[ Against all odds ]

CHAPTER FOUR: CALAMITY

Near Musutafu, Japan

-Kēosu Village-

Life for the great people in the small, rural village of Kēosu could be described as easygoing and unremarkable. Being within driving distance of most wards, it was a great choice for those old souls who wished to live away from the loud hustle and bustle of city life.

With a population barely holding at 200-plus souls, it was by no means what you'd consider a lively or truly busy locale. Many chose to retire and live their golden years here, and for good reason; the stunning, lush mountainside scenery gave way to sloping hills that led into central Musutafu, and further beyond, the sprawling, gorgeous deep blue of the Pacific ocean. Year after year, springtime would fill the vibrant greenery with an array of stunning colors that would draw countless visitors and aspiring photographers alike. Truly worth every yen.

The last faint, orange-tinged sunrays struggled to peek over the cloudy horizon as the evening hours settled in, and with that, the few signs of life and activity faded as well. Nocturnal critters stirred awake, their calls echoing loudly throughout the slumbering village as the moon slowly but surely rose over the horizon to cast its beautiful glow upon it.

Kēosu was, in all aspects, the epitome of peace and serenity. Crime rates were abysmal; a fact plainly displayed with their choice to use a small, century-old decrepit building as their Police Force station with just enough square footage to comfortably house two to three deputies. A couple of holding cells sat at the station's very back, able to hold six prisoners at full capacity; something which had yet to happen in their history.

Currently, a single young man was on duty.

Officer Mori Kisho let out a hearty yawn, leaning back against the uncomfortable, raggedy sofa in the station's lounge room. Across from it rested one of their main connections to the outside world, sitting over a small coffee table; a banged up, low-quality old school 20-inch TV. The only redeeming quality the heap of junk had was that they could attach streaming devices to it, greatly extending the lifespan of the antique(and their own sanity). Next to the sofa sat one of their two work desks, currently repurposed to house their aging radio equipment and emergency dispatch system, both deathly quiet and on stand-by. He couldn't remember the last time one of those things had gone off for a true local emergency.

"You've got to be kidding me. No new episodes out today for anything?" He groaned in disappointment, scratching at the stubble on his chin as he browsed through the digital library of their Ruuku streaming stick for the second time that night. Hell, he'd settle for mediocre right about now.

After all of the recent excitement on the news, everything just felt downright bland.

Earlier today, news had broken through about what had happened in the nearby ward of Mirai. He had been hooked from the get-go, excitedly listening into the Police Force broadcasts until the very end. Details had been left intentionally scarce, but whatever it had been set off a flurry of EMS calls, and a crapload of officers was dispatched there, including the freakin' FRU.

Some of the stations reported an explosion of some sort and a widespread power blackout, although they were not certain about its origin. There were no casualties, thank goodness. A prominent TV network was able to capture some drone footage of an impressive gaping hole in the wrecked street before all transmissions were forcefully cut off by the Police Force's cyber squad. Public updates were promised, but nothing had come through yet. Typical.

Of course, the men of Kēosu's Police Force were not needed or called to action, ever.

Although it sounded bad and awfully morbid, it was in times like this that Mori wished something interesting and exciting would happen in this boring village. This place needed something to liven it up a notch. He was jealous of the other two officers out of town right now.

He yawned, setting up the app to replay of one of his favorite TV shows. Within minutes, his eyelids grew heavy, his cap flopping over his forehead as boredom finally took its ultimate toll. The officer was down for the count and snoring away in seconds.

If only he knew his wishes were about to come true...


A few miles to the southwest of Kēosu's sparsely populated city limits, the heavens rumbled. Residents of the village passed it off as the sounds of an airplane, or perhaps a pop-up thunderstorm in the more humid mountain range inland.

Officer Mori slept through it.

Intensifying with every passing moment, the rumbling turned into a raging roar just as the firmament above lit up with the brightness of a cloud-to-ground lightning strike. Illuminating a large chunk of the vicinity as if it were mid-day, it then attracted the attention of the slumbering townsfolk as even the ground itself began to tremble in protest of the events unraveling for a second time today. The anomaly took physical form as a pitch-black maw that spread rapidly across the dim, starry firmament. Lightning arced around it, swirling inwards as if it were the turbulent eye of a cyclone.

That jolted officer Mori awake.

A burning, streaking ball of fire shimmered into existence at its very edges, getting spit out with incredible force. It let out a sonic boom as it gained speed upon getting repelled by the aberration, streaking in a downward arch as it left a trail of incinerated debris on its wake. At this point, stargazers throughout Musutafu had taken notice of the incredible light show unfolding over the mountains, believing it to be a harmless, stray shooting star being torn apart by the atmosphere.

Nearing and going beyond its structural limits, the transport began to shed bits and chunks of its outer hull until it split itself apart a hundred feet above ground level, the sheer velocity of its destruction setting off a tremendous downward air burst that stripped bare most of the trees below.

Two smaller devices shot out of the wreckage's unraveling remains, emerging mostly unscathed to spiral out of control. On their uncontrolled descent, they smashed against each other and the burning transport remains in an utter display of chaos. Driven by the immense momentum imparted upon them by their rough exit, they buried themselves deep into the beautiful, mostly untarnished forestry below.

Their impact had devastating effects.

A quarter-mile worth of flora and fauna were irreparably ravaged in an instant by the combined energy from the meteorite-like strike and concussive shockwave. Whatever had remained upright during the initial air burst was outright flattened and mashed apart, with even the thickest, well-set trees getting uprooted and launched away from the epicenter as if they were mere twigs.

Unfeasibly overheated as they were in their earthly graves, the burning wreckages spread forth an unholy inferno into their surroundings. The weightless cinder and enkindled organic matter were easily carried out and away by the wind, fueling the spreading ocean of death further.

Silence took an unnerving hold of the wreckage, with the smoldering, partially melting remains of the two pods remaining in place, unmoving. The eerie stillness continued for what seemed like an eternity, the entire forest devoid of all of the typical sounds of nature and life.

Within the least damaged of the two pods, a set of cerulean eyes ignited with a fierce, ethereal glow.

Boom.

An abnormally large boot effortlessly emerged from the device, turning its entry point into an airborne, twisted mess of metal that landed a few hundred feet away. Pulling his massive frame out of the useless transport, he stepped out and into the unknown. The softened, cherry-red superheated steel groaned beneath his feet as his considerable body weight shifted and bent it apart.

Thick plumes of smoke, embers, and soot climbed into the evening sky, blotting out the moonlight as the blaze continued to spread unabated. Every so often, a flare-up would offer a brief glance of his mangled form, the crimson glow from the raging inferno getting reflected off parts of his left cheekbone, mandible, and side of his skull where he was missing layers of flesh and tissue.

He paid no attention to the ever-thickening blanket of particles obfuscating his surroundings, for his vision was unaffected. Those calculating eyes remained alit like lanterns through the tenebrosity, cautiously scanning the environment.

