Tournament Armoured Hero #3

The creature was impossibly massive, its broad shoulders shuddering and its Adam’s apple bobbing as it tilted its head back, swilling the flames of the inferno that rose in its gullet.

At his side, he sensed the arrival of Wong and the unfamiliar tread of Dreamcaster’s bright red and white Soap branded trainers. Kanemura did not turn to greet them, his eyes staring intently up ahead at the tremendous monster above them.

“Impossible,” Dreamcaster murmured softly, reaching for his keyboard.

Gently, Hao Wong reached out and placed a restraining hand upon the other hero’s arm, his lips curled in a lop-sided smile beneath the bug-eyed masque he wore.

“Fall back, Dreamcaster,” he said, his voice firm and determined, “whatever you think you’re capable of, you’re not able to take on a karura-grande.”

Dreamcaster glanced from Hao’s masque to the hulking abomination towering above the buildings.

“B-But what about the people who live here?” he stammered in protest.

“This is USMDF’s fight now, not ours,” Wong continued.

Angrily, Dreamcaster shook his arm free of the older man’s grasp.

“I can’t risk people suffering just because you have some other agency to deal with giant monsters. The potential for harm is too great!”

The giant karura threw its head forward, a wave of flame spewing from its beak and breaking in waves over the rooftops of the city.

Kanemura tightened his grasp on the hilt of his katana.

“He’s right,” he whispered, his lips twitching in disgust. “As much as I hate to admit it, he’s right.”

The throat of the creature warbled once again and then, abruptly, its Adam’s apple exploded outwards in a spray of blood and flesh as a burning arrow of white light passed through it and dissipated into harmless spirit energy at Wong’s feet.

In alarm, the armoured martial artist leapt backwards as, on the horizon, the karura-grande screeched wildly, its limbs flailing as it clutched at the wound in its throat.

“What the hell was that?” Kanemura cried out in alarm.

“That sure as hell wasn’t a USMDF registered weapon!” Wong snapped, his attention drawn towards the wounded monster.

The karura-grande thrashed about wildly as it dropped to its knees, wild, blind eyes rolling in its skull and blood spraying down onto the street below from its throat.

Across from them, standing directly behind the colossal monster upon a rooftop opposite their own, stood an armoured silhouette, a raised crossbow still balanced upon the left forearm.

“Who is that?” Kanemura gasped.

As if in reply, the figure pulled back upon the strings of his bow once more, light gathering along the shaft of wood and metal until at last, it took the shape of a glistening pale blue arrow forged from shards of reflected light.

Before Wong could reply, the arrow exploded into motion once more, travelling along the path of the wood and launching itself into the air with excessive speed. He blinked once, involuntarily, and a terrible pain erupted in his shoulder, his stomach knotting with dread.

Unintentionally, his actions mimicked those of the felled karura-grande, dropping to his knees and clutching at the wound the arrow had made as it had passed through his flesh.

“Well, well, looks like someone’s picking on our prey, brother,” announced a smug, self-satisfied voice from behind them.

Kanemura whirled about, brandishing his blade and preparing to fight as his eyes quickly took in the sight of two older men, one dressed in a crisp, Keravin suit, the other wearing worn jeans and a faded black Iron Menace t-shirt. Their faces bore signs of a certain familial resemblance yet only when viewed in contrast to one another.

The older brother, the one in the suit, had narrow eyes and neat, layered hair, his nose angled and pronounced and his face expressionless. The younger brother seemed to possess a lack of such qualities, appearing dishevelled and slovenly, his hair a mess of curls and his face marked by several days worth of stubble. They were both in their early to mid-30s, Kanemura estimated, which meant that both had potentially been active during the time of the Golden Thorn incident.

The former actor felt his lips twitch once more as he regarded the crude illustration of the robots on the other man’s shirt. As a child, he had been an avid fan of the electro-punk band, playing their first record, Dead God Country, over and over again, much to his father’s distaste.

As effortlessly as the child prodigy had leant the roles and songs for which he had gained renown on stage, so to had he learnt to mimic Iron Menace’s lead singer, Shinju Giro in the swagger of his walk and the snarl of his lips.

