The Blue Nasties and the Butterfly Smashers slid down the warship towards Shark Man’s open jaws.
Alice and her alligator-frog, the heaviest of them all, fell into his mouth first. Alice managed to jump out and hang onto the warship’s railing, but the alligator-frog got gnashed apart. A cascade of Butterfly Smashers and fighter jets followed. Shark Man’s giant teeth sliced through flesh and metal like it was nothing.
‘Buddha!’ said Mezu.
Shark Man hadn’t been a giant shark before, just a shark-human hybrid; he must have been using a Zone Special. A red word in Shark Man’s right eye changed. It was a Hawaiian language number; it was decreasing as he ate more people! It was at ῾ekolu now, which Mezu knew from his boyhood holidays in Hawaii meant three! Shark Man only needed to eat three more people!
Mezu jammed his zanbatō into the deck to stop himself from sliding down. Jack, Puck, and Sam took his cue and did the same with their slashing weapons. Say what you like about Colonel Ripper’s combat training, it had taught them situational awareness at least. Mezu caught the sliding Lobo in his arm.
Jack tried to catch Viper, but she swung her snake at him, forcing him to lurch back. She tumbled into Shark Man’s gnashing jaws.
The number in Shark Man’s right eye decreased to ῾elua: two!
Gozu tried to jam his laser katana into the deck, but the energy weapon just cut through the metal as he slid. He caught the wing of a stationary bomber aircraft and climbed aboard.
The Luchador fell onto Puck and held on for dear life. ‘Save me!’
‘Get lost!’ said Puck.
Girl Scout caught Sam’s leg and forced a big smile. ‘Frienemies?’
Sam grimaced. ‘Oh, come on!’
Jiangshi couldn’t jam her long nails into the deck. Instead, she used a Zone Technique to grasp onto Mezu’s soul, which spasmed out of his body. It felt like an invasive out of body experience. He managed to keep a hold of both his zanbatō and Lobo through sheer will.
Onryō stopped herself from sliding by becoming ghostlike and flying up towards the warship’s main gun, where Big Bad Wolf was laughing at them all in safety.
‘Onryō!’ said Gozu. ‘Possess the main gun and fire it at Shark Man!’
‘Yo, Onryō!’ said Jack. ‘Aim for the open wound on lower right side of his mouth!’
Onryō phased into the main gun. Suddenly, it aimed itself at Shark Man and fired its cannons. The blast shook the whole warship. Shark Man’s mouth exploded. He fell into the sea.
The warship righted itself.
Girl Scout stabbed Sam in the leg with a chain knife and electrified her.
The Luchador got Puck in an armlock and tried to slit her throat with the blades on his guantlets.
Jiangshi wrenched Mezu’s soul further out of his body, causing him to lose control of his arms and legs.
Alice ran in and stomped down on Lobo repeatedly.
Big Bad Wolf bounded across the deck on his hands and feet and clawed Jack to the floor.
Gozu rose atop the bomber aircraft and chuckled. ‘You see where your bushido has gotten you, Mezu? Witness the power of a rōnin who’s willing to do anything to win!’ He sheathed his laser katana and bent his knees low. ‘Zone Special:....’
Jiangshi’s eyes went wide.
‘Wait!’ said Big Bad Wolf. ‘You can’t! We’re in the kill zone too!’
Girl Scout roared. ‘You damn traitor!’
‘Laser Beam!’ Gozu drew his laser katana and fired forth a laser which ripped across the deck.
Fighter jets exploded one by one.
A bloody-mouthed Shark Man burst out of the water at the side of the warship and crunched down on the main gun. The warship shook. Gozu’s laser was knocked upwards above the heads of the Blue Nasties and the Butterfly Smashers. He swung it around into Shark Man. A quarter of Shark Man’s head was burned away. He fell back into the sea.
Sam took a windy chain hatchet and cut Girl Scout’s cybernetic arm off.
Puck threw the Luchador off the side of the warship.
Lobo tore Alice’s throat out with her teeth before bounding over to Jiangshi and cutting her apart with her fishing knife gloves.
Mezu’s soul returned to his body.
Jack ripped Big Bad Wolf’s belly open with his flaming fire axe.
Mezu picked up his zanbatō and rose, but no sooner had he got to his feet than Gozu was swinging at him with his laser katana. Their blades clashed over and over and over. Strikes, parries, blocks, dodges, all played out like they had when they were students in the Oyabun’s dojo. Now, like then, Gozu’s swordsmanship was vicious but without the artistry of a true samurai. They locked blades.
‘Gozu!’ said Mezu, ‘I have been blind, but I finally understand you now! I understand why you fell to corruption!’
‘Oh, this should be good!’ said Gozu.
‘In all our duels and missions, you never once bested me, so you never gained the Oyabun’s favour! You turned to the Wakagashira and his dark ways in hopes of supassing me, but it won’t happen, Gozu! You don’t have the skill to defeat me, and the Oyabun will never favour a rogue even if you did!’
‘K-k-k-k!’ said Gozu.
Mezu smiled. ‘So, I’m right! You’re my little brother, Gozu! If you lower your sword now, I will forgive you!’
Gozu unlocked his laser katana from Mezu’s zanbatō and drew it back. ‘Don’t tell me what to do! You toothless attack dog!’
Gozu put all the strength he had into a sweeping horizontal swing. He wasn’t trying to cut past Mezu’s zanbatō anymore; he was trying to cut through it! Mezu caught the laser katana on the flat of his blade, directed it over his head—and cut Gozu’s head off.
‘Not toothless,’ said Mezu. ‘Well trained.’
Gozu’s headless body fell to its knees and then collapsed.
A burned and bloody Shark Man burst out of the water at the back of the warship.
