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Chapter THREE
Gods, Monsters, Wars

At 7 in the evening, the sun slowly sank below the horizon and the sky began to dim. The last rays of sunlight gradually precipitated into a pale golden shade that gently covered the earth. A robot hovered mid-air with the night sky as its backdrop. The three halos on its head poured out eerily bright light like three suns, looking particularly dazzling at dusk. Behind the halos was a huge trapezoid cloak, with its sides connected to plane-wings-like slender machine parts that extended outward from both sides of the robot’s body.

The robot slowly descended and landed on an open space in front of the Imperial Palace. As the haze dissipated, the robot’s appearance became clearer. It was covered in gold armor but was unlike any hi-tech creations like airplanes and spacecrafts, and instead gave off the vibes of an ancient civilization. Although it has a similar body structure to humans, the proportions and various rectangular and circular structures on its body have cast a mysterious veil on its unknown origin. If you observe carefully, you would find that there were flashing colored lights traveling back and forth in different parts of its body, and the paths in which those lights travelled seemed to spell out mysterious symbols or texts which could only inspire more pondering.

After a while, the monster stood up again and stared at the robot, as if it was thinking, and looked ready to go. The moment the two behemoths faced each other head-on, the air was filled with an indescribably strong sense of oppression, as if someone was tightly strangling the city’s throat. Everyone held their breath and waited for the scene to play out. The stand-off was so solemn that all onlookers had difficulty breathing. The two sides were in a stalemate for a while when suddenly the monster also flashed in colors. Even though they have very different appearances, people couldn’t help but to speculate whether there was some sort of connection between the two.

Although no one knew anything about this robot that appeared out of thin air, everyone still placed all their hopes on it, silently praying that it could defeat the monster and put an end to the disaster. They knew it may be the only hope to stop the monsters from ravaging Tokyo. The commentator named the robot “Susano” after a Japanese mythological figure, and named the monster “Orichi” after a monster that had fought Susano. Now, a battle between a god and a demon officially began.

Perhaps at the brink of despair, a “God” was the only and final refuge.

In order to closely film the situation then, the helicopter made a big circle from behind Orichi to its right but maintained a safe distance of a few kilometers. All of a sudden, bright red beams shot out from the monster’s eyes like lightning aiming for Susano’s chest. Almost at the same time, the three “solar halos” above Susano’s head moved to its chest in a blink of an eye, connecting with its gigantic wings to form an incredibly sturdy shield that perfectly withstanded Orichi’s attack. Orichi froze for half a second as if in shock before quickly growing dozens of golden spikes from its back, and striked at Susano again like resilient steel cords made of energy, but they were all blocked by Susano’s shield. This whole series of action happened so fast it was almost impossible for the naked eye to follow, and the TV channel had to supplement the footage with extremely slow motion play-back videos provided by the military so that the audience could just about make out the whole process of Susano’s defensive moves.

After two fruitless attacks, Orichi swiftly approached the left of Susano and initiated close-quarter combat. Orichi’s powerful hook landed heavily on Susano’s head with Susano taking the full brunt of it without being able to react in time. The force of impact was so immense that Susano was sent flying and was about to crash into the Tokyo Imperial Palace. Given its size, if it were to land on the palace, the following destruction would not only level the entire palance but also the nearby streets. And just at that moment, the three solar halos returned to Susano’s head and where their glow reached, it was as if a powerful gravitational field had instantly formed, pulling Susano’s body up to hover, sparing the Tokyo Imperial Palace from the impending destruction.

Susano regained its composure and spared Tokyo Bay a glance as it regained firm footing then extended both arms and swung. In response the three solar halos strung up in front of it and propelled fast towards Orichi, surrounding Orichi in the blink of an eye. Energy light cords connected the hoops, emitting electrical lights in all directions, restraining Orichi without making direct contact almost like an invisible force. No matter how desperately Orichi struggled, it couldn’t move an inch. Susano quickly tightened its fists and the hoop formed by the three solar halos began to constrict, binding Orichi like a rope, tighter and tighter. Orichi seemed to be in great pain and wiggled its body like crazy while letting out a horrendous scream that was so deafening it could tear up the entire space.

