control module of the Gryphon. Colonel Ripper grasped his commander's hand in a steel grip.
'We saw the battle from here,' Colonel Breen said, enthusiasm seeping through his normal detached professionalism. 'I must say that the Gryphon has performed admirably. As soon as the Euro-council finishes voting, I think it is safe to say that the MDH will be receiving orders to send you to Japan to attend to this Bagan creature.'
'I look forward to it, Colonel,' Ripper replied. The commander of the Gryphon saluted and marched off to rest from the trying conflict off the coast of Ireland.
Colonel Breen looked over at the waiting crew of technicians and scientists. The top-secret French weapons system had finally arrived. Breen nodded at the waiting men and they began to push trolleys of heavy equipment toward the stationary aircraft. The power of the weapon system the French had constructed would augment the Gryphon's armaments considerably. Though there were dissenting voices.
'Colonel Breen,' one of those dissenting voices was speaking into the MDH officer's ear. 'I must protest. We cannot consider the weapon combat ready. We have more tests to run. Mon Dieu, if our calculations are wrong, the results could be beyond catastrophic!'
'Dr. Delambre, you constructed this weapon. Are you second guessing your own work?'
'It is a scientist's job to second guess everything, until he completely understands it,' responded the French scientist. 'And when I was designing this system, it was as a new means of transporting material, not as a weapon. It was the Ministry of Defense who decided to employ my device for military purposes.'
'The smaller devices have functioned perfectly,' stated Colonel Breen. 'There is no reason to suspect a scaled-up version.'
'But the increased area of effect!' exclaimed Dr. Andre Delambre. 'We have never effected anything larger than a cigarette box in the laboratory.'
'Bagan is somewhat larger than a cigarette box,' Colonel Breen retorted, walking off.
On the back of the Fairy, Lora tried to keep up with Mothra. Despite her pain, despite her fatigue, there was an urgency gripping the fading monster. That urgency was spurring her to fly at ever greater speeds.
Lora gasped as a brilliant light grew about Mothra's form. They were somewhere over the jungles of northern India now. Below them, Lora could see the scorched, razed path of the demon. Twisted machines and bleached bones gleamed in the blaze surrounding Mothra.
After several moments, the blazing light dissipated. Mothra had changed. Her almost furry white skin had been replaced by a sleek silver exoskeleton, her delicate wings encased in an armored shell. Mothra's head now resembled the helmet of some medieval knight, her legs almost metallic in appearance, like the claws of a steel crab.
'No!' shouted Lora. 'You are too weak! The effort of maintaining the armor will kill you.'
But the giant insect was not listening. With another burst of speed, the huge creature raced forwards, leaving her tiny priestess and Fairy familiar far behind.
Bagan leered at the struggling caterpillar. He brought a clawed thumb towards Mothra's head, probing the depression that housed the giant insect's segmented eye. The caterpillar struggled still more violently beneath Bagan's weight. Gray-blue ichor wept from Mothra's ruined eye as Bagan withdrew his thumb, the jewel-like remains of the gouged eye still stuck to his black claw. The demon gave a satisfied snort.
Blasts of crackling lightning suddenly enveloped the gloating fiend. Shimmering pollen filled the air about Bagan and as the monster turned his head skywards, he could see the silver form of Armor-Mothra flying overhead, snake-like blasts of lightning dancing from her wings, reflecting off the pollen-like spores and slashing into the fiend's gray-hued body.
Bagan's own electrical fire began to build between his horns as the demonic beast's form was wracked by Mothra's blasts. Bagan let a torrent of electrical energy leave his central horn. The demon gave a bellow of agony as the electrical discharge was reflected back into his own form by the shimmering pollen. The blow toppled the beast from his perch astride the caterpillar's tail, knocking him into the ash-dust of what had been a stand of jungle trees.
The caterpillar weakly crawled away from its place of torment. The elder Mothra sent numerous blasts of searing light from her eyes into the toppled form of her daughter's tormentor. Clouds of sooty ash rose into the air, obscuring the demon's suffering.