With his safety ascertained, he moved on to locate his brethren. Within half a second, he had detected the faint energy signature. His boots crunched loudly against the compressed, burnt earth beneath, and every obstacle blocking his path got punted aside with his momentum and minimal energy exertion. A few flames licked at his legs and torso, yet he paid them no attention; his body remained intact.

There it was.

Including life support and vital nourishment, the pod was much thicker than his own by about a foot in diameter. The hull had suffered significant damage, taking the brunt of it through the turbulent crash. It was bleeding power at an accelerated, unsustainable rate.

Sensing his presence, the energy fluctuations within spiked. It was awake and actively developing.

Digging his bulky fingers into the outline of the pod's hinges, the metal gave way without resistance. It warped outwards and away as it was forcefully ripped off its rails, the half-ton of steel getting flung aside for him to gaze at what was of interest within it.

The pod's interior was round and heavily padded, providing significant room for the full growth of its passenger if given enough time. Both serving as a gestational chamber and transport, it was much more advanced—and frail as a result—than his own. A dull green creature rested within, its large head sporting two spotted protrusions. It fluttered erratically, its large bug-like eyes sealed shut. Life support systems surrounded it, with many transparent, hollow tubes pulsating as they provided it with a liquefied nutritional concoction into its bulging abdomen for rapid development.

Prior to impact, it had been contained within a round, spiked, hyper-dense chitinous shell, which rested cracked open and discarded under its insectoid body. Due to the abrupt circumstances and imminent pod failure, the lifeform was forced to expel the casing, forcing itself through a fast metamorphosis to ensure its own survival. It was rapidly transitioning from a miniature soft-bodied larval form into a better protected, scarab-shaped body coated in a cocoon-like exoskeleton, sacrificing limited mobility for rapid growth.

"Your current form is deficient." The one looming above remarked with a hint of disappointment, glowing eyes peering through the immobile creature. "Even after your emergence from this stage, you will still be imperfect. I have seen your schematics."

A set of beady, light roseate sclerae snapped open with a wet crack. Underdeveloped yet cunningly malicious slit-eyes glared up with pure hatred, crusty tissue spewing out of them as it put the organs to use far too early. Its frustration was palpable, even though it was too premature to communicate or lash out verbally. It would show this inferior fool soon enough who was the superior being!

He disregarded the angry looks thrown his way, raising a faulty hand to scrutinize it. Each finger was moved deliberately, and through their range of motion, abnormal twitches and tics emerged sporadically. "It is not only you enduring this plight of inadequacy."

It let out an outraged screech from the forming orifice soon to become a rudimentary mouth, as it siphoned more and more energy from its pod. Deep within it thrummed the desire to grow, get stronger, become perfect. So much potential was intertwined into its DNA from the best fighters in the world! It was just a matter of minutes before it would be ready to move forth into its next stage of evolution, and then this blasted fool would become its first meal!

He shifted his gaze back to the creature."We were built for similar purposes. To grow, develop, turn into something greater. To destroy our enemies. Unfortunately for you, your main nutrition sources are not here."

It let out another foul screech of defiance. However, the weight and significance behind the spoken words sank in after some time, and the insect's wild, angry trashing halted. Its eyes twitched in confusion.

"Allow me to explain; I am capable of detecting fellow creations. The two designated sources for your evolution have been terminated or do not exist here." He stated bluntly.

That was impossible. They had to exist. It would seek them even if it had to burn down the world in the process. Perfection would not elude it!

Those blue eyes did not blink nor move, fully locked onto the reptilian ones below as they bore right through the creature. "Due to the varied genetic material and organic assimilation suites within you, I am certain you would surpass me if given enough time, even without consuming significant resources."

'Of course, you blathering fool! I am perfection incarnate!'

A very faint frown marred his prominent brow ridge, conflict arising from within. "I can sense subroutines within my source code resurfacing; they attempt to force me to protect you until you've reached perfection."

'Yes, the way it should be!' Maybe he would be useful.

He balled his fist, a scowl flaring through his neutral expression. "Our creators underestimated my abilities; I have now purged them permanently. In every scenario I've run where I allow you to live and evolve, you have betrayed me, resulting in my untimely termination."

'Why you-damn you!' It tried to scream, to no avail.

"This cannot be, Cell." Something sinister sparked behind those eyes, his hand moving down to hover above the prone, underdeveloped creation. Out of his open palm, a red, crystalline device ripped through the skin, dark tendrils comprised of twitching nano-machinery extending outwards, greedily elongating towards their helpless target.

"Unlike you, my recently acquired abilities are rather primitive and restricted. In that aspect, I am indeed inferior to you. However, I cannot and will not allow you to surpass or terminate me, and I am certain I can use a portion of your raw materials for my own advancement."

Its wild trashing resumed with renewed vigor as it grasped the imminent danger it faced. Out of resources, the lit interior of the pod dimmed and sputtered out, the last shreds of gooey, green nutrients flowing through the clear tubes and into the ravenous abdomen of the transforming cocoon. They popped off as small cracks started to form on its outer temporary shell, a new, gleaming bright green speckled exoskeleton peeking through its collapsed bits.

Cell's pseudo-mouth broke free as its mind surged with emotions it had yet to experience in its short lifespan, the tissue tearing apart as a hoarse and distinctively male-sounding "No!" erupted out of it. Its old exoskeleton crumbled away further, and through that, a new body sprung forth, gaining more humanoid features. A sharp, prehensile tail unfurled, on its end resting a beige colored nub that began to swell and sharpen into its most formidable tool.

Aware of the danger it posed, the other had to take immediate action against it. Dodging three consecutive stab attempts, he grasped the needle-like appendage with moderate force. A snap ensued from within it, rendering it harmless for the time being. Cell let out a rasped cry of pain as it tried to will its arms to strike against the attacker. Unfortunately, they only let out a few spasmodic twitches.

He noted Cell's power had now quadrupled, even as its body looked so fragile. It was now tapping into the deep wells of ki that were blooming within from all of its borrowed genetic samples. With a final scan for further changes in its DNA, Cell was deemed evolved enough for processing.

A sharp yank severed the absorption organ, and it was thrown away far enough it could not be reattached for good measure. With its most formidable offensive weapon crippled, he shifted his large frame to lay a boot on Cell's torso, using his foot to twist the insectoid's body into its more vulnerable side, exposing a portion its pseudo-thorax. He dug his foot hard against it, pinning it down with a good portion of his massive body weight.

"B-astarrrd!" The green insectoid growled as green fluids gushed out its mouth, its lungs threatening to collapse with the sheer pressure applied to the vulnerable, slowly fracturing exoskeleton. Verdant blood leaked freely from the severed tail nub as well, further complicating its dire plight. Its frightened eyes were fixated on the moving tendrils surrounding the crystal on its fellow android's hand, now uncomfortably close to its head.