Slowly, he lowered his blade.

“You two are USMDF agents?” he questioned, a note of anxiety in his voice as he half-turned once more, glancing from Wong to the solemn sniper on the opposing rooftop.

“That’s right,” the man in the immaculate suit remarked, drawing out a dark blue phone and flipping the lid open with a movement of his wrist.

Another flash of light caught Kanemura’s eyes and he turned in time to see Dreamcaster ignite the shaft of his fishing rod and knock the arrow harmlessly away from the wounded form of Hao Wong.

“Something’s wrong,” he snarled behind his white faceplate, “that sniper wasn’t attempting to destroy the karura, he’s trying to kill your friend!”

The younger of the two men lazily drew forth his own phone, likewise opening it and dialling in a four-digit number.

‘5-7-2-2 ENTER,’ the phone chimed in a synthetic voice.

Kanemura snarled, turning back to face the two USMDF agents.

“Aren’t you punks supposed to be helping us out?” he shouted in anger.

Nicholas Garner smiled with cruel distaste as flickers of spirit energy stirred in the air around him.

As one, the two brothers slammed their phones closed and drove them down into the buckles of their belts.

“Quite the opposite, I’m afraid, Kanemura,” the younger brother, Michael, smirked. “We’re here…”

“…to take you down,” Nicholas hissed with barely suppressed emotion.

‘K-R-A 2,’ both belts announced at one, ‘ACTIVATE!’

Tournament Armoured Hero tome #3:
“Kill All Your Friends”
by Jacob Milnestein

“Our memories blanket us with friends we know like fallout vapour.”
Gerard Way,
‘Skylines and Turnstiles’

“Taryse?” a voice called from the hallway.

She sat bolt upright, her eyes suddenly focusing once again. She had been perched on the sofa for so long, staring absently at the spatters of blood that now decorated the room that she had lost track of time.

“Chazz,” she murmured, standing up and racing into the hallway, “Chazz!”

Yet instead of Chazz Leiter’s worn and battered leather jacket and constant smirk, she found herself confronted by a corpulent man with thinning blond hair and thick black framed glasses, his eyes magnified beneath the lenses.

Her heart sunk slightly.

“Sorry, Joe, I thought you might have been Chazz,” she murmured, smiling weakly.

“Ah, hi, Taryse, sorry to disappoint you,” Joe Hammel answered, adjusting his glasses with the chubby fingers of his large, right hand.

“I didn’t expect you to come in person, Joe,” Taryse said with disinterest, looking idly past him to the darkened hallway.

Hammel continued to play with his glasses, shifting their weight upon the bridge of his nose.

“Well, ah, you know, I was, ah, in the area and all…”

“I thought you might have just sent one of your operatives,” Taryse continued without really listening to him, “you didn’t have to come all this way out here.”

“Well, ah, it’s no problem really,” he said with a faint blush.

With a tremendous effort of will that all but brought sweat to his brow, he lowered his hand and forcibly wrapped it around the left hand and held them together in front of him.

“Look, ah, Taryse, I think it’s best if you came with me.”

Her eyes moved sharply back to him, studying the thin hair and the sheen of perspiration on his face.

“Chazz’ll be here soon,” she answered, “I should wait for him.”

“We could, ah, send him a message once we’re back at headquarters,” Hammel offered.

Carefully, Taryse Leiter took a step away from him.

“No, it’s okay, if it’s all the same I’d rather wait for him to get here.”

“Taryse, ah, I think it’s for the best…”

“For Christ’s sake, Joe,” she snapped angrily, “I’m going to wait for Chazz, okay?”

The large man looked away, his lips pushed out in a sorrowful pout.

“I wish you hadn’t made this so difficult,” he murmured.

A hundred red eyes flashed on behind him, illuminating the steel skulls of a legion of Hiram units, each one staring directly at Taryse.

She swiftly drew breath, her pulse throbbing and her heart skipping a beat in her chest.

“Joe…” she whispered in fear, “what the hell is this?”