The warship capsized again so the back of it was in the water. The Blue Nasties scrambled to the front of the warship and hauled themselves onto the stern so they were standing on it. Below, Girl Scout was hanging on with her remaining arm to a chain knife she’d jammed into the deck. Big Bad Wolf was hanging onto her foot with one hand while holding his bleeding stomach with the other.
‘Use your Zone Special, Mezu!’ said Jack. ‘Now’s the time!’
Girl Scout’s eyes widened. ‘Don’t do it! I’m sorry! I’m just a thirteen-year-old girl!’
‘I’ll kill you all!’ said Big Bad Wolf. ‘I’ll come back from the dead and kill you all!’
Girl Scout stomped on Big Bad Wolf’s head. He fell screaming into Shark Man’s mouth.
The number in Shark Man’s right eye decreased to ῾ekahi: one!
‘Help meee!’ said Girl Scout.
‘Kill her, Mezu!’ said Sam. ‘She’s a little Judas!’
Mezu clenched his teeth. The smart thing to do would be to drop Girl Scout into Shark Man’s mouth so he could complete Kāmohoaliʻi’s challenge and stop attacking them. That way, the Blue Nasties could save a Zone Special in a way they hadn’t done with Pigskin.
But it was dishonourable to compromise to an enemy.
But Mezu didn’t kill children.
But this was Girl Scout he was talking about
And thirteen was really the age of young adult.
Mezu pointed his zanbatō at Girl Scout and Shark Man. ‘Everyone jam your slashing weapons into the warship and hold on! Things are about to get turbulent!’
The Blue Nasties did as he said.
Girl Scout started screaming swear words at them.
Mezu raised his zanbatō above his head and bent his legs low. ‘Zone Special: Tsunami!’
Over his shoulder, Mezu saw a tidal wave form.
He slowly breathed in and out.
The wave broke apart around the Blue Nasties.
As he swung his zanbatō down, the wave reassembled ahead of them and sliced Girl Scout, Shark Man, and the warship in two.
The Blue Nasties fell into the warm water behind them.
The sea was full of carnage. Body parts and fighter jet scrap was everywhere. Yet oddly, Mezu felt at peace.
He resurfaced with the others.
‘Did we finally get that damn hoser?!’ said Puck.
Nothing stirred in the water ahead of them.
It was over.
‘He’s dead….’ said Mezu. ‘It’s sad. All he wanted was to be reunited with his son.’
Marilyn’s helicopter flew overhead.
Half of Shark Man's body burst out of the water. He crushed the helicopter in his jaws. The helicopter exploded.
‘Marilyn!’ said Jack.
Shark Man crashed onto the wreckage of the USS Lexington. The helicopter fell into the water.
Shark Man went still.
Everyone swam towards the helicopter.
Something emerged from the water ahead of them and climbed onto the wreckage of the warship.
It was a hammerhead shark-human hybrid. It was wearing majestic, rainbow-coloured coral armour and holding a golden trident.
This must have been Kāmohoaliʻi.
He sneered at them. ‘YOU HAVE IMPRESSED ME, MORTALS. IT TAKES A MIGHTY BAND OF KOA TO FELL ONE OF MY AVATARS.’
The number in Shark Man’s right eye was still ῾ekahi: one. He had almost certainly killed Marilyn as well as the pilot and the cameraman of the helicopter, but with only half a body, he couldn’t eat them. Shark Man had not completed Kāmohoaliʻi’s challenge.
Mezu took off his mask and glared at Kāmohoaliʻi. ‘What will you do with the boy?’
Kāmohoaliʻi shrugged. ‘FEED HIM TO THE SHARKS MAYBE? OH, DON’T GIVE ME THAT LOOK. IF YOU CARED AS MUCH AS YOU PRETEND, YOU WOULD HAVE SACRIFICED THE GIRL, BUT I SUPPOSE A KOA’S PRIDE IS THE SAME IN EVERY CULTURE.'
Mezu felt like killing Kāmohoaliʻi, god or not. Then he remembered how the King in Yellow had killed the demon and the rhino-bull when they got on the way of him claiming the souls of Pigskin and Fubsy the Clown. The same would happen to this tyrant.
Kāmohoaliʻi leant on Shark Man’s body. ‘YOU MORTALS REALLY DON’T UNDERSTAND YOUR PLACE IN THE MULTIVERSE, DO YOU? YOU ARE THE PLAYTHINGS OF US GODS, JUST AS YOUR VICTIMS ARE YOUR PLAYTHINGS. He grinned at Mezu. ‘OH, AND IF YOU WERE HOPING I WOULD DO BATTLE WITH THE KING IN YELLOW FOR THE SOUL OF SHARK MAN, I’M AFRAID I’LL HAVE TO DISSAPOINT YOU. I KNOW MY PLACE ON THE FOOD CHAIN.' He laughed.
Something emerged from the water and clambered onto the wreckage of the warship. It was a naked woman, red skinned and black haired, with horns, four arms, and a pointed tail.
It was Marilyn!
‘YOUR MAJESTY?!’ said Kāmohoaliʻi. ‘FORGIVE ME! I DIDN’T KNOW!’
Marilyn stretched out her four hands and shot blood at Kāmohoaliʻi. He screamed and began to melt. She dragged him into the water, bit down on his neck, and submerged.
From the sky, the King in Yellow descended.
He landed on the wreckage of the warship, looked around, perhaps expecting something to get in his way, and shrugged.
The King in Yellow stretched out his hand at Shark Man’s half-body. He made it levitate, stripped it of its skin, its muscle, and its skeleton until only the soul remained, and then sucked the soul into his mask.
He saluted the Blue Nasties and ascended back into the sky.
Marilyn resurfaced to watch him go, the head of a god in her jaws.
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