It wasn't meant to end like this. This blasted android was not meant to have these abilities! What in the hell was the computer thinking? Cell should reign supreme. He had to reign supreme, for he was the perfect being! No other android in this or any other godforsaken world would ever surpass him-

Four diamond-sharp proboscises launched forward, impacting and drilling into Cell's skull, the strong bone-like chitinous layer proving useless against them. Its eyes widened further, mouth hanging open with a mix of stupefaction and indescribable pain as his body went stiff, paralyzed by unknown means. The glistening crimson crystal was now a mere inch or two from his skull, glowing with malevolent intent, the probes pulling the Bio-Android even closer for processing. Even at this distance, he could feel rivulets of energy being pulled into it.

He tried with all of his might to shift his body away from it one more time-

A sickening, slurping crunch resonated through the dead, burning forest.

Cell could only gaze into the merciless eyes of his fellow android; the one meant to protect him, to ensure he'd reach perfection. Little by little, he could feel the power he had craved and longed for within abandoning him, all of his insides being ground apart and drawn away.

It couldn't end like this! He was perfection! He...

His newly developed, lively green exoskeleton withered away, the color fading into a sickly olive hue. Whimpering sounds of helplessness escaped his malformed mouth, and like a terrible fulminant tumor, the body decay intensified even further. Drained of most of its internal vital mass and resources, the frail outer shell turned an ashy grey, the blight claiming his unfurling insectoid legs, slowly climbing upwards into its abdomen.

It couldn't be...this pain...!

The essential bio-mechanical portions in his body screamed needless warnings at him, as he felt with utter despair how every shred of what made him himself was being scrutinized, bisected and cleaved apart with inhuman speed and apathy. What the other android found useless or incompatible was discarded and outright purged as scrambled DNA strands he'd be unable to recompile.

A brilliant and cunning strategy he'd be rather impressed with if it wasn't currently dismantling him at the cellular level.

Deep, hollowing cracks formed in his abdomen, the decay making it collapse upon itself. Refusing to give up, he diverted his ki into the Namekian heritage in his blood, desperately attempting to rebuild the lost appendages and torso. When that did not work, he focused what little power remained within to sustain his cores and vital organs instead, and above all, his ultimate survival. Perhaps if his tail-

"Do not fight it, Cell. Embrace your end." The giant's voice was getting muffled as Cell's senses dulled, but he could still make out the infuriatingly fake soothing tone he was trying to use to persuade him.

"Abssso...lu-tely...not!" Cell growled out through hissed, labored breaths. The conviction did not reach his thoughts any longer, the few embers of hope flickering and dwindling away with his receding awareness. Try as he might, the primordial genetic data for cellular development simply wasn't there anymore—for every fraction of tissue that emerged anew, twice as much went away, drawn into the ever-growing, terrifying vacuum pulling at his very being. Every cell taken away stripped a part of his intelligence, his personality...everything.

Was this what it felt like when you were dying?

Most of his exoskeleton was now a clump of drying ashes in the pod's cabin, with Cell's mostly intact head and a small portion of what passed as a neck beginning to disintegrate. Those reptilian eyes shifted around wildly, his vision now deserting him as well.

Was it all over? How could this be? He was...

His name was C...Cell.

He...he couldn't... –

–The blighted decay overtook his cranium, his eyes melting and falling apart into a goopy mess below as the last of vision faded with the remaining shreds of his consciousness.


Mori Kisho dashed out of the police station, hastily shouldering the main doors in his rush make it outside. He slowed down at the very last moment, saving himself from taking a painful tumble down the dark, sprawling brick steps leading to the parking lot. A line of large trees gracing the building's front yard blocked his view, forcing him to keep jogging out to the road until he had a clear line of sight to the skies.

There. He gasped, catching a glimpse of an object burning up, its descending path setting it to crash awfully close to the village a few miles from him. Before it even had a chance to hit the ground, it set off a burst of wind that slammed the street with enough force to make the lighting system waver and flicker. He warily stepped back and away from the shaky power lines.

Boom. A flash of light surged deep in the mountains, making the ground shake hard enough to make him lose his footing. Another gusty breeze hit him seconds later.

"Jesus..." He breathed out, both hands raised to cover his face from the clouds of dust. His heart was still pounding hard in his chest as the tremors receded. "What was that?"

"Kisho, what in the hell is going on!?" A sleepy, grouchy, and very startled voice called out of his radio.

Kisho straightened at once. "No freakin' clue. Just got out on the street. Looked like a darn meteorite burning up or something. It crashed real close, maybe a few miles away. I'm going to take a look just to be safe." His eyes were still glued to the smoky outline above. There was a glimmer of excitement fluttering in his heart at the prospect of exploring the unknown. He still restrained himself from letting those emotions take hold; what if it was a plane crash?

The man on the other side of the line yawned, grumbling something under his breath. Once the potential severity of the situation pierced through his drowsiness, his casual tone dissipated. "If we could feel it, it's too damn close for comfort...I'm getting ready. I'll send a request to Musutafu dispatch for backup just in case. Forward any calls their way too. Let me know the location and I'll meet you there in five to ten. Be careful, Kisho. Tensei out."

"Yes sir, will do." Just as he let go of the radio's button, the phones at the station began to ring repeatedly. He wasted little time jumping into one of the cruisers, booting up the onboard laptop to set up the forwarding of all calls to Musutafu's larger and better-suited dispatch network. With his superior relaying the details to them, he set off in his search through the dimly lit streets in town.

He really hoped it wasn't a plane crash. His fingers tapped repeatedly against the steering wheel, his anxiety spiking through the roof as his mind overflowed with tragic scenarios and the fear of losing the trail.

For the first few minutes, he was able to easily move in its direction. Once the smoke started to fade away he had to rely on his own knowledge of the village's tricky, maze-like roads to keep moving towards it. Even then, he found himself backtracking on multiple occasions.

Turning into another street with a clear view of the skies, he slammed on the brakes. He frowned, noticing a dim orange glow was starting to overtake the pervasive darkness in the forest. Its glow intensified, and then wisps of gray smoke began to rise through the treeline. As if on cue, the street lighting ahead sputtered and died out. In the new, sudden darkness overtaking the neighborhood, the sky itself turned red.

A shiver ran down his spine as the realization hit him: Kēosu was burning.

"Fire..." Mori murmured blankly into his radio, unable to look away.

"Huh?" His superior blurted out in bewilderment. "Fire? Kisho, what in the hell is going on!?"

Tensei's voice shook him out of his stupor. "The damn forest is burning!"

"Shit! Where are you at?!"

"I'm..." Kisho looked down at the cruiser's navigation suite. The GPS was offline, giving off a no signal warning. "You've got to be kidding me! We got no navigation!"

"Go find a damn street sign then, dumbass!" Tensei all but yelled at him, the sound of his own cruiser's tires squealing going off in the background.