Seeing that Orichi was immobile, Susano jumped towards Tokyo Bay, dragging the light beam bound Orichi with it, and they landed on Tokyo Bay where it was far away from civilians. The speed at which they moved was so rapid that the Self-Defense Forces’ helicopter took a good while to catch up, all the while Orichi kept struggling against the solar halos’ control. A loud noise could be abruptly heard from the bay as the solar halo directly in front of Orichi couldn’t withstand its struggle and cracked, and the energy light cords connected to it also started to appear exceedingly unstable as if the connection could break at any moment now. Seeing this, Susano promptly put its fists together and concentrated, attempting to strengthen the solar halos’s seal through its mind. And that was the perfect moment for Orichi to fight back. It shot out red beams of light from its back as Susano wasn’t paying attention, and aimed for its hands. They were surprisingly lethal and actually managed to split Susano’s closed fists then pierced its chest.

It was a strike that met with no resistance.

As the energy light cord broke, the solar halos completely lost their ability to clamp down on Orichi. Like a machine that suddenly lost power, they fell into the sea one by one, causing a few splashes of water. Orichi, who broke free from the restraints, immediately jumped back on Susano, biting Susano’s neck like a hungry beast until it was unable to put up any resistance, and its entire neck was torn to pieces. The wiring inside its body was completely damaged and sparks flew everywhere.

The battered Susano half-kneeled in the center of the bay. It lowered its head and did not react at all. Even the light in its eyes was completely extinguished. The only hope to compete with Orichi and save Tokyo had expired. Even though not a drop of blood was spilt, people clearly realized that they had witnessed the fall of a “God”. Justice had utterly lost.

But will the battle end here?

Heavier firepower must be utilized in order to obliterate Orichi. The Self-Defense Forces had called for backup in advance, and two F35 fighter jets arrived at the scene in time and fired dozens of AIM-132 short-range missiles at Orichi. Missiles hit its back one after another, and the thick smoke generated by the bombing gradually enveloped the entire Tokyo Bay. People could not see Orichi’s reaction, and could only hear its painful wails. After a round of bombing, the howling gradually stopped. Because the thick smoke obscured the sight, the fighter jets could only tentatively approach Orichi to detect its status. Suddenly, a thick and long arm stretched out from the thick smoke without preamble. It grabbed the fighter jet in its palm like a toy and slammed it into another fighter jet, and the jets plummeted. It would appear that the missile bombing caused nothing but superficial injuries to Orichi.

Surprisingly, however, this round of bombing seemed to have given Susano just enough time to recover. Pushing up from the seabed with one hand, its huge mechanical body stood up again from the water, and the light in its eyes miraculously lit up again. After regaining consciousness, Susano seemed to have become more powerful, and even its damaged hands had somewhen returned to their original state. While Orichi’s attention was still focused on the fighter jets, it punched hard at Orichi’s abdomen, catching Orichi completely by surprise as it did not expect Susano to be able to keep fighting. With the element of surprise on its side, Susano focused again, gathered all the energy in its body into its fists, and made a final blow without holding back–

It grabbed Orichi’s neck with its left hand, and pulled back its right hand, with its fingertips straight away turning into one sharp blade, and the palm expanded downwards along the blade, turning into a wide double-edged sword glowing fiery red. The light, together with the blade, quickly spread to the entire forearm like a hand knife burning in flames. Susano plunged the sword straight into Orichi’s abdomen without second thoughts.

Orichi was unable to dodge in time, and seemed to suffer a heart-wrenching pain. Its face at once turned ferocious, with veins popping up on its neck. Yet it still stretched out its claws despite the pain, grabbed Susano’s neck, and fired several fluorescent green ropes from its back which wrapped around Susano’s body in an instant. It was obvious that Orichi wanted to use the same strategy to suppress its opponent. At the same time, Susano pulled the hand knife inserted into Orichi’s belly upwards, intending to disembowel Orichi alive, but Susano’s movement was visibly restricted by the rope, and Orichi refused to release its claws. For a good while, both parties used all their strength to restrain the other, and neither could move.

During this stalemate, the three solar halos that had fallen into the water resurfaced and floated above Susano and Orichi, shining an unusually brilliant and dazzling light downwards. Countless water droplets floated up from the sea, as if being pulled by an anti-gravitational force, floating closely together in the air and scattering the light from the solar halos in all directions, appearing almost dreamlike under the afterglow of the setting sun. As the light of the solar halos became brighter and brighter, Susano and Orichi were completely enveloped in it, making it impossible to make out what was in the light with naked eyes. The light gradually expanded into a huge sphere that looked like a burning miniature sun, too bright to directly gaze at.