He smiled apologetically back at her, his fat hands once more adjusting his glasses.

“I really didn’t want it to happen like this, Taryse,” Hammel lowed mournfully, “I’ve always liked you, Chad too, but… but… things aren’t the same as they were ten years ago. USMDF can no longer tolerate the activities of unregistered vigilantes.”

“What the hell are you talking about?” Taryse snarled angrily, “I gave my belt up years ago!”

Hammel shook his head, his jowls wobbling with each movement.

“That’s not what Professor Ryker says,” he sighed.

Taryse felt a tremble of fear.

“You’re lying,” she hissed, “Jack Ryker would never tell you that!”

A flash of understanding suddenly ran through her mind as her brain connected Hammel’s comments with the expanse of blood that now stained her living room walls.

“You sent someone here!” she gasped, “You sent someone after Chad!”

“No,” he gesticulated wildly, “no, it wasn’t like that! W-When I got here before you came home it was already like this! Whoever attacked Chad has gone, t-that’s why I need to protect you, Taryse!”

There was the sudden, terrible sound of wood shattering and rending metal bending back in on itself. Several of the robots staggered forward, their backs erupting in sparks and flame, casting an eerie glow over their attacker, illuminating the cruel lines that accentuated his otherwise boyish features and his carefully crafted, dyed black hair.

In his right hand, he clutched a shimmering golden sword, the blade edge discoloured by the reflection of flame from the wounded machines.

Taryse felt her heart leap into her throat. Even though she knew better, even though she knew that the man who stood before her was not her husband, she could not help but think of the curl of those snarling lips, the anger in his eyes and the decisiveness of his actions. He was like Chad had once been, long ago before all the fighting had become mediocre, an aspect of their everyday lives.

He was like Chad before Chad had become content with fighting for no reason she realised with a twinge of sudden regret.

“You’ll forgive me for saying this, but turning up with an army of Hiram units doesn’t quite seem like protection in my book.”

Joe Hammel turned abruptly, his face pale and his forehead damp with sweat.

“Chazz… this… this isn’t what it seems!” he stammered.

With a snarl, Chazz Leiter lashed out with the blade, slicing the head of the nearest Hiram unit and putting his boot into the back of another, sending it crashing to the ground.

“So tell me what it is then, Joe,” Chazz spat, sliding the sword through the ribs of another Hiram unit, twisting the blade up and spattering the carpet with machine wreckage, “because from where I’m standing, all I see is a guy who I’m supposed to trust taking advantage of a woman who needs his help.”

He sliced the blade of the sword down through the last remaining Hiram unit, cleaving the machine in two as he slowly lifted himself up to his full height, eyes full of dire intensity.

“Tell me, Joe, is this how USMDF treats everyone who asks for help? Is this a service you offer to everyone or are we just lucky?”

A loud yawn filled the room and, with a start, Chazz turned to see an older man in an expensive Keravin suit leaning against the outside doorframe, his tanned face marked with stubble and his long, black hair tied back in a loose ponytail. Across his shoulder, he impatiently tapped a bamboo staff against the wood of the frame.

“Still as impatient as ever, I see, Dark Phoenix,” he smirked, reaching up to brush a strand of stray hair from his eyes, “Chad wouldn’t have let himself get so worked up, you know. He’d have fought, of course, but he wouldn’t have swung in here seeing red and taking out a whole bunch of expensive government equipment in the process.”

“Stay out of this, Kalish,” Chazz spat, “this doesn’t concern you.”

Randall Kalish affected an insincere smile, kicking away from the doorframe and tossing the wooden staff away, ind
ifferent as it clattered loudly on the ground amongst the ruined Hiram units.
“I’m afraid it does concern me, Chazz, very much so in fact,” he purred, lips twisting in a cruel smile, “you see USMDF buys a lot of stock from SUNNY Corporation and, well, I happen to own SUNNY, so if you come in here, swinging that sword around and causing trouble for USMDF, then I’m concerned, Chazz.”

He took a step forward, an expression of mock worry upon his face.