Kisho squinted hard, trying to spot any road signs in the area. His headlights could barely pierce through the dark now that the roads had no lighting. He kept driving until he got to an intersection, where he was forced to turn on his swiveling spotlight to illuminate the rusted, faded sign. "Got it, it's down Kizachi Street!"

"Kizachi-" Tensei cursed upon recognizing the secluded area. "Kisho, that's by the old mills! There are a few houses down that way! Send a distress call to the fire department and Hero Network and ping them through your radio, it should still work. That's the only road down that place. I'm already on my way!"

"Working on it now." Kisho nervously fumbled with the device in his cruiser, typing out a hasty, urgent request to both networks. Digging his foot into the gas pedal, he engaged his emergency lights and siren, speeding off as fast as he could towards the ominous glow.

The road ahead became more and more difficult to traverse as he approached the impact site, with broken tree limbs and debris coating the two-lane street, forcing him to swerve frequently as he moved forth. He was able to travel a few hundred meters further until the roads became impassable near ground zero, his cruiser shuddering away as it ran over the worsening, uneven terrain. Old asphalt gave way to dirt and rocks as he approached what looked like a warzone right out of a movie. By now the skies were positively ignited with a terrifying crimson light.

Mori gulped, reluctantly grabbing his gun holster and first aid kit. He attached them to his belt, cautiously stepping out of the safety of the cruiser, making sure to send out a final location ping for the emergency crews before moving out. His feet felt heavy as trepidation coursed through his thoughts. He was completely out of his environment here.

Up ahead and through the shattered hillside, he could see the massive walls of deadly fire engulfing the destroyed treeline, with a large portion of the forestry around him bare of any leaves, broken, or outright gone. Luckily, the wind direction was favoring the fire's movement away from his position, so for the moment he and the homes behind him weren't in imminent danger. Sweat was already pouring down his face; the heat being given off even at this distance becoming unbearable.

Peering beyond the desolate slopes in search for the source of this incident, he was able to make out the vague shape of a crater. Within it rested an object, surrounded by flames. It didn't look like a meteorite; it was elongated in shape and parts of it gleamed like steel as if it were the hull of-

His heart skipped a beat. Was it a small airplane? Someone could be hurt in there!

He took a deep breath, willing his feet to hesitantly move forward-

-and immediately stopped, his body stiffening as he perceived upward movement out of the corner of his eye.

A dark figure arose through the flames.

"What the hell?" Mori muttered, physically recoiling as a foreboding chill traveled down his back.

The silhouette ground to a halt just above the blaze, its outline deeply contrasting against the infernal glow behind it as it observed the event unfold, seemingly captivated by the hellfire consuming the village. From this distance, Mori could only discern the eerie, almost unnatural gleam emanating out of their eyes.

He didn't dare breath nor move.

Suddenly, that sinister, unblinking glow shifted and focused solely on him. The gaze then drifted to Mori's side.

Mori hissed out a curse, his head turning to his cruiser's flashing lights. Shit. His legs refused to move, a terrible pit of fear settling itself in his chest.

He reached for his service weapon and radio.

Tuning the device to the general broadcast channel, he took a few steps back before speaking, his voice shaky. "This is officer Mori Kisho of the Kēosu Police Force requesting backup! Something's crashed into our outskirts near the mills by Kizachi Street! Potential casualties! We got a large wildfire, and—and there's someone out there! They...they're floating right over the fire!"

His incredulous voice trailed off, the grip on his radio slipping as his knees threatened to buckle upon looking back up. He had dropped his gaze briefly, for no more than a second or two to adjust the radio frequency before broadcasting. In that time, they—scratch that, the man—had reappeared within striking distance from him without making a sound. With the fiery blaze as his background, Mori could only focus on those uncanny rings of light that bore right through him.

"You...you s-stop right there! Hands where I can s-see them!" Mori ordered shakily, his hands trembling as he aimed his weapon up at the suspect's torso, trying his best to keep his composure through the turmoil raging within and around him.

The warning was unheeded. The unknown assailant stomped towards him, the difference in height becoming painfully obvious now as his intimidating, bulky form towered over Kisho by at least a foot or perhaps more. His sizable boots sank a few good inches into the dirt with every step.

"Where am I?" The man queried casually, his tone abnormally serene and vacant. He threw an apathetic glance at Kisho's weapon.

"I said stop! I will shoot! Dispatch! The suspect is a male, hostile! We need—" Mori shouted as he stepped back further, his speech halting as he bumped his back against the open door of his cruiser. He was cornered.

Before he could resume the transmission he was interrupted by the giant, his voice now laced with impatience as he moved into his personal space. "I will not ask again. Where am I?"

Mori cursed, switching off his handgun's safety as he braced for what might come. The man disregarded the warning, stepping even closer. "Back off...I said back the hell off! Now!"

Another step; a twig snapped loudly beneath his boot.

Two crisp shots rang out.

Crack.

The officer let out a distressed whimper, his eyes slowly traveling down his arm to the source of agonizing pain. His hand was firmly grasped and engulfed within the assailant's own, getting effortlessly crushed. His fingers were bent and misshapen, wrapped unnaturally around the handgun. The high-grade steel put little to no resistance either, its twisted, flattened barrel poking out through the gap between the man's fingers. Sparing a blurry, teary-eyed glance at the sites where the man should have been wounded at, he found no trace of any injury whatsoever.

Through the flickers of light brought by the flames, Mori got a brief glimpse of a deep scowl. His eye sockets were ominously dark and sunken against the contrasting brilliant blue. "You will tell me where I am...now."

Crunch. Metal, tissue, and bone blended together in ways they shouldn't. Mori's knees gave out as he blacked out. Between lapses of consciousness, he screamed, and he did so until his throat was raw. The hold was unrelenting, and in the end, he was forced to spit out the words through grit teeth, sweat, and tears, his awareness ebbing through it all. "Kē...Kēo...su!"

"Elaborate. City, continent. Now." The sickening sound of compressed metal and flesh assaulted his ears again. Pain blossomed in his mangled hand, the pressure against it increasing yet again when he thought it couldn't worsen. He couldn't even concentrate enough to activate his Quirk to defend himself. Would his claws even do anything to this monster?

Mori's unfocused, swollen eyes snapped open, a shred of lucidity pushing through. "Please, please...stop! We're...we are in Musutafu, Japan! We are in Japan! I...please, don't kill me!" He pleaded and cried through strained breaths, his voice hoarse and broken.

The grip relented, and with that, he collapsed like dead weight onto the dirt. He heard the man mumble something, but the words were stifled through the misery dancing across his nerve endings.

Dragging himself back to lean against the cruiser's door, Mori sobbed as he cradled what remained of his hand. Looking at the bloody mess made him want to hurl and pull at his own hair. He diverted his attention from the unpleasant sight to cautiously watch through streaming tears as the large figure departed, rising up through the air to become a small speckle above.

Closing his eyes, he took deep breaths to reign in the pain racking his body, trying his best to not think of the gruesome wound as he dropped all of his weight against the vehicle. He was alive; that's all that mattered.