Armor-Mothra could see her daughter as she painfully made her way to the massive paving stones of an ancient pavilion. The elder Mothra hovered over her daughter, letting a drizzle of faint blue pollen fall from her silvery wings. The soothing pollen landed on the caterpillar, and she raised her head slightly, her jaws opening in a mournful wail. Armor Mothra replied in kind, unable to generate enough of the pollen to heal her daughter's wounds. The elder Mothra let the tips of her wings touch the small caterpillar, trying to reassure the larva with her touch.
Armor Mothra remembered the death of her own mother. Driven to fight the evil Death Ghidorah, the ailing mother and premature daughter had been no match for the hideous spawn of King Ghidorah's tail. In the end, her mother had grabbed her and fled. Armor Mothra wanted to do the same, but she knew that she was too weak to get very far. All she could do was to try and hurt the demon enough that her daughter would be able to escape.
Armor Mothra uttered a series of chirps, urging her daughter to flee. The caterpillar chirped back, protesting, wanting to stay.
Neither saw the looming shape of darkness until it was too late.
Bagan let his roar crash upon the Mothras like a thunderclap even as his clawed hands grabbed Armor Mothra's body and flung her away. The silvery insect toppled end over end in mid-air before righting herself. Armor Mothra flew back at the malevolent dragon, blasting the horned demon with her prism beam, scoring his gray armor plates. Armor Mothra dove towards the brute, slashing at him with the razor-sharp edge of her wing. The armor on her wing crumpled from the impact. Bagan's shoulder was deeply gouged, a foul cut that bled a bubbling, fiery ichor that killed the ground it fell upon.
Mothra recoiled from the impact, stunned that she had not done more damage, not cut the killer in half. Bagan closed a clawed hand upon the wound, glaring at Mothra with rage and hate. The dragon's mouth gaped wide, a stream of fire slamming into Armor Mothra. The heat did not pierce the armored shell, but the impact propelled her backwards all the same. Her armor had withstood the gravity rays of King Ghidorah, it could withstand the demon's fire. Better than her daughter could.
Mothra flew around the enraged demon, drawing his fire, lashing out at him with ineffectual prism beams and energy blasts from her eyes. Mothra could sense her daughter slowly, painfully, scuttling away into the jungle. If she could only occupy the demon a little longer, keep his vile soul from thinking of his original victim.
Mothra stopped circling Bagan, a brilliant light growing around her silvery body. Mothra was employing her ultimate power, allowing her form to phase through reality. This was the power that had allowed her to overcome the timeless evil of King Ghidorah, to pass through the space monster's body and destabilize his molecular structure, causing King Ghidorah to both shatter and explode. Now, though in her weakened state it would kill her as well, Mothra would do the same to Bagan. Armor Mothra shrieked a final farewell to her daughter, to her priestesses Moll and Lora, and to the world she had loved so well and fought so long and hard to protect.
The shimmering form of Armor Mothra swept towards Bagan. The demon fired his electrical blast and fiery breath at Mothra, but the attacks passed harmlessly through her. With a final cry of defiance, Mothra let her body accelerate with a supersonic burst of speed that would send her crashing through the demon's body and send them both to their final rewards.
Or so it should have been.
Armor Mothra struck Bagan as if he was a brick wall. Instead of passing through the demon, she crashed against him. A field of crackling unholy energy sizzled through the demon's body, negating Mothra's energized state. The demon grabbed Mothra's head as the velocity of her impact pushed the monster back, his heels digging deep trenches in earth and ancient roadway alike. Violently, Bagan hurled his attacker away from him.
Mothra managed to remain airborne, turning to again confront the demon. She did not see the golden glow about Bagan's hands, did not see the beast swipe his paws in her direction. Two golden disks of energy sped towards Mothra. One grazed the side of her head, slicing through her vaunted armor, exposing a pulpy mess, the inside of her skull. The other slasher disk tore through her left wing, cutting it in half. With a cry of mortal agony, Mothra fell from the sky.
Bagan trod slowly towards the fallen guardian, relishing her pathetic attempts to rise again. The demon stomped his foot down, punching his taloned toes through the rainbow-hued skin of Mothra's wing. As he did so, the armor faded from Mothra's body, leaving her exposed and bloody before the gloating demon. Bagan stared into Mothra's eyes, fixing her with his gaze. Still with his eyes staring into Mothra's, the demon reached down and grabbed hold of her good wing, setting his other foot firmly upon Mothra's body, ignoring her attempts to slash his foot with her legs. The demon gave a tug, ripping the wing from Mothra's body.
