Outside of the collapsing second proto-space, the sky grew dark over the real city of Makassar. A beautiful sunset contrasted the horror below, with large portions left looking like the bombed-out capital of a failed state. When the sun had risen it had been a thriving city, one of Indonesia’s most secure safe zones – at least, publicly. The consequences of the Network and the Cabal waging war in the shadows had scarred the city with fire, destruction and death.
The Network and their military allies had acted quickly and international support was swiftly mobilised but the damage was largely done. The first proto-space emptied itself of monsters and the belated response was not enough to stave off disaster in a city of so many. Moves were rapidly made to secure the populace and contain the threat but the monsters were already loose.
Death and tragedy were everywhere, with too many civilians and not enough people to protect them. Mad panic clogged the streets before organised evacuations could be set up, leaving countless people out in the open. Only a tsunami of support from around Indonesia and its neighbouring countries prevented the city from becoming an abattoir.
The city was out of control but there was at least a sense of progress against the bronze-rank monsters of the first proto-space. The few silver-rank monsters had been a key priority, found and eliminated with overwhelming force.
Then silver-rank monsters started manifesting out of the second proto-space. The first proto-space had appeared at the south-east of the city, while the second covered the west and the north. The Network knew it was coming but had to direct the bulk of their forces toward the immediate threat. The second wave of monsters would be greater but people were dying to the first already. Even the minimal resources they dedicated to preparing for the second wave stretched them dangerously thin.
Despite the conflict between local Cabal and Network forces, they were forced to join hands against the danger. As international support started rolling in, the tension was somewhat alleviated as the reinforcements were a buffer between them.
Casualties amongst the Network teams started to tick up, as monsters started emerging from the second proto-space. Silver-rank monsters, in ever-increasing numbers, were not something that any Network force was equipped to handle. It became a race between international support arriving and the monsters of the second proto-space appearing, both escalating as one hour became two became three.
It was the first time a category four proto-space had reached the point of depositing its monsters, at least on dry land. The international response was likewise unprecedented as people and resources from around the globe descended on Makassar.
The head start the monsters had and the logistical problems of a densely-populated city made things hard for the Network forces. Lingering tension with their Cabal allies only added to already troubled communication as outposts were established around the city. Looming over all of it was the threat of the one or more gold-rank monsters the Network knew to be coming.
The decision was made to give up on trying to eradicate the monsters from the west and north until enough international support to sweep the silver-rank monsters without disastrous casualties. A defensive line was set up and the Network focused on evacuating as many civilians as possible either across it to the relatively secure parts of the city, or out of the city entirely.
The silver-rank monsters did not make the task easy and only so many people could be effectively evacuated. Despite rising casualties, the network kept going with desperation. On top of the silver-rank monsters roaming around, they had no idea when a gold-rank would appear. At that point, the section of the city it arrived in would be a full-blown war zone where any remaining civilians would be disregarded. Stopping any gold-rank monsters would be the priority, whatever the cost.
In the evacuation effort, the five Shade buses were present and active but far from the only magical vehicles. The fastest support to arrive from other parts of Indonesia and neighbouring countries were those with magical vehicles of their own. There were helicopters similar to Kaito’s and buses like Shade. There were cars and vans, armoured personnel carriers, planes, tanks and boats.
Shade was not even the only intelligent vehicle, although most were conjured and very much in need of drivers and pilots. They ranged in style from ordinary-looking vehicles to highly exotic. Some were sleek and futuristic while others looked like post-apocalyptic battle wagons. There were even plainly fantastical variations, such as a plane in the form of an iron eagle, complete with articulating wings.
Eventually, the horrifying decision was made to withdraw all forces from the zone around the second proto-space. Dinosaur monsters were pouring through sheets of rainbow light, the one-way apertures leading from the proto-space. All Network forces pulled back behind the established defence lines, with only drones being sent in to catalogue the threats and horrors beyond. The civilians left behind would have to find a place to hide, escape on their own or die.
At a command post, Asya’s role as an International Committee member was convincing branches outside of Indonesia to send whatever resources they could. China had completely denied having a secret weapon, as expected, although revealing that she knew managed to shake loose some of the powerful nation’s more public resources.