“I’m concerned that my best interests aren’t being met here, you see.”

“Shut your face, Kalish!” Chazz shouted.

The other raised an eyebrow, a cruel smirk on his lips.

“Now, now, Chazz, play nice,” he grinned, leaning over the younger man’s shoulder and making eye contact with Taryse, “hey Taryse, honey, you’re wasting your time with guys like this. Why don’t you come with us and we’ll get this all resolved in no time.”

Without warning, the outer wall of the living room suddenly exploded in a shower of ruin and debris, a colossal gold and black motorcycle screeching into the room, its back wheel sliding and smashing through a coffee table.

“Dark Phoenix!” a familiar voice called from behind the silver faceplate worn by the rider, “My employers really have to talk to you!”

Chazz turned and glared at the silver Universal Monster armour, the gleaming metal appended by shaggy animal fur and fierce talons indicating the current activation of the suit’s Wolf Man vial filtering silver liquid into the heart of the machinery contained within the belt and granting the rider an additional boost of animal strength.

Joe Hammel made a fumbling attempt to seize hold of Taryse and she quickly stepped out of his path, jabbing her fist in his gut and sending him staggering forward, fat hands resting on the back of the snarling motorcycle.

“Agent Legenal,” Hammel gasped for breath, his eyes watering, “you’re out of your depth here!”

“Jesus,” Taryse snapped, sorrow and fear giving way to anger, “what the hell is with you USMDF people!”

“These people aren’t the real USMDF!” Legenal snarled, gesturing at Hammel and Kalish. “These people… are working for Muro Takeru!”

—xxx—

“So what is a British taskforce doing in American airspace?” Sky Raider asked, his hands deep in his pockets as he walked alongside the man with the aquiline features in the simple black one-piece uniform.

The other turned to look at him, hands held behind his back, and eyes seemingly glowing with mischief in the dim lights of the fortress’ dank metal corridor.

“Antagonising the Americans, it would seem,” he answered with a playful chuckle.

“That doesn’t answer my question,” Raider snapped in response.

The other man shrugged with indifference.

“You are right, it doesn’t,” he said and kept on walking.

Glaring at his back, Sky Raider suppressed the instinct to beat the smugness out of the other’s expression.

“I didn’t catch your name,” he snarled.

“My name is Flavius Furius Aquila, but you can simply call me Centurion, if it’s easier for you.”

“Fine,” Raider answered, “now tell me where you’ve taken MONARCH?”

Aquila stopped, his eyes meeting Sky Raider’s fierce gaze.

“Your friend is in the medical ward,” he said softly, his voice little more than a whisper and his eyes staring back down the corridor at the other members of the Royal Family and, behind them, his own companions, “Mister Raider, I fear your friend will not last the night.”

Raider tightened his fists in impotent anger.

“Who was that bastard that attacked us?” he demanded, “And what are you people doing here in the desert?”

“I’m afraid I can’t answer your first question. Your attacker was unknown to us as well,” Aquila replied, continuing after the briefest of doubtful pauses, “as for your second question, I believe our chief should really answer that one.”

“No,” Raider snapped, “tell me now.”

The older man sighed and rolled his eyes.

“You won’t like the answer,” he offered.

“Tell me,” Raider insisted.

Aquila abruptly disavowed himself of his playfulness, straightening his back and looking down at the younger man with a grim expression.

“We have reason to believe that USMDF have been compromised,” he said darkly, “we believe those Hiram units you encountered in the desert were sent after you directly after contact was made with USMDF on your behalf.”

Raider felt a chill run down his spine.

“H-Hao?” he stammered.

Aquila shook his head sharply.

“Hao Wong is in the clear; however we believe the Hiram units were sent after you following your conversation with Mister Wong. If you don’t mind, I’d like to inspect your U-Phone.”

Unquestioningly, his face still pale with shock, Sky Raider reached down for his henshin device and passed it over to the other man.

Effortlessly, Aquila flipped the phone over and plucked the back cover free, inspecting the detailed machinery within.

“Who would send Hiram units after us?” Raider asked.