Bagan stared into Mothra's eyes, ignoring her shriek of agony, as if gauging how much pain was left in her. The demon ignored the ball of energy that crashed against the back of his head, lost in the moment. The demon lifted his other foot and proceeded to rip away the other wing. The desiccated remains of Mothra shuddered, green pulpy ichor cascading from her wounds. Bagan locked his gaze with Mothra's gem-like eyes, watching as the blue light within them began to fade.
The demon ignored a frenzied series of energy balls that riddled his back and leaned over Mothra's head. The light was nearly out of his victim's multi-faceted eyes. Bagan drew his clawed hand back, then punched it through Mothra's left eye. For an instant, Mothra's body grew ridged, the light in the remaining eye blazing once more. Then, Bagan rose, wiping the shards of Mothra's eye on her furry carcass.
Now it was time to get back to his other playmate.
At a remote lake in southern Japan, two men stood, contemplating the still water. All around them, military personnel rushed about, hastily erecting barricades. Tanks and other armored vehicles rolled into position, all weapons trained upon the lake. The nearby town had been evacuated, its citizens told by the CCI that there had been a dangerous chemical spill in the area. The magic word 'cancer' had stifled any protest on the part of the townspeople.
'I am expending great effort here,' Katagiri said to the man at his side, favoring his companion with a dark look. 'These men and weapons had to be diverted from the Fuji plain forces. I am not entirely certain that the JSDF and UNGCC were satisfied with my appropriation of them.'
Katagiri's companion was a skeletal figure dressed in a black robe, a round black cap upon his skull-like head. Eiji opened his toothless mouth in a sneer. 'Who told you to bring them? They are here for your benefit, not that of this operation.' Eiji snorted, waving a skeletal claw dismissively at the assembled tanks. 'As if any of these would be of use against what I shall summon! Children's toys, Katagiri, nothing more. Science and technology are the playthings of idiots!' Eiji patted the leather-bound book Katagiri had, under the authority of the CCI, confiscated from the restricted section of Tokyo University Library. 'Sorcery, magic, that is real power!'
'Then let us hope your black magic is the equal to Kato's,' said Katagiri, not sharing his pet sorcerer's enthusiasm.
The Mothra caterpillar had started to flee, intending to loose herself in the jungle. Certainly there was fear enough in her heart to run from the demon. But the agonized cries of her mother, the prolonged torment of the elder Mothra had rendered her incapable of flight. She had tried desperately to gain the demon's attention, make him break away, give her mother a chance to die. She had failed, and in failing had made her mother's sacrifice doubly useless.
Bagan's eyes glared at the jungle, searching for his camouflaged prey. The slightest movement would betray her to him. Bagan let his fire scorch a section of forest. The demon turned from that direction and let his fire torch another section of jungle. It was a methodical business, but he would find the larva.
Seeing the demon's tactics, Mothra began to crawl away, knowing that speed, not concealment would be her only escape. Bagan caught the movement in the corner of his eye. He turned his entire body towards the escaping caterpillar. The dragon's jaws opened in a snarl of triumph. Five long strides brought the demon to his prey. Mothra shrieked as the claws dug into her body again. Bagan snorted.
The fight with the elder Mothra had tired the demon. He was not yet complete, his unholy powers not yet at their peak. He had no energy to savor the caterpillar's suffering. Bagan brought his clawed hands to either side of Mothra's head, pressing inwards, the first step towards crushing her skull.
The demon paused. He had promised this creature great suffering before he allowed it to die. Would he grant her the mercy of a quick death? Bagan relieved some of the pressure on Mothra's head. The dragon looked about the landscape, his gaze settling on the ancient ruins that had once been the hiding place of the heart of the dragon. Bagan shifted his grip on Mothra, claws digging into her sides again. The demon lifted her and marched toward the ruins.
Chief amongst the ancient Siamese structures was a towering temple, its stone spire reaching into the sky. Bagan lifted the struggling caterpillar over his head. With a roar, the demon slammed Mothra into the temple, impaling her body on the stone spire. The demon stood for a moment, watching the larva struggle, vainly trying to free herself. The monster drank in his victim's agony. Like this, Mothra would linger for days. Bagan snorted contentedly to himself.