Without warning, from the ball of light came a loud noise, and it disappeared into thin air from the water surface of Tokyo Bay as if it was sucked into a black hole, along with Susano and Orichi. The water droplets in the air evaporated into milky white smoke, and what remained were only slight ripples on the sea, breaking the reflection of the lavender-colored sunset into pieces and letting it be blown away in the wind. A crow stayed by the bay, staring at the ruins of the city from a distance. Suddenly it crowed, as if calling for something, but it received no response and so it flew away.

It had only been half an hour from the time Orichi appeared to the time it disappeared, but to the citizens of Tokyo, this half hour was like a trip to hell and back. Human beings experienced fear, panic, despair, hope, and finally returned to calm. They thought they could finally breathe a sigh of relief, but little did they know that after the calm, the real pain began. Just like when a finger was sliced by a knife, the brain had no time to transmit the message of pain, not until blood gushed out like a fountain and the severe pain finally flowed through the nerves throughout the body. Unfortunately, at that point, it would bring nothing no matter how much one licked at the wound.

“According to government statistics, more than a thousand people have died in this disaster, and thousands more have been injured. The number is expected to rise…” The sound of the news broadcast continued to echo in the ward. Not long ago, the family was celebrating Kokone’s birthday happily, but in the blink of an eye, Kokone’s father was separated from her by death. Countless families were also facing the same heartbreak. Kokone tossed and turned in her hospital bed, with tears on her face, unable to accept such a cruel fact.

“If it wasn’t for me, maybe nothing would have happened to Papa… If it wasn’t for me…”

If this living nightmare began after waking up, then Kokone would rather have her memory stay at the last moment with her father and to never wake up from her coma.

Keiko received a bag from a police officer outside the door, which contained the belongings Yota left at the scene. In addition to Yota’s briefcase and some personal belongings, there was also a brand new and exquisite toy robot in the bag, which seemed a little out of place with the other remains. Keiko held it in her hand and looked at it carefully. The robot had a round head and was very compact, about half the size of a hand. The pure white armor was adorned with sky blue and light yellow colors, and there was a pair of small wings on its back. On its ears and between its eyebrows were printed complicated patterns that looked like a foreign language, and it had a pair of big aqua blue eyes that were bright and lively. Vastly different from usual robots on the market that emitted a domineering and powerful aura, this one looked particularly cute. Keiko suddenly remembered something and returned to Kokone’s bedside.

“Kokone, this is what the police found at the scene. It is probably the little surprise Papa had prepared for you. I haven’t had time to say it, happy birthday, Kokone…” Keiko gently put the toy robot into Kokone‘s hands while trying hard to put on a smile, yet couldn’t help but burst into tears. “I’m sorry… No, Mama isn’t crying. Mama is also very sorry that Kokone’s thirteenth birthday could not be celebrated with the whole family…”

“Mama, it’s okay…” Kokone held the little robot in both hands and pressed it against her cheek. Her eyes were full of love, as if she could still feel the remaining warmth of her father’s palm through it. “Papa… Is this my last gift from Papa…” With this belated gift, Kokone’s mood was finally soothed a little. The little robot seems to have some inexplicable healing power, or maybe that was just a placebo effect. The mother and daughters always believed that Yota would silently protect the family in his own way, even if they were to be separated by death.

Seeing that the two sisters’ attention was distracted by the toy robot, Keiko breathed a sigh of relief, but an unprecedented feeling of hesitation also arose from within. From now on, in addition to taking care of her two daughters, the financial burden of the entire family also fell on Keiko’s shoulders. Since marrying Yota, Keiko had been a housewife for many years. As a wife and mother, she took care of the family’s daily life, their meals and all matters big and small. She had not been in employment since. How was she supposed to maintain her now family of three in the future, to bring food to the table and provide clothes on their backs? Just the thought alone was paralyzing.

Letting out a sigh, Keiko shortly closed her tired eyes and pulled Kokone and Sakura in for a hug, gently caressing their backs. The two sisters perhaps also sensed their mother’s worries and how lost she felt and so the three of them silently huddled together without saying anything further. They quietly prayed for peace and quiet in their post-disaster lives.