“A man named Muro Takeru,” Aquila said, his eyes fixed piercingly upon the phone’s interior, “a former professor at Jack Ryker’s armoured hero academy, before they closed it down that is.”

Sky Raider nodded slowly.

“I remember when that happened,” he murmured, “there was an accident, wasn’t there? Jack Ryker’s son died.”

Aquila nodded, his eyes lighting up as he reached out and seized a small, unassuming black spec of machinery with a narrow, protruding horn, resting in the top right hand corner.

“That’s right. Jack Ryker lost his taste for the whole armoured hero thing shortly after that.”

With a triumphant smile, Flavius Furius Aquila plucked the tiny device free from the phone and held it up in the dim light.

“Here’s your culprit, Mister Raider, someone’s been listening in on your calls.”

Raider’s eyes widened with indignation.

“What the hell?”

“This little thing, ironically enough, is called a Kabuto Beetle – it’s a sort of bug manufactured for American service agencies by SUNNY Corporation. Anything you’ve said, any message you’ve sent, any sites you’ve visited online, not to mention data relating to your armour and henshin process, will have been logged by this little thing and sent back to a central hub somewhere, presumably in USMDF headquarters.”

He exerted pressure on the device and, without protest, the tiny machine folded in on itself and shattered into a million pieces.

With a smile, Aquila slipped the cover of the phone back on and handed it over to its owner.

“Believe me now?” he asked with a smile.

Sky Raider nodded his head but said nothing.

Aquila glanced once more at the approaching members of Department Ɔ and the Royal Family.

“Come on,” he said, patting Raider on the shoulder, “we need to get your people to the medical ward.”

Without another word, he turned and strode purposefully ahead.

—xxx—

Out of the corner of his eye, Kanemura saw once more the flash of light from the masqued sniper across the rooftops.

“Hao!” he shouted, his head turning even as his blade met that of Nicholas Garner’s own sword, “Hao! Get up!”

Too late, the shard of energy tore through Wong’s armour and bit deep into the flesh of his chest. The blow sent him crashing to the asphalt, lying prostrate on his side with the burning arrow entrenched in his ruined armour, his breathing shallow.

“Dreamcaster…” Kanemura began as he pushed the older USMDF agent back and delivered a vindictive kick to the groin.

Before he could finish his instructions, Dreamcaster had placed himself between Hao Wong and the sniper, lifting his light-gun and taking aim at the shadowy figure.

The younger of the Garner brothers lifted his own weapon up, his finger sliding within the trigger guard of the Croft .95 Automag as he prepared to unleash a deadly volley of bullets in the armoured hero’s back.

There was another flash of light and a second arrow let fly.

Dreamcaster ducked at the last minute and the arrow flew over his head, exploding within the hail of Automag bullets and driving its flaming wreckage down into the barrel of the gun, shattering the weapon to shards of ruined metal.

With an abrupt cry, Michael Garner tossed the smouldering weapon aside, drawing his sword from his side as, from where he crouched at Wong’s side, Dreamcaster reached for his fishing rod.

The orange light lashed out in a flash of luminescence, tearing a scar of molten metal across the dark blue and red breastplate of the younger USMDF agent.

“Quickly!” the armoured hero shouted towards Kanemura, drawing a second memory unit out and slotting it into the back of his light-gun, pointing the weapon at the dark clouds above.

The two brothers raised their weapons once more and, effortlessly, Kanemura stepped between them and Dreamcaster, deflecting their blows with his katana.

“Dreamcaster Accessories: Densha de… GO!”

Kanemura felt the wind rush up behind him, the now familiar mimicry of Dreamcaster’s belt lost beneath the sudden rush of autumn air.

Behind him, the shape of a colossal white and silver train broke through the boundaries between worlds, train tracks blossoming into existence in the air before it as it pulled alongside the rooftop of the rain swept building.

“Quickly!” Dreamcaster called out, hefting the prone body of Hao Wong up and slamming a palm against a clear black panel in the train’s side.

Before him, a doorway opened up in the carriage, revealing nothing but shadow within its vast, serpentine length.