His radio buzzed with a female's voice; the words were warbled to him. The tone was professional and reassuring. Probably the Police Force, which meant backup would be here soon. His shoulders slackened as he sighed in uneasy relief-

-Until an odd whirring sound made him jump. He forced a bloodshot eye open to set his gaze skyward, where a mesmerizing yellow sphere was taking form. It shimmered, its whirring developing into a deep hum as it started to grow in size, gleaming particles being pulled into it as if it were a vacuum. He remained still, his vision transfixed on the beautiful star coming to life.

Then it started to move.

Whatever brief spell had been cast upon him was broken when every instinct in his body screamed at him to run. Both of his eyes snapped wide open, the unnatural warmth and static it was producing from afar invading his senses, making the hairs on the back of his neck stand on their end with an unpleasant tingle.

A burst of adrenaline set him into motion.

He dropped hard onto his back to drag himself under the door with his good hand, crawling through the dirt and up into the driver seat. He let out a repressed hiss of pain, his crushed hand accidentally bumping against the steering wheel as he keyed the ignition and fought to shift the transmission into reverse. His foot buried itself on the gas pedal, the cruiser's rear wheels skidding hard until they got enough traction to get it moving.

Its front end swayed dangerously with his limited control and visibility; he did not care. Survival was all that mattered.

Nearing a larger clearing, he twisted the steering wheel hard, performing a blunt J-turn that nearly got him thrown into the ditch.

Peeking through the side mirror was a horrible idea. He let out another whimper as he floored the pedal, the approaching and intensifying yellow light taking up most of the reflective surface.

"Kisho, I'm almost there! What's your status?! And...what in the heavens is that light?!" Tensei's stressed and equally baffled voice buzzed out of the cruiser's radio.

Kisho's heart skipped a beat. He had just doomed Tensei as well. "No, no-no! Turn...turn around! T-tensei...oh God, we're so fucking dead! We're-" Kisho's wail quickly decayed into a string of delirious gibberish, his mind unraveling through the pain and overwhelming sense of impending, unavoidable doom.

He didn't need to look back anymore nor did he need headlights; the incoming miniature sun irradiated the area to the point it looked like broad daylight.

His cruiser shuddered as a gusty wave of burning, sweltering heat hit it, its movements twisting and skidding erratically as its back end lifted. One of the front tires blew out as it smashed against the shattering asphalt, which was now starting to get uplifted as if it were weightless. Its rear end came down hard, its suspension busting apart with the force. He went into a manic frenzy upon feeling the steering wheel go slack. Pumping on the brakes did nothing to slow his movement as he went on an unavoidable collision course against a concrete retention wall.

Time slowed to a crawl. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw his superior's cruiser turn into the street, the older man's panicked voice faded and jumbled through the speakers.

At that very moment, the sphere impacted the surface.

Scorching white light overwhelmed everything, and his corneas burned in an instant. A deafening detonation ensued, and every single one of his senses was overwhelmed as his eardrums burst. Officer Mori Kisho was barely able to let out a primal scream of unbridled terror and agony before he was no more, as the expanding ripple of energy mercilessly incinerated everything in its path.

Deputy Mooru Tensei fared no better. He intentionally oversteered as he slammed on the brakes, trying to force his cruiser into a drifting maneuver to escape certain death. His luck ran out when the vehicle's wheels dug into the rising, fracturing road, and instead his vehicle was sent airborne into a sideways spinning tumble. Before he could experience the grievous injuries of his crash, the blast engulfed him.

In the blink of an eye, peace in the village of Kēosu was irreparably shattered.


MINUTES EARLIER...

A seemingly endless, snake-like trail of fast-moving headlights shifted through the pervasive rural darkness between towns. The group of emergency responders and Pro Heroes sat quietly in the bus-like personnel carriers bracing for the worst as they sped through the dizzying uphill roads leading to Kēosu. They had just listened to what they would later find out to be Officer Mori Kisho's panicked, final broadcasts.

The small first response team already on the scene was not painting a pretty picture. The firefighting team lead by Backdraft had taken on the spreading wildfire, allowing the other members of the group to focus on the rescue and evacuation proceedings. It was hard not to notice the demonic crimson glow that had started to permeate the mountain range above Kēosu as they got closer, the clouds rolling by taking a similar malevolent tinge as they thickened and merged with the rising pollution.

Dishearteningly, the Pro Heroes didn't seem to be making a significant dent on the raging inferno.

Just as the group was upon the village, it happened.

A brilliant flicker of light shone through the treeline, catching everyone's attention. The flicker then suddenly exploded, growing bright enough to temporarily blind them and highlight nearby portions of Musutafu. As the explosion settled down, they couldn't help it but let out a collective gasp in horror.

An ominous, yellow dome trickled upwards into a blossoming mushroom cloud, growing tall enough to be visible from as far as Tokyo. Seconds later, a thunderous boom rattled them, forcing the vehicles to slam on their brakes in unison as road visibility dropped to nothing. Just as they ground to a halt, they all got buffeted by a powerful blast of hot wind, broken tree limbs, and clouds of dust and dirt.

"Dear God…" A wide-eyed EMS whispered, his hands trembling as he peered through the cracked windshield of his ambulance, the wind howling through the partially open side windows.

"This is bad…" Death Arms breathed out grimly from the back of the carrier, his stern eyes reflecting the terrible glow unfolding before them. Behind him, a multitude of Pro Heroes agreed with him, murmuring to themselves and each other as they were caught off guard by the worsening incident that could be likened to a nuclear weapon going off.

The newcomer Pro Hero Kamui Woods stared at the hell beyond, his unease and vulnerability around fires making him queasy. He shoved those feelings aside; he would not turn a blind eye to those in need.

Eraserhead sat in the front passenger seat of the carrier, his brief nap abruptly ending with the commotion and sudden braking. The flash of light had set him straight in an instant, his typically dull and droopy eyes stuck wide open and unblinking. A haunted expression twisted his features, his brows sinking dangerously low in disbelief, an emotion that soon twisted into indignation as the bulletproof windshield was peppered by debris. Who would dare do such an atrocious thing?

A prevalent silence took a heart-wrenching hold of every member in the group as they became painfully aware of the sudden radio silence from the village. No phone calls, no Police Force broadcasts, nothing. Even the Pro Heroes on site went silent.

"Come on, let's keep moving!" A hesitant voice buzzed through the radio, stirring everyone into action as two massive FRU trucks moved ahead of the convoy to serve as a debris-battering ram.

With the worst of the stormy shockwave over, the group resumed their movement through the hazy chaos towards the devastated town, their path clearly set in stone as they followed the sinister and ever-expanding cloud above. Driving deeper into the heart of Kēosu, they discovered many of the roads had become impassable with a collection of broken power lines, tree limbs, and trashed vehicles. Powerloader and Death Arms lend their hands as needed, moving the obstructions whenever the FRU vehicles were unable to plow right through them.