China had already sent a host of silver-rankers south, with more being prepped for departure. They were also sending a veritable arsenal of resources, from spirit coins to weapons to the results of their magical heavy weapons program. Missiles and vehicle-mounted weaponry designed to handle category four threats had been loaded onto transport planes and were en route.
Australia sent other assets, including a freshly bronze-rank Kaito. He flew north with a helicopter-load of the strongest silver-rankers Australia had to offer, including Farrah. Over the last eight months, Kaito had been practically force-fed monster cores and his bronze-rank speed got resources on-site with haste. On arrival, he was immediately recruited into the evacuation units, while Farrah was moved to the defence front.
Above the restricted zone, one of the drones monitoring the situation was a cutting edge, magically-enhanced, silver-rank surveillance model. It had even grounded some bronze-rank fliers by hitting their wings with its onboard weapon systems.
The early and timely arrival of several such drones was courtesy of the United States. What their operators were doing in the region with such advanced surveillance magitech had not been explained and, given the circumstances, no one asked.
The drone detected a category four magic surge, sending an alarm to its operator at a Network control post. The operator sent word and his small tent was soon crowded with people. The outpost commander, the tactical commander and the International Committee liaison all came in to watch the monitor, as did Farrah, who no one was stupid enough to try and stop.
“So this is it,” outpost commander said in a voice full of trepidation. “A category four.”
“Your friend Asano bought us valuable time,” the tactical commander told Farrah. “In those extra hours, the heavy weapons from China arrived. I sent coordinates and they’re being prepped for deployment.”
“We need to know what we’re dealing with,” the outpost commander said. “One of the dinosaur monsters, but bigger? Are we going to have some kind of Godzilla turn up?”
“Could be, given the size of that aperture,” the committee liaison said. On the screen in front of them, the rainbow light gold-rank aperture reached from the ground to the height of a four-storey building.
“I think one of the intelligent monsters is more likely,” the tactical commander said. “Probably their leader.”
The tactical commander had been focused on the intelligent monsters due to their organisation of the larger ones. Thus far, the smarter monster had been consolidating rather than making large moves, as if waiting or preparing for something. This had led to a theory discussed amongst the tactical commanders of the defence-line outposts that the gold-rank monster would be their leader.
Farrah remained silent. Rather than the gold-rank monster, there was someone else she wanted to see emerge from the proto-space. She already had people keeping tabs on the Shade buses, which were connected to Jason. They couldn’t communicate with him in the proto-space but they could at least sense his general condition. Farrah had made sure that if anything drastic happened, word would be sent to her.
Finally, something emerged from the rainbow aperture. It was diminutive compared to most of the dinosaurs but at twice the height of a human, it was undoubtedly monstrous. It staggered from the light, slow and awkward. As it moved stumblingly forward, barely staying on its feet, it revealed a zombie-like appearance, with almost half of its flesh stripped away.
It's left arm was gone entirely and the flesh from the left side of its head was stripped to the bone. It was clad in the twisted remains of armour, most of which was missing, revealing wounds that even silver-rankers wouldn’t live through. Its skeleton was on display in numerous places and it’s insides dangled out in front of it as it plodded one foot haltingly after the other.
“Undead? The outpost commander postulated.
“The drone is detecting life force,” the drone operator said. “That thing is somehow still alive. It’s in a bad way, though.”
“I think we can all see that,” the committee liaison said.
“It’s more than just what we can see,” the operator said. “Whatever happened to that monster left it with a severe magical deficit. It’s trying to absorb ambient magic to fuel its recovery but the ambient magic is too low. It’s a man dying of thirst in the desert.”
“You can tell all that?” the committee liaison asked. “How sophisticated is that drone?”
“I’m not at liberty to disclose that information.”
“What was able to do that to a gold-rank monster?” Farrah wondered aloud.
“We have been getting reports of monsters arriving already dead,” the tactical commander said. “The ritualists have been guessing that there’s a problem with the apertures. If that’s what happened to the gold-ranker, we may have just gotten very, very lucky.”
The tent got a little more crowded as Akari burst in.
“Is he back?” she asked Farrah.
“It turns out the gold-rank monster arrived all messed up,” Farrah told her. “The commander, here, thinks we got lucky.”