“I can’t maintain the Densha de Go for long without connecting with the controller!”

Kanemura smirked, staring ahead at the two brothers and making no reply.

Michael Garner rushed in and Kanemura slammed his foot down on the ground and drove his own blade sharply in beneath the USMDF agent’s defence, burnished silver slicing through the other’s breastplate and sliding between his ribs.

The other man staggered, his sword still held above his head and his eyes wide behind the ant-like visage of his masque.

Kanemura leant in close, his voice a low whisper, inaudible to any but himself and the impaled agent before him.

“Know that I have always hated your kind,” he spat beneath his own masque.

With a final vicious kick, he sent the other man staggering backwards, his hand tearing free the blade from between Garner’s ribs.

His lips twitched in a smirk and, without another word, Kanemura Jyunichi turned and threw himself through the doo
rway of the waiting train.

—xxx—

Blood ran down his face, a smear of carmine beetle red running from his forehead to his eyebrows. He blinked furiously, his breath erratic and strained.

Through the hammering rain and the shattered ruins of his golden masque, Count Ryusei could just make out the shape of his older, half-brother, clad in shadowy armour, his footfalls intent against the broken pavement.

With a trembling hand, Ryusei reached out to his older brother, struggling to see through the blood and rain, his frail body screaming in agony with every movement.

“Long,” he whispered, his voice barely audible above the rainfall, “Long, d-don’t do this…”

Behind him, Ryusei was dimly aware of his youngest brother, Yusei’s unmoving body, his face turned away and his deck of playing cards sodden now and scattered amongst the dead autumn leaves collecting in the gutter.

“P-Please Long,” Ryusei stammered, “please… you don’t have to do this… I-I think you’ve hurt Yusei…”

The armoured figure continued to advance, slowly lifting the Black Drag Claw bound to his right arm, the carved dragon’s teeth dripping with the youngest Ryusei brother’s blood.

“You’re not like this, Long,” Ryusei whispered, struggling to pull himself across the pavement, “t-this isn’t who you really are…”

His legs were a tangled mass of scars and broken bones, shards of glass and metal entrenched in the flesh beneath his shredded trousers, yet still Ryusei Ryou continued to claw his way across the ground, reaching out in desperation towards his older brother and looking up with confused eyes from behind his fractured masque.

Long came to a stop before his fallen sibling, his black masque expressionless and devoid of the semblance of human features.

“If you think you know who I really am,” he whispered with spite, his voice warped and distorted by the filters of his masque, “then you are sorely mistaken.”

Ryusei tried to smile behind his own broken dragon masque as sadly, he shook his head from side to side.

“You’re wrong, I do know you, Long… and despite everything that’s happened between us, I think you’re just like me… w-we’re brothers, Long, we’re…”

With a howl of rage, Long brought the Black Drag Claw down in a savage punch that smashed through the exposed back of his brother’s head and spattered blood and fragments of masque across the pavement.

Ryusei’s body shuddered, his shattered head falling face first into the gutter as his body struggled vainly in animal panic and fell at last silent. Around the younger man’s ruined head was a halo of blood and bone.

Slowly, Long lifted his fist, the teeth of the Black Drag Claw stained with blood and smears of grey matter.

“If you had known anything about me, brother, then you would have known that hate those who imitate me.”

He straightened up, surveying the ruined street about him, the blaze of distant fires and the shattered glass of shop fronts as, before him, two of his three younger half-brothers lay silent and unmoving.

“Yusei, Ryou… with you both dead, only Koji now remains,” he tightened his fists, the leather of his gloves issuing a soft protest, “soon there will be no one left to imitate me, soon there will be no one left to weigh me down.”

With a cruel smile and a flash of wild eyes hidden beneath his black masque, Long turned away, leaving behind him a trail of ruin and desolation.

Beneath Ryusei Ryou’s ruined head, the spreading halo of blood seeped slowly into the dark stones of the pavement.

—xxx—

Travis Triton eased his grasp on the Triumph 6T Thunderbird’s accelerator, slowing the vintage motorcycle as he approached the two figures leaning against their own stoic machines in the middle of the roadway.