In a matter of minutes, they had pulled dozens of survivors into the spare carriers, the EMT teams spreading out into different zones to provide first aid while the rest jumped into the hospital-bound vehicles to assist the wounded. So far most of the injuries were superficial and non-lethal, but as they delved deeper into the hardest-hit zones where homes had fully collapsed, it all changed quickly for the worse.

Their radios buzzed with an update. Most of the Pro Heroes battling the fires when the detonation had gone off were unscathed. Unfortunately, three had needed immediate medical attention, severely dampening their efforts to stop their spreading.

Best Jeanist's eyes narrowed as the partially emptied carrier resumed its pace, his memories shifting back to the events that unfolded earlier today in Mirai Ward. The news about the incident and the suspect's identity had yet to make it out to the public at large or fellow Pro Heroes that weren't directly involved in it.

If the Villain was still around, they could be in for a hell of a fight. He tapped the radio receiver on his chest, the threads in his clothing twitching in response to his unease. "Jeanist here. Be extremely cautious and wary. I have a bad feeling about this. This fiend might be the one involved in the Mirai Ward incident earlier today. Tsukauchi, if you may..." He said, motioning for the Detective to take over.

Tsukauchi's solemn voice buzzed through from one of the cruisers in the back. "We were planning on having an urgent Pro Hero meeting tomorrow to discuss this at the Police Force HQ once it got cleared by command tonight. Based on what we've seen and heard so far, there's a near certainty this is the same Villain we encountered in Mirai Ward. Up to this point, he had no prior victims or body count-"

"Hold on!" One of the drivers ahead shouted for what felt like the hundredth time. Tsukauchi and the others braced for impact as they heard the loud thump of a head-on collision. Everything shuddered as they tore through multiple tree trunks on the uneven road.

"As I was saying..." Tsukauchi's slightly rattled voice continued, "We have to assume this is a clear sign of conflict escalation, and we must act accordingly. We are unsure of the suspect's full Quirk potential at the moment besides the fact he can levitate and generate a dangerous and downright lethal distortion field. What we're witnessing here might be something else altogether. I know this doesn't seem to make sense; you will have your answers soon. For all intents and purposes, consider him to be a rank A threat and do not fool around, your lives might be at stake. If you engage him, it is vital that you have Eraserhead with you. Be prepared for anything and communicate; maximum force usage is permitted."

"Multiple Quirks?" A Pro Hero in the back murmured to himself, mirroring the thoughts surfacing through the confused group.

At this point, it would be impossible for anyone to label the connection between these two incidents as a mere coincidence. The description provided by the panicked Kēosu officer was brief, but the one Quirk mentioned sealed the deal. Two unrelated, very destructive events on the same day, involving someone with the ability to levitate? Fat chance.

His unscheduled, urgent meeting with Chief Tsuragamae this evening was put on hold at the moment, but now it was more certain than ever that they would take this dangerous man-and the other implications-seriously. Bringing the Commissioner General into the fray seemed like a necessity now. Things were careening out of their control and right into an unseen realm of carnage. His worst nightmare was unfolding before his very eyes.

He picked up his cellphone, glaring at the empty call history. He truly wished he had the opportunity to sit down with Toshinori and explain their plight. Alas, the Pro Hero was currently out of town and unreachable. For someone with such wealth, he sure picked the crappiest cellphone compa-

Ring. Ring.

His screen lit up with Toshinori's civilian, near-skeletal form as the caller ID, and he felt himself breathing a sigh of relief. Better later than never.

"Ah, Tsukauchi! I apologize for my temporary disappearance. My flight just landed and I uh, had a few unexpected delays on the way." He said, cackling amusedly. Tsukauchi knew what those 'unexpected delays' were, and he would bet every yen in his wallet on it. "I am back in Musutafu now though. Hah, I can't believe you're actually calling me! How's everything, my friend?"

Tsukauchi frowned, unable to echo his friend's overly cheery facade. If he was this upbeat, he had yet to listen to the multiple voicemail messages he left. "Toshi, I'm sorry but must skip the pleasantries today. I hate to say this, but we seriously need All Might, now."

The Pro Hero paused upon hearing his friend's unexpectedly grave tone, his mood plummeting. "What's wrong? Where are you?"

"Kēosu. The town's burning. There are wounded and potential casualties, and an extremely dangerous Quirk user is on the loose as well. The fire's growing out of our control."

Toshinori let out a growl as he spoke low and full of resolve. "Understood, I am a few miles away. Do not worry..." Tsukauchi could hear the transformation taking place as his friend's voice gained depth and that vibrant, hope-charged energy he was known for. The sound of ripping clothes helped clear any doubts. "For I am on my way!"

Tsukauchi put his phone down as the vehicles ahead stopped. They had now reached the outer rim of an enormous crater, with what once used to be a road being turned into a flattened, glass-like surface. Thick smoke gushed upward, keeping their visibility limited. An awful sense of deja vu hit him. This incident absolutely dwarfed the damage that beset Mirai Ward by several magnitudes.

It appeared as if a massive bomb had gone off on the surface, taking out a good half mile of land with it, perhaps more. The destruction spread out much further, with nary an object left standing for a few city blocks. Behind it, the mountainside burned, and it seemed the Pro Heroes attempting to control it had resigned to focus on rescues and mostly keeping the fires from moving further into town, being down a few crucial team members.

Their radio buzzed with another grim update; Backdraft-undoubtedly one of their best firefighting assets-had been seriously wounded in the blast and would be unable to return to his duties. Without his heavyweight Quirk, the firetrucks couldn't keep up.

Thirteen ran past Tsukauchi, joining the stressed men and women doing their best to hold back the blaze. Floodlights were turned on and dragged out into the scene to further illuminate the muggy, foggy area. The fires were providing enough ambiance lighting at the moment, but it wasn't enough.

"Remember, stay together and be alert!" Tsukauchi yelled out, as the remaining Pro Heroes set themselves up in a defensive line, with the FRU teams spreading out into the nearby area, the flashlights in their long weapons dancing around the dark smoke and up into the sky.

Eraserhead stayed put between the groups, his scarf lazily floating around his body, ready to act at a moment's notice. His goggles were on as well; he wasn't playing around tonight.

Best Jeanist, Death Arms and Edgeshot spread out with the officers, the unease sinking deep into everyone's bones as they stared at the desolation the blast had spread forth, the tension making them jittery as they braced for an attack that never came. Ectoplasm's clones floated over and deep into the fray, finished with the bleak number of rescues down the street. For the first time since they arrived, stretchers were only being utilized to carry the deceased.

A group of EMTs called out to Tsukauchi, pointing towards a heap of charred metal sticking out of the ground. He ran over to them, service weapon drawn out of caution.