“You think it was Asano?” the commander asked. “Even if he’s the most powerful category two on earth, he’s still a category two. Doing that to a category four is impossible.”
“Impossible is kind of his thing,” Farrah said. “He does the impossible and then follows it up with either something idiotic or…”
She grinned as a dark shape emerged from the rainbow aperture.
“…an obnoxiously dramatic entrance.”
They watched the drone footage as a large bird made of star-filled darkness flew slowly out of the rainbow light. It circled in the air over the gold-rank monster as the light inside collected together into two points, close together. The darkness reshaped itself into a cloak, fully enveloping a humanoid figure. The two points of light inside the hood were its only feature, forming a pair of bright silver eyes.
“The fidelity on this drone camera is amazing,” the committee liaison said.
“That’s what you took away from what you just saw?” the outpost commander asked.
“I just think we could really use some of these,” the liaison said. “Who do I talk to about getting some?”
“You would have to speak to my commanding officer,” the operator said.
“And how do I contact them?”
“I’m not at liberty to disclose that information. The monster appears to be speaking, so I’m activating audio surveillance.”
On the screen, they saw the monster talking. As the audio kicked in they heard guttural words in a growling language, spoken in a voice filled with rage and pain.
“Does anyone understand that?” the tactical commander asked.
“It’s hard to tell,” Farrah said. “A lot of its mouth is gone, but I believe it said something about killing Jason over and over.”
“I warned you,” Jason told King. “Your demise would be ugly and killing me would accomplish nothing.”
“I’m not done killing you!”
Despite his words, King was a spent force, barely able to take staggering steps in Jason’s direction. He conjured up a sword not for a weapon but for a walking stick, which proved to be a mistake when expending the mana worsened his condition. His recovery attribute was the hardest hit by the weak ambient magic and the one he needed the most. It was also the one most reliant on ambient magic, however, which left King’s path to recovery cut off.
“I CAN’T BE KILLED BY THE LIKES OF YOU,” King screamed, as much plea as assertion.
“I sympathise with your fate, so I’ll make it as quick and painless as I can.”
Jason raised an arm, pointing it at a spot over King’s head.
“Mine is the judgement, and the judgement is death.”
He brought his hand down like a gavel as transcendent light shone down from the sky onto the almost helpless King.
The spell was not boosted by any of Jason’s abilities yet was the single most powerful casting of his execute Jason had ever done. Execute powers inflicted exponential damage based on the condition of the target and the gold-ranker had survived damage that would kill any silver-ranker, monster or essence user. Half of King’s flesh was already gone and he looked more like an unliving revenant than a living creature.
Even if Jason didn’t have the ability to bypass rank suppression, the transcendent damage of his spell did. King was completely obscured in the radiant light of gold, silver and blue. When the light faded away, even the gold-rank monster had been unable to withstand it and was completely gone.
- You have defeated [King of the Dinosaurs].
- You have acquired a new title: [Giant Slayer].
- [King of the Dinosaurs] has been wholly annihilated. It has been looted automatically.
- [Armour of the Dinosaur King] has been added to your inventory.
- [Monster Core (Gold)] has been added to your inventory.
- 10 [Gold Spirit Coins] have been added to your inventory.
- 100 [Silver Spirit Coins] have been added to your inventory.
- 1000 [Bronze Spirit Coins] have been added to your inventory.
- 10000 [Iron Spirit Coins] have been added to your inventory.
- You have defeated a significantly more powerful enemy. Your [Defiant] ability has refined additional loot from [King of the Dinosaurs]:
- [Soul-Imprinting Triune] has been added to your inventory.
- 100 [Gold Spirit Coins] have been added to your inventory.
- 1000 [Silver Spirit Coins] have been added to your inventory.
- 10000 [Bronze Spirit Coins] have been added to your inventory.
- 100000 [Iron Spirit Coins] have been added to your inventory.
Jason had not needed to breathe for more than a year, but he took a long, deep breath and slowly let it out. In the wake of his transformation and return to physical form, his body felt like lightning was running through it.
A horrified scream rang out and he turned his head. The drone he sensed hovering in the air was not the only thing drawn to the gold-rank aperture and Jason turned to see one of the intelligent, silver-rank dino-men looking at him in aghast disbelief.
Jason conjured his dagger and went to work.