A frustrated sigh of recognition escaped his lips as he brought the motorcycle to a halt before the two men, taking in his own reflection within their mirrored sunglasses, and noting the navy blue military fatigues and matching black baseball caps they both wore.

The uniform was different from the one they had worn during the tournament ten years ago, but they were unmistakably the same two men.

With a smirk, Triton pulled his helmet off and removed his own sunglasses.

“You boys get a promotion?” he enquired, swinging his leg off the bike, “What are you now, traffic cops or something?”

Kyrosai Byakayu offered him a cold smile in return, gesturing towards the black armband he wore.

“We transferred to JMDF,” he answered, his accent clipped and his tone sharp, “not that it’s any of your business, Triton.”

The older man arched an eyebrow.

“Oh really? Well, seeing, as it’s none of my business, I wonder if you boys can’t get the hell out of the road. I’m kind of in a hurry, right now.”

The other agent uncrossed his arms and moved away from his bike.

“Well, that’s a coincidence, isn’t it?” Korajo Korsen sneered, “Because, we’re in something of a hurry too. You see, USMDF asked us if, given our experience, we might assist them in bringing down a somewhat less-than-honest engineering entrepreneur who is ferrying some illegal technology across state boundaries.”

Korajo reached up and pulled his own glasses from his face, his eyes full of vindictive triumph.

“Do you see where this is going yet, Triton?”

Without waiting to reply, the older man reached down and snapped the ExceedBuckler open, shifting its configuration and moving swiftly aside as his body ignited in flames of spirit energy.

‘K-R-A 2… ACTIVATE!’ announced the identical belts worn by the two agents, the standardised Ant-Trooper armour of the international Monster Defence Forces fusing over their uniforms in mere moments.

With a flick of his wrist, Triton displayed the flames, revealing the yellow armour Concord had bequeathed him.

“If you think those old K-R-A 2 belts can keep up with me, you’re wrong!” he smirked, instantly, launching himself at Kyrosai.

The elder JMDF agent lifted his fists but was too late. With alarming speed, Triton ducked in under his defences and slammed his fist up beneath Kyrosai’s chin in a vicious uppercut.

He pivoted swiftly, lifting his right leg and knocking Korajo sideways into his bike as the other man rushed forward to help his partner.

Mutt Soldier had been right; the Exceed suit was faster than his old Delta armour, in addition to being incredibly powerful. With an army of these suits, Concord Enterprises would be undefeatable, he realised. Any private army Concord may or may not choose to build would infinitely outclass the old Ant-Trooper belts developed by Takenaka Haru.

With a vicious backhander, Triton smashed Kyrosai’s faceplate in, sending shards of glass and metal inwards as the JMDF soldier staggered backwards and fell prone over his parked light-cycle, his eyes lifted to the dull blue skies.

His armour dissolved abruptly, revealing once more the sight of Kyrosai Byakayu, blood streaming from scratches across his face.

Korajo lunged once more and instantly Triton countered, seizing his arm and using his momentum to lift the other man off his feet and bring him crashing down into the road, his armour likewise fading away following his uncomfortable descent.

Triton disengaged his own armour and stepped over to his bike, lifting the helmet up and pulling it down over his sandy hair.

“Get your bikes the hell out of my way,” he snarled, “like I said, I’m in a hurry.”

Korajo lifted himself up, his left arm hanging limply at his side and his hair stained with blood. Without a word, the two hobbled out of the way, dragging their two powerful CyberTek light-cycles out of the road.

Triton kick-started the old Thunderbird and rolled the bike along, pausing to turn and glare once more at Kyrosai.

“We’re not playing games anymore, Kyrosai,” he warned, his voice low and threatening, “this isn’t a tournament, this is real life.”

Without another word, he turned his head away and revved the Thunderbird’s antique engine, speeding away in a cloud of dust.

Behind him, the two former tournament competitors were left standing with their modern machines and outclassed henshin devices amongst the bitter winds stirred by the other man’s passing.

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