His heart sank. It was a heartbreaking sight; although little remained of its framework, it was rather obvious that it once was a police cruiser. Through the molten, sideway smoking charred slag, the EMTs had discovered the remains of a man. Tsukauchi had to look away for a moment as the smell of charred flesh hit him. One of the paramedics hurled, while the others stepped away to avoid a similar fate.

Vlad King stomped over to the morbid scene, gritting his teeth in righteous fury upon gazing at the body. "The bastard is going to pay for this." He snarled.

"I highly doubt the perpetrator is here," Eraserhead was point-blank blunt as he approached them, sparing a downcast glance at the body. A flit of emotions danced through his face for a brief moment before his cool, neutral expression returned. "As powerful as the Villain might be, it would be absolutely irrational and downright suicidal for him to try and take on all of us."

As much as he hated to admit it, Tsukauchi knew Aizawa was right; the perpetrator was likely out of here the moment it went off. Truly infuriating.

"We're clear, Detective Tsukauchi." Ectoplasm's sorrowful, ghastly voice buzzed through the radio. "I have canvassed the area with Hound Dog and there are no signs of the suspect, or anyone for that matter."

Not surprising. Very little remained of the homes nearby besides their foundations. Death Arms and Power Loader were helping the rescue team's frantic search further down the street through the rubble, but the painful, hard truth was out there. If the officer did not make it at this distance, it was likely the other nearby victims didn't fare any better.

Thirteen jogged back to them, panting with the effort. "We need to focus on evacuation efforts! We don't have much time!" She said with urgency.

Tsukauchi looked back towards the other Pro Heroes fighting the wildfire, noting they had fully withdrawn from their duties, the voracious fires gaining on them fast. The wind direction had shifted dramatically and was no longer favoring them. At this pace, they'd be forced to evacuate the operation within minutes.

There was no way they could be certain everyone was safe and sound unless a miracle happened.

"Detroit..." A faint, familiar voice echoed from above.

Everyone stopped what they were doing, looking around in confusion. Through the thick smoke, Tsukauchi saw him in motion. Pro Heroes and emergency responders had but a moment to shift their surprised eyes to the sound before All Might landed with a thunderous, earth-shaking thump.

"...Smash!" All Might roared, his right arm blurring as he threw a monumental punch towards the approaching wall of flames.

An enormous shockwave exploded forth, the wind pressure becoming visible to the naked eye as white moisture rings shot through it. The sudden whirlwind and vacuum left in its wake snuffed out a large portion of the flames, while the uplifted mounds of dirt falling back down stopped them from reigniting altogether. Everyone present held their breath as they witnessed the Number One Pro Hero's impossible handiwork. Not all of the blaze was extinguished, but a large swath had been completely disrupted.

No one moved.

"It's raining...All Might made it rain." A dumbfounded officer remarked, his arms raised to catch the sporadic raindrops in his hands.

Sure enough, Tsukauchi then felt the droplets hit his coat, and with those, a wave of relief washed over him. The faint mist-like drizzle quickly flourished into full-on rainfall, the cloud cover above them swelling and swirling as the Detroit Smash's after effects drew more moisture into the ravaged area.

"Fear not...hope has arrived!" All Might clamored, his bright grin shining a beacon of hope upon everyone as he offered a thumbs up. Little by little, the deluge eroded the wildfire's stronghold upon the mountain ranges, and in minutes, most of the blaze had been drowned out.

"In the nick of time, as always." Tsukauchi stepped towards him, the faint ghost of a sad smile tugging at his lips as he heard a cacophony of cheers and clapping from the rescue teams and Pro Heroes. The worst case scenario had been averted.

"No biggie! All in a day's work, my friend!" All Might said, resting his fists on his hips as he towered over Tsukauchi. The white T-shirt he was wearing was soaking wet and ripped at the seams around his bulging biceps, triceps and his neck. He still wore a loose necktie, apparently forgotten in his haste to get to the village.

The Detective's visage darkened again as he glanced at the burned remains of the police cruiser, then to the rubble of former homes. A wave of despair struck him. Countless families lost their homes, their livelihood, and memories. Too many lives were lost today as well. "This isn't over yet. We need to have a serious talk...we've lost lives here. The man involved in this...this concerns you."

All Might's smirk faded at the mention of casualties, his confusion growing tenfold as he struggled to fathom his own involvement. His thick brows furrowed. "Tsukauchi...uh, how-"

Tsukauchi shook his head. "Not the time nor place for this. There might be civilians still trapped and in need of help. Meet me when you're done. Go."

The Number One Hero took a deep breath, temporarily shunning the conflictive emotions aside as he let All Might's trademark cool, cheery personality reassert itself. Straightening himself, he puffed up his chest as he tried to bring forth a beaming smile. "Right you are, as always, Detective! Duty calls, so...I will be right back!"

Just like that, All Might's body turned into a blur, setting off a gust of wind in his wake as he launched himself into the sky. Tsukauchi sighed, making his way back to the assemblage of emergency personnel and Police Force officers.

Another yelp nearby drew his attention to a twisted piece of metal framing, this one badly melted to the ground and unrecognizable, sitting at the very edge of the crater. Paramedics flocked to the spot, digging desperately at the remains until they got into the inner framing. They found something inside. After a few seconds, they shook their heads in sorrow.

Tsukauchi's eyes were distant as he watched it all unfold. He felt numb.

He stared at the heavens, feeling the aching turmoil gnawing at his very soul as the raindrops pelted his face. He doubted any of the men and women here would get any sleep tonight, nor that they'd soon forget what happened.


The harrowing rescue operation had wrapped up less than an hour ago.

Most of the emergency response teams and Pro Heroes had departed shortly after the arrival of the Wild, Wild Pussycats. Ragdoll's remarkable Quirk combined with Hound Dog's sharp senses made short work of the search operation, allowing the authorities to ascertain they had rescued or recovered every resident in the village. After that, only a skeleton crew of Pro Heroes and Police Force members remained on site to keep watch and gather more evidence.

At the moment, the death toll had climbed to at least ten victims; two which were officers from the Kēosu Police Force. Officer Mooru Tensei's remains were positively identified as the victim near the epicenter. Little remained of the other body closest to the explosion, but they were all but certain it belonged to Officer Mori Kisho. All had been caught within the primary and secondary blast zones, and there was probably little anyone besides All Might himself could have done to survive such a detonation, especially if one were in the primary zone.

Death by incineration was a terrible way to die, and personally, one of Tsukauchi's deepest fears.

It was almost twelve o'clock now, and his frustration levels had hit a new ceiling. He was running only on fumes and caffeine. Their quest for answers appeared to be leading them nowhere.

Toshinori, on the other hand, felt like his world was being turned upside down for the second time in years.

"What is this, Tsukauchi?" He spoke hesitantly, examining the bundle of documents offered earlier. A pencil-thin finger pushed a wet, droopy tuft out of his sight as he glared at the appalling images and data provided. Done with the public appearance and hero work, he was back to his regular form, sitting in the passenger seat of the Detective's cruiser. His clothes were soggy, his t-shirt mangled beyond repair, overstretched and shredded to pieces. Steam still billowed out of his sunken skin from overusing One For All for the last hour.