Never looking back, Bagan lumbered off, his steps taking him northwards.
Kato stood watching Mothra struggle. Even the necromancer was impressed by the awesome power and brutality of this abomination he had called back from the depths of Hell. Even Kato felt a moment of doubt, wondering what he had done. But the moment passed. Regret was a human emotion, and it had been a hundred years since Kato had been remotely human.
Bagan would destroy the megalopolis, would level the obscenity that was Tokyo. Whatever else happened was none of Kato's concern.
The necromancer watched as Bagan lumbered off. The dragon was heading towards the next shard of his soul, the heart of the dragon, a gigantic emerald, embodiment of the aspect of earth. The dragon would then be as powerful as he ever was. Then he would seek the final piece, that which had only briefly been a part of him. The aspect of death. Then, no power in creation would be able to stop the beast.
Kato was roused from his thoughts when a dark shape fluttered towards him. The grotesque bird landed on the shoulder of his uniform, unfolding itself to become a sharp-toothed black monkey. The shapeshifter gibbered its message into Kato's ear. Kato's mouth twisted into a snarl, his gloved hand grabbing the demon. Kato tore the creature apart, letting the dark fragments of parchment flutter away in the wind.
The guardian of Lord Masakado Taira's grave was still defying him. The fool had gone to Okinawa, seeking the original Shisa. If he was successful, it was possible that he could succeed in awakening the ancient protector of Okinawa, King Seesar. King Seesar would be able to awaken other ancient monsters, assemble a new group of guardians to oppose Bagan. It was even possible that they would be able to again defeat the demon.
But Hoichi had not employed the Shisa yet. Kato would just have to ensure that he would never be able to.
The KNIFE team got out of the three sedans that had driven them away from the airport. The men stared at the ancient shrine that stood before them, tucked away in a forested outskirt of Naha. It looked like something from another time, unchanged by the long centuries since daiymos and shoguns had plotted the course of Japan's history. A high stone wall enclosed the large shrine and its grounds. The men found their eyes straying to the massive gate of the compound, the two gargoyle-like lions crouched at either side of the opening.
'No,' Hoichi said, as if hearing what the others were thinking, 'it would not be one of those. They would keep the true Shisa inside.'
The men advanced toward the gate, walking slowly. There was a sense of brooding expectancy about the shrine, as though it were waiting for something, marked for some event of great importance.
Leading the group, ex-CIA operative Peter Daxton stopped when he was met at the gate by five men wearing the garb of ancient samurai. He noted the hands of the Okinawans, each wrapped about the hilt of a traditional katana. Daxton favored the men with a nervous smile. The faces of the Okinawans remained impassive, expressionless.
'We are from the government,' Daxton explained. 'Part of the anti-kaiju effort.' Still, the expressions of the men did not change.
'Uh, Master Hoichi,' Daxton stammered, 'maybe you should talk to them.'
The old moustached wizard strode forward. As he did so, the armed Okinawans parted. A tall, muscular Okinawan stepped through the shrine guards. He was dressed, like the others, in traditional garb, a loose set of black pants, black sash, white shirt and sandals. Unlike the others, however, he carried no sword. Somehow that made the older man with his steel gray mane of hair seem even more menacing. His pale blue eyes considered the KNIFE team. The man's forehead was dominated by the white sash tied around his head, its center bearing a stylized representation of a Shisa statue.
'The Darkness gathers all unto itself,' the man's deep, barking voice intoned. 'The day passes and the long night casts deep shadows.' The Okinawan stared at Hoichi. 'It is in such an hour that our overlords, in their modern cities, remember the fables of their ancient slaves. The hour must be dark indeed when the master comes to beg at the door of his own property.' The old Okinawan turned his back to the men. '
'Go away,' he barked. 'Okinawa has no help to offer its oppressors. Prepare for death, and meet it with honor.'
'Yoshimitsu Satsuma!' roared Hoichi, storming forward. The guards fingered the edges of their blades, pulling them an inch from their scabbards. 'If you do this thing, if you turn us away, now, in this hour, you shall be guilty of destroying Okinawa as well as Japan! Do not be so selfish as to cling to your hate at this time when there is evil enough in the world without creating more in your own soul!' Satsuma turned, meeting Hoichi's wrathful glare. 'The Prophetess of Selgia has seen a vision of the demon. Opposing him was your own King Seesar! If you god is willing to oppose this evil, what right have you to turn us away, Yoshimitsu Satsuma?'
Yoshimitsu Satsuma was silent, the expressions of his guards still masks of inscrutable blankness. For a moment the Okinawan priest stood, his piercing gaze locked with Hoichi's stare. Then, at last, Satsuma turned, passing through the gate, back into the shrine.
'Come, gaijin. You may remain within the shrine,' Satsuma said over his shoulder. 'I shall meditate and consider what you have said. When I have reached a decision, you shall have my answer.'
As they passed the still silent guards at the gate, Phillipe Roche whispered under his breath to Aaron Vaught.
'Well, that was a friendly exchange. I can't wait to see what the food is like.' The Frenchman laughed. 'A really bad time to leave my poison-testing kit at Ogasawara.'
There was a great stretch of scorched and blasted earth, a desolate wasteland within the lush forests of Hokkaido. A few tanks and maser vehicles stood at the edge of the blasted heath, their crews idly playing cards or drinking sake. Normally there was a much larger and alert garrison stationed here, a first response force should the fiend stir. But most of the troops stationed here had been recalled to the massive military build-up on the Kanto plain. What was left were the dregs, a disillusioned rabble, second-string soldiers and washouts.
None of the guards noticed the small bat-like creature penetrate the perimeter they had established. None of them saw the same creature fly towards the massive mound of rubble at the center of the heath. None of them observed the dragonet land beside the enormous rune symbol at the center of the rubble. The two tiny riders on Garu-garu's back dismounted and walked onto the stone rune.
The two small women paced towards the center of the cross shaped rune. One of the fairies was dressed in a yellow, filmy garment. The other wore black leather armor and a spiked crown. The yellow fairy suddenly looked skyward.
'Moll, you have to help me,' the dark fairy said. 'You know that I cannot release him by myself.'
Moll turned, staring at her older sister. 'Mothra is in pain, so much pain. Belvera, I think she is dying.'
'We can't worry about that right now,' Belvera replied. 'There is nothing we can do to help her now. The only thing we can do is make certain that Bagan is stopped.'
Moll stepped towards her sister, standing at the opposite side of the gold metal disk fixed at the center of the seal. Belvera drew her sword, swiping it through the air in a series of mystic gestures. Moll began to sing. It was a dark, ugly song. The sort of music that would warm the heart of an ancient murderous ravager.
The seal began to glow. Belvera and Moll hastily retreated to Garu-garu. Belvera kicked the dragonet savagely in the side and the tiny creature quickly flew away from the seal.
A safe distance away, in the bough of an old tree, the two fairies watched as the light grew, expanding. Suddenly, there was a tremendous fireball, flame and smoke shooting into the sky. A trumpetting roar rolled out across the forest. Moll's eyes grew wide with horror as a horned, snake-like head rose from the ball of flame. A second soon followed it. At her side, a wicked grin spread across Belvera's face.
'What have we done?' Moll gasped as the third head rose from the smoke. Already, missiles and tank shells were striking the monster's body. It would only take the beast a few moments to become oriented, then his attackers would learn their folly.
'The only thing that could be done,' Belvera replied. 'The guardians are gathering once more. They will need Death Ghidorah's power to overcome the demon.'
'But how will we return him to his prison,' Moll wondered.
'We don't,' Belvera laughed. Moll stared at her sister, understanding and anger filling her face. 'Mothra is dead, her daughter is dying,' the black fairy sneered, returning to the saddle of Garu-garu. 'Now that he is free again, nothing will be able to put Death Ghidorah back in his cage!'
'You tricked us, Belvera!' accused Moll. 'Why?'
'You are far too fond of the humans,' retorted Belvera. 'They are responsible for the evil of this world. It is a human who was mad enough to free Bagan, to dare what even an oni would fear to contemplate.' Belvera kicked Garu-garu and the little dragon began to fly away. 'Death Ghidorah will help the guardians destroy Bagan. Then he will scour the planet of these filthy humans. And Mothra won't stop him this time!' The dark-garbed fairy urged her dragon to fly faster, darting toward the four-legged beast emerging from the smoke and fire.
'Belvera!' cried Moll. But if her sister heard her, she did not give any sign.