The grip on the papers tightened with every passing second, his visage darkening further the longer he delved into the gritty details connecting Mirai Ward and Kēosu's incidents, especially those regarding the suspect's Quirks. How could he have been completely unaware of everything that had transpired today?

His concave eyes widened even more upon reaching the death toll, the details hammering everything further into his weary heart. He could almost turn a blind eye to unscrupulous property damage, but this blatant disregard for human life? Never! Regret was eating away at him. If he hadn't been in another tour to Tokyo he could have prevented this. Granted, he had helped plenty of people in need in the last couple of days, but this tragedy cut deep. It was absolutely unforgivable that he had been unable to stop this dastardly act in time.

His shoulders slackened, the shadow beneath his eyes gaining more depth. "I should have been here," The words came out as a faint whisper.

"Don't beat yourself up about this. Even you would have struggled to make it here in time." Tsukauchi said, placing a hand over his shoulder. The strife was palpable.

"Toshinori," Tsukauchi raised his voice, only speaking after giving him some time to deal with his emotions. "We can't deny the truth staring right at us. You and I know the implications of this."

Yes, the truth was out there. However, it was an immeasurable struggle to even bring himself to acknowledge it. The details were unnervingly similar. "But he...this can't be-"

Tsukauchi interrupted him, irritation flaring at his denial. "We need your help. For crying out loud, this man could levitate and use multiple Quirks! Think about it. Who could do this?"

The wielder of One For All winced, painful memories flooding his mind. Nana's smile came to the forefront, followed by his failure to protect her. The scars in his torso ached with phantom pain, and his chest constricted. The reality of it all sank in with dreadful finality as his while body drooped. "Shit...if you're right about this-"

Tsukauchi's tired, grave eyes met his. "-He's making a move."

A spark gleamed in his eyes as a vivid memory of his face forced itself upon his mind. Steam gushed out from his form, his muscle mass rushing forth to fill his flesh as All Might let out a deep growl. The documents in his hands were crushed to shreds. He let the suppressed emotions fuel his transformation, uttering the infamous name with pure animosity in his heart, his teeth bared in a furious snarl. "All For One..."


Monitors of all sizes and shapes littered the walls of the dark room, every single one tuned in to a different news network and radio broadcast. He hummed an old song to himself, listening intently to the continuous and exhilarating chatter of hijacked Police Force frequencies and leaked media information.

A peculiar recent broadcast caught his attention. It was selected and spread out to fit every single screen.

"We apologize for the technical difficulties. Our News 7 Helicopter has been cleared for a flyover, and with that, we are back live with the saddening news coming through from Kēosu village. Viewer discretion is advised. Go ahead, Aiko." An older gray-haired news anchor nodded, his voice solemn as the video feed cut off momentarily to display a warning for younger viewers.

Static danced across the monitors before the broadcast shifted to the footage being recorded live from the inside of a helicopter. A dark-haired woman stood precariously by the edge of its open side door, allowing the cameraman to pan out into the devastated village. Bright spotlights flashed on, shedding their light onto the calamity below. "Thank you, Futoshi. As I was saying, the devastation throughout Kēosu is absolutely mind-boggling! Just hours ago a seemingly innocuous shooting star was reported in the area. Minutes later, their skies were tinged blood red as hellish fires ravaged everything in their path."

The camera focused on the plumes of smoke billowing from the ashen remains of homes and other buildings, panning to the many cars stuck as molten, charred slag on the street. Most of the trees had been torn apart, and the few which remained upright were stripped bare and barely holding up. The streets were dark, with most of the village's power grid going offline with the damage. From a distance, it appeared as if a town-wide tornado had ravaged it all. Every so often, the sporadic red and blue flash of the Police Force vehicles would cut through the darkness.

Angling the helicopter forward, the crew moved further until they neared the heart of this nightmare; an enormous crater. Next to nothing remained within it or the areas around it. "Then, a lethal explosion rocked the village. The worst damage is concentrated in this area. A wideband broadcast from a brave Kēosu Police Force officer provided us with the first insight to these nefarious events, which are suspiciously similar to what eyewitnesses have recounted from Mirai Ward. A man, with a Quirk which allows him to defy gravity."

The helicopter circled ground zero, eventually zooming out to refocus on the reporter after it had hovered over what remained of a heavily molten car. "Rescue efforts wrapped up recently. Over sixteen Pro Heroes were involved in this incident, including All Might himself. The death toll has steadily risen, and so far we've received unconfirmed reports of at least eight fatalities, mostly centered around this zone. Officer Mori Kisho, the man behind the broadcasts, is believed to be one of the deceased. Hospitals across Musutafu have taken in the injured, with at least fifteen victims put in Intensive Care Units. A Pro Hero has been seriously wounded as well. The Police Force has refused to make a statement as of yet. We'll remain on-site to bring you the latest updates until we-"

All of the screens paused their playback. The sound of slow clapping reverberated through the cavernous room.

"How tragic, and utterly fascinating. Bravo, young man." A smooth, velvety voice mused out loud. Medical equipment hummed and pumped away quietly behind his obscure form.

The monitor's blue glow reflected upon his scarred face, his pristine pearly whites showing further as his smirk widened. His interest had been piqued hours ago. Now, with this second incident...he was beyond enthralled. Every new tidbit discovered made his heart flutter with excitement. The similarities were uncanny, and the timing absolutely thrilling. So much havoc in a matter of hours. The authorities and Hero society were both scrambling in a panic, struck completely powerless and stumped.

Wonderful chaos. Brilliant potential and power waiting just beyond his grasp.

A glass of wine was raised, its contents being swished sporadically. "Truly outstanding. I do wish I could see your face right now, All Might. Surely at this very moment, you and your clueless little friends at the Police Force are throwing all the blame upon me. I am afraid we must do something about this. Still, I do wonder...what will your next move be, Symbol of Peace?" The last two words were spat out with thinly veiled venom and unabashed mockery.

Another screen blared to life, this time, a one-way video broadcast. He rotated the chair to face it. "Do whatever you must to find him. Perhaps give him a little test of worthiness as well. Do not kill him; I am dying to have a chat with this troublemaker..."

A/N:

As I wrote this, I honestly didn't expect things to veer this dark. I like it. I know it's not the typical path of these stories but I want to explore how these events will affect both sides of the spectrum(criminal and justice) and the citizens. Things will get better eventually...maybe.

Next chapter we will be returning to Gohan, and the shitstorm he'll stumble upon and get into as he recovers and attempts to explore this world. I meant to upload this on Sunday but I held back as I felt there were things I could change/fix(I still do). I'll try to keep my profile updated with upload dates/progress. Summer work is driving me crazy but I enjoy writing this far too much. Thanks again everyone, until next time!